Repentance: When death is certain

Q570 :What is meant by sakarat? Will a person who has reached this stage still have a chance to repent of his sins? If so, will his repentance be accepted? What about a person sentenced to death for a crime he has committed? Will his repentance be accepted if he does repent between the passing of the sentence and execution?

A570 : Sakarat refers to a state when a person is not in control of his mental power. It mostly refers to a state of drunkenness. However, it is also used in reference to extreme states of fury, passion, agony, sleepiness as well as loss of consciousness that results from pain. It is this last condition which is meant when the term refers to what may be experienced by a person who is just about to die. The term in Arabic is "sakarat al mawt," which means "the throes of death." The Prophet used to include in his supplication this prayer: "My Lord, help me endure the throes of death." Suffering extreme anguish at the time of death is not indicative of any judgment on the person concerned. It must never be assumed that a person who dies a very clam and peaceful death is in a position of favor, or that a person who suffers much anguish is in a position of disfavor. The Prophet himself endured much pain at the time of his death. This has made Lady Aisha say: "I do not envy anyone a peaceful death after having seen what God's Messenger has endured." (Related by Al Bukhari). It is confirmed that at the time of death, a person sees the truth about God, faith and human life so that he is absolutely certain of it. When he has seen that, which happens when he can no longer recover, repentance of past sins will not be accepted. This is due to the fact that this repentance is simply a regret for not having followed the guidance provided by God, and it comes as a result of something outside the control of the dying person. The proof is shown to him because he can no longer do anything about it. His repentance has not come out of any effort on his part to recognize the truth, or any desire to mend his ways. It comes when his life is over. This does not apply to a person who is sentenced to death for a crime he has committed or even wrongfully convicted. A genuine repentance by such a person stands as much chance of being accepted as the repentance of anyone else. True, this person has been condemned to death, but then man never relinquishes his hope to live longer. He may still feel that he can escape death, either by appealing against the sentence, or winning a pardon, or some other event, or even escaping from prison. He may require his lawyer to try to manipulate every loophole in the law in order to win him a reprieve, or stay of execution. During this period, if he reflects on his past life and turns to God in sincere repentance, his repentance may very well be accepted. As I have explained in the past, repentance ensures forgiveness of what is due to God. Any right owing to other human beings will not be forgiven until they themselves forgo their rights. On the Day of Judgment, God will bring the two parties together and ask the aggrieved whether he wants to forgive his opponent. If he declines, then God will take some of the good deeds of the offender and credit them to the aggrieved party until he is fully satisfied. If the offender does not have enough good deeds, then God will take away some of the bad deeds of the aggrieved party and add them to the records of the offender. If the offender has done enough good deeds to win God's pleasure and God wants him to be forgiven his offenses against other persons, then God will undertake to satisfy those other parties Himself. He will give them extra reward for their good actions until they are happy to forgo their rights.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )