Despair in God’s mercy (yās) is when we believe that God will never forgive us for our sins. Here we will explain why this is wrong according to Islam.
By Dr. Nabi Raza Abidi
There is a hadith Qudsi (a saying from God that is found in the hadith literature but not the Qur’an) that states:
“Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.”
Reaching out to God with a simple prayer can be the beginning of a lifelong relationship with Him as God desires to commune with all His creation. As Muslims, we believe that God permeates all of existence. There is nowhere that is empty of God. If that is the case, then how can we speak of a separation between us and God? How can a relationship begin if God is always there with us?
When we speak of separation between us and God, we are not referring to an existential separation, but a separation of our minds, wills and hearts from God. In other words, we are talking about a mental break from God. Although He sustains us in all aspects of our being, our minds are heedless of His presence.A simple prayer that stems from the heart begins the process of ending man’s cycle of heedlessness (ghaflah) of God and into a mindful and meaningful relationship with Him (īmān).
When we say that God is Greater than anything we can think of (Allahu Akbar) before beginning our ritual prayers (ṣalāt,) we also mean that He is greater in kindness and love than anything or anyone we know of or can imagine. Despite a lifetime of rejecting Him and failing to abide by His will, even the simplest and easiest of overtures can have Him run towards us.
This then provides us with one good reason as to why despair (yās) in God’s mercy is such a great sin in Islam. It is not merely a feeling of hopelessness, but it is a rejection of God’s boundless love and turning our backs to Him when He wants to run towards us.
With Peace, Wa’alaikum as-Salam
Dr. Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center