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Breaking The Cycle Of Sin: The Advice of Ibn al Qayyim al-Jawziyyah


An important part of preparing for Ramadan, is devising a plan where we are able to extract the maximum benefit from the month.  Many of us create a strategy to soften our hearts to the book of Allah ﷻ – through the completion of multiple khatms and study of tafaseer. It is a time when the blessings of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) are increasingly enumerated. It is a time when we are all increasingly close to our Lord and engaging in multiple acts of worship. We will engage in taraweeh prayers and many of us will be awake in the early hours of the morning – granting us the opportunity to engage in dua’ and ask of Allah ﷻ in the last third of the night. It is a month of great opportunity, and we take a lot of enthusiasm from the words of our Rasul ﷺ who mentioned that “when the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of the heaven are opened, the gates of Hellfire are closed, and the devils are chained. [Sahih al-Bukhari 1899, Sahih Muslim 1079]

Another gift given to us all in the month of Ramadan, is the ability to turn back to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and seek His forgiveness.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

إِنَّ رَمَضَانَ شَهْرٌ افْتَرَضَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ صِيَامَهُ وَإِنِّي سَنَنْتُ لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ قِيَامَهُ فَمَنْ صَامَهُ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا خَرَجَ مِنْ الذُّنُوبِ كَيَوْمِ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ

“Verily, Ramadan is a month in which Allah Almighty has obligated its fasting. I have instituted for Muslims the practice of prayer at night. Thus, whoever fasts it with faith and expecting reward will be rid of sins like the day he was born from his mother.” [Musnad Ahmed]

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Qatadah ( رحمه الله) said, “Whoever does not have his sins forgiven in Ramadan, he will not have his sins forgiven in other than Ramadan. [Lata’if al-Ma’arif by Ibn Rajab]

We are all amongst those who fall into sin. We all make mistakes. Every once in a while, we fall into a weak spot. The defining characteristic of a believer and the righteous is how they respond to these shortcomings. 

Our beloved Messenger ﷺ said: 

كُلُّ بَنِي آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ, وَخَيْرُ اَلْخَطَّائِينَ اَلتَّوَّابُونَ

“All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best sinners are those who repent.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi 2499]

Our religion is a beautiful one, such that the love and affection that Allah ﷻ has for us grows the more we ask Him for forgiveness, despite the many sins we accumulate on our record. RasulAllah ﷺ said, “If you were to commit sins until your sins reach the Heaven, then you repented, your repentance would be accepted.” [Sunan Ibn Majah 4248]

In order to be amongst at-Tawabun, alongside regretting the sin, we must strive to give up the sin. 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in Surah al-Qiyamah:

“But man desires to continue in sin.” [Surah Al-Qiyamah 75;5]

Sa’eed ibn Jubayr (رحمه الله) said: “… to continue in sin” i. e. that he prefers to sin and put off repenting, so he says, “I will repent later, I will do good deeds later” until death comes to him while he is at his lowest point and his worst deeds.

It is imperative that we work hard to break the cycle of sin and there is no better opportunity than that of Ramadan. It is the month that we each excel in far more than any other month. It is a month where we are free from the whispering of shaytaan,  pushing us to do evil. It is a month where we have all increased in doing acts of good, softening our hearts, and making it easier to leave off sin. 

Insha’Allah, this article will share 5 practical measures we can take, based on advice given to us by al-Hafidh Ibn al Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (رحمه الله) on departing from a life of sin. 

1.Glorifying Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Acknowledge the Majesty of Allah ﷻ within your heart. We all know that you love Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He); I don’t doubt that for a second. Now take it to the next stage and be in awe of Him. Allahu Akbar –  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is the greatest and greater than anything else. This is a statement we affirm multiple times in each of our prayers – internalize it and believe it from the depth of your hearts. 

Allah ﷻ tells us in an-Nahl:


“If you tried to count Allah’s blessings, you would never be able to number them. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

“And Allah knows what you conceal and what you reveal.” [Surah an-Nahl; 16;18-19]

He ﷻ has no need for us, it is only ourselves who have absolute need of Him. Despite our many transgressions, He is Merciful toward us. Despite His awareness of the worst of our sins, He veils this from our fellow brothers and sisters and does not stop showering us with His blessings. 

If we find our desires inclining us towards sins, it is wise to take a moment to pause and reflect on the Magnificence and Greatness of Allah (رب العزة) and remember that He is watching over our every action. 

2. Attaining the Love of  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) & His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

sinThis is something that is mentioned by various people of knowledge within our tradition. Ibn al Qayyim sets out 10 principles to attain love for Him ﷻ within his text Madarij as-Salikeen. If we really loved Him, we would love what He loves and hate what He ﷻ hates. 

Once, the Prophet ﷺ told his Companions 

 ‏كل أمتي يدخلون الجنة إلا من أبى

“Every single one of my Ummah will enter Jannah except the ones who refuse.”

Like many of us, the Sahabah were confused by this statement. How could anyone want to turn down the treasures of Jannah? All of the beauty of this world does not add up to even a single space in Jannah. In what right mind would someone refuse admission to this place?

The Sahabah [ranhuma] said, “Who will refuse?”

He ﷺ replied, Whoever obeys me, shall enter Jannah, and whosoever disobeys me, refuses to (enter Jannah).” [Riyad as-Salihin 158]

We know deep down within our hearts what pleases Allah and what displeases Him. You know what makes Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) angry with you. Many of us find it difficult to function when we know that those we love are upset with us – if our mother is angry with us, we will take whatever steps we can to make amends and bring a smile back to her face. Why is our attitude so relaxed when it comes to when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is angry with us?

3. Acknowledging the blessings of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Another method we can employ to escape the shackles of sin is to ponder upon the blessings bestowed upon us by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Many of the scholars mention a story of a man who found his soul inclining him to sin, hence he went to a knowledgeable person to ask them for advice. 

He was advised to “go to a place where Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) cannot see you sin.” He replied that this is of course not possible. He was then told to “not use any of the blessings bestowed to him by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to disobey him,” again the man inquired how something like this could even be achieved. 

We are a creation in great need. He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has granted us many blessings and gifts, yet we use these very blessings to sin. These eyes that he has given us to appreciate the beauty of His creation and read the Qur’an, we use to look at that which is impermissible to us. These hands that he has given us to feed and nourish ourselves, we use to engage in sin and in the oppression of our fellow brothers and sisters. 

In Surah al-Jinn, Allah tells us:

“If they had remained straight on the way, We would have given them abundant rain [i.e. provision].” [Surah al-Jinn 72;16]

The Prophet also told us “No two people loved one another for the sake of Allah Almighty, or for Islam, then separated from one another but that it was due to a sin one of them committed. [al-Adab al-Mufrad lil-Bukhari 401]

If we reflect on the blessings given to us by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), our hearts would melt out of love for Him. Likewise, if we know that disobeying him and falling into sin will strip us of these blessings, then it will also be a means for us to prevent ourselves from sin. 

4. Seeking refuge from our own soul 

A dua’ that we are encouraged to make each morning and evening is:

‏اللهم فاطر السماوات والأرض عالم الغيب والشهادة، رب كل شيء ومليكه أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت، أعوذ بك من شر نفسي وشر الشيطان وشركه‏

“O Allah! Creator of the heavens and the earth, The Knower of all things hidden and the apparent, The Lord and sovereign over all things. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped but You. I seek Your Protection from the evil of my own self,  from the evil of the devil, and from the evil of Shirk to which he calls.”

sinAn aim of our fasts is to break these desires of our soul and purify it. Through this process of starving our soul of food and drink, starving our soul of sin; and filling it with prayer, recitation of the Qur’an, and doing acts of good – we are purifying it and reducing its ability to turn us towards bad decisions. 

In order for growth to occur, we need to remove anything disrupting that growth. If we are planting a flower, it is important that we first remove the weeds surrounding it that compete for its water and resources. Therefore, for a flower to grow and for us to smell its sweet fragrance – it is vital that all things around it which are harmful, are removed. 

It is key that we ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to aid us over our soul, and making this dua’ twice a day is a good step towards doing so. Begin to train your soul, and fill it up with good and replace that which is tainting it. If we would use our tongue to backbite and speak ill of our fellow Muslims, start to disengage from this in Ramadan and make your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

5. Remembering death and the temporary nature of this Dunya

We all know the famous ayah in Surah an-Nisa where we are told:

“Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you should be within towers of lofty construction. But if good comes to them, they say, “This is from Allah “; and if evil befalls them, they say, “This is from you.” Say, “All [things] are from Allah .” So what is [the matter] with those people that they can hardly understand any statement?” [Surah An-Nisa 4;78]

Death, and our own mortality, are topics we don’t like to talk about or contemplate. Yet it is a reality of life. This is a fact of life that even the most vehement opponent of Islam will not deny.  

Hamid al-Qaysari would say “All of us were certain of death, yet we were not prepared for it. All of us were certain of Paradise, yet we had not performed any actions for it. All of us were certain of the Hellfire, yet we were not in fear of it. So why are you joyous? What are you waiting for? Death, is the first visitor from Allah which brings either good or evil. O brothers, travel to your Lord in a beautiful way.” [Dhikr al-Mawt wa-ma Ba’dahu by Ibn Qudamah al Maqdisi]

How many people do we know who longed for another Ramadan, but have returned to our Lord ﷻ? 

RasulAllah ﷺ said, “The lifespan for my Ummah is from sixty years to seventy years and very few surpass this.” [Sunan Ibn Majah 4236] Living on this earth, we see this in reality. A foolish person will not realize just how little time we each have – there is no opportunity for us to “repent later” or “stop sinning later.” 

There are many brothers and sisters who indulge themselves in their desires and lose their lives during that act of disobedience. Ibn al Qayyim mentions a man who traveled to another land, for the sole purpose of committing sin. What is the expectation of a person who dies in this state? 

A wise individual will use this thought of their own janazah to propel themselves towards doing good and restrain from sin.  Learn about death, visit the graveyard, learn about the life of the grave, and the Day of Judgement. 

Remembering death is not something that is depressing or morbid. It is a reminder of the life to come. The eternal life, the real life. Death is just the beginning of the real existence. 

How does this relate to Ramadan? Ramadan is an opportunity to purify ourselves and elevate our status through increasing good and decreasing our sins. 

Talha ibn ‘Ubaydallah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)  reported that two men came to the Prophet ﷺ who had accepted Islam at the same time. One of them used to partake in Jihad, more so than the other, and so (one day) he fought in a battle and was martyred therein. The other remained behind him for another year, and then he passed away.

Talha said, “I saw in my dream that I was at the door of Paradise and I was with both of them (the two men). Someone came out of Paradise and allowed the man who passed away later, to enter first. Then he came out again and allowed the martyred one to enter. Then he returned and said to me, ‘Go back, for your time has not come yet.’”

Talha woke up and began to inform others about this and they were all surprised. This reached the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and when they informed him of it,  He ﷺ said, “What are you all surprised about?”

They said, “O Messenger of Allah! Out of them both, this one strove harder (in Jihad) then he was martyred but this other one was entered into Paradise before him.”

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ  said, “Did he not remain behind him for one year?’ 

They said, ‘Yes (he did).’ 

He said, “Did he not reach Ramadan, fast, and pray with such and such number of prostrations in the year?”

They said, “Yes.”

RasulAllah ﷺ said, “So the difference between them is greater than what is between the Heavens and the Earth.” [Sunan Ibn Majah 3925]

Ramadan can have a transformative impact on our lives, and set us up for Jannah. It is important that we take this opportunity with both hands to increase our ranks and escape from sin. However, it is also important that we recognize the traps of shaytaan. The departure of Ramadan should not be the departure of our own efforts to cut down on sin. A common mistake that we see is to aim to try and tackle all of our shortcomings in one go, and while this is commendable and shows the zeal an individual has to improve themselves, it will lead to spiritual burnout and little progress will be made. 

Sufyan at-Thawri  (رحمه الله) said “I never dealt with anything more difficult on me than my own self. Sometimes it would be against me, and sometimes it would be for me.” [Hilyat al-Awliya’ 7/5]

The tabi’ee, Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir (رحمه الله) said “I struggled against my own self for forty years until it became right.”

This change and reform is a process where we need to continuously strive.  The book of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was revealed to us over the course of 23 years. It is much better to nurture a long-lasting change by targeting a couple of sins and adding a couple of good habits, than going through infrequent bursts of inspiration to reform. Over the course of multiple Ramadans, this will stack up and produce a grounded Muslim who is closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have mercy on us all, protect us from sin, make us amongst those who often repent, and grant us the tawfeeq to witness many Ramadans to come. 



[Podcast] Vulnerable Sinners vs Arrogant Saints | Sh. Abdullah Ayaz Mullanee –

When You Behold His Majesty, by Ibn al-Qayyim –

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Jakir Ahmed is currently a medical student at University College London. He is active in university based projects, previously serving as a Head brother at University College London Islamic society and is currently serving as a Vice President in the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). He is passionate about community engagement, self-development and reading. You can find some of his book reviews at

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