“Passive sinning” is a term that I have recently come across and it has been a cause of some internal discussions with myself whilst answering some long-standing questions I’ve had. Sometimes, I get a feeling of being disconnected with God, not ‘feeling’ my salaah and generally out of touch with my religion. It really confuses me because I think to myself ‘I pray on time, I do as much good as possible, I abstain from evil to the best of my ability, I fast and I am constantly yearning to add to my knowledge of Islam so where am I going wrong!?’
When I came across the notion of passive sinning, it all became clear. The best way to describe passive sinning is to liken it to passive smoking. Passive smoking is when we breathe in the harmful effects of a smokers’ cigarette smoke. Though we are not smoking ourselves, being around people who smoke subjects us to the same consequences of smoking, albeit not as profoundly. Passive sinning is exactly the same thing, namely, being around/in the presence of individuals who are sinning and being affected by it to an extent.
How does passive sinning work?
We do not realise it but being in proximity with those who are sinning causes us to feel the ‘effect’ of the sin too. Though we are not punished by Allah for passive sinning (as it’s not us doing the action), it still has a similar effect to a sin being carried out by ourselves (God forbid). To explain in simple terms, when we sin, we inflict a black mark on our hearts, which is removed once we ask for forgiveness. If one persists in sinning without seeking forgiveness, it causes the heart to become increasingly filled with black marks and, if this continues, the heart can ‘blacken’ to such an extent that the thought of asking for forgiveness and a guilty conscious is permanently removed from the individual and there is no turning back. This refers to the concept of the heart ‘hardening’ that Allah frequently mentions in the Quran. Now that we have basic understanding of the effect of sin, one realises that passive sinning has an impact of a similar nature on our heart. Being a frequent recipient of passive sinning can lead one to forget Allah and be tempted to indulge in the sin themselves and thus cause the heart to harden.
If I go back to my example of feeling disconnected/out of touch with religion, I can partially put it down to passive sinning. The fact of the matter is that nearly all of us are, at times, are exposed to passive sinning, we just do not realise it and this is an unfortunate aspect to passive sinning, however, we must find a way to limit the effect.
What’s the cure?
Unfortunately for Muslims, especially those like myself who live in the West, once you really think about it, you realise that sources of passive sinning are everywhere. Films, T.V. shows, radio, posters and so-called “western liberalist/modernist” lifestyle promoted by the immoral establishments has us surrounded. Here are some ways I believe we can combat and fight back against passive sinning:
Get into a habit of regularly asking God for forgiveness including for things which are done unintentionally (i.e. passive sinning). Regular and sincere repentance will go a long way in cleansing our hearts and keeping them pure and untainted.
We should all strive to be thinking about God as much as possible. This does not have to mean carrying a tasbih around constantly reciting Allahu Akbar/SubhanAllah/Alhamdullilah. I am talking about sincere remembrance of Allah, of which there is no tried and tested way. We are unique individuals and have different methods of remembrance! Be it on your commute to work, lunch breaks or whenever you get alone time; remember God, marvel at His creation and think about the endless favours He has endowed upon you. The more we do this, the more we will find ourselves remembering God in the midst of our busy life styles and considering the fact that He is constantly watching us before we perform any action. Alternatively, why not try some recommended prayers and reciting duas? All in all, keep remembering and talking to God as you would a friend.
Do everything for the sake of Allah
Anything done with the intention of pleasing Allah is counted as worship. One can literally turn any (neutral) activity for the sake of Allah. If you like keeping fit, make your intention to keep fit as a way of honouring the body Allah has given you and a way of ensuring you are fit and able to continue with daily prayers and perform pilgrimages. If you’re in full time employment make your intention to earn wealth for the sake of Allah so you can spend it in His way and provide for yourself and family as a way of obeying the command of Allah. There are countless other ways.
These are just a selection of different ways to counter passive sinning. It is hoped that InshaAllah, we all find our own effective ways of limiting the effect of passive sinning. What is certain is that we should remain vigilant against it and not take its effects lightly.