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Last Updated: 2010/11/22
Summary of question
Does an individual, who has committed many sins against God and his fellow man, have a door open towards repentance?
I want to begin this question with my Salams, as well as my hopes that you are doing well. I hope that you can aid me in solving a problem which I have, and before I begin, I would like to apologize for my frankness. Some of the questions I ask, I have asked from other sources, but I feel that if I ask them all here it will make for a more complete question.
From the age of puberty until now, (I am about 24 years old) I have committed a great number of sins; I have not prayed nor fasted, and I have engaged in the sin of masturbation many times. Besides these, I have also committed various other sins. I think that due to these sins I underwent many difficulties and tribulations; for example during my third year of high school, I was beset with many doubts about God, which bothered and tormented me. These doubts were not resolved and are still open questions in my mind. At some point, due to the effects of these sins and their pleasures, these questions slowly reduced themselves in terms of their importance to me.
A little while before, due to my engagement in an illegitimate relationship, I began to fear the consequences of catching a non curable disease. The fear of catching these types of diseases torments me, and as of yet, I have not gone in for a blood test.
Lately, the following problem occurred for me: Unfortunately, for many years, I have been using pornographic websites, and for several years, I have used a software which breaks the internet filters that are in use. I did not design this filter breaking software myself, and I think my friend sent it to me via a bluetooth transfer. The majority of the download sites, where you can gain access to this software, are blocked by the filter, but it can be found without breaking the filter as well. With this software, one can bypass the internet filters which are in place. I would usually use this software in public NetCafes and evidence of my uses would be left behind in the history pages. These would point to websites where one could download the software. I have begun to fear that perhaps others may have seen these links and used unfiltered internet, either knowingly or unknowingly. Furthermore, I fear that they may have become involved in these sins due to my actions on these public computers, and therefore I am liable for them. It is also possible that I did these actions on purpose, so that this would take place, and others would be misled. You may assume that I did have this intention, and now I am afraid of the consequences of my actions.
I had the email to one of the NetCafes and so I emailed them with the full information and explained the matter to them, so that as much as possible, they can remedy the situation. I don’t know if they understood what I said to them and whether they remedied the situation; I don’t even know if they received my email or not. Unfortunately, I went back to that NetCafe, as well as others, and visited the sites I previously mentioned to engage in my sins. In addition, I also visited these sites in another city, in which I was a student, and I engaged in these same actions.
What is my responsibility in this matter? Should I return to the city in which I was a student (to remedy these actions)? How should I remedy these actions of mine?
I accessed many of these sites with emails that I would receive from an individual; is it possible that my emails have been left behind (saved) on the computers and others have engaged in sins due to it? I also fear that my actions have caused the furtherance of the business or activity of those websites…I honestly do not know. I have changed the password on my email several times, but I still fear that some individuals may have access to it.
Is it obligatory that I send this information to the individual responsible for these computer systems? Do you know of where I should send this information? Also, am I responsible to contact my friend who gave me the filter breaking software several months ago and tell him not to give it to anyone else? Am I obligated to prevent him from his actions or simply to advise him? Should I do this immediately, even before sending this question, so that it becomes a sign of my repentance and no more sins are recorded for me?
In addition, I had an email address, which was used for others to send me pornographic pictures and videos. Out of fear of it somehow being left open and accessed at NetCafes, I have changed its password several times, but I haven’t changed the email address or erased the account so that I can see if I am still sent movies and pictures, and if I can see if someone finds the password or not. In the history section of my email account, it shows if others have accessed it and therefore I can find out if others have my password or not. Since I haven’t changed the name of the email account, people may still think I want to receive the pornographic pictures and videos. This may cause them to continue sinning and also, possibly, to mislead others.
It is possible that my intentions of not closing this account is that I wish to still receive these pornographic pictures and videos, as well as to corrupt others. I wanted to check my email account last night, but the password that I entered ended up being incorrect (I entered it several times), and so I think I have forgotten it. I have to try again until I can gain access to it, and see if others have used my email account or not. This way I can once again change the password or close the account. I have to check on this so that my conscience can be clear and I’m sure that I have no ill intentions.
I am also fearful that I may have changed the settings on the computer and therefore given access to others and opened the doors of sinning for them. In spite of all this, I have gone to NetCafes and accessed these sites many times. This is perhaps an indication that I still wish to continue in these actions. I fear that while asking these questions I may sound like I am innocent or oppressed, or I may not fully write down the reasons behind my actions. So in reality, I fear whether my repentance is genuine or not, and I fear whether I am truly penitent or not. I also fear whether I have explained everything or not. Is my sending of this question counted as repentance and penitence for my actions? Now, if I repent, what other things do I need to do to make this complete? If I don’t take any action, will sins be added for me day by day (due to my actions affecting others)? This very thought has caused me to be in mental torment and anguish. Do I need to make the owners of the CaféNet aware of this matter? If I don’t do this and I am repentant of my actions, will this be sufficient in order for God to forgive me and not record other people’s sins for me? Or must I do also go to the NetCafes and erase all the traces of my actions. Now what must I do to be free from this torment and anguish?
Unfortunately, I also fornicated with someone who had not yet reached the age of puberty, but I did not complete the intercourse with her (I did not enter her physically). She may not have been okay with what I did because she told her parents and the situation began to turn ugly. Irregardless, God seemed to have mercy on me and the situation was resolved. I also committed sodomy with several other individuals, of whom some had not yet reached puberty. With this said, these were not acts committed by force. Although who knows, it may have been and the other individuals did not say that they did not consent to these actions. In addition, I don’t know if they had told me, if I would have continued with my actions or not. In any case, (whether this action was forced or consensual) what is my responsibility in this matter? How do I know whether it was forced or consensual? I am afraid that my actions will cause the corruption and deviance of those individuals in the future (either by a little or a lot). I am afraid that either the rights of man or the rights of God will have been encroached upon by me. More so, I fear that these individuals will cause the deviation of even more individuals and this sort of chain reaction will continue, and day by day, my sins will increase and pile up. What should I do? Are these actions encroaching upon the rights of God or the rights of man or both?
Another issue which exists, and which I mentioned previously, is that I haven’t prayed or fasted from the age of puberty; it is also possible that I had khums (religious tax) due, which I also did not pay. In addition, I may have certain ‘Kaffarah’ due on me . Another thing which bothers me is that I may have unlawfully gained or acquired money in my hands, mixed into my wealth, but I don’t know how much of it is unlawful and how much is lawful. If I have bought clothes with this unlawful money and I wish to pray with this money, then my prayers will be unacceptable in these clothes. At the office that I work, even if take a short nap, then this is the cause of some of my money becoming haram (unlawful) and therefore my prayers also become unacceptable.
Likewise, the doubts which I have in regards to God and religious precepts causes me torment during my prayers; i end up doubting God. My life has become very complicated and I am in constant torment and anguish. I don’t really know if I am a Muslim and I fear that in asking these questions I am playing the part of a victim and I am not telling the whole truth. How do I know that my intentions are pure and my repentance is accepted? It has been a few days that I have been controlling my gaze (at non mahrams) and I am using this as my starting point so that slowly and over time I can also begin praying. Is this a good course of action or must I engage in all of the wajibaats at once so that my repentance is accepted.
I wonder if this action of mine is from being tired or having been shaken, rather than pure repentance. Help me so that I can know from where I should begin, and that I will be freed from this torment. I need assistance especially in regards to the incident at the NetCafe. My other question which I had was in order for me to be forgiven, do I need to send in the address of the weblogs to the central center for internet filtering who is responsible for the action of filtering illicit sites?
Concise answer

Sins cause the destruction of human beings, while repentance and making a decision for returning towards God is deliverance and salvation. When a person in private, feels ashamed of his sins in front of God’s presence, this is a sign of the pureness of his nature, and shows that God, who is merciful, has shown him special favor. Therefore, it is necessary that one takes advantage of this special favor, and quickly acts to purify himself from sins and gain true repentance. It is necessary that he inclines towards all the obligatory actions which God requires of him and makes up for the actions which have been missed in the past. He must also know that God is his helper in these actions and is always with him, guiding and aiding him. In addition, since some parts of your questions related to jurisprudential matters, we found it necessary to refer to the office of the jurisprudents for your specific answers. These answers will be mentioned in the detailed answers section below.

Detailed Answer

Sins are much akin to a dirty swamp; the more an individual immerses themselves in it, the more polluted they become and the closer they get to destruction and annihilation. On the other hand, repentance and making a serious decision to abstain from sins is itself salvation and a great victory, which opens the doors to the mercy of God. An individual who reaches this stage (of repentance) has gained a great victory and he must do his utmost to strengthen further his intentions and inclinations towards fighting against sins. In addition, he must attempt to keep himself in this state perpetually.

One point of dire importance, is the special favor and grace which God bestows upon someone who repents; repentance destroys and effaces all of the sins and negative consequences of sins before God. God has mentioned in the Holy Quran that: (قُلْ یَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِینَ أَسْرَفُوا۟ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا۟ مِن رَّحْمَةِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ یَغْفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِیعًا ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِیمُ), which means ‘Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. ’.[1]

Naturally, all of Satan’s efforts go into creating temptations and suggestions in human beings, and creating a distance between them and God, who is most merciful and kind. He attempts to create this distance by pushing them to drown in a sea of sins and crimes against God, which causes their separation. This is while God loves all of his servants, including those who are sinners and oppressors; in addition, he wishes that they reach felicity and happiness. At the same time he is averse to their unworthy actions, and it is for this very reason that he has sent his most favored servants, who are the Prophets (a), to guide and assist the people of this earth. He has also kept Imam Mahdi (a) alive and hidden throughout all these years for this very purpose, in order that he may guide the select amongst humanity. No one is therefore allowed to become hopeless of the mercy of God. This is because despairing of God’s mercy is considered thinking badly of God and this is counted as one of the greatest of sins.

Therefore, since in private you feel ashamed and embarrassed in front of God from your sins, this shows that you have a pure nature and that God has favored you with his grace. Since you are after a way for making up for your sins and past mistakes, this is a indication that God has entered these thoughts into your mind, so that you will, through these means, save yourself (with the aid of God) from these evils and sicknesses.

Therefore, keep in mind this great blessing of God, and before losing the opportunity, purify yourself of these sins and the consequences of these sins by truly repenting to God. Know that God is your helper and friend in this matter and is always with you; in addition, he will never leave you alone. Having hope in the mercy of God, being penitent of your past sins, and finally engaging in an act of final and pure repentance are important steps towards becoming beloved to God, and are ways towards gaining salvation and guidance. This is something which Satan fears and worries over constantly.[2]

In addition, since some of your questions had a jurisprudential twist to them, we found it necessary to ask the office of the jurisprudents in order to gain understanding into its answers. They are as follows:

The Office of Ayatollah Khamenei:

The use of filter breaking software, in order to access sites which have been filtered, and to watch pornographic pictures and videos, without the permission of the CafeNet owner is not permissible. If it is possible, the owners must be notified.

As for ‘commanding the good and forbidding the evil’ of an individual who has given you such a filter breaking software, it is necessary that: If the conditions of ‘commanding the good and forbidding the evil’ are met then it is obligatory to enjoin and/or forbid them.

The Office of Ayatollah Sistani:

We have read your letter and hope that God assists you in refraining from your path of unworthy actions. If you truly repent before God, then he will accept your repentance; this is his own promise to the sinners. With this said, use of unlawful material via the internet is unlawful, whether through the use of a filter breaker or unfiltered. It is not obligatory on you that you relay this to the owners of the CafeNet, in particular when it is not possible for you or when it will cause the spreading of corruption.

The Office of Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi:

With all of the sins and problems that have been prevalent in your life, the one positive and wonderful aspect that you have is that you wish to return and repent to God, and make up for your past sins. Repent for your sins and try your utmost to remove any of the consequences of your actions. Begin your prayers from this very day and if there is wealth in your life that is for sure unlawful in its origin, then write to us so that we can find a solution for you. We hope that you will have a fruitful and healthy future. We will also pray for your success. It is also necessary to mention that the use of a filter breaker in the mentioned matter is not permissible. You must abstain from the use of filter breakers and also advise the people who use them in a manner that is befitting and friendly to also abstain from their use.

[1] Adopted from Question 3192 (website: 3444) Repenting from Sin.

[2] Adopted from Question 3704 (website: 3955) Repenting from sin and being loved by Allah (swt).

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