Islamic marriage advice and family advice

Disclosing Sins

lonely man in the rain

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicAnswers.com

If you committed sins in the past, should you disclose them to your prospective husband or wife?

What if you're already married? Should you tell your spouse about your past sins?

What if you're being blackmailed by a past boyfriend or girlfriend who threatens to tell your current fiance about your past?

And what if you did not commit sins but suffered some sort of trauma or abuse, like child molestation or rape? Should you tell your fiance?

This article will answer all these questions.

What Islam Says

First let us see what the Messenger of Allah (sws) had to say on the subject. The Prophet said:

“All my community will be excused except those who commit sins openly. Committing them openly includes a man who does something shameful at night and when morning comes tells someone that they did such-and-such, while Allah had concealed it for them. They slept under the cover of Allah, and they removed Allah's covering from themselves in the morning.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Imam Munawi said, “This is because from the attributes and favors of Allah is the manifestation of the good and beautiful and the concealment of the vile. Revealing sins is showing immense ingratitude towards such a blessing.” [Khadimi, Sharh Bariqa al-Muhammadiyya]

It was reported that Ibn ‘Umar said: I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say: “The believer will be brought close to his Lord until He conceals him and makes him confess his sin. Allah will say, ‘Do you remember such and such a sin?’ The man will say, ‘Yes, I admit it.’ The Lord will say, ‘I concealed it for you in the world and I forgive you for it today.’ Then He will close up his record of good deeds. As for the others or the kuffaar, it will be called out before the witnesses, ‘These are the ones who disbelieved in their Lord. The curse of Allah is upon the wrongdoers.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4408; Muslim, 2768).

So the basic principle in Islam is that it is obligatory to conceal your sins, and not to tell people about them, and instead to make tawbah privately to Allah, and to avoid committing the sin again.

What the Scholars Said

Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said:

Concerning the command to cover or conceal, a hadeeth was narrated which does not meet the conditions of al-Bukhaari. This is the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Umar which is attributed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Avoid these obscenities which Allaah has forbidden. Whoever commits any of them, let him be concealed with the concealment of Allaah.” The hadeeth was narrated by al-Haakim and is also included in al-Muwatta’ as one of the mursal reports of Zayd ibn Aslam.

Ibn Battaal said: Openly flaunting one’s sins implies disrespect towards Allaah and His Messenger, and the righteous believers, and is a type of stubborn provocation. Concealing sin protects one against being disrespectful in this manner, because sin brings humiliation upon the people who commit it, such as the hadd punishment if it is a sin that carries such a penalty, or the ta’zeer penalty if no hadd is enjoined. If it is something which violates the rights of Allaah, then He is the Most Generous and His Mercy precedes His Wrath. Hence if He conceals it in this world, He will not expose it in the Hereafter, but the one who flaunts it openly loses all of that.

The hadeeth clearly condemns those who openly flaunt their sin, which implies praise of those who conceal their sin. The fact that Allah conceals it implies that the believer must also cover himself. Whoever deliberately flaunts his sin angers his Lord, Who will not then cover him. Whoever deliberately conceals his sin out of shame before his Lord and before people, Allah will bless him by concealing it. (Fath al-Baari, 10/487-488)

al-Mannaawi said:

What is meant is those who talk openly to one another about their sins. Ibn Jamaa’ah included in this disclosure of what happens between husband and wife of permissible things. This is supported by the famous report which warns against that: “It is part of flaunting one’s sins” – i.e., speaking openly about them and broadcasting them – “that a man should do an evil deed at night, then the following morning, when Allah had covered him, he says, ‘Last night I did such and such’ – when all night his Lord had concealed his sin, but in the morning he uncovers what Allah had concealed.” – by telling people about his sin. This is a betrayal on his part of the covering of Allah which had been lowered upon him, and a provocation of the desire for evil in the people who hear him or see him.

So these are two offences which are added to his original offence and make it worse. If in addition to that he encourages others to do likewise, this is a fourth offence that makes the matter even worse…

The implication is that they have no sins unless they flaunt them, then he explained that the one who flaunts his sin is the one who does something at night and his Lord conceals it, then in the morning he says, ‘O So-and-so, last night I did such and such,’ so he removes the covering of Allah. He is to be condemned in this world by carrying out the hadd punishment, for it is among the attributes and blessings of Allah that He brings forth what is beautiful and conceals what is ugly. So openly flaunting sin is a rejection of that blessing and disrespect towards the concealment of Allah.

Al-Nawawi said: It is makrooh for the person who is tested with sin to tell anyone else about it. Rather he should give it up, regret it and resolve not to do it again. If he tells his shaykh or a similar person who he hopes can teach him a way out from it or show him how to keep himself from falling into similar sins, or can tell him the reason why he fell into it, or make du’aa’ for him, etc., this is fine. But is it makrooh (to tell someone else) if there is no benefit in doing so.

Al-Ghazaali said: The kind of disclosure which is blameworthy is when it is in done by way of openly flaunting sin and mocking, not when it is done to ask questions and seek fatwas. The evidence for saying this is the report of the man who had intercourse with his wife in Ramadaan, and he came and told the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who did not rebuke him for telling him. (Fayd al-Qadeer, 5/11-12)

Concealing the Sins of Others

In fact it is even required to conceal the sins of others, as long as their actions affect only themselves and do not harm another. It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever removes a worldly hardship from a believer, Allah will remove one of the hardships of the Day of Resurrection from him. Whoever grants respite to (a debtor) who is in difficulty, Allah will grant him relief in this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever conceals (the fault of) a Muslim in this world, Allah will conceal him (his faults) in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah will help a person so long as he is helping his brother.

Conclusion

Revealing your sins is considered an act of ingratitude against Allah. And when it comes to boasting about sins there is even a fear of apostasy, since it implies that the person does not consider the sin haram, which means that he rejects the laws of Allah.

The best way is sincere repentance to Allah, and of course not going to extremes in committing sins in the first place. If you do happen to commit a sin, do not throw away the mercy of concealment with which Allah covers your sin. Keep your mistakes to yourself and make a private tawbah between yourself and Allah. The exception is when your sin has directly harmed someone else. In such cases you must attempt to repair the harm.

Disclosing Past Sins to a Prospective Spouse

Questions and Answers

This is a question that comes up often.

Let's say you are an unmarried woman and you previously committed zinaa. You have since made tawbah. You asked Allah's forgiveness and gave up such sins. Then a man comes, asking for your hand in marriage. He seems a good candidate. However, he wants to know: Are you a virgin? Have you ever had a boyfriend? Or maybe he even asks outright if you ever committed zinaa.

Should you tell this person (in the spirit of honesty and fair play) about the sins and mistakes you have done in the past?

You should not lie, as lying is a sin in Islam. However, you are also not obligated to reveal your past sins, nor should you do so.

You should say something like the following:

"I made mistakes in the past, but I have made my tawbah with Allah. Whatever I did is between me and Allah. I will not discuss it now or in the future. If you can accept this answer then we can proceed. If not then I understand and you can seek someone else."

Hold to that and do not give up any details, no matter how anyone presses you. Sharing details of past relationships or sexual encounters is always a mistake. Even if the person is still inclined to proceed with you, those details will only engender jealousy.

You might say, "But if I make a statement like that, the person will know I committed some sins and will not want to marry me."

Yes, that is certainly possible. That is the price you pay for breaking the laws of Allah and engaging in sinful behavior.

There are two ways it can go:

  1. If the man rejects you after you make such a statement, then let him go. This is a man who cannot accept whatever past mistakes you made. If you had told him the truth, he still would have rejected you. Or he would have married you then held it against you, keeping a grudge in his heart, and maybe throwing it in your face whenever you have a dispute. Better to let him go.
  2. If the man accepts your statement and marries you anyway, then you know you have a keeper. He is a kind, compassionate and forgiving type of person. Count your blessings and be grateful.

Disclosing Past Sins to Your Husband

past, present, futureThe reason I am focusing more on the past sins of women is that men tend to be more jealous and angry about such things. Society has a huge double standard, in that men are often given a pass for "youthful indiscretions," or "sowing their wild oats." Most wives are willing to forgive mistakes of the past.

Women, on the other hand, are socially expected to remain pure until marriage. Men often have a hard time forgiving any shortfall in this regard.

There are two possible scenarios here:

1. You Feel Guilty and Want to Confess

You are happily married but you feel guilty about your past deeds, and you want to tell your husband to relieve your guilt. If this is you, all I can tell you is, "Don't do it." It may relieve your guilt, but it might also destroy your marriage. Men do not want to hear the details of their wives' past relationships or sexual indiscretions. They may think they do, and they might even insist on knowing the details, but believe me, they do not truly want to know. The jealousy will eat at their hearts like acid. It will end up being a real problem.

2. Your Husband Finds Out

Your husband (or wife) has discovered some evidence of your past indiscretions or affairs. Perhaps you told him that you were a virgin and never had a boyfriend. He calls you a liar, says he cannot trust you anymore, and demands that you tell him everything. How many men have you been with? What were their names? What exactly did you do?

My advice is that you say something like this: "I admit that I had a boyfriend before we were married. I am very sorry that I was not honest with you. Please forgive me for lying. I have been faithful to you in marriage. I love you and I don't want anyone but you. However I will not discuss any details about that past relationship."

If your husband is a reasonable, compassionate person, he should forgive you. No matter what, do not give him details about the past, such as the name of the man you were with, how long you were with him, and definitely do not give any details about what exactly you did with him physically. As I said, in their hearts men do not want to know these things. The jealousy could ruin your marriage.

Exceptions

Before I go further and address various scenarios, I want to mention a few important exceptions to the "do not disclose your sins rule."

Imam Nawawi said, “There is no harm in telling about a sin to one’s shaykh or other person who may be expected to teach one how to desist from the act or refrain from similar acts, or apprise one of the causes that led to it, or pray for one.” [Nawawi, Adhkar]

So it's okay to discuss these matters with a person of knowledge who might guide you. That also applies to posting your question on an Islamic advice website (which you should do anonymously, without disclosing your real identity). It also includes talking about it with a therapist, counselor or psychiatrist. Such people will maintain your confidentiality and may help you make better life choices.

And of course another exception is your doctor. If you have contracted an STD, for example, or if you used drugs or alcohol and are suffering from ill effects, you must tell your doctor so that he or she can treat you properly.

Blackmail

This is not a far-fetched scenario. We have several posts on this website by women (it's always women who are the victims in these scenarios, I don't know why) who are being blackmailed by a past lover. Typically the blackmailer has photos of video of the woman naked - photos that she sent him when they were together. The woman might still be single, or she may have married someone else. The blackmailer doesn't care either way. He threatens to mail the photos to the woman's family, friends and husband unless she continues to have sex with him.

If you are in this situation, you have two choices. Neither are good or easy choices, but let's face it, you put yourself in this problem.

1. Threaten the blackmailer. Tell him something like this: "I will NOT have sex with you. In fact I will not have any further contact with you. If you want to expose me go ahead. Just be aware that if you do, my father (or brother, or husband) will probably track you down and kill you. Also you will expose yourself as a fornicator and a blackmailer, as well as revealing yourself as a despicable human being."

It's possible that the blackmailer will decide that exposing you is not worth the risk. He may simply walk away and stop hounding you. Of course there's also the possibility that he will call your bluff. He might go head and expose you. So it's definitely a risky move.

2. Confess everything.  Tell the whole story to your parents (if you're single) or husband (if you're married). Tell them about your mistake, and that you are being blackmailed. Of course this will be difficult and shameful. But if you can do this, the blackmailer loses all his leverage. And hopefully your marriage will survive the upheaval. Yes, you will be revealing your sins, but in this case you have no choice. You must do it in order to prevent further sins and damage.

No matter what, you MUST NOT surrender to the blackmail. Do not meet the blackmailer, do not send him further photos or videos, and absolutely do not continue the relationship.

What About Past Trauma?

If you were sexually molested as a child or teenager, or if you were raped, then this advice of "concealing sins" does not apply, because you committed no sin. Although many Muslim societies attach a major stigma to such things, and sometimes blame the girl or woman, the reality is that you were the victim of a crime. You are not to blame, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

You should tell someone you trust about what was done to you, so that the perpetrator can be stopped. If he can be arrested and convicted, so much the better.

You should also talk to a counselor or therapist who can help you deal with the trauma. This is important. Molestation and rape can cause serious psychological damage that can affect your life and relationships.

With regard to having a successful relationship after experiencing past trauma, I want to copy an answer that our Editor Midnightmoon left on another post:

"InshaAllah you will be able to find a husband who loves and accepts you, with whom you can heal from these experiences.

"If you feel these events have had a lasting effect on you, it might help to speak to a counselor to help overcome this - you should be able to find one either through your GP or your local sexual health/family planning clinic.

"Regarding disclosing these events to your future husband, there are arguments both for and against telling him. Personally, I would probably come down on the side saying to tell him, but only if you feel able to. If your husband knows what you have gone through, he can inshaAllah support you to heal and comfort you if something reminds you of the past. Sometimes it can be emotionally difficult to start an intimate physical relationship after experiencing sexual trauma, even if you want to be with the person - if your husband is aware this might be an issue, then he is less likely to get confused or upset, and can take care to be gentle and supportive.

"I'd advise that you ask Allah for guidance, and trust that what then happens will be His will."

A Final Word on Repentance

Allah says in the Quran:

“Say: “O ‘Ibaadi (My servants) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily, Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [al-Zumar 39:53].

It was reported from Ibn Mas’ood that a man kissed a woman, then he came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and told him about it. Then Allah revealed the words (interpretation of the meaning): “And perform the prayers at the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night. Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds.” [Hood 11:114]. The man said, O Messenger of Allah, is this just for me? He said, “It is for all of my Ummah.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 503; Muslim, 2763)

It was reported from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The five prayers and Jumu’ah are an expiation from one week to the next, so long as you do not commit major sins.” (Narrated by Muslim, 233).

So rather than revealing your sins, the best course of action is to conceal them, repent sincerely to Allah, and focus on being a good and faithful Muslim. Do your prayers, fast in Ramadan and whenever possible, give in charity, make the Hajj, be kind to people, and do good in the world. Do these things, and Allah will reward you and lay a good path for you to follow in this world and the aakhirah.

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2 Responses »

  1. Hi IV been married to my husband for 18 years and my brother been married to his wife for 15 years.
    When my brother separated from his wife I went to stay with my brother to comfort him.
    I think my brother drug raped me and had sex with me every way possible.
    In the morning when I woke up I was shocked and confused. And I said no can find out.
    But now I’m pregnant and don’t know if it’s my husband or brother.

    • As-salamu alaykum sister Kaura. Normally the child is assumed to belong the husband if there is no evidence otherwise. However, since the other party is your brother that changes things. I think you should see a doctor and have a prenatal paternity test done. If your brother is the father, you should consider aborting the fetus.

      It's terrible what happened to you. Did you ever confront your brother about it? He should not get away with doing that.

      Wael
      IslamicAnswers.com Editor

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