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Question: I had a problem that dealt with Islamic issues and a friend referred me to you after being impressed with an Islamic program. He told me you had a wealth of knowledge. So here is my problem and try your best not to judge me however, if it is that I shall have your wrath as well, I accept considering my actions. About 10 years ago, at the age of 25, I decided to get intimate with a friend who was the same age. Let me mention that I was not as strong a believer as I am now and indeed the years have strengthened my Iman (faith). So I decided to fool around with this girl, whom I did love at the time, an age where hormones are bursting with fervour, considering i was not with a woman before that time. However, during the course of our "intercourse", I did not ejaculate, however she saw my naked body and I, hers. My question: I have fallen in love with a believing woman and want to marry her; is this allowed under Shari’ah? Were my actions, though they happened only once, considered fornication? Will God forgive me? I have not touched a woman since and have taken a vow of celibacy; can I get married to this woman whom I love?

In Islam, we earnestly believe that Allah is all-Compassionate and all-Forgiving; and that He is ever willing to forgive those of His servant who turn sincerely to Him in repentance and ask forgiveness of Him. Allah says, “Verily, I am Forgiving to him/her who repents and believes (in Me) and does good works, then follows the right path.” (Qur’an: 20: 82).

Sincere repentance, however, is not mere words; rather it involves tangible steps that one must take that reflects true remorse: these steps include feeling true sorrow and remorse for one’s sin; refraining from the sin as well as all its leads and circumstances that lead to it, to resolve never to repeat the same again, and finally follow it up with whatever good deeds that one can afford to. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “If you happen to commit a bad deed, follow it up with good deeds in order to wipe it out.”

Once you have taken the above measures, you can certainly hope to receive the mercy and forgiveness of Allah as He Himself has promised. The Prophet (upon whom be Allah’s blessings and peace) said, “A person who has sincerely repented of a sin is like one who has never sinned!”

Having changed yourself for a better person, there is nothing wrong for you marrying this woman, but it is still a good idea for you to tell her that you were not a good Muslim in the past so that she makes up her own mind. While doing so you must never divulge the specific sins you have committed that Allah has covered for you; for by doing so you are removing the cover the cover that the Merciful Lord has placed over them. An exception to this, however, must be made: If you because of your fling in the past you have contracted any contagious disease or possibility of contracting it, then you must divulge the same in order to protect your future partner.

Let me conclude: Never let past sins weigh you down. Look to the future and the infinite Mercy of Allah, who is All-Compassionate and All-Merciful. Since Islam is above all a religion of mercy, Islamic history is full of sinners turned into saints. So look forward to the Mercy of Allah which He has promised to those who flee to Him in repentance and good works.

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