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The consensus is that converts are given a clean slate (i.e., their past sins are erased) when they convert to Islam, e.g. IslamWeb write:

... anyone who converts to Islam all the sins he committed before becoming Muslim are forgiven.

based on the hadith

... Are you not aware of the fact that Islam wipes out all the previous (misdeeds)? ... -- Sahih Muslim 121 (sunnah.com)

Someone who has racked up a lot of sins might concoct a scheme where they leave Islam only to convert back in order to have their sins erased.

Question: Could it be beneficial to leave Islam and convert back with a clean slate?

I'm guessing this scheme is fatally flawed in some way, but I'm not sure how.

  • That person would be a hypocrite – Armaan May 26 '17 at 21:05
  • If the intention is to get a 'clean slate' then the way is via repentence not via a supposed loophole. Islam provides methods for everything and for repentence this isn't the correct way. Even if the sins reach the heights of mountains still forgiveness is found from the most merciful. Ramadan is a month if someone who is sincere can easily get forgiven all previous sins. if you'd like me to provide textual evidences of how to get forgiven then please adjust the question. – Abu Nooh May 26 '17 at 21:25
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    There is a consensus on a convert who was born a non-muslim, however there isn't a consensus on an apostate. The Shafis hold that a revert apostate must make up for missed prayers and fasts during their period of apostasy ... hence they don't get a clean slate. – UmH May 27 '17 at 13:17
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It is indeed the case that embracing Islam erases past sins. However, the scheme in question of leaving Islam and reverting to start with a clean slate is definitely flawed as:

  • One may die while in a state of apostasy
  • One's reverting to Islam may not be accepted
  • One may become a munafiq (hypocrite)
  • One's heart may be sealed against Islam

There is a risk that one dies while in a state of apostasy, and before reverting to Islam one more time. In this case, one runs the risk of not having one's sins forgiven, in addition to invalidating all previous good deeds:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَلَا تُبْطِلُوا أَعْمَالَكُمْ ۝ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ مَاتُوا وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ فَلَن يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَهُمْ

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and do not invalidate your deeds. Indeed, those who disbelieved and averted [people] from the path of Allah and then died while they were disbelievers — never will Allah forgive them.

Qur'an 47:34

Ibn Kathir in his tafsir of this verse said that it refers to apostates who abandon Allah's guidance. In return, Allah invalidates all their previous good deeds. The companions of the Prophet ﷺ believed that no harm can befall a person who testifies that there is no diety but Allah, and no benefit can befall a mushrik (see Riyad as-Salihin » Book of Miscellany » Hadith 414) until this verse was revealed — this is when they realized that one's good deeds can be invalidated.

If one dies in a state of disbelief, previous good deeds will have been invalidated, and Allah's forgiveness will be lost. Furthermore, their repentance may not be accepted:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِيمَانِهِمْ ثُمَّ ازْدَادُوا كُفْرًا لَّن تُقْبَلَ تَوْبَتُهُمْ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الضَّالُّونَ

Indeed, those who reject the message after their belief and then increase in disbelief — never will their [claimed] repentance be accepted, and they are the ones astray.

Qur'an 3:90

While the verse that follows was revealed in connection with Bani Isra'el (believe in Mussa ﷺ, then disbelieve by worshiping the gold calf, then believing in the Torah, then disbelieving in 'Issa ﷺ, then further disbelieving in Muhammad ﷺ), it still applies to anyone in a similar condition:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ ثُمَّ كَفَرُواْ ثُمَّ آمَنُواْ ثُمَّ كَفَرُواْ ثُمَّ ازْدَادُواْ كُفْراً لَّمْ يَكُنِ اللّهُ لِيَغْفِرَ لَهُمْ وَلاَ لِيَهْدِيَهُمْ سَبِيلاً ۝ بَشِّرِ الْمُنَافِقِينَ بِأَنَّ لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا

Indeed, those who have believed then disbelieved, then believed, then disbelieved, and then increased in disbelief — never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a way.

Qur'an 4:137

Allah warns those who repeatedly believe then disbelieve that Allah may leave them to go astray without guiding them to the right path in return for their hypcrisy. Allah may even seal over their hearts as a result of getting into the belief-disbelief cycle:

ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا ثُمَّ كَفَرُوا فَطُبِعَ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ فَهُمْ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ

That is because they believed, and then they disbelieved; so their hearts were sealed over, and they do not understand.

Qur'an 63:3

Allah further confirms this by asking us a rhetorical question, which demonstrates that apostasy is an act of transgression:

كَيْفَ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ قَوْمًا كَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِيمَانِهِمْ وَشَهِدُوا أَنَّ الرَّسُولَ حَقٌّ وَجَاءَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ

How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their belief and had witnessed that the Messenger is true and clear signs had come to them? And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.

Qur'an 3:86

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I'm guessing this scheme is fatally flawed in some way, but I'm not sure how.

Apostasy is punishable by death, so that might be literally correct.

It could be due to such loopholes, not just in the spiritual sense, but the financial and legal benefits of converting to Islam in the past.

  • "Apostasy is punishable by death" That's debated. Some scholars argue that since we don't have the same level role model (the prophet), total and clear tafsir of Islam then the punishment can't be identical to the time of the prophet. – Honey May 27 '17 at 3:39
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    The classical and majority view is that apostasy is punishable by death (at least for males). However an apostate is always given a chance to revert and isn't killed unless they refuse for a defined period. – UmH May 27 '17 at 13:01

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