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Before I accepted Islam, I led a pretty disgraceful life. It has led to terrible marriage problems. When my wife asks me for information on the things I did (she is not Muslim), I do not tell her the truth so as not to hurt her or cause a divorce.

I hate that I am lying and wonder what Islam says I should do. How do I ask Allah to forgive me?

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You should:

  1. Repent: regret what you have committed in the past, refrain from committing such sins again, and ask for Allah's forgiveness.
  2. Do not tell others about your previous sins.
  3. Use tact if asked about your past.

In Fat'h Al-Bari (Arabic: فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري) by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Arabic: أحمد بن علي بن حجر العسقلاني) said in his commentary on hadiths 6815-6816 (Vol. 15, pp. 614):

أنه يستحب لمن وقع في مثل قضيته أن يتوب إلى الله تعالى ويستر نفسه ولا يذكر ذلك لأحد كما أشار به أبو بكر وعمر على ماعز

— NOTE: My own translation, so treat with care:

It is preferred for whoever commits a similar sin [to that of Ma'iz] that one repents to Allah, may He be exalted, and that one conceals one's sin and refrains from mentioning this to anyone, as was advised by Abu Bakr and 'Umar to Ma'iz.

Ma'iz, a companion of the Prophet ﷺ, had committed adultery (zina). He demanded to be stoned to be purified. Abu Bakr and 'Umar advised him not to advertise his sins. Ma'iz still went to the Prophet ﷺ and demanded that he be stoned to death. The Prophet ﷺ went through a series of verification question prior to commanding Ma'iz to be stoned.

There are several questions and answers provided on this site about repentance (tawba) that you may refer to:

Allah informs us in Surat An-Nisa 4:116 that Allah does not forgive shirk, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. The Prophet ﷺ mentioned that all such sins can be forgiven, except for when made public:

سَمِعْتُ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ، يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ﷺ يَقُولُ:‏ كُلُّ أُمَّتِي مُعَافًى إِلاَّ الْمُجَاهِرِينَ، وَإِنَّ مِنَ الْمَجَانَةِ أَنْ يَعْمَلَ الرَّجُلُ بِاللَّيْلِ عَمَلاً، ثُمَّ يُصْبِحَ وَقَدْ سَتَرَهُ اللَّهُ، فَيَقُولَ يَا فُلاَنُ عَمِلْتُ الْبَارِحَةَ كَذَا وَكَذَا، وَقَدْ بَاتَ يَسْتُرُهُ رَبُّهُ وَيُصْبِحُ يَكْشِفُ سِتْرَ اللَّهِ عَنْهُ

Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) saying. "All the sins of my followers will be forgiven except those of the Mujahirin (those who commit a sin openly or disclose their sins to the people). An example of such disclosure is that a person commits a sin at night and though Allah screens it from the public, then he comes in the morning, and says, 'O so-and-so, I did such-and-such (evil) deed yesterday,' though he spent his night screened by his Lord (none knowing about his sin) and in the morning he removes Allah's screen from himself."

Sahih al-Bukhari 6069, Book 78, Hadith 99

This means that one should not go public with one's sins, in hope that Allah will conceal and forgive one's sins on the Day of Judgment:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ قَالَ: لاَ يَسْتُرُ اللَّهُ عَلَى عَبْدٍ فِي الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ سَتَرَهُ اللَّهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Apostle (ﷺ) as saying: The servant (whose fault) Allah conceals in this world, Allah would also conceal (his faults) on the Day of Resurrection.

Sahih Muslim 2590 a, Book 45, Hadith 92

Use tact as much as possible to avoid bringing up your past when directly asked about it by your wife. This, however, is a behavioral topic that is not within the scope of this site.

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Asking Allah (ﷻ) to forgive you has to be accompanied with true feelings of remorse and sincere intent to never sin in the same way again. This is part of Islamic repentance. Going forward, try not to lie. (Repent again sincerely if you accidentally do though).

Does that mean to reveal your sins to her? No.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, "All the people of my Ummah would get pardon for their sins except those who publicise them. And (it means) that a servant should do a deed during the night and tell the people in the morning that he has done so and so, whereas Allah has concealed it. And he does a deed during the day and when it is night he tells the people, whereas Allah has concealed it" - Sahih Muslim (2990).

You are right to not tell her. Not only should you not be telling for the sake of not hurting her/your marriage but also because Islam forbids revealing the sins that Allah (ﷻ) concealed. It is not her right or place to ask about your past nor is it yours to ask hers. Establish this basic principle within your marital home and tell her it is per your religion. (Surely she respects your religious commitment, I hope).

Try to just reveal the 'good' from your past.

  • One more question...I'm pretty ashamed to ask it. Is shirk, occultism and worse practices (black magic, satanism, all the things you see on TV) also forgiven if they occurred before you accept Islam? – user24122 Sep 17 '17 at 1:34
  • Yes, those things are forgiven too. – Muslimah يا رب العالمين Sep 17 '17 at 18:51
  • All that is completely forgiven for a person because they would have left all of that, sincerely accepted Islam and now hate all of those things. The Mercy of God is greater than any sins. -- Bukhari: Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "If a person embraces Islam sincerely, then Allah shall forgive all his past sins, and after that starts the settlement of accounts...". – Muslimah يا رب العالمين Sep 17 '17 at 18:52

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