Repentance of the gravedigger
It has been narrated that one day Ma’ath bin Jabal had come to the Prophet (S) crying. He greeted the Prophet (S) and the Prophet (S) replied to his greeting. Then the Prophet (S) asked him why he had been crying and he said, “O messenger of Allah, at the door there is a young man with a soft body, bright color and beautiful face. He cries for his youth as a woman bereaved of her child. He wants to meet you.” The Prophet (S) said, “O Ma’ath, let him come to me.” The young man came in, greeted the Prophet (S) and the Prophet (S) replied to his greeting. Then the Prophet (S) asked him why he had been crying and he said, “How do I not cry while I have committed sins that if Allah punishes me for some of them, He will throw me into the hell? I think that Allah will punish me for them and He will not forgive me at all.”
The Prophet (S) said, “Have you associated with Allah anything else?” He said, “I seek the protection of Allah from associating anything with my Lord!” The Prophet (S) asked him, “Have you killed an innocent one?” He said, “No!” The Prophet (S) said, “Allah will forgive you even if your sins are like the mountains.” The young man said, “My sins are greater than the mountains.” The Prophet (S) said, “Allah will forgive you even if your sins are as much as the seven earths with their seas, sands, trees and creatures.”
He said, “My sins are greater than the seven earths and their seas, sands, trees and creatures.” The Prophet (S) said, “Allah will forgive you even if your sins are like the heavens and their stars and like the Throne.” The young man said, “They are greater than that.” The Prophet (S) looked at him angrily and said, “Woe unto you! Are your sins greater or your Lord?” The young man fell down to the ground saying, “Glory be to my Lord! There is nothing greater than my Lord. O messenger of Allah, my Lord is greater than every great thing.” The Prophet (S) said, “Is there anyone that forgives the great sin except the great Lord?!” The young man said, “O messenger of Allah, no, by Allah there is not.” Then the young man kept quiet. The Prophet (S) asked him, “O young man, would you tell me about one of your sins?”
He said, “Yes, I would. I have been digging graves for seven years. I took the dead out of their graves and took off their shrouds. One day a bond maid from al-Ansar died. When she was buried and her family left and the dark night came, I came to her grave. I dug out the grave and took her out. I took off her shroud and left her naked at the edge of her grave. When I left, the Satan began inciting me and saying, “Do you not see her abdomen and white? Do you not see her thighs?” He still said to me so until I came back to her. I could not control myself until I made love with her and left her in her place. I heard a voice behind me saying, “O young man, woe unto you from the Lord of the day of punishment where He will stop me with you as you have left me naked among the dead, taken me out of my grave, extorted my shrouds and left me impure until the day of punishment! Woe unto your youth from the hell!” I do not think that I will smell the fragrance of paradise forever!” The Prophet (S) said, “O dissolute! Be away from me! I fear of being burnt in your fire. How near to Fire you are!” The Prophet (S) kept on saying that until the young man was taken away from the Prophet (S).
The young man went to Medina to supply himself with provisions and then he went to the mountains to worship Allah there. He put on a coarse garment, tied his hands to his neck and called, “O my Lord! This is your slave Bahlool tied before You. O my Lord, You are the One Who knows me well. I have slipped as You know. O my Lord! I have repented and come to Your Prophet but he drove me away and made me fear more. O my Lord, I pray You with your name, glory and great sovereignty not to disappoint my hope! O my Lord! Do not annul my prayer and do not des pair me of Your mercy!”
He kept on that for forty days and nights. The beasts cried with him. When he spent forty days and nights, he raised his hands towards the heaven and said, “O my Lord! What do You do to my need? If You have responded to my prayer, forgiven my sin and decided to punish me, then hasten to burn me with fire or with a punishment that perishes me in this world or You save me from the scandal on the day of resurrection!”
Then Allah revealed to the Prophet (S), “And those who when they commit an indecency,” (Qur’an, 3:135)
it means adultery (or do injustice to their souls) by committing a sin greater than adultery like digging the graves and extorting the shrouds of the dead “remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults” fear Allah and hasten to repent “and who forgives the faults but Allah,” Allah says, “O Muhammad, my slave has come to you repenting but you rejected him. Where and to whom does he go? Whom does he ask to forgive his sins except Me?” Then Allah said, “and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done” do not keep on committing adultery, digging the graves and taking the shrouds of the buried dead: “(As for) these, their reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and excellent is the reward of the laborers.” Qur'an, 3:136
When this verse was revealed to the Prophet (S), he went out reciting it and smiling. He said to his companions, “Who can show me the way to that repentant young man?” Ma’ath showed the Prophet (S) the way. The Prophet (S) with his companions went there. When they arrived at that mountain, they went up looking for the young man. They found him between two rocks offering prayer. His hands were tied to his neck, his face was blackened and the edges of his eyelids were too harmed because of crying. He was praying Allah and saying, “O my Master, You have created me so well and have made me beautiful. I wish I knew what You will do to me! Will You burn me in Fire or You will make me reside beside You? O Allah, You have bestowed upon me too many blessings. I wish I knew what my end will be! Will You hurry me to paradise or You will drive me to the hell? O my Lord, my sin is greater than the heavens and the earth and than Your great Throne! I wish I knew whether you forgive my sin or expose me with it on the day of resurrection!” He still said that, cried and poured earth over his head while the beasts had gathered around him and the birds above him crying with his crying.
The Prophet (S) came near to him, untied his hands from his neck, wiped the dust from his head and said to him, “O Bahlool, be delighted! Allah has freed you from the hell.” Then the Prophet (S) said to his companions, “Avoid sins in this way as Bahlool has done!” Then the Prophet (S) recited to Bahlool what Allah had revealed concerning him (Bahlool) and brought him the good news of being in paradise.” (Biharul Anwar, vol. 6 p.23).