I was coming back from a long journey, and Allaah decreed that my seat in the airplane should be beside a group of carefree young men whose loud laughter and voices were too much, and the air was filled with clouds of smoke from their cigarettes. By the wisdom of Allaah, the plane was completely full and I could not change my seat.
I tried to escape from the problem by sleeping, but it was impossible. When I got fed up of their noise, I took out my Mus-haf (copy of the Qur'aan), and started to read what I could of the Qur'aan in a soft voice. Soon after that these young men started to quieten down. Some of them started to read newspapers, and some of them fell asleep.
Suddenly one of them said in a loud voice, even though he was sitting right next to me, "Enough! Enough!"
I thought that I had disturbed him because my voice was too loud, so I apologized to him and carried on reading in a whisper that only I could hear. I saw him holding his head in his hands, then fidgeting in his seat, moving a lot. Then he raised his head and said to me angrily, "Please, stop it, I can't stand it!!"
Then he got up from his seat and went away for a while, then he came back, greeted me with salaams, and apologized. He fell silent, and I did not know what was going on. But after a while he turned to me with his eyes full of tears and said to me in a whisper, "For three years or more I have not put my forehead on the ground, and I have not read even one aayah!
For a whole month I have been on this trip, and there is no evil action that I did not indulge in. Then I saw you reading Qur'aan, and my world turned black and my heart was filled with despair. I felt as if someone was strangling me. I felt every aayah that you read coming down on my body like a whip.
I said to myself, for how long will this negligence go on? Where will this path lead you? What will happen after all this foolish play? Then I went to the washroom, do you know why?
I had the strong urge to weep, and I could not find anywhere else to hide from the people's sight!"
I spoke to him in general terms about tawbah (repentance) and turning back to Allaah, then he fell silent.
When the plane landed, he stopped me, and it seemed that he wanted to keep away from his companions. He asked me, with a serious expression on his face, "Do you think that Allaah will accept my repentance?" I said, "If you are sincere and serious in your repentance, then Allaah will forgive all your sins."
He said, "But I have done terrible things, very terrible."
I said, "Have you not heard what Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
'Say: O 'Ibaadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah, verily, Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful' [al-Zumar 39:53]?"
I saw him smiling with joy, with his eyes filled with tears, then he bade me farewell and left. Subhaan Allaah al-'Azeem!
No matter how great a man's evil and sin, in his heart there is a seed of goodness. If only we can reach it and make it grow, it will bear fruit, insha'Allaah.
This seed of goodness is always fighting in man's heart, even when it is covered by layers of whims and desires. When Allaah wills good for His slave, He causes the light of guidance to shine in his heart and guides him to the path of those who are guided. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"And whomsoever Allaah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam; and whomsoever He wills to send astray, He makes his breast closed and constricted, as if he is climbing up to the sky" [al-An'aam 6:125]