Once, during the reign of Hazrat Umar (Radhiallaho Anho), a thief was caught, found guilty and handed over for punishment.
He complained bitterly and pleaded: "O Ameerul Mumineen, this is my first crime. Please pardon my fault".
Hazrat Umar replied: "Allah Ta’ala forbid!
Allah Ta’ala does not send down His revenge and punishment at the commission of crime for the first crime. At most times by way of expressing His bounty. He covers up the faults of servants, but when they continue sinning, then by way of justice, He seizes them and causes them disgrace. So that both Allah Ta’ala's attributes become exhibited as Giver of good news and as Warner of His punishment".
In this story, there is a great lesson for those intending to follow the path of the Sulook (Moral Reformation). There are those involved with looking at evil and similar sins for a long time and neglect to rectify and change their condition, yet they are noted to be Sufis or pious among men. For them to be at ease and be satisfied that Allah Ta’ala has concealed their sins and thus make themselves a target of Allah Ta’ala's attribute of vengeance and punishing for sins, is a very foolish attitude.
Allah Ta’ala's exhibition of this graceful nature, grants us the opportunity of rectification and sincere repentance. If we are not taking benefit from this opportunity, then His attribute of Justice will cease us by calamities and we will be disgraced.
Hence, at all times, we should remain fearful of Allah Ta’ala exhibiting His other attributes. We should, thus, remain busy with seeking forgiveness and crying lamentfully before Him; all the while, endeavoring to give up sinful activities. At the same time, we should also continue to consult our spiritual guide to whom we entrust our rectification. In the presence of continuous sin, performance of much Zikr and recitation of 'Wazeefas' is not of full benefit. The novice treading the Sufi path in such a way will always be incomplete in his endeavors and remain far from his objective of acquiring nearness to Allah Ta’ala.
The path of sin on the one side and proximity to Allah Ta’ala are two opposite and contrasting objectives. The main pre-condition for sainthood is 'taqwa' - fear of Allah Ta’ala and care of one's duties to Him and His creation. The main pre- condition for sainthood is not making abundance of Zikr and the recitation of Wazeefas. However, it must be stressed that recitation of Zikr etc. provides great help in attaining 'taqwa'.
May Allah Ta’ala grant us all the ability to acquire within ourselves taqwa (fear for Him) and the ability to avoid all sins and also the ability to treat our sickness of sins. And May He grant us the opportunity to turn to some saint of His with the intention of acquiring all these things, Ameen!
Source: Ma’aarif- e-Mathnawi