Bismillah. A very nice hadith that I received in my email:
Abu Umaamah reported from the Messenger of Allah (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) said:
إِنَّ صَاحِبَ الشَّمَالِ لَيَرفَعُ الْقَلَمَ سِتَّ سَاعَاتٍ عَنِ الْعَبْدِ الْمُسْلِمِ الْمُخْطِئ – أَوْ الْمُسِيء – ، فَإِنْ نَدِمَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ اللهَ مِنْهَا أَلْقَاهَا ، وَإِلاَّ كُتِبَتْ وَاحِدَهً
“The occupier of the left raises [and holds] his pen for six hours from the Muslim servant of Allah who has wronged or committed a mistake. So if he regrets and seeks Allah’s forgiveness from it he returns it back, and if that is not the case then it is written as one.”
Source: Mu’jam al-Kabeer: 7765, Saheeh Jam’i as-Sagheer: 2097 – Imaam Albaanee said it is hasan.
When a Muslim sins, the angel who writes the bad deeds (ashabul shimaal – the companion/occupier of the left) is supposed to write that down as a bad deed. But instead of doing so right away, the angel waits for a reasonable time (note: it mentions six hours in the hadith, but that doesn’t necessarily mean 360 minutes exactly) waiting to see if the sinner repents to Allah. If he does, then the sin is not written as if it never happened.
And if he doesn’t, it is written as one bad deed.
It’s never too late for repenting. And the best time to repent is right after the sin or soon after. It almost feels like hypocrisy to be making istighfar (repentance to Allah) right after committing a sin, but that is nothing more than a trap of Shaitan. In fact, Allah describes the people of Jannah as, “Those who when they commit a sin or wrong themselves remember Allah right away and ask for forgiveness for their sins.” [Surah Al-e-Imran (3)]. May Allah make us of those who repent from sins immediately, ameen.