Repentance and seeking forgiveness
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
Istighfaar [seeking forgiveness] is in fact a form of supplication [du’aa]. It is a humble submission of a mercy plea to Allah (SWT) for forgiveness of sins. Tauba [repentance] is an intense feeling of shame for the wrong done and an earnest promise not to repeat that same mistake. It is to avoid Allah (SWT)’s displeasure and to win His favor. Both repentance and seeking forgiveness are inter-related.
A simple example can perhaps illustrate the inter-relationship between Ishtighfaar and Tauba. A person in a rage of anger or a fit of depression takes poison to commit suicide. After having taken poison he realizes the mistake and in the agony of pain seeing imminent death, he repents his mistake. Wanting to live, he promises that if saved, he wouldn’t commit the same mistake again.
A faithful person fails to be on guard at times and is victimized by temptations, but as soon as he realizes that he has violated Allah (SWT)’s command, and reminds himself of the consequences of Allah’s displeasure, he immediately repents and seeks forgiveness. This is called Istighfaar.
Du’aa [supplication] is an act which displays bondsman-ship and servitude before Allah, the Almighty. According to the tradition of Prophet (SAW), du’aa is the essence of servitude and worship. The deep feeling of remorse and self-reproach intensifies the spirit of repentance and puts the sinner very close to Allah (SWT), a state which is unique. Allah (SWT) not only accepts sincere repentance, but rewards the repentant with His special favors of mercy and kindness.
Man is but a very weak creation full of flaws and shortcomings. He is always surrounded by temptations. Vices disguised as virtues lay a snare and set up a trap for him. He needs to remain sensitive to distinguish between right and wrong, and between vice and virtue. Allah (SWT) has given him the supreme shield to defend himself from temptations and vices and that shield is Tauba and Istighfaar. Any person who lives in the formidable fort of Tauba and Istighfaar will always be safe against the attack of the forces of sins. When in all sincerity and earnestness, a sinner repents, bows down, prostrate and raises his hands in supplication, Allah’s mercy comes to his rescue and he is forgiven and his status is raised. Aayah 110 of Surah An-Nisa says:
“Yet anyone who does evil or wrongs his own soul and then asks Allah for forgiveness will find Him most forgiving and merciful.”
The real and true Tauba washes out the sins how great they may be. Aayah 38 of Surah Anfal says:
“[Ya Rasul Allah], tell the disbelievers that if they desist, their past will be forgiven, but if they persist, they have an example in the fate of those who went before.”
Allah keeps His door of forgiveness open all times. Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari (RA) reported that Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah, the Exalted, will continue to stretch out His Hand in the night so that the sinners of the day may repent, and continue to stretch His Hand in the daytime so that the sinners of the night may repent, until the sun rises from the west. [Muslim].
Umar Farooque (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) said, “Allah accepts a slave’s repentance as long as the latter is not on his death bad (that is, before the soul of the dying person reaches the throat).” [At-Tirmidhi]
Allah (SWT)’s Grace and Mercy is beyond limit. He can forgive any sin subject to His will. He (SWT) commands to make repentance and seek forgiveness instead of giving up hope as mentioned in Aayah 53 of Surah Al-Zumar:
“Say, [Allah says], My servants who have harmed yourselves by your own excess, do not despair of Allah’s Mercy. Allah forgives all sins: He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.”
Remember that it will be self-deception to think that one can be free to commit sins and then repent and seek forgiveness. This is a great sin and Allah (SWT) has condemned such an attitude.
It is also wrong to think the repentance and seeking forgiveness is limited to the sinners only. The truth is that the Prophets and Messengers who were all innocent were more conscious of Tauba and Istighfaar. They thought that did not do enough to thank Allah (SWT) and could not do justice with their status of servitude. Prophet (SAW) used to say Istighfaar three times after prayers. For sinners, Tauba and Istighfaar are to earn forgiveness and for those who are puritans, it is a means to get still closer to Allah (SWT) and have their status further raised.
May Allah (SWT) enable us to avoid sins, and enable us to make sincere repentance and seek His forgiveness! Aamin!