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Tawba & Istaghfaar – Repentance and seeking forgiveness
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
Man in spite of his dynamism, energy, creativity, intellect, wisdom, conquest of space, thought and action is but a week, feeble and powerless creation in Allah’s limitless universe. Shaitan, his open enemy has a mission to tempt him to commit sin. His trickery at times succeeds in deceiving even a chaste believer. But as soon as the believer realizes that he has committed a sin, displeased Allah (SWT) by disobeying Him, he regrets and repents. Ashamed and repentant, trusting in Allah’s Mercy, the believer in all humility submits to his Lord and seeks His forgiveness. He promises that he wouldn’t commit such an act again. In Shari’ah’s terminology, this very act is called “Tawbah and Istighfaar.” The intense feeling of guilt and shame for having committed a sin, the promise not to commit it again, and a total trust in Allah’s guaranteed Mercy and Forgiveness brings the believer closer to Allah (SWT) and results in the elevation of his status. Repentance in utter shame and seeking forgiveness in all humility is the most explicit expression of man’s powerlessness and meekness before Allah’s most exalted Majesty, Might and Power. This state is called the best of worship. The Holy Qur’an and traditions of our beloved Prophet (SAW) mention the theme of Tawbah and Istighfaar time and again highlighting its importance and pertinence in getting closer to Allah (SWT). Human vocabulary is shallow and limited, and languages are speechless to do justice with Allah’s glorification; Allah, Who through sinner’s earnest repentance enables him to wash out his sins and become pure and clean, and raise his status by becoming closer to Allah (SWT). The Holy Qur’an mentions the many supplications made by Allah’s prophets and messengers in which they have made repentance and sought Allah’s forgiveness.
Aadam and Hawwa (Eve) (AS) make their supplication in Aayah 23 of Surah A’araaf in these words:
“Our Lord, we have wronged our souls; if You do not forgive us and have mercy, we shall be lost.”
Nuh (Noah) (AS) supplicates in Aayah 47 of Surah Hud:
“My Lord, I take refuge with You from asking for things I know nothing about. If you do not forgive me, and have mercy on me, I shall be one of the losers.”
Aayah 28 of Surah Nuh says:
“Lord, forgive me, my parents, and whoever enters my house as a believer…”
Musa (AS) submits in Aayah 16 of Surah Al-Qasas as such:
“Lord, I have wronged myself. Forgive me, so Allah forgave him; He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful. [Musa (AS)] said: My Lord, because of the blessings You have bestowed upon me, I shall never support those who do evil.”
Aayah 24 of Surah S’ad says:
“So he [Da’ud] asked his Lord for forgiveness, fell down on his knees, and repented. We forgave him. His reward will be nearness to Us, a good place to return to.”
In Aayah 35 of Surah S’ad, Sulayman (AS) supplicates in these words:
“He (Sulayman) turned to Us and prayed: ‘Lord forgive me!”
Allah (SWT) addressing our beloved Prophet says in Aayah 19 of Surah Muhammad:
“So, [Prophet] bear in mind that there is no god, but Allah, and ask forgiveness for your sins and for the sins of believing men and women…”
Keep in mind that Allah’s Prophets are innocent and free of sins, yet see what Allah (SWT) says in Aayah 55 of Surah Mu’min:
“So be patient, Prophet, for what Allah has promised is sure to come. Ask forgiveness for your sins; praise your Lord morning and evening.”
Aayah 1-2 of Surah Fath gives glad tidings to Prophet (SAW) in these words:
“Truly We have opened up a path to clear triumph for you [Prophet], so that Allah may forgive your past and future sins, complete His grace upon you, guide you to a straight path, and help you mightily.”
This address is for raising Prophet (SAW)’s status higher and higher. In other words it is made clear that repentance not only erases the sins, but also uplifts the status.
Scholars have written that the real Tawbah [repentance] as mentioned in Aayah 31 in Surah Al-Noor is:
“Believers, all of you, turn to Allah so that you may prosper.”
Istighfaar [seeking forgiveness] is the passage to get to the destination of Tawbah [repentance]. When a man feels guilty and ashamed after committing a sin, and seeks Allah’s forgiveness – this is Istighfaar. And when he promises not to commit the sin again after making repentance is Tawbah. The command of Allah (SWT) however is for both. Allah (SWT) says in Aayah 8 of Surah Al-Tahreem:
“Believers, turn to Allah in sincere repentance. Your Lord may well cancel your bad deeds for you …”
According to a Hadith-e-Qudsi:
Allah, the exalted said: “O son of Adam! I shall go on forgiving you so long as you pray to Me and aspire for My forgiveness whatever may be your sins. O son of Adam! I do not care even if your sins should pile up to the sky and should you beg pardon of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam! If you come to Me with an earth-full of sins and meet Me, not associating anything with Me in worship, I will certainly grant you as much pardon as will fill the earth.” [At-Tirmidhi]
“O my slaves! You commit sins day and night, and I forgive all your sins. You keep seeking forgiveness from Me, I will keep forgiving you.”
There are innumerable benefits of Istighfaar, and one of them is to get sins forgiven as mentioned in Aayah 110 of Surah Nisa:
“Yet anyone who does evil or wrongs his own soul and then asks Allah for forgiveness will find Him [Allah] most forgiving and merciful.”
Mishkaat-ul-Masaabih refers to a tradition which says: “When a slave submits a plea to Allah (SWT), Allah in His infinite mercy does not reject it.”
Yet another benefit is that Istighfaar provides relief from hard ships eases grief, provides, increases, and blesses livelihood as mentioned in this tradition:
According to Ibn Abbas, Prophet (SAW) said: “If anyone constantly seeks pardon [from Allah], Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him where he expects not.” [Abu Dawud]
Seeking forgiveness multiplies the blessings as Qur’an cites Nuh (AS) advising his people in Aayah 10-12 in Surah Nuh:
“Ask forgiveness of your Lord: He is ever forgiving. He will send down abundant rain from the sky for you; He will give you wealth and sons; He will provide you with gardens and rivers.”
Similar advice was given to his followers by Hud (AS) as per Aayah 52 of Surah Hud:
“My people: ask forgiveness from your Lord, and return to Him. He will send down for you rain in abundance from the sky, and give you extra strength. Do not turn away and be lost in your sins.”
Our beloved Prophet (SAW) used to frequently make Istighfaar:
Ibn Umar (RA) narrates: “We counted Allah’s Messenger (SAW) saying a hundred times during one single sitting: Rabb-igh’fir li, wa tubb ala’iyya, innaka Antat-Tawwabur-Rahim (My Lord! Forgive me and pardon me. Indeed, You are the Oft-Returning with compassion and Ever Merciful.” [Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi]
Allah (SWT) mentions the attribute of the puritans in Aayah 17-18 of Surah Al-Zaariyaat:
“They will receive their Lord’s gifts because of the good they did before: sleeping only a little at night, praying at dawn for Allah’s forgiveness…”
The believer men and women should submit to Allah (SWT) in all humility, and seek forgiveness for sins, and recite Istighfaar as much as possible. It is not only ungratefulness, but an act of rebellion to benefit from Allah’s limitless blessings and be disobedient to His commands. Remember nothing is hidden from Allah, and no one can escape from accountability and His punishment. Ramazan is around the corner, buckle up, revise your schedule and inculcate the habit of making supplications to Allah (SWT), express your meekness before him, repent your sins, promise not to commit them again, seek forgiveness from Him, beseech His pleasure and beg for His Mercy.
Remember hardships, worries, lack of means in supporting the self and family is due to our shortcomings and sins.
A person came to visit Hasan Basri (RehmA) and said: “I am poor and starving and have nothing to survive.” Basri advised him: “Makes as much Istighfaar as possible. Allah will alleviate your problem.”
Another person came to him and said: “I have been married for a long time, but haven’t been blessed with a child.” He was also advised to engage himself in Istighfaar.
Yet another person came and complained: “I incurred a heavy loss in business. I am much worried.” He too was recommended to make Istighfaar.
Someone from the audience asked: “How come that you have suggested one prescription for all problems.” Hasan Basri replied: “All hardships and disappointments are caused by sins, and that is why I have prescribed Istighfaar. Repentance and seeking forgiveness provides relief and salvation from all ills.
I conclude today’s address with Aayahs 53-54 of Surah Al-Zumar, which according to Abdullah bin Umar (RA) gives believers the best hope:
“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. Turn to your Lord. Submit to Him before the punishment overtakes you and you can no longer be helped.”
Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) says that Aayah 6 of Surah Al-Ra’d is the most encouraging:
“…Your Lord is full of forgiveness for people, despite their wrongdoing, but He is truly severe in punishment.”
May Allah enable us to realize the importance of the gift of life and the countless blessings we have been bestowed with and utilize our time prudently and wisely and the way it pleases Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW). Aameen!
SWT = Subhanahu Wa Ta'Ala
SAW = Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam
RAnha= Radhiyallaho anha
The Friday Khutbahs are published to enhance your knowledge of Islam. The references of Quran and Hadith are the approximate translation of the Arabic text. The editors have not verified the accuracy of the the English translation. The scholarly reader is encouraged to refer to the original Arabic script if there is any doubt. Kindly notify us if the translation can be enhanced.