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REBIRTH STARTS WITH REPENTANCE (TAWBAH), PART 1

August 26, 2022

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد:


قُلۡ يَـٰعِبَادِىَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسۡرَفُواْ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمۡ لَا تَقۡنَطُواْ مِن رَّحۡمَةِ ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغۡفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا‌ۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ هُوَ ٱلۡغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

Say (O Prophet, that God says): "O My slaves who have transgressed against their own souls! Do not despair of the Mercy of Allah, for Allah certainly forgives all sins. He is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran 39: 53)



A spiritual revival or rebirth is the start (or resumption) of a journey towards the Divine; better still, it is a return to the Almighty, a return to the innate natural belief in Him (al-fitrah) that every human being is born with, and a return before that to the covenant we all (“the descendants of Adam (AS)”,) together and individually, took with God before we were created, when we testified: “Indeed, You are our Lord!” (Quran 7:172). A rebirth, therefore, is a return to upholding this pledge to Allah and fulfilling our responsibilities to Him.



In our Islamic tradition and teachings, one of the terms and concepts we have for “return” is “al-tawbah”, almost always translated as “repentance”. Allah (SWT) says:


يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ تُوبُوٓاْ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ تَوۡبَةً نَّصُوحًا عَسَىٰ رَبُّكُمۡ أَن يُكَفِّرَ عَنكُمۡ سَيِّـَٔاتِكُمۡ وَيُدۡخِلَڪُمۡ جَنَّـٰتٍ تَجۡرِى مِن تَحۡتِهَا ٱلۡأَنۡهَـٰرُ يَوۡمَ لَا يُخۡزِى ٱللَّهُ ٱلنَّبِىَّ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ مَعَهُ ۥ‌ۖ نُورُهُمۡ يَسۡعَىٰ بَيۡنَ أَيۡدِيہِمۡ وَبِأَيۡمَـٰنِہِمۡ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَآ أَتۡمِمۡ لَنَا نُورَنَا وَٱغۡفِرۡ لَنَآ‌ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ ڪُلِّ شَىۡءٍ قَدِيرٌ

O you who believe! Return to Allah with sincere repentance, so your Lord may absolve you of your sins and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow, on the Day that Allah will not disgrace the Prophet and those who believe with him. Their light will shine forward before them and on their right, and they will say: "Our Lord! Perfect our light for us and forgive us. For, You are truly the Most Capable of everything." (Quran 66:8)



Repentance is thus to return from disobeying Allah to submitting to Him and obeying His every command, as He alone is worthy of all servitude, at all times, and as per our covenant (see above), and is essentially a token of our continued gratitude to Him. When we turn to Allah (SWT), it should be in reverence and awe, in love and hope, with trust and enthusiasm, and in humility and total surrender. When we return to Him after having strayed or forgotten Him, then these aforementioned qualities are even more emphasized, and are a prerequisite for His forgiveness (maghfirah) and pardon (‘afw). The servant of Allah returns to Allah and presents himself or herself humbly as a destitute being, beseeching Allah for His pardon, in total devotion and humility, fearful of rejection and desperate for Allah’s acceptance and pleasure.



This “return to the beginning” is a unique and very profound concept and paradigm: Just as is the case with Adam and Hawwa/Eve (AS), we, too, all originated in Heaven and belong to Allah. This life is therefore a journey of RETURN to our rightful abode and the Lord of those Gardens. We have no choice but to continue on the straight path (also the shortest distance) - or what we know as the way of Islam - to find ourselves “going home” in the most desirous manner. This means to follow the road map provided by Allah (SWT) and to keep our eyes focused on the destination, and more importantly not to digress from the path or slack up on it.



There are many references to al-tawbah (repentance) in the Quran and Hadith, demonstrating that returning to Allah and seeking His pardon is an integral part of a believer’s armory and regiment. Allah Almighty reiterates that tawbah results in Divine success or al-falaaH (Quran 24:31), that “He loves those who turn to Him often in repentance (the tawwaabeen)” as a means of “consistently purifying themselves” (Quran, 2:222), and (in various places in His book) that Paradise, the ultimate reward for being forgiven of one’s sins, is the point of return and reference, or al-mataab and al-ma’aab.



Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have turned to Allah Almighty in repentance more than 70 times a day (al-Bukhari) and, in another report, he did it a hundred times a day (Muslim); this despite the fact that he did not sin! He was, however, teaching his followers - and all of us are sinners - and leading by example. He also pointed to the two paths in life from which we have to choose (as alluded to also in the Quran), in the following hadith:


عن عبد الله بن عباس وأنس بن مالك رضي الله عنهم أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: «لو أن لابنِ آدمَ واديًا من ذَهَبٍ أَحَبَّ أن يكونَ له واديانِ، ولَنْ يملأَ فَاهُ إلا الترابُ، ويَتُوبُ اللهُ عَلَى مَنْ تَابَ».

Abdullah ibn Abbas and Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with them) reported that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) said: "If the son of Adam were to own a valley of gold, he would desire to have two valleys. Nothing can fill his mouth except dirt, and Allah accepts the repentance of whoever returns to Him." (al-Bukhari and Muslim)



The above hadith clearly indicates that, on our journey of life, we may become victims of the material world and its allurements, succumbing to our greed and base desires. We could go to our graves in that condition, continuing to fill our mouths and bodies, but instead of the gold and other possessions of the world, in the grave it will be with nothing but dirt. Yet, there is hope: Allah’s door for mercy and forgiveness remains ever open before death, and it is the prudent and astute believer that will realize the folly of pursuing the worldly life at the expense of Allah’s pleasure.



May Allah, Most Compassionate and All-Forgiving, shower His grace upon us and guide us back to Him always. May we continue to seek His pardon and may He forgive us for our sins, mistakes, neglect and shortcomings. We ask Him to save us from any punishment and grant us goodness in both worlds. Last but not least, we pray for a noble end to this life and entry into the highest levels of Jannah/Paradise.



All praises are indeed due to Allah, Lord of the Creation. Peace and blessings be upon our master Prophet Muhmmad (SAW), on his family and on his companions. And Allah’s peace be with you, and your family, friends and brethren. (To be continued in part 2, in sha Allah)