بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد:
إِنَّمَا ٱلتَّوۡبَةُ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعۡمَلُونَ ٱلسُّوٓءَ بِجَهَـٰلَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ يَتُوبُ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيۡہِمۡۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَڪِيمًا (١٧) وَلَيۡسَتِ ٱلتَّوۡبَةُ لِلَّذِينَ يَعۡمَلُونَ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَهُمُ ٱلۡمَوۡتُ قَالَ إِنِّى تُبۡتُ ٱلۡـَٔـٰنَ وَلَا ٱلَّذِينَ يَمُوتُونَ وَهُمۡ ڪُفَّارٌۚ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ أَعۡتَدۡنَا لَهُمۡ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا (١٨)
Allah accepts only the repentance of those who commit evil ignorantly and recklessly then repent soon after. Allah will forgive them as Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. But repentance is not accepted, from those who knowingly continue to do evil deeds, when death faces one of them and then says: "Now I repent!" nor those who die as disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful punishment. (Quran 4: 17&18)
Allah Almighty loves His servants who return penitently to Him and seek to purify themselves of the bad consequences of their evil actions and sins (Quran 2:222). And because He (SWT) loves this deed, repentance and seeking Allah’s forgiveness and mercy (and making du’aa or supplication in general) are, therefore, considered great acts of worship that are rewarded in so many different ways; Allah says in many parts of the Quran that “He does not allow the rewards of their good deeds to go to waste”. The sincerely devout believers, moreover, know that it is not incumbent upon Almighty Allah to forgive them, but it is His Divine Kindness and Compassion that accepts their repentance. This is why they do not persist in sinning with false hopes of (a guaranteed) pardon, nor do they delay their repentance or cease seeking forgiveness.
Al-Imam Al-Zamakhshari (RA) relates that Ali ibn Abi Talib (RAA) once heard a bedouin (desert Arab) chanting the words of repentance and forgiveness, quickly and mechanically, and thereupon remarked: “This is the repentance of liars.” The man asked: “What then is true repentance?” Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) replied: “It should be accompanied by six things: (1) You must be remorseful for your wrongdoing; (2) You must fulfill the duties that you ignored; (3) You must restore the rights that you usurped; (4) You must ask forgiveness from the one you have wronged; (5) You must resolve not to repeat the sin again; (6) You must henceforth consume your soul in obedience to Allah, more than you had been consuming it in disobedience. This will cause your soul to taste the true enduring sweetness that comes with submission, instead of enjoying the fleeting bittersweet taste of sin.” (al-Kashshaaf)
Furthermore, it is imperative that one repents immediately from a sin once committed, faithfully and in all sincerity. This is in addition to acknowledging the sin, feeling ashamed of it, being determined to abandoning it and resolving to never return to the same or similar. Only then can one’s repentance be considered genuine and acceptable. In fact, one way Allah, Most Gracious and Generous, rewards His servant is by converting their bad deeds, after repentance and righteous behavior, to the equivalent of good deeds (yes, you read that correctly!). Subhan Allah, how Glorious is He! He says:
إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَءَامَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلًا صَـٰلِحًا فَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ يُبَدِّلُ ٱللَّهُ سَيِّـَٔاتِهِمۡ حَسَنَـٰتٍ ۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
As for those who repent, believe and do righteous deeds, they are the ones whose evil deeds Allah will change into good deeds. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran 25:70)
In the ayah from Surat al-Nisa (Chapter 4:17) at the beginning of this article, Allah Almighty, out of His Bounty and Mercy and as our Creator and Sustainer, affirms that we, by our nature, sometimes act impetuously (“ignorantly and recklessly”), and that we are, as human beings, prone to err. Yet, Allah Almighty loves to pardon those who repent to Him regularly (Quran 2:222), and, as paradoxical as it seems, Allah also, by implication, loves those who fall into error - as long as they seek His forgiveness after. And those acts that are pleasing to Allah (SWT) are invariably rewarded abundantly by Him.
Allah (SWT) promises His forgiveness if we fulfill the conditions of repentance - indeed He is truly deserving of all our (limited) praises and thanks. And no sin is too great for Allah not to forgive; in fact, the best repentance, and the most emphasized one, is that from any kind of disbelief (shirk, kufr, hypocrisy, atheism, etc. - as in the case of reverts, and of course while a person is alive), followed by repentance from the major sins (al-kabaa’ir /الكبائر ) and then the minor ones (al-saghaa’ir /الصغائر). This merit is based on the gravity of each of these types of sins and the potentially bad consequences thereof, and thus pardon and salvation therefrom is commensurate with each of them.
As indicated in the ayah, He (SWT), Most Compassionate, moreover, gives us respite to repent and return to virtue - but, it should be as “soon after” the sin as possible. Better still, it should be started during the perpetration of the act of disobedience and its recognition, accompanied by the cessation of the bad deed. Certainly it should be before the two instances when tawbah/repentance will not be accepted, that is: when the process of death starts to set in for the individual (and they see the Angel of Death appear), or the onset of the destruction of the world at the end of time (if one is alive at that time) and when all present will first taste death, and then the resurrection will begin. And both of these two scenarios can appear suddenly, so it is imperative that the believer repents without delay. Confirming this notion, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
"إنَّ اللهَ يقبَلُ توبةَ العبْدِ ما لم يُغرْغِرْ"
"Allah accepts a slave's repentance before their soul reaches the throat (when dying).” (al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad)
He (SAW) also said:
"من تاب قبل أن تطلع الشمس من مغربها تاب الله عليه"
"The person who repents before the sun rises from the west [at the end of time], Allah will forgive him/her.” (Muslim)
Tawbah is a great blessing and a means of “attaining success” (Quran 24:31) as a promise from the Divine. It provides a way of gaining Allah’s favor in this world and in the Hereafter. Indeed, Allah is especially happy with His servants when they return to Him. In the following Hadith, the Prophet (SAW) compares this joy with that of one who is saved from imminent death (though absolutely nothing can be compared to Allah, Most Glorious and Perfect, and to anything of, or about, Him):
عن أنس بن مالك رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: "لله أفرح بتوبة عبده من أحدكم سقط على بعيره وقد أضله في أرض فلاة." (متفق عليه)
وفي رواية لمسلم: "لله أشد فرحا بتوبة عبده حين يتوب إليه من أحدكم كان على راحلته بأرض فلاة، فانفلتت منه وعليها طعامه وشرابه فأيس منها، فأتى شجرة فاضطجع في ظلها، وقد أيس من راحلته، فبينما هو كذلك إذا هو بها، قائمة عنده ، فأخذ بخطامها ثم قال من شدة الفرح: اللهم أنت عبدي وأنا ربك، أخطأ من شدة الفرح."
Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, "Certainly, Allah is more delighted with the repentance of His slave than a person who lost his camel in a desert land and then finds it (unexpectedly)". (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
In another version in Muslim, he (SAW) said: "Certainly, Allah is more delighted with the repentance of His slave than a person who, in a waterless desert, lost his camel carrying his provision of food and drink. He, after losing all hope, lies down in the shade, when all of a sudden he finds that camel standing before him. He takes hold of its reins and then, out of boundless joy, blurts out: 'O Allah, You are my slave and I am your Lord!’ He commits this mistake out of extreme joy."
To be continued (in sha Allah). May Allah help and guide us.