Seeking Forgiveness from Allah
"Truly, Allah loves
those who repent, and He loves those who cleanse themselves." [Al-Baqarah
"O Allah! Make me among
those who, when they commit an act of virtue, feel good, and when they commit
a mistake, they seek forgiveness." [Ibn Majah]
Tauba (repentance) and istighfar
(seeking forgiveness from Allah) are among the most meritorious acts of virtue
for the believers. Tauba means feeling remorse for our actions or omissions.
Istighfar means expressing that remorse in words and begging Allah for forgiveness.
The act for which we perform
tauba and istighfar is not necessarily a sin, or an act of disobedience to Allah;
it also includes our shortcomings. As we realize Allah's immense favors to us,
all of our thankfulness and devotion clearly appears to be inadequate. As we
realize the grandeur of Allah, Most High, our acts of worship and obedience
clearly are seen to be insufficient. The higher a person is on the scale of
taqwa, piety and God consciousness, the greater is this sense of inadequacy.
Consequently the greater is his practice of istighfar.
That is why all the prophets,
alayhimu salam, preached and practices tauba and istighfar. We do not have to
invent any sins---inherited or personal--- to explain their repentance. In fact
all the prophets were free of sin, as Allah appointed them as role models for
humanity and Allah did not send defective role models.
The leader of all the prophets
was Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,
a fact which was also symbolized in his leading of all the prophets in Salat
(prayer) in Jerusalem during Isra. And what did the prayer leader, peace be upon him,
of the prophets use to do after every prayer? He used to say "astaghfirullah"
(I seek Allah's forgiveness) three times! This is the istighfar that comes out
of the highest level of God consciousness! He taught us to perform istighfar
profusely, as he himself practiced. The Companions have reported that he used
to do istighfar hundreds of times during the course of a day.
and istighfar are the essence of our servitude and submission to Allah.
Istighfar is also a means
of enhancing that consciousness of Allah and strengthening our relationship
with Him. We turn to no one except Allah in repentance. We confess our deepest
errors, shortcomings, failures, and sins to Him and Him alone. (In contrast,
Christianity made a fatal mistake when it instituted confession to priests.
As Martin Luther (1537) observed, "What torture, rascality, and idolatry
such confession has produced is more than can be related.") We seek His
forgiveness, knowing that He alone has knowledge about all our deeds and thoughts
and He alone can forgive us and save us from the consequences of our actions.
Istighfar, thus, is a most intimate conversation with Allah. And during that
conversation we are at our humblest. We can see why tauba and istighfar are
the essence of our servitude and submission to Allah!
We need istighfar to constantly
purify and cleanse our heart. We are not born in sin, but we are born in weakness.
We are prone to fall prey to the many temptations that are part of our test
in this life. And when we do fall and commit a sin, it produces a dark spot
in our heart. A famous hadith, reported by Abu Huraira, Radi-Allahu unhu, describes
this process. When a person shows remorse and repents, that dark spot is removed.
Otherwise it will stay there and grow with each additional sin. A time may come
when his heart is full of darkness because of un-repented sins. We can see this
gradual darkness of the heart as people advance in their sinful behavior. In
the beginning they have a lot of inhibitions. They commit the wrong hesitatingly
and feel bad about it. If they do not turn back, they get used to it, so it
just feels normal. Then a stage comes when vice becomes virtue and virtue vice.
They defend and advocate evil and shun good.
Today, unfortunately, we
see so many examples of this all around us. In the "everything goes"
post-modern world, good and evil do not mean anything anymore. Then there is
a whole crop of misguided psychologists who are ready to assure you that the
only guilt you should feel is for feeling guilty in the first place! Is it any
wonder that in the English language the word sin is now normally used to describe
things that are delicious, attractive, fun, and highly desirable? That this
darkness of the heart should be considered enlightenment only completes the
But there is hope for those
who seek hope. No matter how corrupt we might have become, we can always make
a U-turn. We can repent and seek forgiveness from our Beneficent and Merciful
Creator Who is always ready to forgive those who turn to Him in sincerity. "O
my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy
of Allah. For Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
[Az-Zumr, 39:53] Further a hadith declares: "When a person has repented
from a sin, it is as if he had never committed that sin."
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,
has taught us many words of repentance and it is good if we learn, understand,
and use them. Of these one has been mentioned as syedul-istighfar. A hadith
explains its extra ordinary significance: "If a believer says this with
complete faith and sincerity in the morning and dies before that evening, he
will enter paradise. If he says it during the night and dies before the morning,
he will enter paradise." This powerful dua is our daily pledge of allegiance.
We will do well to memorize it in Arabic and never let a day or night go by
without saying it with full consciousness: "O Allah! You are my Lord. There
is no God except You. You created me and I am Your slave. To the best of my
ability, I will abide by my covenant and pledge to You. I seek Your protection
from the evil of my own creation. I acknowledge Your favors to me and I admit
my sins. So please forgive me for no one can forgive sins except You."
[reproduced with permission
Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:04:52 AM
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