Repentance as a Way of Life: Islam, Spirituality, & Practice
Published: August 6, 2018 • Updated: December 12, 2022
Author: Roohi Tahir
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Explore similar papers
Tawba is initiated within the heart
Verily, when the slave (of Allah) commits a sin, a black spot appears on his heart. When he refrains from it, seeks forgiveness and repents, his heart is polished clean. But if he returns, it increases until it covers his entire heart. And that is the ‘Ran’ [rust] which Allah mentioned: ‘Nay, but on their hearts is the Ran [rust] which they used to earn.’”
And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. Those are the defiantly disobedient.
In their hearts is disease, so Allah has increased their disease; and for them is a painful punishment because they [habitually] used to lie.
The fire of regret
But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.
…and as a king would not accept a dirty garment as his attire, so God does not admit a darkened heart into His proximity. And, just as the use of a garment for vile labor will soil it, and certainly, to clean it one needs to wash it with soap and warm water, so exposure of the heart to the desires fouls it, and to clean, purge and purify it, one needs to wash it in the flow of tears and the burning of regret. Every clean and pure heart is well received, just as every clean garment is. The purification and cleansing, however, are up to you.
“Deeds are considered by their intentions…”
O you who have believed, repent to Allah with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remove from you your misdeeds and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow [on] the Day when Allah will not disgrace the Prophet and those who believed with him. Their light will proceed before them and on their right; they will say, “Our Lord, perfect for us our light and forgive us. Indeed, You are over all things Competent.”
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Turn you people in repentance to Allah and beg pardon of Him. I turn to Him in repentance a hundred times a day.”
And when those come to you who believe in Our verses, say, “Peace be upon you. Your Lord has decreed upon Himself mercy: that any of you who does wrong out of ignorance and then repents after that and corrects himself—indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.”
A man came to the Prophet ﷺ and said: “O Messenger of Allah! I have been afflicted by a tremendous sin. Is there any repentance for me?” He said: “Do you have a mother?” The man said: “No.” He said: “Do you have any maternal aunts?” The man said: “Yes.” He said: “Then be dutiful to them.”
On the authority of Jundub (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ related: A man said: By Allah, Allah will not forgive so-and-so. At this, Allah the Almighty said: Who is he who swears by Me that I will not forgive so-and-so? Verily I have forgiven so-and-so and have nullified your [own good] deeds.
Whoever has wronged his brother, should ask for his pardon (before his death), as (in the Hereafter) there will be neither a dinar nor a dirham. (He should secure pardon in this life) before some of his good deeds are taken and paid to his brother, or, if he has done no good deeds, some of the bad deeds of his brother are taken to be loaded on him (in the Hereafter).
Obstacles to repentance
Disregard for one’s sins
All the people of my Ummah would get pardon for their sins except those who publicize them. And (it means) that a servant should do a deed during the night and tell the people in the morning that he has done so and so, whereas Allah has concealed it. And he does a deed during the day and when it is night he tells the people, whereas Allah has concealed it.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Whoever sets a good precedent in Islam, he will have the reward for that, and the reward of those who acted in accordance with it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever sets an evil precedent in Islam, he will have a burden of sin for that, and the burden of those who acted in accordance with it, without that detracting from their burden in the slightest.”'
False hope in time
“Hasten to forgiveness from your Lord…”
Assuming that one has attained Allah’s Mercy
And he does not fear the consequence thereof.
And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
Reliance on one’s good deeds
…Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing. Our Lord! and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.
Anas bin Malik narrated that Allah's Messenger ﷺ said, "If Adam's son had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys, for nothing fills his mouth except dust. And Allah forgives him who repents to Him.”
The fruits of tawba
…Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers and give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers.
Resolve – the heart holds the way forward
And Paradise will be brought near to the righteous, not far,
[It will be said], “This is what you were promised—for every returner [to Allah] and keeper [of His covenant]
Who feared the Most Merciful unseen and came with a heart returning [in repentance].
Enter it in peace. This is the Day of Eternity.”
They will have whatever they wish therein, and with Us is more.
1 Qur’an, 24:31, Sahih International
5 Al-Qayyim, Ibn. Al-Fawaid: A Collection of Wise Sayings. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Umm Al-Qura, 2004. 158-160, 235
6 Qur’an, 59:19, Sahih International
7 Qur’an, 2:10, Sahih International, also see 2:6-9
10 Stern, M.S. Al-Ghazzali on Repentance. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1990. 31
11 Ibid. 86
12 Qur’an, 79:40-41, Sahih International
14 Stern, M.S. Al-Ghazzali on Repentance. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1990. 41
15 Vittengl, J. R. (2018). A lonely search?: Risk for depression when spirituality exceeds religiosity. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 206, 386-389.
16 Qur’an, 91:9, Sahih International
17 Taymiyyah, Ibn. Obstacles That Prevent One from Making Repentance. Taken from the Book, At-Tawbah. SalafiManhaj, 2005. https://ebooks.worldofislam.info/ebooks/Repentence/Obstacles4Repentance.pdf
18 Stern, M.S. Al-Ghazzali on Repentance. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1990. 50
20 Farid, Ahmad. The Purification of the Soul According to the Earliest Sources. London: Al-Firdous, 1996. 157-8
22 Qur’an, 66:8, Sahih International
23 “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern [example] for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” [Quran, 33:21]
25 The Prophet ﷺ stood (in prayer at night) until his feet swelled up, and it was said to him: Allah has forgiven your past and future sins. He said: "Should I not be a thankful slave?”, Sunan an-Nasa'i, Grade: Sahih, 1644, In-book reference: Book 20, Hadith 47, English translation: Vol. 2, Book 20, Hadith 1645
26 Qur’an, 6:54
27 Fortress of the Muslim, Invocations from the Quran and the Sunnah by Darussalam Publications is a recommended source of authentic supplications, many of which include istighfar, https://islamawareness.net/Dua/Fortress/
28 Includes the daily five obligatory prayers, the Friday prayer, and all recommended prayers, especially the night prayer and even two units of prayer legislated in the Sunnah solely for the purpose of tawba.
29 Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: The five [daily] prayers and one Friday prayer to [the next] Friday prayer are expiations [for the sins committed in the intervals] between them. Sahih Muslim 233b, In-book reference: Book 2, Hadith 18, https://sunnah.com/muslim/2/18
30 Allah's Messenger ﷺ said: “When a bondsman—a Muslim or a believer—washes his face [in course of ablution], every sin he contemplated with his eyes will be washed away from his face along with water, or with the last drop of water; when he washes his hands, every sin they wrought will be effaced from his hands with the water, or with the last drop of water; and when he washes his feet, every sin towards which his feet have walked will be washed away with the water or with the last drop of water with the result that he comes out pure from all sins.” Sahih Muslim 244, In-book reference: Book 2, Hadith 44, https://sunnah.com/muslim/2/44
31 And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. [Qur’an, 11:114]
32 The Prophet ﷺ said, “…sadaqah (charity) extinguishes sins just as water extinguishes fire.” Jami’ At-Tirmidhi 614, Grade: Hasan, In-book reference: Book 6, Hadith 71, English translation: Vol. 2, Book 1, Hadith 614, https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/6/71
33 Hudhaifa ibn Al-Yaman reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, when the believer meets another believer and greets him with peace and shakes his hand, the sins of both will shed like the shedding of the leaves of a tree.” al-Muʻjam al-Awsaṭ 253, Grade: Sahih (al-Albani), https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2014/08/28/hadith-on-greetings-shaking-hands-will-shed-the-sins-of-the-muslims/
34 'Ali bin Abi Talib (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying, “When a Muslim visits a sick Muslim at dawn, seventy thousand angels keep on praying for him till dusk. If he visits him in the evening, seventy thousand angels keep on praying for him till the morning; and he will have [his share of] reaped fruits in Jannah.” At-Tirmidhi, Grade: Hasan, Book 7, Hadith 6, Arabic/English book reference: Book 7, Hadith 899, https://sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/7/6
35 Abu Sa'id and Abu Huraira reported that they heard Allah's Messenger ﷺ say: “Never is a believer is stricken with discomfort, hardship or illness, grief, or even with mental worry that his sins are not expiated for him.” Sahih Muslim 2573, In-book reference: Book 45, Hadith 66, https://sunnah.com/muslim/45/66
36 It was narrated that Ubayy ibn Ka‘b (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I send a great deal of blessings upon you; how much of my du‘aa’ should be sending blessings upon you?’ He said: ‘Whatever you wish.’ I said: ‘One quarter?’ He said: ‘Whatever you wish, and if you do more, that will be better for you.’ I said: ‘One half?’ He said: ‘Whatever you wish and if you do more, that will be better for you.’ I said: ‘Two thirds?’ He said: ‘Whatever you wish and if you do more, that will be better for you.’ I said: ‘I will make all of my du‘aa’ for you.’ He said: ‘Then your concerns will be taken care of and your sins will be forgiven.’” At-Tirmidhi 2457, Grade: Sahih Hasan, https://islamqa.info/en/128455
37 It was narrated that Abu Huraira said: The Messenger of Allah said: “When one of you enters the mosque, he is in a state of prayer, so long as the prayer keeps him there, and the angels will send prayer upon anyone of you so long as he remains in the place where he prayed, saying: ‘O Allah, forgive him; O Allah, have mercy on him; O Allah, accept his repentance,’ so long as he does not commit Hadath nor disturb anyone.” Sunan Ibn Majah 799, Grade: Sahih, Book 4, Hadith 65: Vol. 1, Book 4, Hadith 799, https://sunnah.com/ibnmajah/4/65
38 Umar was heard to say, “Anyone who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy. Anyone who does not forgive will not be forgiven. Anyone who does not turn in repentance will not be turned to nor will he be protected or guarded.” Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 372, Grade: Hasan (Al-Albani) In-book reference: Book 20, Hadith 1, English translation: Book 20, Hadith 372, https://sunnah.com/adab/20/1
40 Philips, Abu Ameena Bilal. Salvation through Repentance: An Islamic View. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: International Islamic Pub. House. 53-64
41 …And if not for the favor of Allah upon you and His mercy, not one of you would have been pure, ever, but Allah purifies whom He wills, and Allah is Hearing and Knowing. [Qur’an, 24:21]
43 Farid, Ahmad. The Purification of the Soul According to the Earliest Sources. London: Al-Firdous, 1996. 153-154
44 Ibid 154.
45 Stern, M.S. Al-Ghazzali on Repentance. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1990. 78
47 It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The first thing for which a person will be brought to account will be his Salah. If it is complete [all well and good], otherwise Allah will say: ‘Look and see if My slave did any voluntary prayer.’ If he is found to have done voluntary prayers, his obligatory prayers will be completed therewith.” Sunan an-Nasa'i 467, Grade: Sahih, In-book reference: Book 5, Hadith 20, English translation: Vol. 1, Book 5, Hadith 468, https://sunnah.com/nasai/5/20
48 Stern, M.S. Al-Ghazzali on Repentance. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1990. 88
49 Taymiyyah, Ibn. Obstacles That Prevent One from Making Repentance - Taken from the book, At-Tawbah. SalafiManhaj, 2005. https://ebooks.worldofislam.info/ebooks/Repentence/Obstacles4Repentance.pdf. 9-19
52 Stern, M.S. Al-Ghazzali on Repentance. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1990. 82-83
53 Ibid. 84
55 “And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins - and who can forgive sins except Allah? - and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.” [Qur’an, 3:135]
56Al-Qayyim, Ibn. The Path to Guidance. https://archive.org/stream/BooksOfIbnQayyimAl-jawziyyah/guide#page/n0/mode/2up. 72-78
57 Qur’an, 74:37, Sahih International
58 Qur’an, 25:70, Sahih International
59 Al-Qayyim, Ibn. The Path to Guidance. https://archive.org/stream/BooksOfIbnQayyimAl-jawziyyah/guide#page/n0/mode/2up. 74
60 Qur’an, 3:133, Sahih International
61 Qur’an, 23:60, Sahih International
62 Taymiyyah, Ibn. Obstacles That Prevent One from Making Repentance - Taken from the Book, At-Tawbah. SalafiManhaj, 2005. https://ebooks.worldofislam.info/ebooks/Repentence/Obstacles4Repentance.pdf. 14-15
63 Qur’an, 91:15, Sahih International
64 And We send not the signs except as a warning. [Qur’an, 17:59]
65 Qur’an, 51:55, Sahih International
66 “…Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers and give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers.” [Qur’an, 71:10-12]
67 Sahih al-Bukhari 7235, In-book reference: Book 94, Hadith 10, https://sunnah.com/bukhari/94/10 Also, Ibn `Umar narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Indeed Allah accepts the repentance of a slave as long as (his soul does not reach his throat).” Jami` at-Tirmidhi 3537, Grade: Hasan, In-book reference: Book 48, Hadith 168, English translation: Vol. 6, Book 45, Hadith 3537, https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/48/168
68 Qur’an, 39:53, Sahih International
69 Whenever the Messenger of Allah ﷺ finished his Salat (prayer), he would beg forgiveness three times [by saying, 'Astaghfirullah' Muslim, Book 20, Hadith 8, Arabic/English book reference: Book 20, Hadith 1876, https://sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/20
70 Qur’an, 2:127-128
71 Qur’an, 79:17-25
73 Qur’an, 57:14, Sahih International
74 Al-Qayyim, Ibn. Al-Fawaid: A Collection of Wise Sayings. Al-Mansura, Egypt: Umm Al-Qura, 2004. 254-255
76 Farid, Ahmad. The Purification of the Soul: According to the earliest sources. London: Al-Firdous, 1996. 156
77 Qur’an, 71:10-12
78 Farid, Ahmad. The Purification of the Soul According to the Earliest Sources. London: Al-Firdous, 1996. 160-162
79 Stern, M.S. Al-Ghazzali on Repentance. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1990. 42-43
80 Al-Qayyim, Ibn. The Path to Guidance. https://archive.org/stream/BooksOfIbnQayyimAl-jawziyyah/guide#page/n0/mode/2up. 73
81 Farid, Ahmad. The Purification of the Soul According to the Earliest Sources. London: Al-Firdous, 1996. 151
82 Qur’an, 50:31-35