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Repentance (Taubah)

By Diya al-Deen

The Arabic word for repentance is Taubah which translated literally means ‘to return’. Repentance means to leave what Allaah has prohibited and to return to what he has commanded.

Allaah has encouraged the believers to repent with sincere repentance.

O you who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance!

[Surah At-Tahrim Ayah: 8]

In another ayah Allaah has said

But as for him who repented (from polytheism and sins, etc.), believed (in the Oneness of Allah, and in His Messenger Muhammad saws), and did righteous deeds (in the life of this world), then he will be among those who are successful.

[Surah Al-Qasas Ayah:67]

So we should repent to Allaah and submit before him. Indeed even the Prophet (saws) used to ask Allaah for his forgiveness even though he was the Prophet and was sinless. We see that despite this he used to repent to Allaah more than 70 times a day.

"O people, make tawbah to Allah. By Allah, I make tawbah to Him more than seventy times each day."


Even though the Prophet (saws) was never displeasing to Allaah he asked Allah for His forgiveness, how much more so should the sinners?

The Prophet (saws) encouraged everyone to repent to Allaah as a means of purification from the sins. The Prophet (saws) used to say every morning he used to ask Allaah for forgiveness at least 100 times.

Abdullah ibn `Umar said: We counted in a single sitting the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, saying one hundred times:

"Rabbi-ghfir-lee wa tub `alayya innaka anta-t-tawwabu-l-ghafoor."

(My Lord, forgive me and accept my repentance, verily you are Acceptor of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving.)

[Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah]

And the best time for repentance is in the morning and the night, in that we may start our day with repentance and end our day with repentance.

The Prophet (saws) has said

Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, stretches out His Hand during the night so that the people repent for the fault committed from dawn till dusk and He stretches out His Hand during the day so that the people may repent for the fault committed from dusk to dawn (He would accept repentance) before the sun rises in the west (before the Day of Resurrection).”


So we should endeavour to keep our hearts pure and our tongues moist with repentance to Allaah in that he may forgive us our sins.

Shaddad Ibn 'Aus (RA) narrated, the Prophet (PBUH) said:

"The most superior way of asking help (forgiveness) from Allah is to say:

'Allahumma Anta Rabbii la ilaha illa Anta, Khalaqtanii wa ana 'abduka,

wa ana alaa 'ahdika wa wa'dika mastata'tu,

a'udhu Bika min sharri ma sana'tu, abuu'u Laka Bini'matika 'alayya,

wa abuu'u bidhanbii, faghfirlii fa'innahu la yaghfiru Adh-dhanbu illa Anta.'

What translated in English means,

O Allah, Thou are my Lord! There is no god but Thee, It is Thee Who created me, and I am Thy servant, I am faithful to my covenant and my promise to Thee to my best ability, I seek refuge with Thee from all the evil I have done, I acknowledge before Thee all the blessings Thou have bestowed upon me, and I confess to Thee to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins but Thee.

The Prophet (PBUH) then added:

‘If somebody recites it during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of the Paradise.’"


Thus the Prophet (saws) advised us to repent to Allaah and also to ask Him for his forgiveness.

Allaah has encouraged and ordered us to repent to Allaah, surrendering to him completely before we face him on the day of judgement. Thus we need to repent and seek Allaah’s forgiveness before we face death for at the time of death repentance will be of no benefit to us.

Allaah narrates to us the story of the Pharaoh in the Quraan.

And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Fir'aun (Pharaoh) with his hosts followed them in oppression and enmity, till when drowning overtook him, he said ‘I believe that La ilaaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), in Whom the children of Israel believe, and I am one of the Muslims (those who submit to Allah’s Will)”. “Now (you believe) while you refused to believe before and you were one of the Musfsidoon (evil doers, corrupts etc.)!?

[Surah Yunus Ayah’s 90-91]

Indeed Pharoah was ready to repent and submit himself to Allaah when he saw death in front of eyes.

For, Allaah mentions in the Quraan that it is too late for the person to repent at the threshold of death.

And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: "Now I repent;" nor of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful torment.

[Surah Al-Nisa Ayah 18]

And in another ayah

Until, when death comes to one of them (those who join partners with Allah), he says, ‘My Lord! Send me back. So that I may do good in that which I have left behind.’ No! It is but a word that he speaks, and behind them is Barzakh (a barrier) until the Day when they will be resurrected”.

[Surah Al-Muminun Ayah’s 99-100]

Indeed the Prophet (saws) advised that

Allah, the Lord of honour and glory, will accept the repentance of His servant till his death-rattle begins.


And in another hadith

He who seeks repentance (from Allah) before the rising of the sun from the west (before the Day of Resurrection), Allah turns to him with Mercy.


Repentance has conditions that need to be fulfilled and practiced.

Sincerity to Allaah, the Most High, so a person should repent solely for the sake of Allaah and seek His reward and salvation from His punishment.

Remorse, for the sin that was committed such that he is sad he did it and wishes he had never done it. Allaah addresses us in Surah Al Qiyamah

I swear by the Day of Resurrection;

And I swear by the self-reproaching person (a believer).

[Surah Al-Qiyamah Ayahs 1-2]

The Arabic word used for self rapprochement is An-Nafs Al-Lawamah which refers to blame oneself and to feel sorry for ones sins. So this is recommended and good in the sight of Allaah and necessary to have the sin forgiven by Allaah.

Ceasing to commit the sin immediately. If the sin was against Allaah, then he should (1) stop doing it if it was an unlawful act, or (2) hasten to do it if it was an obligation that he abandoned doing. And if the sin was against a created being (such as humans), then he should hasten to free himself from it, whether by returning it back to him or seeking his forgiveness and pardon.

From the conditions of repentance is to do righteous good deeds and to stay away from that kind of sin. And from the conditions of repentance is that when that sin is remembered that you hate the sin and stay away from anything causing you to commit that kind of sin. For it is not proper to repent to Allaah and still hold a desire for that sin.

Determination, to not go back to doing that sin again in the future.

It is not proper to repent to Allaah and to keep repeating the sin, for this would be to mock Allaah. Rather, the true meaning of sincere repentance is to repent to Allaah and feel sorry for having sinned and to stay away from that sin altogether and to show Allaah that you are doing your best to stay away from it by closing all doors to that sin.

Not doing so would be to put oneself in the middle of the oceans of sins and say that one can swim, and this is from arrogance may Allaah protect us from this.

So this is the way of the Prophets (peace be upon them all) to stay away and close all doors to the sin. And this is the way of their followers to protect themselves by staying away from the sins and all roads leading to that sin.

Most importantly one should strive to protect oneself from the sin and keep oneself away from anything that might lead to it and to ask Allaah to protect them from that.

So, from the conditions of repentance is to repent to Allaah and ask for his forgiveness and to believe that the sin was wrong and admit it was wrong and then resolve to stay away from it, and to do righteous good deeds.

Allaah also mentions in the Quraan other kinds of conditions for repentances after mentioning the munafiqeen (hypocrites) who are in the lowest level of hell. Allaah says

Except those who repent (from hypocrisy), do righteous good deeds, hold fast to Allah, and purify their religion for Allah (by worshipping none but Allah, and do good for Allah's sake only, not to show-off), then they will be with the believers. And Allah will grant to the believers a great reward.

[Surah An-Nisa Ayah 146]

Meaning that those who repent fix their hearts and avoid repeating that sin and seeking the help by Allaah and holding on to the rope of Allaah, practicising what he has commanded. So to have ikhlaas and accept the deen with sincerirty and purify the heart from hypocrisy. And Allaah says towards the end of this ayah

Then they will be with the believers

So Allaah explains that he considers them from the believers if they follow these conditions, repenting to Allaah and acting out of righteousness, holding on to the rope of Allaah and to believe in him with sincerity then Allaah says

Allah will grant to the believers a great reward.

Another condition that Allaah has added in another ayah when he says

Except those who repent and do righteous deeds, and openly declare (the truth which they concealed).

[Surah Al-Baqarah Ayah 160]

We can’t expect to solve our problems truly, except by fixing them with the sunnah of the Prophet (saws), the prophets sunnah is the opposite of sin and to follow the sunnah is to act in a righteous manner and to leave the sunnah is to lead oneself to sin. So Allaah says in the Quraan

But whosoever repents after his crime and does righteous good deeds (by obeying Allah), then verily, Allah will pardon him (accept his repentance). Verily, Allah is Oft­Forgiving, Most Merciful.

[Surah Al-Ma'idah: Ayah 39]

Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

[Surah Al-Furqan Ayah 70]

Know that Allaah has encouraged us to repent to him and never feel hopeless or to despair because we can still repent to Allaah and become a good person instead of thinking that after committing a sin we can’t be forgiven.

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:

The Prophet (saws) said, "Amongst the men of Bani Israel there was a man who had murdered ninety-nine persons. Then he set out asking (whether his repentance could be accepted or not). He came upon a monk and asked him if his repentance could be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and so the man killed him. He kept on asking till a man advised to go to such and such village. (So he left for it) but death overtook him on the way. While dying, he turned his chest towards that village (where he had hoped his repentance would be accepted), and so the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment quarrelled amongst themselves regarding him. Allah ordered the village (towards which he was going) to come closer to him, and ordered the village (whence he had come), to go far away, and then He ordered the angels to measure the distances between his body and the two villages. So he was found to be one span closer to the village (he was going to). So he was forgiven."

[Sahih Muslim]

There are numerous hadith abound with stories of the sahabah before they became Muslims who used to fight against Allaah and his Messenger (saws), and after accepting Islaam we see that they went on to become leaders of the Muslims. Rather, we should repent to Allaah because as is mentioned in the hadith above that Allaah opens his hand during the day for the sinners of the night to repent to him and he opens his hand during the day for the sinners of the day to repent to him.

O Allaah grant us the sincere repentance and accept is from us, verily You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing. Ameen.