What is True Repentance?
Allah says in Quran:
اِنَّ اللّٰہَ یُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِیْنَ
Meaning: Indeed, Allah loves those who turn towards Him. (2:222)
Definition of Repentance:
It is very important to know why Allah has emphasized upon renunciation from wrongdoings and sins. As without knowing the true meaning of repentance, it is pointless just to utter the words of repentance.
The dictionary meaning of repentance is to ‘turn back’ and ‘consult’. To elaborate the meaning of repentance Allama Raazi writes in Mukhtar as-Sahah:
“Repentance means penitence or abstinence from sins, bad deeds and disobedience and turn towards the goodness and virtue”.
According to sharia repentance is obedience and submission to Allah by abstaining from His disobedience, delinquency and sins. However, according to Tareeqat (Sufism) repentance infact means;
فَفِرُّوْٓا اِلَی اللّٰہ
Meaning: “Run towards Allah.”
This means one must invocate and contemplate Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Moreover, turn towards Allah by giving up all the wrongdoings.
The scholars have discussed certain terms and conditions of true repentance. In this regard Imam Tibrani says:
Indeed, the true and actual repentance is the one which consists of the following:
- A person is truly and wholeheartedly ashamed on his sins.
- Must abstain from the sin right away.
- Make a strong commitment of not to repeat the same mistake or sin again.
- Repentance from all the above evildoings or sins must only be for the sake of Allah.
Stages of Repentance:
The three stages of repentance are as under:
- The first and foremost stage in repentance is abstinence from the sins and adopting faith.
- Second stage is repentance from the enormous sins.
- Third is the trivial stage meaning repentance from the smaller sins.
Kinds of the true Repentance:
There are following two kinds of repentance:
- Obligatory repentance
- Nonobligatory repentance
Anytime a person abstains from obeying Allah’s command or does deed prohibited in sharia then repentance becomes obligatory on him. Furthermore, this kind of repentance is compulsory on those who have perfect and complete faith.
The second kind is to refrain from odious acts to begin with. However, if a person does indulge in sin then he must seek repentance.
The conditions of the true repentance:
There are six conditions of true of sincere repentance which are as follows:
Meaning to refrain from sins and horrendous deeds as soon as possible.
Being remorseful and guilty is important while seeking repentance. As Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said:
الندم التوبہ Meaning: Repentance means being remorseful on one’s sins and mistakes.
Hence proved, that being ashamed or remorseful is the essential element of repentance.
One must take an oath of renunciation of not committing the same sin or mistake again.
4- Seek Forgiveness from Others
A person must fulfil his duties towards others or seek their forgiveness (for not fulfilling their rights in past). (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Khazin)
To elaborate the aforementioned Imam Sharf al-Nawawi writes in Riyaz al-Saleheen:
If the sin is in reference to another person then four conditions apply. Three are the ones which I have already mentioned above. Fourth is to absolve oneself from that sin (meaning fulfil the right of other human being). For example; if he has borrowed money or other valuables then he must return them. If he has falsely accused someone or has maliciously talked about someone, then he must seek forgiveness from that individual.
5- Seek sincere Repentance
The fifth condition of the true repentance is that the seeker must seek repentance in good faith and with sincerity.
Now the question arises that what is the sincere repentance? It means to relinquish from the sins in fear of punishment from Allah. Moreover, at the same time aspire for His mercy, forgiveness and reciprocation.
6- Seek Repentance at all Times
Lastly one must renunciate in the court of Allah at all times and not only at the ‘time of repentance’. As repentance cleanses the souls. In this regard Ali Ibn Abi Talib said:
“Repentance is the ablution of the soul. The more you do it the more your soul is cleansed.”
Taubatan Nasuha or True Repentance
Now the question arises that what is Taubatan Nasuha meaning the true repentance?
In the Holy Quran, Allah commands about Taubatan Nasuha in the following words:
یٰٓاَیُّھَا الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْا تُوْبُوْٓا اِلَی اللّٰہ تَوْبَۃً نَّصُوْحًا
Meaning: O believers! Turn towards Allah’s presence in perfect and most sincere repentance.
Now let’s find answer to the above question in the light of the sayings of the Companions, their contemporaries, virtuous ancestors and the scholars. The scholars have related repentance to the following:
Repentance Stiches Tears in the Faith
Nasuha is derived from an Arabic word an-Nasah ( النصح ) which means to stitch. Hence implied, the true repentance stitches any rend or tear in the faith caused by the sins just like a tailor stitches the tears in the fabric. The true repentance however must be sincere, pure, and fortified penitence. Infact it is the kind of repentance which teaches a good lesson to the believer. (Tafsir al-Ma’ani)
Repentance Purifies Inward
Imam al-Qurtubi writes that Taubatan Nasuha means ‘to purify’. He adds, Asal Naseh (عسل ناصح) is the term used in Arabic for pure honey. However, according to some people it is derived from stitching. There are two reasons for that:
- First the true repentance strengths a believer’s submission towards Allah just like a tailor strength the fabric by stitching.
- Secondly, true repentance allows the repenting person to bond a strong connection of love with the friends of Allah. Just like a tailor connects two pieces of cloth by stitching them together. (Tafsir al-Qurtubi)
Furthermore, Abu Abdullah said Taubatan Nasuha includes the following ten things:
- Repentance eliminates ignorance
- Repentant feel ashamed of his wrongdoings
- Stay away from the desires of the innerself
- Have faith that (Allah) grasp the questioning innerself
- Make atonement of the illegal matters
- Bond the broken relations
- Abstain from the lies
- Stay away from the bad company
- Steer clear of the sins
- Part from the oblivious attitude.
Repentant Must Never Return Back to Sin
On a question from Mu’adh ibn Jabal, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) replied; Taubatan Nasuha means to be guilty of one’s sins and turn towards Allah in manner that there is no turning back to that sin. Just like milked milk cannot go back in the udder. (Tafsir Dur al-Manthur)
Once Umar ibn al-Khattab said the following about Taubatan Nasuha (true repentance):
“True repentance is that the repentant never return to the sin after repentance.”
Further Hazrat Hasan said;
Taubatan Nasuha means that the repentant must resent the sin in the same manner he once endeared it. Moreover, he must repent and seek forgiveness every time he recalls that sin. (Tafsir ibn Kathir)
Imam Dihyah al-Kalbi said; Taubatan Nasuha means not only seek forgiveness by words of mouth but also feel guilty inwardly and control one’s body. (Tafsir al-Khazin)
Another scholar, Qatada ibn al-Nu’man said: “True repentance is the one which is sincere and the repent learnt lesson from it.”
Sa’id ibn Jabayr said;
Taubatan Nasuha is infact the accepted repentance. Furthermore, Allah does not accept repentance until and unless it has the following:
- Fear of not acceptance.
- Hope of acceptance.
- Dedication to obedience of Allah.
To elaborate, here we are quoting the four condition of true repentance illustrated by Mohammad bin Saeed Qurtabi;
- Repent by the words of mouth.
- Get rid of any physical sins
- Sincerely abstain from returning back towards the sins and commit to it with steadfastness.
- Abstain from the company of bad friends.
Signs of Accepted Repentance:
Sufyan Thawri said:
There are four signs of the accepted repentance:
- (Allah) dissipate sins from the repentant
- The inward of the repentant indulges in remembrance of Allah. Or in an apprehension or guilt of sins.
- Repentant become humble and obedient (of Allah)
- True repentant part and sunder from the sins.
Repentant Must Forget the Sin
- Al-Fudayl ibn Iyad said;
“After repenting the repentant must despise rather have animosity from the sin.”
- Furthermore, Junaid of Baghdad said;
True repentance is that a person forgets sins in a way that he does not even talk about them again. Because when Allah accepts the true repentance, He grants the person with Divine Love. And the Divine lover is forgetful of everything besides Allah.
- Another scholar Shabir Ahmad Usmani writes:
True repentance means being remorseful with sincerity in a way that the person never think of committing that sin again. If after repenting person thinks of such absurd deeds again that means the repentance lacked something. This means, the sins did not fall off the root from the inward of the repentant. (Tafsir Usmani sura al-Tahrim)
Repentance Must be for Allah’s Sake
In this regard Shaikh Abu Bakr Wasti said the following;
True repentance means being purely remorseful and not expecting remuneration in return. Because a person who commits sins to benefit his innerself then repent to ease his innerself must know that this repentance was to satisfy the innerself and not Allah. (Tafsir Salbi)
Allah does not Accept Repentance of an Infidel
Sahr al-Tustari said;
“Taubatan Nasuha is the repentance of the group of people who follow the practices of Prophet Mohammad. This is because the repentance of infidel and heretic is not accepted.” He made this argument because of the following saying of Holy Prophet;
“Allah Almighty has excluded the heretic from seeking repentance.”
Grace period For Repentance
It is important that every person seek repentance before dying. Since Allah does not accept repentance of the person whom death is taking over. As Allah says in Holy Quran:
وَلَیْسَت ِ التَّوْبَۃُ لِلَّذِیْنَ یَعْمَلُوْنَ السَّیِّاٰتِج حَتّٰیٓ اِذَاحَضَرَ اَحَدَ ھُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ اِنِّیْ تُبْتُ الْئٰنَ ولَا الَّذِیْنَ یَمُوْتُوْنَ وَھُمْ کُفَّارٌط اُولٰٓئِکَ اَعْتَدْنَا لَھُمْ عَذَابًا اَلِیْمًا
Meaning: But repentance is not (accepted) of people who persist in sinful acts until death overtakes one of them. (Then) he says: ‘Now I repent’. Nor is repentance (of any avail) to those who die as disbelievers. We have prepared grievous torment for them. (4:18)
In this regard the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said;
“Allah accepts the repentance of the person only (if he seeks it) before reaching the agony of death.”
Therefore, a person must seek repentance in the court of Allah before reaching his last breath. Another Hadith states the following:
من تاب قبل تطلع الشمس من مغربھا تاب للّٰہ علیہ۔
Meaning: Allah accepts the repentance as long as the person seeks it before the sun rises from the west (i.e. before the Day of Judgement).
Types of People in Respect to
their Ability of Repentance:
Undoubtedly a person repenting on his sins is by the grace of Allah upon him. Depending on this Divine grace or favour, we can divide people into different categories.
The first category is of such people who lack the Divine favour in seeking repentance. This is because these people spend their whole life in committing sins and never sincerely turn towards Allah. Their repentance is mere utterance when in fact they do not abstain from their sins. At last they even die in the same condition. People of this category are actually the unfortunate ones since they remain deprived of Divine favour to seek repentance.
This category is worst than the first one. Since those people fall in this category who spend their whole life in pious deeds. However, they indulge in a horrendous sin in the last phase of their life. As it is said in a Hadith: “Amongst you some people perform good deeds similar to the people of Paradise. In turn they are at a short distance from the Paradise until their fate overpowers them and they end up committing a sin which takes them to Hell. (Bukhari)
Type 3- the Superior Kind:
The third kind is of the people who spend each and every moment of their life obeying Allah. Then before death (Allah) gives then the good news of Divine vision. Therefore, they make preparations, so Allah accepts them in His exalted court. Indeed, this is the most refined form of the believers.
Ibne Abbas said:
An eminent example of true repentance is the life of Prophet Mohammad. Sura an-Nasr of holy Quran talks about Prophet’s departure from this physical world. Therefore, after revelation of this sura Prophet Mohammad spent all his time and energy in performing pious deeds. In fact, these deeds were his baggage to benefit him in the life hereafter. Undoubtedly, he did so to set an example for his Umma. (Tafsir Ad-Dahr Manshoor, sura an-Nasr, Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
Furthermore, Ume Salma said;
In the last days of his life, Prophet Mohammad at all times used to recite the following prayer:
سُبْحَانَ اللّٰہِ وَبِحَمْدِہٖ اَسْتَغْفِرُاللّٰہَ وَاَتُوْبُ اِلَیْہِ
Meaning: “Glory is to Allah, the Magnificent. I seek forgiveness from Allah, and I turn towards Him.”
He added; I asked Prophet Mohammad the reason behind reciting this prayer so frequently. Prophet (pbuh) replied; “I have been commanded by Allah (then he recited sura an-Nasr).” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, sura an-Nasr, Tafir al-Qurtubi, sura an-Nasr)
Method of True Repentance
Regarding this, scholars suggest that one must first account the nature and kind of sins he has committed. Whether he showed negligence in his duties towards Allah or His men.
Negligence in Duties Towards Allah
If he did not fulfil his duties towards Allah like did not offer salat, did not fast or pay zakat etc. then he must sincerely seek repentance and make every possible attempt to perform his omitted fasts or prayers. Similarly, he must also pay the outstanding zakat and seek repentance from Allah.
Negligence in Duties Towards Humans
In addition to repentance of negligence in duties towards Allah, one must also repent for hurting his fellow human beings. For example, for unjustly killing someone, Islamic law orders death penalty to the killer. In other words, per sharia shed blood for blood. Therefore, the sinner when guilty must either submit himself for capital punishment if the family (of the killed individual) demands. Otherwise, he must pay restitution to the family.
Similarly, if a person falsely accused someone or damaged their reputation then he is liable for the punishment. Hence, he must sincerely seek forgiveness from the victim and acknowledge his sin. However, if the victim forgives him then he must sincerely seek repentance in the court of Allah. Additionally, he must pledge to never repeat the same mistake again. Likewise, if a thief, adulterer or alcoholic seek true repentance and promise in the court of Allah to never commit these sins again then Allah- the Merciful forgives them and accept their repentance.
If a person has had been negligent about his duties to someone and now is guilty as well as capable of fulfilling those duties, then he must do so. However, if he is not capable at the time (of repentance) then must fulfil them as soon as he can.
Pledge not to Repeat the Sin
If a person has maltreated his fellow Muslim like given him loan on interest, then he must waive the interest. In doing so he will not only rectify his mistake but also help his fellow come out of the hardship. He must also ask for forgiveness from him and Allah. If the fellow Muslim forgives him then Allah also accepts his apology and repentance. In short, a person should not ever cause grievance to his fellow. However, if he commits such sin then he must seek forgiveness and pledge to never repeat it. If his fellow grants him forgiveness, then Allah will forgive him as well. (Tafsir al-Qurtabi)
The aforementioned discussion gives a lesson of kindness. Moreover, it proves that hurting your parents, teachers or elders is form of sin as well. Correspondingly, being disrespectful or being a source of grievance for your spiritual guide is an enormous sin. Therefore, one must stay away from any such deed as it can cause hinderance in the path of righteousness.
Practice of the Pious Ancestors:
According the righteous ancestors if a person dies while or after performing a virtuous deed like fasting, prayer, pilgrimage or fighting in the way of Allah then Allah the most Merciful and Gracious opens the doors of Paradise for him. Although the pious people spend their lives in good deeds yet on their death bed, they seek repentance and forgiveness. Moreover, they constantly recite the Islamic creed and witness the oneness of Allah. Undoubtedly, their urge of constantly seeking forgiveness before Allah Almighty grants them Divine proximity.
Invitation of True Repentance:
Dear readers and seekers of Faqr! the lusts of today’s era have submerged us in the dark sea of sins. Our innerself is not spared from the tricks of the cursed Satan and easily slide from the virtuous path. However, one must not be disappointed from the court of Allah-the Merciful. We are hard on our innerself by being oblivious from our duties towards Allah and committing sins. The need to the era is to seek a spiritual medium who cleanses our innerselves from the Satanic deceptions. Allah says in holy Quran that He has opened the door to turn towards Him through true repentance.
Therefore, Tehreek Dawat-e-Faqr invite everyone to pledge repentance on the sacred hands of Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen Sultan Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman. As being a Sarwari Qadri spiritual guide Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen has the power to spiritual cleanse our rusted souls through his spiritual attention. As Allah says in sura Az-Zumar:
قُلْ یَا عِبَادِیَ الَّذِیْنَ اَسْرَفُوْا عَلٰٓی اَنْفُسِھِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوْا مِنْ رَّحْمَۃِ اللّٰہِ طاِنَّ اللّٰہَ یَغْفِرُ الذَّنُوْبَ جَمِیْعًاط اِنَّہٗ ھُوَ الْغَفُوْرُ الرَّحِیْمُ۔ وَاَنِیْبُوْٓا اِلٰی رَبِّکُمْ وَاَسْلِمُوْالَہٗ مِنْ قَبْلِ اَنْ یَّاْتِیَکُمُ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لاَ تُنْصَرُوْنَ۔
Meaning: (O Prophet Mohammad) say; O servants of Mine who have wronged their souls, do not loose hope of Allah’s mercy. Assuredly, Allah forgives all sins (and excesses). He is certainly Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful. And turn to your Lord in repentance and total submission. And become thoroughly obedient to Him before the torment comes upon you. Then (Allah) will not help you at all. (39:53-54)
Allah is Forgiving towards Repentant
In another sura, Allah says:
وَاِنِّیْ لَغَفَّارٌ لِّمَنْ تَابَ وَاٰمَنْ وَعمِلَ صَالِحًا ثُمَّ اھْتَدٰی
Meaning: And I am surely Most Forgiving to him who repents and affirms faith and behaves piously, then sticks to guidance (firmly).
Ibn Abbas gives the exegesis of the above verse in the following words:
The person who turns people away from repentance, indeed is the denier of the holy Book of Allah. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
Once Hammad bin Salma visited Suffiyan Thauri while he was sick. He asked him, will Allah forgive a person like me? In reply Hamad bin Salma said:
“Swear to Allah! If I have to account between my parents and Allah, then I will definitely choose Allah. This is because I have found Allah more loving and merciful than my parents.”
Condition of the Sinners of the Day of Judgement
Ibn Quwama in his book Kitab al-Tawabain narrates, Rija bin Saur said;
Once Rija bin Saur was in a gathering where Shaikh Ibn Qadamah asked a man to recite the holy Quran. Therefore, the young man recited the following verse of sura al-Mu’min;
وَ اَنْذِرْھُمْ یَوْمَ الْاَزِفَۃِ اِذَا الْقُلُوْبُ لَدَی الْحَنَاجِرِ کٰظِمِیْنَ ج مَا لِلظّٰلِمِیْنَ مِنْ حَمِیْمٍ وَ لَا شَفِیْعٍ یُطَاعُ
Meaning: And warn them of the Day of impending calamity when hearts will rise to throats due to the suppressed grief. The wrongdoers will have neither any kind friend nor any influential intercessor. (40:18)
Then Shaikh addressed the audience and painted the picture of the condition of the sinners on the Day of judgement. He said, it is the day when sinners will be bare feet, chained in shackles and in miserable state. They will have a wretched face with pale eyes drenched in fear. Angels will drag them on their faces to unknown scary places with the harness made of fire around their neck. Out of terror and anxiety they will scream about their misery. Further, they will be bleeding from their tear duct and screaming in pain and agony. Undoubtedly no eye will have the endurance to see this extreme suffering and fright.
The punishment of the wrongdoers shook Shaikh Ibn Qadamah and he started sobbing. Then he said; Alas! What a bad scene it would be. This filled the atmosphere with the terror hence the trembled audience started crying as well.
Incidence of the Young Evildoer
Then a young evildoer amongst the audience, who listened to the whole spiel asked Shaikh Ibn Qadamah:
O Abu al-Bashar! Is all this going to take place on the Day of Judgement. Shaikh replied: yes son! It will be even worse than this. Allah has revealed upon me that the evildoers will scream in the burning flames of Hell. After prolong cry, they will lose their voice to an extent that one could only hear buzzing. On hearing this the young sinner screamed and uttered O Allah! I spent my life in negligence. Never did I ever obey Your commands. Alas! I wasted my whole life for this mortal world. Afterwards the young man started crying then faced the direction of Kaaba and said; “O Allah Almighty! I sincerely repent and turn towards You. If You did not accept my repentance, then I will be ruined and distressed.”
Infact this was a shock to the young man therefore he lost his conscious. People then transported him from there. Later, Shaikh along with his companions often visited him to inquire his well-being. However, the young man died shortly after that incident. Many people attended his funeral prayer, shed tears for him and prayed for his remission.
Forgiveness of the Young Sinner
Shaikh Ibn Qadamah often gave the reference of this young man in his assemblies. Once he said; “my parent’s offerings be upon this young man. Undoubtedly, he died by listening to the verses of Quran, sermon, grief and sadness of his evil deeds. In other words, the address and the Holy Quran struck his soul. Hence, he sought repentance of his deeds and died in the fear of the Day of Judgment.”
Historians narrate that once a person saw the young man in his dream and inquired him about his condition. The young man replied; “Allah Almighty had mercy upon me and forgave me for my sins. Because, the spiritual beneficence of Shaikh (Ibn Qadamah) had accompanied me.
The aforementioned proves that Allah grants the ability of true repentance by virtue of Shaikh (the perfect spiritual guide).
Where to Get the Lesson of True Repentance?
The perfect spiritual guide teaches the lesson of gnosis of Allah through the invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat. Moreover, by virtue of his spiritual attention the seeker is disgusted from the evildoings. Thus, he seeks true repentance and turns towards Allah.
As Sultan Bahoo said in his poetry;
کامل مرشد ایسا ہووے، جیہڑا دھوبی وانگوں چھٹے ھُو
نال نگاہ دے پاک کریندا وچ سجی صبون نہ گھتے ھُو
Explanation: The perfect spiritual guide should be like a washerman. Just like washerman makes sure to remove all stains and dirt of clothes. Similarly, the perfect spiritual guide passes the seeker through such trials which purifies his inciting innerself. Infact, the spiritual attention of the perfect spiritual guide is like a detergent that cleanses the soul of the seeker.
Furthermore, Sultan Bahoo said;
مرشد وانگ سنار ہووے، جیہڑا گھت کٹھالی گالے ھُو
پاکٹھالی باہر کڈھے، بندے گھڑے یا والے ھُو
Explanation: Murshid should be like a goldsmith who shapes gold into desirable jewels after melting it in the kiln. Likewise, the spiritual guide should burn the seeker in the kiln of Divine Love which extinguish the desires of innerself. Moreover, with his spiritual attention he eliminates all the evils from the inward of the seeker. Thus, in turn mold him into the true seeker of Allah.
Tehreek Dawat-e-Faqr invite all to start the journey of true repentance by pledging allegiance on the hand of Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen. As mentioned earlier, he is the Sarwari Qadri spiritual guide of the present era. He grants the invocation and contemplation of Ism-e-Allah Zaat on the first day of allegiance. Ism-e-Allah Zaat eradicates the darkness of the inciting innerself and reveals the exalted status of the perfect spiritual guide. Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen through his spiritual attention purifies the innerself of the seeker. Thus, Tehreek Dawat-e-Faqr invite you all to his Divine company to gain the gnosis of Allah. Undoubtedly, his beneficence will lead you to the journey of success in this world and hereafter.
Haqeeqi Toba is an Urdu article of the magazine “Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore” for the May 2019 issue. Originally penned by Yousaf Akbar Sarwari Qadri and translated in English by Fatima Noor Sarwari Qadri exclusively for the website. If you wish to read the article in Urdu, click the following link:
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