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Importance of Repentance and Its Benefits

By: Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi*

The human being do commits sins. If a man has committed a major sin, the door of repentance is open for him from the Almighty Allah. In the Glorious Qura’an and the Holy Hadith, the human being has been encouraged to repent following the sin. By this, it is known that the repentance is important after a sin to wipe it off. Whenever a person commits a major sin, he must make a true and faithful repentance immediately. Then the Almighty Allah forgives his sin and he becomes sinless. The points like definition of repentance, the importance of repentance, its benefits, the conditions for its acceptance and faithful repentance are being discussed here in this article in the light of the Glorious Qrua’an and Sunnah.

Definition of Repentance

Repentance literally means to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about. When this word is attributed towards a person, at that time it means to give up one’s sin and feel regret about what he has done. About the technical meaning of repentance, Allamah Aalusi (1802-1854) writes: “A person should give up his sins and express remorse about what he has done. And the expression of remorse should be with the intention that it is sin, not because it is physically or wealthily harmful. And he should intend that he would not commit it again according to his level best. (Ruhul Ma’ani: 28/158)

Conditions for Repentance

There are some conditions for repentance. The one who repents adhering to those conditions, it is hoped that repentance would be useful for him. If those conditions are not met; there is a fear that the repentance would not be fruitful. There are several conditions found in the books for repentance. The forth caliph of Islam, Ali (RA) has described six comprehensive conditions which are recognized by all the scholars either concisely or in details. They are here:

(I) To regret one’s past evil deeds; (2) to carry out Divine duties that were missed; (3) to restore the rights that were usurped; (4) to ask forgiveness of a person who has been wronged by him physically or verbally; (5) to make a firm resolve of avoiding the sin in future and (6) to consume one’s self in obedience of Allah as one thus far consumed one’s self in His disobedience. (Mazhari) (Ma’ariful Qura’an: 8/526)

Admonition

Commonly it is understood that after feeling regret and expressing remorse, the sin is pardoned. But here is a point to note. If a person has embezzled one’s right, only expressing remorse is not enough for acceptance of his repentance; but he will have to restore that right as well. Then he should hope for acceptance of the repentance. It is in Al-Mawsuah: “Repentance is expressing of regret about what one has done in the past making a firm intention of avoiding it in future; but it is not enough to drop and eliminate the right of someone if he has taken. So, if he has stolen the wealth of someone, he has usurped or he has misbehaved with someone; so in these cases, only expressing regret, avoiding sin and making firm intention of not repeating, he cannot be absolved of responsibility; but it is necessary for him to repay the right. It is recognized by all the scholars.” (Al-Mawsuah Al-Fiqhiyyah: 14/157)

Shariah Ruling about Repentance

It is obligatory to repent when someone has committed a major sin. It is necessary to repent for one and all sins. If a person repents for only a certain sin and ignores other ones, then the repentance is correct for that one and it is still necessary for him to repent for another ones. Shariah ruling about repentance is that repentance is an obligation. It is proven from the Glorious Qura’an, traditions and consensus. The scholars have proven the repentance of being obligation from the following verse of the Qura’an. (Translation): “And repent to Allah O believers, all of you, so that you may achieve success.” (Al-Noor/31)* A Hadith speaks: “O people! Repent to Allah before you die.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith: 1018)

Timing for Repentance

When a slave of Allah repents, the Almighty Allah accepts his repentance. Allah Almighty says: “And He is the One who accepts repentance from His servants and forgives evil deeds and knows whatever you do.” (Shura/25) As far as the timing of repentance is concerned, so Allah will accept the repentance as long as, one of the major signs of Doomsday, the sun rising doesn’t start from the west. It is in a Hadith: “Whoever repents before the sun rises from its place of setting, Allah will accept his repentance.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 2703) It has also come in a Hadith: “Indeed Allah accepts the repentance of a slave as long as his soul does not reach his throat.” (Sunan Trimidhi, Hadith: 3537)

Repentance Immediately

Committing a sin is a common for a human being. As soon as a sin is committed, the person must try to compensate it that is repenting. Following the sin, a person should behave like a believer thinking as if he is under a burden of mountain, not like an evil-doer who takes the sin lightly. Abdullah bin Masood (RA) says: “A believer sees his sins as if he were sitting under a mountain which, he is afraid, may fall on him; whereas a Fajir (wicked evil-doer) considers his sins as flies passing over his nose and he just drives them away like this. (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 6308)

It is not known to us at what time we are going to leave this world; that is why we should not delay; but repent immediately after a sin. Following the repentance, we should hope that Allah would accept our repentance. Being Most-Forgiving and Very-Merciful, Allah is always waiting for our repentance. After repentance, not only the Muslims, but the non-Muslims are also forgiven. Describing disbelieve of Christians, Allah Almighty says in the Qura’an: “Why then do they not turn to Allah in repentance and seek His forgiveness, while Allah is most forgiving, very merciful?” (Al-Maaidah/74)

Allamah Shabbir Ahmad Usmani (1887-1949) writes under the commentary of the mentioned verse: “This is the power and dignity of Allah that when such a rebel, traitor and rude criminal comes before Him regretting and making a firm resolve of reformation; He forgives the crimes (sins) committed in the whole life. (Tafseer Usmani)

A Faithful Repentance

Following the major sin, we should turn to Allah with a faithful repentance. The holy Qura’an commands us for a true or faithful repentance. What is a faithful repentance? In a tradition, the faithful repentance has been described as follows: “The slave should express regret about the sin he has committed. Then he should apologize before Allah. Then he should not return to the sin as the milk does return to the udder. (Al-Dur Al-Manthur: 8/227) According to Ibn Abbas (RA), the faithful repentance has been explained as: “Feeling regret for the sin in his heart, begging pardon of Allah from tongue, avoiding the sin at all and making a firm resolve of not committing it.” (Al-Qamoos Al-Fiqhi Lughatan Wa Istilahan, P.: 50)

The reward for a person who makes a faithful repentance is also mentioned in the same verse wherein the commandment for the faithful repentance has come. Let us read it. “O you who believe, turn to Allah with a faithful repentance. It is hoped from your Lord that He will write off your faults, and will admit you to the gardens beneath which rivers flow, on the Day when Allah will not disgrace the Prophet and those who believed with Him. Their light will run before them and to their right hands. They will say, “Our Lord, perfect for us our light, and forgive us. Indeed You are powerful over everything.” (Al-Tahreem/8) (The Meaning of the Noble Qura’an by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani. I commonly quote the translation of Mufti Usmani Hafizahullah in my articles.)

Instruction to Ask for Forgiveness and Repent

Allah the Almighty is so Merciful and Kind that He doesn’t want His servants remain a sinful after committing a sin; that is why He instructs them to repent and seek His forgiveness. The glorious Qura’an speaks: “And you must seek forgiveness from your Lord, then, turn to Him in repentance,” (Hud/3) Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani (1897-1976) writes under the commentary of the above verse:

“In these verses of firm and established meaning, Allah Ta’ala has also instructed His servants to ask for forgiveness and pardon from their Lord, and make their Taubah before Him. Forgiveness (Maghfirah) relates to past sins and Taubah (repentance) relates to the resolve of not going near these anymore. And, in reality, a correct and true Taubah is no more than being ashamed of past sins, praying to Allah that they be forgiven and resolving firmly that they would not be repeated in future.” (Ma’ariful Qura’an: 4/596)

Repentance Protects Heart

When a person commits a sin, a black dot appears on his heart. When he repents and seeks for forgiveness, his heart becomes clean from that dot. If he doesn’t repent and continue committing sin, the dot increases, until the heart becomes rusty. At this point, the person loses the ability to accept the truth. By this, it is understood that whenever a person commits a sin, he must repent immediately to protect his heart from becoming rusty. Allah’s Messenger Muhammad (SAWS) says: “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’ which Allah mentioned: Nay, but on their hearts is the Ran which they used to earn.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, Hadith: 3334)

Under the commentary of the above Hadith is written: “When mankind does not use its natural talents properly and the faculty of the intellect and the heart, and he becomes a habitual perpetrator of sins by obeying his desires, then the dirt of all of his deeds gradually begins to cover the heart and after sometime it encompasses his entire heart; there remains no place for anything good in the heart. The person becomes a slave of sins.” (English Translation of Jimi’ At-Tirmidhi: 6/68)

Repent in Abundance

Beloved Messenger Muhammad (SAWS) has instructed his Ummah to repent in abundance. A narration relates the practice of Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) of repenting hundred times a day. He (SAWS) was innocent, forgiven and sinless, in spite of that he (SAWS) used to repent in abundance. Reason behind his practice was that his Ummah should learn that when he (SAWS) repents so abundantly being innocent, the Ummah should also seek forgiveness and repent abundantly; because we commit several major and minor sins day and night. The Prophet (SAWS) says: “O people! Repent to Allah, for I repent to Allah one hundred times a day.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 2702) There is one another narration which says: “By Allah! I seek Allah’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance for more than seventy times a day.” (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 6307)

In accordance with one Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) used to repent hundred times. In another Hadith it is said seventy times a day. Apparently they seem to be contradicting each other. The fact is that they are not to show the exact number of repentance; but they are to express that he (SAWS) used to repent day and night abundantly. Therefore, there is a lesson for the Ummah to repent in abundance.

Waiting For His Servants’ Repentance

Allah the Almighty is so kind and generous that he waits for His servants to repent. He is so Merciful and Forgiving that He waits every time, be day or night, for His servants repentance. When a salve repents, Allah feels happy and He is pleased with him. He forgives his slaves’ sins. One Hadith goes like this: “Allah holds out His Hand at night to accept the repentance of those who have sinned during the day, and He holds out His Hand by day to accept the repentance of those who have sinned at night, until the sun rises from its place of setting.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 2759) It means He will continue doing so near by the Doomsday. In this Hadith, holding out the hand means that He is very happy with the repentance of His slaves. He is so generous and kind that He feels happy after forgiving the sins of His servants.

Repentance is a Pleasing Deed

The repentance is a pleasing deed in the sight of the Almighty Allah. Whoever makes repentance following the sin, fulfilling its conditions, Allah the Exalted forgives him. One Hadith goes like this: “If you don’t commit sin, Allah would create people who would commit sin and He would forgive them.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 2748) In one another Hadith the repenting person has been made equal to a person who is sinless. The beloved Messenger of Allah (SAWS) says: “The one who repents from his sin is like one who doesn’t commit sin.” (Sunan Ibne Majah, Hadith: 4250)

According to the statement of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slaves. Allah’s messenger (SAWS) says: “Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than anyone of you is pleased with finding his camel which he had lost in a desert.” (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 6309)

Conclusion

The piece of writing is being concluded with a verse of the Holy Qrua’an where Allah the Almighty says that if a servant avoids form major sins, Allah will forgive his minor sins and grant him a noble entrance. Please see the translation of the verse: “If you abstain from the major (sins) out of what you have been forbidden from, We shall write off your minor sins, and shall admit you to a noble entrance.” (Al-Nisa/31) May Allah enable us for repentance and grant us Jannah! ***

*Moon Rays Trust School, Zambia, Africa

Email: [email protected]

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