Abu Bakr (RA) asked the Prophet (SAW) to teach him a supplication that he could recite in his prayer. Thereupon, he (SAW) replied,
‘Alla-humma innee dhalamtu nafsee dhulman katheera wala yaghfiru dhunooba illa anta, faghfirlee maghfiratan min ‘indika, warhamnee innaka ant al-Ghafoor-ur-Raheem.’
“Say: O Allah! I have wronged myself very much, and none can forgive sins, except You only. Grant me forgiveness, and have mercy upon me; indeed You are the Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Let us reflect on the instance above. The Prophet (SAW) felt the need to teach Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq (RA) a supplication asking for forgiveness from Allah (SWT). Then imagine how much more you and me are in need of His forgiveness?
In another hadith, the Prophet (SAW) mentioned to his companions,
“Why don’t you seek forgiveness! I ask for forgiveness more than seventy times a day.” (mentioned in Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
Once again, we must ask ourselves: how much more in need are we of asking for forgiveness regularly if our Prophet (SAW) asked for forgiveness that many times a day? Asking for Allah’s forgiveness is a blessed sunnah (an act done by the Prophet (SAW)) that we all must strive to follow, as its virtue is also shown by the statement of the Prophet (SAW) below:
“All the children of Adam constantly err, but the best of those who constantly err are those who constantly repent.” (Ahmad and others)
Like other acts of worship, repentance has conditions and guidelines. Some sunnahs that one should follow in order to be sure that Allah (SWT) accepts our repentance are as follows:
1. Feeling regret
The Prophet (SAW) taught ‘Aisha (RA): “Verily tawbah (repentance) from sin is regret and seeking forgiveness.” (Bayhaqi)
One of the first actions in the process of seeking forgiveness is to feel remorse for what we have done – whether the act was a small sin or something more serious than that. One must genuinely feel guilty for having committed that sin, otherwise one is bound to return to it.
Abdullah ibn Masood (RA) mentions the state of the believer upon committing a sin by saying, “The believer regards his sin as if he were sitting beneath a mountain which he fears may fall on him; whereas the sinner regards his sin as if a fly lands on his nose and he wipes it away.” (Bukhari)
2. Stop committing the sin
Next, the slave of Allah must stop committing the sin or try his best to commit fewer sins before he can hope for Allah’s forgiveness. One of the ways this is achieved is by gaining knowledge of various sins such as backbiting, slander, looking at unlawful things etc. When a believer realises which actions of his displease All-Mighty Allah I, that becomes his driving force to get rid of those actions.
3. Seeking forgiveness by the tongue
The next step is to verbalise and admit in front of Allah (SWT) that we have wronged our soul. This makes repentance even firmer in our own hearts. It is highly advised to use supplications that the Prophet (SAW) has narrated in his sunnah to seek forgiveness. Additionally, the believer can ask Allah (SWT) for forgiveness in his own words as well.
The Prophet (SAW) said: “Whoever says 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 Paradise.
Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa anta, Anta Khalaqtani wa ana ‘abduka, wa ana ‘ala ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu, A’udhu bika min Sharri ma sana’tu, abu’u Laka bini’matika ‘alaiya, wa Abu Laka bidhanbi faghfirli innahu laa yaghfiru adhdhunuba illa anta.
“O Allah! You are my Lord! None has the right to be worshipped but You. You created me and I am Your slave, and I am faithful to my covenant and my promise as much as I can be. I seek refuge with You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So I entreat You to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins except You.” (Bukhari)
4. Seeking forgiveness by your actions
The sunnah has mentioned many ways by which we can spiritually cleanse ourselves.
The Prophet (SAW) advised us, ““Whoever commits a sin, and then performs wudhu, then offers prayers seeking forgiveness of God, God will certainly forgive him.” After this the Prophet (SAW) recited the verse:
“…those who remember God and implore forgiveness for their sins if they do something shameful or wrong themselves – who forgives sins but God? – and who never knowingly persist in doing wrong.” (Al-’Imran:135)” (Tirmidhi)
In addition, the believer should also race towards doing good deeds such as spreading Islam, serving her parents, helping the neighbour, attending Islamic classes etc., with the intention that they will erase and outweigh his bad deeds on the Day of Judgment.
5. Repent to Allah (SWT) regularly
Last but not least, the believer should strive to repent to Allah (SWT) regularly as repentance is our lasting need and the best of good deeds. We should realise that Allah (SWT) states in the Qur’an, “Man was created weak.” (An-Nisaa’:28) and we will never be completely free of sins but those who repent regularly will have a higher status in the eyes of Allah (SWT).
One of the hardest things for us as human beings is to admit our mistakes. We have all experienced this when we have wronged another human being in the past. How shy did we feel to admit our wrong and say sorry to them! But as believers we must realise that when we sin, it is our Lord, Ar-Rahman that we deal with. Allah (SWT) heartily welcomes our repentance and not only that, He rewards us for it! So asking for forgiveness itself acts as a good deed.
Allah (SWT) says in a hadith qudsi:
“O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.” (Tirmidhi)
I ask Allah (SWT) to allow us to realise our mistakes and regularly turn to Him in repentance and forgiveness.
I pray we all benefit from these reminders and allow them to impact our daily lives by implementing what we have learnt immediately, bi’ithnillah!
Kanika is currently pursuing a Bachelors in Islamic Sciences and conducts online seminars for sisters at http://habibihalaqas.org