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When Saying ‘Sorry’ Isn’t Enough

Khadija Kholwadia explains the basics of taubah – repentance.

I looked at the shrouded body before me with a mixture of shock, grief and sorrow; the realisation dawning on me: This is our inevitable end.




Death is always difficult to deal with, but for me a recent death in the family was a real eye opener. My Great Uncle was fortunate enough to have passed away during the last ten days of the blessed month of Ramadhan and seeing him delicately wrapped up in his white shroud, I found myself imagining myself in the same position. Sooner or later, my turn will come. How will I face Almighty Allah…?




The issue of repentance is a familiar concept and one that I come across regularly in my work as a Muslim Chaplain working with prisoners. “Do you really think Allah will forgive me? Even after everything I’ve done?” asked a distressed and disheartened sister recently.




“Yes, insha Allah!” I replied confidently. I’ve always been taught that, with sincere repentance, even the greatest of sins can be eradicated.





Taubah means to repent for a sin by making a promise not to do the same evil deed again and thereby return to Allah. Repentance is the first step in the life of a person who intends to return to the path of Allah. Repentance forms the roots of a solid foundation; it is the key to guidance and the way to purification.




Repentance consists of three elements.
1. The need to acknowledge and feel ashamed of one’s sin
“Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery” we hear therapists say time and time again. Acknowledging the fact that we have sinned is the first step towards repentance as, without acknowledgement, we will never feel the need to turn towards Allah and repent.





As we go about our daily lives, we see just how easy it is to busy ourselves in the affairs of others, so much so that we often overlook and fail to acknowledge the many faults hidden within ourselves.





2. Sincere repentance and the importance of not losing hope
“The children of Adam are all wrongdoers, but the best of wrongdoers are those who offer repentance.” (Tirmidhi)




How infinite is the mercy of Allah that through repentance the entire trace of sin is effaced from the register of deeds where the sin was recorded!





Taubah is the acknowledgment of one’s past sins and a firm determination to give up sin in the present and future. To repent for sins during one’s lifetime is necessary because sins act like poison and will destroy the ever-lasting happiness of the next world.




Always keep in mind that the pleasures of this world are trivial and insignificant in comparison with that of the next world.





Turning towards Allah in repentance will soften the heart and enable the seeker of forgiveness to return from a distant path, so let us make seeking Allah’s forgiveness a regular daily activity, insha Allah.





“Live your life in a balance of hope and fear,” I remember my teacher telling us.





Continuous hope for Allah’s forgiveness and constant fear from Allah’s wrath and punishment is key to living a balanced spiritual life.





3. Building a firm resolution not to recommit the sin
One of the objectives of Taubah is that a firm resolve be made not to repeat the sin in the future under any circumstances. A sincere intention and effort needs to be made on our part to suppress and obtain control over the promptings and temptations to sin.





The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has said, “One who repents from his sin is like one who has committed no sin at all.” (Ibn Majah) As Muslims, we need to inject the fear of Allah into our hearts, as this is the best form of immunity against sins. When a person becomes constantly aware of the fact that Allah is with her day and night, watching her every move, listening to her every word, then the likelihood of this servant committing sin is reduced considerably. Instilling within ourselves the quality of taqwa – attaining the fear and consciousness of Allah – is a quality we must all strive for, for it serves to reduce our inclination to sin.





Death comes suddenly. I pray my great Uncle is forgiven and rewarded with Paradise. However, we still have the precious commodity of time on our side. Cleanse and purify your soul and ensure your meeting with Allah is a success. The simple fact is that we are all humans and so total immunity from sins is not possible. The urge to commit a sin may be revived once again, but what is important is that we do not despair, but instead we seek forgiveness, repent, employ taqwa and continue to correct and reform ourselves, right through to the last moments of our lives.