Repentance (Tawba) in Islam


What is repentance in islam? What is tawba?

Repentance (tawba) generally means to face the Truth. It signifies the moment when the servant of Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, realizes his or her wrongdoing and turns his or her heart towards Allah and sincerely repents. The repentance of the heart that is accompanied by regret and humility is as known as ‘tawba’, whereas, the utterance coming from the heart and tongue, to express regret and beg forgiveness from Allah is called, istighfâr’. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, says in the Qur’an; “…Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.”[1] It is important for the new Muslim to know and apply this wisdom. It is human to err and commit a sin due to weaknesses, but it follows that it is a divine blessing to be able to immediately regret, repent and beg for forgiveness by turning towards Allah. He, may He be glorified and exalted, says; “And those who, having done something to be ashamed of, or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins, -and who can forgive sins except Allah?- and who do not persist in what they have done while they know.”[2] Hence, one of the main conditions of repentance is not to persist in the wrongdoing, once tawba has taken place. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, when the servant commits a sin a black spot appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart. It is the covering that Allah has mentioned: ‘No, but on their hearts is a covering because of what they have earned.’”[3] In other words, sincerity is a condition in repentance and so is the determination not to commit the sin again for which one is currently repenting to one’s Lord.

Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, erases sins by the power of his name al- ʿAfuw, forgives sins and accepts repentance by the power of his name al-Ghafur and at-Tawwab, and covers faults by the power of his name al-Sattar. Despite the fact that whatever transpires in the lives of human beings, due to their own individual and collective actions, Allah still forgives[4] because He, may He be glorified and exalted, is all-Merciful and all-Forgiving.[5] That is why Allah asks His sinful servants never to give up hope or to despair.[6] He gave human beings the following glad tidings; “My mercy prevails over My wrath.[7]

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was a forgiving person and stressed upon the Muslims to exercise forgiveness towards one and all. He said that if a believer makes an error and asks for forgiveness then a pardon should be granted to him.[8] This is because understanding one’s own mistake and showing remorse is a virtue. It is reported that one of the companions came to the Prophet and asked: “O Messenger of Allah! How many times should the servant be pardoned?” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was silent. Then he again asked: “O Messenger of Allah! How many times should the servant be pardoned?” The Prophet finally replied; “Seventy times each day”.[9] Therefore, a new Muslim should know that the atonement for sins plays a significant role in the healthy development of one’s religious life. This is why the Prophet (peace be up on him) said; “Follow an evil deed with a good one to wipe it out”[10] The things that keep a person away from Allah and are called ‘sin’ or ‘evil’ are usually the results of ignorance and the succumbing to temporary pleasures. The way to in which to alter such a behavior, is to abandon wrong paths, accept mistakes, repent and beg for the forgiveness of Allah, the Almighty, and seek shelter with Him from all evil. In other words, repentance refers to the efforts made in the pursuit of abandoning wrong choices, turning to Allah, and shaping life in accordance with His commands and prohibitions. Repentance is an important spiritual sustenance, which nourishes and enhances a Muslim’s religious life. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, does not refuse those who come to Him, seek refuge in Him and repent and ask forgiveness sincerely.

[1].Q. 2: 222[2].Q. 3: 135[3]. Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3334[4]. Q. 42:30.[5]. Q. 2:192.[6]. Q. 39:53.[7]. Sahih al-Bukhari, al-Tawhid, 22[8]Ibn Maja, al-Adab, 23[9]Sunan al-Tirmidhī, al-Birr, 31; Abu Dawud, al-Adab, 123-124.[10] Sunan al-Tirmidhī, Birr, 55

Source: Islam For New Muslims An Educational Guide,Assoc. Prof. Amjad M. Hussain, Erkam Publications

Reverting to Islam

What is Islam?