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By Jinan Bastaki
The Prophet ﷺ said: “All the children of Adam constantly err, but the best of those who constantly err are those who constantly repent.” [Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Hakim]
We come to the next stage of gaining tranquility. Sometimes we don’t know why we feel down. We talked about al-Jabbar, and how we should go to Allah to help mend our broken hearts. But sometimes it’s more than that – it is the heavy weight of sins on our hearts. This topic may make us uncomfortable, because it is something we don’t like to be reminded of. It is difficult to think of and face up to our sins – and it makes us even more depressed! But the Prophet ﷺ taught us something very profound about the link between sins and the state of our heart. He says:
“When a slave commits a sin, a black spot appears on his heart…”
Subhan’Allah. When we commit sins, they weigh heavily on our hearts. Imagine a spiritual darkening of the heart due to the wrongs we commit – is it any wonder that we cannot pinpoint why we feel down? Yet the Prophet ﷺ also told us of the cleanser for this:
“But if he gives it up, seeks forgiveness and repents, his heart will be cleansed…”
“…but if he repeats it, (the blackness) will increase until it overwhelms his heart.” [Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]
What we need is istighfaar (seeking forgiveness) and tawba (repentance) as the Prophet ﷺ said. Setting aside some time to sit back and reflect, seek forgiveness, and try not to commit that sin again is a way to improve ourselves and to realize how Allah is Merciful and Forbearing. Despite the fact that we commit wrongs, He has not punished us.
Sometimes we avoid apologizing to a human being because we feel we will be rejected, or that that person will make it very hard for us to be forgiven – so we end up just avoiding the situation. Sometimes the shame makes us unable to say sorry. But with Allah, there should be no fear of that. When we admit to our wrongs and make a conscious and sincere effort to ask forgiveness, Allah (swt) is ready to forgive our sins even if they are like mountains. It is amazing how the very act of returning to Allah, after we have committed a wrong, is itself an act of worship that Allah loves. Allah 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 as it.” [Tirmidhi]
Sometimes we assume that it is only those who have committed grave sins that need to return to Allah. But the Prophet ﷺ said: “Beware of minor sins. For they add on until they destroy a person.” [Ahmad, Tabarani]
Whatever stage we are at, we need istighfaar and true repentance. If the Prophet ﷺ himself would seek forgiveness 70 times a day, why do we feel that we have to commit something that is especially egregious in order to ask Allah to forgive us? If we think about it, every sin is a black dot. These black dots accumulate until our hearts become hard and do not feel anymore. An example of this is with cussing or swearing. The first time we say something we shouldn’t have, we feel this twinge of guilt in our heart. Then when we keep repeating it, it becomes normalized. Why? Because our hearts become enveloped in these black dots.
Yet when we constantly go back to Allah, seeking his forgiveness, we are reminded. We become humble, because we are forced to face these minor sins that weigh heavily on our heart s- and through that our hearts are cleansed, insha’Allah. Because we face our sins, we are constantly trying to improve; we do not become complacent. It may seem hard, but a load will be taken off our shoulders with this constant returning to Allah. By doing this, we will have realized Allah’s Names al-Ghaffar (the oft-Forgiving), al-Ghafoor (the Forgiving), at-Tawwaab (the One who constantly accepts repentance), ar-Raheem (the all-Merciful) – and we are essentially re-affirming our belief in His attributes. Look at this example of Allah’s mercy when we commit sins. The Prophet ﷺ tells us in this hadith: “The Scribe on the left delays registering the sin of a Muslim for six hours. If he repents (within these six hours), and seeks Allah’s forgiveness, they drop if off. If he doesn’t, they write is down as a single sin.” [Tabarani]
Moreover, if we seek forgiveness sincerely and Allah accepts our repentance, not only does He forgive us, but He turns those bad deeds into good – imagine that YEARS of sinning could turn into years of REWARDS. How? Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an, 25:70]
How could we not want to return to Allah, who is truly the Most merciful of those who show mercy?
Some ways of seeking forgiveness
The Prophet ﷺ taught ‘Aisha (ra): “Verily tawba (repentance) from sin is regret[ing the action] and seeking forgiveness.” [Bayhaqi]
The internal component is to regret what we have done – whether it is a small lie, a glance at something we shouldn’t be looking at, being heedless or even something greater. The external component is to ask Allah for forgiveness. The Prophet ﷺ taught us a few ways how, and these are two of them:
1. The Prophet ﷺ 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.
اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ
“O Allah! You are my Lord! None has the right to be worshiped 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. 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]
2. The Prophet ﷺ also said: “Whoever commits a sin, and then performs wudhu, then offers prayers seeking forgiveness of God, God will certainly forgive him.” After this the Prophet ﷺ 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.” (Qur’an, 3:135) [Tirmidhi]
May Allah make us of those who constantly return to Him for forgiveness as a means to achieve tranquility in our hearts, so that when we finally meet Him on the Day of Judgment, we are of those “who come to Allah with a sound heart.[1.“The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children, But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.” (Qur’an, 26:88-89)]”