Lesson 19 (Tauba)

Chapter No.: 

Allah sent down His Apostles into the world and revealed His Books through them so that men may learn to distinguish good from evil, virtue from vice, and earn for themselves Divine approbation and deliverance in the life to come by abstaining from the wicked andthe unlawful and adopting what was good and virtuous. Thus, those who reject the faith and refuse to believe in the Prophets and the Divine guidance with which they had been raised up, their whole existence, so to speak, is one of defiance and transgression. They are totally indifferent to the message sent down by Allah. They will have nothing to do with it. Unless they believe in the Messengers and Apostles raised up by Allah and in the holy Scriptures revealed by Him, and, particularly, in the Last of the Prophets, Prophet Mohammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), and the Divine Book he brought, i.e., the holy Quran, and accept his guidance they can never hope to attain the good pleasure of Allah and success and salvation in the Hereafter. The denial of Allah, His Apostles and His Books is not pardonable. It cannot be condoned. This fact has been made abundantly clear by every Prophet of Allah during his time. In any case, it is essential for the salvation of the Apostates and Polytheists that they first of all renounced Apostasy and Polytheism and took to the path of Faith and Monotheism. Without it salvation is not possible. Those who believe in the Prophets and affirm their intention to live according to their teachings also sometimes fall into error. They are misled by the Devil or by their own baser instincts and impulses into committing a sin. For such defaulters Allah has kept the door of Tauba (Repentance) open.

Tauba means that if a person many slip into folly and be guilty of a sin or an act of transgression against the law of Allah he should feel genuinely sorry and ashamed over it, and resolve sincerely not to do so again, and seek the forgiveness of Allah with all his heart. It is stated in the Quran and the Traditions that by doing only this much a man's sin is forgiven and he succeeds in winning the pleasure of the Almighty. It is essential to know that Tauba is not vocal penitence. It is not at all a matter of uttering so many words of repentance. The sorrow must be sincere, the shame must be felt in the heart and the resolution not to repeat the folly and be guilty of the sin again must be totally genuine. It is like this. Suppose in a fit of temper or in a moment of acute depression a person swallows poison with the intention of killing himself. But when the poison begins to work and a thousand knives begin to tear his intestines into pieces and he knows that death is near, he repents his folly and cries out in desperation for medical relief. Now, at that time, his first thought will be that if he survived he would never touch the poison again or think of committing suicide. This exactly should be the state of the man who repents after sin. His heart should be seized by the fear of Divine Chastisement, the resolution not to do the thing again should be an honest resolution and so also his entreaties to Allah for forgiveness.

If such a state of feeling is realized by a person in any degree he should be sure that the stain of sin has been washed away and the gates of mercy have opened for him. After such a Tauba the sinner is completely absolved of his sin, he is thoroughly sanctified and becomes even dearer in the sight of Allah than he was before, so much so that sometimes a person succeeds in attaining, through Tauba, a place which would be hard to reach even after a hundred years of prayer and fasting.

All this that we have said on the subject of Tauba was derived entirely from the twin sources of the Quran and the Traditions. We are going now to consider some of the relevant verses of the Quran:

أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا عَسَى رَبُّكُمْ أَنْ يُكَفِّرَ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيُدْخِلَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ

O ye who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance: in the hope that your Lord will remove from you your ills and admit you to Gardens beneath which rivers flow. (46:8)

أَفَلَا يَتُوبُونَ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَهُ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ ()

Why turn they not to Allah, and seek His forgiveness? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (5:74)

وَإِذَا جَاءَكَ الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِنَا فَقُلْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ كَتَبَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ الرحمة أنه مَنْ عَمِلَ مِنْكُمْ سُوءًا بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ تَابَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَنَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ ()

When those come to thee who believe in Our Signs, say: "Peace be on you! Your Lord hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy: Verily, if any of you did evil in ignorance, and thereafter repented, and amended (his conduct); lo, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (6:54)

Also, look at the following Traditions:

"Allah says, 'O My Creatures! You commit follies day and night and I can forgive them all. So, seek My forgiveness. I will forgive'."

"Allah extends the arm of Mercy and Forgiveness every night so that the sinners of the day may repent and seek His pardon and every day so that the sinners of the night may repent and seek His pardon and it shall be like this with Allah till the sun rises from the West near the Doomsday."

"A man committed a sin and then he prayed to Allah, 'O Lord, I have sinned. Forgive me'. Upon this, the Lord observed, 'My servant knows that there is a Allah who can punish him for his sin as well as forgive. I have forgiven the sin of My servant. The person abstained from sin as long as the Lord wished after which he again went astray and fell into transgression. He once again prayed to Allah, 'O Lord, I have sinned. Forgive me.' The Lord observed. 'My servant knows that there is a Allah who can chastise him for sinning as well as forgive. I have forgiven the sin of My servant'. He remained free from sin as long as the Lord wished and then was again guilty of it. Once again he prayed to Allah, 'O Lord, I have sinned. Forgive me'. The Lord observed, 'My servant knows for certain that there is a Allah who can punish as well as forgive him for his sin. I have forgiven the sin of My servant'."

"One who seeks Divine forgiveness after sin becomes like one who has never been guilty of a sin".

These Traditions show how Merciful and Oft-Forgiving is the Lord. To get emboldened by them and to start indulging freely in sinful activities on the strength of Tauba is not worthy of a Muslim. Such verses and Traditions should, on the contrary, lend greater strength to the love of Allah. They should make one feel that it really was the height of meanness to act against the wishes of such a Compassionate and Benevolent Lord. If a master be of a most kind and affectionate nature, would it become his servants to pay back his kindness and affection by violating his wishes and disobeying his commands? What these verses and Traditions seek to convey is that should a person succumb to the temptations of the Devil or to his own ignoble desires and inclinations and commit a sin he must not despair of the mercy of the Lord and lose all hope of salvation. He should, on the other hand, turn his back immediately on the lapse and try earnestly to remove its stain through Tauba, by begging Allah, in all sincerity, His forgiveness. The Almighty, in His Infinite Mercy, will forgive and instead of being angry with him, He will become even more pleased for regretting sincerely what he had done and turning to Him hopefully for remission. A Tradition states:

"When a man turns to Allah after sin and repents sincerely for his folly it makes Allah even happier than a rider whose mount may have thrown him down in a vast desert and fled away with all the journey's provisions laden on its back, and, when the rider may have resigned himself to his fate and sat down under a tree to wait for his death, the animal may return, all of a sudden, with the provisions intact and the rider may catch hold of it and blurt our (stupidly) in sheer joy, 'O Allah, Thou, indeed, art may slave and me thy Master;." If, after knowing these verses and Traditions, someone still fails to seek Divine forgiveness and approbation by offering repentance for his sins through Tauba and resolving not to fall into error again he, emphatically, is most unfortunate. Many people are inclined to take a most complacent attitude towards Tauba. They say, "We are healthy and strong, so what's the hurry? We will do Tauba before dying." Brothers, this is an extremely dangerous deception, which the Devil practices on us. Deprived as he has himself of Divine Mercy and Beneficence and earned a permanent adobe in the Hell, he wants us also to go his way. No one knows when death may strike. Thus, we should consider every day to be the last day of our lives and lose no time in begging the forgiveness of Allah if and when we have been guilty of an evil. This, alone, is the path of wisdom. It is stated candidly in the Quran that. Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards; to them will Allah turn in mercy; for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. Of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil, until death faces one of them, and he says, "Nor of those who die rejecting faith: for them have We prepared a punishment most grievous. (V: 17-18) We should catch time by the forelock and realize the value of life that is left to us. We should not put off Tauba by a moment; we must not procrastinate. We ought to set about, at once, reforming our ways. Allah alone knows when death is going to make its call on us, and, then, it may be too late. Who can tell whether, at that time, we will get the opportunity to offer Tauba or not?

Brother, we all have seen people dying. The general experience is that a person dies in the same state in which he has led his life. It does not happen that a person may have spent all his days in folly and negligence and, he, suddenly repented and turned into a saint a day or two before his death. Hence, a man who wants to die in a state of piety, for him it is necessary to become pious in his lifetime. Then alone can he hope to die as a good Muslim, by the grace of Allah, and to be raised up with the faithful and the righteous in the Hereafter.

If after offering repentance for a sin a person may be guilty of the same sin again there is no need for him to feel so frustrated over it as to lose faith in Divine Mercifulness. He should offer Tauba quickly again, and if again he may break it he should not hesitate in offering it once more even if it be a thousand times. Whenever he will repent with a sincere heart it is the promise of Allah that He will accept his repentance and forgive him. The Benevolence of the Lord, lie His Paradise, is Infinite.

Words of Tauba

Form the forgoing it would have been clear that in whatever words or language a person may offer Tauba Allah will listen and accept his penitence. But the holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has laid down certain specific phrases or prayers in this regard which he used to recite himself. These prayers, surely, are most pleasing to Him. We are reproducing some of these here for you to learn by heart and recite for seeking divine forgiveness.

أستغفر الله الذي لا اله إلا هو الحي القيوم و أتوب إليه

I beg the forgiveness of the Lord save Whom there is no Allah, the living, the Eternal. Unto Him do I turn penitent.

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has said, "Whoever will offer penitence to Allah and implore His forgiveness through this Kalima Allah will forgive him even if he has fled from the field of Jihaad which is a most mortal sin in the sight of Allah."

And again: "Whoever will recite this Kalima thrice before going to sleep Allah will forgive his sins even though they may be as profuse as the foam of the sea," Sometimes the sacred Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used to recite only (I implore the forgiveness of the Lord). It is a very brief phrase and we should try to cultivate the habit of repeating it every now and then.


It is related that the holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) once remarked that the following prayer was Sayyidul-Istighfar (the leader of all the prayer formulas of Istighfar).

اللهم أنت ربي لا اله إلا أنت خلقتني و أنا عبدك و أنا على عهدك و وعدك ما استطعت أعوذ بك ما صنعت ابوء لك بنعمتك علي و ابوء بذنبي فاغفر لي فانه لا يغفر الذنوب إلا أنت

O Allah! Thou art my Lord; there is no Allah save Thee. Thou art my Creator and I am Thy slave. I abide by Thy covenant and promise as best as I can. I seek refuge in Thee from the mischief of what I have wrought. I acknowledge unto Thee Thy favour, which Thou hast bestowed upon me, I also confess mine inequity; so forgive me for none forgiveth sins save Thee.

Says the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam):

"He who will offer repentance and beg the forgiveness of Allah reciting this prayer with faith and sincerity during day-time then if he died on that day, before nightfall, he shall go to Heaven, and he who will recite it at night, with faith and sincerity, and then if he died on that night, before day-break, he shall go to Heaven."

The three Kalimas of Tauba we have mentioned above are quite easy to remember. As a Tradition reads:

"Blessed, indeed, is the man in whose record the profusion of Tauba is written."