Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) 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 deliverence in the life to come by abstaining from the wicked and the unlawful and adopting what was good and virtuous. Thus those who reject the faith and refuse to believe in the Prophets (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam) and the Divine guidence with which they had been raised up their whole existence. So to speak, is one of defiance and transgresion. They are totally indifferent to the message sent down by Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa). They will have nothing to do with it. Unless they believe in the Messengers and Apostles raised up by Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) and in the Holy Scriptures revealed by Him, and particularly in the Last of the prophets. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam) and the Divine Book he brought, i.e., the Holy Quraan and accept his guidance they can never hope to attain the good pleasure of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) and success and salvation in the Hereafter. The denial of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), His Apostles and His Books is not pardonable. It cannot be condoned. This fact has been made abundantly clear by every prophet of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) during his time. In any case it is essential for the salvation of the Apostates and Polytheists that they first of all renounce Apostasy and Polytheism and take 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 (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) has kept the door of Taubah (Repentance) open.
Taubah means that if a person slips into folly and be guilty of a sin or an act of transgression against the law of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) he should feel genuinely sorry and ashamed over it, and resolve sincerely not to do so again, and seek the forgiveness of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) with all his heart. It is stated in the Holy Quraan 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 Taubah 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 repeat the act again should be an honest resolution and so also his entreaties to Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) for forgiveness.
If such a state of feelings is realised by a person in any degree he should be sure that the stain of sin has been washed way and the gates of mercy have opened for him. After such a Taubah the sinner is completely absolved of his sin, he is thoroughly sanctified and becomes even dearer in the sight of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) than he was before, so much so that sometimes a person succeeds in attaining, through Taubah, 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 Taubah was derived entirely from the twin sources of the Holy Quraan and the Traditions. We are going now to consider some of the relevant verses of the Holy Quraan:
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. [LXVI:8]
Why turn they not to Allah, and seek His forgiveness? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. [V:74]
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." [VI:54]
Also, look at the following Traditions:
"Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) says, 'O My Creatures! you commit follies day and night and I can forgive them all. So, seek My forgiveness. I will forgive."
"Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) extends the arms 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 (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) till the sun rises from the West near the Doomsday."
"A man committed a sin and then he prayed to Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), 'O Lord! I have sinned. Forgive me'. Upon this, the Lord observed, 'My servant knows that there is a Lord, Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), 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 (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), 'O Lord! I have sinned. Forgive me.' The Lord observed, 'My sinning servant knows that there is a Lord, Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), 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 (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), 'O Lord! I have sinned. Forgive me'. The Lord observed, 'My servant knows for certain that there is a Lord, Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), 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 Taubah is not worthy of a Muslim. Such verses and Traditions should, on the contrary, lend greater strength to the love of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa). 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 Taubah, by begging Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), 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 (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) after sin and repents sincerely for his folly it makes Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) 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 out (stupidly) in sheer joy, 'O Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), Thou, indeed, art my slave and me thy Master'." The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam) says, "The pleasure, this person feels after getting his mount back, Allah (Subhaanabu Wata'aalaa) Almighty is pleased more than that if his sinner servant repents."
If, after knowing these verses and Traditions, someone still fails to seek Divine forgiveness and approbation by offering repentance for his sins through Taubah and resolving not to fall into error again he, emphatically, is most unfortunate.
Many people are inclined to take a most complacent attitude, towards Taubah. They say, "We are healthy and strong, so what's the hurry? We will do Taubah 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 abode 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 (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) if and when we have been guilty of an evil. This, alone, is the path of wisdom. It is stated candidly in the Holy Quraan 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, "Now have I repented indeed!" 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 realise the value of life that is left to us. We should not put off Taubah by a moment; we must not procrastinate. We ought to set about, at once, reforming our ways. Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) 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 Taubah or not?
Brothers! 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, then, 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 Taqwaa, 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 (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), 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 Taubah 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 (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) that He will accept his repentance and forgive him. The benevolence of the Lord, and His Paradise, is infinite.
Words of Taubah
From the foregoing it would have been clear that in words or language a person may offer Taubah Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) will listen and accept his penitence. But the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam) has laid down certain specific phrases or prayers in this regard which he used to recite himself. These prayers, surely, are most auspicious, most worthy of His acceptance and most pleasing to Him. We are reproducing some of these here for you to learn by heart and recite for seeking divine forgiveness.
I beg the forgiveness of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) save Whom there is no God, the living, the Eternal. Unto Him do I turn penitent.
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam) has said, "Whoever will offer penitence to Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) and implore His forgiveness through this Kalimah, Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) will forgive him even if he has fled of Jihad which is a most mortal sin in the sight of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa)."
And again: "Whoever will recite this Kalimah thrice before going to sleep Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) will forgive his sins even though they may be as profuse as the foam of the sea."
Sometimes the sacred Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihe 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 Alaihe Wasallam) once remarked that the following prayer was Sayyid-il-Istighfaar (the leader of all the prayer of Istighfaar).
O Allah! Thou art my Lord. There is no God 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 my sins; so forgive me, for none forgiveth sins save Thee.
Says the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam):
"He who will offer repentance and beg the forgiveness of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) 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 Kalimahs of Taubah we have mentioned above are quite easy to remember.
As a Tradition reads:
"Blessed, indeed, is the man in whose record the profusion of Taubah is written."
What has been stated in these lessons of this small volume will, InshaaAllah, suffice for anyone for the attainment of Divine pleasure and paradise. It seems appropriate here to give a brief resume of the whole discussion before bringing the book to a close.
The first principle of Islam and the most essential prerequisite of deliverance and the attainments of paradise is that a man affirms his faith in the Kalimah of After that, he should try to acquire knowledge of the tenets of Islam at least as far as it is necessary to know them in order to be a good Muslim. His constant endeavour should be to observe the Islamic teachings faithfully and to carry out sincerely the Divine commandments regarding the Rights of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) as well as the Rights of man and good social and moral behaviour. When there may occur a lapse on his part in respect of these matters he should feel genuinely sorry over it and repent to Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) and seek His forgiveness. He should resolve honestly not to be guilty of the transgression again. If he has transgressed against a fellow being by violating his rights or doing him any other harm he should seek his pardon and make amends for his fault or misconduct or pay suitable compensation as the case my be.
In the same way, the effort of a Muslim should always be that the love of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) and of His Apostle (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam) and his Faith should be stronger in his heart than that of anyone or anything else in the world. He should remain steadfast in faith and waver not in the least form the path of duty to Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) and the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihe Wasallam) whatever the circumstances are. He should also, as a matter of duty, take some part or another in the preaching and propagation of Islam. It is an act of outstanding virtue and merit and a most special legacy of the Prophets. In the present age, particularly, its value is
much greater than that of all other forms of prayers and worships (other than obligatory) and when a person devotes himself to it, his devotion to Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa), the Prophet (Sallalla!iu Alaihe Wasallam) and the Faith also develops and becomes stronger.
Among the other prayers, if possible, one should develop the habit of Tahajjud. Its auspiciousness is of the very highest.
One must always be on one's guard against sin, specially against the major sins, like adultery, stealing, falsehood, drink and dishonest in monetary affairs.
It is advisable to do some Zikr every day. In case it may not be possible to spare more time for it, one should recite at least Kalimah-i Tamjid.
Or only and Istighfaar and Durood Shareef, a hundred times each, morning and evening.
Time should also be set aside for the daily reading of the Holy Quraan. It should be done with due religious respect and reverence. After every obligatory Salaah and at bedtime the Tasbeehaat-i-Fatimah may also be recited.
For those who aspire for more, the advice is to seek guidance from a spiritual mentor who may be worthy of it. The last thing to be said in this connection is that the company of true, pious and exalted devotees of Allah (Subhaanahu Wata'aalaa) and attachment and devotion to them is the very elixir of religious and spiritual existence. If this can fall to the lot of anyone all the rest will follow automatically.