By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
21 August, 2017
Repentance [Tauba] in Islamic mysticism is regarded as the first station of travellers on the way to the Truth, just as purification [Taharat] is the first step of those who desire to serve Allah Almighty.[i] This is tantamount to a piece of land needed for laying foundations; so the person who has no piece of land cannot lay foundations for a building. Similarly, the person, who has not repented of his sins and asked forgiveness of Allah, can never march even a single step towards Islamic mysticism.[ii]
Allah Almighty says, “O you who believe! Repent to Allah in sincere repentance” (Surah Tahreem-66:8)
Mufti Naimuddin Muradabadi writes on the commentary of this verse, (translation) “Sincere repentance, whose effect should be to make one give up all sinful deeds and get into the habit of doing pious deeds. It should be remembered that repentance in the true sense of the word is expression of remorse at the previous sins and a firm resolve to abstain from future sins. Repentance takes many forms: to repent from infidelity, transgressions, infringing human rights, etc. By “Taubatun Nasooh” it is meant that after repenting, that person must not indulge in any sins, just as milk that has come from the udder will never go back in it.[iii]
The beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “There is nothing that Allah loves more than a youth who repents”.[iv]
The prophet also said, “He who repents of sin is even as one who has not committed any sin. When Allah loves a man, sin shall not hurt him. Then, the holy prophet recited (the Quranic verse 2:222) “Indeed Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and He loves those who purify themselves”[v].
The Holy Prophet further said: “By Allah, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant than what one of you would do on finding the lost camel in the waterless desert”.[vi]
The following translated description from the Arabic book ‘Mafhakhir Aliyyah fil Ma’athir al-Shazliyyah’ written by Sheikh Abul Hassan Shazli explains repentance [Tauba] of sins and asking forgiveness of Allah (Istighfar).
“There are two kinds of Repentance. The first is that man should fear Allah and always keep in mind that Allah has all power to punish him. The second kind is that man should fear Allah, because He is quite close to him. In dictionary, the word 'Tauba' means 'reversion from sins and this reversion from sins is also of two kinds; firstly that of common masses and secondly that of particular people (ascetics or Sufi mystics).
The 'Tauba' of common masses has also three aspects. Firstly, the infidels express their repentance when they revert from infidelity and accept Iman and Islam, as it is incumbent upon a man to recognize his inner-self with his servitude [Ubudiyat] and recognize Allah with all His Attributes (Rububiyyat). The person who is negligent of his duties as a slave towards Allah, the worldly pursuits discourage him from paying attention to the concern for the hereafter. Such a person gets the companionship of the Satan.
The Second type of 'Tauba' is that of the sinner Muslims [Fasiqin] who commit major sins or perform unlawful actions. This type of repentance has six requisites: firstly feeling ashamed of the previous sins and it persuades man to achieve higher status in future; secondly, making full determination to give up sins in the present and not to revert to sins again; thirdly returning that equipment to the people from whom he had grabbed before making ‘Tauba’; fourthly fulfilling those obligations which he had missed; fifthly melting his inner-self prayers just as he had melted in sins and sixthly, weeping and wailing before Allah in the early morning hours so that Allah may forgive his previous sins.
The third type of 'Tauba' is that of common Muslims. It is the 'Tauba' from those minor sins which man commits by error, negligence or ignorance. Allah Almighty says, “Allah accepts repentance of only those who commit evil ignorance and then repent, soon afterwards. To such people Allah turns with Mercy and Allah is ever Knowing, Most Wise.” (Surah Nisa 4:17). And this place is for common Muslims and particular sinner Muslims who were in the third row in 'Aalam-e-Arwah' (when all the souls were created by Allah before the creation of the earth and the skies).
The second type of 'Tauba' is Tauba of particular people (ascetics and Sufi mystics). It is also of two types: Firstly that of particular people (common ascetics and Sufi mystics) and secondly that of very particular amongst particular people. The former type of 'Tauba' is the name of asking competence from Allah to keep them away from those thoughts and dangers which come across them in worldly affairs. It is the place of common friends of Allah and particular Muslims who were in the second row in 'Aalam-e-Arwah'. The 'Tauba' of very particular amongst particular people is achieved by diversion of heart totally to the remembrance of Allah and keeping it altogether away from worldly affairs. It is the place of particular friends of Allah who were in the first row of 'Aalam-e-Arwah' and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has pointed towards its place in the Hadith as “Verily when I feel that a slight veil comes on my heart, I recite 'Istighfar' seventy times before Allah.” (Sahih Muslim; Mishkat Bab ul Istighfar No.2324)[vii]
Hadhrat Dhul Nun the Egyptian says, “There are two kinds of repentance; the repentance of return [Taubah al-Inabat] and the repentance of shame [Taubah al-Istihya]. The former is repentance through fear of Divine punishment. The latter is repentance through shame of Divine clemency.” The repentance of fear is caused by revelation of majesty of Allah, while the repentance of shame is caused by vision of Allah’s beauty. Those who feel shame are intoxicated and those who feel fear are sober.[viii]
The beloved prophet said, “Penitence is the act of Tauba”. This saying comprises of three things which are involved in Tauba, namely (1) remorse for disobedience, (2) immediate abandonment of sin, and (3) determination not sin again.[ix]
Tauba has three stations; 1) Tauba through fear of Divine punishment, 2) Inabat, through desire of Divine reward and 3) Aubah, for the sake of keeping the Divine command. Tauba is the station of common believers and implies repentance from great sins [Kabirah], as Allah Almighty says, “O you who believe! Repent to Allah in sincere repentance” (Surah Tahreem-66:8). Inabat is the station of the saints and favourites of Allah [Auliya and Muqarrebun], as Allah Almighty says, “Who fears the Most Affectionate [Allah] without seeing and comes to Him with a repenting heart [Qalb e Munib]” (50:31-33). The fear that consists of awe and respect is called “Khashiah” and to obtain it is a great bounty of Allah Almighty. To fear without seeing means to inculcate awe of Allah Almighty by hearing from the blessed Prophets. The Arabic words “Qalb e Muneeb” mentioned in this verse refer to the repenting heart which is “totally patient during adversity, grateful during prosperity and always engaged in worship under all conditions. The great sages say that a penitent heart is a great bounty of Allah Almighty, which is obtained by fortunate people.[x] Awwab is the station of the prophets and messengers. Allah Almighty says, “And We bestowed to Dawood, Sulaiman who was an excellent devotee. Surely he always turned [to Allah] (38:30).
Tauba is to return from great sins to obedience. Inabat is to return from minor sins to love. Aubah is to return from one’s self to Allah.[xi]
When a man considers his evil conduct and abominable deeds he seeks deliverance from them and Allah makes it easy for him to repent and leads him back to the sweetness of obedience. According to the opinion of orthodox Muslims and all the Sufi saints, a man who has repented of one sin may continue to commit other sins and nevertheless receive Divine recompense for having abstained from the one sin; and it may be that through the blessing of that recompense he will abstain from other sins.[xii]
In short, Repentance is a means of coming closer to Allah and entering into His love. It is a life transformational process and a way to return to original state of purity and innocence. Repentance pleases Allah Almighty, purifies our heart and keeps us away from hardships and trials. Allah has repeatedly reminded us in the Quran about repentance. For examples, He Almighty says, “Will they not repent to Allah and ask His Forgiveness? For Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (5:74). “Verily, He is the One Who forgives (accepts repentance), the Most Merciful.” (2:37). “Except those who repent and do righteous deeds, and openly declare (the truth which they concealed). These, I will accept their repentance. And I am the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.” (2:160).
May Allah Almighty accept our repentance and forgiveness!
[i] Hazrat Ali bin Usman Al-Hujwiri aka Data Ganj Bakhsh, Kashful Mahjoob (Urdu edition), Ziaul Quran Publications p.484,
[ii] Sheikh Abul Hassan Shazli: ‘Almafakhir Aliyyah fil ma’athir shazliyya’ (Arabic edition), Maktaba Azhariya Egypt, p.152
[iii] Syed Naimudin Muradabadi, Khazainul Irfan and Kanzuliman, Ziaul Quran Publications, p. 814
[iv] Ibn `Asakir al-Dimashqi al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari, Kitab ut Tawba, (Arabic)
[v] Imam Abdul Kareem Qushairi, Risala Qushairiya, Chapter on Tauba (Arabic/ Al-Kulayni, Usulul Kafi, Hadith 10/ Hazrat Ali bin Usman Al-Hujwiri aka Data Ganj Bakhsh, Kashful Mahjoob (Urdu edition), Ziaul Quran Publications p.484.
[vi] Sahih Muslim, The Book Pertaining to Repentance
[vii] Sheikh Abul Hassan Shazli: ‘Almafakhir Aliyyah fil ma’athir shazliyya’ (Arabic edition), Maktaba Azhariya Egypt, p.152, Zikre Khair
[viii] Hazrat Ali bin Usman Al-Hujwiri aka Data Ganj Bakhsh, Kashful Mahjoob (Urdu edition), Ziaul Quran Publications p.490
[ix] Ibid (485)
[x] Mufti Ahmad Yaar Khan Naimi: “Tafseer-e-Khazainul Irfan” Surah 50:33
[xi] Hazrat Ali bin Usman Al-Hujwiri aka Data Ganj Bakhsh, Kashful Mahjoob (Urdu edition), Ziaul Quran Publications p.485
[xii] Ibid. p. 486
A regular Columnist with www.NewAgeIslam.com , Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background, Islamic writer and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.