Repentance (tawbah) means “sincerely turning to Allah”, and a repentant person is one who gives up sins and unbelief and turns to Allah in repentance.
A Muslim needs to repent and seek Allah’s forgiveness at practically all stages of his life; because it is only human to err, a Muslim is required to repent and beg Allah’s pardon every time he commits a sin.
What Are the Conditions of Sincere Repentance?
For repentance of all sins, including the sin of unbelief and shirk, to be valid and acceptable to Allah, a number of conditions must be met, including the following:
- To give up the sin immediately
Sincere repentance from sin with the deliberate desire to continue to commit it is not valid and will not possibly take place; if, however, a person commits the sin again after sincerely repenting from it, his earlier repentance will still be valid but he will need fresh repentance, and so on.
- To feel deep sorrow and regret for having committed it
True repentance cannot possibly take place without feeling deep remorse for having committed the sin. A person who talks about his past sins and brags about committing them is in no way considered penitent. As the Prophet ﷺ once stated, “Remorse is repentance.” (Sunan Ibn Maajah: 4252)
- To sincerely resolve not to commit it again
Sincere repentance cannot possibly take place if a penitent person intends to repeat the sin.
Steps towards Acquiring Determination
- Pledging oneself not to repeat the sin under any circumstances and obstacles, not even for an instant, for the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever possesses the following three qualities will relish the sweetness of faith.” Of these three characteristics, he mentioned “to hate to return to unbelief (kufr) after Allah has saved him from it, as much as he would hate to be thrown into the Fire.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 21; Saheeh Muslim: 43)
- Keeping away from people and places that are bound to decrease his faith and tempt him to commit sins.
- Repeatedly begging Allah ﷻ to keep him on the right path and adhere firmly to Islam until death, in any language or form. Examples from the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah include the following:
- “Rabbanaa laa tuzigh quloobanaa ba‛da idh hadaytanaa” (Our Lord, do not make our hearts deviate after You have guided us) (SooratAal-‛Imraan, 3:8)
- “Yaa muqallibal-quloob, Thabbit qalbee ‛alaa deenik” (O Allah, Controller of hearts, make my heart adhere firmly to Your religion) (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 2140)
What Happens after Repentance?
If a person turns to Allah in repentance, Allah ﷻ will definitely forgive his sins, no matter how serious they may be, for His mercy “extends to all things” (Soorat Al-A‛raaf, 7:156). The Qur’an says, “Say: ‘My slaves, you who have transgressed against yourselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Truly Allah forgives all wrong actions. He is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.’” (Soorat Az-Zumar, 39:53)
After a person sincerely repents to Allah, Allah ﷻ will definitely pardon him and forgive his sins; in addition, He will reward him; immensely: He will change his bad deeds into good ones, as the Qur’an states, “Except for those who repent, believe and act rightly: Allah will transform the wrong actions of such people into good — Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Soorat Al-Furqaan,25:70)
As this a reward is immense indeed, a sensible person ought to maintain such repentance and spare no effort to avoid falling into Satan’s trap which will negatively affect his faith.
Sweetness of Faith
Those who will most certainly taste the sweetness of faith, experience deep tranquillity and take great delight in experiencing closeness to Allah are those who love Allah ﷻ and His Messenger ﷺ more than anyone or anything else, love others, commensurate with their closeness to Allah and dedication to Islam, and hate to convert to unbelief just as they hate to be punished in Hellfire. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Any person who combines these three qualities will certainly experience the sweetness of faith: (1) that Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than anything else; (2) that his love of others is purely for Allah’s sake; and (3) that he hates to relapse into unbelief as much as he hates to be cast into the Fire.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 21; Saheeh Muslim: 43)
A Muslim relishes the sweetness of faith when he hates to relapse into unbelief just as much as he hates to be thrown into the Fire.