The Art of Repentance

Confessing your sins to God means you have to talk to Him. Find a quiet moment to speak to Him like you would with anyone, confess and seek forgiveness.

Confessing your sins to God means you have to talk to Him. Find a quiet moment to speak to Him like you would with anyone, confess and seek forgiveness.

According to a narration from Abu Hurairah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would seek forgiveness one hundred times a day.

This should worry us.

If the Prophet, who is immune from committing all sins feels the need to repent to God that many times per day, where does that leave us? And how desperate in need we must be for repentance and for God to accept it from us?

Repentance is usually translated as Istighar in Arabic, with the verb form being Astagfirullah Wa Atubu Ilyah roughly translating to ‘I seek forgiveness from God and I return to Him’. Many of us say it, but how many of us say it sincerely, satisfying all its conditions?

Allah (swt) loves to forgive

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) to have said: Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant when he turns penitently towards Him than one of you would be on finding the lost camel.

In this day and age, you can replace finding the lost camel with finding your lost smartphone! In all seriousness, how happy would you be if found something you had previously lost all hope of retrieving? Allah (swt) is even more happy to see you repent.

One of His beautiful names is Al-Ghaffar meaning the Oft-Forgiving. He is happy to forgive you as many times as necessary and never gets tired of doing so.

What are the effects of not seeking repentance?

Imagine your bedroom is entirely spotless yet one day you decide to dump some dirty laundry in the corner. You don’t like the smell or how it messes your perfectly tidy room but you’re too lazy to clean it up. The longer you take to clean it up, the more you get used to the smell and become familiar with it sitting in the corner. Over time, it becomes part of the furniture and even worse –  it becomes so normalised you start dumping more dirty laundry there as it now seems like an acceptable thing to do.

This is exactly how sin and repentance work. The longer you take to seek forgiveness, the harder your heart becomes to the sin and the more normal it seems. A sin – let’s say lying – that first used to make you nervous before uttering it and guilty after saying it now rolls off your tongue like it’s nothing. The longer the time passes, the more lies you say and the less likely you become to feel guilty and repent.

How to repent

Given the above, the first step to repentance is to not delay it at all. Satan will tell you to ask for forgiveness later or will trick you into thinking God won’t accept the repentance, but you have to go and repent as soon as possible. It will prevent your heart from going rotten and will put you back in the realms of God’s mercy.

There isn’t a set way to repent, you can repent in any language. The most important thing is to be comfortable and make it genuine so don’t worry too much about protocol – do it in a way you feel connected. 

There are, however, some general principles to follow:

Verbalising the repentance

Confessing your sins to God means you have to talk to Him. Find a quiet moment to speak to Him like you would with anyone, confess and seek forgiveness.

Don’t feel shy to mention your struggles with sins and ask for His help. Make it a discussion rather than a list of confessions. Talk about how the sins make you feel and how you wish you could stop and pour your heart out.

Internal regret

It’s as important to genuinely feel remorseful with what you’ve done. God accepts all sincere actions.

If you don’t feel remorseful, ask God to soften your heart and help you get to a place where you can feel a healthy and necessary amount of guilt.

Make amends, where possible

If your sin has encroached on someone else’s right, you have to correct it. Perhaps you gossiped about someone, verbally abused them, or lied – you have to go and make it up to them – which means saying sorry in the same manner in which the sin was committed.

So, if you lied about someone and tarnished their reputation in front of your five friends you have to first seek forgiveness from the person whose reputation you tarnished and then clarify and restore his reputation in front of the same five friends. It’s important to go back and make amends and close the loop as humanly as possible. God will not forgive you until the person you wronged does so. 

Making a resolution to not repeat the sin

Your repentance has to include a solid resolution to never repeat the sin ever again. This doesn’t mean saying to God “I won’t do it again” but making a practical plan – whether that is changing who you hang out with, where you hang out or what you watch or listen to in order to create a temptation-free environment.

If you do happen to fall into sin again – don’t panic. Repeat above mentioned steps and keep doing it until you’re done for good.

May Allah (swt) accept your efforts.

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