All through their lives, certain people pursue a flawless image for themselves.
Their efforts center around one goal: to be perfect and to look perfect.
This is a natural consequence of finding it degrading to make a mistake.
The ideal person, they consider, is one who can project an aura of impeccability.
However, this "flawlessness" is an illusionary goal. Neither
is it one of the attributes of a believer we find extolled in the Qur'an.
We would go so far as to say that such a "believer model" does
not exist. For man is inherently weak, humble and helpless before God;
and can consequently make mistakes all throughout his life. No doubt,
he will always do his best to avoid mistakes and sins, yet, being a frail
servant of God, he will not be successful in being free of all mistakes.
In the Qur'an we are informed that man has faults and sins before God:
If God were to punish men according to what they
deserve, He would not leave on the surface of the earth one single living
creature: but He gives them respite for a stated term: when their term
expires, truly, (they will know that ) God has in His sight all His Servants.
In accordance with this divine command stated in the Qur'an, the attitude
expected of a believer is not that of being faultless or sinless. He is
only expected to constantly seek forgiveness from God.
This is actually an attribute which makes the distinction between a believer
and non-believer: Unbelievers struggle to cover up their faults and sins.
Yet, a believer never tries to do this.
What is important for him is to feel an inner regret and consequently
turn to God and seek His forgiveness.
While reading the Qur'an, we see that the willingness to ask for forgiveness
is a natural and unfailing attribute of the believers. On that account,
we understand that believers never see themselves as beings purified of
all sins and faults. On the contrary, they continually seek refuge in
God's mercy. In the following verse, turning to God in repentance is regarded
as one of the important attributes of a believer:
Those that turn to God in repentance; that serve
Him, and praise Him; that fast in devotion to the cause of God; that bow
down and prostrate themselves in prayer; that enjoin good and forbid evil;
and observe the limit set by God, shall be richly rewarded. proclaim the
glad tidings to the believers. (Al-Tawba, 112)
The distinction between and inter-relatedness of the concepts of repentance
and forgiveness should be carefully considered.
Asking for forgiveness of God is a regular aspect of worship for believers.
Man can ask forgiveness of God all day long for all his sins, whether
deliberately or unintentionally committed. Moreover, as well as asking
for forgiveness for oneself, one can also do it for other believers, as
stated in the Qur'an.
In Arabic, the word for "asking for forgiveness' is "istigfar"
which is "asking for God's attribute of Gafur.
(Gafur (G-F-R), in Arabic, means to "cover, protect, hide totally,
Thus, asking for forgiveness of God is like pledging to purify oneself
and hence seeking refuge in the mercy and grace of God. In the Qur'an
the believers pray saying, "Our Lord! Forgive us our sins, remove
from us our iniquities, and take to Yourself our souls in the company
of the righteous." (Al-Imran, 193).The judgement of God regarding
this is as below:
I am with you: if you (but) say your prayers regularly,
practice regular charity, believe in my messengers, honour and assist
them, and loan to God a beautiful loan, indeed I will rid you of your
evils, and admit you to gardens with rivers flowing beneath; but if any
of you, after this, denies Me, he will truly have wandered from the path
of rectitude. (Al-Maeda, 12)
As mentioned above, praying for forgiveness of God may be both for sins,
committed intentionally or unintentionally, as well as for the sins of
other believers. This is the most important distinction between asking
for forgiveness and repentance. Although praying for forgiveness is a
regular prayer of the believers, repentance is the steadfast attitude
taken towards a particular sin or fault, or the giving of a firm decision
not to turn to that sin again.
Repentance is seeking refuge in God for one's sin, promising not to commit
that sin again and, to this end asking the guidance and help of God. The
exact meaning of repentance is "to turn back". Thus, repentance
expresses an absolute commitment not to commit any particular sin again.
The intention behind repentance is not to repeat
the same sin. God enjoins the faithful thus: "O you who believe!
Turn to God with sincere repentance, in the hope that your Lord will remove
from you your ills and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow..."
However, this is not to say that a believer repents for a sin or fault
only once. He may repent on one occasion, and then, in a moment of weakness,
repeat the same sin.However, the mercy of God never ceases to encompass
him . This is why he can still repent to God and seek refuge in Him. God
is always ready to show grace and mercy to the believers. This is stated
in the Qur'an as below:
"O my Servants who have transgressed against
their souls! Do not despair of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all
sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." Turn to your Lord
(in repentance) and bow to His Will, before the Penalty comes upon you:
after that you shall not be helped. (Az-Zumar, 53-54)
Still, there is one kind of repentance God will not accept: the insincere
repentance offered when death comes to a man. This is actually the moment
a man meets the angels of death. Of this the Qur'an says:
God accepts the repentance of those who do evil
in ignorance and repent soon afterwards; to them God will turn in mercy:
for God is full of knowledge and wisdom. Of no avail is the repentance
of those who continue to do evil, until death faces one of them, and he
says, "Now I have indeed; repented indeed" nor of those who
die rejecting Faith: for them We have prepared a most grievous punishment.
In the Qur'an God gives the striking example of such an act of repentance
made at the last moment. Pharaoh, who chased Moses and the believers in
order to kill them, ended by expressing his repentance while he drowned
in the sea, a miracle wrought by God.
"...At length, when overwhelmed with the flood,
he said: I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of
Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to God in Islam). (Jonah,
However God's response to him was as follows:
"...Ah now! But a little while before, you
were in rebellion! and you perpetrated mischief and violence! (Jonah,
Since repentance is essential to the eternal salvation of man, one should
well be aware of its importance and observe this form of worship to the
best of one's ability. One may have sinned extensively or have rebelled
against one's Creator. Yet, God encompasses His servants with so much
mercy that He grants eternal salvation in response to a sincere repentance:
When those who believe in Our signs, come to you
say: "Peace be upon you: Your Lord has decreed for Himself (the rule
of) mercy: truly, if any of you commited evil in ignorance, and thereafter
repented, and mended his ways, he would find God Oft-forgiving and Most
Merciful." (Al-Anaam, 54)
Keep in mind that God even forgives unbelievers and hypocrites who fought
against Him and His Messenger, if they turn back to God with sincere and
The Hypocrites shall be cast into the lowest depths
of the Fire: no helper will you find for them;But those who repent, mend
their ways, hold fast to God, and are sincere in their devotion to Him-they
shall be numbered with the believers. And soon God will grant to the believers
a reward of immense value. (An-Nisa, 145-146)
Those who conceal the clear signs We have sent
down,and the guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the
Book-on them shall be God's curse, and the curse of those entitled to
curse, except those who repent and make amends and openly declare the
Truth.Toward them I shall relent; for I am the Relenting one and Most
Merciful. (Al-Baqara, 159-160)
This is a great opportunity God grants to His servants. He commands man
never to be overwhelmed by despair due to any sin he has committed and
always to turn to Him in hope. However, misinterpretation of this concept
and an insincere attitude do not earn a man divine approval. Knowing the
commandments of God, yet deliberately committing sins, saying "no
matter what happens I will be forgiven" shows completely flawed reasoning.
Such are the people who "reject faith after they accepted it, and
then go on adding to their defiance of faith." Only the repentance
of those who out of ignorance commit sins accepted. The repentance of
an insincere person who simply take repentance as the freedom to commit
sins is, however rejected. Stress is laid on this in the Qur'an: "But
those who reject faith after they have accepted it, and then go on adding
to their defiance of faith, will never have their repentance accepted;
for they are those who have of set purpose gone astray." (Al-Imran,
One point needs clarification here: it is quite possible that, due to
ignorance, being in a state of heedlessness or indulging oneself in one's
own desires, one may very well commit sins. However, if one realizes one's
faults and sincerely repents, God may well be forgiving. However, people
who commit sins, although knowing the judgements of God, saying, "I
will be forgiven no matter what happens," are merely deceivers. That
is why their repentance is not acceptable to God.(God knows the best).
It is hardly necessary to say that heartfelt regret and sincerity are
the keys to divine forgiveness. The Quranic injunction: "Call
on your Lord with humility and in private..." (Al-Araf, 55)
also applies when showing contrition asking for forgiveness. While repenting
for serious errors especially, deep regret and a sincere attitude are
essential. As an example of repentance and forgiveness, the Qur'an cites
the case of the three Muslims who were left behind, when all others had
gone to fight in the cause of God, thereby committing a great sin;
God turned with favour to the Prophet, the Muhajirs,
and the Ansar, who followed him in a time of distress, when the hearts
of some of them had nearly swerved from duty; but He turned to them (also):
for He is Most Kind, and Most Merciful to them. He turned in mercy also
to the three who were left behind; they felt guilty to such a degree that
the earth seemed constrained to them, for all its spaciousness, and their
very souls seemed straitened to them, and they perceived that there was
no fleeing from God and no refuge but in Him. Then He turned to them,
so that they might repent: for God is the Forgiving One and Most Merciful.
Asking forgiveness of God and repenting one's sins serve as pure expressions
of being a sincere servant to God. The believer should be well aware that
he may commit sins, but that he should take refuge in the mercy and grace
of God. Simply worrying, or feeling grief for one's former sins is quite
pointless. Man should consider the story of the messengers who made some
errors, yet continued their struggle after sincerely repenting. Man should
trust in the forgiveness of God.
In the Qur'an it is mentioned that praying for forgiveness and expressing
repentance are ways to eternal salvation:
If it were not for God's grace and mercy to you,
and that God is Forgiving and full of Wisdom, (you would indeed be ruined).