Tawbah, otherwise known as repentance, is an Arabic word that means “a retreat” or “a return”. Both the Qur’an and the Hadith incorporate the word to refer to the act of leaving what Allah has prohibited and returning to what He has commanded. In the Islamic theology, the word denotes the act of being repentant for one’s misdeeds, atoning for those misdeeds, and having a strong determination to forsake those misdeeds. Because Qur’an and Hadith repeatedly mention and emphasize the act of atoning for one’s misdeeds, tawbah is of immense importance in Islamic tradition. For a Muslim, it is regarded as a major gateway to rectifying life.
Whatever kind of person you have become after coming here, receive from God and His Messenger the good news: God is most merciful and most forgiving and as more than willing to receive you back in His mercy. He says in His book:
“O those of My servants who have transgressed against your own selves, despair not of God’s mercy. God does forgive all sins, for surely He is the most forgiving most merciful one.” (39:53)
Tawbah is an Arabic word derived from the origin “Taaba” i.e. returned back. Tawbah thus means turning back in repentance. It means showing regret for the error and the sin one has got himself involved in.
To have a clear view of the concept of Tawbah and what it does mean, read the following:
Repentance (Tawbah) means that one feels regret and filled with remorse for his or her sins, turns to Allah with the intention to obey Him. According to truth-seeking scholars, repentance signifies a sincere effort to no longer oppose the Divine Essence in one’s feelings, thoughts, intentions, and acts, and to comply sincerely with His commands and prohibitions. Repentance does not mean being disgusted with what is bad or prohibited and thus no longer engaging in it; rather, it means remaining aloof from whatever Allah hates and prohibits, even if it seems agreeable to sense and reason.
Categories of repentance
Basically, there are 3 main types of Tawbah
#1– The repentance of those who cannot discern Divine truths. Such people are uneasy about their disobedience to Allah and, conscious of the sinfulness clouding their hearts, turn toward Allah in repentance saying, for example: “I have fallen or committed sin. Forgive me” or “I ask for Allah’s forgiveness.”
#2– Those half-awakened to Divine truths beyond veils of material existence, who feel an inward pang of sinfulness and remorse right after thinking or doing anything incompatible with the consciousness of always being in Allah’s presence, or after every instance of heedlessness enveloping their hearts, and who immediately take refuge in the mercy and favor of Allah. Such people are described in the following Hadith: “One who sincerely repents of his sin is as if he had never committed it. When Allah loves one of His servants, his sins do not harm him. Then he recites the verse: “Assuredly, Allah loves the oft-repentant and those who always seek to purify themselves.””
#3– Those who live such a careful life that, their eyes sleep but their hearts do not, their hearts are awake. Such people immediately discard what-ever intervenes between Allah and their hearts and other innermost faculties, and regain the consciousness of their relation to the Light of Lights. They always manifest the meaning of: “How excellent a servant! Truly he was ever turning in contrition (to his Lord)”Sad:44).
Hadith concept of Repentance
By Allah I seek forgiveness from Allah and repent to him more than seventy times in a day.[Tirmidhi]
A person cannot progress on the path of tazkiyah (spiritual purification) without sincere tawbah (repentance). Tawbah is to return to one’s original pure state. The Ulama (scholars) of tazkiyah say that a person should be repentant every moment of the day. Repentance is not only verbal, but more importantly, repentance should be in one’s state of heart and mind.
The proof of tawbah and its main component is remorse and one can never be remorseful without remembering one’s sins. A person’s character should be dripping with remorse and this inspires others to forgive. The true state of tawbah reveals itself in a person’s speech, gait and appearance.
God is overjoyed when one of His servants, lost in faithlessness and sin, comes back to Him. Imagine a mother who has lost her baby in a crowd and is nervously searching for it. Imagine now her joy when she finds her lost baby. When a servant of God returns to Him after being lost in faithlessness and sin, the joy of God is more than seventy times greater than the joy of such a mother.