One might say, “I’ve committed many sins, and I have repented, but my sins pursue me and I am haunted by what I have done. My memories disturb my sleep and do not let me have any rest. How can I free myself?”
My advice to you is that these feelings are evidence of your sincere repentance. This is essentially remorse, and remorse is repentance. But you can also look at your past with hope: the hope that Allah will forgive you. Do not despair of the mercy of Allah, for He says, “And who despairs of the Mercy of his Lord except those who are astray?” [Qur’an 15:56]
Ibn Mas’ud said: “The greatest of major sins are to associate partners with Allah, to feel secure against the plan of Allah and to despair of the mercy of Allah.”
In the process of moving towards Allah, the believer is always motivated by both fear of Allah and hope of His mercy. One or another of them may prevail at times of need. If he sins, the fear of Allah overwhelms him, and so he repents. When he repents, the hope of Allah’s mercy fills his heart and he seeks the forgiveness of Allah.
Further, a person may sorrowfully ask, “I want to repent, but do I have to go and confess the sins I have committed? Is it a condition of repentance that I should tell the qaadi (judge) in the court about everything that I have done, and ask him to carry out the appropriate punishment on me?
Well, my response to you is that the slave’s direct relationship with Allah, with no intermediaries, is one of the most important aspects of the belief in Tawheed (Islamic monotheism) with which Allah is pleased. He says, “And when My slaves ask you (O’ Muhammad) about Me, then answer them, I am indeed near to them by My knowledge. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). [Qur’an, 2:186]
If we believe that repentance is only to Allah, then confession is only to Allah too. In fact, the Prophet (P.B.U.H) used to pray in his dua asking for forgiveness:
“Aboo’u laka bi ni’matika wa aboo’u bi dhanbi (I acknowledge Your blessings and I acknowledge confessing my sins to You)”.
May Allah grant us all forgiveness. Amin.