Repentance- The Islamic Perspective (Part 1)

In this article, we will elaborate briefly on the meaning of Istighfaar and Tawbah. We will also describe the basic steps involved in doing Istighfaar accompanied with few illustrations. We will further discuss the steps involved in completing a proper Tawbah in the subsequent article to follow soon.

In Islam the act of repentance comes in two forms which include: Tawba and Istighfaar.

Tawba refers to the process of repenting a particular sin (usually a major sin) committed, having a sense of regret, and finally seeking forgiveness from Allah. On the other hand, Istighfaar can be described as the process of orally seeking forgiveness from Allah for minor sins especially.

Tawbah has to be performed for every major sin committed by an individual which differs from just orally seeking forgiveness from Allah. Major sins consist of actions that a follower has committed that is described by the Prophet as; “it will be punished”, or enter “hell”, or receive the anger or curse of Allah.

Moreover, major sins in islam comprise of cheating, cursing parents, lying, stealing, purposely missing one of the 5 prayers, Fornication/ “Zina”, consuming interest/usury (“riba”), purposely listening to music, consuming alcohol, committing acts of murder, engaging in black magic, oppressing others, backbiting, using abusive language, purposely disregarding an instruction given by the Holy Messenger of Allah ﷺ and so on. In addition to the above, all major sins mentioned should not be committed but if committed it is mandatory upon every Muslim to perform Tawbah.

On the other hand, Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah had a different approach on the issue, stating that lstighfaar may be performed in the presence or absence of repentence (Tawbah). He further defended his point by saying that in both forms of repentance the “seeking of forgiveness” may be granted by Allah and the sinner may be excused for his action and not penalized in the Afterlife.

Moreover, both form of repentance involves the sinner and Allah only without any third parties. It differs from seeking forgiveness from a particular person or group of individuals. The Great Messenger of Allah ﷺ strongly encouraged Muslims to repent before they meet their maker, Allah Azawajala.

The true meaning of Istighfaar as translated from the Arabic language is “seeking forgiveness”, which refers to a more broad way of seeking forgiveness from Allah. It is done by verbally uttering the Arabic word “Astaghfirullah”(refers to I seek Allah’s forgivness) sincerely from the heart. Islamic teachings make listighfaar an essential form of worship to be practiced regularly, in whatever place or situation a Muslim find him/herself.

Istighfaar can be performed during prayers, after prayers, at work, whilst eating, when doing sportive activities, when preparing for exams, when buying something, when selling something, when teaching, when lying, when you are waiting in line, when praying in the mosque and so on.

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