By Imam Raji, Musa Oladapo
I seek refuge in Allah from the devil the accursed and I start in the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. I also testify that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is His Messenger. May the benediction be upon his soul, members of his household, his companions and those who follow his ways till the last day.
Say O ‘Ibaadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves by committing evil deeds and sins. Despair not of Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly He is oft Forgiving Most Merciful.
This discourse would not have come at any other time better than this, when various degrees of sins are being committed every moment unabated. And if truly we are seeking the countenance of Our Creator, we must put an end to wallowing in sins. Allah (SW) our Creator honours and prefers us to other creatures. He gives us reasoning faculty that makes us to excel above other creatures. But alas! What we are doing is contrary to the expectations of Allah, and then we still expect His mercy to be in abundance, whereas mercy and blessing of Allah are not given to sinners and perpetrators of evil acts.
Allah (SW) is happy when a servant repents to Him, because He was created by Himself and created other things for the benefit of mankind. He (Allah) has made the heavens and earth and whatever therein of service to the mankind. Even the angels whom we believe to be closer to Allah, Allah still makes them to be subservient to mankind by charging them (angels) to guard mankind at all times. As a result of this uniqueness of mankind, he has succeeded in having a manifest enemy (satan) or devil who always wishes to distant mankind from Allah. He (devil) always provides paths that will lead him (mankind) to distant him from Allah. In fact in most cases, he (devil) will make the path attractive and adorable for his perceived enemy to follow because his happiness lies in that. Should somebody fall prey to his trick, he rejoices at this type of situation, because he considers it as part of his score card over the mankind.
If however, a servant turns to Allah in repentance, the devil became annoyed because he regards it as a loss, but he will still strive harder probably such person can still be in his shackle. It is our duty therefore to do everything humanly possible to free ourselves from this avowed enemy. If a servant returns to His master confessing his misdeeds with moody appearance, there is every probability for the master to change his anger to pleasure and punishment to reward.
Nevertheless, my esteemed readers, sincere repentance has five conditions that must be in place before Allah accepts it. These will be explained in brevity:
(1) Repentance must be SINCERE for the continence of Allah, without any atom of showoff or because of worldly gain. If it is otherwise, such repentance is not accepted. Allah says: “So, call you upon Allah making worship pure for Him” (Quran 4:14).
(2) Showing of REGRET over one’s misdeed: This must reflect on him of being sober and blaming his soul for the sin he has committed.
(3) Total REFRAIN from such sin: This is necessary because if he persists in repeating the same act, it appears as if he does not take Allah serious or his repentance could be likened to being sarcastic. This type of repentance lacks sincerity of purpose and it is not accepted.
(4) Taking a FIRM DECISION not to commit such sin in future.
(5) The repentance must be TIMELY: i.e. when it is acceptable, this is divided into two; general and specific.
The general one is the repentance a sinner makes before the sunrise from where it used to set. Any repentance after this is not acceptable. Allah says; “The day that some of the signs of your Lord do come, no good will it do to a person to believe then, if he believe not before, nor earned good (by performing deeds of righteousness) through his faith” (Quran 6:158). “The signs of your Lord” in the verse was interpreted to be rising of the sun from the west (where it used to set) by the Prophet (SAW).
The specific one is the repentance that one makes when one is dying, this is not acceptable for Allah says; “Allah only accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and foolishness and repent soon (i.e. afterwards). It is they whom Allah will forgive and Allah is Ever all Knower, all Wise. And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says; now I regret, nor of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them we have prepared a painful torment” (Quran 4:17-18). Any repentance makes during the time of death is not acceptable.
You will all recall that Pharaoh made the same attempt but Allah turned it down. Allah says; “till drowning overtook him, he said, I believe that none has the right to be worshipped but He (Allah) in whom the children of Israel believe, and I am one of Muslims” (Quran 10:10). Listen to what Allah says thereafter “Now (you believe) while you refused to believe before and you were one of the Mufsiduun (evil doers, the corrupter)” (Quran 10:91).
With this last condition, it is pertinent to encourage ourselves and stress the need to flee to Allah in repentance because of our being shortsighted in nature, only Allah knows what the future holds for us.
DERIVABLE BENEFITS FROM SINCERE REPENTANCE
Love of Allah: Anybody that turns to Allah in repentance will be loved by Allah. Allah Himself says; “Allah loves those who turn to Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves” (Quran 2:222).
Repentance is a path to Paradise. Whoever turns to Allah in repentance is already on his way to Paradise because Allah says; “except those who repent and believe and work righteousness such will enter Paradise and these will not be wronged in aught” (Quran 19:60).
Sincere repentance makes Allah to change sins into good deeds: Allah says; “Except those who repent and believe do righteous deeds, for those Allah will change their sins into good deeds and Allah is Ever oft forgiving, Most Merciful” (Quran 25:70).
The Angels who bear the throne of Allah prays for the repentant: Allah says; “Those (angels) who bear the throne (of Allah) and those around it glorify the praises of their Lord and believe in Him and ask for forgiveness for those who believe (in the oneness of Allah) saying; Our Lord, You comprehend all things in mercy and knowledge, so forgive these who repent and follow your way, and save them from the torment of the blazing fire. Our Lord, and make them enter the ‘Adn (Eden) Paradise (everlasting garden) which you have promised them and to the righteous among their fathers, their wives and their offspring; Verily, you are the All Mighty, the all Wise. And save them from (the punishment what they did of) the sins, and whomsoever you save from (the punishment from what they did of) sins (i.e. pardon him) that Day, him verily, you have taken into mercy “And that is the supreme success ” (Quran 40:7-9).
A cursory glance at the above-quoted verses gives us an insight into a numbers of different litanies being said by the Angels for those who turn to Allah in repentance. In fact none of them is negligible because they all form a greater part of what a sincere believer must look for.
It is worthy of note therefore for a reasonable person to join the train of repentance and stop chasing invisible shadow called world, which may come to an end suddenly.
At this juncture, let us look at some traditions of the Prophet (SAW) where he gave us stimulus on the benefits of repentance:
FIRSTLY: He (prophet) gave us an assurance that the gate of repentance remains open until the eleventh hour of Judgment Day. According to this narration, on the authority of Abu Musa that the Prophet (SAW) says; “Indeed Allah, The Most High, stretches His hands out in the night in order to forgive those who wrong themselves during the day, and stretches His hands out in the broad day in order to forgive those who wrong themselves during the night. This will continue until the sun rises from where it used to set (sign of end of the time).
SECONDLY: The Prophet (SAW) emphasizes Allah’s preparedness to accept repentance. In this tradition, Abu Hurayrah reported from Allah’s Messenger (SAW) that his Lord (SW) thus said; A servant committed a sin and then he came to realize that he has a Lord who forgives the sins and takes to account (the sinner) for the sin and said my Lord, forgive me my sin, and Allah (SW) said; my servant committed a sin and came to realize that he has a Lord who would forgive his sin or would take (him) to account for the sin. He again committed a sin and said; my Lord, forgive me for my sin and Allah (SW) said; My servant has committed a sin and then came to realize that he has a lord who forgives the sins or takes (him) to account for sin. O servant, do what you like, I have granted you forgiveness. Abdul-A’ala said; I do not know whether he said thrice or four times” Do what you desire.
THIRDLY: The Prophet (SAW) encourages us to seek repentance of our sins from Allah not minding the enormity of the sins. Abu sahid al Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger (SAW) as saying; “there was a person before you who had killed 99 persons and then made an enquiry about the learned persons of the world (who could show him the way to Salvation). He was directed to a monk. He came to him and told him that he had killed 99 persons and asked him whether there was any scope for his repentance to be accepted. He said; No, he killed him also and thus completed 100. He then asked about learned person of the earth and he was directed to a scholar, and he told him that he had killed one hundred persons and asked him whether there was any hope for his repentance to be accepted. He said; Yes, what stands between you and repentance? You better go to such land; there are people devoted to prayer and worship and you also worship along with them and do not come to the land of yours since it was an evil land (for you). So he went away and had hardly covered half of the distance when death came to him and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment. The angel of mercy said: “This man has come as a penitent and remorseful to Allah.” And the angels of punishment said: “He has done no good at all. Then there came another angel in the form of a human being in order to decide between them; He said; “You measure the land to which he has drawn near. They measured it and found him nearer to the land where he intended to go (the land of piety), and so the angels of mercy took possession of it. That was how he secured mercy of Allah despite the hugeness of his sins.
My esteemed readers, there are still a lot of texts from both the Quran and Hadith that talk about importance and benefits of repentance. Let us regard those quoted above as few of them, with a view of making use of them so that the countenance of Lord will not elude us.
Human frailty or fallibility is general, therefore the status or sainthood can’t be said to be capable of making one not infallible. It is in realization of this that made the Prophet to be offering supererogatory prayer to appreciate Allah’s mercy; ever after it was certain that He had been forgiven all of his sins. It was also on record that He used to seek forgiveness of his sins from Allah 100 times in a day. If the prophet (SAW) used to do this, what kind of excuse would you advance that prevent you from doing it? Let us then get our tongue wet with the phrase Astaghfirullaha at all times and let it be accompanied with sincerity.
There are number of signs that a true repentant will see if his repentance is actually accepted. I will just mention only one here. The repentant will be full of fear, he will never be confident of the plot of Allah at any moment. His fear will continue until he hears words from messengers who want to terminate his life. “Fear not, nor grieve But receive the glad tidings of paradise which you had been promised” (Quran 41:30).
On this note, I charge you to and I also glorify the praises of our Creator and ask His forgiveness. Verily, He is the one who ever accepts the repentance and who forgives.