Allah Almighty has said:
اِنَّ اللّٰهَ یُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِیْنَ
Indeed Allah loves those who repent abundantly.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayah 222)
Repentance is a great deed and it has countless virtues
The one who repents attains success. Allah Almighty has stated:
وَ تُوْبُوْۤا اِلَى اللّٰهِ جَمِیْعًا اَیُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُوْنَ
And O Muslims! All of you turn towards Allah in repentance, in the hope of attaining success.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 18, Surah An-Noor, Ayah 31)
The sins of the person who repents are changed into virtues
Allah Almighty has stated:
اِلَّا مَنْ تَابَ وَ اٰمَنَ وَ عَمِلَ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا فَاُولٰٓىٕكَ یُبَدِّلُ اللّٰهُ سَیِّاٰتِهِمْ حَسَنٰتٍؕ-وَ كَانَ اللّٰهُ غَفُوْرًا رَّحِیْمًا
Except the one who repents and believes and does good deeds;
So Allah will change their evil deeds into virtues, and Allah is Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 19, Surah Al-Furqan, Ayah 70)
Allah is very pleased with the one who repents
The Beloved Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said: Undoubtedly, Allah Almighty is more pleased with the repentance of his Momin bondsman than the person who stops at a rocky place with a riding animal carrying his provisions. He places his head and sleep. When he wakes up, (he finds) his riding animal has gone. He searches for it until he gets worried due to the heat and intense thirst or due to the thing Allah Almighty wills and then says: I should return to where I was sleeping. I should sleep again until I die. He then sleeps by placing his head on his wrist in order to die. Then he wakes up, he finds his riding animal with him loaded with provisions. So, Allah Almighty is more pleased with the repentance of his bondman than that person whose riding animal returns to him. (Mishkat-ul-Masabih, Part 2, pp. 728, Hadees 2358; Muslim, pp. 1126, Hadees 6955)
Since repentance is a great act of worship and an immense means of attaining closeness to Allah Almighty, Satan and Nafs keep a human away from repentance due to their animosity towards him. They try to deprive him of repentance by means of many tricks and Satanic thoughts. For this reason, people keep delaying repentance. Let’s try to know some reasons for delaying repentance and their solutions.
First reason is to remain heedless of the consequences of sins
The solution to it is that one should read the punishments for sins mentioned in the Holy Quran and blessed Ahadees, ponder over them repeatedly and should imagine that he is himself suffering these punishments.
Second reason is domination of pleasure out of sins over the heart
The solution to it is that a person should think when he cannot give up these pleasures in this short life of few years, how will he be able to bear the deprival of the pleasures (i.e. the blessings of Paradise) for ever after his death?
Moreover, he should ponder over the fact that the worldly pleasures for a person normally remain for fifty to sixty years, whereas the pleasures of Paradise are for billion or trillion years, even more than that. In fact, they are forever. So, should he strive to attain the pleasures for fifty to sixty years by giving up the pleasures for billions and trillions of years, or should he give up the pleasures for fifty to sixty years and strive to attain the pleasures for billions and trillions of years i.e. for ever? It can be understood in this way that if somebody is said, ‘If you take sixty thousand rupees this year, you will not get anything next year. However, if you do not get sixty thousand rupees this year, you will get sixty trillion rupees next year.’ what will he choose? Undoubtedly, he will strive to get trillions of rupees. Therefore, we should make our Nafs understand that the condition for the pleasures of the world and the Hereafter is the same, or rather more than that.
Another way of doing this is to take pains to perform virtuous deeds. Further, one should keep thinking about pleasing Allah Almighty and about his greatness over and over again. In this way, he will be able to develop motivation for virtuous deeds and hatred towards sins.
Third reason is to forget the death and have hope for a long life
The solution to it is to ponder over the fact that even after some time, the death will surely come. Therefore, one should prepare for this certain death. Furthermore, we see and hear day and night that thousands of people die in their childhood and youth. Similarly, there are many people who die suddenly. So, the same thing may happen to us and we may also die in the upcoming moments or days. The more we think we are closer to death, the fewer high hopes we will have.
Fourth reason is misconception about the mercy of Allah Almighty
People do not make repentance by thinking: Allah is Most Merciful and The Forgiver, we believe in Allah’s mercy and He will never punish us. To dispel this misconception, they should recall their faith that Allah is Most Merciful and the Gracious, He is also the Most Powerful and the Compeller. He has made Paradise as well as Hell. He shows mercy to people, but on the other hand, He also inflicts his wrath on people. So, what guarantee do I have that I will always be blessed with his mercy, and I will not face his wrath? Further, it is also a solution to get rid of this misconception that one should make himself understand that great personages such as prophets, blessed companions and saints of Allah Almighty who knew about the Mercy and the Blessing of Allah more than us, or rather who told us about them would not commit sins at all, make repentance and have Allah’s fear, so what do we think of ourselves? Do we know about Allah’s mercy better than them?
Fifth reason is to have bad company
In reality, it is a very big reason because of which people remain deprived of repentance. The solution to it is to gather courage and avoid bad company then and there. If it is not possible to give it up immediately, reduce the time you spend gradually and then give it up completely. For example, if you used to spend two hours with heedless people, you should now reduce half an hour gradually. Similarly, if you used to sit with a large number of people so now you should start sitting with a small number of people. Furthermore, occupy yourself with other permissible or righteous activities so that you do not find time for bad company.
Sixth reason is not to make repentance due to family, business, job and society
For example, family members become an obstacle to many virtuous acts, or a person is not allowed to offer Salah or have a beard at work. Similarly, people with such religious mindset are not highly valued or other people make fun of them. The solution to all these problems is that: First of all, one should ponder over the command of Allah Almighty and his greatness by thinking whether he should act upon the command of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ or listen to his family members. He then should ponder over the matters of job and business by thinking that Allah Almighty is the Sustenance Provider and can increase sustenance for whosoever He wills and reduce it for whosoever He wills, so why should he be afraid of creation? As for the society, he should think that this society will help him neither in the grave nor on the Judgement Day, so why should he pay attention to it? Moreover, societies even used to make fun of prophets and saints, therefore he should not take its criticism seriously.
The way of repentance is
1. Due to Allah’s fear or his pleasure one should feel ashamed of the sin that he committed in the past
2. Stop committing the sin immediately
3. And make a firm intention that he will not commit that sin again in the future.
These are the basic conditions for repentance which are necessary for the repentance of every kind of sin. However, there are further rulings as well. For example, only these three conditions are necessary when the rights of Allah Almighty are violated and there is no compensation for that such as drinking alcohol. However, if the rights of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ are violated and there is also compensation for that such as Salah, fasts and Zakah, then it will be necessary to act upon whatever Shari’ah says about their compensation in the form of Qada or Ada along with the above-mentioned three conditions. For example, one has to offer and observe the missed Salahs and fasts respectively and pay the remaining Zakah.
If the repentance is made for the sins related to people and it is related to the oppression in wealth, he has to return the money to the person from whom he has taken. There are conditions in which money has to be given to a Shari’ah-declared destitute person. So, if there are such conditions, he has to give money to a Shari’ah-declared destitute person. If a sin is related to insulting people or hurting their feelings, he has to apologize to the person. Anyhow, it contains considerable details. For that, one should study comprehensive books on it like ‘Taubah ki Riwayaat-o-Hikayaat’ published by Maktaba-tul-Madinah. Great help has been obtained from this book for writing this article.
How can a person know if his repentance has been accepted?
It has been mentioned in Mukashafa-tul-Quloob that an Islamic scholar was asked, ‘If a person repents of his sins, will he be able to know whether his repentance has been accepted or not?’ He replied: A definite answer cannot be given in this regard. However, there are some signs of acceptance. For example, a person observes himself that his Nafs is safe from sins, his heart is free from the joy related to arrogance and is filled with the remembrance of Allah Almighty; he has the company of pious people and stays away from transgressors. Further, he considers a little worldly thing to be much for himself, whereas he considers a great many deeds related to the hereafter to be few; he finds that his heart is occupied with the acts made obligatory by Allah Almighty. Similarly, he protects his tongue, occupies himself with remembering the hereafter and always remains sad and ashamed of his past sins. These all are the signs of acceptance of repentance. (Mukashafa-tul-Quloob, pp. 29)