In the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنبِكَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ بِالْعَشِيِّ وَالْإِبْكَارِ
“And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning,” [Ghaffir 40: 55].
وَاسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّهَ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
“And seek forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful,” [An-Nisa 4: 106].
1. After Performing an Act of Worship.
This is an important time to beseech Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for forgiveness. In doing so, we can compensate for the shortcomings in our worship. It also keeps us from becoming conceited and self-satisfied with the worship that we do.
Among the final ayaat of the Qur’an revealed to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam were: “When the help of Allah and the victory comes, and you see the people entering Allah’s religion in crowds, then glorify the praises of your Lord and ask His forgiveness. Truly, He is the Accepter of Repentance.” [Surah al-Nasr: 1-3]
After the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam received these ayaat, he would say during every prayer: “Glory and praise be to You, Allah our Lord. O Allah, forgive me.” [Saheeh al-Bukhari (4967) and Saheeh Muslim (484)]
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to conclude every act of righteousness by beseeching Allah’s forgiveness, like when he broke his fasts and completed his prayers. After completing the pilgrimage, he would start his return trip to Madina by saying: “We are returning repentant, worshiping and praising our Lord.” [Saheeh Bukhari (3086) and Saheeh Muslim (1345)]
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam spent his life engaging in righteous deeds, and he concluded that life beseeching Allah’s forgiveness.
We are supposed to conclude our meetings and assemblies by beseeching Allah’s forgiveness, even if everything in the meeting was an act of righteousness.
2. After falling into Sin
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says: “And those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins – and who forgives sins besides Allah – and then do not knowingly persist in the wrong that they did.” [Surah Aal `Imran: 135]
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “If any of Allah’s servants commits a sin, then performs ablutions properly, offers two units of prayer, and beseeches Allah for forgiveness, Allah will forgive them.” Then he recited from the Qur’an: ‘Those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah…’” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī (406) and Sunan Abī Dāwūd (1521)]
3. After being Heedless
All people make mistakes, and most of them are heedless of what they do, and through their heedlessness they wander further astray. If we consider the Prophet’s example, we find that he was vigilant never to let himself become heedless about beseeching Allah’s forgiveness. He said: “Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart, and ask Allah for forgiveness one hundred times a day.” [Saheeh Muslim (2702)]
The Prophet’s circumstances were very different than those of ordinary folk. The office of prophethood demanded that his heart was ever-present at all times, pure of all base thoughts and constantly focused on his Lord. This is something that most people cannot even imagine achieving. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala chooses the best of His servants to be His prophets and messengers: “And most surely they were to Us, of the elect, the best.” [Surah Sa’d: 47]
When we seek Allah’s forgiveness wholeheartedly, we get it. Allah praises those who seek His forgiveness and promises them that He will forgive them. Of course, part of doing so wholeheartedly is to refrain from the sinful behavior.
Some of the Pious Predecessors used to say: “If a person’s seeking forgiveness does not result in their abandoning the sinful behavior, then they are lying about seeking forgiveness.”
By abandoning the sinful act and seeking forgiveness, we can truly hope that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will forgive us. As for saying “I seek Allah’s forgiveness” with our tongues, but our hearts are not abandoning the sin, it is still an invocation and a prayer for forgiveness, and one we can hope Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will answer.
Originally published here.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala make us of those who are sincerely repentant and enable us to abstain from the things that displease Him, aameen.