Some beautiful passages and fragrant ink of the Salaf [pious predecessors] clarify the great virtues of repentance and recommend treading on them and from their sayings some are:
‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu said: Sit in the company of those who repent excessively because their hearts are the most soft among the people.
‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radhiAllahu ‘anhu said: Suspicion is for the person who is destroyed even though he has the means to be free. It was asked: What is that? He said: Tawbah and Istighfar.
Ahmad ibn ‘Asim Antaki said: This is the cold booty which will fix the remaining life for you and it will forgive what has passed.
Sitting in the company of those who repent excessively has two benefits: they will be more welcoming toward the sinner and their company will encourage the sinner to repent for his sins. It also means that we should not judge others. If someone commits a sin and we know it, we should neither reveal their sin nor be harsh toward them. We should forgive their mistakes as we expect Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to forgive us.
We learn from the saying of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radhiAllahu ‘anhu that Tawbah and Istighfar are the means for salvation. They protect one from destruction.
Tawbah also fixes one’s past life as well as the future. It erases the sins of the past and guides one to the path of obedience in the future.
Sa’eed ibn Musayyib said: Allah’s this statement, ‘So, indeed, He is the Most Forgiving for those who turn to Him repeatedly,’ [al-Isra 17: 25] has been revealed about the man who commits a sin and repents, he then commits a sin and repents.
Hasan Al-Basri said: Sincere repentance is the remorse of the heart. Asking for forgiveness by tongue and leaving off the sins with the limbs, and having the intention in the heart of not repeating the sin.
Fazeel ibn Ayaaz’s saying: All sorrows vanish in comparison to the sorrows of the penitent.
Those who repent a lot are called Awwabeen – they are those who keep turning to their Lord despite their sins. They acknowledge their Lord is At-Tawwab; if Shaytan deceives them and they commit a sin, they do not lose hope in their Lord. Rather, as soon as they realize their error they turn to Him in repentance.
Sincere repentance is not only by one’s tongue but also by one’s heart and limbs. Its conditions are remorse, sincere intention, seeking forgiveness and leaving off sins.
A true penitent is he who fears the accountability of his sins. He is not complacent after doing Tawbah rather he keeps worrying about its acceptance. He recalls the punishments of various sins. These are not necessarily major sins, but it could be anything for which warning has been given, for example, leaving the heels dry during ablution. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: Save your heels from fire.
When people do not take care of themselves, their feet become coarse. Because the skin is hard, it does not get wet easily. The best thing is to look after ourselves, teach our children good hygiene from childhood and follow Sunnah in every area of life. Apply Vaseline or olive oil on your feet and keep them clean so that the skin does not get hard. Some people take this lightly, while others take proper care in performing the ablution.
[For complete Sunnah way of looking after ourselves read the book: Mera Jeena Mera Marna (Urdu)]
It is the minor sins if taken lightly accumulate and become major sins.
He who is watchful of his sins is not negligent. He worries for the eternal punishment of the Hereafter, and hastens to correct himself. He also avoids laughing excessively because the memory of his sin stays in his mind. He is remorseful for what he has done in the past.
Do we forget our sins after committing them? Do we forget our sins after making istighfar? Do we assume our repentance has been accepted?
Rabee’h ibn Katheem’s saying: Do you know what is illness, treatment and healing? People said: No. He said: Illness is sin and istighfar is its treatment, healing is that you repent and do not repeat the sin.
Talluq ibn Habeeb’s saying: Indeed, Allah’s rights are much greater than what man can honor, so (start your morning) with Tawbah and (end your day) with Tawbah.
Shafeeq Bulkhi’s saying: Sign of repentance is: crying on past sins and fearing falling in sins, and leaving socialization with wrong company and making it compulsory to sit in the company of the pious.
A sinful person who remains adamant on his sin is like a sick person. He requires immediate treatment which is istighfar. It is our responsibility to care about our loved ones. If we are aware of a wrong act that they are indulged in then with wisdom and love we should ask them to stop and repent. If a loved one was sick, wouldn’t we take him to the hospital? Then how is it that we have people around us who have fallen into sins and we don’t feel for them?
We learn istighfar is a treatment. How many of us remember to do istighfar when we are in pain? We blame other people that such-and-such person must have done magic on me, but what about our deeds? Whether it is a physical ache or an emotional pain one must first do istighfar.
Allah’s rights are much greater than our ability to honor them. Understand this by the hadeeth where it was said (paraphrased): If a person remains in prostration for his entire life even then the right of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will not be honored.
What is the quality of our prostrations? Often, we perform our obligatory prayers half-heartedly; thinking about many things as we stand on the prayer rug. If Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala asks us the return for even one of His blessings, we would be unable to pay it. Therefore, a believer should keep repenting whether he considers himself sinful or not. One should repent in the morning and at the end of the day.
We learn some more conditions of repentance: crying over past sins, fearing repeating the sins, leaving wrong company and adopting the company of the pious. The man who had murdered 99 people was advised to leave the town. Sometimes you have to migrate to another place or change your company to become a better person. Solitude is better than bad company.
Abu ‘Ala Rozbari’s saying: It is deception that good treatment is done to you and you do wrong. So you leave repentance fancying you will not be held accountable for your wrong deeds.
Luqman’s saying to his son: O my son! Do not delay repentance because death is sudden.
Abu Bakr Wasti said: It is good to slow down everything except for three things. And among them he mentioned one to be: Repenting after sin.
Sometimes Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tests us by restraining our provision and sometimes by expanding it. When people are blessed despite committing sins, they assume that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is pleased with them. However, it is a test. For example, a person works in a bank, an insurance company or earns money through some other impermissible way and builds a beautiful house. The house was constructed with haram money but on the walls they have embossed: hatha min fadhli Rabbi [this is from the favor of my Lord (an-Naml 27: 40)]. Nothing haram can be Allah’s favor.
Some people have the attitude that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will forgive my sins because He is the Most Forgiving. Again, this is an incorrect thinking. Although, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala informs us that He is the Most Forgiving, it is not a license to indulge in sins. Rather, it is a hope for those who have committed a sin and desire repentance. A person should be watchful of his conduct, abstain from sins and keep seeking repentance from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Because no one knows when they will die, one should not delay Tawbah. One should repent as soon as they slip and make up with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Ibraheem ibn Adham said: He who wants to repent should stop usurping other people’s rights and also leave socialization with people (meaning in wrong deeds) otherwise he cannot attain his purpose.
Yahya ibn Ma’ath said: That thing which stops people from repentance is long desire, and the sign of a repentant is shedding of tears, loving seclusion, and checking one’s nafs [self] before doing any deed.
Sitting in the wrong company has been termed injustice on one’s soul, for it is the company that decides which path we will take. We have been shown two paths: the good and the bad. It is our choice which path we tread. If people want us to walk with them on the wrong path then we need to distance away from such people.
We should also be careful of other people’s rights on us. Sometimes, people in the house suggest us to boycott so and so. People return from gatherings and backbite about others’ conduct. You form your opinions and change your behavior. We should remember the rights and responsibilities that Islam teaches us. Islam teaches us to forgive and forget; and to not plot schemes of destruction against others.
If one has usurped others’ rights in the past, then they should seek repentance for it and make up for it. This includes having bad thoughts about people in our hearts.
One should not have long hopes about life: Let me finish my degree. Let me get married first. Let me have children first, etc. Since death is sudden, we should hasten to do Tawbah. We should ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for husn-ul-khathama [a good end] meaning that we return to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in a state that is pleasing to Him.
Choosing solitude over socializing is a virtue not something to be condemned :) . The more one restricts himself from socialization, the less errors he makes. It does not mean we should stop talking to people completely, but rather busy ourselves with prayers, Qur’an recitation, and other good deeds just as the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and other anbiya ‘alayhi salaam. Instead of indulging in the filth of their times they chose to seclude themselves in the company of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.