Benefits of seeking forgiveness

Every few weeks I am blessed with the opportunity to gather with other students from around Cairo and to enjoy each other’s company all while receiving an essential spiritual reminder from our shaykh. This past week, Shaykh discussed the importance of seeking forgiveness from your Lord, here is quick overview:

To start with, Allah says in the Qur’an “Seek forgiveness with sincerity,” and in order to do that there are three conditions and steps one must go through:

  1. Stop committing the sin immediately and do not procrastinate as procrastinating is considered to be another sin that one would be committing.
  2. From the heart, comes a state of regret. One should feel remorse for the time that they spent time away from their lord one spent committing the sin. It was noted here that when one finds joy or love for the time they were in the state of sinning, it is a sign that the repentance is not sincere.
  3. One must then have a firm intention to never fall into this sin again. Here, we were reassured that of course, the human is weak and may fall into the sin once again, but when that happens what is asked of them is to restart the cycle of seeking forgiveness again. It was also mentioned that this is such a blessing from our Lord that repentance is a door that will remain open until death.

How to repent

Important point: when it comes to our understanding of matters that displease our lord, there is a dichotomy, the Prophet (s) put forth. There are those sins that deal directly with the Divine alone, meaning those sins that do not involve another human being oppressed. The second type is that which does oppress another human being. This type entails a fourth condition to seeking forgiveness, and that is that one must settle that oppression that they put forth. For example, if one steals some wealth from another, it’s not enough to only feel bad about the stealing and to promise themselves that they won’t do it again. They must pay that wealth back that they stole in some form or another. The same is true for slander. Speaking ill behind someone’s back in a way that would displease them is an act of oppression and when one does this it is incumbent upon them to do the first three steps, but to also pay forth what they did wrong. In the case of slander, this would be to go to that person and to settle the relationship they have between them.

This is so important to us in our faith because the Divine has expressed to us that oppression is of the darkest matters of reality. This darkness then manifests on the day of judgement in a very clear way.

Another point that clarifies this is in a hadith where the Prophet (s) said that the martyrs, those who die defending their people on the battlefield and whose sins will be forgiven, even they will be asked on the Day of Judgement about their debt because debt is a form of oppression. It is oppressive to take wealth and to not return it.

Asking for forgiveness

The legal ruling of seeking forgiveness after committing an act that is not pleasing to our Lord is obligatory. This is derived from the Qur’an where Allah says, “Oh you who believe, turn back to your Lord.” This is understood by the scholars to be a command from God. Also, in a hadith from the Prophet (s), he says, “I seek forgiveness from my Lord more than 70 times a day.” So when we think about the purest, and the most perfect of human beings seeking forgiveness from his Lord 70 times a day, then how many times should we be doing it? He (s) continued to say, “so seek forgiveness from your Lord,” indicating the obligation of this act.

In another hadith, it is related that God is more pleased with His slave when he turns back to Him, more than a man who is in an open desert pulling his camel by the reins and suddenly the camel runs loose and disappears (and the man is in a state of despair because of all his provisions have been lost), and he goes to a tree and lays down awaiting death. It is then at that moment that he opens his eyes and finds his camel before him and when he takes the reins of his camel he is so overjoyed and he says, “Thank you my Lord, I am your master and you are my slave.” The reason he said this was because he was so overjoyed that he became flustered and mixed his words as he meant to say, “You are my master and I am your slave.” The Prophet (s) says, “When God sees one of his slaves turn back to Him, after committing a sin, God is more pleased with him than that man was pleased with finding his camel after losing it.”

This is but a short reminder from my teacher about the importance of forgiveness.

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