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  • Writer's pictureAnees Bhayat

The Month of Repentance

Ramadan is a month in which the mercy of Allah manifests itself in multitudes. This is evident from the many texts of the Qur’an and ḥadīth highlighting the rewards and virtues of the month.

With the focus directed at amassing rewards through devotions to Allah, and the ultimate aim of fasting being consciousness of Allah, the picture of a spiritual boost to goodness is not complete without having one’s slate cleansed of sins and shortcomings. Enter Tawbah (seeking repentance).

Just as there is emphasis on rewards for good deeds being multiplied in Ramadan, there is also an emphasis on seeking Allah’s forgiveness for one’s sins in this month. It has been dubbed ‘the month of repentance’, due to Allah’s mercy and forgiveness being manifest all the more so.

In the famous ḥadīth where the Prophet ﷺ was heard saying ‘Āmīn’ on each step as he ascended the minbar (pulpit), he then said, “Jibrīl (the Archangel) came to me and said, ‘O Muhammad! May Allah distance [from His Mercy] the one who lives through Ramadan, yet does not attain the forgiveness of Allah’, upon which I said Āmīn.”[1]

This ḥadīth gives a powerful message regarding repentance in Ramadan: given the blessings the month holds, Allah’s repentance is much easier to attain and hence if one fails to attain it, he is cursed on the tongues of the Prophet and Jibrīl.

In another ḥadīth, Abū Hurayrah reports that the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Allah has slaves He emancipates from the Fire, and that happens every night [in Ramadan].’[2] So every night in Ramadan, there is an opportunity for sinful servants like me and you, to seek Allah’s forgiveness and be freed from the Fire of Hell.

And on the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr), which falls in Ramadan and is equal to a thousand nights in virtue, when the Prophet ﷺ was asked by his wife ʿĀ’ishah what she should say, he replied, “Say: ‘O Allah! You are the most-Forgiving and You love to forgive, so forgive me!’” Of all the things he could have advised her to do, he told her to make the most of Allah’s forgiveness on that night. If anything, this cements how important, yet easy it is to achieve the forgiveness of Allah in Ramadan.

Allah has created the human weak. While He instructs us to obey His commands and follow the teachings of His Messenger ﷺ, we are bound to falter. Tawbah is the patchwork to repair this torn cloth of obedience. And not only that, Allah welcomes it with open arms: ‘Indeed Allah opens up His arms at night for the sinners of the day [to repent], and spreads out His arms in the day for the sinners of the night [to repent].’[3]

The Messenger ﷺ went as far as saying that Allah created man weak so that he could falter, sin, and then repent, so that the forgiving qualities of Allah could manifest themselves. He said, “I swear by the being in whose Hand my soul lies, if you did not sin, Allah would do away with you, and then bring a people who would sin and seek Allah’s forgiveness, who would then forgive them.”[4]

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ تَوْبَةً نَّصُوحًا عَسَىٰ رَبُّكُمْ أَن يُكَفِّرَ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيُدْخِلَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ
‘O you who believe! Turn to God in sincere and reforming repentance. It is hoped from your Lord that he will write off your faults, and will admit you to the gardens beneath which rivers flow…’ (66:8)

No matter how grave or how many sins a person has committed, they can never be beyond the mercy and compassion of Allah. As long as a person stops committing the sin, regrets his/her actions, and resolves never to commit the sin again, Allah’s mercy envelops them.

وَاكْتُبْ لَنَا فِي هَٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ إِنَّا هُدْنَا إِلَيْكَ ۚ قَالَ عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاءُ ۖ وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ
[They said] “…indeed, we have turned to You [in repentance].” [Allah] replied, ‘I bring My punishment on whoever I will, but My mercy encompasses all things. ‘I shall ordain My mercy for those who are conscious [of Allah] and pay the prescribed alms; who believe in Our Revelations.’ (7:156)

It is well known that the gravest of sins is ascribing partners to Allah (Shirk), and it is a sin unforgiveable if not repented from. Yet the forgiving nature of Allah is such that despite the crime being so heinous and despicable to Him, He calls to repentance those who commit it. In Sūrat Al-Mā’idah (The Tablespread), Allah mentions and quotes different groups of people who made blasphemous statements about Him. A group said that ʿUzayr was the son of God; another claimed that God was poor; some alleged that God was tight-fisted, while another claimed He was one of three. After mentioning all these people and their statements, Allah proclaims to them all, openly:

أَفَلَا يَتُوبُونَ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَهُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
‘Will they not turn to Allah in repentance and seek His forgiveness? And Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ (5:74)

If Allah is willing to accept the repentance of all these people despite the gravity of their crimes, why would He not accept ours too? The door to His forgiveness is always open, and open wide in Ramadan. Let us knock on it hard in these final few moments, before it begins to close on us.

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
‘Say, [O Prophet, that Allah says] “O My servants who have exceeded the limits against their souls! Do not lose hope in Allah’s mercy, for Allah certainly forgives all sins. He is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”’ (39:53)

[1] Ibn Ḥibbān روى ابن حبان في صحيحه قال: أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو يَعْلَى، قَالَ: أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو مَعْمَرٍ، قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا حَفْصُ بْنُ غِيَاثٍ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ صَعِدَ الْمِنْبَرَ، فَقَالَ: «آمِينَ آمِينَ آمِينَ» قِيلَ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، إِنَّكَ حِينَ صَعِدْتَ الْمِنْبَرَ قُلْتَ: آمِينَ آمِينَ آمِينَ، قَالَ: «إِنَّ جِبْرِيلَ أَتَانِي، فَقَالَ: مَنْ أَدْرَكَ شَهْرَ رَمَضَانَ وَلَمْ يُغْفَرْ لَهُ فَدَخَلَ النَّارَ فَأَبْعَدَهُ اللَّهُ، قُلْ: آمِينَ، فَقُلْتُ: آمِينَ، وَمَنْ أَدْرَكَ أَبَوَيْهِ أَوْ أَحَدَهُمَا فَلَمْ يَبَرَّهُمَا، فَمَاتَ فَدَخَلَ النَّارَ فَأَبْعَدَهُ اللَّهُ، قُلْ: آمِينَ، فَقُلْتُ: آمِينَ، وَمَنْ ذُكِرْتُ عِنْدَهُ فَلَمْ يُصَلِّ عَلَيْكَ فَمَاتَ فَدَخَلَ النَّارَ فَأَبْعَدَهُ اللَّهُ، قُلْ: آمِينَ، فَقُلْتُ: آمِينَ [2] At-Tirmidhī روى الترمذي قال: حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو كُرَيْبٍ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ العَلَاءِ بْنِ كُرَيْبٍ قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ عَيَّاشٍ، عَنْ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: إِذَا كَانَ أَوَّلُ لَيْلَةٍ مِنْ شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ صُفِّدَتِ الشَّيَاطِينُ، وَمَرَدَةُ الجِنِّ، وَغُلِّقَتْ أَبْوَابُ النَّارِ، فَلَمْ يُفْتَحْ مِنْهَا بَابٌ، وَفُتِّحَتْ أَبْوَابُ الجَنَّةِ، فَلَمْ يُغْلَقْ مِنْهَا بَابٌ، وَيُنَادِي مُنَادٍ: يَا بَاغِيَ الخَيْرِ أَقْبِلْ، وَيَا بَاغِيَ الشَّرِّ أَقْصِرْ، وَلِلَّهِ عُتَقَاءُ مِنَ النَّارِ، وَذَلكَ كُلُّ لَيْلَةٍ " [3] Muslim روى مسلم في صحيحه قال: حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْمُثَنَّى، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ جَعْفَرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ مُرَّةَ، قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ أَبَا عُبَيْدَةَ، يُحَدِّثُ عَنْ أَبِي مُوسَى، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، قَالَ: «إِنَّ §اللهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يَبْسُطُ يَدَهُ بِاللَّيْلِ لِيَتُوبَ مُسِيءُ النَّهَارِ، وَيَبْسُطُ يَدَهُ بِالنَّهَارِ لِيَتُوبَ مُسِيءُ اللَّيْلِ، حَتَّى تَطْلُعَ الشَّمْسُ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا» [4] Muslim روى مسلم في صحيحه قال: حَدَّثَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ رَافِعٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ، أَخْبَرَنَا مَعْمَرٌ، عَنْ جَعْفَرٍ الْجَزَرِيِّ، عَنْ يَزِيدَ بْنِ الْأَصَمِّ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَوْ لَمْ تُذْنِبُوا لَذَهَبَ اللهُ بِكُمْ، وَلَجَاءَ بِقَوْمٍ يُذْنِبُونَ، فَيَسْتَغْفِرُونَ اللهَ فَيَغْفِرُ لَهُمْ

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