By Muneeb Nasir
A consistent practice marked the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him — an act of such significance that he engaged in it countless times each day.
This vital practice, he vowed to perform daily, saying, ‘I swear by Allah, I seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent to Him seventy times a day.’ (Hadith, Sahih Al-Bukhari).
This commitment to seeking repentance and forgiveness wasn't just frequent; it was characterized by an exceptional intensity, evident in the numerous supplications he fervently uttered.
One of the Prophet's companions, Ibn 'Umar, shared a glimpse of this devotion, stating, ‘We used to count the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, in a single sitting, saying, ‘O my Lord, forgive me and accept my repentance. Indeed, You are the One Who accepts repentance, the Most-Merciful, one-hundred times’ (Hadith, Abu Dawood).
The Prophet, peace be upon him, gave the rationale behind our need for frequent repentance and Allah's forgiveness. He asserted, ‘All the sons of Adam are sinners and the best among the sinners are those who repent.’ (Hadith, Imam Ahmad and others).
Inherent to our humanity is the propensity to make mistakes — sometimes inadvertently, other times knowingly. This underscores our constant reliance on Allah's guidance and mercy. It's essential, however, not to succumb to despondency, fearing rejection by Allah.
In the Qur'an, Allah reassures, “Say, ‘[God says], My servants who have harmed yourselves by your own excess, do not despair of God’s mercy. God forgives all sins: He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 39:53).
Engaging in sincere repentance and seeking forgiveness invites divine compassion and success, as emphasized in the verse, “Turn to God in repentance all together, O believers, so that you may be successful.” (Qur’an, 24:31).
Furthermore, abundant seeking of forgiveness lightens burdens, alleviates sorrow and distress, and even ushers in unanticipated provisions.
Repentance and forgiveness transcend mere words; they must resonate in the heart. A genuine repentance necessitates remorse for committed wrongs and a steadfast resolve to avoid repetition — the prerequisites Allah enjoins upon His servants, promising forgiveness and entry into Paradise.
“Believers, turn to God in sincere repentance. Your Lord may well cancel your bad deeds for you and admit you into Gardens graced with flowing streams, on a Day when God will not disgrace the Prophet or those who have believed with him. With their lights streaming out ahead of them and to their right, they will say, ‘Lord, perfect our lights for us and forgive us: You have power over everything.’” (Qur’an, 66:8).
Once, a man beseeched Hasan Al-Basri, (a prominent second generation Muslim scholar), regarding a drought. The scholar's counsel? "Pray to Allah for forgiveness."
Another man complained to him of poverty and he said to him: “Pray to Allah for forgiveness.”
Another man said to him: “Pray to Allah to bless me with a child.” He said: “Pray to Allah for forgiveness.”
Another complained to him that his garden was dry. He said to him: “Pray to Allah for forgiveness.”
Hasan Al-Basri's advice stemmed from divine assurance, as echoed in Surah Nuh: “...Ask forgiveness from your Lord, verily, He is Oft Forgiving;
He will send down abundant rain from the sky for you;
He will give you wealth and sons; He will provide you with gardens and rivers.” (Qur’an, 71:10-12).
Turning to Allah for forgiveness aligns us closer to Him, dissipates trials, and invites unexpected blessings.
Among the profound supplications left by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is one he heralded as the Chief Form of Seeking Allah’s Forgiveness:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, proclaimed, "The paramount prayer for forgiveness is:
'O Allah, You are my Lord. There is no god but You.
You created me and I am Your servant.
I comply with Your covenant and Your promise as much as I can.
I seek refuge with you from the evil of what I have done.
I acknowledge my sin, so forgive me. Only You can forgive sins.'
(The Prophet continued) - Anyone who says this (supplication) during the day having confidence in it and dies on that day before evening will be among the people of the Garden.
Anyone who says it during the night having confidence in it and dies before morning will be among the people of the Garden." (Reported by Shaddad ibn Aws, may Allah be pleased with him; Hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari).