Allah, the Almighty, said:

{And whoever does not repent—then it is those who are the wrongdoers.} [al-Ḥujurât 49:11]

Thus, He excludes the repentant from the description of transgression.
Tawbah is not validated except after the recognition of one’s sin. This is accomplished by observing three matters about the sin:

  1. your abandonment of [Allah’s] shelter when you attempted it 33

  2. your joy when you attained it 34

  3. your determined failure to refrain from it or make up for it despite your certainty that the True One was watching you

The conditions of tawbah are three:

  1. regretting

  2. apologizing 35

  3. desisting

قَالَ الله عَزَّ وَجَلَّ "وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ" فأسقَطَ اسْمَ الظُّلمِ عَن التَّائِبِ

وَالتَّوْبَةُ لَا تَصِحُّ إِلَّا بَعدَ مَعرِفَةِ الذَّنْبِ وَهِي أَن تَنظُرَ فِي الذَّنْبِ إِلَى ثَلَاثَةِ أَشْيَاء إِلَى

  1. انْخِلاعِكَ مِنَ الْعِصْمَةِ حِين إتْيانِهِ

  2. وفَرَحِكَ عِنْدَ الظَّفَرِ بِهِ

  3. وقُعُودِكَ عَلى الْإِصْرَارِ عَن تَدَارُكِهِ مَعَ يَقينِكَ بِنَظَر الْحَقِّ إِلَيْكَ

وشَرَائِطُ التَّوْبَةِ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْيَاء: النَّدَمُ والاعْتِذارُ والإقْلاعُ

The realities of tawbah are three:

  1. recognizing the enormity of the offense

  2. questioning the tawbah36

  3. finding excuses for the creation37

وحَقائِقُ التَّوْبَةِ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْيَاء

  1. تَعْظِيمُ الْجِنَايَةِ

  2. واتِّهامُ التَّوْبَةِ

  3. وَطَلَبُ إعذَارِ الخَليقَة

The secrets of the realities of tawbah are three:

  1. sorting out fear of Allah from one’s pride 38

  2. forgetting the offense39

  3. repenting from the repentance, 40because the repentant is included among the generality of addressees in the saying of Allah:

{…And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you.} [an-Noor 24:31]

So, He orders the repentant to repent.

وسَرائرُ حَقِيقَة التَّوْبَةِ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْيَاء

  1. تَمْيِيزُ التَّقِيَّة مِنَ الْعِزَّةِ

  2. ونِسيَانُ الْجِنَايَةِ

  3. وَالتَّوْبَةُ من التَّوْبَةِ أبَدًا لِأَنَّ التَّائِبَ دَاخِلٌ فِي الْجَمِيعِ مِن قَوْلِه تَعَالَى "وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ" فَأمر التَّائبَ بِالتَّوْبَةِ

The subtleties of tawbah are three:

  1. The first is to look at the offense and the decree and recognize the intent of Allah when He allowed you to commit it, for Allah allows His slave to commit a sin for one of two reasons:

  2. • The first: for you to recognize His might in His decrees, His goodness in His concealment,41 His forbearance in deferring the offender, 42His generosity in accepting his or her apology, and His grace in forgiving him or her.43
    • The second: to establish His plea against His slave, so that He may deservingly punish him or her for their sin.
  3. The second subtlety is that the truthful and insightful person’s full awareness of their sins will make them realize that they have not been left with any good deed, 44for they journey constantly: beholding on one side the grace [of their Lord] and on the other the defects of their nafs and deeds.45

  4. The third subtlety is that the slave’s beholding of the decree will not allow him/her to see good as good or evil as ugly, for he/she will ascend from that to beholding the fact of the decree itself.46

ولَطَائِفُ سَرائِرِ التَّوْبَةِ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْيَاء

  1. أَوَّلُها أَن تنظر بَين الْجِنَايَة والقَضِيَّةِ فَتَتَعَرَّفَ مُرَادَ اللهِ فِيهَا إِذْ خَلَّاكَ وإتْيَانَهَا فَإِنَّ اللهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ إِنَّمَا يُخَلِّى العَبْدَ والذَّنْبَ لأحَدِ مَعْنَيَيْنِ

  2. • أَحَدُهُمَا أَنْ تَعْرِفَ عِزَّتَهُ فِي قَضَائِهِ وبِرَّهُ فِي سترِه وحِلمَهُ فِي إمهَالِ رَاكِبِهِ وَكَرَمَهُ فِي قبُولِ الْعُذرِ مِنْهُ وفَضلَهُ فِي مَغفِرَتِهِ
    • وَالثَّانِي ليقيم على العَبْد حجَّة عدله فيعاقبه على ذَنبه بحجته.
  3. واللطيفة الثَّانِيَة أَن تعلم أَن طلب الْبَصِير الصَّادِق سيئته لم يُبْقِ لَهُ حَسَنَة بِحَالٍ لِأَنَّهُ يسير بَين مُشَاهدَةِ الْمِنَّة وتَطَلُّبِ عَيْبِ النَّفس وَالْعَمَل.

  4. واللطيفة الثَّالِثَة أَن مُشَاهدَة العَبْد الحكم لم تدع لَهُ

اسْتِحْسَان حَسَنَة وَلَا استِقباحَ سَيِّئَةٍ لصُعودِه من جَمِيعِ الْمعَانِي إِلَى مَعْنَى الحُكمِ.

The tawbah of the public is from seeing the abundance of their good deeds, for this leads to three things:

  1. denying the favor of [His] concealment and deferment

  2. feeling one’s entitlement to Allah’s favors

  3. feeling independence, which is the essence of tyranny and transgression against Allah

The tawbah of the intermediate seekers is from belittling the sin, for this is the essence of audacious rebellion and haughtiness and subsequent slipping into complete desertion.
The tawbah of the select few is from wasting time, 47for it leads to falling into deficiency, extinguishes the light of watchfulness, and spoils the spring 48of companionship.
The station of tawbah is not finalized except by repenting from anything save the True One, then observing any defect in that repentance, and then repenting from this observance. 49

فتوبة الْعَامَّة لاستكثار الطَّاعَة فَإِنَّهُ يَدْعُو إِلَى ثَلَاثَة أَشْيَاء إِلَى جحود نعْمَة السّتْر والإمهالِ ورؤيةِ الْحقِّ على اللهِ والاسْتِغناءِ الَّذِي هُوَ عينُ الجَبَرُوتِ والتَّوَثُّبِ على اللهِ.
وتَوبَةُ الأوساطِ مِن اسْتِقْلَالِ الْمعْصِيَة وَهُوَ عَيْنُ الجُرأةِ والمُبارَزَةِ ومَحْضُ التَّزَيُّنِ بالحَمِيَّةِ والاسْتِرْسالِ للقَطِيعَةِ
وتوبة الْخَاصَّة من تَضْييعِ الْوَقْتِ فَإِنَّهُ يَدْعُو إِلَى دَركِ النَّقيصَةِ ويُطفِئُ نورَ المُرَاقَبَةِ ويُكَدِّرُ عَينَ الصُّحْبَة

وَلَا يَتِمُّ مقَامُ التَّوْبَة إِلَّا بالانتِهَاءِ إِلَى التَّوْبَةِ مِمَّا دُونَ الْحقِّ ثُمَّ رُؤْيَةِ عِلّةِ تِلْكَ التَّوْبَةِ ثمَّ التَّوْبَةِ مِن رُؤْيَةِ تِلْكَ الْعِلَّةِ.

33 Or Allah’s withdrawal of His protection.
34 A worse sin, because a true believer will never rejoice in sin, but there will always be a sting in his or her heart because of it.
35 Not to present excuses to Allah, but to show your humility and need for His help while seeking His forgiveness.
36 Questioning your own tawbah, your sincerity, and its validity.
37 Falling into sin would make you less arrogant and more compassionate towards the creations of Allah. This does not mean that you doubt the justice of Allah or use predestination as a plea against Him, but that you will avoid the feeling of personal superiority over the sinners and fear for yourself that you are also subject to such calamities when Allah decrees that you fall into sin. It also means that you will excuse them if they wrong you. Ibn al-Qayyim has pointed out that the Prophet ﷺ did not exempt the sinners from punishment when they transgressed the bounds of Allah, but when they violated his own rights, he did.
Finally, before you criticize others, ask if you have the moral capital to do so. If not, then you should still point out the evil and condemn it, but as a partner in it who wishes safety for oneself and one’s fellow human beings, not as a stern preacher.
38 Are you repenting out of your fear of Allah or to spare yourself from a worldly loss, loss of ḥâl/state, or even loss of self-respect? Some also repent because of loss of interest, desire, or resolve to pursue the sin.
39 This means that you do not allow the offense to ruin your moments of togetherness with Allah or your good thoughts of His mercy and compassion. If it does, then remove it from the front of your mind, but recall it when you find in your nafs laxity, arrogance, or self-conceit.
[Regarding use of the word ‘togetherness:’ The Qur’an and Sunnah use terms that suggest anthropomorphism to some people from the masses. They have been used for their power and tangibility. We must then teach the people tanzeeh (Allah’s transcendence) without negation of the Revelation or unwarranted reinterpretation. In this literature of tazkiyah/‘Sunni Sufism,’ the focus is on bringing the people closer to God and heightening their awareness of Him as if they see Him.]
40 This has both negative and positive meanings, but knowing the sheikh, we must presume that he meant it in the positive sense. This would involve repenting from incomplete, deficient, insincere repentance.
41 Covering up the sinner and his or her sin.
42 Allowing them time to repent and not hastening the punishment for them.
43 Ibn al-Qayyim points out here that one’s love for the one who rewards them for their good deeds and then forgives them for their evil ones and accepts their pardon is much greater than their love for the one who only rewards them for their good deeds.
44To be proud of or to rely on for salvation, so they always feel the need for Allah and for reliance on Him for their salvation.
45 The recognition of one’s sins and shortcomings is essential for humility (ذل), for humility to Allah, as Ibn al-Qayyim elaborates, is of four types:
˗ the humility shared by all creations regardless of their choice, for they are all subject to His decrees, which they cannot resist
˗ the humility of the obedient one, who chooses to worship Him—and humility is the essence of worship and obedience
˗ the humility of the lovers, for love entails showing humility to the beloved
˗ the humility of the sinners, whose sins break their confidence and self-regard
46 The best interpretation for this ambiguous statement, which could possibly be problematic, is that he/she will see all decrees emanating from the Lord; as far as they are attributed to Him they are all good. Once they are attributed to us, then they may be good or bad. Here Ibn al-Qayyim gives the parable of sunrays which are all the same, but once they go through different bodies they take different shades.
47That is, any time you are not together with Allah.
Regarding jam‘(جَمْع) : union, unity, gathering, togetherness with Allah:
The valid concept of union (which is different from the heretic belief of ḥulool and ittiḥâd, translated as Divine indwelling and union) is when your will completely conforms to His, so you are one with Him in purpose. It also refers to the state of being with Allah, cut off from worldly pursuits and cravings. More importantly, it refers to observing the unity and oneness of the Real, the Eternal, the First, the Origin, the Source, the Ultimate Effector, the Self-Sufficient One, and observing that all else (ghayr) is true because He is the True Creator,but at the same time, they are contingent upon His will and manifestations of it. Additionally, all events in the universe are also true but again, they are nothing but manifestations of His names.
48 In the sense of a spring from which water flows.
49 Because to the sheikh, seeing your repentance means that you still see yourself and your

Manâzil as-Sâirin


Shaykhul-Islam Abu Isma‘il Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari al-Harawi (396-481H)

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj