Allah, the Almighty, said:

{And return [in repentance]57to your Lord.} [az-Zumar 39:54]

قَالَ الله عَزَّ وَجَلَّ "وأنيبوا إِلَى ربكُم"

Returning involves three parts:

  1. returning to the True One with sincere reform after one has returned to Him with apologies 58

  2. returning to Him with fulfilment after returning to Him with commitment59

  3. returning to Him with one's [interior] state after responding to His call [with his/her exterior]60

الْإِنَابَةُ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْيَاء

  1. الرُّجُوع إِلَى الْحق إصلاحًا كَمَا رَجَعَ إِلَيْهِ اعتذارًا

  2. وَالرُّجُوع إِلَيْهِ وَفَاءً كَمَا رَجَعَ إِلَيْهِ عهدًا

  3. وَالرُّجُوع إِلَيْهِ حَالا كَمَا رَجَعَ إِلَيْهِ إِجَابَةً

Return with true reform may be correctly attained through three things:

  1. mending the consequences [of the sins]61

  2. feeling pain over the missteps 62

  3. making up for what was missed 63

وَإِنَّمَا يَسْتَقِيم الرُّجُوعُ إِلَيْهِ إصلاحًا بِثَلَاثَةِ أَشْيَاءَ

  1. بِالْخرُوجِ من التَّبعَاتِ

  2. والتوجعِ للعَثَراتِ

  3. واستدِراكِ الفائتاتِ

Returning to Him with fulfilment may be correctly attained through three things:

  1. escaping from the pleasure of sins64

  2. refraining from looking condescendingly on the people of heedlessness and fearing for them while having hope for yourself 65

  3. being all-encompassing when observing the defects of one’s service (worship)

وَإِنَّمَا يَسْتَقِيم الرُّجُوع إِلَيْهِ وَفَاء بِثَلَاثَة أَشْيَاءَ

  1. بالخلاص من لَذَّة الذَّنبِ

  2. وبِتَركِ الاستِهانةِ بِأَهْل الْغَفْلَةِ تَخَوُّفا عَلَيْهِم مَعَ الرَّجَاءِ لنَفسِكَ

  3. وبالاستِقصاءِ فِي رُؤْيَة عِلَلِ الْخِدمَةِ

Returning to Him with your interior may be correctly attained through three things:

  1. despair over your actions 66

  2. observing your poverty and need

  3. beholding His gentleness and graciousness towards you67

وَإِنَّمَا يَسْتَقِيم الرُّجُوع إِلَيْهِ حَالا بِثَلَاثَة أَشْيَاءَ

  1. بِالإياسِ مِنْ عَمَلِكَ

  2. ومُعايَنَةِ اضطرارِكَ

  3. وشَيْمِ بَرْقِ لُطْفِهِ بِك

57 This is basically a phase within the phases of true, sincere tawbah. However, since to some people tawbah may mean only an apology and determination to abstain from repeating the offense, it is necessary to describe the work binding on the believer to show that he or she is truly returning to Allah. The word ‘inâbah’ is mentioned in many verses in the Qur’an, sometimes in the form of a command, like here:

{وَأَنِيبُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَسْلِمُوا لَهُ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنصَرُونَ}

{And return [in repentance] to your Lord and submit to Him before the punishment comes upon you; then you will not be helped.} (az-Zumar 39:54)
It also appears in the form of an adjective or adverb; for example:
{إِنَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لَحَلِيمٌ أَوَّاهٌ مُّنِيبٌ}

{Indeed, Ibrâheem was forbearing, grieving, and [frequently] returning [to Allah ].} (Hood 11:75)
مَّنْ خَشِيَ الرَّحْمَٰنَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَجَاءَ بِقَلْبٍ مُّنِيبٍ

{Who feared the Most Merciful unseen and came with a heart returning [in repentance].} (Qâf 50:33)
وَإِذَا مَسَّ النَّاسَ ضُرٌّ دَعَوْا رَبَّهُم مُّنِيبِينَ إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ إِذَا أَذَاقَهُم مِّنْهُ رَحْمَةً إِذَا فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُم بِرَبِّهِمْ يُشْرِكُونَ
{And when adversity touches the people, they call upon their Lord, turning in repentance to Him. Then when He lets them taste mercy from Him, at once a party of them associates others with their Lord.} (ar-Room 30:33)
58 Saying ‘sorry’ does not mean a person is truly regretful; one may be sorry but fail to show reform after extending his or her apologies.
59 When one repents, they make pledges to Allah; Allah will hold them to their pledges. He has cautioned:
{وَلَقَدْ كَانُوا عَاهَدُوا اللَّهَ مِن قَبْلُ لَا يُوَلُّونَ الْأَدْبَارَ ۚ وَكَانَ عَهْدُ اللَّهِ مَسْئُولًا}

{And they had already promised Allah before not to turn their backs and flee. And ever is the promise to Allah [that about which one will be] questioned.}(al-Aḥzâb 33:15)
60 Ibn al-Qayyim quotes al-Hassan:

"ابْنَ آدَمَ: لَكَ قَوْلٌ وَعَمَلٌ ، وَعَمَلُكَ أَوْلَى بِكَ مِنْ قَوْلِكَ ، وَلَكَ سَرِيرَةٌ وَعَلَانِيَةٌ ، وَسَرِيرَتُكَ أَمْلَكُ بِكَ مِنْ عَلَانِيَتِكَ."

“O son of Adam, you speak and act and your actions are more deserving of your attention than your speech; and you have interior and exterior and your interior determines your destiny more than your exterior.”

One may be more capable of disciplining his or her exterior, which is important but not sufficient; complete salvation will be earned when one truly purifies their interior.
61 In addition to your regrets and apologies, you must return the rights to the deserving people and fix the wrongs you committed or caused.
62 This could mean your own missteps, but it also means that one who truly returns to Allah with his or her heart will have a tender heart that wishes good for all people and hurts over their missteps.
63 Now that you have repented, make up your missed prayers, dhikr, and times of heedlessness. If you were harsh with your spouse or relatives, compensate by extra acts of kindness, etc.
64 And that is when your hawâ and desires conform to those of Allah and what His Messenger ﷺ brought to you. The Prophet ﷺ said:

"لَا يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى يَكُونَ هَوَاهُ تَبَعًا لِمَا جِئْتُ بِهِ"

“None of you [truly] believes until his desires are subservient to that which I have brought.” (Imam an-Nawawi says, “We have related it in Kitâb al-Ḥujjah with a ṣaḥeeḥ chain of narrators.”)
65 When it would be more appropriate for you to be most fearful for your own salvation and safety and more suspecting of your own intentions.
66 You will never see your actions as proofs of entitlement because you will always be concerned about whether they were accepted and how much of them was accepted. You doubt that your actions are good for any reward or can earn you anything of value. Even if they were accepted, they are still His gifts.
67 And finally, after despairing of your actions and self, you behold His vast, all-encompassing mercy and have hope in being included among those upon whom He will bestow His mercy.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


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

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj