Repentance is ‘to return’
I think the topic of repentance will always be a personal subject for everyone. I’m sure all of us have found ourselves in this situation before. We have committed a wrong action sometime in our lives and all we can think about is how foolish we were at the time of committing that action. Our ‘souls cry’ to us, because we experience a feeling that we have not been true to ourselves. It feels as if we are not being true Muslims. But just like the moon that shines in the gloomy night sky, we ourselves find there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light is the act of repentance.
If I was to describe what type of Muslim I am, I would call myself a Sunni Muslim, who highly respects the spiritual writings of Imam Al-Ghazali. His writings have made me discover that in order to understand ourselves; we have to understand the nature of man and the superb perfection of our creator, Allah. It’s a clear fact that we humans are not designed to be perfect individuals. Rather we at times can see ourselves as rough diamonds, needing to work hard through life from learning from our mistakes to have the chance to shine like jewels. This is because every human being in life, no matter how hard we try not to, will always make a mistake. Whereas when we compare ourselves to the One to whom we are seeking forgiveness to, the One who gives us purpose and life, our Lord Allah is the One who is all perfect. Surah Ikhlas reminds us that Allah is nothing like you and I, for nothing can be compared to Him. Allah is truly omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent and from all of his ninety-nine attributes, the All- Merciful (Ar-Rahim) is one of them.
Humans can make mistakes in all different ways. We can disobey Allah from an action on its own or/and we can hurt a fellow human being. A human’s tongue can in many cases become an arrow from a bow. A hurtful word can cause pain and offence to another. Every one of us can make mistakes, but at the end of the day it is repentance that makes us realize our mistakes so we can spiritually flourish. At the end of the day repentance is what welcomes us back in doors when we have been outside in the freezing cold, for the Arabic word for repentance, ‘tawba’ literally means ‘to return’. Allah gives us the opportunity ‘to return’ back home.
I believe we could not be good Muslims without repentance. I’m sure you’re curious to know what I mean by a ‘good Muslim’? I mean one who is conscious of his/her actions. I believe repentance allows us to reflect on our actions, thus being conscious of our mistakes. However, unfortunately in some cases, a person’s ego can be an obstacle between themselves and Allah. Because for an egotistical individual, it’s hard to admit they can be wrong at times. In the same way, this prevents the flourishing of an important virtue, one that Imam al-Ghazali writes, ‘purifies’ the soul, this is the virtue of humility. If there is no humility, then it is difficult for us to ask forgiveness to our Creator for pride creates the obstacle.
I believe repentance is one of the most valuable gifts we need to remind ourselves of, to survive this world. Now, I don’t mean, to knowingly commit wrong actions and then repent for them, but just to know if we do find ourselves falling down, we can get ourselves back up through repentance. In this world, it’s quite easy for us in many cases, to feel detached from our spiritual life, because our jobs can make us too busy or tired to do our Dhikr or Salah for instance. However, even if you feel like you’ve been out in the cold, Allah the All- Merciful is the One worthy to forgive you. No matter if your sins are deeper than the deep blue sea, if you sincerely mean it, He can forgive you. Now to me this is something no human on the earth can ever promise to do. So before I sleep each day, I make a dua and I say: “Allah please forgive us for all our mistakes that we commit knowingly or unknowingly each day” because I know we are all not perfect and I know (in a non-anthropomorphic way) He is always there to help me back up when I fall.