All praise is due to Allaah, Lord of the worlds. May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, his household and companions. Fellow Muslims! Fear Allaah as He should be feared, and be conscious of Him in private and in public. Seek nearness to Him through performing good deeds and plentiful repentance for Allaah is the Most-Kind, All-Aware. He is well aware that peoples weaknesses and deficiencies make them commit sins; It is because of this that He opened the door of hope and forgiveness and enjoined them to resort to His favours and grace. He is Merciful to those who seek Him and near to those who call unto Him. Mistakes and negligence are part of man’s nature and no human being is exempt from this. The Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said, ‘By He in whose hand is my soul, if you did not sin, Allaah would wipe you out and bring into existence people who did sin, ask Allaah for forgiveness – and He would forgive them.’ (Muslim)
The situation of the best amongst the pious and guided people is that when they sin, they seek Allaah’s forgiveness and when they commit errors, they repent. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said, ‘All the sons of Adam are sinners and the best among the sinners are those who repent.’ (Ahmad and others)
It is a manifestation of the mercy of Allaah upon his slaves that He stretches out His Hand during the night so that those who sin during the day may repent and stretches His Hand out during the day in order for those who sinned during the night to repent. He forgives all sins. People should therefore not despair of the mercy of their Lord however great and many their sins may be. Allaah says that which translates as: “And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except for those astray?” (Al-Hijr: 56).
At-Tirmidhi and others reported on the authority of Anas ibn Maalik who said, ‘I heard the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam saying: “Allaah says, ‘O son of Adam! As long as you call unto me and seek (forgiveness from) me, I will forgive you for all of the sins that you may commit and I do not care (how many they amount to). O son of Adam! If you come to me with what is almost as much as the earth (in volume) in sins, but you meet me without having associated any partner with Me in worship, I will give you the same amount of forgiveness.’ Allaah commanded His Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam – even though he is the most pious of mankind – to be sincere in religion and frequently seek for forgiveness when He said that which translates to: “So know (O Muhammad) that their is no deity except Allaah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women.” (Muhammad: 19).
The Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, therefore used to seek Allaah’s forgiveness frequently during the day and night and said of himself, ‘I swear by Allaah, I seek Allaah’s forgiveness and repent to Him seventy times a day.’ (Bukhaari).
Abu Daawood narrated on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar that he said, ‘We used to count the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam 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’.
This is characteristic of the resolute and faithful Muslims; they often turn to Allaah with a great deal of Istighfaar and repent sincerely without despair or impatience. Their hearts are filled with the fear of Allaah and their feet are firmly placed doing good deeds.
“(They are) the patient, the true, the obedient, those who spend (in the way of Allaah), and those who seek forgiveness before dawn.” (Aal-‘Imraan: 17).
These are the pious people, those who observe their obligations, perform acts of obedience and seek Allaah’s forgiveness.
Among the good deeds that they do are that “They used to sleep but little of the night (invoking their Lord and praying, with fear and hope)” (Adh-Dhaariyaat: 17).
Allaah also commanded his Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam to remember Him and seek His forgiveness after he finally finished the conveyance of his Lord’s Message, He says that which translates to: “When the victory of Allaah has come, and the conquest (of Makkah), And you see the people entering the religion of Allaah in multitudes, Then exalt (Him) with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him.” (An-Nasr: 1-3).
The Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, would make Istighfaar whenever he concluded his Salaah. Similarly, all pilgrims are enjoined to make Istighfaar when they leave Arafah and Al-Mash’aril-Haraam. Allaah says that which translates to: “Then depart from the place where (all) the people depart and ask forgiveness of Allaah. Indeed Allaah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Al-Baqarah: 199).
Brothers in faith! It is a manifestation of Allaah’s Mercy that He promises a generous reward for Al-Istighfaar. Plentiful Istighfaar and repentance brings forth divine mercy and success in this life and the next. Allaah says that which translates to: “And turn to Allaah in repentance, all of you, O believers, so that you might succeed.” (An-Noor: 31).
If there is a lot of Istighfaar among the Muslims and it is done sincerely, Allaah will prevent calamities and different types of tribulations from affecting them. Allaah says that which translates to: “And Allaah would not punish them while they seek forgiveness.” (Al-Anfaal: 33).
Making much Istighfaar also removes sorrow and distress, saves one from awkward situations and brings provision from unexpected sources. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Whoever makes Istighfaar frequently, Allaah will provide a way for him out of every distress and provide for him from sources he could never expect.”
These are some of the virtues of Istighfaar and their benefits which Allaah and His Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam have explained to us. The people of Imaan and piety make a lot of Istighfaar and repentance, for Istighfaar is not merely empty words that are uttered, but rather these words must be rooted in the heart. One has have regret for the sins that they have committed and be determined never to commit them again. These are the conditions of sincere repentance which Allaah enjoins on His slaves and for which He promises forgiveness and Paradise. He says that which translates to: “O you who have believed! Repent to Allaah with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remove from you your misdeeds and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow.” (At-Tahreem: 8).
Some ‘Ulamaa’ said, ‘The required Istighfaar is the one that prevents a person from persistence in the sin that they have committed – and this Istighfaar must be rooted in the heart and not be a mere utterance. Whoever makes Istighfaar with his tongue and is still persistent in his sins, then this Istighfaar itself needs a new Istighfaar (which is sincere).’
Some scholars also said, ‘Whoever makes Istighfaar and yet is not sincere in this is a liar and the one who seeks forgiveness for his sin and continues committing it is like the one who is deriding his Lord’.
Therefore fear Allaah and remember that it is only those who have faith and piety that reflect and take lessons from the vicissitudes of life. Turn to Allaah, hold fast to His Book, follow the sunnah of His Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, obey and please Allaah and make a lot of Istighfaar. These are some of the major factors that bring peace and security to the Muslim ummah and guarantee its protection.
Obey Allaah and seek His forgiveness for He says that which translates to: “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves (by sinning), do not despair of the mercy of Allaah. Indeed, Allaah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful. 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: 53-54).
Fellow Muslims! Fear Allaah and do not die except in the state of Islaam. Remember that nobody will leave this world before seeing the results of their good and bad deeds. Actions are judged according to their ends. Endeavour for your hereafter in your days and nights. Beware of postponing repentance and good deeds as death may come to you suddenly. Do not be deceived by the forbearance of Allaah, for He only grants people respite and He does not forget. Remember that Paradise and Hell are as close to you as your shoe-lace. It is a sign of one’s knowledge and true Imaan to frequently make Istighfaar and repent from sins. That is from the guidance of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam – despite the fact that all his sins had been forgiven for him. Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, said: “I have not seen anyone seeking the forgiveness of Allaah more frequently than the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.”
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam also taught his nation another form of Istighfaar. He said, “The best form of Istighfaar is to say: ‘O Allaah, You are my Lord, none has the right to be worshipped except You. You created me and I am Your servant. And I abide by Your covenant and promise as best I can, I take refuge in You from the evil of which I have committed. I acknowledge Your favour upon me and I acknowledge my sin, so forgive me, for verily none can forgive sin except You.’ Whoever says this in the day with certainty and then dies before nightfall will be among the people of Paradise and whoever says it in the night and dies before daybreak will be among the people of Paradise.”(Bukhaari).
Muslim also reported that the last thing the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam used to say in his prayer just before saying Salaam was, ‘O my Lord, forgive me my former and latter sins; the sins I committed secretly and the ones I committed openly. Forgive me for my negligence and forgive for me the sins that You know better than I (that I committed). You are the One who brings forward (whatever You Will) and delay (Whatever You Will) and there is no deity except You.’