Your Tawbah (Repentance) to-do List: Action Points for a Fresh Start

Does this scenario sound familiar? You are doing very well spiritually. You feel deeply connected with Allah
, and then… you commit a sin! Once you do it, you feel like your entire life has collapsed. You start despising yourself, you think you are hypocritical, you think Allah will not accept you or take you seriously again.

It could be that you decided to quit a particular sin, and you actually refrained from it for a long period. You felt like you were really at the top of your game, but then you slipped… And once you did, you thought that everything has gone to waste, there is no more hope in you…

If this is what you’re thinking, then Please Stop This Line of Thinking NOW!

NEVER think that you are hopeless or that you’ve lost the battle. Never. So long as you’re breathing, you can completely change the situation, reclaim your life, control the sin and not allow it to control you.

Now, there are a few points to remember here.

1. One of the major obstacles to one’s spiritual productivity is falling into sin.

2. Yes, sins are ugly and they fill the heart, mind and soul with darkness, sadness and burden. As a matter of fact, we learn from the hadith that Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:

“Verily, when the slave (of Allah) commits a sin, a black spot appears on his heart. When he refrains from it, seeks forgiveness and repents, his heart is polished clean. But if he returns, it increases until it covers his entire heart. And that is the ‘Ran’ which Allah mentioned: ‘Nay, but on their hearts is the Ran which they used to earn.’”[Jami’ at-Tirmidhi]

3. We definitely need to strive against sin because it prevents us from actualizing our purpose in life, which is to seek Allah, learn about Him, commit to Him, love Him and get closer to Him. Sin is like a block that just prevents you from moving forward, and Allah wants you to move forward. That’s why He specifically and clearly told us in the Qur’an,

“Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.’ ” [Qur’an: Chapter 39, Verse 53]

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4. All human beings commit sins. We cannot be sinless, but we can definitely control being sinful by working on disciplining our nafs (lower self), purifying our thoughts and actions, doing good deeds, seeking righteous companions and repenting often. It was narrated from Anas that the Messenger of Allah said:

“Every son of Adam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent.’” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

We do not have to indulge in sins and live in darkness. This is a major deprivation and injustice against one’s own self. One of Allah’s Names is An-Nur (The Light); how can we see The Light or appreciate The Light if we’re drowning in so much darkness…?

5. Yes, we sin, but sin is not our identity. Rather, struggling against sin could truly refine our character, faith, perseverance and commitment to Allah. That’s why it’s essential in this journey. If we haven’t experienced sin, how then will we know the value of the pure, righteous life prescribed to us through revelation and its impact on our heart, mind, soul and body? If we don’t have a choice to err, how then will we prove our love and commitment to Allah? If we’re programmed to only love and obey Him, then there is no challenge. But it is in choosing Him over anything else in His creation and committing to His path against all struggles and temptations that we truly prove our faith and sincerity. And so, Allah wants us to come back to Him and never give up.

6. Allah says:

“[…] Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 222].

He didn’t say “Allah accepts”, He said “Allah LOVES” those who are constantly repentant. Yes, He said “loves”. How beautiful and powerful is that? Tawbah essentially means insisting on coming back to Allah  and Allah loves it when we insist on going back to Him. And He says:

“O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it. [At-Tirmidhi]

So, if you’re in a position of making tawbah, then you are in a position of receiving the love of Allah. Do you see why Shaitan wants you to feel hopeless and prevent you from seeking forgiveness and tawbah? Because his ultimate goal is to divert you from the path of Allah and tawbah not only puts you back on track, but it also earns you the love of Allah Almighty The Most Merciful, Most Loving, Most Affectionate.

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So, tawbah all the way!

Here is Your Tawbah To-Do List

These are the action points that you need to do immediately IMMEDIATELY– if you’ve fallen into sin.

1. Regret the sin

The Prophet says: “Regret is repentance.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

Regret is essential in showing sincerity. If you truly regret a wrongdoing, then you understand why Allah told us that it is harmful and that you desire to truly purify yourself from it and seek the halal and pure means that He prescribed instead.

2. Stop the sin

Stop immediately. Do not persist or insist on committing the sin or indulging in it further. Just stop. Make a conscious, serious decision and effort to stop and quit this wrongdoing right away.

3. Make a sincere intention to not go back to the sin

This is a heartfelt decision that you make to truly quit and not go back. Even if you’ve fallen into the same sin an hour later, so long as you were sincere in giving it up, then it is accepted. Every time you fall, keep making sincere intentions not to go back. Yes, Allah can and will accept your sincere repentance each and every single time you make it even if it be one zillion times. Just do it, and mean it and be sincere, strong and perseverant.

4. Seek forgiveness of Allah and repent

One way of doing that is following what our Messenger(pbuh) taught us. The Messenger of Allah(pbuh) says:

“There is no one who commits a sin then purifies himself well (does wudoo’/ablution) and stands and prays two rak’ahs (two units of prayer), then asks Allah for forgiveness, but Allah will forgive him.” Then he recited this verse: ‘And those who, when they have committed Faahishah (illegal sexual intercourse) or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins; — and none can forgive sins but Allah — and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know’ (Qur’an 3:135).” [Sunan Abi Dawood]

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5. Follow the sin or bad deed with good deeds

Allah says:

“And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember.” [Qur’an: Chapter 11: Verse 114]

So, if you’ve committed a sin, then go make wudoo, pray two rak’aas, make istighfar, read your adhkar, read a few pages of the Qur’an, help your parents, call family members, relieve someone from their distress, give sadaqah, help someone in need, there are countless opportunities. So bring it!
Suffocate the sin with good deeds and do not let it suffocate you. Surround it from every direction with as many good deeds as you can. Just kill it! Again, you are in control, so control the sin and do not let it control you or define you or steal your life from you.

6. Do NOT delay tawbah. Do it immediately

One big mistake here is to think that you can delay repentance. The problem is, you never know when your last minute would be. You might delay, but never actually get the chance to do it. So you must do it as soon as possible. The Messenger of Allah(pbuh) says:

“Allah accepts a slave’s repentance as long as the latter is not on his deathbed (that is, before the soul of the dying person reaches the throat)”. [At-Tirmidhi, who categorised it as Hadith Hasan]

Now, one last point, if the sin involves transgressing against someone else, then you have to bring them their right back and/or seek their forgiveness. For example, stealing necessitates returning what you’ve stolen or the equivalent of it to its owners. If you’ve spoken badly/unjustly against someone, then rectify what you said and seek forgiveness. If someone else is involved, then we need to rectify matters with them. It doesn’t make sense to slander someone for example, and follow the steps above without actually fixing the damage you’ve caused to others. Allah forgives us, but what about the other people we’ve damaged? Allah is neither Unjust nor accepts injustice. It is healing and part of our spiritual journey and getting closer to Allah(swt) to also mend the injustice we cause others.

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Islam essentially is about fixing yourself for your own inner peace, for Allah and for the people so that you neither harm nor reciprocate harm.

So, simply go and seek forgiveness if you’ve wronged anyone. And if Allah accepts our repentance, then who are we not to forgive others?

“And let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an 24:22]

This is it.

Now you have a fresh start, insha’Allah.

It doesn’t matter if you repeated this process incalculable number of times.

It doesn’t matter.

Allah will accept.

The doors are always open for you. So long as you’re still breathing, then keep repenting.

Never let Shaitan use the sin to ruin your relationship with Allah or stand between you and Him. Allah named Himself that Oft-Forgiving, The Hider of Faults, The Acceptor of Repentance… for us! 

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