The way of true repentance
Paying attention to the important consequences of repentance, that are gaining forgiveness, mercy and Divine contentment and to be fit to enter into Paradise, to be safe from the torment of Hell, to be away from deviation and straying, to follow the right path and the way of guidance, to be pure from the darkness of sins and guilt…we have to say that repentance is a great and important matter, a big program and a clear Divine fact.
Repentance does not take place when one just says with his tongue “astaghfirullah- I ask Allah to forgive me” with a little shyness inside him or he sheds some tears secretly or openly for there are many people who repent in this way but after a little time they return to commit the same sins and disobediences they have committed before.
Returning to commit sins is the clearest evidence showing that the true repentance has not been realized and that the light of the actual turning to Allah has not penetrated one’s soul. True repentance and actual turning to Allah are so important that a great part of the Qur’anic verses and holy traditions have talked about.
True repentance in Imam Ali’s view
Once Imam Ali (s) heard someone saying, “I ask Allah to forgive me”. He said to him, ‘Woe unto you! Do you know what “asking for forgiveness” is? Asking for forgiveness is the position of “illiyeen”. It includes six meanings; the first is to feel contrition for what one has committed before; the second is to determine not to commit it again forever; the third is to give people their rights until meeting Allah with no responsibility; the fourth is to perform every obligation that has been missed; the fifth is to melt the flesh that has been grown out of ill-gotten properties by regretting and sorrowing until the skin sticks on the bones and then new flesh grows, and the sixth is to make the body taste the pain of obedience as it has tasted the sweetness of disobedience and then it is possible to say “astaghfirullah-I ask Allah for forgiveness”.’
A repentant has to realize the meaning of repentance and to determine definitely to give up sins and not to commit them again forever. He should not think of repentance while he is still committing sins. Procrastination and hoping to repent in the future is no doubt one of the plots of the Satan. It has been narrated that Imam ar-Redha (s) had said, ‘He, who asks for forgiveness with his tongue and does not repent with his heart, mocks himself.’
In fact, it is ridiculous or regrettable that man throws himself into disease hoping that he may find the medicine! How much man loses because of this false hope of repenting and how much he commits crimes and sins while he talks with himself that the door of repentance is always open and that he can commit sins now and then he repents!
If man, when intending to repent, determines seriously and the conditions of repentance realize inside himself, this will lead to purify his inners and refine his soul and heart and then the dregs of sins will be removed from his organs inwardly and outwardly.
Repentance should not be just as a habit because sin, in fact, is darkness while repentance is light and often going and coming between darkness and light confuse the soul. Hence, if we repent of a sin and then we commit it again, we are still in the circle of sin and our repentance is just a temporary sentiment.
A human soul is like Hell. It does not become full at all. It does not satiate with sin and disobedience. It is always greedy to impermissible things. It is these things that make man keep on committing sins and not approach Allah the Almighty. Therefore, the door of this oven must be closed by repentance and this unruly beast must be tied with the chains of the real turning to Allah.
Repentance is the reversal of the present condition and the conscious movement of faith and piety and the internal change of the heart and soul. Then man’s connection with sins and their motives become weak and he is bound by a strong tie with the truth and the means of purity and lightness.
Repentance at its beginning is a new life; a pure and heavenly life. In this life man devotes his heart to Allah the Almighty and his soul to the good deeds. He purifies his inwards and outwards from the effects of sins.
Repentance in its essence is the extinction of the fire of fancies. It takes man to the path of the truth, obedience and submission to the Exalted Creator.
Repentance is the end of the control of the Satan over the inners of man. It prepares the tenacious psychological base that makes the truth rule over the inners of man and prevents him from slipping under the pressure of fancies and transient material pleasures.
Each sin has a special repentance
Some people think, after committing some sins and offenses, that their repentance will be accepted just by apologizing to Allah and saying “I ask Allah to forgive me and I turn to Him” or by resorting to a mosque or one of the sacred places to recite some supplications and to shed some tears whereas the Qur’anic verses and prophetic traditions concerning repentance do not accept this childish manner of repentance. A repentant should notice that repentance differs according to different sins and each sin has a special repentance. If repentance is not realized, one remains polluted with the effects of sin and his soul remains lacking morale; in fact it remains dark until the Day of Resurrection and this one will suffer the severe torment of that sin.
All the sins can be classified under three groups:
- The sins that are committed by man when neglecting his obligations such as prayers, fasting, khums, jihad and the likes.
- The sins that are committed when one disobeys Allah by committing impermissible things such as drinking wine, impermissible looking (at not mahram women), adultery, gambling, sodomy, masturbation, listening to impermissible music and the likes which do not concern the rights of other people.
- The sins that, besides leading to disobeying Allah, violate the rights of other people such as killing, stealing, usury, rage, extorting orphans’ properties, bribe, aggression against people in their bodies and properties…etc.
Repenting of the sins of the first group is achieved by leaving these sins which means that one has to perform the missed obligations like prayers, fasting, hajj and paying khums and zakat of all the years that he has not paid.
Repenting of the sins of the second group is achieved by asking Allah for forgiveness, regretting and determining to leave these sins in a way causing one’s state to change at all and causing his organs to abstain from committing such bad deeds forever.
Repenting of the sins of the third group is achieved by giving the rights of people back to them; a killer should let himself under the option of the guardians of the killed one to punish him or ask him to pay them blood money or to forgive him. A usurer must pay back all the monies he has taken from people as usury. An extorter must give all what he has extorted back to their owners. The properties of the orphans must be given back to them. Bribes must be given back to their owners. An aggressor must pay blood money and must recompense the loss and damage in people’s properties and so on.