إِنَّ اللهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَنْ يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَالِكَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ
InnaLlaaha laayaghfiru anyushrakabihi wayaghfiru maadoona dhaalika limanyashaa’
Indeed, Allah does not forgive (apparent or discrete forms of) shirq (i.e. directly or indirectly assuming the existence of beings ‘other’ than Allah, whether external objects [apparent] or our own egos [discrete], thereby fragmenting the non-dual reality), but He forgives lesser sins other than this (ma doona – ‘lesser sins’ here connotes the perception that actions are initiated by the self/ego rather than by Allah), as He wills...
قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِنْ رَحْمَةِ اللهِ
إِنَّ اللهَ يَغْفِرُالذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
Qulyaa`ibaadiyalladheena asrafoo `alaaanfusihim laataqnatoo minrahmatiLlaahi innaLlaaha yaghfirul-dhunooba jamee`an innahuhuwal-ghafoorul-raḥeem
Say, ‘O my servants who have transgressed against themselves (who have squandered their lives in pursuit of bodily pleasures rather than duly experiencing their essential reality)! Do not lose hope from the grace of Allah! Indeed, Allah forgives all mistakes (of those who repent)... Indeed, He is the Ghafur, the Rahim.’
وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَقْبَلُ التَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَعْفُوا عَنِ السَّيِّئَاتِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا
تَفْعَلُونَ وَيَسْتَجِيبُ الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا لصَّالِحَاتِ وَيَزِيدُهُمْ مِنْ
Wa huwalladhee yaqbalul-tawbata`an`ibaadihi waya`foo`anil-sayyi’aati waya`allamu maataf`aloona wa yastajeebulladheena aamanoo wa`amilool-ṣaaliḥaati wayazeeduhum min faḍlihi
It is He who accepts repentance from His servants, and pardons misdeeds and the One who knows what you do. And He responds to the believers who fulfill the requisites of faith and increases (His blessings for them) with His bounty
يَٓا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ اٰمَنُوا تُوبُوا إِلَى اللهِ تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا عَسَى رَبُّكُمْ أَنْ
يُكَفِّرَ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيُدْخِلَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ
Yaa ayyuhaalladheena-amanoo tooboo ilaaLlaahi-tawbatan naṣooḥan `asaa-rabbukum anyukaffira`ankum sayyi’aatikum wa yudhkilakum jannaatin tajreemin taḥtihal-anhaaru.
O believers! Repent to Allah with a sincere, genuine repentance. Perhaps your Rabb will cover your bad deeds and admit you to Paradises underneath which rivers flow.
The four verses above elucidate Allah’s system of repentance in the Quran. To summarize these verses:
1. Duality (shirq), that is, to believe in a deity-god is unforgivable. For, there is only Allah, there is no ‘god’! The concept of godhood has nothing to do with the reality of Allah. This is why we MUST learn what Allah means and shape our lives accordingly. On the contrary, we may easily end up deifying things besides Allah, and this is a big risk to take. More information on this topic may be obtained in Muhammad’s Allah.
2. Not knowing the reality of ourselves will lead us to do wrong by ourselves and thus become of the transgressors and in great loss. But this shouldn’t lead us into hopelessness either, for there is a way to be forgiven for mistakes that have been made. The important thing is to recognize the mistake and stop repeating it.
3. Repentance means to consciously stop making a particular mistake. If you recognize it is wrong and ask to be forgiven with the feeling of regret, then forgiveness definitely awaits you. Let us not postpone repentance thinking we still have time to repent for many have died thinking they had time and now they are living the consequences of the things for which they did not repent.
4. Repentance should be done in a conscious manner, not because someone told you to or just for the sake of doing it. Conscious repentance means to truly recognize the wrong in the committed deed, feel deep regret for committing it and make a conscious decision not to do it again. To apologize for a mistake is asking for forgiveness, not to be confused with genuine repentance.
The word ‘Astaghfirullah’ (I apologize Allah) is not something that should be said without contemplation lest it gives the impression that the addressee is taken lightly. Certain tariqahs unconsciously and ignorantly recommend the repetition of this word. Even if energy is loaded to the spirit due to this repetition, it definitely doesn’t achieve the intended purpose.
To grasp the topic, one must be cognizant of the cause for repentance. The Rasul of Allah (saw) says:
“Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart and I ask for forgiveness from Allah a hundred times in a day.”
As evident, repentance should not be done without an effort to be conscious about it. It should be done after perceiving a blockage or veil in one’s heart, impeding them from the observation of the One.
It should be a sincere turn from the distress of not being able to observe the One.
Compare sincerely repenting a hundred times a day as a result of feeling one’s inadequacy to unconsciously and imitatively asking for forgiveness by repeating the word ‘Astaghfirullah’ over and over again without any conscious thought.
Those who want to attain the truth and live with the dignity of being a human must understand they cannot take a lesson from an imitator and they cannot attain the reality via imitation. Sufism is entirely about authentic knowledge and leaves no room for imitation. Some even claim the imitative practice of sharia is unacceptable.
But of course, one who lacks the strength for authenticity will inevitably resort to imitation.