In this day and age, Muslims all around the world strive to emulate the practices and habits of our Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and his many companions. From every hadith in the Sahih Bukhari to every verse in the Quran, we’ve got every story covered and constantly mentioned in our weekly Friday’s lectures. But one of the basic yet constant practices of the Prophet and the Sahabi (his companions at the time) which I think we often brush aside is the importance of Istighfar, or seeking forgiveness for our sins and the act of being deeply engaged in conversation with Allah. Our lives are in a constant spiral of movement – a rush here, a buzz there, a notification here… maybe even a few missed prayers. Many of us, including myself, are so preoccupied with the pleasures this world has to offer that we just can’t stop moving. And as soon as we do get a moment for thought, the day is over, and the cycle continues.
Don’t get me wrong – I, too, am guilty of the same crime. We are living in an era where its difficult to make time for spiritual enrichment. We can never come close to the piousness demonstrated time and time again by those at the time of the Prophet – their lives circulated around pleasing Allah alone and their hearts glowed with faith, purity, and righteousness. They never left an opportunity for goodness untouched and never once compromised the jurisdictions of their faith for the pleasures of this Earth. They were the best of the best, and yet they continued to ask forgiveness and continued to plead with Allah, also known as Al Ghaffar (the All Forgiving), to remove the little sins they committed despite having countless good deeds. The stories of the Sahabi crying deep into the night and praying to the All Merciful Allah never seems to escape our ears. Although these stories seem so beautiful and enlightening, we cannot deny the fact that at times, we feel intimidated. If they were such pious individuals who had fear of the Hereafter, how can we even compare?
In times when we feel spiritual loss without realizing it, seeking forgiveness and repentance is crucial to make up for our shortcomings. Since the beginning of time itself we have been described as the most forgetful of creatures — prone to making mistakes and committing unintentional sins. For some of us, including myself, we are unaware of whether or not we have fallen into the wrong, and this perhaps can be the scariest part of it all. So what do we do?
The act of Istighfar, or forgiveness, is a practice declared by our Prophet Muhammed himself to be our ticket to Paradise. Saying “Astaghfirullah” (I seek the forgiveness of Allah) at least 100 times a day, as our Prophet Muhammed had done, will reap immense benefits and virtues for you and those you love. Sadly in current times, we have almost come to abandon such practices and resort to them in desperate situations. The first step forward is to remove this perception from our minds and rather make it a habit to practice Istighfar in situations where we feel doubtful, we fall into sin, we fall short of our duties, we make mistakes, or we lose track of where we are heading in life… Not others. We may be in an argument with one of our co-workers and are 100% sure that the fault lies in the other party – but isn’t it best to leave it in the hands of the one who Created through Istighfar? This in time will keep us engaged in our faith – in constant remembrance of Allah and his boundless mercy upon us; because surely he knows what we know not and has in store for us things we cannot fathom.
In Surah Al Isra, Allah says:
“Your Lord knows best what is in your inner-selves. If you are righteous, then, verily, He is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and again in obedience, and in repentance” [Al-Isra 17:25].
This gets to me every time. They very fact that Allah is always watching out for each of everyone of us and knows what we contain in our hearts is chilling yet reassuring. Our lives are so short compared to those who came before is who would live 600 years! And to make things worse, we have even less to time to worship. 25% of our live go for sleeping, another 25% goes to waiting and another 25% goes toward work, leaving us with at most 10 years for pure worship. And even in that time we fall short. So whenever you have some time in the car on your way to work, or you seem to be in a difficult situation – pause, for a bit. Remember that Allah is watching you from up there. Say Astagfirullah. Because Allah knows all.
A famous hadith, reported by Abu Huraira (RA) describes the process of forgiveness.
“We need istighfar to constantly purify and cleanse our heart. We are not born in sin, but we are born in weakness. We are prone to fall prey to the many temptations that are part of our test in this life. And when we do fall and commit a sin, it produces a dark spot in our heart. When a person shows remorse and repents, that dark spot is removed. Otherwise it will stay there and grow with each additional sin. A time may come when his heart is full of darkness because of un-repented sins. We can see this gradual darkness of the heart as people advance in their sinful behavior. In the beginning they have a lot of inhibitions. They commit the wrong hesitatingly and feel bad about it. If they do not turn back, they get used to it, so it just feels normal. Then a stage comes when vice becomes virtue and virtue vice. They defend and advocate evil and shun good.”
In fact, the closest you can get to enhancing your own consciousness of Allah and strengthen your relationship with Him is through Istighfar. It gives you the opportunity of confessing your deepest worries, shortcomings, happiness, and faults to Him and Him alone. He alone can save us from the consequences of our actions, and with Him we are at our humblest. It cleanses all hearts and removes the blemishes that seem to inflict it from the trials and tribulations we face on a day to day basis.
In another Hadith narrated by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (pbuh) said that “Allah The All-Mighty says: O children of Adam! Whenever you invoke Me and beg My forgiveness, I forgive whatsoever sins you have done. O children of Adam! Should your sins amount the clouds, then you ask Me to forgive you, I forgive you. O children of Adam! Should your sins are as much as the earth, then you come in the hereafter associating no other deities to Me, I forgive all your sins.”
Remember, Allah is all forgiving and is waiting with open arms for your repentance. The moment you make the act of Istighfar part of your daily life, you will no doubt feel a sense of warmth and purity in your heart. Because you know someone is up there looking out for you. This is a habit not only for the sinner, but for those of us who are of the most righteous and pious. So tell me: Have you recited your 100 Istighfar for today?