Shaytan is very clever. He plays on our feelings of guilt to prevent us from returning to Allah.
Guilt becomes excessive and a tool against iman (faith) when it actually prevents Muslims from real tawbah (repentance), because they feel their sins are too heavy, or too oft-repeated, and there is little hope for them to get better. They dread going back to Allah (swt) because they are overwhelmed by shame. They may even ask Allah (swt) for forgiveness but deep down, they feel they are not worthy of it and they begin to doubt themselves in everything they do, and doubt Allah’s Love for them, and sometimes give up and indulge even more in sins because of their feeling of hopelessness.
This is a perfect description of what I’ve been going through this Ramadan. I seem to have forgotten what the Prophet said in one of the ahadith:
“When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, ‘My Mercy overpowers My Anger.’” (Bukhari)
The word ‘tawbah’ does not mean excessive guilt nor does it mean despising oneself. Tawbah is translated to mean ‘repentance’ but comes from the Arabic root which means “to return to.” This is the same root as the Beautiful Name of Allah al-Tawwaab. So the one making tawbah is simply returning to Allah (swt) while He is Oft-Returning to them in His infinite Mercy.
To think that mistakes are simply too big or too repeated for the forgiveness of Allah (swt) is a form of doubting Allah (swt)’s infinite Mercy. It is a materialistic approach, subconsciously limiting His Forgiveness to the human constructs of forgiveness we find in the world. The question is not “Will Allah forgive us?” The question is “Will we turn to Him?” The Forgiveness of al-Ghafur, al-Afuww, (the Forgiving, the Pardoner) is greater than anything we can imagine.
You could argue that Allah uses our feelings of regret and guilt to get us to return to Him, not to crush us in a cycle of self-recrimination and self-loathing. It is our hope in His Mercy that moves us from focusing on our guilt to using it to propel ourselves closer to Allah.
Every sinful mistake is an opportunity and a signal that it is time to grow in our relationship with Allah (swt); and as we turn to Him walking, He turns to us rushing. Tawbah as such is an act of redemption and elevation, not despair.
The article then goes on to remind the reader of verses in the Qur’an that speak to this issue, such as:
1. “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 39:53)
2. “But whoever repents after his wrongdoing and reforms, indeed, Allah will turn to him in forgiveness. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Qur’an 5:39)
3. “And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. […]” (Qur’an 2:186)
4. “O you who have believed, repent to Allah with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remove from you your misdeeds and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow [on] the Day when Allah will not disgrace the Prophet and those who believed with him. Their light will proceed before them and on their right; they will say, “Our Lord, perfect for us our light and forgive us. Indeed, You are over all things competent.” (Qur’an 66:8)
5. “And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? […]” (Quran 3:135)
6. “And it is He who accepts repentance from his servants and pardons misdeeds, and He knows what you do.” (Qur’an 42:25)
Subhan Allah, if Allah (swt) will forgive you, who are you not to forgive yourself? If He loves you and has mercy on you, who are you not to love yourself and be merciful with yourself? … Allah (swt) is much Greater than His needing us to harm and torture ourselves. Actually, He doesn’t want those things from us at all. He wants us to elevate ourselves in our relationship with Him. Just as we don’t need to beat ourselves up for real tawbah, we also don’t need to harm ourselves in order to worship Him best this Ramadan. Let us push ourselves insha Allah, God willing, in a way that keeps us consistent in turning to Him and worshiping Him (swt).
Finally, we need to remember what The Prophet said: “Make matters easy and do not make them difficult, give glad tidings and do not make people averse.” (Bukhari and Muslim)