Istighfar, is an act of seeking forgiveness from Allah (s.w.t) for our sins. The holy month of Ramadan is one of the best times to practice Istigfhar, as the doors of Allah’s mercy are open, giving us the opportunity to cleanse our souls. The necessity of this action lies in the faults of the human being, as Allah has given us the faculty of deciding between good and evil, and with this, we are prone to mistakes. However, with His infinite wisdom and mercy, Allah has provided istighfar as a tool against Shaytan. Istighfar allows an individual who recognizes their sin and repents, wishing they had not performed it, and is committed to refraining from that sin, have that sin forgiven and removed from their record. The Prophet has said “ The repentant from a sin is as same as him who did not commit it”. Allah’s mercy and love is shown in the continuous opportunities He provides for us to better ourselves, despite our wrongdoings. Allah has even stated in the Quran:
“And whoever does evil, and oppresses his soul, then seeks forgiveness of Allah, he will find Allah to be Forgiving, Merciful.” (4:110)
Conditions of Istighfar
When seeking forgiveness it is important to heed to the conditions of such an action and to not take it lightly. One cannot seek forgiveness with the thought of continuing to commit the sin as this is a mockery. Imam ar-Ridha (a.s) states: ‘ One who seeks forgiveness for a sin, and does it, has mocked his Lord.’ This is why when performing Istighfar one must have a firm intention of not committing the sin again.
It is recommended to perform Istighfar during the early hours of the morning before dawn (fajr), as that is a special time in which all Duas are accepted. Imam Ali (a.s) has noted that Istigfhar holds the following six meanings and conditions:
- To repent over the past.
- To make a firm determination never to repeat it.
- To discharge all the rights of people so that you may meet Allah quite clean with nothing to account for.
- To fulfil every obligatory act which you ignored (in the past) so that you may now do justice with it.
- To aim at the flesh grown as a result of unlawful earnings, so that it may melt by grief (of repentance) till the skin touches the bone and a new flesh grows between them.
- To make the body taste the pain of obedience as you previously made it taste the sweetness of disobedience.
In seeking forgiveness there are three stages that must be passed for the repentance to be considered true. The first stage is of the conscious. This where one becomes aware of their actions and feels guilty for their disobedience towards God. The second stage is of the soul. When the soul becomes aware of the guilt, then the individuals will turn to God with the true intention of remaining obedient to their Lord. The third and final stage is self-purification, whereby a person tries to rectify their sins through righteous actions and the avoidance of committing another sin.
Repetition of Repentance
There is no doubt that this world is full of desires, and that even though one may repent with the true intention of refraining from sins, it is possible that they may be led astray again. However, this does not mean that Allah will remove his mercy from you. If one truly seeks forgiveness each time they commit the sin, with the motivation to start anew and try to refrain from any wrongdoings, Allah will forgive them. Imam al-Baqir has said to those who asked of the servant who commits a sin repeatedly and repents to Allah repeatedly, that “Whenever a believer seeks forgiveness and repents, Allah accepts his repentance again.” While it is clear that Allah is All Forgiving and All Merciful, this should not be taken for granted, and the conditions of Istighfar should be adhered to.