I am in love with Istighfaar.
Every time I hear this term, torrents of words instantly flow in my mind:
Forgiveness, Comfort, Opening, Hope, Broken, Needy, Du’aa, Abundance!
These words, then, help me to reflect deeply upon the beauty of istighfaar and on its constant companionship during the highs and lows of life. Thus, I want to share a few of those reflections with the hope that perhaps it may inspire and motivate us to increase in this beautiful act, an act so beloved and pleasing to Allah!
What is Istighfaar?
Before I delve into the gems, I want to begin by defining what Istighfaar is. What does it mean?
The word Istighfaar means ‘seeking forgiveness’ and is often coupled with the word ‘Tawbah’ (meaning ‘repentance’) in the Qur’an. Though both allude to the same concept, when you dig deeper, ‘istighfaar’ branches out to many other meanings and concepts, such as ‘a cover or shield’, or ‘safety and protection.’ So when one seeks forgiveness, he is, in essence, not only asking Allah for forgiveness but also for safety from the evil of what his own hands have earned and from the consequences of those actions. On the other hand, Tawbah is more general and relates to begging Allah for mercy in a fear of repetition of the sin in the future. When these words are used together, they are emphasized individually, but when they are used alone, one word can imply the other.
This fact alone helps us to appreciate that istighfaar is not only about the tongue repeating words, but the heart being engaged and worried for what wronged its own soul.
Warm Whispers Of Istighfaar
So what gems does this act of turning back to Allah and keeping our tongues moist with the warm whispers of repentance teach us?
- We are all broken: There are times in all our lives when we are betrayed, heartbroken or simply in a ball of mess due to our own sins and mistakes. Yet, in these moments, one of the best things we can do is to seek forgiveness. When we are broken or hurt by the Creation, we are instantly reminded of our weakness and our self-esteem drops. We feel weak and in need of help. The beauty of istighfaar, or turning back to Allah, is that we are constantly reminded that although we are frail and broken, whether through hardship or through sin, His Mercy is always there, awaiting us. It is there to strengthen us and to fill those empty cracks so that we regain our courage and strength. We are reminded of our lowly position and of how weak we really are. When we utter the words, ‘O Allah, forgive me!’ it is a call to Allah to mend our broken hearts. Perhaps our affliction is a consequence of our own sins and wrongdoings, and the only way to mend our ways is by turning back to our Maker with the hope that He will wipe away our faults and protect us from its consequences. An example of this is the story of Adam and Hawwa (عليه السلام) – when they wronged themselves, they felt broken and ashamed, yet their words helped them regain strength, trust and faith in Allah. Adam’s call was:
“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.” (7:23)
- It is a means for an Opening: Have you ever found yourself lost in a situation where you can’t see anyway out? Or stuck on a problem you just can’t seem to solve? Or find an issue weighing heavily on your heart, blocking feelings of peace and contentment? Istighfaar is the means of finding a way out. It comforts the heart and brings peace of mind. When you sit on your prayer mat, silently asking for forgiveness, eyes clenched tight whilst tears stream down your face, you are asking Allah for His treasures – mercy, to cleanse your heart, mind and soul from the sins that pollute them, so that perhaps you may find solace amidst the storm and that due to your sincere and humble plea, He will pave for you an opening. This was also a habit of the great scholar Ibn Taymiyyah who narrates:
“Indeed whenever I waiver and become indecisive in my mind about an issue, or about something or a situation [which is problematic for me], then I ask forgiveness of Allah the Most High, a thousand times or more or less, until He opens my chest for me and solves the problem which I was confused about. Even if at that time I was in a market place, or in a masjid or in a mountain pass or a school, that does not prevent me from the remembrance [of Allah] and asking for forgiveness until I achieve my objective.”
[al-‘Uqood ad-Durriyyah min Manaaqib Shaykhil Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, by ibn ‘Abdil-Haadee (d. 748), pg. 5]
- He will Increase You: Istighfaar is a means of receiving the abundant gifts of Allah. You want to get married? Having difficulties conceiving? Going for a job interview? Make Istighfaar. Allah, if He wills, will enrich you out of His bounty and gift you in a way that you never imagined. The evidence for this is in the Qur’an itself where Allah tells Nuh (as) to increase in Istighfaar and that in doing so He would grant Him of His abundant bounty. Allah says:
“Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers. And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers.” [71:10-12]
- Aversion from Calamities: Istighfaar is a means of gaining Allah’s protection, not only from the evil of our own deeds but also from unforeseen hardships and calamities. It was said by Muhammad ibn Ja’far that if a lightning bolt was to strike all the people, it would not strike the people who frequently ask Allah to forgive them, because of the Words of the Creator,
“… Allah would not punish them while you (O Prophet) are amongst them, nor would He punish them while they are asking Him for His Forgiveness.” [al-Anfaal: V.33]
These are just few of the gems from the vast ocean of Istighfaar. They have been highlighted specifically because I have personally witnessed these miraculous effects whenever I have made Istighfaar, especially in desperate situations. Many are those who think that Istighfaar is only for the sinners, only for those who have committed big mistakes; yet they fail to understand that seeking forgiveness is a teacher above and beyond that – it teaches us humility and hope, it teaches us weakness and strength and it grants us solace amidst the turbulent storms of life.
DISCLAIMER: All material found on InkOfFaith.com is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to InkOfFaith.com as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of InkOfFaith.com