Ask Forgiveness from Your Lord
Taken from As Sunnah BimonthlyNewsletter
Shaddaad Ibn Aws (radhi allahu anhu) reported: “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “The (Sayyid al-Istigfar) noblest and the most excellent manner of seeking forgiveness is that the servant says:
“O Allah, You are my Lord. None has the right to be worshiped except You.
You created me, and I am Your slave/worshipper. And I am faithful to my covenant and my promise, as far as I am able.
I seek Your refuge from the evil of what I have done. I acknowledge before You all the favors that You have bestowed upon me.
And I confess all my sins to You. So forgive me, since none can forgive sins except You.”
The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Whoever says it in the day, with firm conviction in it, and dies in that day before evening then he is from the people of Paradise. Whoever says it in the night, with firm conviction in it, and he dies before the morning then he is from the people of Paradise.”
The scholars count this hadeeth as a Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) that should be said in the day, as well as in the night; in the early morning between dawn and sunrise, and at the start of the evening. Imaam Bukharee (rahimahullah) records this Hadeeth in two different places, once under the chapter: 'The most excellent manner of seeking forgiveness' and 'What to say when one gets up (early) in the morning?' It is also reported in the Sunans, like Nisa'ee and at-Tirmidhee etc. with wordings which show the importance of learning this manner of seeking forgiveness, for example in the above mentioned Hadeeth the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) entitled it 'Sayyid al-Istigfar', which literally means, 'the Chief of all Seeking Forgiveness.'
One of the most important aspects of a Muslim’s life Is to seek al-Istagfar (ask forgiveness for one’s sins) from Allah. Various texts of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah command and encourage al-Istagfar, show its excellence and the excellence of those who are constant in it, from them is the saying of Allah: “O My servants who have transgressed greatly against themselves through sins! Do not despair of the Mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins to those who repent. Indeed, He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.”
[Soorah az-Zumar (39): 54] Some pious predecessors commented on this verse saying, this verse gives the most hope to the one who seeks forgiveness.
Allah encouraged seeking forgiveness and clarified its excellence and rewards in this worldly life and said:
“Ask forgiveness from your Lord. Indeed, He is the Oft-Forgiving. He will send rain to you in abundance and He will give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and rivers.”
Thus, this verse promises numerous benefits for those who seek forgiveness constantly. In the Hereafter, the benefits are much greater. Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:
“Allah the Most High says: 'O son of Adam! As long as you supplicate to Me and hope in Me, I will forgive you what you have done. O son of Adam! If your sins were to reach the lofty regions of the sky, then you ask Me for forgiveness, I would forgive you. O son of Adam! If you were to come to Me with enough sins to fill the earth, but you met Me not associating anything with Me I would bring you the like of it of forgiveness.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee, vol: 8, no: 319]
The great importance of al-Istagfar is seen from the practice of Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) that all his past and future sins were forgiven even though, he would make al-Istagfar more than 70 times a day. Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) reported: “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:
“By the One in Whose Hands is my soul, I certainly ask forgiveness more than a seventy times each day.”
Umar (radhi allahu anhu) said: “We used to count that in a single gathering he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) would say: 'I ask Allah's forgiveness and I repent to Him', more than seventy times.” [See as-Saheeh, no: 556] The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:
“By Allah! If you did not commit sins, Allah would have taken you away and brought a people who seek Allah's forgiveness and He would forgive them.”
[Saheeh Muslim vol: 4, no: 6522]
This Hadeeth shows the extent to which Allah loves that His slaves ask forgiveness from Him and He loves those who ask forgiveness from Him.
Allah loves that we call upon Him by His Beautiful Names And worship Him by that which His Names demand:
“And Allah has the most excellent and perfect names, so worship and invoke Him by them” [Soorah al-A'raaf (7): 180]
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:
“Allah has ninety-nine names, a hundred except one. Whoever memorizes and is mindful of them (ahsaaha) will enter Paradise.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]
Here, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) uses the word ‘ahsaaha’ coming from the root-word ‘ihsaa’, which does not only means to recite these names, as is the practice of some, Scholars have explained that ‘ihsaa’ of the names comprises of three levels:
· (A) The first is to memorize the Names of Allah.
· (B) The second is to understand their meanings and
· (C) The third is to call upon Allah by these names and act as they demand.
Let us understand with an example, At-Tawwaab is from the names of Allah, it means 'He who guides His servants to repent and accepts their repentance.’ Thus we understand that Allah accepts His servant’s repentance, guides them to repent and grants forgiveness to them. We also understand that He Alone is the One to grant forgiveness. Having understood this, we act as the name demands by repenting to Allah alone from all our sins. Similarly, the Names 'al-Ghafoor’ - ‘the Oft-Forgiving' and 'al-Afuww’ - ‘The One who pardons’, demand that we should constantly turn to Allah in repentance. This is how we should understand and memorize all the Names of Allah, away from the corrupted innovated ways.
Explanation of Sayyid al-Istagfar:
The supplication starts with the word: “Allahumma...” means 'O Allah!', It is a word whose meaning is found frequently in both the Qur'aan and the Sunnah.
The scholars have explained that Tawheed (the Oneness of Allah) falls in two categories:
· (a) Tawheed al-Ma'rifah wal-Ithbaat - To know and affirm the Oneness of Allah and,
· (b) Tawheed al-Iraadah wat-Talab - Establishing the Oneness of Allah in one's intention and acts of worship.
The initial words of the supplication: “O Allah, You are my Lord. None has the right to be worshiped except You. You created me, and I am Your slave/worshiper”, comprises both these meanings. Let us first analyze in brief the meaning of Tawheed al-Marifah wal-Ithbaat, it comprises of:
(a) Tawheed ar-Ruboobeyyah:
The Oneness of Allah's Lordship. It is to affirm that Allah is the Creator, the Provider, the One Who grants all blessings and the One Who controls all affairs of His Creation.
(b) Tawheed al-Asma wa-Sifaat:
The Oneness of Allah's Names and Attributes. It is to affirm all the Names and Attributes of Allah as mentioned in the Qur'aan and the Sunnah.
Thus, one must know and affirm that Allah is the Creator, the Provider, One Who grants all blessings, and the One Who controls all affairs of the creation. One must know and affirm all the Names and Attributes of Allah mentioned in the Qur'aan and the Sunnah. This knowledge and affirmation is illustrated in the saying: “O Allaah, You are my Lord…. You created me…”
The second aspect, Tawheed al-Iraadah wat-Talab, is the Oneness of Allah's Worship, which demands that all worship is performed sincerely and purely for Allah, the saying: “…None has the right to be worshipped except You, You created me, and I am Your slave/worshipper” proves the Oneness of Worship.
If the servant knows that Allah is the sole Creator, then it is binding upon him to worship Him alone, this occurs in several Qur'aanic verses: “I am your Lord, therefore worship Me alone.” [Soorah al-Ambiya (21): 92]
“O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah), Who created you and those who were before you so that you may become al-Mutaqoon. Who has made the earth a resting place for you, and the sky as a canopy, and sent down water (rain) from the sky and brought forth therewith fruits as a provision for you. Then do not set up rivals unto Allah (in worship) while you know.” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 21-22]
Ibn Abbas (radhi allahu anhu) commented on the last words of the verse: “…while you know.”, saying: “So do not set up partner with Allah in your worship while you know that you have no Creator other than Allah.”, and this defines the meaning of the supplication: “You created me, and I am Your slave/worshipper.”
Thus, since Allah is the sole Creator, we do not direct any worship to anyone besides Him. We supplicate to Him alone. But today, we see some who claim to be the followers Islam, and apparently acknowledge, “La ilaha illa Allah” (i.e. none is worthy of worship except Allah) still to be found at the shrines and tombs, supplicating and requesting the engraved to fulfill their needs. They worship those regarding whom Allah says:
"Say (O Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), to those who invoke those besides Allah): 'Call upon those besides Him whom you pretend (to be gods). They have neither power to remove the adversity from you nor even to shift it from you to another person.” [Soorah al-Isra (17): 56]
And: “Say (O Muhammad ): “Call upon those whom you assert (to be associate gods) besides Allah, they possess not even the weight of an atom, - either in the Heavens or on the Earth, nor have they any share in either; nor there is for Him any supporter from among them.” [Soorah Saba (34): 23]
Thus, this declaration which is also the first pillar of Islaam (La ilaha illa Allah - None has the right to be worshiped except Allah) comes at the beginning of the supplication and states the purpose of the creation, which is servitude (Uboodiyyah), Allah says “I did not create Jinn and mankind except for my worship” [Soorah ad-Dhariyaat (51): 56]
Servitude is also the right of Allah on His slaves, this affirmation of Allah's right and that the creation is His slave is mentioned in the statement, “You created me and I am Your slave/worshipper.”
Servitude of the creation is of two types; servitude to Allah's Lordship and servitude in worship to him.
1 - Servitude of Lordship means that the whole creation is brought into existence by Allah alone; He created them and He provides them with their needs, He causes life and death and none shares with Him any of His Dominion. Therefore, none in the creation can escape this servitude of Allah, and Allah says: “All (Angels) in the Heavens, and all (men and Jinn) upon the Earth will come to the Most Merciful on the Day of Judgement as submissive slaves.” [Soorah Maryam (19): 93]
2 - Servitude in Worship is something, which Allah has granted to some of His creation in particular. They are those whom He has guided to the obedience of His Commands, and upon whom He has bestowed Eemaan. So these are slaves of Allah who worship Allah, obey Him, comply with what He has legislated, and carry out His orders and obey His Messenger… Therefore, Allah ascribed them to Himself, like His saying: “Ibaad ar-Rahmaan - the slaves of the Most Merciful…” [Soorah al-Furqaan (25): 63]
In this supplication, the servitude of Lordship was mentioned in the previous statements: “O Allah, You are my Lord… You created me.”
“I am Your slave/worshipper”, confirms the servitude of worship meaning; I am a worshiper of You, one who carries out Your Commands and one who complies with what You have legislated. Thus, the supplication commences with these great and comprehensive matters pertaining to Tawheed.
“And I am faithful to my covenant (to You) and my promise (to You) as far as I am able…”,
By this statement, the servant makes a covenant with Allah to abide by everything he previously said (i.e. Tawheed) meaning he will truly believe and remain upright upon the obedience to Allah, just as he makes a promise in every Rak'aah of his prayer saying, “You alone do we worship, and You alone do we seek help”
The saying, “As far as I am able…” makes worship dependant upon the slave’s ability and this is from the Mercy of Allah to us. Some scholars explain that this statement is an acknowledgment of one's weakness and deficiency, whose meaning is; 'I am not fully able to complete Eemaan and attain its highest level and most perfect form. I acknowledge my weakness and shortcomings, I am not able, so do not hold me to account for my weakness, deficiency and shortcomings' and Allah says in His Book:
“Allah does not place a burden on any soul greater than it can bear.” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 286]
And it occurs in a Hadeeth of Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam):
“If I command you with something then do as much of it as you can, and whatever I forbid you then leave it (altogether).” [Saheeh al-Bukharee, vol: 9, no: 391]
Here, the scholars explain that when he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) mentioned the command (al-Amr), he made it dependant upon the ability, since there may be some commands that a person may not be able to carry out, or which he may not be able to carry out fully. So, the performance of the command is made dependant upon the ability. Therefore, the supplication is: “As far as I am able…”
However, when he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) mentioned the forbiddance, he said: “… and what I have forbidden you from, then leave it (altogether).” He did not say “…as far as you are able” and as the scholars say, forbiddance means to refrain from doing something and it is within the ability of everyone. Everyone is able to refrain from fornication, theft, murder and all matters, which Allah has forbidden. Therefore, leaving forbidden matters are not made conditional on one's ability.
Next the saying, “I acknowledge before You all the favours that You have bestowed upon me. And I confess all my sins to You”, is both affirmation and confession, “I acknowledge…”, here the statement is not restricted to any specific favor of Allah, rather, it is left unrestricted meaning, I acknowledge and affirm all favors with which You have blessed me with, the blessing of Eemaan, the blessings of health and children, the blessings of crops, the blessings of house - all blessings. He, the Perfect and the Most High, is the One Who grants and bestows them: “Whatever blessings you have are from Allah.” [Soorah an-Nahl (16): 3]
After having acknowledged the blessings, it is necessary for the servant to give thanks to Allah for them by his heart, his tongue and his actions:
“And remember when Your Lord proclaimed, 'If you give thanks, I will give you increase in blessings, but if you deny the favors and are thankless, then I shall punish you severely.” [
Soorah al-Ibraheem (14): 7]
Then the supplication mentions, “I confess all my sins to You…” This sentence, since it immediately follows, “I acknowledge before You all the favours that You have bestowed upon me.”, it means, 'I admit that I fall short in giving thanks to Your Favors.' Some scholars explain saying, “I confess all my sins unrestrictedly, that is all my acts of disobedience and every sin that I have committed” By this admission, the servant acknowledges that he has fallen short with regard to Allah's Right upon him, which is 'worship' This acknowledgment of the servant is the beginning of the road to repentance. However, if he commits acts of disobedience and yet does not feel that he is a sinner, then repentance is something far away from him. Thus, the servant's being sinned must lead him to seeking forgiveness and this is the core of the meaning of the Hadeeth.
The pattern of the statements, “I acknowledge before You all the favors that You have bestowed upon me. And I confess all my sins to You”, indicate to another wisdom; it is that the servant, in this life continuously passes back and forth throughout the day between two affairs; these are either blessings granted to him by Allah, which require that he gives thanks to Allah, or he falls into a sin and this requires him to repent and to seek forgiveness. Therefore, some of the Salaf used to say, 'I enter the morning in between blessings and sins, so I want to put forth thanks for the blessings and seek forgiveness for the sins.'
Another point which is manifest from this Hadeeth is that, whatever sin the servant committed, if he acknowledges the fact that he has sinned and then truly repents, Allah accepts his repentance, whatever his sin may be, and forgives him.
The supplication ends with, “none can forgive sins except You”, indicating that Allah alone is the Forgiver. Therefore, the servant turns to Allah in repentance, obedience and seeks His forgiveness.
Explanation and clarification of this Hadeeth testify that Tawheed and al-Istagfar are from the most important aspects of a Muslim's life. These two matter are combined in a number of Qur'aanic verses and the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), Allah says:
“Then know that none deserves the right to be worshiped except Allah, and ask for forgiveness for your sins and also for believing men and believing women, for Allah knows well your actions whilst awake and whilst in your places of sleep.” [Soorah Muhammad (47): 19]
Likewise, it is mentioned:
“None has the right to be worshiped but You (Allah), far removed are You from imperfection! I have been one of those who have wronged themselves!” [Soorah al-Ambiya (21): 87]
“So make your worship purely for Allah and seek His forgiveness for your sins.” [Soorah Fussilat (41): 6]
The supplication comprises of:
(1) Knowing Allah's Lordship and His sole right to be worshiped.
(2) Affirmation that Allah is the sole Creator and thus He alone deserves to be worshiped
(3) The hope for Allah's Mercy
(4) Seeking refuge with Allah from being transgressed
(5) Attributing all blessings to Allah alone and
(6) Attributing all sins and mistakes to one's oneself
(7) And this supplication contains the slave’s desire for forgiveness and his acknowledgment that none can forgive except Allah.