Sometimes one searches for a phrase with which to celebrate the praises of Allah, then Allah (ﷻ) places a phrase in one’s heart with which to remember Him. The phrases of remembrance are countless, but not for us. We sometimes feel that we have done enough and that there are no more additional phrases to remember Allah (ﷻ) by. It is because of Allah’s (ﷻ) wish that we should remember Him, that He places a special phrase in our hearts. In most cases, if not in all cases, that phrase solves a spiritual need that one has in one’s heart. This is always very strange. Perhaps it is more strange, because there is the realization in one that Allah (ﷻ) is always busy with one in one way or another or through one person or the other. The other day I was looking for such a phrase and in my heart came the phrase:
يَا تَوَّابُ تُبْ عَلَيْنَا وَ ارْحَمْنَا وَ انْظُرْ إِلَيْنَا
O the One who grants repentance, grant repentance to me, place Thy Mercy on me, and look at me.
There is so much meaning for each one of us in this phrase. I don’t believe that it came to my heart accidentally. Because of the Divine Decree, there are no accidents in the affairs of this world. Every matter, however small or big, has been determined by our Lord and every matter is implemented in terms of His Will. I see our relationship with our Lord in this way. For each one of us, Allah (ﷻ) has decreed certain matters and all these matters are implemented in our lives, and in the course of our lives in terms of His Will. According to this understanding, Allah (ﷻ) had decreed at the beginning of time that, that phrase would be planted in my heart when the moment comes for the planting. It is for each one of us like this, not only or me. For each one of us, our Lord decreed the multifarious matters that have to do with our lives, and when the moment comes, it is implemented. So each one of us goes through life through moments of the implementation of His Decree or through moments of the implementation of His Will.
In the first paragraph of this phrase, we appeal to one of the Attributes of our Lord. I have spoken so many times about this; about His endless Attributes of which ninety-nine are in the Qur’an. Each Attribute is for us a reservoir of religious guidance. So when we call out “Ya Tawab”, we are asking to be connected with the endless, shoreless, reservoir of His Repentance. This is so important for us at every moment of our existence. In fact at every moment of our existence we must connect to this Attribute because it is the attribute of major purification of our selves. So even if the rest of the statement is not there, our appeal to the Attribute is more than enough for our purification. But Allah (ﷻ) has decreed otherwise. We have to express what is in our hearts and so we connect to the Attribute and we appeal: “O our Lord, grant us repentance.” We ask for everybody, not only for ourselves.
I have also on numerous occasions spoken about the Attribute of Mercy and in this phrase is brought together His Attribute of Repentance with His Attribute of Mercy. My word! It is through His Attribute of Mercy that Allah (ﷻ) supplies us with His Attribute of Repentance. How could there be repentance without Mercy. Can’t be! Our Lord’s repentance engulfs His creation as part of the engulfing of His creation by His Mercy. There is so much for us. There is so much repentance and so much mercy for us; Attributes that are infinite, as we say. We do not understand the infinity of His Attributes or their nature. We appeal like this, because we have been taught to do so. The last part of this phrase is perhaps the most striking. In all of this massive appeal for repentance and mercy, we call onto our Lord: “O our Lord, look at us.” Do we think that we can ever be outside the “sight” of our Lord? Do we think that we can ever be outside His Knowledge? Of course, we do not think so, but this is the appeal of the obedient servants to their Creator. It is almost as if the servants are saying to their Lord: “O our Lord, do not ignore us.” This is impossible but it is still spoken, as we speak many things to our Lord, which we not only do not understand, but which we use as part of our subservience to Him. We cannot understand the nature of Allah’s (ﷻ) Repentance or the nature of Allah’s (ﷻ) Mercy or the nature of Allah’s (ﷻ) “looking” at us. We say these things because we do not know better and also because we know that in these holy words there is so much spiritual substance for us. When we say: “O our Lord, look at us”, this has very little to do with looking. This has to do with an appeal for all those things that we as human beings need to successfully travel our religious path on this planet. We say “looking” because we know of no other word to use. Therefore, we ask our Lord: “O Allah (ﷻ), Thou art the One who grants Repentance. Grant that to us, and grant to us Thy Mercy and grant us all those things which are goodness on this planet and goodness in the Hereafter, amin.”
Perhaps the biggest and greatest door that our Lord has provided for us is the door for Repentance. Perhaps it is the major means of approach to Allah (ﷻ), a door to relieve ourselves of all those burdens of this world, especially sinful ones, in preparation for our return to Allah’s (ﷻ). We are servants and we must act as servants and we must search amongst His Attributes for those Attributes that will make easy our passage in our return to Allah’s (ﷻ). The one attribute that stands out very prominently for me is the attribute that Allah (ﷻ) is the One who grants all repentance and that Allah (ﷻ) is the One in whose “Hand” is all repentance.
Why am I telling you all this? Why am I always talking about repentance and forgiveness? Why is there this urgent need for us to return fully to our Lord, a return without baggage: The basis of such a return is to feel deep remorse in our hearts for our disobedience to Allah (ﷻ), to plead to Allah (ﷻ) for repentance, and to promise Allah (ﷻ) that we would not return to that disobedience.
Each one of us, without any doubt, has baggage of disobedience, in some form or other. We have to look at our personal histories and examine our lives and check very carefully where we have gone wrong. Each one of us must look at this personal hisab urgently with regards to all our religious affairs. It must be remembered, that in many cases, the tawbah to one’s Lord is linked with a personal injustice against somebody else; and so the forgiveness of our Lord depends on us correcting that injustice. If, for example, one had used inheritance money of somebody else, then one’s repentance is linked directly with the paying of that inheritance money back to where it belongs and to apologize deeply to those who were deprived of inheritance. Be careful of this link, because Allah’s (ﷻ) granting repentance depends on our correcting what was unjust or unfair, and we should not hesitate. It becomes more difficult with time. We have to learn to appeal to our Lord for repentance every single day to make sure that from our slates, wherever they might be, all the transgressions are removed. Every day this process of erasure of transgressions must take place, so that every day everything starts anew. I don’t think we can imagine what it might be like to one day appear in the Court of Allah (ﷻ), free of disobedience. One’s spiritual excitement would know no bounds, because one’s Paradise is assured. And all that we are going to experience there can become a reality for us because of what we did here. When we call out: “Repentance O my Lord”, this was part of the preparation of our journey back to Allah’s (ﷻ). We must be so careful. How can we one day stand in the Presence of our Lord with a baggage of disobedience and Allah (ﷻ) had opened so wide for us the “door” of Repentance? Allah (ﷻ) had given us so many opportunities to say: “Tawbah Ya Allah”.
We ask Allah (ﷻ) to give us the understanding to do what is right, to pour His Mercy on us and to clean our slates of any transgressions, amin.