All humans are prone to sinning. Human nature leads to committing things that humans often regret. Islam recognizes this; therefore, Allah doesn’t condemn people for eternity after they sin. Instead, Islam places much emphasis on the importance of repentance (astaghfar) and gaining Allah’s forgiveness.
Allah states in the Quran that He loves those who repent for their sins and purify themselves. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also said that all sons of Adam sin; he said that the best of the sinners are those who go on to repent. Allah also says in the Quran that people who commit sins shouldn’t despair, because Allah can forgive them since He is the Most Merciful.
Forgiveness by converting to Islam
Allah blesses people who convert to Islam with a great advantage. He forgives the person’s sins before he entered the fold of Islam – all of them. The Prophet (PBUH) explicitly stated this in a recorded Hadith when a man came to pledge his loyalty to Islam, saying that converting to Islam erases all previous sins.
This indicates the extent of Allah’s mercy, that He doesn’t hold people accountable for their sins before they became Muslim. Once a person recites the shahadah, he/she attains complete forgiveness and starts over again from a clean slate, like a newborn baby.
The best times for a Muslim to ask for forgiveness
There are various times that Allah and the Prophet (PBUH) recommended as ideal opportunities for Muslims to seek forgiveness. Repenting to Allah for our sins is an integral part of Islam.
Repenting during and after Salah
The best time for making dua is when we are closest to Allah. According to Islam, the time when we are nearest to Allah is during sajdah in our Salah. Hence, this is the ideal time to repent.
After Salah, Muslims often sit and recite adhkaar or pray to Allah. This is another time where we can ask Allah for forgiveness. This can also be very helpful for us in case there is any shortcoming in our prayer, as Allah will, hopefully, forgive us for our neglect.
Immediately after committing a sin
How many times do we Muslims do something and then begin to think about whether it was right or wrong? If you have to think about it, chances are that you have sinned. Hence, the sooner we realize our mistake, the better. We should take the opportunity straight away and repent to Allah.
Allah says in the Quran that when someone does any evil thing or commits a wrong act, he should remember Allah and ask for forgiveness for his sins. He also says that we should then make up our minds to refrain from committing the sin in the future and develop a firm resolve in this matter.
At any time of the day
The Prophet (PBUH) said in an authentic Hadith that he used to ask Allah for forgiveness 100 times a day. This was even though he was the best of mankind. Therefore, we must realize that we need to go above and beyond in our efforts to repent to Allah.
We sin throughout the day, often without even realizing it. Hence, we should try to make a conscious effort to remember Allah and ask for forgiveness. Another thing that we don’t realize is that when we keep thinking about repenting and forgiveness, we inadvertently become more mindful of sins and try not to commit them, which is an added benefit.
Asking for Allah’s forgiveness by using His names
Allah tells us in the Quran that He has the most excellent and most perfect names. Therefore, we should worship and invoke Him by using them.
We should use the many names of Allah that relate to His Kindness, Forgiveness, and Mercy when we repent. Among them are Ar-Raheem (the Most Merciful), Al-Afuww (He Who pardons), Al-Ghafoor (the Forgiver), Al-Ghaffaar (the Oft-Forgiving), etc.
We should try to memorize these names of Allah and understand the deep meanings behind them. Then, we should use them when we repent to Him.
Widespread forms of sinning in the world today
Man has always sinned, and the case is no different today. There are many ways that humans sin regularly. Some of them are minor sins, while others are major. Additionally, some are sins that only affect us, whereas others affect other people and society. When we commit sins that affect others, we have to ask for their forgiveness as well.
Among the major sins that are prevalent today are things such as murder, rape, adultery, taking and giving interest, etc. Others that Muslims often engage in are not lowering their gaze and watching pornography, lying and backbiting, etc.
The importance of giving up a sin for forgiveness
One of the conditions of repentance is that a Muslim sees the gravity of his sin and makes up his mind to refrain from committing it once again. What’s important is the realization of the sin. If a person commits the sin and then asks for Allah’s forgiveness as a formality, that isn’t acceptable. He must realize the seriousness of the sin and try to give it up.
Muslims aren’t perfect, and they may commit sins repeatedly. If that happens and they keep asking for forgiveness, Allah can forgive them. However, it all depends upon a person’s intentions. He must not think that he can freely commit the sin and then use repentance as a ‘get out of jail’ card. He must realize that he needs to try to stop doing it.