Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: How many are the conditions of repentance?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullah,
Repentance is immediately obligatory from every sin, major or minor. Allah Most High says, “Turn to Allah in repentance all together, O believers, so that you may be successful.” (Sura al-Nur 24:31)
Imam Nawawi mentions three central conditions for valid repentance (tawba):
(1) leaving the sin altogether,
(2) having remorse over having committed the sin, and
(3) firmly resolving never to return to the sin.
If the sin relates to the right of another human being, then, additionally, (4) that right must be returned. But some note that this point is actually a separate duty (wajib) outside of the act of repentance for the initial wrongdoing — the correcting of which, may or may not affect the acceptability of your repentance. If distinct, what this means is that withholding the right would become another, separate sin.
Moreover, the scholars explain that there are also a few other conditions which apply to repentance, including doing so:
(5) before the sun rises from the west,
(6) before one’s soul begins exiting the body, and
(7) sincerely, such as out of fear of His wrath and punishment, and not for any worldly reason.
Repentance from one sin is valid even if a person is engaged in other sins, and it is valid even if a person has returned to the same sin time and again, on condition that each time he met the conditions of valid repentance. Lastly, the most optimal manner of repenting is by praying the Prayer of Repentance (salat al-tawba).
The Accepted Hajj, Becoming Muslim and Rights
Although there are a number of traditions (ahadith) which speak of the slate of the person who performs an accepted hajj or becomes Muslim being wiped clean from sin, such narrations do not relate to actual rights which need to be fulfilled and lifted from one’s dues. Accordingly, debts owed to others, for example, need to be repaid and prayers and fasts that were omitted (by the Muslim) need to be made up. What is wiped away is the original sin and not the duty to subsequently correct the wrong?
In a beautiful tradition (hadith) of the Beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), he informed us that, “The one who repents from sin is like the one who has no sin.” (Ibn Majah) And in one of the Aphorisms (al-Hikam) of Ibn ‘Ata Illah al-Sakandari (may Allah sanctify his secret), he says, “There is no grave sin when you faced by His Eternal Grace.” But the basis is to be balanced, between fearing for the acceptance of one’s repentance and hopeful in the mercy of the Ever-Merciful.
(Nawawi, Riyad al-Salihin/Sharh Sahih Muslim; Birgivi, al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, with Nabulsi and Khadimi’s respective commentaries; Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid ‘ala Jawharat al-Tawhid)
Please also see: A Reader on Tawba (Repentance) and: Major vs Minor Sins, and Haram vs. Makruh Tahriman and: Prayer of Repentance: Salat al-Tawba
And Allah Most High knows best.
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan, and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based on his family.