Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
I was reading sayyid al-istighfar, and I got scared that I promised Allah to “try my best,” but sometimes I sin knowingly like watching a video or listening to music. I feel horrible for feeling this way about such an excellent dua! How can I keep such a promise of trying my best when sometimes I don’t? Should I pay an expiation penalty (kafara)? I am scared to recite this prayer now and feel horrible for feeling this way.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide our hearts, tongues, and deeds to that which perpetually pleases Him.
Sayyid al-istighfar is a beautiful supplication taught by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), and you should not stop reciting it. It is not the supplication that is making you feel bad, but rather the sins. The supplication facilitates reform from sin and is causing you to be more conscious of the sins you find yourself repeating. We pray that this will lead to stopping those sins for good. Amin.
For more information on this beautiful supplication, please consider taking the following free course by Seekers Guidance on Sayyid Al-Istighfar:
Allah says: “And those who, when they have committed indecent acts (fahisha) or wronged themselves with evil, they remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins; and none can forgive sins but Allah, and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know. For such, the reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing underneath (Paradise), wherein they shall abide forever. How excellent is this reward for the doers (who do righteous deeds according to Allah’s orders).” [Qur’an 3:135-136]
The words “and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done” mean: they repent from their sins and quickly turn to Allah, and do not persist in their sin, but give it up, and if they repeat the sin, repent to Him again. [Ibn Kathir]
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “A person committed a sin and said: ‘My Lord, I have sinned; forgive me.’ His Lord said: ‘Is My slave acknowledging that he has a Lord Who forgives sins and punishes for them? I have forgiven My slave.’ Then as much time passed as Allah willed, then he committed a sin and said, ‘My Lord, I have sinned; forgive me.’ His Lord said: ‘Is My slave acknowledging that he has a Lord Who forgives sins and punishes for them? I have forgiven My slave.’ Then as much time passed as Allah willed, then he committed a sin and said, ‘My Lord, I have sinned; forgive me.’ His Lord said: ‘Is My slave acknowledging that he has a Lord Who forgives sins and punishes for them? I have forgiven My slave,’ – three times…” [Agreed upon]
Imam Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) included this narration under the heading: “Acceptance of Repentance from Sins Even if the Sins and Repentance Happen Repeatedly.”
In his commentary, Imam Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “We have discussed this issue at the beginning of the Book of Repentance. These narrations indicate that even if the sins are repeated a hundred or a thousand times (or more), and he repents each time, his repentance will be accepted, and his sin will be erased. If he repents once from them all, his repentance will be valid. [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim]
An expiation is obligatory for someone who swears and breaks an oath (yamin). [Keller, ʿUmda Al-Salik]
Reading sayyid al-istighfar is not the same as formally taking an oath, even though it involves promising Allah to stop sinning.
An oath is a solemn statement to do or refrain from something, or that something is true, so if things turn out otherwise, the swearer must make an expiation (kafara).
An oath is only valid from a person (whether Muslim or non-Muslim) who:
(a) has reached puberty;
(b) is sane;
(c) makes the oath voluntarily;
(d) and intends an oath thereby.
Please refer to the following links for further relevant guidance on leaving sin:
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. He served as the resident Imam of Masjid al-Munowar in Retreat, Cape Town for several years.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.