The Conditions Of Repentance

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.

How Do You Know If Your Repentance is Sincere?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

How do you know if you are truly repentant?  I always feel bad for my sins & ask forgiveness – (all past sins) but then I think “Am I only saying I’m sorry so I don’t go to hell or because I’m really sorry for it?”

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

Allah Most High says, “Turn towards Allah, O believers, every one of you, so that you may be successful.” (24:31)

And He says, “Ask your Lord for forgiveness and then turn in repentance to Him,” (11:3) and He says, “O you who believe! Turn in sincere repentance to Allah.” (66:8)

The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “The one who repents from sin is like the one who never sinned.” [Ibn Maja (3240)] He also said, “Remorse is repentance.” [Ibn Maja (4242) and Ahmad (3387)]

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Allah will turn towards anyone who turns in repentance before the sun rises from the place it set.” [Muslim]

Imam Barkawi, the great Ottoman Hanafi faqih, grammarian, and sufi, defined repentance (tawba) in his Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya as,

“Going back from desire to sin, with the determination of not returning to it, in exaltation of Allah and out of fear of His punishment.” [al-Bariqa fi Sharh al-Tariqa, 3.139]

The Conditions for Repentance

The conditions for repentance are well known:

1. Leaving the sin;
2. Remorse over having committed the sin;
3. Resolve never to return to the sin;
4. (If it relates to the rights of another person, then to) Return the rights or property one wrongly took. [al-Bariqa fi Sharh al-Tariqa; Riyad al-Salihin]

If these conditions are truly met, then one can expect one’s sins to be forgiven. However, one has to be very careful about how sincere one is in fulfilling one’s conditions. It is recommended to seek forgiveness a lot, and to repent every time the sin comes to one’s mind.

If one keeps repeating the sin, then one should find the root cause(s) of the sin and eliminate them. For example, if one falls into a certain sin because of the company one keeps, then it would be necessary to either stop keeping their company, or to change the nature of one’s relationship with them.

Prayer of Repentance (Salat al-Tawba)

It is recommended to perform ablution (wudu), and pray two rakats of the repentance prayer . It is recommended to repent and seek forgiveness while prostrating during the prayer, in the final sitting after the tashahhud & blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), and also after the prayer . It is best to make supplication with the Prophetic invocations, if one knows them, or with that which comes from your heart otherwise .
Tears are a good sign of the second condition (remorse), but not in themselves necessary.

What is true repentance?

Ibn Hajar mentioned that Qurtubi quoted 23 different definitions of true repentance (al-tawba al-nasuh) in his tafsir. Ibn Hajar mentioned the most important of these:

1. Umar’s words (Allah be pleased with him) that it is, “To sin and then never to return to it.”

2. To hate the sin, and the seek forgiveness for it every time it occurs to one, as Hasan al-Basri (Allah have mercy on him) said.

3. Qatada’s words (Allah have mercy on him), “To be genuine and truthful in one’s repentance,” which is what Imam Bukhari chose as the definition of true repentance in his chapter heading.

4. To have sincerity in one’s repentance.

5. To be concerned about one’s repentance not being accepted.

6. To be such that it does not need another repentance after it.

7. To be made out of fear and hope, and be accompanied by consistency in worship.

8. Like the seventh, but with the added condition that one desert those who assisted one in sin.

9. That one’s sin be between one’s eyes. [f: That is, one does not forget it.] [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

Prayer of Repentance: Salat al-Tawba

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: A dear brother of mine is due to get married in December, unfortunately he went to a prostitute and committed illegal sexual acts. He regrets it very much, even while he was there he wanted to leave, please if you could give some prayer for repentance also if you could give some prayer to protect him and us all from our desires and shaitan.

Answer: Allah Most High says,

“Turn towards Allah, O believers, every one of you, so that you may be successful.” (24:31)

Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

1. The best repentance is to resolve not to return to such matters, and to turn to Allah, expressing one’s remorse with one’s own heart-felt words. See attached answer(s).

It is good to make the prayer of repentance:

Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) related from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said, “There is no one who commits a sin, goes and performs ritual ablutions, and then prays two rakats after which they seek Allah’s forgiveness except that He forgives them.” After this, he (peace and blessings be upon him) recited Allah Most High’s words,

“And those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins – Who forgives sins save Allah only? – and will not knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did.” [Qur’an, 3.135]

This has been related by Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi in their respective Sunan, and the scholars declared it to be a recommended prayer. [Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni 1.348, Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar 2.28, quoting Sharh Shir`at al-Islam via Shaykh Isma`il al-Nabulsi]

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani