‘Tawba’ or repentance is a part of the all compassing mercies of the Most Merciful Lord. It is one of the avenues of His unbounded indulgence that He has kept always open for His slaves. Had it been closed, no one would have ever attained salvation, such is human inclination towards evil.
The Kind and Wise Lord therefore ordained Tawba (repentance) to be a cure for diseases of the soul and a means of purifying indecent deeds, whereby Tawba can wash away man’s sins so that he can obtain eternal salvation.
Indeed, fortunate is one who appreciates the value of this gate of Divine Mercy, benefits from it and becomes Allah (S.w.T.)’s most beloved slave, and is thankful to Allah (S.w.T.) for His limitless bounties; and highly unfortunate is the one who remains deprived of Divine Mercy even though the paths leading to it are open to him.
On the Day of Judgement (Qiyāma) man will find excuses and say: O My Lord! I was unaware and ignorant; was chained by passions and desires and hence could not remain steadfast in the face of satanic instigations. In reply to these excuses he will be told: Did We not keep the doors of Tawba (repentance) always open for you? Were you entrusted highly difficult tasks and ordered to perform a duty beyond your power? Were the conditions of Tawba beyond your ability?
The Holy Prophet (S) said,
“To be ashamed of one’s sins is Tawba.”
Imam Baqir (a.s.) says,
“Repenting on one’s deed is enough Tawba.”1
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) said,
“There is no man who Allah did not forgive who had felt ashamed of his misdeed. Whenever a man feels ashamed of his fault and then begs pardon of Allah He forgives all of his sins.”
Repenting over ones sins with heartfelt remorse is Tawba. Man should understand that Allah (S.w.T.) will be displeased with him if he commits a sin and he should not forget that his Lord is able to see whatever he does. It is like a man who, despite being warned by friends, invests all of his wealth in a bargain and consequently loses everything and becomes bankrupt and then repents. It is also like a sick person who eats something that a doctor had prohibited and, as a result becomes serious. He then gets nothing but disgrace.
The stronger a person’s faith in the Almighty, Qiyāma (Hereafter), Holy Prophets (a.s.) and the sayings of the Holy Imams (a.s.), the more acute will be his feelings of guilt and for the sins committed, he will bear this feeling of repentance continually in his heart.
Together with a feeling of shame and remorse, Tawba also includes a firm decision to give up sins forever because if a person does not have a strong will to refrain from sins it only indicates that he was not truly ashamed. Amir ul-Mu’minīn (a.s.) says,
It cannot so happen that a man has really felt ashamed and yet he did not give up sins.
When a man repents over his misdeeds it is necessary that he should make the utmost effort to keep himself away from sins. If the sin is about non-performance of duties like Salāt (daily prayers), Siyyam (Ramzan fasting), Zakat (poor tax) and Hajj pilgrimage, then, after expressing repentance he should perform Qaža (repeat to make good) of those duties. If the sin was regarding rights of people, like usurping someone’s property or money, then he should return it immediately to the owner, and if the owner is not alive then to his heirs.
If he does not know the heirs of the owner, then he should give away the dues in the path of Allah (S.w.T.) on behalf of the original owner. If he had shown disrespect to someone he should beg pardon of him and should try his best to please him. If the matter involves Diyat or Qasās (blood money or retaliation) he should hand over himself to the concerned person so that he may either take Qasās or blood money, or pardon him, if he so pleases. If the sin involves Hadd or punishment, like Qažaf (wrong allegation against anybody) then he must surrender himself to the authority so that he may be either punished or pardoned.
But if he is loaded with crimes for which Allah (S.w.T.) Himself has fixed punishments, like adultery, then it is not necessary for him to present himself to the Islamic court and to confess. In this case it is enough to merely repent over his sin and to make a firm decision to give up the sin forever and to pray for pardon. If the sins are Greater Sins for which punishment (hadd) is not fixed like listening to songs and music etc., then according to traditions a person should be sincerely repentant and beseech Allah (S.w.T.) to pardon and forgive him.
Once a man came to Amir ul-Mu’minīn (a.s.) and exclaimed loudly: “Astagfirullah”. The Hazrat said,
“May your mother mourn you! Do you understand what Istighfar is?”
For the word ‘Istighfar’ to be meaningful a person must first undergo a mental reformation. Which means that he is sorry and shameful about the earlier misdeeds, and has resolved to give up sin forever. He must pay the dues (rights) of others so that when he dies he meets his Lord Almighty without others’ having any claim on him. He must perform all the duties obligatory on him without fail. If his flesh and blood were made up of unlawful earning he should be fearful and worry about the punishments of Hell to such an extent that his body becomes extremely thin and lean and only thereafter it should be rebuilt on lawful food. He must worship Allah (S.w.T.) so much that his body experiences hardships and atones for the unlawful pleasure enjoyed by it.
When these conditions are fulfilled, then you should utter Astaghfirullah.
All religious scholars have agreed that Tawba is obligatory for all sins. Muhaqqiq Tusi (r.a.) writes in his Tajrīd al-Kalām and Allamah Hilli (a.r.) writes in its commentary that Tawba is the means of making up for spiritual losses suffered, and wisdom therefore dictates that Tawba is compulsory.
Allah Almighty says in Surah Nūr’s verse 31:
“And turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful.”
He also says in Surah Tahrīm (Ayat:8):
“O you who believe! Turn to Allah a (Tawba of Nasūh) sincere turning; maybe your Lord will remove from you your evil and cause you to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow.”
Allamah Majlisi, in Sharhe Kāfi, quotes the commentators about meaning of Tawbatan Nasūh:
1. To repent purely and piously in the presence of the Lord. Repentance should not merely be due to a desire of Paradise and fear of Hell, it should be due to a feeling of shame and remorse for not obeying Allah’s commands. Tusi (r.a.) writes in Tajrīd al-Kalam. “It is not Tawba to worry about sins for fear of Hell.”
2. The Tawba should be such that it may serve as a lesson even to others. A person should repent with such sincerity and such persistence that by observing his repentance other sinners may also be inclined towards Tawba. In this way he also becomes a means of guidance for others.
3. Nasīhat (admonition) or advice is like sewing. So the clothing of religion which was torn into pieces because of sins can be stitched by the threads of Tawba. Such repentant people are also called Awliyaullah (Friends of Allah).
4. He should give Nasīhat (admonition) to himself so thoroughly and honestly and perform such a Tawba that all soot of sins may vanish from the walls of his heart. His worship should be so intense that the radiance of Faith removes the darkness of sins totally. He must be so involved in performing good deeds that his bad deeds are fully compensated for.
A great religious scholar says: It is not enough to do Tawba, which would effect only a superficial cleansing of the soul. His worship to Allah (S.w.T.) should be to such an extent and his obedience to Allah (S.w.T.) is implicit, such that his sins are totally obliterated, and his heart and soul is purified with a thorough cleansing. The more his worship the purer will be his heart. A repentant must necessarily look at his past so that each and every sin can be repented for. For instance, if he had enjoyed nonsense songs and maddening music in a dance party he should now pay more and more attention to the recitation of Qur’an, Hadith, religious discourses, sermons etc.
He should regularly recite the holy Qur’an. It must be remembered that the letters (text) of the holy Qur’an must not be touched in a state of impurity. If he had entered a mosque in a state of impurity, he should now sit in Ihtikaf in the Masjid by way of compensation. If he had viewed prohibited scenes earlier now he must try his best to see more and more those things, the seeing of which draws Divine Reward like the text of the holy Qur’an, faces of one’s parents, company of good and pious people. Similarly he should look at the signs of God’s Might and draw wisdom from it. After doing Tawba he must give people their rights. He should spend the better portion of his wealth in the path of Allah (S.w.T.) on the poor and needy. If he has backbited a faithful he must compensate for it by praising his good points. In short, he must try and make up for his misdeeds in whatever manner possible and to whatever extent possible.
Allah (S.w.T.) says in Surah al-Baqarah, Verse 222:
Surely Allah loves those who turn much (to Him).
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said,
Allah becomes pleased with the Tawba of a Mu’min just as you are pleased on finding your lost thing.2
Tawba does not only removes the darkness of sins but it also replaces the darkness with light. The Almighty says,
“Except him who repents and believes and does a good deed; so these are they of whom Allah changes the evil deeds to good ones; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And whoever repents and does good, he surely turns to Allah a (goodly) turning.”
(Surah Furqān 25:70-71)
Allah Almighty says,
“Those (angels) who bear the (Arsh) power and those around celebrate the praise of their Lord and believe in Him and ask protection for those who believe: Our Lord! Thou embraces all things in mercy and knowledge, therefore grant protection to those who turn (to Thee) and follow Thy way, and save them from the punishment of the hell...” (Surah Ghāfir, 40:7)
Allah Almighty says,
“And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults – And Who forgives the faults but Allah, and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done. (as for) these – their reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and excellent is the reward of the labourers.” (Surah Āli- ‘Imran 3:135-136)
Almighty Allah has said,
And you that ask forgiveness of your Lord, then turn to Him; He will provide you with a goodly provision to an appointed term and bestow His Grace on everyone with Grace). (Surah Hūd 11:3)
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) says,
“The lifespan of some gets shortened because of their sins and some pass away at their appointed hour.”
Sins can shorten life span.
This will be discussed at length afterwards. It will be explained in detail how Tawba makes a supplication acceptable.
Allah Almighty says:
And He it is Who accepts repentance from His servants and pardons the evil deeds and He knows what you do. (Surah Ash-Shūrā 42:25)
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) says,
Allah told Dawūd (a.s.); O Dawūd (a.s.)! Give good tidings to the sinners and show a ray of hope to the pious people. He said: My Lord! How shall I give good tidings to the sinners and show hope to the pious? The Lord said: Give good tidings to the sinners that I will accept their repentance and give hope to the pious so that they may not become proud of their piety and may not become self-centred because there is no one who may not be destroyed if I insist on taking his account.
Allah Almighty says:
Say: O My servants! Who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. And return to your Lord time after time and submit to Him before there comes to you the punishment, then you shall not be helped. (Surah az-Zumar 39: 53-54)
This Ayat has put much emphasis on repentance.
It is the Ayat after which the Messenger of Allah (S) was satisfied regarding the sinners of his Ummah. The faithful should ponder upon the meaning and the commentary of the above verse.
Imam Riďa (a.s.) heard his companions say: May Allah curse those who fought against ‘Ali (a.s.). He said that they should add: Then he did not reform his soul by repentance.
Then he added,
The sin that someone did not help ‘Ali (a.s.) nor did he regret it is greater than the sin of one who fought with ‘Ali (a.s.) and felt ashamed and performed Tawba.
This hadith shows that Tawba can cause even the most serious sin to be pardoned.
If a repentant breaks his promise or resolution and goes against it, his earlier Tawba will not be nullified. So he should take this opportunity to repent for his later sin and try his utmost to suppress sin and refrain from it.
Muhammad bin Muslim relates from Imam Baqir (a.s.) that the Imam said,
O Muhammad bin Muslim! Every sin of a Mu’min for which he has repented is forgiven. For the future after repentance and forgiveness they must continue good deeds. By Allah no one has this merit except the faithful.
I inquired; what if someone does Tawba and Istighfar and then commits a sin and again repents? In response, the Imam said,
O Muhammad bin Muslim! You know very well that a Mu’min can honestly be ashamed for his deeds. Then if he repents, will Allah not accept his Tawba?
I asked what if he sins a number of times? He said,
Even then his Tawba will be accepted. Allah (S.w.T.) will pardon his sins because He is very kind. He will surely accept repentance and overlook our misdeeds. Beware! You may not make a Mu’min disheartened.
Abu Basīr says: I requested Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) to explain what was ‘Tawba Nasūh’ ordered by Allah? He said,
“A repentance after which he never commits that sin again.”
I said, “Master! Is there anybody among us who would not sin ever again? The Imam replied,
“O Abu Basīr! Verily God loves His slave who gets deceived more and then repents over it.”
Another Hadith says that begging pardon after an error is the best course.
Imam Baqir (a.s.) said,
Adam (a.s.) requested God Almighty: My Lord! You have imposed Satan on me. So grant something to me also. Allah Almighty replied: O Adam! Yes, I have appointed something for you also. It is that if anyone from your progeny intends to sin, his sin will not be recorded. If he has sinned actually that sin (one only) will be noted. But when he will intend to do a good deed a good will instantly be noted in his account. Then if he will actually do that good deed, ten rewards will be credited to his account. Adam (a.s.) said: My Lord! Grant me something more. Allah responded: another bounty for you is that if, after committing a sin, they will seek pardon from Me, I will forgive them. Adam (a.s.) requested: My Lord! Add something more. Allah said: I have provided Tawba for your progeny and it is so vast that even if they beg My pardon at the last moment of their life, I will forgive them. He said: My Lord! This is enough.
The Holy Prophet (S) said,
“Anyone who does Tawba a year before his death, it will be accepted by God.”
Then he (S) repeated,
“A year is a long time. If he begs pardon only a month before his end he will be forgiven.”
Then he said,
“A month is also too much. Even if he begs pardon only a week before his departure it will be accepted.”
Then he said,
“A week is also much more. If the sinner prays for pardon only a day before his death, his repentance will be accepted.”
Then he said,
“A day is also a long time. Even if a man repents just before the arrival of the angel of death, his Tawba will be accepted.”3
Regarding this hadith, Allamah Majlisi (a.r) comments: The stages of Tawba will depend on perfection and acceptance because a perfect repentance will wash out all the dirt from the mirror of the soul. Therefore, make the mirror of your heart shining with weeping before Allah, with good deeds and with humility. If one is unable to repent in the last year of his life he can do so in the last month. If not in the last month then in the last week. If not even in the last week prior to death then just one day before the final departure. If he cannot repent even a day before death then he may do so only an hour before his demise. The Most Merciful Allah will forgive him. But traditions have pointed out even the particular moment at which it will be of no use.
Shaykh Bahai writes in his book Arbaīn that the particular moment is the time of seeing the angel of death. It maybe the time when one becomes sure of his death or he may feel that all bonds with life are breaking off. There is general agreement among religious scholars that Tawba of the last moment of death will be of no avail.
Verse 17-18 of Surah an-Nisā’ state:
Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn (to Allah) soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully), and Allah is ever Knowing, Wise. And repentance is not for those who go on doing evil deeds, until when death comes to one of them. He says: Surely now I repent; nor (for) those who die while they are unbelievers. These are they for whom We have prepared a painful chastisement.
Shaykh Bahai writes in Arbaīn: There is no doubt about Tawba being compulsory because, just as poison destroys man’s body so do sins (destroy his soul). After consuming poison it becomes essential for one to go immediately for treatment to save ones life. Likewise it is compulsory for a sinner to resort to Tawba immediately after sinning so that his Dīn (religion) may not be destroyed. The sinner who delays repentance takes a very big risk. The first risk is that if he continues to remain alive he may indulge in another sin (because a sincere Tawba implies that he has made a firm resolution not to commit that sin again). The second danger is that if death takes him suddenly he will die unrepentant. Allah (S.w.T.) says:
What! do the people of the towns then feel secure from Our punishment coming to them by night while they sleep? What! do the people of the towns feel secure from Our punishment coming to them in the morning while they play? What! do they then feel secure from Allah's plan? But none feels secure from Allah's plan except the people who shall perish. (Surah Al-A’raaf 7:97-99)
Elsewehere He says:
And spend out of what We have given you before death comes to one of you, so that he should say: My Lord! Why didst Thy not respite me to a near term, so that I should have given alms and been of the doors of good deeds. And Allah does not respite a soul when its appointed term has come, and Allah is Aware of what you do. (Surah Munāfiqun 63:10-11)
In the explanation of this verse it is said that a man, at the time of his death, tells the angel of death: Please give me just one day’s respite so that I may repent for my sins and be prepared for the journey to the Hereafter. Izrāīl says: The days of your life are now over. The person says: Just give me only an hour’s respite. Comes the reply: Even the moments of your life are over. The door of Tawba is now closed for you.
When a person sins and does not do Tawba, his heart darkens (polluted) as he commits more and more sins the dirt accumulates on his heart. It then becomes a vicious circle, the darkening of the heart leads to further sins, and the sins lead to further darkening of the heart. A stage is finally reached when his heart is irreversibly polluted and cannot be cleansed. Such a heart is referred to in narrations as a black heart.
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) says,
For human hearts nothing is more harmful than a sin. When the mirror of heart becomes black because of sins the blackness covers the entire soul. Then man tumbles down from his original position and gets separated from truth.
According to another tradition he also said,
“Such a sinner will not be able to do any good.”
Such a man will not give up sins and hence the wisdom of doing good will be snatched away from him and he will not be able to perform Tawba till his last moment. If he will utter Tawba from his mouth it will remain limited to his lips. His heart will not support his tongue. As it is not a true Tawba it will not prove effective.
Tawba means returning toward God. Repentance can be:
1. Turning from Kufr (unbelief) to Imān (Faith), to come out of a state of doubt into a state of trust and certainty. Similarly to give up Batil (untrue or false) belief and to accept the doctrine of Haqq (Truth).
2. To leave sinfulness and disobedience and to turn towards obedience. To give up opposition and accept obedience.
3. To come out of the uncomfortable atmosphere of sins, erring and to enter the shade of knowing the Lord and then to fulfill the duties of slavery. To give up carelessness and to remember Allah (S.w.T.) more and more. To hate injustice and oppression and to love faithfulness.
Tawba is a must for all. Tawba enhances the stage of a person’s Marefat (recognition) which he can obtain by worship and thanksgiving. Full Marefat cannot be achieved by any amount of worship, thanksgiving etc. The holy Prophet (S) who is the highest of all creation, says,
“My Lord! I have not recognised You as is Your right to be recognised. I have not been able to worship You as was Your right to be worshipped.”
Thus even the Holy Prophet (S), despite his eminent position in virtue, the purity of his worship and the abundance of his thankfulness. The Holy Prophet (S) says,
“I recite Istighfar seventy times a day.”
The fires ignited by sins are fierce and there is no running away from them. A sinner should realize that disobedience to Allah (S.w.T.) is showing haughtiness to the Almighty, which brings down Allah (S.w.T.)’s wrath and punishment, and Allah (S.w.T.)’s wrath and punishment are too dreadful to bear, even the earth and sky cannot withstand them. Amir ul-Mu’minīn (a.s.) says,
“The calamities are so severe that they can destroy both the earth and the sky as the heat of this fire cannot be compared with the heat of the worldly fire.”
The Holy Prophet (S) said,
“If someone is extracted from the fire of Hell and thrown into a burning oven of this world (this life before death) he will be able to sleep with ease in it. It is not difficult to burn in an oven of this world but the fire of Hell is absolutely intolerable.”
Surely the Might of Your Lord is Great. (Surah Al-Burūj 85:12)
And in Surah Muzzammil, the Lord says,
Surely with Us are heavy fetters and a flaming fire and food that chokes and a painful punishment. (Surah Muzzammil 73:12-13)
These Ayats describe the intensity of our Lord’s anger and the harshness of His punishment.
As we have mentioned, Tawba is a sincere feeling of shame and remorse experienced by the heart. The more the grief and sorrow in the heart the nearer the repentant will be to Divine acceptance of Tawba. The greater the sin, the deeper should be the sorrow. A man who has sinned is like a man whose lifetime earnings are burnt away. This realization will create intense grief and restlessness which will enhance the effectiveness of his Tawba. Tawba is therefore compulsory for a sinner if he wants to save himself from the horrible fate that awaits him. The loss will naturally create intense grief and restlessness. He should weep so much, remembering his sins, and he should continue to beg pardon of Allah (S.w.T.) restlessly so that when his end comes, the angel of death give him good tiding. His tears and entreaties put off the fire of hell.
His crying removes the darkness of his heart.
The Holy Prophet of Allah says,
“A repentant becomes like the one who had never sinned; rather, better than him.”
The Almighty Allah says,
Surely Allah loves those who turn much (to Him)…
This means that by weeping in fear of Allah (S.w.T.)’s chastisement and by reforming one’s character through good deeds, man can achieve nearness to Allah (S.w.T.). Allah (S.w.T.) is pleased with such an attitude.
Imam Sajjad (a.s.) prays to Almighty Allah,
“My Lord! Grant me the Tawfīq of such a repentance which takes me to the point of Your love.”4
“My Lord! Make me reach You through Tawba.”5
Tawba is remorse of the heart. The more the remorse, the more easily sins are pardoned. Therefore, beg more and more pardon. The best course is to ponder over the verses of the Holy Qur’an. Especially read the events of the past prophets like Nuh, Dawūd, Yūnus, Yahya, Ayyub (a.s.). How much they wept while they were not even sinners like us. They wept to attain Allah (S.w.T.)’s nearness and to increase their status. As we have indicated earlier, study the stories of the repentant and obtain lessons therefrom. We shall narrate some such stories at the end of this book.
Before doing Tawba the following should be done:
1. Fasting three days: Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) says,
“The one who wants to do Tawbatan-Nasūh should fast on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”6
2. Ghusl al-Tawba: A man used to enjoy music, songs and dance parties. He was badly accustomed to this evil. One day he approached Imam Riďa (a.) and said: I was madly addicted to song and music. Now I want to repent. Kindly tell me what I should do? The Imam said,
“Get up! Take a bath. The holy Prophet (S) has said: There is no one whom Allah did not forgive if that man had made a repentance corresponding to his sins.”
Then he said,
“Get up, take a bath and make a as-Sajda (prostration) for Allah.”7
3. To recite two or four rakat Salāt: Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) says,
“A man who wants to repent should first perform Wuzu (ablution), then perform two rakats (units) of prayer and then seek pardon from Allah. God forgives him because He has said in the Holy Qur’an thus:
“And whosoever does evil or acts unjustly to his soul, then asks forgiveness of Allah, he shall find Allah forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah an-Nisā'’ 4:110)
It is written in Kitab al-Iqbal, that the Holy Prophet (S) used to ask his companions on Sundays of Zilqad,
“O people! Who from you wants to do Tawba?”
The companions replied: O Messenger of Allah! All of us want to repent. Then he used to say,
First perform ablution and Ghusl (bath), then offer four rakats of prayer. In every rakat recite Surah Ikhlas thrice, and Muawwazatain (Surah Falaq and Surah Nās) once after Surah Fatiha. Then recite Istighfar seventy times. Finally recite Lā Hawla wa lā Quwwata illa billāhil a’liyyil A’zīm. Then recite a brief Du’a, preferably this:
ياعزيز ياغفار اغفرلي ذنوبي وذنوب جميع المؤمنين والمؤمنات فانه لا يغفر الذنوب الا انت
‘Yā A’zīzo, Yā Ghaffāro, Ighfirlī žunūbi Wa žunūbi Jamī’il Mo-minīna wal Mo-mināt. Innahu lā yaghfiruz žunūb illa ant.’
Then he said,
“Anyone from my Ummah (community) who does this will hear a voice from the sky that his repentance (Tawba) has been accepted and his/her sins pardoned. An angel in the Arsh (Throne) will say: “Those who were displeased with you (in the worldly life) will be pleased with you on the day of Qiyāma”. Another angel will announce: “O Believing Slave! Your grave will become wide and bright. Another angel will say: Your parents are pleased with you and, due to your performance, they too have entered the Mercy of Allah. Your provision in both this world and the Hereafter will be abundant. Hazrat Jibrīl (a.s.) says: At the moment of your death I will come to you along with Izrāel (the angel of death) and recommend to him to retrieve your soul with ease.”
The companions submitted: O Messenger of Allah! What if somebody performs this deed in any other month? The Holy Prophet (S) said,
“Yes, he too will get the reward mentioned by me. These are the words taught to me by Jibrīl during the night of Miraj (ascension).”
Recitation of Istighfar: and one should recite the supplications taught by the Holy Imams for Tawba, especially the Sahīfa al-Kamilah, particularly its supplication No. 31 that is related to repentance. Similarly its 15th Munajat (prayer) is also regarding Tawba. One must ponder over its meaning and implication and should obtain lessons therefrom, thereby trying to bring conformity between one’s word and deed.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) said,
“The Holy Prophet (S) was reciting Istighfar hundred times a day and was praying for his Maghfirat (salvation) though he had not committed a single sin.”8
It is also mentioned by him,
“The more one prays for pardoning of his sins the more good deeds will be credited to his account and on the Day of Judgement his deeds will appear shining.”9
Imam Riďa (a.s.) says,
“The example of Istighfar is like that of a leaf trembling and making noise in the air. The one who recites Istighfar but does not stop sinning makes a mockery of God.”10
Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) says,
The Holy Prophet (S) never got up even from the smallest meeting without reciting Istighfar 25 times.11
Another Hadith mentions,
“The Holy Prophet (S) recited ‘Astahghfirullah Wā tūbo ilaih’ seventy times everyday.”
Saiyyid bin Tawūs, in his book Nahj ud-Dāwāt writes that the Holy Prophet (S) has said that a man who is inflicted by poverty and hardship should recite ‘Astahghfirullah Wā tūbo ilaih’ thirty thousand times. The Lord Almighty will surely end his troubles. The narrator says this has been proved true by experience.
It is highly beneficial if man repents over his past misdeeds at any time or any place. But if he does so waking up in the last part of the night before daybreak, the effect is miraculous. All sins of the reciter will be pardoned, Insha’Allah.
The Holy Qur’an has ordered at several places for such prayers. Allah (S.w.T.) considers such worshippers as His hallowers and worthy of Paradise. It is mentioned in verse 17-18 of Surah Zariyat,
“They used to sleep but little in the night. And in the morning they asked forgiveness.”
The 17th Ayat of Surah Āli- ‘Imran says,
“And those who ask forgiveness in the morning times.”
Amir ul-Mu’minīn (a.s.) said that Allah (S.w.T.) says,
“Had there not been those who loved My Might and who filled My Mosques and those who worshipped Me for forgiveness in the early hours of the dawn, I would certainly have chastised them.”12
Hazrat Luqmān tells his son, “My dear son! Is not the cock wiser than you? It wakes up before dawn and asks forgiveness but you remain asleep!”13
There are many traditions regarding the merits of waking up in the early hours of the morning.
It is preferable (Mustahab) to recite ‘Astahghfirullah’ 70 times and Al A’fwa 300 times in the Qunut of Vatr prayer. Allah Almighty has granted a Praised Position (Maqame Mahmūd) to His dear Prophet and He fulfils every aspiration of a believer through this early awakening. It is said that those who reach a high position reach it only through such early awakening.