Repentance in the Quran

Repentance in the Quran

Repentance in the Quran is a recurring topic. In many verses of the Quran, the issue of repentance is raised. God describes Himself as being merciful and forgiving. However, repentance has certain criteria for it to be accepted. There is a chapter in the Quran that is called “Repentance” (التَوبَة) or surah Tawbah. In this article, we will take a look at:

Verses of Repentance in the Quran

There are many verses in the Quran that speak about the issue of repentance. They highlight God’s clemency and mercifulness and how God does not despair and disappoint the repenters. For example, verse 53 and 54 of surah Zumar (سورَةُ الزُّمَر) state:

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿53﴾

Say [that Allah declares,] ‘O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed Allah will forgive all sins. Indeed, He is the All-forgiving, the All-merciful.

وَأَنِيبُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَسْلِمُوا لَهُ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنصَرُونَ ﴿54﴾

Turn penitently to Him and submit to Him before the punishment overtakes you, whereupon you will not be helped.

The greatest sin is losing hope in God’s mercy. In another verse, God states that He will turn the sins of those who repent into good deeds:

إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يُبَدِّلُ اللَّـهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ حَسَنَاتٍ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا ﴿70﴾

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Except those who repent, attain faith, and act righteously. For such, Allah will replace their misdeeds with good deeds, and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful.

وَمَن تَابَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَإِنَّهُ يَتُوبُ إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَتَابًا ﴿71﴾

And whoever repents and acts righteously indeed turns to Allah with due penitence).

God states in verse 31 of surah Nūr:

وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّـهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ﴿31﴾

Rally to Allah in repentance, O faithful, so that you may be felicitous.

Repentance is not something that only sinners should do. Every believing man and woman must repent to God on a daily basis. That is because we might be committing sins that we are not aware of. As a matter of fact, thinking that you are good and not needing to repent is a sin of itself. Therefore, we must all repent to God.

Sincere Repentance in the Quran

God says in surah Taḥrīm verse eight:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّـهِ تَوْبَةً نَّصُوحًا عَسَىٰ رَبُّكُمْ أَن يُكَفِّرَ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيُدْخِلَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ يَوْمَ لَا يُخْزِي اللَّـهُ النَّبِيَّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ ۖ نُورُهُمْ يَسْعَىٰ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَبِأَيْمَانِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُورَنَا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿8﴾

O you who have faith! Repent to Allah with sincere repentance! Maybe your Lord will absolve you of your misdeeds and admit you into gardens with streams running in them, on the day when Allah will not let down the Prophet and the faithful who are with him. Their light will move swiftly before them and on their right. They will say, ‘Our Lord! Perfect our light for us, and forgive us! Indeed You have power over all things.’

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A true and sincere repentance (توبَةً نَّصوحا) is one where the individual is totally regretful of his sins and decides not to commit them again. If a person repents of a sin and then commits the same sin after a while, his repentance is not acceptable. In another verse, Allah explains how repentance at the final moments of one’s life is unacceptable too:

وَلَيْسَتِ التَّوْبَةُ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ إِنِّي تُبْتُ الْآنَ وَلَا الَّذِينَ يَمُوتُونَ وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ أَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا ﴿18﴾

But [acceptance of] repentance is not for those who go on committing misdeeds: when death approaches any of them, he says, ‘I repent now.’ Nor is it for those who die while they are faithless. For such We have prepared a painful punishment.

However, the repentance of a sinning individual is accepted if he repents of his sins and mends his ways:

إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللَّـهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّـهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا ﴿17﴾

[Acceptance of] repentance by Allah is only for those who commit evil out of ignorance and then repent promptly. It is such whose repentance Allah will accept, and Allah is all-knowing, all-wise.

Moreover, God has said:

وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَقْبَلُ التَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَعْفُو عَنِ السَّيِّئَاتِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ ﴿25﴾

It is He who accepts the repentance of His servants, and excuses their misdeeds and knows what you do.

Therefore, we must be thankful of having such a forgiving and merciful God who forgives the sins of His servants when they repent to Him.

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Abu Mahdi
Abu Mahdi
I'm Abu Mahdi, one of the writers of this blog. I have a BA in English literature and an MA in English language teaching. I am also a teacher and reciter of the Quran in the field of reading the Quran, tajweed, and maqamat. Currently, we are working on a course for learning tajweed of the Quran here on Islam4u.

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