People are coming in large numbers to watch, they’re congregating in lines after lines. Standing on both sides of the road, they are cheering for you, waving their hands and calling your name. Confetti is filling the air, flying all over the place and balloons are ready to rise high in the sky. You’re almost there, you’re out of breath, out of energy and almost loosing heart, perhaps this race has taking too long, you’re telling yourself. And now you can see it, you can see the banner, the banner of the finish line. Congratulations, Eid is almost there.
Ramadan is just like a marathon, a race where, at the start, thousands of people participate, some of whom are professional athletes, others are amateurs, some are coming for a good cause and some others are participating just for the heck of it. In Ramadan, there are the professional worshipers, the masjid goers, there is the on and off crowd, the new comers and those who fast “just because”.
At the beginning of the marathon people are so excited, they run happily and they run full force, or maybe those who are not so experienced do that, but then as the race progresses, the crowd starts to space out and one group after the other starts trickling out of the race. The group that stays the course and continues until the end will cross the finish line and win the prize.
Even though winning a medal is enjoyable and something to look up to in a race, there is nothing like winning the prize of satisfaction for making it to the end. Those athletes are the great sportsmen and women, the grand achievers.
In the first few days of Ramadan, the masajid are full with every Ahmad, Arshad and Abdullah, and don’t forget Aisha, Fatima and Sumayyah. They are very excited for the new experience and ready to go. Soon after the launch of the race, they start falling behind and then leaving the race. At the end of the month, only the most dedicated stay the course and cross the finish line, the rest will be just spectators and wish they have been there with them at this glorious moment of victory.
The end of the month of Ramadan is like the Day of Judgment, everybody will be remorseful. The wrongdoer for not doing good and the good doer for not doing good enough. In a regular race, those who cross the finish line are supposed to be winners, but the truth is that they will still be remorseful. Those who come late will wish if they have come earlier, those who were not among the front runners would wish they had been so and those who ended front runners would wish they had come first place. And even the one who comes in first place will wish he did better in order to be able to break the record, and the one who just broke the record will wish he had done much more to secure his record for the future. See what I mean?Everybody, at the end of Ramadan, will be remorseful. Although they will be enjoying a degree of happiness, hidden underneath is the subtle feeling of grief, sorrow and regret.
So what is the solution then? What can I do to rectify my situation? For sure I cannot reverse the time and there isn’t much left to do anyways. Well, yes there is. Not much work, but still the most essential, al-Istighfaar, seeking Allah’s forgiveness.
Istighfaar استغفار means to solicit or seek forgiveness. Just like in any other Arabic word that begins with alif, seen and taa‘ استـ this very simple prefix means the solicitation of something which is understood from the word annexed to the prefix. In our case its gha, fa and ra غفر which literally means to cover and conceal. So saying Istighfaar or seeking forgiveness means the solicitation of concealment and covering. But the question here is, concealing and covering what? Didn’t we just finish a marathon of good deeds? In one month, perhaps you have done variety of good deeds, such as reading the Qur’an, fasting, salat and giving to charity more than what you would do in one year if not even more. So what are we asking forgiveness for then?
You see, the perception in the minds of so many people is that you only ask to be pardoned or forgiven when you make a mistake or when you fall into the sin. But thats not what Allah asks of his servants. In the Qur’an Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands us to seek forgiveness after many righteous achievements. Take Hajj for an example.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says:
ثُمَّ أَفِيضُوا مِنْ حَيْثُ أَفَاضَ النَّاسُ وَاسْتَغْفِرُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
“Then depart from the place from where [all] the people depart and ask forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful..” Al-Baqara 2:199
Now this place the ayah speaks about is Arafa, and the most important part of Hajj is to witness the day of Arafa. For those who attended Hajj they will understand the concept. Its a whole day of sole and solo worship. You spend your time, every hour and every minute, if possible, in Ibadah until you drop, and at the end you are still required to seek forgiveness?!
In Qiyamul layl, the night prayer, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said:
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ تَقُومُ أَدْنَىٰ مِنْ ثُلُثَيِ اللَّيْلِ وَنِصْفَهُ وَثُلُثَهُ وَطَائِفَةٌ مِنَ الَّذِينَ مَعَكَ وَاللَّهُ يُقَدِّرُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ عَلِمَ أَنْ لَنْ تُحْصُوهُ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ عَلِمَ أَنْ سَيَكُونُ مِنْكُمْ مَرْضَىٰ وَآخَرُونَ يَضْرِبُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَبْتَغُونَ مِنْ فَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَآخَرُونَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَاقْرَءُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَقْرِضُوا اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا وَمَا تُقَدِّمُوا لِأَنْفُسِكُمْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ تَجِدُوهُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ هُوَ خَيْرًا وَأَعْظَمَ أَجْرًا وَاسْتَغْفِرُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
“Indeed, your Lord knows, [O Muhammad], that you stand [in prayer] almost two thirds of the night or half of it or a third of it, and [so do] a group of those with you. And Allah determines [the extent of] the night and the day. He has known that you [Muslims] will not be able to do it and has turned to you in forgiveness, so recite what is easy [for you] of the Qur’an. He has known that there will be among you those who are ill and others traveling throughout the land seeking [something] of the bounty of Allah and others fighting for the cause of Allah.
So recite what is easy from it and establish prayer and give zakah and loan Allah a goodly loan. And whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. It is better and greater in reward. And seek forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful..” Al-Muz’zammil 73:20
Just right before the revelation of this ayah, the companions of the Messenger of Allah, who were only handful back then, were ordered to pray Qiyam – the night prayer – for a whole year and then this ayah came down to relieve them of this duty. Still, after spending an entire year in worshiping throughout most of the night, they were commanded to seek Allah’s forgiveness.
And after performing the Fard, the obligatory salat, we start our post-salah dhikr by saying istighfaar… that’s right after finishing your obligatory devotional offerings. What do you seek istighfaar for if you have just finished an act of devotion?!
In Sahih Muslim, Thouban, the servant of the Messenger of Allah salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said: “When the Messenger of Allah used to finish his Salat, he would seek Allah’s forgiveness three times.” Imam al-Awzaa’ee rahimahullah, a sub narrator explained the way one seeks forgiveness by saying أستغفر الله astaghfirullah, (I seek Allah’s Forgiveness).
Even at the end of the great life of the Messenger of Allah salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, with all its glorious achievements, he was commanded to seek Allah’s forgiveness. A life full with an amazing devotion and dedication to Allah and to the service of His message had to end with a solicitation of forgiveness.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says:
إِذَا جَاءَ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ وَالْفَتْحُ
“When comes the Help of Allah, and Victory,
وَرَأَيْتَ النَّاسَ يَدْخُلُونَ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ أَفْوَاجًا
And thou dost see the people enter Allah’s Religion in crowds,
فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَاسْتَغْفِرْهُ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ تَوَّابًا
Celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: For He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy).” An-Nasr 110:1-3
Why do we ask to be pardoned at the end of our offerings and at the end of our good deeds? Why do we seek forgiveness after we are done from doing what is supposed to be an act of righteousness? That is because, regardless how much we do and how much we offer we will always fall short fulfilling Allah’s rights upon us, therefore we seek his forgiveness. This way we ask Allah to conceal our shortcomings in that Ibaadah and cover our mistakes therein. Thats what istighfaar is all about.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said:
وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ
“And He giveth you of all that ye ask for. But if ye count the favours of Allah, never will ye be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude.” Ibrahim 14:34
Even though we are mostly ungrateful to Allah, He is still the Most Merciful and Oft-Forgiving for our short comings and our insufficient show of gratitude. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said:
وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
“If ye would count up the favours of Allah, never would ye be able to number them: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” An-Nahl 16:18
It is for this reason we are asking Allah to forgive us at the end of this marathon of good deeds. We ask Allah to forgive us for not doing enough when we could do more, to forgive us for not doing it as great as it should be and to forgive us for not doing at all what we were supposed to do during this blessed month of Ramadan.
Moreover, seeking forgiveness is an act of worship that follows immediately another act of worship. And following an act of worship with another is a sign of Tawfeeq, Divine guidance, that Allah wills good for the worshiper. Just as bad it is to follow a sin with a bad deed, it is a sign of goodness to be continuous in the state of worship to Allah Almighty.
In addition to that, seeking forgiveness is the attitude of the most righteous of all people, the anbiyaa’ and the messengers of Allah.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala narrates to us the statements of these great men in the Qur’an:
رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِمَنْ دَخَلَ بَيْتِيَ مُؤْمِنًا وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَلَا تَزِدِ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا تَبَارًا“O my Lord! Forgive me, my parents, all who enter my house in Faith, and (all) believing men and believing women: and to the wrong-doers grant Thou no increase but in perdition!” Nuh 71:28
رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ“O our Lord! cover (us) with Thy Forgiveness – me, my parents, and (all) Believers, on the Day that the Reckoning will be established!” Ibrahim 14:41
قَالَ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِأَخِي وَأَدْخِلْنَا فِي رَحْمَتِكَ وَأَنْتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ“Moses prayed: “O my Lord! forgive me and my brother! admit us to Thy mercy! for Thou art the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!” Al-Araaf 7:151
“I swear by Allah that I supplicate for Allah’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.” Al-Bukhari
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا عَسَىٰ رَبُّكُمْ أَنْ يُكَفِّرَ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيُدْخِلَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ يَوْمَ لَا يُخْزِي اللَّهُ النَّبِيَّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ نُورُهُمْ يَسْعَىٰ بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَبِأَيْمَانِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُورَنَا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ“O ye who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance: In the hope that your Lord will remove from you your ills and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow,- the Day that Allah will not permit to be humiliated the Prophet and those who believe with him. Their Light will run forward before them and by their right hands, while they say, “Our Lord! Perfect our Light for us, and grant us Forgiveness: for Thou hast power over all things.” At-Tahreem 66:8
وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ ابْنَيْ آدَمَ بِالْحَقِّ إِذْ قَرَّبَا قُرْبَانًا فَتُقُبِّلَ مِنْ أَحَدِهِمَا وَلَمْ يُتَقَبَّلْ مِنَ الْآخَرِ قَالَ لَأَقْتُلَنَّكَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللَّهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ“Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to Allah): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: “Be sure I will slay thee.” “Surely,” said the former, “Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.” Al-Maa’eda 5:27
How do we say the words of Istighfaar? Well, here are few phrases of Istighfaar:
- First Sayyidul Isitghfaar – the most superior way of asking for forgiveness from Allah:
اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِي لا إِلهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ ، خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ ، وَأَنَا عَلى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ ، أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِ مَا صَنَعْتُ ، أَبْوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ ، وَأَبُوءُ بَذَنْبِي ، فَاغْفِرْ لِي ، فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ
Allahumma anta rabbee la ilaha illa ant, khalaqtanee wa-ana abduk, wa-ana ala ahdika wa wa’dika mas-ta ta’t, aoodhu bika min sharri ma sanat, aboo-u laka bi ni’matika alay, wa-aboo-u bidhanbee, faghfir lee fa-innahu la yaghfirudh-dhunooba illa ant.
‘O Allaah, You are my Lord, none has the right to be worshipped except You, You created me and I am You servant and I abide to Your covenant and promise as best I can, I take refuge in You from the evil of which I committed. I acknowledge Your favour upon me and I acknowledge my sin, so forgive me, for verily none can forgive sin except You.’
- أستغفر الله
- I seek Allah’s forgiveness.
- سبحان الله وبحمده أستغفر الله وأتوب إليه
- SubhanaAllahi wa bihamdihi, astaghfirullaha wa atoobu ilayh
- “All praise and thanks is due to Allah, I seek His forgiveness and to Him I repent.”
- رب اغفر لي
- Rabbee ighfir lee
- O My Lord (Master)! Forgive me
- اللهم إني ظلمت نفسي فاغفر لي، فإنه لا يغفر الذنوب إلا أنت
- Allahumma inni dhlamtu nafsee faghfir lee, fa innahu la yaghfiru-dh-dunooba illa aant
- O Allah! I have transgressed against my own soul, therefore forgive me, for none forgives the sins other than you.
- رب اغفر لي وتب علي إنك أنت التواب الغفور أو التواب الرحيم
- Rabbee ighfir lee wa toub alayya innaka anta-t-tawwabul ghafoor (ar-raheem)
- O Allah! Forgive me and accept my repentance for You are the One (and Only) who accepts the repentance and the Oft-Forgiving (or Most Merciful)
- اللهم إني ظلمت نفسي ظلما كثيرا ولا يغفر الذنوب إلى الله ، فاغفر لي مغفرة من عندك ، وارحمني إنك أنت الغفور الرحيم
- Allahumma inni dhalamtu nafsee dhulman katheeran wa la yaghfiru-dh-dhunooba illa Allah, faghfir lee maghfiratan min indik, war-hamnee innaka antal ghafoorur raheem
- O Allah! I have immensely wronged (transgressed) against my own soul, and none forgive the sins other than Allah, So forgive me out of your Grace, and have Mercy on me for you are indeed, the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful. (Sahih Muslim)
- أستغفر الله الذي لا إله إلا هو الحي القيوم وأتوب إليه
- Astaghfirullah-al ladhi laa ilaha illa howal hai-ul qayyoum wa atoobu ilayh
- I seek Allah’s forgiveness, the One whom there is no god but Him, the Living, the Self Subsisting, the Eternal, and I repent to Him
At the end, we have to admit that sometimes our istighfaar requires istighfaar in itself. That means even when we seek forgiveness we do not do it in a fashion that shows remorse or expresses regret. So make sure when you seek Allah’s forgiveness, to keep nothing on your mind except Him and Him alone. Do it regularly, day and night and let the istighfaar become a natural habit of yours.
Congratulations, now you can proceed to receive your valuable prize, you have just crossed the finish line. Eid Mubarak!