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Regret: the most important aspect of repentance

 

Praise
be to Allah

The conditions
of valid repentance are as follows:

1.    

Giving up the sin

2.    

Regretting what one has done in the past

3.    

Resolving not to go back to it.

If the sin
involved transgressing against people’s wealth, honour or lives, then there
is a fourth condition, which is seeking forgiveness from the person who was
wronged, or giving him his dues.

For more
information on repentance and its conditions, please see the answers to
questions no. 13990 and 182767.

Regret is a main
condition, or the greatest aspect, of repentance. Hence the Messenger
(blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Regret is repentance.”
Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Ibn Maajah.

One of the
scholars even said:

Regret is
sufficient to achieve repentance, for it implies giving up the sin and
resolving not to go back to it, which stem from regret and do not occur
independently of it

See: Fath
al-Baari
(13/471).

Al-Qaari (may
Allah have mercy on him) said:

“Regret is
repentance”: because this will lead to the other essential components of
repentance – namely giving up the sin and resolving not to go back to it,
and restoring people’s rights wherever possible.… What is meant is remorse
for having committed the sin because it is a sin, and for no other reason.

End quote from
Mirqaat al-Mafaateeh (4/1637).

What is meant by
regret (nadam) is sorrow, or deep sorrow, as is stated in Lisaan al-‘Arab
(1/79, 6/4386).

The author
explained regret as meaning sadness, then explained sadness as meaning
sorrow or extreme sorrow.

In the words of
al-Qaari quoted above, he explains regret as meaning remorse – that is,
sorrow – for having committed the sin because it is a sin, and for no other
reason.

What this means
is that everyone who feels sorrow for having committed a sin has attained
the regret that is referred to in the case of repentance. If this regret is
sincere, then the sinner will give up the sin and will resolve not to do it
again. Thus his repentance will be complete and will have met all the
necessary conditions.

Based on that,
everyone who gives up a sin because it is disobedience to Allah, may He be
exalted – in other words, out of fear of Allah and in obedience to Him – and
hates the fact that he fell into sin and disobeyed the Lord of the Worlds,
and wishes that he had obeyed Allah instead of disobeying Him, and resolves
not to do it again, has definitely attained regret, and regret is what made
him give up the sin.

Al-Ghazaali (may
Allah have mercy on him) said in Ihyaa’ ‘Uloom ad-Deen (4/4):

Repentance is
something that evolves from one stage to another in three stages: knowledge,
awareness and action. Knowledge is the first, awareness is the second and
action is the third.

The first leads
to the second, and the second leads to the third in an inevitable sequence
as ordained by Allah.

As for
knowledge, it means coming to know of the great harm that sins may cause and
the fact that sins form a barrier between a person and everything that he
loves and aspires for.

Once he becomes
certain of this knowledge at a level of certainty that overwhelms him, there
will result from this knowledge remorse and pain in the heart for missing
out on what he loves and aspires to, because when the heart realises what he
has missed out on of what he loves, there will be pain. If his missing out
on it was the result of some deed that he did, then he will feel sorrow for
doing the deed that caused him to miss out on that. This pain is called
regret.

Once this pain
becomes so intense that it overwhelms the heart, it will lead to another
emotion in the heart, which is called resolution and the will to do
something that is connected to the present, the past and the future.

With regard to
the present, he will resolve to give up this sin that he was committing.

With regard to
the future, he will resolve to refrain for the rest of his life from that
sin that caused him to miss out on what he loves and aspires to.

With regard to
the past, he will resolve to rectify the situation and make up for what he
missed out on, if it can be rectified.

… Knowledge,
regret and resolution have to do with keeping away from sin now and in the
future, and rectifying what happened in the past, and all of that together
is called repentance (tawbah).

The word
repentance is often used to refer to regret only, and awareness and
knowledge are regarded as precursors, whilst giving up the sin is regarded
as being the result and outcome. Based on that, we may understand what the
Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) meant when he said:
“Regret is repentance,” because regret cannot take place unless one attains
knowledge that leads to it, and it cannot but be followed by resolution, so
regret has a precursor and an outcome. End quote.

He also said
(3/144):

If fear results
from something that one did in the past, it will lead to regret, and regret
will lead to resolution. The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon
him) said: “Regret is repentance.” End quote.

Thus it becomes
clear that your giving up the sin and resolving not to go back to it are
indicative of the occurrence of regret in your heart. So you should ignore
these whispers of the Shaytaan by means of which he wants to make you think
that you have not repented yet, or that repentance is impossible, or that
you will never be able to repent, which will create despair and hopelessness
and make you think that the gate of repentance is closed to you.

We ask Allah,
may He be exalted, to protect us all from the accursed Shaytaan, and to
enable us to repent sincerely.

And Allah knows
best.