Seeking forgiveness from God and other people

blog quran & spirituality May 10, 2017

The night of 15th Shabaan holds the promise of clearing our past. It holds the potential for starting afresh and leaving the burdens of the soul behind.
This does take a little bit of effort though!!
Let us start with the easier one first
Seeking forgiveness from God
ุฃูŽููŽู„ุงูŽ ูŠูŽุชููˆุจููˆู†ูŽ ุฅูู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‘ู‡ู ูˆูŽูŠูŽุณู’ุชูŽุบู’ููุฑููˆู†ูŽู‡ู ูˆูŽุงู„ู„ู‘ู‡ู ุบูŽูููˆุฑูŒ ุฑูŽู‘ุญููŠู…ูŒ
[5:74] Will they not then turn to Allah and ask His forgiveness? And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
Allah is continually inviting us to reconnect with Him when we turn away from Him. Our souls are not in peace until we are reconnected but several things stop us:
Barriers to forgiveness;
- overwhelm – we don’t know where to start
- laziness – it seems too hard
- procrastination – we think we have time!
- Shaitaan tells us to despair (most dangerous psychological state is that of hopelessness) whereas before we sinned it, he encouraged us - understand hope and fear. Shaytaan invites us to hope before we sin and enables us to take His mercy for granted. Once we stray, he invites us to hopelessness and despair. The emotional condition of believers needs to be opposite of this: we need to have fear and awe BEFORE we stray for this stops us. Once we have strayed, we need to remind ourselves of His mercy and promise of forgiveness for this is what gives us hope and allows us to take action.

The first step
- Awareness of sin and acknowledgment of sin
- Remorse at what we have done
- Knowledge that it is possible
- Humility before Him.
Imam Ali (as) has shared the steps and stages of forgiveness:
Tawbah is not accepted from one who merely declares, “I repent.” There are a number of conditions that must be fulfilled before the acceptance of Tawbah. These are mentioned below in the following hadith:

๏ฑ    It is narrated that someone said: Astaghfirullah (I seek God's forgiveness) before Imam ‘Ali (a). He said to him. "May your mother mourn for you! Do you know whatistighfar is? Verily istighfar is a degree of the 'illiyyun(people of high station) and it is a word that means six things. 

First is remorse over the past.
Second, the resolution not to return to it ever.
Third, to return to creatures their (formerly usurped) rights so that you meet God Almighty in a state of purity in which no one has any claim against you. (This means we have to be forgiven from those that we have hurt)
Fourth, that you fulfil every duty that you neglected in order to satisfy your obligation in respect to it. (True remorse entails doing what needs to be done in order to regain your status)
Fifth, that you attend to the flesh of your body that has grown on unlawful nourishment so that it melts away as a result of grief and mourning and your skin adheres to your bones, after which new flesh grows in its place.
Sixth, that you make your body taste the pain of obedience in the same way as it earlier tasted the pleasure of sins.
When you have done these things then say Astaghfirullah!
[Nahj alโ€‘Balagha, saying # 417]

4 Signs of Repentance
From HP(saw) hadith
- 1. Sincerity
- 2. Shuns falsehood
- 3. Firmly attached to truth
- 4. Eager to do good
Effect of Tawbatun Nasuha
5th Imam: One who repents from sin is like the one who has not sinned.
Seeking forgiveness from people
This is often the hardest part of clearing up our past. It is easier to pray and repent to Him, who is Perfect, All Giving and does not answer back!
When we are dealing with human beings, there is so much emotional baggage involved and our mind keeps trying to justify what we did that caused harm. None of this is useful. Spiritual maturity involves apologizing and seeking forgiveness for your part regardless of the actions of others.
A meaningful apology
Sometimes when we apologize to someone, we are frustrated that they don’t get it. This is often because our intention and our attitude does not match our words. The person who is hurt becomes highly attuned to whether or not we are truly remorseful and willing to make right the wrong that we have caused.
There are many wrong ways to apologize – they include being general (I am sorry IF I hurt you), counterattacking (you also did such and such) and making excuses for what you have done (the use of the word “BUT” completely negates the apology.
It is easy to use any of these AND they do not work at arriving at the forgiveness that we seek from others.
So what makes a meaningful apology?
1. Remorse and regret.
This is a vital first step of an apology process.
In order to be truly remorseful, we do need to “get” how we have upset the other person. This requires empathy – feeling the pain of the other – which we are not able to do if we are focused on saving our ego from shame or hurt.
Without empathy and an understanding of the pain we have caused, our apology will sound empty and meaningless to the hurt person.
When we are truly sorry for the pain that we have caused, it shows in our non-verbals and our apology will wash over the other “like a healing balm”.
Taking responsibility requires that we have the courage to take ownership and accept our part in causing the hurt. It also means that we do not make excuses or use the behaviour of the other to justify our actions. This is not easy because we are so focused on self protection and not allowing ourselves to feel that we have caused.
Repair, Remedy and Restitution
An apology is meaningless unless we are willing to repair the situation and offer a remedy.
The most basic repair attempt is to promise to do your best not to cause hurt again.
Some situations are harder to repair than others. When there has been a deep breach of trust or loss of faith, it will require time and sustained effort to rebuild trust. The timetable of acceptance and healing belongs to the hurt person and when we are truly remorseful we need to acknowledge this and have the patience that the other requires.
If the behaviour involves long standing habits (physical abuse, substance abuse, infidelity, financial fraud are examples) the repair attempt needs to include a plan of action of behaviour change. It is unreasonable to expect the hurt person to wholeheartedly accept your vows of apology or change without a plan of how you plan to change and remain accountable.

Let us pray that we are able to use the blessings of this Blessed Night to achieve forgiveness from others and ultimately from the Most Forgiving.


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