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The Power of Repentance (Tawbah)

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04-February-2018

Repentance is the central component of spiritual growth in Islam. Without it there is no salvation.

Repentance is the central component of spiritual growth in Islam. Without it there is no salvation. 

By Asghar Rizvi

As Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli explains, the purpose of our lives is to be united with God (liqa Allah). This is the meaning of our lives. However, as humans, both fallible and infallible (I will expand on this point soon), repentance is the central way of finding true meaning in life.

We live in a fallen world. The meaning of dunya (this world) in Arabic literally means low. Arab lexicographers have traced one of its meanings back to a grape which one can never reach. As such, the world can be a place of broken hopes, wishes and souls. This brokenness keeps us separate from God and leads to a darkened ʿaql (spiritual intellect). Repentance transforms our ʿaql thus opening up the way again to reach union with God and make us complete and fixed again. How? Repentance makes us humble, cutting away at our false pride and selfishness. Where we once thought only of how good we were, humility allows us to think about God and others again instead of the illusion we have of ourselves.

So in your prayers, remember to repent to God. Tawbah or repentance will bring humility, and humility will bring the rahmah (unmerited grace) of Allah in your life and through His grace your heart will be purified, and therein find your salvation.

Now you may ask yourself, why does an infallible (maʿsūm) like a Prophet or Imam need to repent when he has never sinned? Remember that God’s grace is infinite and no matter how high up we may be spiritually, the good we do can never be enough to compensate for all of the blessings God has given us in this life. Think about it, for a limited amount of actions God has promised us infinite bliss. As such, for a Prophet or Imam, repentance is a manifestation of their perfect humility and their continued ascent towards God.

We also need to understand that the Imams have also asked for forgiveness in their supplications because they wanted to teach us fallibles how to supplicate and pray to God and not because they (God forbid) sinned. They are lessons of humility for us the people.

Syed Asghar Rizvi is a senior writer and blogger at the World Shia Forum. He lives with his family in the Los Angeles, United States.

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