Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar
There are many ways of preparing ourselves to welcome the month of Ramadan. One of the most important ways of preparing for the month of Ramadan is to repent for transgressions against our own souls and others and to strive to become more conscientious Muslims and caring human beings.
Repenting and seeking Allah’s forgiveness is one of the most central and core teachings of Islam. Seeking forgiveness is central to almost every act of worship. A well-known prophetic tradition (hadith) related from the Companion Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) informs us that: “Whoever fasts with sincere faith and accountability Allah will forgive all of his or her previous sins.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Two Central Features of Forgiveness in Islam
In light of all of the foregoing there is no better way to embrace the blessed month of Ramadan than to remind ourselves of how central seeking Allah’s forgiveness in Islam.
There are two key features of the Islamic perspective on forgiveness that I wish to highlight. The first is to understand that the conscientious Muslim is not one who expects or claims to be sinless, but rather one who is fully aware of his/her human frailty and constantly acknowledges it by turning to Allah for forgiveness. By embracing forgiveness the human being liberates him/herself of arrogance and constantly seeks out the Mercy and Grace of Allah. Such a disposition is beautifully illustrated in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who is reported to have said in a hadith recorded in al-Bukhari: “I swear by Allah, that I seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent to Him more than 100 times a day.”
There are countless verses in the Glorious Qur’an that reminds us that Allah, the Sublime, is ‘oft forgiving, most merciful’ (innahu huwal ghafur al-rahim). For example, in surah al-Zumar, chapter 39, verse 53, Allah powerfully reminds us never to despair of His boundless Mercy and Grace: “Say [O Muhammad]: O my servants who have transgressed against their own souls, Do not despair from the mercy of Allah – Allah forgives all sins
And He is the All Forgiving, the All Merciful.” (39:53)
The second feature of forgiveness in Islam that I wish to highlight is that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has taught us many different ways in which to seek Allah’s forgiveness, through supplications, giving of charity, restitution and acts of kindness to our family and others.
In particular, Islamic teachings considers the pleasure of the parents, being good, kind, helpful, considerate, respecting and caring to them, as one of the things that wipes away our sins in this world.
It is reported that the companion Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), said: “A man came to Allah’s Prophet (pbuh) and said: ‘O Prophet! I have committed a major sin. Do you think that I can repent to Allah from it?’ Allah’s Prophet (pbuh) asked the man: “Do you have a mother living?” The man answered negatively. Allah’ Prophet (pbuh) further asked the man: “Do you have a maternal aunt living?” The man answered positively. Allah’s Prophet (pbuh) said to him: “Be kind, caring, helpful, good, respectful and kind to her.” (Tirmidhi)
In the above example the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) suggests that atonement for sins can be achieved first through caring for our mothers and if they have passed on, our aunts and other close relatives.
Let us during this blessed month of Ramadan repair our relationships with our parents and close relatives and friends so that, we through those gracious acts, receive Allah’s forgiveness, for He is the Most-forgiving, the Most Compassionate.
Let us adorn our lips with the beautiful prayer of forgiveness that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was fond of reciting during the blessed month of Ramadan: O Allah, thou art the Pardoner, Pardon me, for thou loves to Pardon.
(Allahumma Innaka `Afuwwun Tuhibbul `Afwa Fa`fu `anni)