differance between tawba and istigfaar

Comment/Question: How does someone express tawbah and istighfar without falling into depression?

Comment by mm — June 11, 2009

Answer: For our student based audience:  many assume that tawba and istigfar are the same thing. First let us give you the distinguishing factors between the both.

Imaam nawawi states the regarding tawba (repentance):

  • tawba must be sort and remains wajib (necessary) for every sin committed. Example, read salaah late, did not give zakat on time; the wretched act of adultery was committed, etc.
  • Sinner must intend to uproot that wrongful action from their lives and makes a firm intention to never repeat the sin again
  • Regrets the evil committed. Rectifies ill habits by seeking forgive to Allah and those s/he had hurt
  • Naturally, if sin is committed again, the person goes through the same process, however, with greater levels of remorse until adverse behavior is eliminated

Iftigfar the uluma have stated is somewhat different:

In the case of istigfar (seeking forgiveness), a person is making a request to Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) to help their deeds function as a barrier towards future evil. In essence, the individual is asking Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) for guidance away from wrongful choices. Istigfar with the words of ‘astagfirullah’ coupled with sincerity helps in this regards.  Thus, ‘astagfaar’ functions like a duaa.  Thus, it can be appropriately stated: refusal to make istigfar is tantamount to arrogance. For one is acting confidant regarding the unknown future actions of themselves.

Some technical stuff, (ignore if you had enough, and move on below)

When a person makes istigfar and thereafter couples it with a  tawba — as some people do after salaah, the meaning of this generally would be inclusive of the following: the astagfirulla part deals with seeking refuge from future evil whilst the tawba portion would exist as a sincere request from Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) to help the person be removed from corruption. The seeker is also showing a need to gaining greater closeness towards Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) with their good deeds.

Dealing with depression:

Once a person has buried the evil with a genuine tawba coupled with repeated istgfaars, they must not let shaytan hinder them from getting to Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala). Shaytan wants a past sinner to brood upon their wrongs.  For shaytans ploy is to keep a person on the negative rather then the Positive Allah! Your solution would be to seek refuge in the Mercy and Compassion of Allah once tawba and istigfar has been made.

Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) in the Quran mentions regarding His punishment to those that have wronged. But Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) does not just focus of the negatives of humanity, He immediately moves away from the mention of punishment to the following:

إِلاَّ مَن تَابَ وَءَامَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلاً صَـلِحاً
Exempted are those who repent and believe in Allah, and do righteous deeds

We too are to do likewise. For in reality, depression is a result of a confused state which sometimes results when 1) we are not firm on seeking methods of 100% change from the dangling attempts of shaytan. 2) When we are successful with our change but accept the manipulations of shayan 3) when we allow shaytan to place guilt upon ourselvs for committed wrongs of the past.
Thus Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) thus states:

قُلْ يَاعِبَادِي الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِنْ رَحْمَةِ اللهِ إِنَّ اللهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا وَلَا يُبَالِي إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

Say (oh Muhammad SAW): O My slaves (servants) who have been reckless to themselves (doing evil)! Despair not (grieve not, depress not, relinquish not) in the Mercy of Allah, Verily Allah forgives all sins. Verily Allah is the most Forgiving, Most Merciful

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءاً أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّهَ يَجِدِ اللَّهَ غَفُوراً رَّحِيماً
And whoever does evil or oppresses himself (herself), thereafter seeks forgiveness in Allah,  he (they) will find Allah Most forgiving, Most Merciful

Be thankful Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) has you focusing on a spiritually healthier positive life. Do not despair in His Mercy. Depression is indicative of giving up hope; a believer never gives up hope upon Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala). This shows Allah (Subhanahu Wata’Ala) loves you as His servant. You are blessed indeed. May we be too, Ameen.

Allah Certainly Knows Best.

29 responses to “differance between tawba and istigfaar

  1. Jazakallahu khair!
    your post was effective, as well as muslimah’s comment, and the newsletter.
    Alhamdulilah, may Allah reward you and the rest of the muslims, ameen.

  2. So let me see if i have this correct you never stop doing tawba correct?

    • Technically, tawba can be stopped once you stop sinning and let go of all sins – big and small. Istigfar you keep making as a protection from future wrongs.
      Reality check: We do both continually as often as possible.

  3. Tawbah,Istigfar how Mercyful is Allah.He sees and hears us committing sin, and He knows the evil thoughts that flood our mind and heart, yet HE forgives.How greater blessing can we a believer have. And more than all, he covers up our sin.
    Pride is something,having pride is someone who never asks another of Allah’s servants for forgiveness.Allah makes a man fall hard,may we never have that quailty in us.
    Umme Zahra

  4. To become better

    How does one answer to a non-believer on how a muslim asks for forgiveness, and that he Allah has forgiven him. As they believe in Jesus {Isaa AS} died on the cross for their sins, therefore they only confess to a priest.

  5. Talib-ul-Ilm

    “How does one answer to a non-believer on how a muslim asks for forgiveness?”
    Isn’t it that we make Tawbah (sincere repentance) for our past sins and make intention to never do that particular sin/s again? (Read the answer given up above by the Imam of this site.
    Building upon “To become better”‘s question of “and that he Allah has forgiven him.”, I’ve always had this trouble: after I commit a sin I try not to fall into depression as mm stated in their first question in committing the sin in the first place. But then there is the other extreme of being ‘arrogant’ to oneself that “oh Allah has forgiven me for that sin”
    So in lieu of what the Imam said in answer to CW’s question, “Technically, tawba can be stopped once you stop sinning and let go of all sins – big and small.”, does that mean that we never stop doing Tawbah? I mean, we never really know if Allah has forgiven us or not (we hope he has), so we continually make Tawbah as a result, correct?
    I apologize if the questions I asked are confusing in nature. If they are, let me know inshAllah and I’ll try to reiterate what I mean.

  6. Yassir Butt

    IN musnad Imam Ahmed
    “O people repent to Allah I make Istigfaar and repentance to Allah in a day 100 times”

    How do you know your Tawba has been accepted?
    The scholars say “The Deeds and linked together like a chain”
    If after your Tawba you have a significant life change in the quality and quantity of your deeds you should have a clarity that insha Allah it has been accepted.
    As far as continuation of Tawbah
    Istigfaar takes care of the Minor sins.
    Major sins require Mandatory Tawbah for expiation.
    Abu Bakr used to say
    “Before Ramadhan we used to make dua so Allah keeps us alive till Ramadhan, and after Ramadhan till next Ramadhan we used to engross ourselves in asking Allah to accept our deeds in Ramadhan!”

  7. bint Muhammed

    Prerequisite for answering our supplication by Allah is repentance and seeking Allah’s forgiveness. This repentance should be sincere, not a mere verbal statement which we repeat like parrots without putting any thought into it.

    The Prophet (SAW) was asked by some of his companions: “Is Allah near so we invoke him or is he far so we call him? So Allah revealed this verse, – Allah is near He can hear the supplicant anytime anywhere and respond to him if the supplicant invokes Allah with a sincere heart and avoid interdictions of supplication.

    Allah said:
    “Invoke your Rabb with humility and in secret, He likes not the aggressors.” (Qur’an 7:55)

    Supplication is of two kinds. One is worship and the other is a request. So He commands to be invoked with humility which is insisting in request and continuously in worship and “secretly” not loud to avoid “Ryea” (showing off)

    Abu Hurairah quotes Allah’s Messenger {SAW} as saying: “The supplication of any one of you is answered as long as he is not hasty, saying: I have prayed to Allah and my prayers were not answered.” {Al-Bukhari}

    In an authentic Hadith, Abu Hurairah quotes the Prophet {SAW} as saying: “The supplication of any servant of Allah continues to be answered unless he prays for something sinful, or for the severance of a tie of kinship, and unless he is hasty.” The question was asked: what constitutes hastiness? The Prophet {SAW} answered: “He says: I have prayed often but I have not seen my prayers answered. He then feels aggrieved and stops his supplication.” {Muslim and Tirmithi}.

    Reasons for the Acceptance of Supplication
    There are some reasons which cause the supplication to be accepted by Allah they are:

    1) Repentance to Allah: Allah said “I said (to them): ‘Ask forgiveness from your Rabb Verily, He is Oft Forgiving; He will send rain to you in abundance; and give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers” (Qur’an 71:10, 12)
    2) Good income: The income must be halal as the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was asked by one of His companions, How could I have my supplication responded to? The Messenger of Allah said: “make your income good and your supplication will be responded to.”
    3) Perform Supererogatory Deeds: Such as voluntary prayer and voluntary fasting.

    “O’Allah, I beg Thee Forgiveness, Knowledge that is useful and conduct that is acceptable to Thee. Aameen.”

  8. Talib-ul-Ilm

    Shukran and Jazakullah Khair to both brother Yassir and sister bint Muhammed for your replies.
    InshAllah may ALL of our Tawbahs be accepted by The Most Kind, The Most Merciful.
    Thank you both again for answering my questions.
    May Allah reward you both in due cause.

  9. Assalamu Alaykum,
    From my understanding tawbah and Istighfar should always be done.
    With tawbah when one commits a sin they should turn to Allah for forgiveness and to ask for protection so that you may not commit that sin again and in the future as well.
    So… in order to ask allah to protect us from future sins we should always express tawbah and Istighfar?
    and now looking at this ayat from surah Al-Imran
    “Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous”
    From my understanding of this ayat it says to be quick in the race for forgiveness, but paradise is stated afterwards…
    so we should seek forgiveness from our lord before we seek paradise?
    (ugh I’m confusing myself, bare with me Imam and co.)
    Okay so we can’t always assume that we have been forgiven for our sins which is why who should always express istighfar, and as for tawbah we should always express it so we can be protected from future sins. So tawbah and Istighfar should never be stopped because we can’t assume that our sins are forgiven and that we are protected.

    • Talib-ul-Ilm

      وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته
      Umm this might be a very basic question, but what is the bare-bone definition of tawbah and istighfar, respectively? Isn’t Tawbah for a past sin you repent for, and istighfar is protection from future wrongdoing? So in a nutshell Tawbah is in relation to past sins and Istighfar is related to future sins…right?
      Also, like mm, I too would like a scholarly interpretation of that Qur’anic ayaat…Do we race one another, etc? Also, isn’t the purpose of asking Allah for forgiveness in the connotation of that ayaat to allude to “the quicker you ask for forgiveness, the quicker you will be rewarded with Jannat.”? Because it says, “And for” a garden, which is right after the first part of asking Allah for forgiveness.
      Brother Yassir, since you’re alhamdulillah a scholar of Islam and have spoken on this issue on this post, could you answer the questions of what is the respective definitions of Tawbah and Istighfar, as well as a Qur’anic interpretation of the ayaat that mm mentioned?
      Mm, could you give the ayaat number? I’d like to read some of the Tafsir regarding that ayaat, as well as read to what the scholars of this site say regarding it (Brother Yassir, Imaam Muhammad, etc).
      Jazakullah Khair.

    • to mm: the following concept of yours shows you understand it well:’Okay so we can’t always assume that we have been forgiven for our sins which is why who should always express istighfar, and as for tawbah we should always express it so we can be protected from future sins. So tawbah and Istighfar should never be stopped because we can’t assume that our sins are forgiven and that we are protected.’
      Just one minor set of corrections.We should assume we are forgiven regarding matters towards Allah (SWT). To have negative thoughts of a sincere repentance is to neglect ourselves in the understanding of the Mercy of Allah (SWT). To fail in noting His Mercy is a cause for depression, despondence, etc. and even possibly disbelief.
      Tawba is for sins committed, istigfar can function as ‘duaa of deterrent’ for future sins. (As noted below by Br. Yassir: it can also function to cover up ills, so Allah (SWT) does not make negative matters public. However, we only get exposed when we persist and become arrogant as to our ills. Ask firown and co)

      • Ah, jazakallahu khair!
        it makes a WHOLE lot of sense now.

        • Talib-ul-Ilm

          I second that, thank you for that enlightening answer. So negative matters become public when we are arrogant in our wrongdoing, that makes sense.
          Jazakallah khair.

  10. It is surah Al-Imran 3 and ayat 133

  11. Yassir Butt

    As far as Istigfaar it is from the root word “Ghafar” in Lisaan al arab for Ibn Mandhoor
    وأَصل الغَفْرِ التغطية والستر. غَفَرَ الله ذنوبه أَي سترها؛ والغَفْر: الغُفْرانُ.
    وفي الحديث: كان إذا خرج من الخَلاء قال: غُفْرانَك الغُفْرانُ

    So istighfaar literally means “To ask Allah to cover up our Sins”
    Hence the Rasool SAW used to say coming out of the bathroom
    “Ghufranak” Sheikh Ibn Othaimeen RA said the Hikma is to Ask Allah to cover our Spiritual Filth as He has covered our Physiological filth i.e Excrement!

    Tauba in Language of the Arabs means
    الرجوع من الذنب أو الإنابة
    To change course as far as doing wrong acts
    or to regret that what has been committed by an individual as far as sins.

    • Talib-ul-Ilm

      Jazakullah Khair, that helps a lot!
      Also, what is the Qur’anic interpretation of Surah Al-Imran, Ayaat 133: “Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that (of the whole) of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous”?
      Mm asked the question and I also am wondering about it.

      • Yassir Butt

        Ahl As Sunnah and Jamaa hold
        الإيمان يزيد بالطاعات و ينقص بالمعاصي

        “Imaan increases with good deeds and decreases with evil deeds”
        Hence more good deeds = spiritual contentment happiness
        more evil deeds = Depression

        the Tirmidhi shareef hadith says
        عن أبي ذر جندب بن جنادة، وأبي عبد الرحمن معاذ بن جبل -رضي الله عنهما- أن رسول الله -صلى الله عليه وسلم- قال: اتق الله حيثما كنت، وأتبع السيئة الحسنة تمحها، وخالق الناس بخلق حسن رواه الترمذي، وقال: حديث حسن، وفي بعض النسخ حسن صحيح

        the prophet syas”follow and evil action by a good one it will wipe it”
        The ullema say it will wipe it from your book of deeds as well as it will wipe away the negative emotions (depression) associated with that sin

        Hence start doing GOOD DEEDS Immediately without stop!

        Depression will go away

        • Talib-ul-Ilm

          Jazakullah Khair, inshAllah may we all start doing good deeds without hesitating. Depression WILL go away. Ameen.
          Shukran to everyone for their questions and answers, I understand tawbah and istighfar much better now.

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  17. i had comited sin because my depretion my mental satete wasnt good iwas so depers i prey lot asking for givnes from allah