Before you ask Allah for anything, you should always ask Him to forgive you. He is al-Ghafūr (The Most Forgiving) and loves to forgive. He reminds us in the Noble Qur’ān:
“Say: ‘My slaves, those who have transgressed against themselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Truly Allah forgives all sins: He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.’” (39:53)
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Allah, Exalted is He, said: ‘Son of Ādam, as long as you call upon me and hope in Me, I will forgive you irrespective of what you do, and I do not care. Son of Ādam, even if your sins were to reach to the clouds of the sky, then you seek forgiveness from Me, I will forgive you. Son of Ādam, even if you were to come to Me with nearly an earth full of sins, and then you meet me, not having associated anything with me, then I will surely bring you as much as the earth in forgiveness.’” (Tirmidhī)
From this ḥādīth, Ibn Rajab (raḥimahullāh) outlined three means of attaining forgiveness:
- Calling upon Allah with hope, knowing that only He forgives.
- Asking Him for forgiveness, despite the magnitude of one’s sins.
- Actualising tawhid (the oneness of Allah). This is the greatest means of forgiveness. If even a speck of tawhīd was placed on a mountain of sins, it would turn them into good deeds.
An excellent du‘a’ which combines all of the above is Sayyid al-Istighfar:
اَللّٰهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّيْ لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ ، خَلَقْتَنِيْ وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ ، وَأَنَا عَلَىٰ عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ ، أَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ ، أَبُوْءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوْءُ بِذَنْبِيْ ، فَاغْفِرْ لِيْ فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوْبَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ
When seeking forgiveness, try to feel the remorse in your heart, cry over your sins and beg Allah to forgive you.
‘People! Your hearts are essentially pure, but they have been stained with splashes of sins. So splash on them in turn the tears of your eyes and you will find your hearts purified.’ (Ibn Rajab)
It is also virtuous to seek forgiveness for the all of the believers. The Prophet ﷺ told us: “Whoever seeks forgiveness for every male and female believer, Allah will record a good deed for him for every male and female believer.” (Ṭabarānī)
“Asking for Allah’s forgiveness is more important than any other du’a.” (Ibn Taymiyyah)