Allah (subḥānahū wa taʿālā) says:
“Say: ‘My slaves, those who have transgressed against yourselves, 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 despite 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.’” (Hadīth Qudsī, Tirmidhī)
Ibn Rajab (raḥimahullāh) outlined three essential means of attaining forgiveness in the above hadīth:
- Calling Allah with hope, knowing that only He forgives.
- Asking Him for forgiveness, despite the magnitude of one’s sins.
- Tawhīd; 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.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “A believer will be brought close to his Lord on the Day of Judgement and He will place him within His Veil. Then, He will make him confess his sins by saying: ‘Do you recognise this?’
He will reply: ‘My Lord, I do.’ Then He will say: ‘Indeed I concealed them for you in the world, and I am indeed forgiving you for them today.’ Then the record of his good deeds will be given to him.” (Bukhārī)
Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) wrote:
‘In this world, the sinner can be purified in one of three rivers:
- A river of sincere repentance;
- A river of good deeds that drowns the sins;
- A river of calamities that wipe away his sins.
If these do not suffice in purifying him, then he will be purified in the river of Hell-fire in the hereafter. Therefore, when Allah intends good for His slave, He enters him into one of these three rivers, so he comes purified and cleansed on the Day of Judgement, not requiring the fourth purification.
So swim in the river of repentance and doing good deeds, and have patience in the river of calamities. And do not neglect these before a day comes when you will be drowned in the river of Hell-fire, whose fuel is men and stones.’
There are many different ways and words one can use to seek forgiveness from Allah. The best manner, however, is to seek forgiveness with the following du‘ā’:
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
O Allah, You are my Lord. There is no god except You. You have created me, and I am Your slave, and I am under Your covenant and pledge (to fulfil it) to the best of my ability. I seek Your protection from the evil that I have done. I acknowledge the favours that You have bestowed upon me, and I admit my sins. Forgive me, for none forgives sins but You.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The most superior manner of seeking forgiveness is [the above]. Whoever says it during the day with firm belief in it and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise. And if anyone says it during the night with firm belief in it and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of Paradise.” (Bukhārī)