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)
Why is this du‘a’ so special?
- We are asking the Almighty by His Greatest Name (according to many scholars): the name ‘Allah’ itself which means the One who is adored and worshipped.
- We are asking Him through (also known as tawassul in Arabic) His Oneness and His Lordship: He is our Sole Master, the One who created us, provides for us and manages our affairs.
- Thus, He is the Only One worthy of being worshipped.
- We acknowledge our servitude to Him: we are weak and in constant need of Him.
- Then, we promise to obey Him as much as we are able i.e. we are definitely going to be deficient in fulfilling our pledge to Him and obeying Him as He deserves to be obeyed.
- After this, we ask Him to protect us from the evil of what we have done, because without His protection we will be destroyed.
- In the next part of the du‘ā’, we acknowledge Allah’s blessings and our own sins.
Ibn Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) beautifully explains this part of the du‘ā’:
“The words ‘I acknowledge the favours that You have bestowed upon me and I admit my sins’ combine the recognition of divine favours with the awareness of the defects of the soul and its deeds.
The perception of Allah’s favours leads one to love, praise and thank Him.
The awareness of the soul’s defects leads one to be humble, need Allah and turn to Him in repentance at every moment.
Thus, the ‘ārif (one who has attained Allah’s recognition) journeys towards Him on these two wings: awareness of his own faults and recognition of his Lord’s grace. He cannot journey without them, and if he loses one, he would be like a bird that has lost a wing.” (adapted from ‘Invocation of God’)
- After all of this, we ask Him to forgive us because only He can forgive our sins.
This du‘ā’ teaches us the adab of seeking forgiveness and how to approach Allah with the true humility of a servant.
It also teaches us the mindset of a believer and in a few words, reminds us about the bond between servant and Master.
It reminds us who Allah is and who we are; how weak we are and how Powerful He is.
When read daily, in the morning and in the evening, it gives us a chance to reaffirm our tawḥīd to Him and be purified from our endless sins inshā’Allah.