And those who do not invoke with Allāh another deity or kill the soul which Allāh has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty.
Multiplied for him is the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein humiliated –
Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allāh will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allāh Forgiving and Merciful.
In these verses Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) presents a fearful, final abode of torment for those who transgress the limits of Allāh. And yet, He offers hope of salvation, forgiveness and mercy to ‘those who repent, believe, and do righteous work’; to those who make sincere Tawba. In a recent letter, Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad offers thorough advice on making Tawba, describing its implementation in the physical, mental and spiritual spheres. He primarily advises to
“keep repenting to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) as continuous Tawba wipes away the sins of a person, draws him closer to Allāh, and inserts the sweetness of īmān in the heart of a believer. It was also the habit of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), despite his every possible sin being forgiven, to repent to Allāh more than seventy times every single day.”
Considering the importance of making Tawba and the ferventness with which it should be made, the following practical steps are useful in ensuring Tawba is made not simply through lip service, but through our actions, attitudes, thoughts, and efforts, inshāAllāh. There is, of course, much overlap between the areas of focus; as the famous maxim goes “… your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your values…” with one feeding into the other interminably.
I have therefore separated, where possible, Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad’s advice into categories, though they are best viewed and implemented holistically.
In a lecture on Therapeutic Mechanisms, Catherine A. Trombly, Doctor of Behavioural Science at Boston University, explores the role of activities we perform in affecting positive and efficacious change in our lives. The model she uses to explore this is ‘Occupation-as-means’. She explains that,
“Occupation-as-means refers to occupation acting as the therapeutic change agent to remediate impaired abilities or capacities … Occupation-as-means is based on the assumption that the activity holds within itself a healing property that will change organic or behavioural impairments.”
Essentially, she suggests that by employing meaningful and purposeful activities into our daily routine, we forge a path toward a value-filled lifestyle, a higher “Quality of Life”, as it were. In carrying out meaningful actions we overcome the despair and inutility we have been steeped in and, ultimately, lend ourselves towards a happier existence; our actions change our life.
Sheikh Haitham reiterates this idea in his advice. The first steps to Tawba (repentance of a sinful action) is to stop that action; ensure that action does not occur again; and employ actions that will safeguard you and improve you. He suggests the following:
Lower your gaze
Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahu Allāhu) said,
“Looking is the basis for all the problems that befall a man, because looking generates thoughts, then thoughts generate ideas, then ideas generate desires, then desires generate will, which develops into resolve, then the action is done, and it is inevitable if there is nothing to stop it. Hence it is said that patience in lowering one’s gaze is easier than patience in bearing the pain of what comes after that.”
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says,
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze [from looking at forbidden things], and protect their private parts [from illegal sexual acts]. That is purer for them. Verily, Allāh is All-Aware of what they do.”
In a recent article, the tragic reality of our society today was highlighted. Our eyes and our time are amanāt from Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and it is imperative that we be wary of where we place them. On the Day of Resurrection we will be questioned about them.
ʿAbdullāhi Ibnu ʿUmar said:
“Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) created the private parts of man and said: ‘This is an Amānah which I have hidden with you, so guard it except where it is allowed.”
We must lower our gaze and avoid looking at ḥarām (forbidden and sinful) material.
Choose your company
Keep away from bad companions and make sure you have good companions. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “A man will follow the way of his close friends, so let each one of you look at who he takes as a close friend.”
Keep away from ḥarām
Though a particular action may not be ḥarām in itself, if it has the possibility of leading to ḥarām; avoid it. Avoid situations that draw you to ḥarām, whether it is a place or a person. Similarly, if it is when you are alone that you find yourself doing wrong, with ease of access to the internet and ḥarām material, then avoid being alone. After all, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is reported to have said that “Shayṭān eats the lonely sheep”.
Take advantage of your Time
Ensure your time is spent trying to achieve spiritual goals (see: Spirituality). It is when a person has free time and a vacant mind that Shayṭān takes control of their actions.
With regards to fearing committing sins relating to sexuality, it is advised to seek to marry.
It was narrated that ʿAbd-Allāh b. Masʿūd said,
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, and whoever cannot, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.”
Failing the means to marry, fasting is the next recommended action. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was in the habit of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays; we should likewise strive to do so. There is much literature on disciplining the soul and its desires through fasting. Beware of satiety, for it is a burden in life and a source of corruption after death.
In an article on the inner secrets of fasting, Sheikh Abu Rumaysah states,
“Indeed, the fast is only virtuous due to two significant concepts. Firstly, it is a secret and hidden action thus, no one from the creation is able to see it. Therefore showing off cannot enter into it. Secondly, it is a means of subjugating the enemies of Allāh. This is because the road that the enemies (of Allāh) embark upon (in order to misguide the Son of Ādam) is that of desires. And eating and drinking strengthens the desires. There are many reports that indicate the merits of fasting, and they are all well known.”
Please your parents
Make immediate efforts to have a good relation with your parents. Their duʿā’ is accepted and it is the source of mercy on their child in this life.
When making Tawba it is easy to fall into the trap of despair; not knowing whether our Tawba has been accepted; fearing we will fall again; not feeling deserving of forgiveness; not being able to move forward.
In a class on the Tafsīr of the Qur’ān, my Arabic teacher explained how the word “depression” had no Arabic equivalent, until only recently. The idea of a medical condition of persistent sadness and despair was unheard of. Indeed, in a series of articles on optimism in early Islāmic history, Ustādh Ali Hammuda writes,
“The Prophet would also remind his companions of this characteristic and would encourage them to always maintain genuine hope in Allāh and adopt a positive outlook on everything in life. The noble trait of optimism, when held by the Muslim amounts to nothing short of contentment with the decree of Allāh and suspecting good of Him.”
Expect good from Allāh
Jābir b. ʿAbdullāh (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) reported,
I heard the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) saying three days before his death: “Let none of you die unless he has good expectations from Allāh”.
Abū Huraira (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) narrates that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
When Allāh completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, “My Mercy overpowers My Anger”.
Have good thoughts of Allāh as the Shayṭān tries his utmost to put bad thoughts in the mind of the believer in order to pull him astray into a state of despair. Think of Allāh in a positive way until you love Him and His Messenger. Enjoy talking to your Lord, especially at night, and push yourself to make Allāh the most beloved one to you. Anas (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) narrates that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“Whoever possesses the following three qualities will have the sweetness (delight) of faith:
– The one to whom Allāh and His Apostle becomes dearer than anything else.
– Who loves a person and he loves him only for Allāh’s sake.
– Who hates to revert to Atheism (disbelief) as he hates to be thrown into the fire.”
Have a vision, set goals
Set a vision for yourself that includes identifying major projects you wish to accomplish in your life. Maximise your time by setting yearly, monthly, weekly and daily targets that will help you achieve this.
Sheikh Haitham advises to think of the Ākhirah (The Hereafter) for at least 5 minutes every day. To remember that this is not our final home and that our reckoning will soon come awakens the mind from its distracted slumber. Keeping the Ākhira in the forefront of our minds serves to ensure we focus our attentions correctly in this life. We rectify our intentions, we reassess our priorities, and we recalibrate our actions. We realise that we have an ultimate goal and we work towards it.
Studies have found that a positive attitude improves outcomes and life satisfaction across a spectrum of conditions. Build your confidence, have a cheerful disposition, and smile. This is a sign of Īmān and positivity. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was known for having a warm smile,
Kaʿb b. Malik is reported to have said,
“When I greeted the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam) His face was beaming with happiness, for, whenever the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was happy, his face used to beam as if it were a section of the moon, and we used to recognise this from his face.”
With a productive attitude, and renewed positive mind-set, Sheikh Haitham gives particular recommended activities to engage in. In making Tawba we seek to perform actions that draw us closer to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), increase the īmān in our hearts, make us steadfast in our Dīn, and protect us from committing sinful acts again.
“Among the important projects you need to have is memorising the Qur’ān. I suggest that you aim to achieve this within 4 years. Besides what you read in order to memorise the Qur’ān, you need to complete the Qur’ān at least once a month. This means that you need to recite the Qur’ān loudly, every day, for 20-30 minutes.”
Make sure you pray your obligatory Salāh in congregation. Other than being recommended, it strengthens the feeling of brotherhood and introduces you to good company.
Pray your nafl (optional) prayers. Allāh says,
“And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember.”
Perform nafl prayers, for they protect and preserve the Sunnah prayers, and by performing the Sunnah prayers you protect and preserve the Fardh prayers, and if your Fardh are protected, you cannot go astray, inshāAllāh.
“Try to give Sadaqah every day. Even if it is an amount as small as 50p.”
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has said,
“Those who give, out of their own possessions, by night and by day, in private and in public, will have their reward with their Lord: no fear for them, nor will they grieve.”
Make Duʿā’, especially in the middle of the night, when you are alone. In a ḥadīth, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) states,
“There are seven whom Allāh will shade with His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His… a man who gives in charity and conceals it to such an extent that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives; and a man who remembers Allāh when he is alone, and his eyes fill up.”
Worshiping Allāh at night empowers the believer to face the challenges of this life.
Indeed, the hours of the night are more effective for concurrence [of heart and tongue] and more suitable for words.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has put before us abundant opportunity to turn back to Him. He has given us the tools with which to fight against Shayṭān and against our desires to sin. Turn back to Allāh. Make sincere Tawba; be determined to improve; do not despair.
“Say: “O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allāh, verily Allāh forgives all sins. Truly, He is oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”
 Al-Qur’ān, 25:68-70
 Trombly, C. A., Occupation: Purposefulness and Meaningfulness as Therapeutic Mechanisms p. p. 519 <https://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/Publications/AJOT/Slagle/1995.pdf> Accessed Wednesday 20 January 2016
 Al-Qur’ān, 24:30
 Razi, Tafsīr Kabīr
 Narrated by Abū Dawūd
 Narrated by al-Bukhārī
 John Hopkins Medicine, The Power of Positive Thinking, <http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_mind/the-power-of-positive-thinking> Accessed Wednesday 20 January 2016
 Al-Qur’ān, 11: 114
 Al-Qur’ān, 2: 274
 Al-Qur’ān, 73: 6
 Al-Qur’ān, 39: 53