Tawbah is not Just Asking for Forgiveness

Difference between Istigfaar and Tawbah

First we need to understand the difference between Istigfaar and Tawbah.

Istigfaar = Seeking/Asking for Magfirah. Mafgifirah means to hide or cover up our sins and thereby forgive us. So Istigfar is – as if Allah(swt) forgives and covers up our sins from getting exposed and also from harming us.

Tawbah = Repentance / Returning back to Allah(swt) = Regret from heart + Intention to stop disobeying Allah(swt) + Asking Forgiveness + Honest and Firm Intention not to Commit the Sin again (at the time of repentance). If the sin is committed against another Human Being – we should try to compensate or ask forgiveness from the victim/oppressed person. {Madarij us-Salikin by Imam Ibn ul Qayyim al Jawziyyah}

Sins distances us from Allah(swt) so with Tawbah we return back to Allah(swt) by distancing ourselves away from the sin.

Please note that, despite our firm intention of not committing the sin we might fall into it again – but our Tawbah is accepted – And Allah(swt) wipes our sins completely – as long as we were honest in our intention at the time of making Tawbah. No matter how many times we return back to the same sin, Allah considers the new sin as a complete new sin in an empty slate.

So, we can easily understand that Tawbah is far greater than Istigfaar. The chance of getting the Tawbah accepted before Allah is always higher as Tawbah itself contains Istigfaar in it. If they were the same, they would not be termed separately in the Quran and Hadiths.

Quranic Analysis: Istigfaar & Tawbah

In the Quran the term Istigfaar may be found in 2 ways:

  1. Istigfaar without Tawbah
  2. Istigfaar along with Tawbah

Istigfaar without Tawbah

The below Ayats shows examples of Istigfaar without Tawbah:

فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارً

يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا

And said, ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver.

He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers

{Surah Nuh; Ayat: 10-11}

قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ لِمَ تَسْتَعْجِلُونَ بِالسَّيِّئَةِ قَبْلَ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ لَوْلَا تَسْتَغْفِرُونَ اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

He[Saleh] said, “O my people, why are you impatient for evil instead of good? Why do you not seek forgiveness of Allah that you may receive mercy?”

{Surah An-Naml; Ayat: 46}

ثُمَّ أَفِيضُوا مِنْ حَيْثُ أَفَاضَ النَّاسُ وَاسْتَغْفِرُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Then depart from the place from where [all] the people depart and ask forgiveness of Allah . Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

{Surah Al-Baqarah; Ayat: 199}

وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنتَ فِيهِمْ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ

But Allah would not punish them while you, [O Muhammad], are among them, and Allah would not punish them while they seek forgiveness.

{Surah Al-Anfal; Ayat: 33}

Istigfaar along with Tawbah

The below Ayats shows examples of Istigfaar with Tawbah:

وَأَنِ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ يُمَتِّعْكُم مَّتَاعًا حَسَنًا إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى وَيُؤْتِ كُلَّ ذِي فَضْلٍ فَضْلَهُ ۖ وَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ كَبِيرٍ

And [saying], “Seek forgiveness of your Lord and repent to Him, [and] He will let you enjoy a good provision for a specified term and give every doer of favor his favor…

{Surah Hud; Ayat: 3}

وَيَا قَوْمِ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا وَيَزِدْكُمْ قُوَّةً إِلَىٰ قُوَّتِكُمْ وَلَا تَتَوَلَّوْا مُجْرِمِينَ

And O my people, ask forgiveness of your Lord and then repent to Him. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in showers and increase you in strength [added] to your strength. And do not turn away, [being] criminals.”

{Surah Hud; Ayat: 52}

وَإِلَىٰ ثَمُودَ أَخَاهُمْ صَالِحًا ۚ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ هُوَ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَاسْتَعْمَرَكُمْ فِيهَا فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهُ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي قَرِيبٌ مُّجِيبٌ

And to Thamud [We sent] their brother Salih. He said, “O my people, worship Allah ; you have no deity other than Him. He has produced you from the earth and settled you in it, so ask forgiveness of Him and then repent to Him. Indeed, my Lord is near and responsive.”

{Surah Hud; Ayat: 61}

So, it is always better to make Tawbah after Istigfaar. Even in the Quran, in several places where both of these are mentioned, we can find Istigfaar at first and Tawbah comes right after it.

Tawbah without Istigfaar

However there are few Ayats, where Tawbah is there without Istigfaar. In these situations Istigfar seems to be integrated inside the Tawbah itself:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَىٰ مِن بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ ۙ أُولَٰئِكَ يَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّاعِنُونَ

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَأَصْلَحُوا وَبَيَّنُوا فَأُولَٰئِكَ أَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ وَأَنَا التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ

Indeed, those who conceal what We sent down of clear proofs and guidance after We made it clear for the people in the Scripture – those are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse,

Except for those who repent and correct themselves and make evident [what they concealed]. Those – I will accept their repentance, and I am the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.

{Surah Al-Baqarah; Ayat: 159-160}

إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللَّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا

وَلَيْسَتِ التَّوْبَةُ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَهُمُ الْمَوْتُ قَالَ إِنِّي تُبْتُ الْآنَ وَلَا الَّذِينَ يَمُوتُونَ وَهُمْ كُفَّارٌ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ أَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا

The repentance accepted by Allah is only for those who do wrong in ignorance [or carelessness] and then repent soon after. It is those to whom Allah will turn in forgiveness, and Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.

But repentance is not [accepted] of those who [continue to] do evil deeds up until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “Indeed, I have repented now,” or of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them We have prepared a painful punishment.

{Surah An-Nisa; Ayat: 17-18}


Therefore, Tawbah is not just seeking forgiveness.

Tawbah (In short) = Repent and turn back in the path of Allah(swt) with the firm intention not to repeat the sin again. The knowledge regarding the sin seems eminent.

It is also worth mentioning that we are not always aware of all of our sins – Istigfaar can take care of these sins. However, we should always try our level best to identify and avoid our sins and take the advantage of the both Istigfaar and Tawbah.

So, when both of  the words Istighfar and Tawbah are used together:

With Istighfaar: We Ask for our safety from the evil and harm of what has already occurred; and

With Tawbah: We return to Allah(swt) and beg for our safety from the evil that we fear in our future.

Thus, proper use of both of these two things can cover us completely – providing the ultimate protection from Allah(swt) and helping us fight against evil.

Come let us (including myself) do Istigfaar and make genuine Tawbah and return to the path of Allah(swt) today right now, as Shaitan always fool us with the same old technique – by whispering into our hearts saying “there is still more time – will return to Allah(swt) later – just before we die”. Please don’t be fooled by this because, Righteousness can only result in the real contentment in this life and the hereafter – which can never be found by any other means like – money/property, drugs, immoral life or a life without the Quran and Salah.


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