Tawbah and Why It’s Essential for Every Muslim

by Ustaz Vincent Souleymane

The word Tawbah literally means ‘return’. In religious terminology, it is the return to Allah — more precisely, the return to the Creator after having disobeyed Him, in order to ask for His forgiveness; a repentance.

As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, all human beings are sinners, but the best among them are those who repent:

“All the sons of Adam are sinners, and the best of the sinners are those who repent abundantly.”



Falling into the Forbidden

We all commit mistakes, acts that are not in accordance with our faith. In moments of carelessness, we may put our passions before our fear in the One, hence we fall into the forbidden.

But even more severe than the sin itself would be to lose hope in God’s Mercy. Is it not greater than our sin, whatever it may be?

There is a verse in the Book of Allah that warms the anguished heart of the sinner, and forbids anyone to lose hope:

قُلۡ يَٰعِبَادِيَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَسۡرَفُواْ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمۡ لَا تَقۡنَطُواْ مِن رَّحۡمَةِ ٱللَّهِۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَغۡفِرُ ٱلذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًاۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلۡغَفُورُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ


Say: “O My servants who have committed excesses to your own detriment, despair not of the mercy of Allah. For Allah forgives all sins. For Allah forgives all sins: for He is the Forgiver, the Most Merciful.”


[Az-Zumar 39:53]

The door to repentance is always open and a fresh start is always possible, no matter how bad the sin.

Don’t Wait to Repent

But Allah also tells us not to delay our repentance, for there will come a time when it will be too late, and that time is death. The death that will strike us all, without anyone knowing when…

وَأَنِيبُوٓاْ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمۡ وَأَسۡلِمُواْ لَهُۥ مِن قَبۡلِ أَن يَأۡتِيَكُمُ ٱلۡعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنصَرُونَ


“And return to your Lord in repentance, and submit to Him, before the chastisement comes to you, and then you receive no help.”


[Az-Zumar 39:54]

It is therefore fundamental to repent sincerely after every sin, for we do not know when the angel of death will come to take our soul.

Purifying the Heart

In addition to this, there is another reason to repent immediately after committing a disobedience to the Almighty, and that is the purification of the heart. Indeed, we often have the impression that a sin is only an act limited in time, but it is more than that. It has an effect on the heart of the one who committed it.

The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, tells us in a hadith:

“When a servant commits a sin, a black mark is written on his heart. If he asks for forgiveness and repents, his heart is cleansed. But if he persists, the stain grows to cover his whole heart.”


[At Tirmidhî]

Sin leaves a mark on the heart, and if it covers it completely then the light of faith no longer shines in it, the person becomes insensitive to the mention of Allah, the verses of the Qur’an no longer touch him, the heart becomes impervious to recall.

In the rest of the Hadith, the Prophet, peace be upon him, tells us:

“(This task) is what Allah says:”Not at all! But what they have done covers their hearts.”


[Al-Mutaffifin 83:14]

Who is it about? Let us see the previous verse:

‘(He) who, when our verses are recited to him, says: “These are but tales of the ancients.”‘

[Al-Mutaffifin 83:13]

He whose heart is covered with the black stain left by the sins he has committed no longer distinguishes good from evil, true from false.

The sinner thus enters a vicious circle, the more he disobeys the more he distances himself from Allah and sinks into disobedience to the point that his heart becomes blind and no longer recognises the truth.

The only way to stop this vicious circle and to go back to the light of faith is to purify the heart through Tawbah, sincere repentance. How can this be done? This will be the subject of a future article, with Allah’s permission.


Vincent Souleymane, a French imam and shariah advisor at Muslim Pro, has devoted his time to study and enrich others with the knowledge of Islamic sciences ever since he converted to the religion in 1999. During his studies at the Oussoul Eddine Institute in Saint-Denis, he became aware of the importance of devotion to Allah and decided to continue his religious studies at the daroul ouloum achrafiya of the Island La Réunion and at the IESH of Château Chinon. Since then, Vincent Souleymane devotes himself to the Almighty by teaching Islam at the Oussoul Eddine Institute, as well as being an imam at the Fontenay sous Bois Mosque.

Translated by Elyssa Faucher.