Saturday, 10 December, 2022

Wisdom of Istighfar

Dr Muhammad Obaidullah

Wisdom of  Istighfar

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In my early student life, one of the most difficult questions raised in my mind was why the believers do Istighfar {seeking forgiveness of Allah (SWT)} immediately after saying salat for which I felt shy to ask anyone as it is a very common and popular practice in any Muslim society like ours. My argument was to me myself, is it logically necessary to seek forgiveness of Allah after doing one of the best ibadah like salat or without doing anything bad or committing sin? Later, when I had started studying translation of the Qur’an and its tafsir and went to read surah al-Nasr (chapter no. 110 of the Qur’an) thus I found surprisingly there that our beloved prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was asked for seeking forgiveness of Allah (SWT) although He (PBUH) was, by the grace of Allah, innocent and free from any sin forever. The Qur’an states: “Then exalt (Him) with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever accepting of repentance.”  (Surah al-Nasr, 110:3) Soon after, I indubitably realised that there is something more to understand the wisdom of Istighfar. My study on this is still going on, Alhamdulillah.

In a hadith, it is found that Abu Hurairah (R) reported that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “By Allah! I make istighfar from Allah and repent to Him over seventy times in a day.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 6307) In another hadith in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “O the people, seek forgiveness of Allah as I seek His forgiveness hundred times in a day. (Hadith no. 2702). There are many other similar hadith to prove us the significance and benefit of istighfar.  

Although, the Apostle of Allah (PUBH) did istighfar for showing humility and teaching His ummah; the believers as stated by many Muslim scholars, we have some other reasons for seeking Allah’s forgiveness even after doing obligatory ibadah. (See: Allahma Budruddin ‘Ayni, Umdat al-Qari li Sharhi al-Bukhari, vol. 15, p. 413, Under the discussion of hadith no. 6307)

Allamah Ibn Battaal Maliki (RH) said that, although, all the Prophets were free from sin and the greatest grateful individuals and perfect worshippers, they would make istighfar not for committing any sin or wrongdoing, but for being unable to fulfil the right of Allah as is the right of fulfilling it. (See: Sharh al-Bukhari li Ibn Battaal, vol. 10, pp. 77) Another great Muslim scholar Imam Muhammad Ghazali (RH) stated that the Prophet kept rising to higher ranks. When he got higher position, he made Istighfar. (Fath-ul-Bari, vol. 12, p. 85, Discussion on Hadith no. 6307)

Another story of a wise man can make us more understood about the wisdom of istighfar. One day, a person came to Imam Hasan al-Basri (RH) and complained of drought. He (RH) asked the person to seek forgiveness from Allah. Another person came and complained of poverty. He (RH) advised him the same. Then one more person came and complained of having no children. He was also given the same advice. Then a fourth person came and complained of inadequate production from his piece of land. He was also told of the same, doing istighfar. Rabi bin Sabih (RH) was present over there, thus, he respectfully asked Hasan al-Basri: “different people came to you and expressed different problems and needs as well but you advised all of them the same; seeking forgiveness from Allah?” Hasan al-Basri (RH) then recited the following Qur’anic ayat: “I therefore told them, ‘Seek forgiveness from your Lord; He is Most Forgiving. He will send down upon you rain in abundance. And will support you with wealth and sons and will make gardens for you and make rivers for you.”  (Surah al-Nuh, 71: 10-12) (See: Tafsir Khazin, Vol. 4, p. 334)

Istighfar is a solution for many problems. Ibn ‘Abbas (R) reported that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.” (Abu Dawud, Hadith no. 1873).

It also helps to clean and purify our heart. It removes the spot of our heart which is placed on it for committing any sinful action. Abu Hurairah (R) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “When the believer commits sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents and gives up that sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished. But if (the sin) increases, (the black spot) increases. That is the Ran that Allah mentions in His Book: “Nay! But on their hearts is the Ran (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith No. 4385)

To conclude, it can be stated that there are many reasons for seeking Allah’s forgiveness every time we do anything either good or bad. It is a powerful tool to avail Allah’s love and bounties and most importantly for being successful in both worlds, in the worldly life and the life hereafter. As we don’t know when our death will come, we should keep ourselves involved in continuous tawbah and istighfar as well.

May Allah forgive all our sins and reward us the best!


The writer is a researcher on Islamic views on

contemporary issues