What I would like to know about is how to seek forgiveness for your sins in Islam and how it is different from other religions?
As I understand it, there is nothing fancy or philosophical about the method prescribed by Islam for seeking forgiveness for one’s sins. This prescribed method is simple and seems to be a natural corollary of one’s realization that he has actually done a great wrong. According to Islam, a person deserving of forgiveness is one who truly and honestly repents for any wrong that he may have committed. Islam has also prescribed objective criteria for the individual in question to judge the ‘truthfulness’ and the ‘honesty of his repentance. These criteria include:
The subject really feels sorry for the wrong that he/she has committed. This should be evidenced by the subject’s request for forgiveness from the person1 whose rights have been violated by the subject’s actions;
The subject sincerely resolves to correct his actions in future; and
Wherever possible the subject willingly and voluntarily corrects the wrong that he has committed2.
If a person seeks forgiveness according to the aforementioned criteria3, God, in His abounding mercy, shall forgive him, except in the case where the individual delays seeking forgiveness for his sins till the time of his death. In such a case, the Qur’an declares that the repentance of such a person shall not meet God’s acceptance (Al-Nisaa 4: 17 – 18).
This is the method of seeking forgiveness for one’s sins, as prescribed by Islam. As far as the method prescribed by other religions is concerned, I would suggest that you write directly to those whose opinion would be representative of such other religions. My opinion of other religions is based only on the secondary sources of those religions and should, therefore, not be considered representative of those religions.
23rd June 2000
- In case the wrong committed by the person is of the nature of disobedience to God alone, then he would ask forgiveness from God alone. However, if the wrong committed has infringed the rights of another individual, then that other individual should also be asked for forgiveness. [↩]
- There, obviously, are certain cases where this is not possible. For instance, one may have killed another person, which, obviously, is an irreversible happening. However, there are a number of other situations, where the wrong action can be undone. As, for instance, depriving someone of his wealth. [↩]
- It may, however, be added here that the method of seeking God’s forgiveness for unintentionally killing another person is also an exception. In the case of unintentionally killing another person, besides the mentioned criteria, the Qur’an has also directed the subject to fast continuously for a period of sixty days, as a means of asking God’s forgiveness. [↩]