Repentance is a sincere return to Allah after straying from His path by disobeying Him. Disobedience is a sin. Sins are divided into major sins and minor one based on their grievous consequences. But sincere repentance covers both. Illicit sexual practices, neglecting prayer, fasting etc., are major sins. However, no major sin stands genuine repentance. In fact, whoever returns to Allah with heartfelt repentance becomes as pure as the one who has never committed a sin. However, this return involves three basic steps: to feel deep regret for disobeying Allah, to give up disobedience, and to resolve not to return to that sin evermore. One more condition to be mentioned is that if the sin one has committed involves taking someone else’s rights or properties, he has to give these rights and properties back to their due possessors.
Between man and his Lord this sincere repentance is purely an act of his heart. Repentance is just like Islam itself in terms of wiping out all previous sins. As we all are human beings and are weak enough to frequently fall in sins, a Muslim has to constantly refresh and renew his repentance for whatever he has done.
Sometimes Satan tries to trick the repentant by heaping doubts on them and trying to make them despair of Allah’s mercy. A Muslim should never pay attention to these whispers and thoughts. What is gone is gone. After making Tawbah, Allah welcomes those who return to Him. He never lets down those who repent sincerely and seek His forgiveness.
Listen to the following Hadiths:
Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Allah, the Exalted, will continue to stretch out His Hand in the night so that the sinners of the day may repent, and continue to stretch His Hand in the daytime so that the sinners of the night may repent, until the sun rises from the west“. [Muslim].
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated: Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who repents before the sun rises from the west, Allah will forgive him“.
Anas ibn Malik Al-Ansari (May Allah be pleased with him) the servant of the Messenger of Allah narrated that Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, Allah is more delighted with the repentance of His slave than a person who lost his camel in a desert land and then finds it (unexpectedly)“.
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. In another version of Muslim, he said: “Verily, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than a person who has his camel in a waterless desert carrying his provision of food and drink and it is lost. He, having lost all hopes (to get that back), lies down in shade and is disappointed about his camel; when all of a sudden he finds that camel standing before him. He takes hold of its reins and then out of boundless joy blurts out: ‘O Allah, You are my slave and I am your Lord’. He commits this mistake out of extreme joy“.