Hadhrat Moosaa (Moses) led Bani Israel including the elders and men, the women and children of to the mouth of the raging sea. With nothing to defend themselves, they turned back to see Fir’awn (Pharaoh), furious, and his henchmen – blades sheathed – racing towards them. They cried to their Prophet Hadhrat Moosaa, as recorded in the Quraan:
فَلَمَّا تَرَاءَى الْجَمْعَانِ قَالَ أَصْحَابُ مُوسَى إِنَّا لَمُدْرَكُونَ [الشعراء: 61]
”And when the two hosts saw each other, the companions of Musa said, .Surely we are overtaken” (Ash-Shu’araa 26:61)
But Hadhrat Moosaa knew that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) would not allow Fir’awn to annihilate Bani Israel and wipe away Da’wah (Call) towards al-Haqq (the Truth). Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) recorded Hadhrat Moosaa’s reply, which radiated with the Iman of a Prophet and Messenger:
قَالَ كَلَّا إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ [الشعراء: 62]
“He said, .Never! Indeed with me is my Lord. He will guide me.” (Ash-Shu’araa 26:62)
Immediately, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) commanded Hadhrat Moosaa as quoted in Quraan:
فَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى مُوسَى أَنِ اضْرِبْ بِعَصَاكَ الْبَحْرَ فَانْفَلَقَ فَكَانَ كُلُّ فِرْقٍ كَالطَّوْدِ الْعَظِيمِ وَأَزْلَفْنَا ثَمَّ الْآخَرِينَ وَأَنْجَيْنَا مُوسَى وَمَنْ مَعَهُ أَجْمَعِينَ ثُمَّ أَغْرَقْنَا الْآخَرِينَ [الشعراء: 63-66]
”So We revealed to Musa saying: ‘Strike the sea with your staff.’ So it was severed apart, and each part became like a big mountain. Then We brought others close to that place. And We saved Musa and all those with him. Then we drowned the others.” (Ash-Shu’araa 26:63-66)
When Fir’awn entered into the sea and ached with the pangs of death, he said:
إِذَا أَدْرَكَهُ الْغَرَقُ قَالَ آمَنْتُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا الَّذِي آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ وَأَنَا مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ [يونس: 90]
“…when he was about to drown, he said: ‘I believe that there is no god but the One in whom the children of Israel believe, and I am among those who submit to Allah’.” (Younus 10:90)
Hadhrat Ibne Abbas explains that on the day Fir’awn entered into the sea, and knowing that death loomed, the Archangel Hadhrat Jibreel (Gabriel) came to him and began kicking dirt into his face and mouth, for fear that Fir’awn would plead for the Mercy of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), and he would be granted it.
But as Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) revealed to Fir’awn and those who would wait till the gargling of the soul to do Taubah (Repentance):
آلْآنَ وَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ قَبْلُ وَكُنْتَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ [يونس: 91]
“)Allah said:) ‘Is it now (that you have come to believe) while you were rebellious all along, and you were among the mischief-makers’.” (Younus 10:91)
“Istighfaar” means to seek forgiveness from Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) with one’s tongue and heart. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) informs us:
وَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّهَ يَجِدِ اللَّهَ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا [النساء: 110]
”Whoever acts evil or wrongs himself, then seeks forgiveness from Allah, shall find Allah Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.” (An-Nisaa 4:110)
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah reported that, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “(I testify) By He, who holds my soul in His Hands! Were you not to err, Allah would have taken you (all) away (and) He would have brought a people that would err, and then ask Allah for forgiveness, so He would forgive them.” (Muslim)
Let us take a little glimpse of the Aayaat (Verses) of Quraan that speak about Istighfaar, the seriousness of sin in the eyes of the early generations, the conditions of an accepted repentance, and what are some of the manners when making Du’aa:
1. Istighfaar is a characteristic of those to whom Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) shall grant success
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says:
رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْهَا فَإِنْ عُدْنَا فَإِنَّا ظَالِمُونَ  قَالَ اخْسَئُوا فِيهَا وَلَا تُكَلِّمُونِ  إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِنْ عِبَادِي يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا آمَنَّا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الرَّاحِمِينَ  فَاتَّخَذْتُمُوهُمْ سِخْرِيًّا حَتَّى أَنْسَوْكُمْ ذِكْرِي وَكُنْتُمْ مِنْهُمْ تَضْحَكُونَ [المؤمنون: 107-110]
“)The evil dwellers of Hell shall say): ‘Our Lord, get us out from here; if we do this again, then of course, we will be transgressors. He (Allah) will say: ‘Stay in it, humiliated, and do not speak to Me. There was indeed a group of My servants who used to say: ‘Our Lord! We adhere to the (true) faith, so forgive us and have mercy upon us, and you are the best of all the merciful. But you made fun of them, so much so that they caused you to forget My remembrance, and you used to laugh at them’.” (Al-Muminoon 23:107-110)
Then Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) will say:
إِنِّي جَزَيْتُهُمُ الْيَوْمَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ [المؤمنون: 111]
“Today I have, indeed, so recompensed them for their observing patience that they are the triumphant.” (Al-Muminoon 23:111)
2. Istighfaar opens the doors of all goodness, in this life and the next
During the Khilaafah (Caliphate) of Ameer Al-Mumineen Hadhrat ‘Umar bin Al-Khattaab, a drought befell the Muslims of Madinah al Munawwarah. Calling for Salaatul Istisqaa the (Congregational Prayer for rain), Hadhrat ‘Umar ascended the Mimbar (Pulpit) and during his Khutbah (Sermon), he recited no more than those verses that dealt with Istighfaar. He recited that day the words of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), speaking of what Hadhrat Nooh (Noah) said to his nation:
فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا  يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِدْرَارًا  وَيُمْدِدْكُمْ بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ أَنْهَارًا [نوح: 10-12]
”So I (Nooh) said: ‘Pray to your Lord for your forgiveness, Indeed He is Very-Forgiving, and He will cause the heavens to rain upon you in abundance, and will help you with riches and sons, and will cause gardens to grow for you, and cause rivers to flow for you,…” (Nooh 71:10-12)
3. Istighfaar is an indication of those most beloved to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrates that he heard Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) saying: “By Allah! I request Allah for forgiveness and return to Him in a single day more than seventy times.”
And in the story of Hadhrat Ayyoob (Job), Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) describes him:
وَخُذْ بِيَدِكَ ضِغْثًا فَاضْرِبْ بِهِ وَلَا تَحْنَثْ إِنَّا وَجَدْنَاهُ صَابِرًا نِعْمَ الْعَبْدُ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ [ص: 44]
”And (We said to him:) ‘Take (a bundle of) thin twigs in your hand, and strike with it, and do not violate your oath.’ Surely, We found him very enduring. He was really an excellent servant. Surely, he was great in turning (to Us, in penitence and praise).” (Saad 38:44)
4. The Seriousness of Sin
During the student days, when we were studying Islamic criminal law and the Hadeeth of Maa’iz was the topic of discussion for the day. It was such a dramatic moment, leaving many students reflecting on Istighfaar and how sincere Maa’iz must have been.
What happened was that Maa’iz had committed Zinaa (Fornication) and had come to the Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (Sall Allaho Alaihe WaSallam), saying: “O Messenger of Allah! I have committed Zinaa!”
The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) avoided him so that perhaps Maa’iz would desist and save himself from the punishment. But Maa’iz kept stepping in the face of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (Sall Allaho Alaihe WaSallam) and repeated: “I committed Zinaa! I committed Zinaa!”
When Maa’iz had said it again and again, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (Sall Allaho Alaihe WaSallam) asked him a series of questions. “Are you mad?”
He told him: “No.”
The Prophet (Sall Allaho Alaihe WaSallam) asked him: “Are you intoxicated (and he requested someone to smell his breath)?”
He said: “No.”
Then after, the Prophet asked him: “Did you enter her?”
He replied: “Yes.”
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) then asked him slowly: “What do you want from all this?”
And Maa’iz requested: “I want you to purify me!”
It is people like Maa’iz whose repentance to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) was so blessed that the mercy from it could have extended to all the inhabitants of Madinah al Munawwarah.
Hilaal Ibne Sa’ad said: “Don’t look at the meagerness of your sin, look at who it was that you disobeyed.”
5. Conditions of a Sincere Repentance
Hadhrat Anas narrates that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “All the children of Adam make mistakes, and the best of those that make mistakes are those who repent the most.” (at-Tirmizi)
Imam Nawawi wrote that Taubah is required for each sin. If that disobedience only concerns the slave and Allah – not concerning anyone else – then there are three conditions for the acceptance of Taubah:
1. That he desists from the sin
2. That he feels sincere regret for what happened
3. That he feels determination to never return to that sin.
If one of these three were missing, his Taubah would be deficient.
A fourth condition is added if the sin involves the action to compensate what wrong has been committed. That he frees himself from the right of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) or His servant, the human being.
Thus, for example, if he has missed the Fardh (Obligatory Salaah), he should offer its Qadhaa or if he has stolen something, he should return it. If he physically hurt someone, he should give that person the opportunity to hurt him back or ask forgiveness. If he slandered someone (committed someone’s Gheebah), he should ask that person for his pardon. But if it will hurt him more or it will result in greater evil if other party is informed, then recite some of Quraan or give Sadaqah (Charity) and request Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) to give the Ajar (Reward) of this Recitation or Sadaqah to other party and get him agreed to forgive him.
On a final note – after heavy rainfall, Hisham Ibne Hasan was walking behind Al-Alaa’ Ibne Ziyaad through the sloppy muddy streets of their village. He noticed Ibne Ziyaad avoiding all the treacherous puddles, until someone bumped him and his sandal slipped into the puddle. Forced by the momentum, Ibne Ziyaad had to carry through to the other end of the unforgiving mire.
After they had reached their destination, Ibne Ziyaad turned to Hisham and said: “Just like we avoided all those puddles on our way to this destination, so should as Muslim avoid the disobedience of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) throughout his journey to the Aakhirah (Hereafter). And just as you saw the momentum of falling into the puddle, such is the similitude of sin; when someone falls into it, it carries him deeper and deeper.” (Based on the lecture of Br. Muhammad)