What is Repentance?

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Quora

When man does something wrong, he feels guilty. We commit a mistake as a result of succumbing to emotions. But emotions do not last for long. When emotions subside, conscience emerges and when this happens, man must not neglect the inner voice.

The Creator has placed a special feature in man’s psyche—and that is what is called ‘repentance’. Repentance is a wonderful means of mercy for human beings. This is referred to the Quran (25:70) in these words: “God will change their evil deeds into good deeds.”

The transformation that this Quranic verse refers to, takes place if sincere repentance wells up inside a person after he does something wrong. A positive aspect of repentance is that it engenders a strong determination in a person to reform himself, and, after having done something wrong, to firmly walk on the path of goodness thereafter. It is this positive enthusiasm that follows from repentance that, changes an evil deed into a good one.

If you make a mistake that arouses anger in another, but then you repent and say: ‘Please forgive me, ‘I was wrong,’ this will certainly cause the aggrieved person to have a change of heart. Such an apology will, on the one hand, inculcate positivity in your soul and, on the other, it will promote a culture of love among the people you are living with. In family life as well as in social life, untoward events are unavoidable. Such happenings sour relations and create a distance between people. The best solution is to repent sincerely. Don’t wait for others to take the lead.

If, after doing an evil deed, one chooses to continue on the same path, it makes a person even more inclined to evil. Engaging in introspection on the other hand would lead him to make his mind engage in evil again. If he does so, the evil deed that he has done will become a factor that leads him to goodness.

Repentance is an instrument of self-correction, initiating a process of self-assessment. This process is vital, as it enhances your intellectual calibre and leads to spiritual development. Repentance is an inner spirit, a readiness to atone for every kind of mistake.

The source of repentance is one’s conscience (zameer). It is not possible that a person does something wrong and the conscience does not get touched by it. The only condition is that one should be honest with his conscience so that one does not neglect the voice of his conscience. Gandhiji had said, “thus my inner side speaks”, and when this inner side speaks, one must pay heed to it. There is no other criterion for sincere repentance.

If you have wronged another, then the first step is to go and seek his forgiveness. If the other party refuses to forgive you then the only option left is that the one seeking forgiveness should pray for the betterment for the other person.

Repentance is not a temporary thing; man keeps thinking about the mistake and the feeling of having made a mistake remains alive. Repentance is a continuous process; it is unilateral and not bilateral. This is because forgiveness is in the domain of God and when something is in the domain of God, man can never demand bilateralism.

Honest repentance stays in your heart your entire life and man always reflects on it. If one becomes confident that his repentance has been accepted fully and he can continue his life as before, he will make no reform to his lifestyle. It will not be true repentance. True repentance commands reforms from an individual.