The act of seeking forgiveness is known as istighfar. It is usually done by saying, “Astaghfirullah” or “Astaghfirullah Al-Adheem“. There are various other forms of istighfar taught to us by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as well and some of these are mentioned below.
Seeking forgiveness is meant to be a frequent action in the life of a Muslim, because as we learn from the Qur’an and hadith:
وَمَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّـهَ يَجِدِ اللَّـهَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا ﴿١١٠﴾
“And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful.”
“Every son of Adam commits sin, and the best of those who commit sin are those who repent.” [Sunan ibn Majah]
To sin, therefore, is human. To seek forgiveness for sins is an act of those who want to strive for a clean record with Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “By the One in Whose Hand my soul is, were you not to commit sins, Allah would replace you with a people who would commit sins and then seek forgiveness from Allah; and Allah would forgive them”. [Muslim]
Seeking forgiveness goes hand in hand with repentance, where the former is verbal and the latter involves the heart and body.
Benefits of Seeking Forgiveness
Istighfar is also one of the most virtuous deeds to involve one’s heart and tongue in. As sins pile up, they block the acceptance of our supplications. Istighfar, on the other hand, helps clear away the sins and open the doors to success.
“He who seeks forgiveness has not been persistent in sin, even if he does it seventy times in a day.” [Tirmidhi]
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them) said, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) 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]
It is a means of getting closer to Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).
Narrated Anas bin Malik that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than anyone of you is pleased with finding his camel which he had lost in the desert.” [Bukhari]
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported to have said, “Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart, and I supplicate Allah for forgiveness a hundred times in a day.” [Muslim]
“Glad tidings to those who find a lot of seeking forgiveness in the record of their deeds.” [Sunan ibn Majah]
When to Seek Forgiveness
At all times of the day:
“I seek the forgiveness of Allah and repent to Him one hundred times each day.” [Sunan ibn Majah]
In the latter part of the night:
Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Allah, Blessed and Exalted is He, descends to the earth’s heaven every night when the first third of the night has passed. He says: “I am the Sovereign. Is there any who calls upon Me so that I may respond to him? Is there any who asks of Me that I may give him? Is there any who seeks forgiveness from Me so that I may forgive him?’ He continues in that until the illumination of Al-Fajr.” [Tirmidhi]
At any time when one feels sincere regret and a desire to return to the pleasure of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He):
“There is no man who commits a sin then he performs ablution and does it well, then he prays two Rak’ah,’ (one of the narrators) Mis’ar said: ‘then performs prayer and seeks the forgiveness of Allah, but Allah will forgive him.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Words for Seeking Forgiveness
“The best manner of asking for forgiveness is to say,
اَللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي, لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ, خَلَقْتَنِي, وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ, وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اِسْتَطَعْتُ, أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ, أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ, وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي, فَاغْفِرْ لِي; فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَغْفِرُ اَلذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ
‘O Allah! You are my Lord. None has the right to be worshipped except You. You created me and I am your servant and I abide by your covenant and promise as best I can. I seek refuge in you from the evil, which I have committed. I acknowledge your favor upon me and I knowledge my sins, so forgive me, for verily none can forgive sin except you.'” [Bukhari]
Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to supplicate:
اللهم اغفر لي خطيئتي وجهلي، وإسرافي في أمري، وما أنت أعلم به مني، اللهم اغفر لي جدي وهزلي، وخطئي وعمدي، وكل ذلك عندي، اللهم اغفر لي ما قدمت وما أخرت، وما أسررت وما أعلنت، وما أنت أعلم به مني، أنت المقدم، وأنت المؤخر، وأنت على كل شيء قدير
‘Allahumm-aghfir li khati’ati, wajahli, wa israfi fi amri, wa ma Anta a’lamu bihi minni. Allahumm-aghfir li jiddi wa hazli, wa khata’i wa ‘amdi, wa kullu dhalika ‘indi. Allahumm-aghfir li ma qaddamtu wa ma akhkhartu, wa ma asrartu, wa ma a’lantu, wa ma Anta a’lamu bihi minni. Antal-Muqaddimu, wa Antal-Mu’akhkhiru; wa Anta ‘ala kulli shai’in Qadir’
O Allah! Forgive my errors, ignorance and immoderation in my affairs. You are better aware of my faults than myself. O Allah! Forgive my faults which I committed in seriousness or in fun deliberately or inadvertently. O Allah! Grant me pardon for those sins which I committed in the past and I may commit in future, which I committed in privacy or in public and all those sins of which You are better aware than me. You Alone can send whomever You will to Jannah, and You Alone can send whomever You will to Hell-fire and You are Omnipotent.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
رَبَّنَآ إِنَّنَآ ءَامَنَّا فَٱغۡفِرۡ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَقِنَا عَذَابَ ٱلنَّارِ
“Our Lord, indeed we have believed, so forgive us our sins and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” [Quran; 3:16]
اللهم اغفر لي ذنبي كله دقه وجله، وأوله وآخره، وعلانيته وسره
Allahum-maghfir li dhanbi kullahu: diqqahu wa jillahu, wa ‘awwalahu wa akhirahu, wa alaniyatahu wa sirrahu
“O Allah! Forgive all my sins, the small and the great, first and the last, the open and the secret” [Muslim]
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ يَا اللَّهُ بِأَنَّكَ الْوَاحِدُ الأَحَدُ الصَّمَدُ الَّذِي لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ أَنْ تَغْفِرَ لِي ذُنُوبِي إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
Allahumma inni as’aluka ya Allah! Bi-annakal-Wahidul-Ahad us-Samad, alladhi lam yalid wa lam yowled, wa lam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad, an taghfirali dhunubi, innaka antal-Ghafurur-Rahim
“O Allah, I ask of You, O Allah, as You are the One, the Only, the Self-Sufficient Master, Who begets not nor was He begotten, and there is None equal or comparable to Him, forgive me my sins, for You are the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]