Allaah - the Most High - said:
"Seek Allaah's forgiveness for your sins, Indeed Allaah is Most-Forgiving, Most-Merciful." [Soorah an-Nisaa 4:106].
"Whosoever does an evil action, or oppresses his ownself through sinning, then seeks Allaah's forgiveness, will indeed find that Allaah is Most Forgiving, Most-Merciful." [Soorah an-Nisaa 4:110].
Imaam as-Sa'dee (d.1376H)- rahimahullaah - said:
perform. So a person who does not cling to this [Straight] Path is actually oppressing his ownself, acting treacherously, and swerving from the path of justice and fairness; the opposite of which is injustice and oppression."1
"Whosoever commits an act of disobedience and plunges himself into sin, but then sincerely does istighfaar (seeks Allaah's forgiveness) for it - which involves:- [i] affirming that it is a sin, [ii] having regret for doing it, [iii] abstaining from it, and [iv] having a firm resolve not to do it again - then such is the person who has the promise of Allaah's forgiveness and mercy - and indeed Allaah never breaks His Promise. So Allaah will forgive the sinner, purify him of his sin, and accept from him those righteous action that he had previously done [before committing the sin] ...And know that [the term] 'evil actions' include, in general, all acts of disobedience, whether minor or major. They are called 'evil actions' because of the terrible punishments that they necessitate, and because of their evil effects upon the soul. Likewise [the term] 'oppressing oneself through wrong-doing' includes the oppression of committing Shirk (directing worship, or any form of worship, to other than Allaah), as well as the [other forms of injustices] which are lesser than it. These two terms have also been explained in a way whereby one is inclusive of the other.
Evil actions have also been explained here to mean evil actions against people with regards to their blood, property or honour. Oppressing oneself through wrong-doing has [also] been explained here to mean those sins and acts of disobedience that a person commits against Allaah. It is called oppressing oneself because the person's soul or life is not actually his property so that he may do anything that he likes with it. Rather, this life, or soul, belongs to Allaah - the Most High - Who has given it to the person as a trust, and commanded him to be just and to cling to the Straight Path, both in words and deeds, and has taught this soul what has been commanded for it and the actions that it is required to
The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
"Allaah - the Most High - said: O son of Aadam, so long as you call upon Me and hove hope in Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Aadam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Aadam, were you to come to me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me in the worship of Me, I would bring you forgiveness as great as it."2
Allaah - the Exalted - also said about istighfaar:
"Allaah will not punish them whilst you (the Prophet 'alayhis-salaam) are amongst them, nor will He punish them whilst they seek Allaah's forgiveness." [Soorah al-Anfaal 8:33].
Allaah informs us that there are two factors which are the cause of safety from the terrible punishment of Allaah, and would continue to be so as long as they are present in the Ummah: [i] the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam being amongst them, and [ii] their seeking Allaah's forgiveness.
Ibn 'Abbaas radiallaahu 'anhu said:
"There are two [causes] why the people remained safe, [i] the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam living amongst them, and [ii] their seeking Allaah's forgiveness. The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam has now departed, so all that remains is seeking Allaah's forgiveness."3
Thus, the more negligent we become in seeking Allaah's forgiveness, the more we open up the doors of Allaah's punishment; both to ourselves as individuals and to the society as a whole. So - O Muslims - let us be mindful!
1. Tayseerul-Kareemur-Rahmaan (p. 164).
2. Saheeh: Related by at-Tirmidhee (no.3540), from Anas radiallaahu 'anhu. It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (nos.127-128).
3. Related by Ibn Katheer in Tafseer Qur'aanul'Adheem, (2/317).