(The Ever-Pardoning)

At-Tawwab Meaning:

The Acceptor of Repentance, The Ever-Relenting, The Acceptor of our Return.

Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is At-Tawwab (in Arabic: ٱلْتَّوَّابُ), The One who beckons for our return. He repeatedly turns mankind towards repentance should they journey temporarily on the wrong path. Allah is lenient and restores grace to those who repent and forgives those who seek forgiveness.

Mentions of At-Tawwab:
From Quran & Hadith

Arabic Root:
From the root ta-waw-ba (ت و ب), which has the following classical Arabic connotations: to return, to return to goodness, to repent, to be restored, to be rewarded for deeds, to be repeatedly summoned or called.

This name of Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ, At-Tawwab, means the acceptor of repentance. This name makes an appearance in 11 different verses of the Qur'an. Now, being the acceptor of repentance is the most commonly understood meaning of this name. This is what is meant by seeking Tawbah, i.e., you return to Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ asking for forgiveness. But this misses an important quality of what it means to be At-Taawab. The root of both contains the idea of turning, i.e., changing directions to something else.

Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is Al-Tawwab not just in the sense that we turn to Him. But for our prayers to be heard and our sins to be forgiven, He must turn to us, allowing for repentance. It is within reason to see how Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ does not need to turn to those who sin. They often willingly engaged in disobedience and defiance, searching for pleasure in worldly pursuits. Why should Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ turn to this servant who knowingly transgresses against Himself? But yet, Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ in His infinite mercy, kindness, and grace, turns to His servant. He listens to his sincere repentance, and He forgives.

وَإِذۡ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوۡمِهِۦ يَٰقَوۡمِ إِنَّكُمۡ ظَلَمۡتُمۡ أَنفُسَكُم بِٱتِّخَاذِكُمُ ٱلۡعِجۡلَ فَتُوبُوٓاْ إِلَىٰ بَارِئِكُمۡ فَٱقۡتُلُوٓاْ أَنفُسَكُمۡ ذَٰلِكُمۡ خَيۡرٞ لَّكُمۡ عِندَ بَارِئِكُمۡ فَتَابَ عَلَيۡكُمۡۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

Wa iz qaala Moosaa liqawmihee yaa qawmi innakum zalamtum anfusakum bittikhaa zikumul ‘ijla fatoobooo ilaa Baari’ikum faqtulooo anfusakum zaalikum khairul lakum ‘inda Baari’ikum fataaba ‘alaikum; innahoo Huwat Tawwaabur Raheem

Yusuf Ali Translation:
"And remember Moses said to his people: “O my people! Ye have indeed wronged yourselves by your worship of the calf: So turn (in repentance) to your Maker, and slay yourselves (the wrong-doers); that will be better for you in the sight of your Maker.” Then He turned towards you (in forgiveness): For He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful." — (Qur'an 2:54)

أَلَمۡ يَعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ يَقۡبَلُ ٱلتَّوۡبَةَ عَنۡ عِبَادِهِۦ وَيَأۡخُذُ ٱلصَّدَقَٰتِ وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ,

Alam ya’lamooo annal laaha huwa yaqbalut tawbata ‘an ibaadihee wa ya’khuzus sadaqaati wa annal laaha huwat Tawwaabur Raheem

English Translation:
"Do they not know that it is Allah who accepts repentance from His servants and receives charities and that it is Allah who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful?" — (Qur'an 9:104)

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ describes the lowest people in paradise and how, on the day of judgment, it would be said: "Present his minor sins to him, and withhold from him his serious sins. Then the minor sins would be placed before him, and it would be said: On such and such a day you did so and so and on such and such a day you did so and so. He would say: Yes. It will not be possible for him to deny, while he would be afraid lest serious sins should be presented before him. It would be said to him: In place of every evil deed you will have a good deed. He will say: "My Lord! I have done things I do not see here." I indeed saw the Messenger of Allah laugh till his front teeth were exposed." [1]

From this hadith, we see yet another example of Allah's kindness and generosity. He is oft-pardoning, and we can see how He loves to forgive. "Those who avoid the major sins and immoralities, only [committing] slight ones. Indeed, your Lord is vast in forgiveness. He was most knowing of you when He produced you from the earth and when you were fetuses in the wombs of your mothers. So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him" (Qur'an 52:32). Here, it's important to realize that the goal is not to reach perfection, "do not claim yourselves to be pure." This has been interpreted to be understood that Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ expects us to slip and fall, for the minor sins He forgives without even being asked for "He is most knowing of you," and He's "vast in forgiveness." The other view is that we should not be proud of piety; the ability to do good is because Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ has purified them to be able to do good. It is from Him, and we should be grateful to Him for this ability. There's a difference of opinion regarding "the major sins," for these sins can be forgiven but require active repentance, " not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful." (Qur'an 39:53).

Guilt is an interesting emotion and can be seen as a gift from Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ. It can go two ways, (1) destructive and (2) instructive. If we are not careful, the constant repetition of something we know is inherently not good for us or is immoral will cause guilt to fester. It's like a built-in alarm siren that's shouting to change course. If it's ignored, it can erode self-confidence, self-esteem, and overall self-worth. If the action which originally caused guilt becomes normalized, then we may fail to recognize the damage it's causing. The one who sins and no longer fears Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ should be most worried. This person may have developed a deep-rooted belief that they will not have to answer to anyone as they face no serious repercussions for their misdeeds.

In their case, it would be best to read the Qur'an and learn about the warnings and punishment of the afterlife to re-instill this fear. He is merciful and turns to His servant, He gives us the chance to meet Him halfway, but remember Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is also just. Being able to admit your faults and harbor guilt is a beautiful sign of your belief and dedication to Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ. It is a sign of your iman (faith). Don't let guilt transform into self-hate, don't ever think it's too late for you. At any given moment, you can change. The next nine years don't have to look like the previous nine. "Allah wants to accept your repentance" (Qur'an 4:27). It is never too late to seek the forgiveness of your Lord.

Anas bin Malik narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Allah, Blessed is He and Most High, said: ‘O son of Adam! Verily as long as you called upon Me and hoped in Me, I forgave you, despite whatever may have occurred from you, and I did not mind. O son of Adam! Were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky, then you sought forgiveness from Me, I would forgive you, and I would not mind. So son of Adam! If you came to me with sins nearly as great as the earth, and then you met Me not associating anything with Me, I would come to you with forgiveness nearly as great as it.’” [2]

فَتَلَقَّىٰٓ ءَادَمُ مِن رَّبِّهِۦ كَلِمَٰتٖ فَتَابَ عَلَيۡهِۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

Fatalaqqaaa Aadamu mir Rabbihee Kalimaatin fataaba ‘alaihi; innahoo Huwat Tawwaabur Raheem

English Translation:
"Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful." — (Qur'an 2:37)

إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ تَابُواْ وَأَصۡلَحُواْ وَبَيَّنُواْ فَأُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ أَتُوبُ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَأَنَا ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

Illal lazeena taaboo wa aslahoo wa baiyanoo fa ulaaa’ika atoobu ‘alaihim; wa Anat Tawwaabur Raheem

English Translation:
"Except for those who repent and correct themselves and make evident [what they concealed]. Those – I will accept their repentance, and I am the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful." — (Qur'an 2:160)

We may see someone we know messing up, and their world may come crashing down on them. Some will abandon their side because they disagree with their ways, so they try to create distance between them and that person. Now, each person's case is unique, and we're not advocating for people to sympathize with abusers or put up with harmful or toxic relationships. But if you care for that person as a friend, we should try (in whatever way they allow it) to be part of the recovery process. To be part of the core support group to try and help build back better.

Imam al-Ghazali writes in connection to this name, "whoever accepts time and again the excuses of those who do wrong among those entrusted to his care, as well as those of his friends and acquaintances, is indeed characterized by this quality and has gained a share of it."

Narrated Anas: Allah's Messenger ﷺ said, "Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, "O Allah's Messenger ﷺ! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?" The Prophet ﷺ said, "By preventing him from oppressing others." [3]

We live in a time where we are fast to point fingers. Where people are not allowed to make mistakes publicly, but if we wish to share the connection in this divine name of Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ as being At-Tawwab, we should turn to people in kindness just as we want Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ to be kind to us, even when we are in the wrong. It was narrated from Anas bin Malik that: The Prophet ﷺ said: "None of you has believed until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." [4] When we study the beautiful names of Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ we learn of the ways in which He describes Himself and makes Himself known to us. Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ tells us He is kind, generous, merciful, wise, forgiving, oft-pardoning, and a friend to all. This should make us laugh and smile just as Prophet Muhammad ﷺ did when teaching others the mercy of Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ.

[1] Sahih Muslim 190a
[2] Hasan (Darussalam) Jami` at-Tirmidhi 3540
[3] Sahih al-Bukhari 2444
[4] Sahih (Darussalam) Sunan an-Nasa'i 5039

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