66:8 O you who have faith, repent to God with true repentance.
“O believers, familiars, and friends, all of you repent! Come back to My threshold! Turn to Me! Though you have done what comes from you, I will do what comes from Me! Nobody accepts the defective except here. Come back! No threshold forgives sins but here. Seek shelter in Me! Come from the unkindly to the Lovingly Kind! Come from the pain of despair to hope! I have no fear of forgiving sins, come back! I am not ashamed to accept the defective, return!” Read the equivalent of this verse in “Be penitent toward your Lord” [39:54]. The station of penitence is higher than the station of repentance. Penitence is the servant’s return to his Lord with heart and aspiration, and repentance is the servant’s return from disobedience to obedience.
What is penitence? Coming from the valley of hypocrisy on the feet of truthfulness to the valley of tranquility, coming from the valley of innovation on the feet of surrender to the valley of the Sunnah, coming from the valley of dispersion on the feet of disentanglement to the valley of togetherness, coming from the valley of making claims on the feet of poverty to the valley of solitariness, coming from the valley of intelligence on the feet of indigence to the Real.
What is repentance? An obeyed interceder, tender trustee, and generous deputy effaces the imprint of sin, and at his intercession the Real pardons the sinful servant. He cleanses and makes pure the servant’s ledger of disobedience and makes the repentant man equal to a man without sin. This is why Muṣṭafā said, “He who repents of sin is like him who has no sin.” He also said, “Surely God is happier at His servant’s repentance than a thirsty man who comes upon a spring, a man who has lost his camel and finds it, and a barren woman who gives birth.” He is saying, “The Real is more quickly pleased by the repentance of the repenters than by any other act of obedience. Know that His approval of the repentance of the sinner is like the happiness of a thirsty man in the middle of a dry, waterless desert who suddenly comes across pure water. Or it is like that of a traveler who has lost his goods and mounts in the middle of a perilous desert and then, after despairing, he suddenly comes across his mount and his goods. Or it is like that of an old, barren woman, hopelessly wishing for a child, who is given the good news of a child of beautiful conduct and lovely form.”
In the whole world, there is no happiness that reaches the level of these three, yet next to the Real’s approval of the repenter’s repentance these three count as nothing and naught. The decree of eternity has gone forth that if someone should be disobedient in a tavern for seventy years but then one day he makes an ablution in pain, puts on the clothing of loyalty, comes to the mosque, makes the intention in bewilderment, raises his hands in remorse, says “God is greater” in dread, and enters into the presence of prayer and whispered secrets, that prayer will not yet be finished when a call will come forth from the Majestic Compeller to the folk of the Dominion, “O My appointees in these heavens! Today put aside all your acts of worship and stop the chanting of your glorification and hallowing. Burn the incense of asking forgiveness for this returned servant of Mine, for he has come to My threshold. Put the water that came with self-exertion from his eyes full of pain into the storehouse of mercy so that tomorrow in the courtyards of the resurrection I may send Riḍwān to take his hand and show him around the resurrection calling out, ‘This is God’s freedman.’ This is the one given freedom by the Lord and forgiveness by the Real, for in his sinfulness he had the brand of Muḥammad on his tongue and the brand of My love in his heart.”
It has been said that tomorrow on the Day of Resurrection a servant will be given his book in his hand. He will see his tainted deeds and hang down his head, tremendous grief sitting on him. The Real will gaze upon him with mercy and say, “O helpless man, fallen short in your days! Lift up your head, for today is the day of peace and the time of scattering mercy.” ‘Say: “Each acts according to his own manner”’ [17:84]. Everyone does what is worthy of him, and that is what comes forth from him. You are without loyalty because I created you that way. What is worthy of Me is all loyalty and generosity, for that is My attribute.” This is why the Lord of the Worlds says, “Those—God shall change their ugly deeds into beautiful deeds, and God is forgiving, ever-merciful” [25:70].