In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Allâh’s Beautiful Name: At-Tawab:
In this lecture we are going to explain the twenty-seventh of Allah’s Beautiful Names, “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning).
Dear reader! Each and every one of us must necessarily have remarkable experience with this Divine Name. But before we start talking about the linguistic meanings of this Name, it is necessary to throw light on its reality.
Let us begin with the following example: A high school may be opened and you may be made its principal. The school may have lots of students; and it may have its special laws and regulations. Lessons, tests and exams may go on properly; and everything in the school may be all right. The students who deserve to pass are allowed to pass and those who deserve to fail are made to fail. And you may be the best and fairest principal ever. After one month of the academic year is over, you ask your teachers to provide you with the students’ marks in order to check them and see which students are excellent and which ones are negligent. You summon the negligent students and advised them to double up their efforts and to be more careful. Those who take your advice will most probably be successful at the end of the year. In this case you are merciful and compassionate to them. But if you do not summon the negligent students but deal with them according to the school’s laws and regulations, you are just and fair but not merciful. In other words, if you apply the just and fair school’s laws and regulations, you are just and fair, but if you follow up your lazy students, sometimes advising them, sometimes threatening them, sometimes encouraging them, sometimes rewarding them, and sometimes punishing them, until they get on well with their study and deserve to be successful, this means that you are merciful.
You may send your son abroad for study and provide him with all the necessary money for tuition and accommodation expenses, but fail to keep an eye on his academic achievements. Then, five years later, you are shocked to find out that he wasted all the money on trivial things, completely neglected his studies, and achieved nothing. In this case, you tell him, “My son! I have done everything for you, but you have failed to do what you should have done.” In this case, you are just and fair to your son. But if, after sending your son abroad, you follow up not only all his movements and activities but also his academic achievements, and if you visit him every now and then, if you advise him, if you threaten him, and if you encourage him until he comes back after he has completed his studies and got his degrees, this means that you are merciful.
You may have an employee under instruction for six months. You may observe him and record, justly and fairly, each and every mistake that he makes. Then, when his mistakes become unbearable, and hence you find out that he is not up to the job, you sack him. This act on your part is just and fair. But if you desire to deal with this employee with mercy, you teach him how to work properly, you correct his mistakes, you help him, and you encourage him until he becomes excellent and, therefore, you keep him with you. This means that you are merciful.
In fact, there is a great difference between dealing with people with justice and dealing with them with mercy.
Allah, Most Gracious, created man and endued him with an intelligent mind. He, Glory to Him, created the universe to bespeak His Beautiful Divine Names and Attributes. In addition to the mind, Allah, Most Gracious, gave man a pure original nature and provided him with Divine Revelation, i.e. Divine Laws and Legislations. He also implanted in man lusts and desires and granted him power to fulfill his desires and needs. Then, He left it up to him to make his own choices and to do whatever he liked. In the end, when man passes away, he goes either to Paradise or Hell-Fire. In this case we say that Allah deals with man with justice.
But if man intends to do something wrong or sinful, Allah, Most Gracious, sometimes admonishes him, sometimes inspires him, sometimes frightens him, sometimes straightens his livelihood for him, sometimes threatens him, sometimes reassures him, and sometimes allows him to accompany righteous people. This means that Allah, Most Gracious, helps man to be of the people of Paradise. In this case we say that Allah is Most Merciful.
Now, how can we understand Allah’s Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning)? In fact, we have to start from Allah’s Divine Mercy, because Allah gives us a clever mind and a free will whereby we make our own choices in life. He implants in us desires, and creates for us the universe, which bespeaks His Divine Names and Attributes. He gives us power and a noble pure human original nature. He also sent His Prophets and Messengers with His Divine Revelation. Then, He informed us:
“Whosoever does good righteous work, it is for (the benefit of) his own self; and whosoever does evil, it is but against his own self; and your Lord is not at all unjust to (His) slaves.”
This is Allah’s Divine Justice; but His Divine Mercy is substantiated by His Being all the time with you, watching all your movements and actions, watching all your intentions and ambitions, watching your entire secrecy and publicity, watching all your attitudes and reactions, watching all of your affairs and matters. In each and every affair, He is with you; in return to each and every reaction on your part towards Him, He encounters you with a convenient one on His part. If you turn away from Him, He punishes you; if you turn to Him, He manifests His Divine Beauty to you; if you transgress against other fellow humans, He deters you; and if you do well to other fellow humans, He rewards you. In other words, due to Allah’s Divine Mercy upon you, He follows up, minute by minute, all of your attitudes and actions, intentions and ambitions, and all of your affairs and issues.
In the process of calling for Allah and His Religion, there are preachers and educators. A preacher delivers a speech or an oration and then leaves; he does not care whether people understand or not, have received admonition or not. He does not care who attends and who does not, or who applies what he receives or who do not. He is a mere preacher, i.e. someone who delivers a speech and leaves. But an educator is someone who does not only deliver speeches but also follows up all the affairs and conditions of his disciples.
In the same context, someone once told me: “You tell us that there are three kinds of knowledge: knowledge of Religion, Knowledge of methodology, and knowledge of reality. What is the difference between the three of them?”
It was not easy to explain, but then Allah, Most Gracious, enabled me to give an explanation that appealed to the man. I said: “Imagine a high mountain surrounded with valleys and hills. On the top of the mountain there is a magnificent palace full of lovely desirable things. Now, there are three kinds of scholars: The first kind of scholar is someone who explains to you what is inside the palace. For example, he tells you that the palace has 300 rooms, that it has a central heating system, that there are lots of kinds of delicious foods, that it has magnificent gardens and bedrooms. He tells you about delicious food, while you are hungry; and he tells you about the heating system while you are cold; and he tells you about comfort and luxury in the palace while you are tired. This kind of scholar gives you, as it were, knowledge of Religion, and nothing else.
The second kind of scholar is someone who tells you how to get to the palace: which way to take, which river to cross, how you can get into the palace. He tells you how to get to the palace and how to get into it. But you are still standing outside the palace and away from it. This kind of scholar gives you knowledge of methodology.
The third kind of scholar is someone who takes you to the palace and helps you get into it and enjoy all the pleasant desirable things in it. This kind of scholar gives you knowledge of reality.
In this context, from the viewpoint of Islamic ideology, religion consists of three things: Islam, Belief, and good work. Only good work helps you get into the palace and enjoy all the pleasant things therein. This should be our ultimate goal, because Allah created us for the Palace of Paradise and Eternal Bliss. It is no use to know about the Palace or how to get to it, but fail to enter it. To this effect, Allah, Most Gracious, says
“Except for him on whom your Lord bestowed His Mercy; and for that did He create them.”
“And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except they should worship Me (Alone).”
This should be our Ultimate Goal!
You are essentially created for Paradise. But Allah, All Mighty, Most Gracious, may give you a clever mind, a pure original nature, an ability to make your own choices. He may give you desires, lusts, powers and abilities, the universe, and legislation, but He may not follow up your conditions and affairs. And it sometimes seems that quite often, you see people deviating from the Right Way and Divine Revelation: they transgress against other fellow humans and indulge in perishable worldly pleasures and enjoyments. People as such will inevitably end in Hell-Fire. However, due to His Infinite Divine Mercy, Allah does not let man go astray unless he insists to do so. Allah, Most Gracious, always interferes in favor of man: He makes him hear the truth and sends fellow humans to warn him; but if man does not respond but insists on committing sinful deeds, Allah afflicts him with some hardships and misfortunes so that he may turn to his Lord. However, if man still insists on deviating from the Right Path, Allah, All Mighty, troubles him with more grievous disasters and misfortunes.
A doctor sometimes gives a patient some medicine, but if the patient does not respond, the doctor gives him a stronger medicine, and then even a far stronger one. This means that the amount and kind of medicine depends on the kind of illness he suffers from: The more serious the illness, the stronger the medicine.
The foregoing introduction is very necessary if we desire to explain Allah’s Beautiful Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning). The whole issue is that of mercy: the issue that it is possible for Allah, the Oft-Returning, to deal with His slaves in accordance with His Divine Justice and, thus, they deserve Hell-Fire. But due to His Infinite Divine Mercy, He deals with them by virtue of His Divine Mercy; and He does not leave them neglected, but rather follows up all their affairs and conditions. This is exactly what Allah’s Divine Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning) means. In other words, He takes care of His slaves and follows up their affairs in order to qualify them for His Paradise. He keeps them under His Divine Observation, Care and Protection; and He settles accounts with them for each and every thing they intend or do. If you dare earn money illegally, He destroys it, or ten times greater than it, for you, i.e. He deters you. If you dare transgress against the rights of other fellow humans, He causes you to be miserable and afflicts you with troubles and problems, and then, He reminds you that such hardship is only for the sinful deeds that you have done. In other words, the issue of repentance should be looked upon from the viewpoint of the fact that Allah, is “Tawab” (Oft-Returning) in the sense that He breeds His slaves so as to make them worthy of honor in the life of this present world and His Paradise in the Hereafter.
In fact, the starting-point of Allah’s Beautiful Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning) is that He deals with His slaves by virtue of His Infinite Divine Mercy, for if He dealt with them by virtue of His Justice, they would all be deservedly ruined.
Now, the word “Tawab” is an emphatic noun that means that Allah is Oft-Returning to His slaves in the sense that, often and often, He turns to His slaves and accepts their repentance, no matter how grievous or numerous their sins might be. Also, it means that Allah, Most Gracious, very often turns to His slaves with His Divine Favors and Graces, and with His Divine Forgiveness and Mercy. A third delicate meaning of Allah’s Name “At-Tawab” can be derived from this Quranic Verse:
“Then He (Allah) turned to them so that they might repent. Certainly, Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.”
Now, what does the clause “He (Allah) turned to them”? It means that He afflicts them with hardships and problems that drive them to turn to Him with repentance, for He would not be “Tawab” (Oft-Returning) to His slaves if He were to leave them unheeded, i.e. He gave them good health, lots of wealth and property, lots of rain, and beautiful dwellings, while they were deeply indulged in their own lusty indecent desires and caprices and perishable mundane pleasures and enjoyments.
I know someone who, after having earned lots of profits out of a successful project, wanted to enjoy a grand holiday in the USA, where he intended to spend a few days of complete profligacy. But as soon as he got there, he had a terrible backache. He went to hospital and had his back x-rayed; and doctors told him that he had a cancerous tumor in his spinal cord. When he heard the bad news, he was so shocked that he could hardly stand on his feet. He soon ended up his holiday and came back to Damascus, where he committed himself to religious lectures in its mosques and showed sincere reform and repentance.
Undoubtedly, this sudden illness that Allah, the Oft-Returning, drove to the man stood behind his sincere repentance. If Allah were to leave him unheeded and provide him with good health, strength, and wealth, and if He were to enable him to go on such frivolous holidays over and over again, the man would surely be of the dwellers of Hell-Fire in the end, and Allah would not be “Tawab” (Oft-Returning).
I know a very clever man who was a teacher of philosophy. Unfortunately for him, he did not show any respect to religion, but he used to make a lot of fun of religion and religious scholars. He even considered the whole religion as mere superstitions. But then, all of a sudden, he showed sincere repentance and reform. About a year ago, he and his wife both turned to Allah with sincere devotion, and committed themselves to religious lectures in our mosque. I felt very happy for him and asked him about the cause of his repentance. He told me that his daughter, whom he loved so much, suddenly had cancer in her blood. He took her to different countries for treatment, and he even had to sell his home in order to cover the expenses, but all was in vain. Then, he thought, “If my wife and I repent to Allah, Most Gracious, He may cure our daughter for us.” Anyway, a year ago, I was invited to a wedding party in order to deliver a speech. Guess what! It was the man’s daughter’s wedding party.
I swear by Allah, dear readers; each and every event or incident I hear of makes me more certain that Allah’s Divine Mercy is Infinite, and that if He were to leave His slaves with their sins and misdeeds, deviations and heedlessness, if He were to let them get involved in their lusty desires and caprices, earn their living illegally or go beyond bounds against religion, or if He were to leave them unheeded, they would all deserve to enter Hell-Fire. But due to His Infinite Divine Mercy, He, the All-Returning, afflicts them with hardships and difficulties that drive them to repent and reform.
I knew an atheist whose first and foremost interest was to spoil people’s religious beliefs. He denied the existence of Allah, All Mighty, and even claimed that religion was mere superstitions. He got married and had a female baby, whom he loved so much. But suddenly, the baby had a fever and had to be taken to the doctor. The doctor gave her some medicine but she did not get any better, so she had to be taken to a number of other doctors. One of the doctors said that her case was very rare and incurable. When he heard the horrible news, the atheist father was so shocked that he could not help weeping sorrowfully. He began to take her with him to his place of work lest she should die in his absence. Two or three months passed by, and the girl did not get any better. One day, the atheist father came home and told his wife, “I’d like to perform “Ghusul” (major ritual ablution).” Perhaps that was the first time in his life that he did. After having performed “Ghusul”, he stood up to offer prayers to the Lord, Allah, All Mighty. In prayer, he invoked, “O Lord! They claim that You exist. If You really exist, please cure my daughter, or cause her to die or cause me to die!” and he cried most sorrowfully and sincerely while performing the first couple of Rak’as of prayer in all his life. No sooner did he finish his sincere prayer and invocation than his daughter’s temperature began to drop. Yes, indeed! Allah, the Oft-Returning, cured his daughter for him!
In fact, there are lots of stories of this kind. Once, after I had delivered a lecture one evening, a young man asked me for a private meeting. When we sat down together, he told me that he had committed all kinds of sins and misdeeds, for he grew up in a family whose father did not believe in Allah, and, therefore, he allowed his son to do whatever he liked. When he grew up, he was very successful in business and he earned lots of money, but he used the money for his frivolous profligate pleasures and enjoyments. But then Allah, All Mighty, afflicted him with a great financial problem that destroyed him completely, and he became penniless. Also, he and his whole family began to suffer from different kinds of illnesses. In the end, he became really penniless and did not have any money even for food or medicine. But while he was walking in a street, he heard the Azan (The Call to prayer) and decided to get into the mosque, for the first time in his life, and offer some prayers to the Lord, Allah, Most Gracious. He wept so sorrowfully and regretfully and showed sincere reform and repentance. After that, things went on well with him and his family.
From the foregoing stories, I really desired to show that each and every one of us has his/her own affairs with the Lord, Allah, All Mighty, Most Gracious, and that such affairs always end up in sincere reform and repentance. This is the meaning of Allah’s Divine Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning). In this context, Allah, Most Gracious, says in a Divine Hadith
“If they repent, I am their Love; but if they do not repent, I am their Physician: I afflict them with misfortunes in order to purify them from sins and defects.”
Yes indeed! Allah, Most Gracious, knows how to treat His slaves!
Lots of those who attend our lectures in this mosque came here after Allah had inflicted on them big problems that drove them to seek refuge with Him, All Mighty, and turn to Him with sincere repentance and truthful devotion. As a result, Allah, the Oft-Returning, accepted their repentance and turned to hem with Love and Compassion. Some people had incurable diseases. I remember when a man was put on the operation table to have a cancerous tumor removed, he looked up and invoked, “O Lord! I promise that if You cure me of this disease I shall never disobey You as long as I live.” Allah, The Oft-Returning, did cure him; and he kept his promise. Without such tumor, which Allah, Most Merciful, afflicted him with, he would never have repented.
Believe me, dear readers; I have heard hundreds and hundreds of similar stories that ended in sincere repentance and truthful reform. This is what Allah’s Beautiful Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning) means:
“Then He turned to them so that they might repent.”
This Quranic Verse is the most beautiful in this context. It means that Allah, The Oft-Returning, afflicts His slaves with hardships and misfortunes that drive them to turn to Him with sincere repentance and truthful devotion. So, who is the real hero? It is simply someone who turns to Allah, All Mighty, Most Gracious, out of his own free will, while he/she is well off and in good health. Such is real heroism; so try to be a hero!
Of course, after a sin has been committed, repentance is acceptable and welcomed; and Allah, The Oft-Returning, blesses those who repent after having committed a sinful deed and after having been visited by a misfortune. But it is wiser and more adequate for man to know the Lord in times of weal, and not in times of woe.
Therefore, the second meaning of Allah’s Beautiful Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning) is that He afflicts His slaves with hardships and misfortunes that drive them to repent and reform. Allah, All Mighty, addresses this issue
“Except those who repent and do righteous work and openly declare (the truth that they concealed): Such I will accept their repentance; and I am the Oft-Returning, the Most Merciful.”
Now, Allah, Most Merciful, says
“Then He turned to them so that they might repent.”
In interpretation of this Verse, Scholars say that if Allah turns to His slaves first, He afflicts them with hardships and misfortunes that drive them to repent to Him; but if a slave turns to Allah, Most Merciful, with repentance out of his own free will first, and before being visited by hardships or misfortunes, Allah accepts his repentance. Therefore, either you turn to Allah willingly or He forces you to do, and then accepts you.
I would like each one of my dear brother to ask himself, “Every time that I show any negligence or deviation on my part, Allah afflicts me with hardship that has driven me to repent and reform; so why should I wait until I am visited with hardships and misfortunes?” In other words, I would like you to return to Allah out of your own free will and before being visited by hardships, misfortunes or punishments. Young people are strongly advised to get the lesson from that which happens to those who are older than they are.
Another thing: They say that first of all, Allah turns to His slave by afflicting him with hardships and misfortunes that drive him to repent and reform; and then He accepts His slave’s repentance and enables him to abide by such repentance. For, example, if someone invokes, “O Lord! I repent to You; and I shall never commit this sin again,” but he does not beseech the Lord to enable him to abide by his repentance, Allah may weaken his will, and he may fall in the same sin again. Therefore, repentance is perfect and complete only if it is accepted and man is able to abide by it. This is because if man repents of his sin and then commits it again, he loses balance and collapses. In other words, it is easier to commit a certain sin thousands of times before you repent than to commit it once after you have repented. This is because if you commit the same sin after having repented of it, you lose confidence in yourself and feel as if the way to Allah were blocked. However, the remarkable thing in this issue is Allah’s Words
“And Allah desires to accept your repentance, but those who follow their own lusts wish that you should deviate tremendously away (from the Right Path).”
To the same purport, Allah’s Messenger, (PBUH), says
“Verily, Allah, the Oft-Returning, is more pleased with His slave’s repentance than a lost person who finds his way, a barren person who has a baby, or a thirsty person who finds water.”
Once, an Arabian was riding a camel on which he had all his food and drink. He dismounted for a short rest; but the camel suddenly went away, and he believed that he was surely going to die in the desert. He sat down crying sadly and then fell asleep because he was very tired. But when he woke up, he was filled with joy when he found the camel standing beside him, and cried out exauthordly, “O Lord! I am Your lord; and You are my slave!” Allah’s Messenger, (PBUH), says
“Allah is happier with His slave’s repentance than that Arabian is with his camel.”
Yes, indeed! Allah, the Oft-Returning, desires that you turn to Him with repentance; and when a disobedient slave turns to Allah with repentance, it is called out in the heavens: “Congratulate so-and-so because he is reconciled with Allah!” Yes, indeed:
“Allah desires to accept your repentance, but those who follow their own lusts wish that you should deviate tremendously away (from the Right Path).”
If you sit with people who love this present world, if you sit with people of caprices, or if you sit with people of profligacy, they all wish to make you like them, and they reassure you that nothing wrong will ever happen to you and that they will bear all the consequences of your sins or misdeeds. They reassure you that Allah is All-Forgiving and Most Merciful. But listen to what Allah, All Mighty, says:
“And Allah desires to accept your repentance, but those who follow their own lusts wish that you should deviate tremendously away (from the Right Path).”
You must respect and sanctify Allah’s Divine Desire, for Allah, the Oft-Returning, really desires happiness and eternal bliss for you.
Such profligate and disobedient people will inevitably suffer a lot in the end although they might live in big luxurious palaces and drive expensive cars for some time. Righteous people will certainly be happy and prosperous in the end, although they might not live in luxurious palaces or drive expensive cars. The real winner is He who wins in the end. Imagine a luxurious majestic palace, and imagine someone walking along a hard way to it because he is going to be its owner; and imagine someone driving the most expensive and beautiful car in the world on his way to be executed. Whom, do you think, should we congratulate: the one walking on his feet or the one driving the most expensive car? Fools congratulate the one driving the car; but wise people congratulate the one walking on his feet. Make no mistake about it: it is ends that determine Issues. Consider the following Quranic Verses:
“Say (O Muhammad): ‘Enjoy (your brief life)! But your final destination will be Hell-Fire!’”
“And (remember) when Abraham said: ‘My Lord! Make this township (Mecca) a place of security, and provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.’ He (Allah) answered: ‘As for him who disbelieves, I shall leave him in contentment for a while, but then I shall compel him to the torment of the Fire, and worst indeed is such destination.”
“You should not be deceived by the free disposal (and affluence) of the disbelievers throughout the land. (It is but) a brief enjoyment, then their ultimate abode is Hell, and worst indeed is that place for rest.”
“Say: ‘Short is the enjoyment of this world; and the Hereafter is (far) better for him who fears Allah; and you shall be wronged none the least.’”
“And whatever you have been given is but enjoyment of the life of this present world and the adornment thereof, and that which is with Allah is better and will remain forever. Have you then no sense? Is he whom We have promised an excellent promise – which he will find true – like him whom We have made to enjoy the luxuries of the life of this present world, then, on the Day of Resurrection, he will be among those summoned (to be punished in the Hell-Fire).”
“What is the matter with you? How do you judge?”
“Is, then, he who is a believer like him who is a disbeliever? Not equal are they.”
“Shall We then hold Muslims like criminals? What is the matter with you? How do you judge?”
“Or do those who earn evil think that We shall hold them equal with those who believe and do righteous good deeds, in their present life and after their death? Worst is the judgment that they make.”
Such are crystal clear facts!
Dear reader: Allah’s Beautiful Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning) means that He, Most Gracious, returns to His slaves with good things. Rain is one of the good things that Allah, The Oft-Returning, returns to us with; air that we breathe is from Allah, The Oft-Returning; the organs of our body, which function regularly and properly, are of the great things that Allah, The Oft-Returning, returns to us with. Not only that but also Allah returns to us with His Divine Graces and Favors in all places and times. This is the first meaning of Allah’s Divine Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning).
The second meaning: Allah is “Tawab” (Oft-Returning) in the sense that He afflicts His slaves with Misfortunes in order to make them turn to Him with repentance and reform:
“And if they belie you (O Muhammad), say: ‘Your Lord is the Owner of Vast Mercy, and never will His Wrath be turned back from the people who are criminals.”
Notice how beautiful this Quranic Verse is from the viewpoint of significance and accuracy! What does the word Mercy mentioned in the Verse mean?! The answer is: In the same Verse, Allah, Oft-Returning, says
“and never will His Wrath be turned back from the people who are criminals”
This means that Allah’s Divine Mercy necessitates that His Divine Wrath should not be turned back from the people who are criminals. To make his point clear, let us have the following example: Imagine that a scholar has an intelligent, but negligent and careless son. Therefore, every now and then, he reproaches him, beats him, treats him sternly, and flows up all his behavior and academic achievements until he becomes a doctor and receives the highest scientific degrees; and he starts his own clinic, is very successful and earns lots of money. He will certainly invoke good for his father: “May Allah well recompense my father for what he did for me. Unless he was stern with me, and unless he had beat and reproached me, I would have never become a doctor.” Yes indeed. If the father had not been stern with his son, and if he had left him unheeded, he would have said, “I wish my father had beaten me! I wish my father had reproached me! I wish my father had been stern with me!” If the father were naively merciful to his son, the son, because of his ignorance and lack of experience in life, would love his father and would be grateful to him; but he would blame his father a lot when he had grown up. But the father’s wise sternness and hard treatment makes the son most thankful and grateful when he grows old and becomes a successful doctor.
Another example: If someone were irreligious and sinful, and, therefore, Allah afflicted him with hardships and misfortunes that forced him to turn to Allah with sincere repentance and faithful devotion, and hence he tasted sweetness of nearness to Allah, Most Merciful, and right guidance to Him, he would certainly turn to the Lord and say, “O Lord! Praise to You for having afflicted me with such hardships and misfortunes!” By the way, I would like to reassure those whom Allah has afflicted with some troubles and misfortunes: “Put all your trust in Allah, All Mighty! There will certainly come a time when He, Glory to Him, unveils the secrets behind such hardships and misfortunes. And I am sure that you will abound in love for Allah; otherwise all my words would be nonsense. However, practice puts theory on the test. Read, if you like, stories of the Prophet’s venerable Companions, for they contain clear evidence of what I say.
Man must necessarily know that Allah, All Mighty, Most Gracious, is “Tawab” (Oft-Returning), in the sense that He, Most Merciful, loves us and keeps us under His intensive Divine Care, constant Observation and constant Measurement, as it were, of heartbeat, blood pressure, …etc. Yes, indeed, we are under Allah’s Intensive Care! We can imagine things as follows: If someone bumps his head on a post unintentionally, Allah, as it were, says to him, “Be careful My slave!” If someone goes astray or commits a sinful deed, he receives a blow or a shock from Allah, Most Gracious. It is as though Allah tells him, “Where are you going My slave! Beware!” This is because Allah, Most Merciful, is “Tawab” (Oft-Returning). If someone earns money illegally, Allah makes him lose ten times as much as he has earned. It is as though He is teaching him not to do that again. If a mechanic charges someone more than what he should normally take, Allah may cause a bit of steel enter his son’s eye, and he has to take him to hospital and pay much more than the money he charged the car’s owner. In other words, Allah, the Oft-Returning, punishes him in order to teach him that this is illegal.
One of the Wholesale merchants once said arrogantly to someone who came to buy only six pieces of clothes, “We do not sell in retail!” For a whole month after that, no customer ever came to his factory or bought anything from him. This is because Allah, the “Tawab” (Oft-Returning) punished him.
Consider how beautiful a brass vessel is. It is as such because it has been hammered, polished and forged. The same thing goes for man: he needs to be hammered and forged, as it were, in order to be well behaved, and in order to get rid of arrogance or insolence. Such is Divine Hammering and Forging of man in order to make him as pure and noble as an angel. This is one of the great many manifestations of Allah’s Divine Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning).
In this context, Allah, The Oft-Returning, says in a Divine Hadith
“By My Might and Majesty! I do not seize the soul of My believing slave, Whom I love to mercy, except after I have afflicted him, for each sinful deed he has committed, ailment in his body, straitening in his sustenance, or a misfortune in his wealth or child, until I make him (as pure) as an atom. If there is still anything wrong with him, I make agonies of death harder for him until he encounters Me as (pure as he was) the day his mother bore him.”
I reiterate that we can sum up Allah’s treatment to man in a couple of words: Either you turn to Allah, Most Gracious, on your own, or He forces you to do so. Allah, All Mighty, knows very well how to make you turn to Him: He knows very well how to frighten you; He knows very well how to make you tremble with fear; and He knows very well how to make you collapse when you hear the bad news. So, it is wiser and better for you to turn to Him with sincere repentance and faithful devotion before He forces you to do.
I knew someone who was totally irreligious and frivolous. He had a righteous neighbor who advised him a lot but he did not take the advice. In the end, he died loaded with a heavy burden of sins and misdeeds. It is said that one of his neighbors dreamed of him wearing harsh shabby dirty clothes and going round a pool, saying, “Woe to me! My neighbor so-and-so advised me but I did not take his advice. I wish I had! If someone advises you, take his advice!” By the way, I would like to say that as long as your heart is still beating, the gate to repentance is still wide open. Hasten to the Lord’s Mercy, Which is very near, for He is Oft-Returning and accepts your repentance!
“Then He turned to them so that they might repent.”
A factory owner once told me that about ten years ago, he very often noticed that some money was stolen from his pocket. He tried hard to know who the pocket-lifter was, but he simply failed. This went on for some time; but then suddenly, the pocket lifting stopped. Ten years later, a man with a beard knocked on his door: “I am so-and-so. Don’t you know me?” The man said. “Yes, of course I know you. You are so-and-so who used to work in my factory.” He said. The man looked at him regretfully and said, “I used to steal money from your pocket every now and then, but now I have turned to Allah with sincere repentance. Here I am! I have come to give all your money back to you!” The factory owner looked at the man and said, “By Allah! Since you have repented to the Lord, I forgive you, and I have a place for you in my factory, if you desire to come back.”
Once again: So long as the heart is still beating, everything can be redeemed and corrected. You can discharge the rights of other fellow humans: you can pay the money to your creditors, you can return things to their owners, and you can ask those you have slandered or defamed for forgiveness. This is possible, and it should be done soonest possible. Either you turn to Allah with sincere repentance on your own, or He forces you to do so. It is better and more befitting for you to turn to Him on your own!
“Then, He (Allah) turned to them that they may turn (to Him with sincere repentance) ”
Means that Allah forces His sinful and deviant slaves to repent; while
“They turned (to Allah), so He turned to them”
Means that Allah accepts the repentance of those who turn to Him; and He even helps them abide by such repentance.
It is narrated that when Allah’s Messenger, (PBUH), stood up, on the night of ‘Arafat (a holy night when pilgrims to Mecca are on the mount of ‘Arafat), to invoke and ask forgiveness for his people, Allah revealed to him, “I have forgiven them only that which is between Me and them; but I have not forgiven them injustice against one another.” That is why Allah, Most Merciful, says:
“He will forgive you (some of) your sins for you.”
In other words, Allah forgives only things that are between you and Him; but rights of other humans have to be redeemed.
Everyone should settle accounts with himself very accurately as regards such issues; and it should be very clear that the happiest person is someone who is devotedly committed to Allah’s Religion and shows real obedience. However, this Quranic Verse provides great comfort and tranquility:
“And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed achieved a great achievement.”
The following Verse also provides honor and respect:
“Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah are those who are most pious and dutiful.”
Does not suffice the wronged that those who wrong them are disobedient to Allah, All Mighty?!
Once again: Allah is “Tawab” (Oft-Returning) in the sense that He does not deal with His slaves according to His Justice, but rather he overwhelms them with His Mercy. He follows up each and every step they make and each and every thing they do. He corrects them and drives them to turn to Him whenever they go astray or deviate from His Right Path. A merciful compassionate father always calls his son to ask him about his academic achievements; it does not befit him to leave his son unheeded or neglected.
Also, Allah, Most Merciful, is “Tawab” (Oft-Returning) in the sense that He entrusted you with the Trust and equipped you with an intelligent mind. He imbedded in you instincts and a pure original human nature, whereby you distinguish right from wrong and lawful from unlawful; and He also provided you with His Divine Revelation and Guidance, i.e. His Religion. Nevertheless, He constantly follows up all your affairs and issues.
One of out brother told me that he once had a great opportunity of buying a house at a much lower price than its real value, provided that he got involved in usurious loans with the bank. The bank manager, who was a non-Muslim, told him that such usurious loans were considered as unlawful in Islam, and he advised him, “This is unlawful in your religion of Islam! You should not get involved in it, because it blemishes your faith.” The man was so touched by the manager’s religious advice, but he was very regretful as the advice came from a non-Muslim, which meant that he was so ignorant and negligent as regards his religious affairs. He suddenly began to weep sorrowfully, and turned to Allah, All Mighty, saying, “O Lord! I promise that I shall not buy the house! I shall never disobey You!” He went back to his shop and forgot all about the house. When he entered the shop, he found a dear old friend waiting for him. After having greeted one another, the friend said, “Listen! I’m leaving for one of the Arabian Gulf countries, and I have such-and-such amount of money that I don’t need for the time being. I’d like you to keep it for me until I come back in two or three years; and you can do whatever you like with the money.” By the way, the amount of money was enough to buy the same house that he had just abstained from buying for the sake of Allah. I swear by Allah! Only half an hour after he had left the bank and had refused to complete the usurious deal and covenanted Allah never to disobey him again, Allah, the Oft-Returning, inspired his friend to offer him his money to use as he desired, and to buy, quite lawfully, the house, which he was about to buy in a way that clashed with the principles of Allah’s Religion.
Yes, indeed! Allah is not only Oft-Returning but also All-Wise. If His slave needs only a hint to turn to Him, there is no need for words; and if he needs only words to come to Him, there is no need for punishment. In other words, the more sensitive a person is, the more he understands his Lord: some people need no hint to turn to Allah, i.e. they turn to Him out of their own free will; sh3er need hints, reminders, punishments, public reproach, and even hard misfortunes and sever humiliating torments. Wise people need no reminders or punishments; they understand by hints or on their own.
Also, Allah, All Mighty, is “Tawab” (Oft-Returning) in the sense that He never leaves us neglected or unheeded. Nay! He really desires us to turn to Him. He created us in order to mercy us. He created us to make us happy in the present world and the Hereafter. You should understand, dear reader, that it is wise to turn to Allah on your own or by a small hint. If you fail to understand Allah, He knows very well how to drive you back to Him. By the way, I quite often notice that some brother neglect attending religious lectures, but only after one of two months, they return more earnestly, perhaps due to a certain problem or difficulty, which drives them to hasten back. Be firm and steadfast, because Allah calls you to Him, and don’t be like a small boat in a rough sea:
“Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah: of them some have fulfilled their obligations (i.e. have been martyred), and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed in the least.”
It is over! Everything has become very clear! You have covenanted the Lord, All Mighty, Creator of all worlds, to obey Him, to acquire religious knowledge, and to serve other fellow humans. So you have to be steadfast and firm! It is not only in times of weal that Allah should see from you sincere devotion and faithful commitment, but also in times of woe.
To wrap up, the foregoing facts are some meanings of Allah’s Beautiful Divine Name “At-Tawab” (The Oft-Returning). We pray to Allah to turn to us with His Infinite Divine Mercy; and we pray to Him to accept our repentance! Allah’s Messenger, (PBUH), says
“If a disobedient slave turns to Allah (with sincere repentance), it is called out in the heavens and the earth: ‘Congratulate so-and-so, for he has been reconciled with Allah!’”