Issue 90 / November - December 2012
Seeking Forgiveness in the Service of God
Question: Why is seeking forgiveness needed even right after a good work in the service of God?
It is very likely for us human beings to lapse or sin even during actions that are meant to serve the good pleasure of God, and as a result of such errors our good works may come to a halt. The Qur'an connects conquest with asking forgiveness as in the following verse: "When God's help comes, and victory, ... then glorify your Lord with His praise, and ask Him for forgiveness" (110:1-3). Aisha, the Prophet's wife, reports that after the revelation of this verse, the Prophet increased the number of times he asked God for forgiveness as much as to a hundred even he was in the company of others.
This is the very spirit of a prophet. The contrast, however, i.e., to be extremely joyous by achievement and victory is the pharaonic spirit, which can numb attitudes that are fitting to a believer. To say the least, even going somewhere, be it for a good service, in a spirit of boasting or in an air of jovialness or excessive ease are in no way in congruence with virtue. Yes, it is my absolute belief that these sorts of so-called services, when deprived from asking God's forgiveness or self-introspection, are the main causes for the obstructions we face along the way. We are in such fragile days that society, especially the devoted souls, has to revise themselves once again, in terms of senses, thought, belief and practice. In order to repair the points out of order, and to reconstruct and revive the spiritual state, all should be reviewed, totally. Only after such a serious operation, people will ponder more deeply on those words they utter, just as someone who is breaking his fast feels the water he drinks flowing in, and ascend to the level of asking forgiveness even after a prayer performed in full awareness.
Yes, it is unknown where God's approval lies. Maybe He approves of a prayer practiced in a stiff posture but with full conformity regarding its principal components. What matters, indeed, is to breathe the manner of being in the presence of God Almighty. That is, the key issue is not attaining a spiritual pleasure, and by no means of which do I mean to say that we should not feel any pleasure. In contrast, I mean, unless we are able to comprehend and develop the conception of "asking forgiveness" after every single accomplishment we reach in the name of both our personal perfection and the perfection of the society, that can be regarded as heedlessness; and, God Almighty does not like heedless people. Even more, sentences like "Such nice deeds has God made us fulfill" may probably be regarded as a remark of associating ourselves as partners with God, perhaps in a rather disguised manner, unless it is accompanied with asking forgiveness. The more we go deeper in asking forgiveness, the less harmless will be those perilous thoughts.
Another aspect of the issue, while we are breasting the calamities confronting us, to utter expressions such as "why have these happened to us?" "what has been wrong with us?" is an act of ingratitude and misbehave towards God. Because of this fact, if those kinds of feelings awake in us, we should muffle them with asking forgiveness. Do we really seek the means to put the blame on ourselves? Do we actually turn our looks at our inner worlds like projectors and incessantly browse there? Does not indeed God assert believers to mind their own business, and not to keep themselves busy with others who follow different ways? that their responsibility is themselves?" (5:105) So, why do not we do our inner control under the light of the maxim "God does not behold your appearance but your hearts," and check what gets in and out our hearts? Unless these are done, God's grace upon the accomplishments obtained shall be forgotten, people shall fall in egoism and be deceived, as all these are indeed the delusions Satan whispers creeping up from the right side. Please do have look at, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him, as he was entering the Ka'ba as a conqueror. He was so well bent double that His holy forehead was almost touching the saddle of His mount. So, whatever we do, we should quest for His approval. In contrast, while we are doing something, we do it laughing, and wander in vain daydreams and mostly make mistakes.
Yes, God's approval is enough for us. His presence must occupy the very center of all the things we may be doing, fixing our actions and thoughts towards Him.