A Summary of the Explanation of the Hadeeth of ‘The Leading Supplication for Seeking Forgiveness’
by Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymeeyah (May Allah have mercy on him)
Translated by Abbas Abu Yahya
On the authority of Shaddad bin Aws (may Allah be pleased with him), from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) who said:
‘Indeed the major supplication for forgiveness is
اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لَا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ
(Allahumma anta rabbee, la ilaha illa anta, Khalaqtanee, wa ana abduka, wa ana ala ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu, a’outhu bika min sharri ma sanatu, aboo’u laka bi thambee wa aboo’u laka bini’matika alayya, faghfirlee fa’innahu la yaghfiru ath-thunooba ‘illa ‘ant.)
(The meaning of which is: O Allah You are my Lord, there is none worthy of worship in truth except You, You created me and I am Your slave and I abide by Your covenant and promise as best as I can, I seek refuge in You from the evil that I have committed, I profess to you my sins and I acknowledge Your favour upon me, so forgive me verily no one forgives sins except You.)
So whoever says this with certainty when the morning arrives and dies during that day before evening, then he is from the people of Paradise and whoever says it with certainty in the evening, and dies before the morning, then he is from the people of Paradise.’ (Bukhari, An-Nisa’i & Tirmidhi)
Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymeeyah (May Allah have mercy upon him) said about the preceding hadeeth:
‘Regarding the saying of the Messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) about the Leading Supplication for seeking forgiveness is that when the slave of Allah says: ‘O Allah You are my Lord, there is none worthy of worship in truth except You’ this hadeeth comprises well-known, magnificent matters and therefore it is rightfully the Leading Supplication for Seeking Forgiveness since it commences with the slave of Allah acknowledging Ar-Ruboobiyah (The Lordship) of Allah.
Then the slave of Allah follows that up with Tawheed al-Uloohiyah (Allah’s sole right to be Worshipped) by saying: ‘there is none worthy of worship in truth except You.’ So here he acknowledges that it is Allah who created him and brought him into existence when he was nothing and so Allah is rightfully The One who takes charge of complete beneficence to His slave with forgiveness for his sins, just as He (Glorified and Exalted be He) began with beneficence to him by creating him.
The slave of Allah then says: ‘I am Your slave’ by which he acknowledges that servitude of worship is only for Allah, since Allah created the son of Adam for Himself and for His worship as is mentioned in some Athaar (narrations).
So, if a slave of Allah leaves that for which Allah created him, which is obedience to Allah, knowing Him, loving Him, turning repentantly to Him and relying upon Him, then he has fled from his Master. When the slave of Allah repents to Allah and returns to Him, then he has repented to that which Allah loves from the slave and so Allah is pleased with this return. This is why the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said regarding Allah that: ‘Allah is greater in happiness with the repentance of His slave than that of a slave finding his lost ride, which had his food and his drink on it, in a perilous land after he had given up hope of recovering it.’
Allah (Glory be to Him) is The One who is capable of returning his ride and Allah was The One who returned it to him. This is the height of excellence and beneficence, worthy of he who is in this circumstance, and there is nothing more beloved to the slave than Allah.
The slave of Allah then says: ‘and I abide by Your covenant and promise as best as I can.’ So, Allah made a contract with His slaves wherein He set out commands and prohibitions. Allah promised them that if they fulfilled His contract, He would reward them with the highest of rewards. So, the slave of Allah continues moving between fulfilling his contract to Allah and attesting to Allah’s promise, meaning: I fulfil Your contract, attesting to Your promise.
This meaning was mentioned by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in his saying: ‘Whoever fasts Ramadan with Eemaan and (al-Ihtisaab) hoping for a reward, then he is forgiven for his previous sins.’
Eemaan here is the action which is: the contract Allah contracted with His worshippers.
Al-Ihtisaab (hoping for a reward) is: hoping for Allah’s reward by doing this action -which is not fitting except when attesting to His promise.
As for his (peace and blessings be upon him) saying: ‘Eemaan and Al-Ihtisaab (hoping for a reward),’ then the slave of Allah is driven to do this, due to his Eemaan. Allah legislated and obligated it, was pleased with and commanded it. Al-Ihtisaab (hoping) is the reward with Allah which means the slave of Allah does this action sincerely for Allah, hoping for His reward.
As for his saying: ‘as best as I can’, then this means: I fulfil this according to my ability and that which Allah has made rightful upon me, not according to that which befits You O Allah.
In this statement there is a proof which establishes that the slave of Allah has strength and capability and that he is not compelled by destiny, rather he himself has the capability which is his being entrusted with commands and prohibitions, reward and punishment.
Also, from this statement is a refutation of the Qadareeyah al-Mujbirah (a sect who believe that destiny means that actions are due to compulsion); who say that the slave of Allah has neither capability nor potential by himself and that he has no decision over actions whatsoever, but rather that Allah will punish due to Allah’s own action and not due to the action of Allah’s slave.
This part of the supplication is also a refutation of the al-Majooseeyah (fire worshippers) and other than them.
Then the slave of Allah says: ‘I seek refuge in You from the evil that I have committed’ so the slave of Allah seeks refuge, protection and fortification with Allah, fleeing to Him from that which one seeks refuge from, just like the refugee who secures himself from the enemy in a fortress which will save him from them.
There is affirmation of the actions of the slave of Allah and his seeking his own livelihood and also that evil is attributed to his own actions and not to his Lord in his saying: ‘I seek refuge in You from the evil that I have committed’ so evil, in itself, is indeed from the slave of Allah.
As for our Lord (Allah) then He has Beautiful Names, all His Attributes are attributes of perfection and all His Actions are Wise and for a just purpose. What supports this is the saying of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) ‘evil is not attributed to You’ as is mentioned in the hadeeth narrated by Muslim in the supplication for beginning the prayer.
The slave of Allah then says: ‘I acknowledge Your favour upon me’ which means I acknowledge this matter; i.e. I affirm this – that I acknowledge You with Your blessings upon me. You are The One deserving of this because You are The One who is praised and I seek forgiveness from You for my sins. This is why some of the righteous people said: ‘It is a must that every breath the slave of Allah takes, is one of two types; one breath where he praises his Lord and, in the next one, one where he seeks forgiveness from his sins.’
When the slave of Allah testifies to these two matters then his Uboodiyah (servitude to Allah) becomes correct, he is raised in degrees of goodness and Eemaan, his own self is diminished and he humbles himself for his Lord. This is the perfection of Uboodiyah by which he becomes free of being amazed by himself, of pride and of beautifying actions in order to show off.
Allah is The One who gives success and He is The One Who Guides. All praise be to Allah Alone and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our leader Muhammad, his Family and his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all. Allah is sufficient for us and He is The Best to protect.’
Taken From: ‘al-Majmoo’ al-‘Aleeyah min Kutub wa Rasail wa Fatawa Shakyh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymeeyah’ 1/54-59
All Praise belongs to Allah, may His peace and blessings be upon our final Prophet Muhammad, his Family, his Companions and all those who follow his guidance.