What are the conditions of repentance (Tawbah)?



Islamic Text

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah Most Merciful Most Kind

Short Answer

There is extensive discussion on the conditions of repentance (Tawbah). Different scholars have mentioned different aspects.

However, the main conditions are:

  • stopping the sin;
  • having remorse;
  • and being determined not to return to it.

If the sin involves the rights of others, then these rights must be fulfilled.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا

O you who believe, turn to Allah in sincere repentance. (Tahreem, 8)

The noble verse of the Holy Quran above calls us to sincere repentance. To achieve this, one must fulfil the conditions of repentance. The scholars differed over the conditions of repentance (Tawbah). However, it seems that the difference was because they were addressing various aspects. Nevertheless, I will focus upon the main three mentioned earlier.

Three conditions
وَقَالَ غَيْرُهُ شُرُوطُ التَّوْبَةِ ثَلَاثَةٌ الْإِقْلَاعُ وَالنَّدَمُ وَالْعَزْمُ عَلَى أَنْ لَا يَعُودَ. (فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري)

Others said that the three conditions for repentance are cessation, remorse, and determination not to do it again. (Imam Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani 852H, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari)

In the Nass (text) above, Imam Ibn Hajr mentioned three conditions for repentance. Namely: cessation; remorse; and determination not to return to the sin.

If all three of these are in place, then the repentance is valid and may be accepted by Allah (Most High). If one of the three is missing however, then the repentance is inadequate. Therefore, such repentance is less likely to be accepted.

Resolve is a condition

The great Sahaabi, Sayidina Umar bin al-Khattab commented on the verse above. He explained that a sincere repentance is one in which the person resolves not to return to the sin. Thus, resolve is one of the three conditions of a valid Tawbah or repentance.

عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ: تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا [التحريم: 8] قَالَ: أَنْ يُذْنِبَ الْعَبْدُ ثُمَّ يَتُوبَ فَلَا يَعُودُ فِيهِ. قال الإمام الذهبي: صحيح

Repent to God in sincere repentance [Al-Tahrim: 8]. He (Sayidina Umar) said: Meaning, a servant commits a sin and then repents and does not do it again. Imam Al-Dhahabi said: Sahih. (Mustadrak al-Hakim 3830, Sahih).

The issue of remorse
عَنِ ابْنِ مَعْقِلٍ، قَالَ: دَخَلْتُ مَعَ أَبِي عَلَى عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، فَسَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: النَّدَمُ تَوْبَةٌ.، فَقَالَ لَهُ أَبِي: أَنْتَ سَمِعْتَ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ: النَّدَمُ تَوْبَةٌ. قَالَ: نَعَمْ

Ibn Ma’qil said, I entered upon Abdullah with my father.  And I heard him say: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘Remorse is repentance.’ My father said: Did you hear the Prophet ﷺ say: ‘Remorse is repentance? He said: Yes. (Sunan Ibn Maja 4252).

The Hadith above was also narrated by Imam al-Hakim in his al-Mustadrak (7612). Further, Imam al-Dhahabi deemed that narration to be Sahih. This Hadith demonstrates the caution of the Sahabah regarding attributions to the blessed Prophet ﷺ. Despite the fact that Sayidina Abdullah bin Masud clearly attributed the words to the Prophet ﷺ, Sayidina Ma’qil bin Muqarin al-Muzani asked him to clarify a second time.

Remorse is so fundamental to repentance that the Prophet ﷺ said: Remorse is repentance.

This emphatic language should help Muslims to appreciate the significance of remorse. Therefore, a Muslim should never mention previous sins casually. This attitude undermines remorse. If one were truly remorseful, he would shudder at the thought of revealing previous sins.

Hanafi Imams
وَقَالَ الْقُرْطُبِيّ: اخْتلف عِبَارَات الْمَشَايِخ فِيهَا، فقائلاً يَقُول: إِنَّهَا النَّدَم، وَقَائِل يَقُول: إِنَّهَا الْعَزْم على أَن لَا يعود، وَآخر يَقُول: الإقلاع عَن الذَّنب، وَمِنْهُم من يجمع بَين الْأُمُور الثَّلَاثَة، وَهُوَ أكملها. (عمدة القاري شرح صحيح البخاري)

(Imam) al-Qurtubi said: The statements of the scholars differed regarding it (the conditions of Tawbah). Some said: It is remorse. Others said: It is the determination not to repeat it (the sin). Yet others said: Desisting from the sin. Some of them combined all three. That is most complete. (Imam Badr al-Deen al-Ayni 855H, Umdatu al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari).

الِاسْتِغْفَارُ وَذَلِكَ عَلَى ثَلَاثِ حَالَاتٍ النَّدَمِ وَالْإِقْلَاعِ وَالْعَزْمِ عَلَى أَنْ لَا يَعُودَ. (الجوهرة النيرة)

Seeking forgiveness includes three states: remorse, desisting, and resolving not to do it again. (Imam Abu Bakr bin Ali al-Hadadi 800H, al-Jowharah al-Nayirah).

As seen in the Nusoos (texts) above, leading Hanafi Imams have also mentioned: cessation; remorse; and resolve as conditions of repentance. However, a forth condition must also be considered when relevant.

The fourth condition

If the sin involved other people or the failure to establish religious obligations, then the person repenting is required to rectify that. For example, if a person stole from another then they must return or pay for the stolen property. Similarly, if a person insulted or slandered someone, then he must seek forgiveness from the victim of this sin.

If the sin was when one someone failed to establish a religious obligation, then usually that has to be fulfilled. For example, if a person missed prayer or failed to pay Zakah, then these obligations must be covered now.


There are normally three conditions of repentance. Namely: cessation; remorse; and determination not to return to the sin. However, an additional fourth condition is applicable if the sin involves the rights of others or the failure to fulfil specific religious obligations. In such cases, one must right their wrong.

And Allah Most High Knows Best.

Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (28.05.2024)