Do they not know that it is Allah who accepts repentance of His servants?
(Sūratut Tawba, No.9, Āyat 104)
Almighty Allah asks a question to human beings in this verse. Do they not know that it is He alone who accepts the repentance of His creatures? They do not need to go to anyone else. This verse is an encouragement to turn back to Allah ‘azza wa-jall after being away from Him because of disobedience, negligence, and distractions.
The word tawba means return or turning back to Allah. It can be described as a return to purity of the soul after it has become polluted through sin and distanced itself from the Mercy of Allah. It is also a return from the domain of the physical nature to the domain of spirituality and primordial nature (fitrah).
Every turning back of the human being to Allah is wrapped up in two other turnings: the turning of Allah towards the human being to enable him/her to turn to Him, and then the turning of Allah towards the human being again after he turns to Him to accept him. You could formulate the process in the following way:
1) Allah turns towards a human being and gives tawfīq for tawba. This is the turning of Allah to His mercy and grace for the human being.
2) The human being does tawba. This is the turning of the human being away from sin towards Allah.
3) Allah turns towards him to accept the tawba. This is the turning of Allah to acceptance.
The above process is condensed in the following verse of the Quran: And to the three who were left behind, when the earth became narrow for them and their own souls weighed heavily on them and they knew there was no refuge from Allah except in Him, then He turned to them so that they might turn to Him, Indeed Allah is oft-Returning, Merciful (Q 9:118). The verse refers to three companions of the Prophet who did not accompany him on the expedition to Tabūk. They regretted their decision and repented later and this verse was revealed about them.
Almighty Allah is pleased with the servant who turns to Him. Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: When a servant turns to God with sincere repentance, God loves him and covers him (i.e. his sins) in the world and in the Hereafter. He was asked ‘how does He cover him?’ Imam replied, ‘He makes the two angels forget what they have written of his sins. Then He inspires his body parts saying ‘conceal his sin’ and He inspires the earth saying ‘conceal the sins he used to commit over you’ So he meets Allah when he meets Him in such a manner that there is nothing to give witness against him regarding the sins. (Al-Kāfī, Kitab al-Iman wal Kufr, Bab al Tawba, Hadith No.1 quoted in Ayt .Khumaynī, Forty Hadith).
In his grace for the human being Almighty Allah has granted him a season of worship to turn towards Him. The months of Rajab, Sha‘bān and Holy Ramadan are months of seeking forgiveness and moving closer to Allah. The intense worship of these months cleanse the human being and make his spirituality shine. The Holy Prophet said: Rajab is the month of seeking forgiveness, so seek forgiveness a lot in it for surely He is all forgiving, Merciful.
Recite this verse to remind yourself that God accepts the repentance of His creatures and encourages it. Repent during this month and let the abundant grace of Allah in this month erase your sins and leave you pure and clean. It is an opportunity he has given us so we may turn back to Him.
Āyatullāh Khumaynī, Forty Hadiths: An Exposition of Ethical and Mystical traditions;
A‘māl of Rajab and Sha‘bān, Tayyiba Publishers;