يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا
Yā ayyuhalladhīna āmanū tubū ilallāhi tawbatan nasūha.
O you who believe, turn to Allah a sincere turning
(Sūratut Tahrīm, No. 66, Āyat 8)
This verse is an invitation to turn back to God after having turned away from Him. For all those who have become distracted from God, have disobeyed Him, and have not made Him the focus of their lives, God calls them back to Him. He asks them to repent for the distance they have created between themselves and their Lord. It should be a sincere repentance based on awe of Allah (swt) and a disappointment with the self.
The word nasūhā implies sincerity as well as a firm determination. Its purity prevents a person from returning to the pollution of sin.
Turning back to Allah has to have the following qualities:
a) Feeling remorse with the heart at having turned away
b) Apologizing and seeking forgiveness with the tongue
c) Stopping sins and all that turns one away from God
d) Intending to continue quality (c), above.
When the world is full of distractions and the human being is so weak, it is very easy to turn away from God. This does not only mean committing sins. Sometimes it is possible that a believer is not disobedient. But he is apathetic in his obedience. His connection with Allah is weak despite performing his wājibāt (the required obligations). This distance from God weakens his resolve and creates emptiness in life which he seeks to fill with other things. Allah tells him to turn back to him, sincerely and strongly. Such a turning back is valuable and can transform his life.
It is incredible that the human being in all his weakness and smallness turns away from His creator. God in all His greatness and majesty calls him back. Why? After having created him, having blessed him with so much, giving him guidance so he can turn to Him, God still is patient with Him. He does not give up on him and invites him to come to Him. Imam Ali (a) says: Be obedient to Allah and love His remembrance. Picture to yourself that you are running away while He is approaching you. He is calling you to His forgiveness and concealing your faults with his kindness while you are fleeing from him towards others. (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 220)
In Du‘ā al Iftitāh, recited in the nights of Holy Ramadān, we say:
[O Allah] I have not seen a more generous master, patient with a wretched slave, than You are with me. My Lord, You call me and I turn away from You, You show affection to me and I show hatred towards You, You display Your love for me and I do not respond, as though I am above You. But this does not prevent You from having mercy on me, being good to me, and favoring me, through Your Generosity and Nobility
Such is the Merciful God we worship. As we enter the season of worship during the months of Rajab, Sha’ban and holy Ramadhan, turn back to God with sincerity and determination. Recite this verse to remind yourself of God’s invitation and accept the call to turn to Him. Life will become much more meaningful and enlightened.
Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a), Nahjul Balāgha;
Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne;
Manual of Ramadhan Devotions, Tayyiba Publishers.