Repentance: Commentary on Surah Al Nisa
Contributed by Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i commonly known as Allameh Tabataba’i, was one of the most prominent thinkers of philosophy and contemporary Shia Islam. He is famous for Tafsir al-Mizan, a twenty-seven-volume work of Quranic exegesis, which he worked on from 1954 until 1972.
Repentance In Its Full Significance: Summary
he above discourse may be summarized as follows:
First: Bestowal of Allah’s mercy on a servant by forgiving his sins and removing the darkness of disobedience from his heart – whether polytheism or other evils – is Allah’s merciful returning to His servant; and return of a servant to His Lord seeking pardon of his sins and removal of his disobedience whether polytheism or lesser evils – is the servant’s repentance, and his return to his Lord. It shows that a true Divine Call should be as much concerned with the subject of sins as it should be with polytheism and disbelief; it should invite men to a comprehensive repentance covering polytheism as well as other sins.
Second: Return of Allah to His servant both the first and the second one – is a grace of Allah like other bounties which He bestows on His creatures without any coercion or constraint from anyone else. When it is said that by reason it is obligatory for Allah to accept repentance, its connotation is not different from what is mentioned in many Qur’anic verses. See, for instance, the following verses:
“… and the Accepter of repentance…” (40:3).?
“… and turn to Allah all of you, O believers…” (24:31).
“… surely Allah loves those who turn much (to Him) …” (2:222).
“… so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully)…” (4:17).
These and other such verses praise Allah for His acceptance of repentance, call people to repent, exhort them to seek forgiveness and turn to their Lord; as such they contain promise of acceptance of repentance, either explicitly or implicitly; and Allah does not break His promise.
Obviously, Allah is not under any compulsion to accept repentance; His is the Kingdom and authority without any exception; He does what He pleases to do and decides what He wishes. It is for Him to accept a repentance according to His promise; or to reject that which He rejects, as is clear from the divine words:
“Surely, those who disbelieve after their believing, then increase in unbelief, their repentance
shall never be accepted …” (3:90).
“Possibly the same is the connotation of the following verse: Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path” (4:137).
A very strange interpretation has been advanced by a writer concerning the Qur’anic verses narrating
the story of Pharaoh’s drowning and repentance:
“… until when drowning overtook him, he said: “I believe that there is no god but He in Whom the
children of Israel believe and I am of those who submit.” (10:90).
“What! Now! and indeed you disobeyed before and you were of the mischief-makers” (10:91).
His interpretation, in short, is as follows: The verse does not indicate that Pharaoh’s repentance was rejected, nor is there anything in the Qur’an to show his ever-lasting perdition. It is difficult, for someone
who ponders on the spaciousness of God’s mercy and its precedence over His wrath, to believe that Allah would drive him away who was seeking shelter at the door of His mercy and grace, abasing and humiliating himself with abject desperation.
Even a human being, after acquiring natural good characteristics of generosity and benevolence, does show mercy to such persons when they are really sorry for the evil deeds they had done before. Then how much mercy will be shown by Him Who is the Most Merciful of all, the Most Generous of all and Who is the Refuge of the refuge-seekers?
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