THREE DEGREES OF REPENTANCE
BY OYEWUNMI KAFAYAT OLASEYI
The Perception of the Sufis/Esotericists on Tawba or Repentance)
1. Tawbat al-‘Amm (Repentance of the common person) = Muslim
2. Tawbat al-Khass (Repentance of the spiritual elect) = Mu’min
3. Tawbat Khass al-Khass (Repentance of the elect of the elect), and this is the reality of repentance (Haqiqat at-Tawbah) = Muhsin
Repentance (Tawba) is to (firstly) abandon ingratitude for the blessings of Allah (Kufr an-Ni’mat), for every blessing is due gratitude and thanksgiving to the Bestower. The opposite of gratitude is unbelief (Didu Shukr Kufr).
The Ulama among the Sufis have said it (repentance) is to abandon every base characteristic for every sublime attribute.
However, I say the reality of base characteristics for the common person (Al-‘Amm) is to leave off the religious obligations (Al-Fara’id) and to commit acts which are prohibited (Al-Muharamat),
But for the spiritual elect (Al-Khass) it is to leave the praiseworthy deeds (Al-Fada’il) and to do what is disliked (Al-Makruhat).
For the elect of the elect (Khass al-Khass), it is to turn away from the Divine Presence and that is heedlessness or forgetfulness (Al-Ghafla), and this repentance is the reality of Tawba – which is to kill one’s ego – as Allah Ta’ala says, “So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves, that is better for you with your Creator.” (2:54).
The reality of killing one’s ego is to not see any action or spiritual state or station as belonging to the “self”–and that is repentance from repentance! “Verily, Allah loves those who turn to Him in repentance.” (2:222), meaning to repent from repentance!
The Reality of Repentance (Tawba) is to repent from repentance.
“Know that Allah accepts repentance from His servants and takes the Sadaqa, and that Allah Alone is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.” (9:104).
TAWBA (REPENTANCE) AND MA’RIFA (DIVINE GNOSIS):
Divine Gnosis (Ma’rifa) is the last station of the Deen and Repentance (Tawba) is the first, but Tawba is better than Ma’rifa because Gnosis is the result of repentance – although the reality of repentance is repentance from repentance – and this is not possible without Ma‘rifa!
This is what was alluded to by Shaykh al-Khatm Ahmad al-Tijani(RA) when he said, “I did not achieve the degree of repentance.”, meaning that he was repentant from seeing his Tawba. As long as the servant sees himself in the act of repentance, he has not achieved the (real) degree of Tawba!”
—Taken from THE THREE STATIONS OF THE DEEN (MAQAAMAAT AD-DEEN ATH-THALAATHA) by Shaykh Al-Islam Ibrahim Niasse (RA), Kitab Jawahir ar-Rasa’il (The Book of Essential Letters)
Compiled by: Shaykh Ahmad Abu’l Fat’hi
Interpreted from the Arabic by: Sidi Muhammad Abdullahi al-Tijani al-Ibrahimi.