The Arabic word for repentance is Taubah which translated literally means to return.
Repentance means to leave what Allah has prohibited and to return to what he has commanded.
Allah has encouraged the believers to repent with sincere repentance.
O you who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance!
[Surah At-Tahrim Ayah: 8]
In another ayah Allah has said
But as for him who repented (from polytheism and sins, etc.), believed (in the Oneness of Allah, and in His Messenger Muhammad saws), and did righteous deeds (in the life of this world), then he will be among those who are successful.
[Surah Al-Qasas Ayah:67]
So we should repent to Allah and submit before him. Indeed even the Prophet (saws) used to ask Allah for his forgiveness even though he was the Prophet and was sinless. We see that despite this he used to repent to Allah more than 70 times a day.
“O people, make tawbah to Allah. By Allah, I make tawbah to Him more than seventy times each day.”
Even though the Prophet (saws) was never displeasing to Allah he asked Allah for His forgiveness, how much more so should the sinners?
The Prophet (saws) encouraged everyone to repent to Allah as a means of purification from the sins. The Prophet (saws) used to say every morning he used to ask Allah for forgiveness at least 100 times.
Abdullah ibn `Umar said: We counted in a single sitting the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, saying one hundred times:
“Rabbi-ghfir-lee wa tub `alayya innaka anta-t-tawwabu-l-ghafoor.”
(My Lord, forgive me and accept my repentance, verily you are Acceptor of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving.)
[Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah]
And the best time for repentance is in the morning and the night, in that we may start our day with repentance and end our day with repentance.
The Prophet (saws) has said
Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, stretches out His Hand during the night so that the people repent for the fault committed from dawn till dusk and He stretches out His Hand during the day so that the people may repent for the fault committed from dusk to dawn (He would accept repentance) before the sun rises in the west (before the Day of Resurrection).
So we should endeavor to keep our hearts pure and our tongues moist with repentance to Allah in that he may forgive us our sins.
Shaddad Ibn ‘Aus (RA) narrated, the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“The most superior way of asking help (forgiveness) from Allah is to say:
‘Allahumma Anta Rabbii la ilaha illa Anta, Khalaqtanii wa ana ‘abduka,
wa ana alaa ‘ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu,
a’udhu Bika min sharri ma sana’tu, abuu’u Laka Bini’matika ‘alayya,
wa abuu’u bidhanbii, faghfirlii fa’innahu la yaghfiru Adh-dhanbu illa Anta.’
What translated in English means,
O Allah, Thou are my Lord! There is no god but Thee, It is Thee Who created me, and I am Thy servant, I am faithful to my covenant and my promise to Thee to my best ability, I seek refuge with Thee from all the evil I have done, I acknowledge before Thee all the blessings Thou have bestowed upon me, and I confess to Thee to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins but Thee.
The Prophet (PBUH) then added:
If somebody recites it during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of the Paradise.”
Thus the Prophet (saws) advised us to repent to Allah and also to ask Him for his forgiveness.
Allah has encouraged and ordered us to repent to Allah, surrendering to him completely before we face him on the day of judgement. Thus we need to repent and seek Allah’s forgiveness before we face death for at the time of death repentance will be of no benefit to us.
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
The Prophet (saws) said, “Amongst the men of Bani Israel there was a man who had murdered ninety-nine persons. Then he set out asking (whether his repentance could be accepted or not). He came upon a monk and asked him if his repentance could be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and so the man killed him. He kept on asking till a man advised to go to such and such village. (So he left for it) but death overtook him on the way. While dying, he turned his chest towards that village (where he had hoped his repentance would be accepted), and so the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment quarreled amongst themselves regarding him. Allah ordered the village (towards which he was going) to come closer to him, and ordered the village (whence he had come), to go far away, and then He ordered the angels to measure the distances between his body and the two villages. So he was found to be one span closer to the village (he was going to). So he was for given.”
There are numerous hadith abound with stories of the sahabah before they became Muslims who used to fight against Allah and his Messenger (saws), and after accepting Islam we see that they went on to become leaders of the Muslims. Rather, we should repent to Allah because as is mentioned in the hadith above that Allah opens his hand during the day for the sinners of the night to repent to him and he opens his hand during the day for the sinners of the day to repent to him.
O Allah grant us the sincere repentance and accept is from us, verily You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing. Amen.
Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?(13: Sura e Rehman)