Man is always exposed to temptations and that is why he may do wrong things and go astray from the right path.
Sometimes he regrets doing wrong and committing sins and tries to find a way to return to the right path. This indicates that man has a pure nature and that is why he seeks to find the right path, amend the wrongdoings and remove the impurities that may have entered his heart.
God has prepared the path of return for man. But why is it that not all men succeed in returning to this path? It is because sometimes the wrongdoings and sins make one forget God and move away from Him.
The path to return is called Tawbah (repentance). Tawbah means returning to God. This return is possible at any moment and any stage of wrongdoing and sin. Of course the sooner one returns to the right path, the shorter the distance he needs to cover and the easier to do it will be.
But just expressing regret does not mean Tawbah and return. Tawbah has conditions and stages. One of the conditions is that one should insist on returning from the wrong path and have no desire to commit sins again.
Muslim scholar Mohsen Qara’ati likens Tawbah to driving. A driver should be careful not to make wrong moves and if he did, he should make the right decision to correct them in time.
He says: If a driver took the wrong path, he should return. But if he just keeps saying “O I took the wrong path”, the car does not return to the right path by itself and the passengers won’t forgive him.
Tawbah means returning from wrongdoing and making up for it. In that case God will accept one’s repentance: “Do they not know that it is God who accepts the repentance of His servants and receives the welfare funds and that it is God who is All-forgiving and All-merciful?” (Surah Al-Tawbah, verse 124)
And God likes those who truly repent: “Allah loves those who turn to Him in repentance…” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 222)
True repentance means making up for the wrongdoings. If one has hurt someone’s feelings, he should apologize; if he has missed an obligatory prayer, he should make up for it; and so on.
In addition for calling for Tawbah, the Quran says one should amend his wrongdoings: “and (they must) mend (their deeds) …” (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 160)
Another important point is that Tawbah should be made immediately because if sins are accumulated, repentance will become difficult. When a little dust gets on your clothes, you can remove it by blowing it off the clothes but when there is a lot of dust accumulated over a long time, it won’t be that easy to get rid of the dust.