Al-I’tiraf (English version)

Al-I’tirāf is a poem of supplication attributed to Abu Nuwās. Outwardly, he was a jester and poet whose antics and words drew much laughter from gathered crowds. Inwardly though, he was a sincere and God-fearing believer who was ever-mindful of his tryst with destiny. It was this side of him that penned Al-I’tirāf in the following circumstances.

Once, he was sitting by himself watching the sun set. The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful. The serene blue sky was rent asunder by the dazzling colours spewed by the waltzing rays of the setting sun. As the tremendous beauty of nature’s dance made way for the still darkness of the impending night, tears began rolling down his cheeks.

He felt his heart being pulled apart and his senses becoming spiritually impaired. He became so distressed and filled with sorrow that he started wailing. With a flurry of emotions running wild, coupled with an unintelligible mix of cries and sighs, all knots on his tongue were untied. He raised his hands towards the Heavens and lamented about his state of being. Those powerful words came to be known as Al-I’tirāf.

This grief-stricken lament was uttered by a hopeful and fearful heart that was remorseful for a lifetime of heedlessness. Abu Nuwās realized that he was getting old and that his time to meet his Creator was drawing near. He was completely terrified about his lack of preparation for this Meeting with his Lord in the Hereafter.

He acknowledges his sinfulness, for which he admits that he does not deserve the Gardens of Paradise. He then recognizes his weakness to withstand the frightening Hellfire. He concedes that he is but a feeble servant who has no power over his looming fate, except through Allāh’s Mercy brought about by entering the gates of repentance and attaining His forgiveness.

The Passing of Abu Nuwas

In an article entitled “The Tawba of Abu NuwasUstaz Jinan Bastaki writes the following about Abu Nuwas and his passing:

Abu Nuwas was a person who loved to drink and say obscene things, such that he would even make up verses of poetry and sing about inappropriate things. However, he underwent a change and repented to God. People were surprised—Abu Nuwas, who was a known drunkard? Abu Nuwas the lewd man?

In a sense, it was almost as though they believed Allah would not forgive him and that Allah would not have mercy on him. So he wrote verses of poetry, and they found these verses under the bed that he died upon. The lines in the poem said:

يا رب إن عظمت ذنوبي كثرة * فلقد علمت بأن عفوك أعظم
إن كان لا يرجوك إلا محسن * فبمن يلوذ و يستجير المجرم
إني دعوت كما أمرت تضرعا * فإذا رددت يدي فمن ذا يرحم
ما لي إليك وسيلة إلا الرجا * و جميل عفوك ثم أني مسلم

O my Lord, if the greatness of my sins increase,
then I know that Your forgiveness is greater

If only the righteous called on You,
then who would the criminal go to?

I call on You my Lord,
as you commanded, with reverence

And if You turn my hands away,
then who else will have mercy?

“Men of Understanding”

Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding, – men who celebrate the praises of Allāh, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (with the thought): “Our Lord! not for naught hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the chastisement of the Fire. (3:190-191)

After the above verse was revealed, the Messenger of Allāh, upon him be blessings and peace, got up in the middle of the night to pray. When Bilāl ibn Rabah, Allah be pleased with him, came to seek permission to call for the dawn prayers, he saw the Messenger of Allāh, upon him be blessings and peace, crying with his beard soaked with tears.

So he asked, “Do you still cry, O Messenger of Allāh, when Allāh has wiped away all your past and future wrongdoings?” The Messenger of Allāh, upon him be blessings and peace,replied, “Should I then not be a thankful slave! Allāh has descended on me this verse (3:191). Woe to him who reads it without pondering over it.”

Seldom do we reflect on the Signs of Allāh. In the setting sun, Abu Nuwās found a metaphor of life. The beauty that adorns the horizon when the sun is setting is an intoxicating one. If one loses oneself to that fleeting moment, forgetting to light the lamp, he will be ill-prepared for the imminent darkness of the night.

Similarly, if one gets deluded and hypnotized by the enticements and frivolous pleasures of this ephemeral world, then damned will be that wretched soul in the Hereafter. How ludicrous for one on a journey to Eternity to find satisfaction and comfort at a transit point called Earth?

Our Shaikhuna, Taika Shu’aib al-Kirkari al-Siddiqi, writes in his compendium of invocations, “Al-Munjiyat“, about Al-I’tiraf:

Imām ‘Abd al-Waḥḥāb al-Sha’rānī has stated that if anyone recites the couplet [ilahi lastu…] 5 times after the Friday congregational prayer [Ṣalātu-l Jumu’a] every week, his faith [Īmān] will be protected till his death. It is also said that the couplet was composed by our liege-lord, Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq, Allah be pleased with him. Allah and His Messenger know best.

– Shu’ayb, T (2010). Al-Munjiyat. 3rd ed. Kilakkarai: Arusiyya Taika. 283.

And Allah is the Guide!

Al-I’tiraf

Plea in Confession & Avoidance by Repentance

اِلٰهِيْ لَسْتُ لِلْفِرْدَوْسِ اَهْلًا
وَلَا اَقْوٰى عَلٰى نَارِ الْجَحِـيْمِ
فَهَبْ لِيْ تَوْبَةً وَّاغْـفِرْ ذُنُـوْ بِي
فَاِنَّكَ غَافِرُ الذَّنْبِ الْعَظِيْمِ

God, I certainly do not deserve to enter Paradise (on account of my sins),
and I definitely do not possess the ability to endure the fires of Hell.
So allow me to repent (sincerely) and forgive all my sins (past, present & future)
for You are surely the Forgiver of all sins – however minor or severe.

ذُنُوْبِيْ مِثْلُ اَعْدَادِ الرِّمَالِ
فَهَبْلِيْ تَـوْبَةً يَا ذَا الْجَلَالِ
وَعُـمْرِيْ نَاقِصٌ فِيْ كُلِّ يَـوْمٍ
وَذَنْبِيْ زَائِدٌ كَيْفَ احْتِمَالِ

My sins exceed in number the grains of sand that line the shores of the sea.
So allow me to repent (sincerely), O Majestic Lord who possesses all Glory.
My lifetime decreases every passing day,
while my sins keep increasing helplessly.

اِلٰهِيْ لَسْتُ لِلْفِرْدَوْسِ اَهْلًا
وَلَا اَقْوٰى عَلٰى نَارِ الْجَحِـيْمِ
فَهَبْ لِيْ تَوْبَةً وَّاغْـفِرْ ذُنُـوْ بِي
فَاِنَّكَ غَافِرُ الذَّنْبِ الْعَظِيْمِ

God, I certainly do not deserve to enter Paradise (on account of my sins),
and I definitely do not possess the ability to endure the fires of Hell.
So allow me to repent (sincerely) and forgive all my sins (past, present & future)
for You are surely the Forgiver of all sins – however minor or severe.

اِلٰهِيْ عَبْدُكَ الْعَاصِيْ اَتَاكَ
مُقِرًّا بِالذُّنُوْبِ وَقَدْ دَعَاكَ
فَاِنْ تَغْفِرْ فَاَنْتَ لِذَاكَ اَهْلٌ
وَاِنْ تَطْرُدْ فَمَنْ نَرْجُوْا سِوَاكَ

God, this sinful slave of Yours is turning to You (for salvation).
Verily, I have sinned and so I implore You (for Your forgiveness).
You forgive for You are the All-Forgiving.
But if You refuse, to whom is our recourse?

اِلٰهِيْ لَسْتُ لِلْفِرْدَوْسِ اَهْلًا
وَلَا اَقْوٰى عَلٰى نَارِ الْجَحِـيْمِ
فَهَبْ لِيْ تَوْبَةً وَّاغْـفِرْ ذُنُـوْ بِي
فَاِنَّكَ غَافِرُ الذَّنْبِ الْعَظِيْمِ

God, I certainly do not deserve to enter Paradise (on account of my sins),
and I definitely do not possess the ability to endure the fires of Hell.
So allow me to repent (sincerely) and forgive all my sins (past, present & future)
for You are surely the Forgiver of all sins – however minor or severe.

Al-I’tiraf, with the Arabic text and English translation can be downloaded from this link [PDF | 144 kb]

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