1 – Repentance
Repentance means to renounce every vile action and adopt every pleasant one; or to renounce every base attribute and adopt every high one; or to renounce the vision of created things and immerse oneself in the vision of the Real.
Its conditions are regret, renunciation and a firm resolve not to repeat the sin; as for returning the rights of others, it is a separate obligation and repentance may be valid without it, just as it may be valid to repent from one sin while persisting in another. Ordinary people repent from sins; the elite repent from faults; the elite of the elite repent from everything which distracts the spirit from the Presence of God. Every spiritual station requires repentance: when one repentance has been sincerely made, another is then required. The station of Fear requires repentance at times of security and pride; the station of Hope requires repentance at times of hopelessness and despair; the station of Patience requires repentance at times of anxiety; the station of Asceticism requires repentance at times of desire; the station of Piety requires repentance at times when dispensations are needless sought out, and at times of avarice; the station of Confidence requires repentance at times when one engages in planning and decision-making and when one is concerned about one’s provision; the station of Contentment and Resignation requires repentance at times when one dislikes and objects to what fate brings one; the station of Vigilance requires repentance at times of poor outward comportment or evil thoughts; the station of Self-Awareness requires repentance when time is wasted on things which do not bring one closer to the Real; the station of Love requires repentance when the heart inclines to anything but the Beloved; the station of Vision requires repentance when the spirit’s attention is directed to anything but the Beheld, or when it is absorbed with a sensory matter instead of ascending further the ladder of divine mysteries. This is why the Prophet (upon him be peace and blessings) would seek forgiveness seventy or one hundred times in a single gathering.
Sincere repentance entails four things: to seek forgiveness with the tongue, to abstain with the body, to refrain from persisting with the heart, and to shun bad company. Sufyan al-Thawri summarised this by saying: ‘The signs of sincere repentance are four: Speech, intention, humility and solitude.’