Assalamualaikum ustaz. I’m always worried about whether or not Allah SWT has accepted my repentance. My question is, is there a certain way to know whether Allah SWT has accepted our repentance? Hope for an explanation.
Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,
Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.
According to Ibn Manzur, repentance is returning to Allah from sin or returning in obedience after sinning or it gives the meaning of returning from sin.  Repentance also means a return to Allah with true repentance. It also means leaving sin. The word istitabah means asking a person to repent. 
While the terminology repentance is just like a regret that gives rise to determination and resolves (to leave the sin) and the regret also results in knowledge that the sins are barriers between a person and his lover. 
According to Kamus Dewan, repentance is the regret of the sin (evil deeds) and resolve to never sin (do evil) again, anxiety (deep regret) for having sinned and determination to never commit it again. It also means returning to Allah (by leaving the act – and others – that are prohibited and obeying all the commandments). (See 4th Edition of Kamus Dewan)
Repenting from sin is obligatory. Allah SWT commanded us to repent through His statement:
وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّـهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
“And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.” 
Ibn Kathir said: That is obey everything that has been commanded to you from beauty character and commendable virtue. Leave the norm of the Jahiliyyah who possess disgraceful and bad character, for success can only be achieved by performing what has been commanded and leaving the prohibited by Allah and His Messenger. 
Allah SWT also states:
وَأَنِ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ يُمَتِّعْكُم مَّتَاعًا حَسَنًا إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى وَيُؤْتِ كُلَّ ذِي فَضْلٍ فَضْلَهُ
“And [saying], “Seek forgiveness of your Lord and repent to Him, [and] He will let you enjoy a good provision for a specified term and give every doer of favor his favor.” 
Ibn Kathir said: It means and I commanded you to seek forgiveness to Allah SWT for your past sins and repent to Him from the act and you are firm and consistent in this matter.
Imam al-Nawawi stated in the book Riyadh al-Salihin: “Scholars said, repentance from every sin is obligatory. If the transgression (sin) is between a slave and Allah SWT – it doesn’t involve the rights of another person – then there are three conditions:
- Distancing and avoiding the sin
- Regretting ever committing the sin
- Determined and set a resolve to never repeat the sin forever
If one of the conditions isn’t fulfilled, then his repentance is invalid.
However, if the transgression involves the rights of others, then there are four conditions. They are the first three conditions with the addition of:
- He should ask to be freed from the right of the person he has wronged. If it is in the form of property or something similar, then he should return it (to the person he has taken it from unjustly). If it is in the form of a false accusation or others like it, then he should clear his name or seek his forgiveness. If it is in the form of ghibah, then it must be asked to be made halal.
Thus, in the effort of attaining forgiveness from Allah SWT, one’s repentance must fulfil at least the four above-mentioned conditions.
Is it possible to know whether Allah SWT has accepted one’s repentance?
Coming back to the above question, regarding whether it is possible to know Allah SWT has accepted the repentance of a person?
The opinion of the majority of scholars stated that if a person has truly repented by fulfilling all the requisites and conditions of repentance, then it is certain that his repentance is accepted by Allah SWT. This is as explained by Imam Ibn Rajab:
أَنَّ مَنْ تَابَ إِلَى اللَّهِ تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا، وَاجْتَمَعَتْ شُرُوطُ التَّوْبَةِ فِي حَقِّهِ، فَإِنَّهُ يُقْطَعُ بِقَبُولِ اللَّهِ تَوْبَتَهُ، كَمَا يُقْطَعُ بِقَبُولِ إِسْلَامِ الْكَافِرِ إِذَا أَسْلَمَ إِسْلَامًا صَحِيحًا، وَهَذَا قَوْلُ الْجُمْهُورِ، وَكَلَامُ ابْنِ عَبْدِ الْبَرِّ يَدُلُّ عَلَى أَنَّهُ إِجْمَاعٌ
“A person who repented to Allah SWT with true repentance, fulfilling all the conditions of repentance for himself, then it is certain that Allah SWT has accepted his repentance. This is the same that is certain the Islam of a disbeliever who embraces Islam sincerely. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars. The explanation by Ibn Abd al-Bar shows that this matter has been agreed by scholars.” 
Among the evidences they presented is a statement of Allah SWT:
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ
“Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills.” 
Ibn Kathir said: Allah SWT declared that He doesn’t forgive the act of associating Him with others which means that He doesn’t forgive his slave who return to meet Him (die) as a musyrik. Consequently, Allah SWT forgives all other sins for those He so wishes from amongst His slaves. 
Likewise, in a hadith narrated from Aisyah R.Anha, the Prophet PBUH said:
إِنَّ الْعَبْدَ إِذَا اعْتَرَفَ بِذَنْبِهِ ثُمَّ تَابَ تَابَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ
“When a servant acknowledges his sin and repents, God forgives him.” 
Mulla Ali al-Qari in Mirqat al-Mafatih (4/1616) stated: A person who realizes that he is sinful, then he repented fulfilling all the requisites and conditions such as deep regret, leave it and is determined and always strive to improve himself, then Allah SWT will accept his repentance according to His statement:
وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَقْبَلُ التَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ
“And it is He who accepts repentance from his servants,” 
Al-Qurtubu said: Allah surely forgives every form of sin and shirk acts from when they aren’t Muslims yet. And Allah is the All-Knowing of what you doe from good and bad deeds. 
Abu al-Laith al-Samarqandi in his book Tanbih al-Ghafilin (pg. 110) said that some of the scholars stated: The repentance of a person is known from four matters:
- If he is now able to control his tongue from lies, ghibah and useless words.
- If he no longer feels jealousy, envy, and enmity towards others.
- If he distances himself from bad company.
- If he always repented and prepares himself for death and recites istighfar regretting his sins and wholeheartedly worships his Lord. 
Some wise scholars were asked: “Are there any signs that a person’s repentance is accepted?” They answered: “Yes, there are four signs a person’s repentance is accepted, they are:
- Severs bad relationships and friendships and interacts and gets close to pious people.
- Stop all types of sin and is always enthusiastic in worship.
- He no longer prioritizes worldly matter but rather always remember the hardships in the hereafter.
- Firm belief and certainty in the guarantee of Allah SWT in regards to sustenance that he busies himself obeying all the commandments of Allah SWT. 
However, it doesn’t mean that a person who possesses the characteristics that his repentance is accepted should stop repenting. Rather, the clearest sign that a person has truly repented is that he is consistent and continuous in seeking the forgiveness of Allah SWT throughout his life as described by the Prophet PBUH himself who recited istighfar 100 times a day in his life.
This is as stated in a hadith narrated from al-Aghar al-Muzani, Rasullullah PBUH said:
إِنَّهُ لَيُغَانُ عَلَى قَلْبِى وَإِنِّى لأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ فِى الْيَوْمِ مِائَةَ مَرَّةٍ
“There is (at times) some sort of shade upon my heart, and I seek forgiveness from Allah a hundred times a day.” 
Imam al-Nawawi stated by citing the linguists saying: The word ‘’ means anything that covers the heart. Al-Qadhi ‘Iyadh said it is said it means times of weakness and negligence from dhikr that should be continuous. When this happens, he considered it a sin and immediately made istighfar. There is an opinion that states that Rasullullah PBUH was very concerned for his ummah. 
The meaning of ‘الغين’ is at times when he forgets to make dhikr where it is the norm for him to always be making dhikr. When he forgets due to certain reasons, then he’ll promptly make istighfar for it. Likewise, according to the opinion of Ibn al-Jauzi, ‘الغين’ means a fall from the nature of people from whom none is safe.
The prophets, although they are ma’sum from major sins they aren’t ma’sum from minor sins. This is based on the fraction of the chosen khilaf. However, the most rajih is that the prophets are also ma’sum from minor sins. Ibn Battal said: The Prophets are the strongest in terms of worship for the blessing of Allah for them from makrifah. Thus, they are always grateful and acknowledge their shortcomings to Allah SWT.
Furthermore, it is also explained that istighfar is from taqsir or weakness in fulfilling the rights of Allah and it is presumed for the hassles of daily life that are permissible such as eating, drinking, being together with one’s wife, sleep, rest or talking with others as well as considering their wellbeing and defending themselves from their enemies. 
May all of us are included as those who are always repenting and their repentance is accepted by Allah SWT. Amin. We end with the following supplication:
رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ
“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.” 
 See Lisan al-Arab, 2/61
 See Basa’ir Zawi al-Tamyiz, 2/304
 See al-Mughni, 14/192
 (Surah al-Nur: 31)
 See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 10/225
 (Surah Hud: 3)
 See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 7/411
 See Riyadh al-Salihin, pg. 41-42
 See Jami’ al-‘Ulum wa al-Hikam, 1/418
 Surah al-Nisa’ (48)
 See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 2/327
 Narrated by al-Bukhari (2661)
 Surah al-Syura (25)
 See al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Quran, 7/27
 See Tanbih al-Ghafilin bi Ahadith Sayyid al-Anbiya’ wa al-Mursalin, pg. 109
 See Tanbih al-Ghafilin, 110
 Narrated by Muslim (7033) and Abu Daud (1517)
 See Syarh al-Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim, 17/23
 See Tuhfah al-Ahwazi, 9/103
 Surah al-A’raf (23)