Scholars interpret tawbah (repentance) to mean all of the following:
- (i) immediate renunciation of the sin
- (ii) firm intention and determination to not return to the sin ever again
- (iii) regret over having committed a sin, and, if the sin was against the rights of another human being, then one must also
- (iv) compensate for it.
These are known to be the conditions of tawbah, or repentance. However, in the words of Allah and His Messenger, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, tawbah has a wider meaning, and includes not only the aforementioned conditions, but also generally carrying out all the commandments of Allah with persistence.
Tawbah also requires disliking and renouncing those people who refuse to repent, encouraging them to repent and advising them against ignoring the practice of repentance. So repentance is the opposite of committing sins in every way, and, in its general sense, does not consist merely of renouncing the sin and regret over it.
The word tawbah is like the word taqwa, in the sense that the latter is used sometimes in a specific sense where it means, "immediately stopping from disobeying Allah or carrying out an obligation." However, the actual meaning of taqwa is more general: "taking all that Allah has given us of wealth, children, security and pleasure and all else as a means to protect ourselves from what we dislike or fear in our journey to Allah."
For this journey is full of pitfalls and replete with the enemies of our soul beginning with our own baser selves that incite us towards evil and unrestrained desires and ensnare us in the traps of Satan whose mission it to prevent us from this journey to Allah and make us return to baseness and ruin.
The essence of tawbah is to return to Allah and to adhere to what He loves and renounce that which He dislikes. Tawbah is a journey from the disliked to the liked.