This is an expression used by a Muslim when he wants to ask Allah forgiveness. The meaning of it is: "I ask Allah forgiveness." A Muslim says this phrase many times, even when he is talking to another person. When a Muslim abstains from doing wrong, or even when he wants to prove that he is innocent of an incident he uses this expression. After every Salah (prayer), a Muslim says this statement three times.
It is also used to protect oneself from envy, jealousy, proudness and superiority feelings and just after feeling such type of negative impacts, a Muslim ask forgiveness from Allah.
The Meaning of Astaghfirullah and Using it to Get Closer to Allah
"Your attaining to (proximity with) Allah really means attaining to direct knowledge of Him. Otherwise, far exalted is He above being united with anything or anything being united with Him!" -Imam Ibn 'Ata'Illah, from the Hikam
Al-Bushra li-l Muttaqiin: the Good News for the God-wary
Allah said: "Indeed those who are wary of Allah (taqwa), when a passing insinuation (taif) from Shaytan touches them, they bring to remembrance (tadhakkaru), and behold, they see clearly" (Q7:201).
In this important verse from Qur'an, Allah is telling the muttaqiin that He has good news for them, and that they should always realize that as long as they have taqwa, then they will be victorious by His Permission and Power. The following understandings can be derived from this verse:
1.These passing inclinations (taif) over the sincere believer's heart expose to full view the realities of faith deposited in that heart. Allah uses these experiences so that the believers will realize how much Allah has given them.
2.Shaytan can only send these inclinations over hearts that are temporarily asleep, and these suggestions have no permanence over the god-wary heart. Once they awake from their "slumber," the desire is gone.
3. This passing inclination from Shaytan is only a touch, and not a hold of mastery. When they awake from this slumber, they are sent reinforcements of forgiveness and humility.
4. What does away with this inclination is not simple dhikr, wherein the tongue is moving but the heart is heedless, but rather tadhakkur, which is the concentrated dhikr (awareness) of the heart. Because the taif goes to the heart, only tadhakkur (which place is in the heart) can remove it, and not dhikr (which place is in the tongue).
5. "They bring to remembrance, and behold, they see clearly." Such are the people of taqwa, who never stop seeing clearly, but at the moment of the passing taif, it covered from their clear sight the constant light in them. When they awoke, the cloud left the sky, and they could see the sun of clear vision again. Allah does not desert or neglect His slaves when they depend on Him.
6. Allah is merciful to the believers who have taqwa, since the arrival of taif doesn't negate their taqwa, on the condition that they go to tadhakkur. Like He said, "Allah loves those who repent and purify themselves," and He didn't say "those who don't sin." And the Messenger (blessings and peace be on him) said: "All children of Adam are errant, and the best of the errant are those who repent." (Tirmidhi)
From the Hikam
Imam Ahmad ibn Ata'Illah writes the following:
"One of the signs of relying on deeds is the loss of hope when a downfall occurs"
It is not enough to just remorse over a sin. Allah loves those who are wise, and wants us to use our wisdom, and take advantage of the moment we sin in. If we only use our good deeds to seek closeness to Allah, then we are only benefiting from half of our spiritual experience. In this light, sin can be seen as a means that Allah uses to show us that we are relying on our own deeds instead of relying on Him. The attitude of the believer in the moment of sin is not to become depressed and lose hope, as if the sin is somehow greater than Allah's grace. They should realize it as a Divine "wake-up" call, and allow the sin to put them back on the right track and return them to the proper perspective.
"The source of every disobedience, heedlessness, and passion is self-satisfaction. The source of every obedience, awareness, and virtue is dissatisfaction with one's self."
This statement is so valuable and immense in meaning that it should be written in ink of gold. Once the himma, or the desire to rise up to Allah, diminishes, and the person becomes satisfied with themselves and where they are, then that is where sins start to occur. So the believer who has understanding should think: "Is my himma diminishing, and am I starting to become complacent?" If your cup is full, so-to-speak, then Allah will not pour anything new into it. Do not be ever satisfied with yourself, and always seek increase from Allah; otherwise, complacency will creep in and overcome you with sins and bad deeds.
"Let no sin reach such proportions in your eyes that it cuts you off from having good opinion of Allah. Whoever knows his Lord, knows that his sin is nothing next to His Generosity."
"Be careful lest the persistence of His bounty on you and your persistence in sin not lead you step by step into ruin. We shall lead them to ruin step by step from whence they know not
So he said that Allah will lead them step-by-step to delusion. One of the signs of delusion is sadness over loss of obedience coupled with absence of resolve to bring it back to life.
ÝThese two statements collectively show that the believer must have a healthy balance of fear of and hope in Allah. If one is greater than the other, then he will become complacent and fall to a low state. Consider these words of Qur'an: "And who despairs of the mercy of Allah except those who cover the Truth (Kafireen)?" and He said, "And who feels safe from the plotting (makr) of Allah except those who are losers?"
-) "Sometimes He opens the door of obedience for you, but not the door of acceptance; or sometimes He condemns you to sin, and it turns out to be a cause for arrival to Him! A disobedience that bequeaths humiliation and need is better than an obedience that bequeaths pride and ostentation. Nothing pleads on your behalf like extreme need, and nothing speeds gifts to you quicker than humility and want."
ÝThe Shaykh is telling us that actions in themselves are not what bring us closer to Allah. So he breaks the habits of our thinking mind by showing us that good deeds could be a means for our banishment, and bad deeds could be a means for our arrival. It is not as we think or know, and we must not think that we have all the understanding. If we are full of ourselves and do not realize out emptiness, Allah will leave us to ourselves and our hollow pride. But if we allow both good deeds and bad deeds to develop in us a sense of poverty and humility, then Allah will grant us bountiful gifts from His generosity, and draw us close to Him. Developing the awareness of this essential poverty is the key to attaining to closeness and direct knowledge of Allah. Again, it is not our action that takes us to Allah, but actions are there as a means to attain to the stations of Faith (such as gratitude, humility, etc.), and to help us realize them.
Ý ) "If you were to arrive to Him only after the extinction of your vices and pretensions, you would never arrive to Him. Instead, when He wants to make you arrive to Him, He covers your attribute with His Attribute, and your quality with His Quality. And thus He makes you arrive to Him by what comes from Him to you, and not by what comes from you to Him."
ÝThus we come to the main point of this speech, which is the meaning of "Astaghfirullah."Ý The root word of astaghfirullah is "ghafara," which carries the same meaning of the Arabic root "satara," meaning: "to cover over." Therefore, the meaning of the phrase "Astaghfirullah" is: "I seek the covering of Allah's Attributes," as it says in the above statement of the Shaykh.
The Story of Adam (alayhi salam) and Sin as a means to gnosis of Allah
Ý Consider the lesson we learn from our common father Sayyidina Adam. When Adam and his wife (upon them be peace) were in Paradise, Allah would make Himself known to them through His Attributes of Generosity, Bountifulness, and Beauty...etc. So Allah, through His Subtle Planning, willed that Adam and his wife sin by eating of the tree, so that He can make Himself known to them through His forbearing-ness, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and selection of him as His Representative (Khalifah). To be Khalifah, one must have complete comprehensive gnosis of Allah.
Ý Because Allah did not hasten the punishment to them, they came to know through direct experience that Allah is Haleem (Forbearing). When they covered their shame with the leaves of the Garden, they came to know through direct experience that Allah is Sattar (Coverer of Shame). Allah also wanted Adam to know that He chose him and selected him, so that when he sinned by eating the tree, Allah did not turn away from him or immediately cast him out of His love, but rather manifested His love of Adam, by selecting Him, teaching him repentance and granting him guidance. Through this experience of sin and repentance, Adam's knowledge of Allah was completed, and he became worthy of being Khalifah. That is how He taught Adam all the Names.
ÝHadith (in Muslim): "Were you to never sin, Allah would do away with you and bring forth another people who would sin, and ask for Allah's Mercy, so Allah would have mercy on them." "Quran (11:119): "except for those whom Allah has mercy on, and for this purpose did He create them..."
ÝSo What is the Required Adab(manners)?
The statement of someone who has arrived to knowledge and proximity to Allah, concerning his acts, is: "My Allah, if virtues and good deeds arise from me, that is because of Your grace (Fadl), and it is Your right to bless me. And if vices and bad deeds arise from me, that is because of Your justice ('Adl), and it is Your right to have proof against me."
Story of Shaykh Mursi and Shaykh Ibn Ata'Illah
Ý Imam Ibn Ata'Illah relates about when he met his Shaykh Abu'l Abbas, "I went to him and I was given permission to enter and see him again. I complained to him of my distress and depression. He said, "the states of the slave are four and no more: bliss, hardship, obedience and disobedience. If you are in bliss, you are required to be grateful to Allah. If you are in hardship, Allah requires of you to be patient. If you are obedient, Allah requires you to see that obedience as being a grant from Him to you. If you are disobedient, Allah requires of you to repent and seek forgiveness." I left his presence feeling that my distress was like a garment that was removed from me. Some time later he asked me, "how are you?" I replied, "I search for distress and do not find it." Then he told me, "Stick (to the Path assiduously), for by Allah, if you stick to it you will be an authority in both domains." He meant the domain of outward knowledge of the Shari'a, and the domain of inward gnosis of the Haqiqa.
"O Allah, You Who are First, Last, Inward, and Outward. We ask that You erase our names with Your Names, and erase our attributes with Your Attributes, and erase our actions with Your Actions, and erase our planning with Your Planning, and erase our choosing with Your Choosing, we ask that You be for us as You are to Your intimate friends.
"O Allah, You are the Rich and Independent, and we are the poor and needy, and who is for the poor but You?
"O Allah, You are the Strong, and we are the weak, and who is for the weak but You?
"O Allah, You are the Capable over everything, and we are capable of nothing, and who is for the impotent but You?
"O Allah, You are the Exalted in Might, and we are the lowly and humble, and who is for the lowly but You?
"O Allah, show to us our poverty towards You, and enrich us with Your bounty so that we have no need of other than You."
May Allah grant us knowledge of and closeness to Him, and purify us.
wa Allahu a'lam