There’s the story of the serial killer that the Prophet spoke about in the hadith collected by Bukhari. Many of us might know it, but there’s no harm reading it again.
There was a man who had heartlessly murdered 99 people, when all of a sudden he felt remorse over what he had done. He asked the people in his town if they knew anyone who was pious enough to get advice from. They recommended to him an ascetic who lived in the mountains. So the man went to this learned person and told him about the past and his wishing to repent for his actions. He asked the man, “Will Allah forgive me?”. The learned man was so shocked by everything he had heard that he said “No, you will not be pardoned.” So the murderer killed him as well!
He felt remorse yet again and asked the people if they knew anyone else. They recommended to him another scholar who they were acquainted with. Again, the murderer asked the same question, “Will Allah forgive me?” Being a truly wise man and knowing Allah’s all-encompassing mercy and His ability to forgive anything, the scholar replied “Of course you will be pardoned, repent at once!”
The wise man also gave him some advice, telling him of a city where there were devoted worshippers of Allah. He recommended that he move there to be around them and not to come back to his town, which was the place of evil. So the man started towards that town and on the way he died.
The angels of mercy descended upon him and so did the angels of punishment. They started arguing over him. The angels of mercy said “This man had repented and was seeking Allah, so he is ours.” The angels of punishment said “This man had never done anything good in his life and did not even complete his repentance.” Allah sent another angel to them in the form of a man, and both parties took him as their arbitrator.
This angel said “Measure the distance of the earth between the two cities, and let him be assigned to the one he is closest to.” When the angels measured the distance, he was closer to the place he was coming from, not his destination. Allah had ordered the earth to be stretched such that he became closer to the city of piety and further from the city of evil. And the angels of mercy took his soul to Jannah.
The point is that, Allah is eager to forgive us, and make us better, and grant us Jannah.
It’s why the Prophet (SAW) told us in the hadith Qudsi: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as its.” [Tirmidhi]
Lest we forget, or choose to ignore, seeking for forgiveness is us saying we are done with it and have put it behind us.
Allah waits. We just need to seek him.
His Mercy is the River that never runs dry.
So seek the River, take a drink. Or dip your feet in. Or better still, take a dive!