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Sin and Repentance in the Quran
Image by NLI: Surat Hud, a Quran manuscript written in Kufi script. 14th century from Kairouan, Tunisia.

Sin and Repentance in the Quran

Prof. Gabriel Said Reynolds, University of Notre Dame, USA

Sin and Repentance in the Quran

Sin and Repentance in the Quran and Islamic Thought


The Quran encourages believers to repent of their sins and presents repentance as an important element of piety. Quran 2:160 applies the root commonly associated with repentance (t.w.b.) to both God and humans. It has God declare that He will turn towards (atūbu ‘alā) those who repent (tābū). A number of early Islamic treatises, often entitled Kitāb al-Tawba (the “Book of Repentance”) are accordingly concerned with repentance. In his Kitāb al-Tawwābīn (“Book of the Penitents”, edited in 1961 by George Makdisi, the Ḥanbalī Muslim scholar Ibn Qudāma al-Maqdisī (d. 620/1223) draws on a wide range of reports to present examples of repentance from angels, prophets, Companions of Muḥammad, pious mystics, and others, including non-Muslims. Ibn Qudāma’s treatise stands out for his willingness to highlight the sins of prophets and companions of Muhammad. This feature challenges standard notions about prophetic impeccability and the ethical qualities of the companions. In this talk I will argue that Ibn Qudāma is willing to challenge these notions because of his vision for the construction of the pious self. He saw human initiative in overcoming the self’s natural inclination to sinfulness as a necessary step in the path towards spiritual excellence (in this regard his spiritual vision is shaped by Sufism). His vision of repentance thus involves more than regret; it also involves acts that amend for past wrongs and reform the soul. This vision led Ibn Qudāma to construct a mythical past in which many of the great spiritual figures were engaged in a struggle with their own immoral or impious instincts.


Gabriel Said Reynolds is Crowley Professor of Islamic Studies and Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of The Qur'an and the Bible: Text and Commentary (Yale 2018) and Allah: God in the Qur’an (Yale 2020). He also hosts a YouTube channel entitled “Exploring the Qur’an and the Bible.”


Sunday, March 26, 8 pm Israel /7 pm CET /6 pm UK /1 pm EST


Sunday March 26th 4 Nissan 08:00 - 09:15


Prof. Gabriel Said Reynolds


Online Zoom Event Map

For whom?

General public





Image by NLI: Surat Hud, a Quran manuscript written in Kufi script. 14th century from Kairouan, Tunisia.