Ibn al-Qayyim – Shamsuddeen Muhammad bin Abee Bakr Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d.751 A.H.) -Rahimullaah- said about the Ayaah:
اِذَا جَاۗءَ نَصْرُ اللّٰهِ وَالْفَتْحُ
“When comes the Help of Allah (to you, O Muhammad against your enemies) and the conquest (of Makkah)” [Surah Nasr:1]
The saying of Allaah Ta’ala: “When comes the Help of Allah (to you, O Muhammad against your enemies) and the conquest (of Makkah)” [Surah Nasr:1], Umar bin al-Khattab said to the Companions: ‘What do you say about this Ayaah?’
They replied: ‘Allah ordered His Prophet that when the conquest of Makkah occurs then to seek forgiveness of Him.’
So Umar said to Ibn Abbas: ‘What do you say?’
He replied: ‘That was the lifespan/ approach of the death of the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) which Allah informed him about.’
So Umar said: ‘I do not know of anything besides what you know.’
[Collected by Bukhari in Tafseer of Soorah Nasr]
This is a very precise and profound understanding, which not everyone can comprehend. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’la) did not connect seeking forgiveness to the Prophet’s actions, but rather He connected it to what Allaah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’la) caused to occur of the blessings for His Messenger of the conquest and the people entering into His Deen; which was not due to seeking forgiveness.
So Ibn Abbas knew that the reason for seeking forgiveness was something else, which was the approach of death, which is the completion of the blessing of Allah upon His slave due to his success in sincere repentance and seeking forgiveness before Allah. So, in order for a person to meet his Lord cleansed and pure from all sins, Allah preceded seeking forgiveness with a cause for happiness and with His being pleased and satisfied with that person.
What also indicates this, is Allah’s saying:
فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَاسْتَغْفِرْهُ
“So glorify the Praises of your Lord, and ask for His Forgiveness” at the end of Soorah Nasr.
The Messenger (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) always used to glorify and praise Allah,
so he knew that the command found in that Ayaah was to glorify Allah after the conquest and the people entering the Deen: since that matter was more important than that what had preceded [i.e.the passing away of the Prophet was more important than the conquest] and this was as the prelude of his going to the Rafeeq al-‘Alaa (The Most High Companionship). Also, Uboodeeyah (servitude of worship) was due from him, by glorifying and seeking forgiveness which gave him high status in his eternal life.
So Allah ordered the Prophet to carry out glorification and the seeking of forgiveness. What also indicates this, is that Allaah(Subhanahu Wa Ta’la) legislated repentance and seeking forgiveness when actions are completed. So Allaah legislated it at the completion of Hajj and Qiyyam al-Layl (the night prayer). The Prophet -sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam- used to seek forgiveness thrice when he said the Salam of the prayer.
Allah legislated that a person performing Wudu say, after completing his Wudu:
‘O Allah make me from those who repent and from those who are purified’
اَللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْنِىْ مِنَ التَّوَّابِيْنَ وَاجْعَلْنِىْ مِنَ الْمُتَطَهِّرِيْنَ
(Allaahumma Ij’alnee min at-Tawabeen waj’alnee min al-Mutatahireen.)
Therefore, it is well-known that repentance is legislated after completing righteous actions. So Allah commanded His Messenger to seek forgiveness at the completion and fulfillment of what was due from him of conveying the Message and Striving in Allah’s path at the time when people entered into Allah’s Deen in droves. Accordingly it is as though the conveyance of the message of worship had been completed and fully carried out, so Allah commanded him to seek forgiveness at the end of it.
[Taken from: ‘Ia’laam al-Muwaqqaeen 1/436]
Ref: Day 2 – Bite Size Ramadan – 1437 A.H. – Miraath Publications