This is the profound meaning of at-tawbah offered to everyone: sincerely returning to God after a slip, a mistake, a sin. God loves that sincere return to Him and He forgives and purifies.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, hated to let his Companions nurture a pointless feeling of guilt. He kept telling them that they must never stop conversing with the One, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful who welcomes everyone in His grace and benevolence and who loves the sincerity of hearts that regret and return to Him. This is the profound meaning of at-tawbah offered to everyone: sincerely returning to God after a slip, a mistake, a sin. God loves that sincere return to Him and He forgives and purifies.
The Prophet himself exemplified that in many circumstances. Once, a Bedouin came and urinated in the mosque: the companions rushed on him and wanted to beat him up. The Prophet stopped them and said: “Leave him alone, and just throw a bucketful of water on his urine. God has only sent you to make obligations easy, and not to make them difficult.” [Bukhari]
«أن أعرابيا بال في المسجد، فثار إليه الناس ليقعوا به، فقال لهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: دعوه، وأهريقوا على بوله ذنوبا من ماء، أو سجلا من ماء، فإنما بعثتم ميسرين ولم تبعثوا معسرين» رواه البخاري
Abu Huraira reported: “While we were sitting with the Prophet a man came and said, “O Allah's Apostle! I have been ruined.” Allah's Apostle asked what the matter with him was. He replied “I had sexual intercourse with my wife while I was fasting.” Allah's Apostle asked him, “Can you afford to manumit a slave?” He replied in the negative. Allah's Apostle asked him, “Can you fast for two successive months?” He replied in the negative. The Prophet asked him, “Can you afford to feed sixty poor persons?” He replied in the negative. The Prophet kept silent and while we were in that state, a big basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet . He asked, “Where is the questioner?” He replied, “I (am here).” The Prophet said (to him), “Take this (basket of dates) and give it in charity.” The man said, “Should I give it to a person poorer than I? By Allah; there is no family between its (i.e. Medina's) two mountains who are poorer than I.” The Prophet smiled till his pre-molar teeth became visible and then said, 'Feed your family with it.” [Bukhari]
«بينما نحن جلوس عند النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، إذ جاءه رجل فقال: يا رسول الله، هلكت. قال: مالك. قال: وقعت على امرأتي وأنا صائم، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: هل تجد رقبة تعتقها. قال: لا. قال: فهل تستطيع أن تصوم شهرين متتابعين. قال: لا. فقال: فهل تجد إطعام ستين مسكينا. قال: لا. قال: فمكث النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم. فبينا نحن على ذلك أتي النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بعرق فيه تمر، والعرق المكتل، قال: أين السائل. فقال: أنا. قال: خذ هذا فتصدق به. فقال الرجل: أعلى أفقر مني يا رسول الله؟. فوالله ما بين لابتيها، يريد الحرتين، أهل بيت أفقر من أهل بيتي. فضحك النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم حتى بدت أنيابه ثم قال: أطعمه أهلك» رواه البخاري
That gentleness and kindness were the very essence of his teaching. He said to ‘A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her): “God is gentle (Rafîq) and he loves gentleness (ar-rifq) in everything. And He gives for gentleness what He does not give for violence or anything else.” [Muslim]
«يا عائشة! إن الله رفيق يحب الرفق. ويعطي على الرفق ما لا يعطي على العنف. وما لا يعطي على ما سواه» رواه مسلم
He declared to one of his companions: “There are in you two qualities that God loves: clemency (al-hilm) and forbearance [nobleness, tolerance] (al-anâ).” [Muslim]
«إن فيك خصلتين يحبهما الله: الحلم والأناة» رواه مسلم
He invited all his companions to that constant effort of gentleness and forgiveness.
Compiled From: “The Invocation of God” - Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, pp. 33, 34