An-Nahj Al-Asma Fii Sharh Asma’u Allah-ul-Husna, by Shaikh Muhammad Al-Humoud Al-Najdi.
Literally the word Ghaafir means to cover or conceal or hide. When Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) has forgiven someone’s sins, this means that He has covered them or concealed them (from others).
To illustrate, Al-Mighfar is what is used by the warrior to protect and cover him. [Tafseer Al-Asmaa’ by Az-Zajaz]
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala) called Himself Al-Ghafour in ninety one verses in the Qur’an such as in Surat Ash-Shura (42:5):
ألا إِنّ اللهَ هو الغَفُورُ الرّحيم
“Verily, Allah is the Forgiving, the Most Merciful.”
Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) also said in Surat Al-Hijr (15:49):
نَبّئ عِبَادِي أَنّي أَنَا الغفورُ الرحيم
“Declare (O Muhammad (Salla Allahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam)) unto My slaves, that truly, I am the Forgiving, the Most Merciful.”
In Surat Al-Buruj (85:14), He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said:
وَهُوَ الغَفُورُ الوَدُودُ
“And He is Forgiving, Full of Love (towards the pious who are real true believers of Islamic Monotheism).”
In Surat Ash-Shura (42:23):
إنّ اللهَ غفورٌ شَكُور
“Verily, Allah is the Forgiving, Most Ready to appreciate (the deeds of those who are obedient to Him).”
The Name Al-Ghaffaar has been mentioned in five verses, such as in Surat Az-Zumar (39:5), where Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said:
ألا هو العزيزُ الغفّار
‘Verily, He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.”
Also in Surat Saad (38:66), Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said:
رَبُّ السّمواتِ والأرضِ ومابينهما العزيزُ الغفّار
“The Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, the Exalted in Might, the perpetual Forgiver.”
The Name Ghaafir has been mentioned only once in the Qur’an and that is in Allah’s Statement in Surat Ghaafir (40:3):
غَافِرِ الذّنب وقابلِ التَّوْبِ شَدِيدِ العِقَاب
“The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in Punishment.”
The meaning of these beautiful Names:
The Name Al-Ghaffaar (the Oft-Forgiving) is more intensive in meaning than Al-Ghafour (Who is the Forgiving).
Az-Zajaj (Rahimahullaah) said: “Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) is the One Who conceals the sins of His slaves and covers them with His Shield.”
Al-Khattabi (Rahimahullaah) said: “Al-Ghaffaar is the One Who conceals the sins of His slaves, and Who does not reveal the secrets of His slave to His creation nor does He punish him by displaying his shameful doings to others.”
Shaikh As-Sa’di (Rahimahullaah) said: “Al-’Afuww (the One Who Pardons), Al-Ghafour (the Forgiving), Al-Ghaffaar (the Oft-Forgiving): the One Who was and is known with the Attribute of Forgiveness. The One Who is described as having Forgiveness and Compassion. Everyone is in dire need of His Forgiveness just as they are in dire need of His Mercy and Kindness. Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) has promised forgiveness to the one who fulfills its conditions, He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said in Surat Ta-Ha (20:82):
‘And verily, I am indeed Forgiving to him who repents, believes and does righteous good deeds, and then remains constant in doing them, (till his death).’ ” [Tayseer Al-Kareem 5/300]
The impact of believing in these Names:
1- Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) has described Himself as being Ghaffaar (Oft-Forgiving) and Ghafour (Forgiving) of both the minor and the major sins, and the evil deeds of His slaves. Even Shirk (associating another god or partner with Allah in worship), if the person repented from it and asked the forgiveness from his Lord, Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) would accept his repentance and forgive him his sins.
Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said in Surat Az-Zumar (39:53):
قل يا عبادِيَ الذّين أَسْرَفوا على أَنفُسِهم لا تَقْنَطُوا من رحمةِ اللهِ إنّ الله يَغْفِرُ الذّنُوبَ جميعاً إنّه هو الغفور الرحيم
“Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins (for those who repent and correct themselves). Indeed, it is He Who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) also said in Surat An-Nisa’ (4:110):
ومن يَعْمَلْ سُوءاً أو يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمّ يستغفِرِ اللهَ يَجِدِ اللهَ غَفُوراً رحيماً
“And whoever does evil or wrongs himself but afterwards seeks Allah’s Forgiveness, he will find Allah Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Most importantly, Allah’s Mercy and Forgiveness are greater than the sins that the person has committed, no matter how great they are. Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said in Surat an-Najm (53:32):
إنّ رّبك وَاسِعُ المَغْفِرَة
“Verily, your Lord is of vast forgiveness.”
Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) has guaranteed forgiveness to the one who has repented and believed, as He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said in Surat Ta-Ha (20:82):
وإِنِّي لغفَّار لِمَن تاب وآمَنَ وعَمِلَ صَالِحاَ ثُمَ اهْتَدَى
“And verily, I am indeed Forgiving to him who repents, believes and does righteous good deeds, and then remains constant in doing them, (till his death).”
It is out of Allah’s Grace and Generosity that He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) has promised to change the sins of evil doers to good deeds. He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said about those who repent in Surat Al-Furqan (25:70):
فأولئك يُبّدل اللهُ سَيّئاتِهم حسناتٍ وكان الله غفوراً رحيماً
“For those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and ever is Allah Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
2- However, it is not permissible for the Muslim to exceed the limit (or transgress Allah’s set limits) when committing sins and evil deeds, with an excuse that Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
It should be borne in mind that Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) promises forgiveness only for those who intend righteousness and return to Him in repentance. Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said in Surat Al-Isra’ (17:25):
إن تكونوا صالحين فإنّه كان للأوّابينَ غفوراً
“If you should be righteous [in intention] – then indeed He is Ever, to the often returning [to Him], Most Forgiving.”
He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) also said in Surat An-Naml (27:11):
إلا من ظلم ثم بَدّل حُسْناً بعد سُوءٍ فإنّي غفورٌ رحيم
“Except him who has done wrong and afterwards has changed evil for good, then surely, I am forgiving, Most Merciful.”
Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) has set a condition for attaining His Mercy and Forgiveness, which is to change from the state of committing sins to the state of obedience.
As for Allah’s Statement in Surat An-Nisa’ (4:48 and 116):
إنّ الله لا يَغْفِرُ أن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ
“Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him in worship.”
This indicates that the one who persists in committing Shirk (associating another god or partner with Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) in worship) till his death, will not be forgiven, because he has not changed evil for good.
Similarly, Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said about the hypocrites in Surat Al-Munafiqun (63:6):
سواءٌ عليهم أستغفرت لَهُمْ أم لم تَسْتَغْفِرْ لهم لن يَغْفِرَ اللهُ لهم
“It is equal to them whether you (Muhammad (Salla Allaahu ‘alaihi wa Sallam)) ask forgiveness or ask not forgiveness for them, never will Allah forgive them.”
This is so because they were not sincere in their religion for Allah (by not worshipping Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) Alone or doing good for Allah’s Sake only), and they did not try to correct themselves. If they corrected themselves, they would attain the forgiveness that Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) gives the believers.
Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) said in Surat An-Nisa’ (4:146):
إلاّ الذين تَابُوا وأصْلَحُوا واعْتَصَمُوا بالله وأَخْلَصُوا دينَهُمْ لِلّهِ فأولئِكَ مع المؤمنين وسوف يُؤْتِ اللّهُ المؤمنين أجراً عظيماً
“Except for those who repent, correct themselves, hold fast to Allah, and are sincere in their religion for Allah, for those will be with the believers. And Allah is going to give the believers a great reward.”
Thus, one should take the means which leads to forgiveness. Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’ are of the opinion that whoever persists in committing a major sin and dies, will not have a covenant from Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) of attaining Forgiveness and Mercy, but if He wills, He forgives him by His Grace as He (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala) said in Surat An-Nisa’ (4:48 and 116):
وَيغْفِرُ ما دون ذلك لمن يشاء
“But He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases.”
And if He wills, He punishes him in the Hell-Fire according to His complete justice. Then He will bring him out by His Mercy and through the intercession of those who are allowed to intercede by His leave from among the people of obedience, he will be entered into Paradise. This will be only for those who believe in the Oneness of Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala).
3- Of Allah’s Grace and Mercy with His slaves is His Attribute of Forgiveness of sins and evil doings, even though He is Rich and stands in no need of any of the Alameen (mankind and Jinns), nor does He benefit from forgiving them, because their Kufr will not harm Him, the Almighty. He is also not forgiving them out of fear of them because He is Strong, All-Mighty, and has subdued everything and overpowered it. Nothing in the heavens or in the earth escapes Him (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala).
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala) emphasized this matter to His slaves many times in the Qur’an, by joining His Name Al-Ghafour (the Forgiving) together with His Name Al-Aziz (the All-Mighty) such as in Surat Fatir (35:28):
إنّ اللهَ عَزيزٌ غفورٌ
“Verily, Allah is the All-Mighty, the Forgiving.”
He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) also said in Surat Az-Zumar (39:5):
أَلا هو العزيزُ الغّفار
“Verily, He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.”
In spite of His Might and Dominance, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
- Al-Waahid – Al-Ahad (The One)
- Adh-Dhaahir (the Most High)
- Ad-Dayyan (The One Who Recompenses)
- Al-Baatin (The Most Near)