The Name of Allaah, Al-’Afuw is mentioned five times in the Noble Qur’an and they are as follows:
Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat an-Nisaa’ (4:43):
“Rub therewith your face and hands. Truly, Allaah is Ever Oft-Pardoning Oft-Forgiving.”
He (Ta’ala) also says in Surat an-Nisaa’ (4:99):
“For these there is hope that Allaah will forgive them, and Allaah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.”
He (Ta’ala) says in Surat an-Nisaa’ (4:149):
“Whether you (mankind) disclose (by good words of thanks) a good deed (done to you in the form of a favor by someone), or conceal it, or pardon an evil, verily, Allaah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, All-Powerful.”
Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat al-Hajj (22:60):
“That is so, and whoever has retaliated with the like of that which he was made to suffer, and then again has been wronged, Allaah will surely help him. Verily! Allaah is Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.”
Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat al-Mujaadilah (58:2):
“And verily; they utter an ill word or a lie. And verily; Allaah is Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.”
The Meaning of the Name
Ibn Jarir said: “’Truly, Allaah is Ever Oft-Pardoning’ means that Allaah is Ever Oft-Pardoning for the sins of His slaves, and He waives (cancels) the punishment for most of their sins as long as they do not commit Shirk.” [Jami’ul-Bayan]
After mentioning the linguistic meaning of the Name, Az-Zajjaj said: “And Allaah is Oft-Pardoning of the sins and waives the punishment for them.” [Tafseer Al-Asma’]
Al-Khattabi said: “Al-’Afuw is an intensive form of the word ‘Afwa and it means: Pardon them their sins (turn away from the sins, i.e. ignore) and waive (abandon) the recompense of the wrong doer.
It is said: The word ‘Afwa is taken or derived from ’Afat ar-Reeh al-Athar’ i.e., the wind removes the traces. It is as if the one who pardons the sins wipes away or erases the traces of the sins when pardoning someone.” [Sha’n ad-Du’a]
Al-Haleemi said: “Al-’Afuw means He Who relieves His servants (forgives them) from the burden of (the evil consequences of) their sins and evil deeds, and their traces.
He (Ta’ala) will not take them to account for them if they return in repentance and ask for forgiveness or abandon what they do (of sins) for His Sake. He (Ta’ala) will expiate what they do (of sins) due to their abandonment or due to the intercession of those who intercede for them or as an honor and a recompense for their deeds.” [Al-Minhaj]
Shaikh as-Sa’dee (Rahimahullaah) said: “Al-’Afuw, Al-Ghafoor, Al-Ghaffaar is 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. Allaah has promised forgiveness to the one who fulfills its conditions. He (Ta’ala) says: ‘And indeed I am All-Forgiving to him who repents, believes (in My Oneness and associates none in worship with Me) and does righteous deeds and then remains constant in doing them.’” [Surat Ta-Ha 20:82] [Tayseer al-Kareem]
The Impact of Belief in this Noble Name:
- Indeed, Allaah (Ta’ala) is Al-’Afuw, to Whom belongs the extensive (comprehensive) pardon which encompasses all the sins that are committed by His servants, especially if they have taken the means by which they are deserving of His Asking for forgiveness, Tawbah (returning in repentance), having faith, and performing righteous good deeds are all ways in which the slave can attain Allaah’s Pardon. Al-’Afuw is the One Who accepts repentance from His slaves and forgives their sins. He loves to pardon and loves His slaves who seek the means by which they attain His pardon, i.e by their kindness, being merciful and forgiving others for His Sake. Of His Perfect Pardon is that no matter how many times the slave transgresses against himself, then returns in repentance, He (Ta’ala) will forgive him all his sins, as He (Ta’ala) says in Surat az-Zumar (39:53):
“Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah, verily Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’”
Had it not been for His Perfect Pardon and Vast Forbearance, He would not leave on (the earth), a single moving (living) creature nor any soul. He (Ta’ala) says in Surat an-Nahl (16:61):
“And if Allaah were to seize mankind for their wrong-doing, He would not leave on it (the earth) a single moving (living) creature, but He postpones them for an appointed term and when their term comes they would neither be able to delay (the torment) for an hour (or a moment), nor they would be able to advance it.”
2. Allaah (Ta’ala) is ‘Afuw and Ghafoor (Oft-Pardoning, Most Merciful) in spite of His Ability over His creation and His Dominance over He (Ta’ala) cautioned His creation about this by His following statement in Surat an-Nisaa’ (4:149):
“Whether you (mankind) disclose (by good words of thanks) a good deed (done to you in the form of a favor by someone), or conceal it, or pardon an evil verily! Allaah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, All-Powerful.”
This means: Whether you speak good to the people, or conceal and/ or pardon an evil done to you, verily, Allaah is ever Oft-Pardoning, All-Powerful, Who pardons you much despite His Ability to punish you and take revenge. I.e. you too should forgive the people and pardon them as Allaah forgives you and pardons you.
Allaah (Ta’ala) exhorts (encourages) His slaves to forgive, pardon and accept the apologies of their friends and relatives and those who are under their ward, again and again.
Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat an-Noor (24:22):
“And let not those among you who are blessed with graces and wealth swear not to give (any sort of help) to their kinsmen, the poor who beg, and those who left their homes for Allaah’s Cause. Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allaah should forgive you? And Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
This Verse was revealed concerning Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) when he swore not to spend on Mistah, who was one of his kinsmen, after he (Mistah) had indulged in the event of slandering against ‘Aishah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anha).
Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat al-Baqarah (2:237):
“And to forgive is nearer to at-Taqwa.”
He (Ta’ala) also says in Surat ash-Shura (42:40):
“The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof, but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allaah. Verily! He likes not the Dhalimun (the wrong doers).”
And He (Ta’ala) says, addressing His Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in Surat Aal-‘Imran (3:159):
“So pass over (their faults), and ask (Allaah’s) Forgiveness for them, and consult them in the affair.”
And He (Ta’ala) encourages him to accept the pardon, saying:
“Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish (i.e. do not punish him).” [Al-‘Araaf 7:199]
And Allaah (Ta’ala) praised His believing slaves in Surat Aal-‘Imran (3:134):
“Who suppress anger, and who pardon men, verily Allaah loves the good-doers.”
The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Charity does not diminish wealth. And, Allaah enhances the honor of one who forgives, and one who humbles himself (i.e. shows humbleness towards another) for the Sake of Allaah. Allaah exalts him in ranks.” [Reported by Ahmad and Muslim]
Imaam an-Nawawi (Rahimahullaah) said: “Allaah enhances the honor of one who forgives,” has two aspects: one is that this enhancement is apparent, i.e. whoever pardons and forgives becomes great in the hearts of people and his dignity and honor are increased.
The second aspect is that the enhancement implies his reward and his honor in the Hereafter.” [Explanation of Saheeh Muslim]
3. The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) frequently asked Allaah for well-being and pardon as is narrated in many Ahadeeth, such as:
‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) narrated that he (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) commanded that a man going to bed should say:
اللهُمَّ خَلَقْتَ نَفْسي وأنت تَتَوفَّاها، لك مَمَاتها وَمَحْياها، إنْ أَحْيَيْتَها، فَاحْفَظْها، وإِن أَمَتَّها، فاغْفِرْ لها، اللهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ العافية
“O Allaah, You created my being and it is for You to take it to its ultimate goal. And its death and life is due to You, and if You give it life then safeguard it; and if You bring death then grant it pardon. O Allaah, I beg of You, well-being.”
A man said to him: “Did you hear it from ‘Umar?” He said: “(I have heard it) from the one who is better than ‘Umar, from the Messenger of Allaah (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).” [Muslim]
The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) never left the following supplication in the morning and evening:
اللهُمَّ إنِّي أسْأَلُكَ العَفْوَ والعافية في الدنيا والآخِرةَ، اللهُمَّ إنِّي أسْألُك العفْوَ والعافيةَ في ديني ودُنيايَ، وأهْلي وَمالي، اللهُمَّ اسْتُر عَوْراتي، وَآمِنْ رَوُعاتي، اللهُمَّ احْفَظْني من بيْنَ يَدَيَّ ومِن خَلْفي، وعن يميني، وعَنْ شِمالي، ومِنْ فَوْقِي، وأعوذُ بِعَظَمَتِكَ أنْ أُغْتال من تَحْتي
“Allaahumma Inni As-Alukal-‘Afwa Wal-‘Aafiyata Fid-Dunia Wal-Aakhirah, Allaahumma Inni As-Alukal-‘Afwa Wal-‘Afiyata Fee Deeni, Wa Dunia-ya, Wa Ahli Wa Maali. Allaahummas-tur ‘Aowraati, Wa-Aamin Row-‘Aati, Allaahummah-Fadhni Min Bayni Yadayya Wa Min Khalfi, Wa-‘An Yameeni Wa ‘An Shimaali, Wa Min Fawqi, Wa A’outhu Bi-‘Aathamatika An Oghtaala Min Tahtee,”
Translation: “O Allaah! I beg of Your pardon and safety in this world and in the Hereafter. O Allaah! I beg of Your pardon and safety in this world and in the worldly affairs, in my family, and in my wealth. O Allah! Guard me from my front and from my rear, from my right and from my left, also from above me and I seek refuge in Your Greatness lest I am mortally attacked from beneath me.”[Abu Dawoud and Ibn Maajah and authenticated by al-Albaani in Saheeh at-Targheeb no. 659]
Wakee’ said: “’attacked from beneath’, means to be swallowed by the earth.”
He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to seek refuge in Allaah’s Pardon from His punishment and torment, as it is mentioned in his (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) supplication in the night prayer:
اللهُمَّ إِنَّي أعُوذُ بِرِضاكَ مِنْ سَخَطِك، وَأَعُوذُ بِمُعافاتك من عُقُوبَتِك، وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْك، لا أُحْصِي ثَناءً عَلَيْك، أنت كما أَثْنَيْتَ على نَفْسِك
“O Allaah! Indeed I seek refuge in Your pleasure from Your anger; I seek refuge in Your pardon from Your punishment; I seek refuge in You from You. I cannot count all exaltations upon You; You are as You have extolled Yourself.” [Muslim]
A man asked the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “O Messenger of Allaah! What should I say when I ask my Lord?” He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Say,
اللهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لي وَارْحَمْني وعَافِني وارْزُقْني
”O Allaah! Forgive me, have mercy on me, grant me well-being and provide me.’”
And he (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) joined his fingers together except the thumb, saying: “These (words) gather your (affairs for you, in this) worldly life and Hereafter.”[Muslim]
4. The difference between Al-‘Afwa (pardon) and Maghfirah (forgiveness).
The author of the book ‘Al-Maqsad al-Asna’ said:
“Al-’Afuw is the One Who wipes (removes) the evil deeds and pardons the sins, and it is close to Al-Ghafoor (the Oft-Forgiving), but it entails more. Forgiveness indicates concealment, while pardon indicates wiping (removing) and wiping is more perfect than concealment.”
Al-Qurtubi (Rahimahullaah) also said: “Some scholars said that the difference between pardon and forgiveness is concealment without punishment, while pardon occurs after the existence of torment and rebuke.”[Al-Kitab al-Asna]
Shaikh an-Najdi (Hafidhahullaah) said: commenting on the statement of al-Qurtubi, that, considering the statement of al-Qurtubi, one finds that pardon means leaving the punishment and it implies passing over one’s mistake as is previously mentioned. And ar-Raghib said in “al-Mufradat”: ‘One’s statement “I ask you pardon and well-being,” means abandon the punishment and give security.”’
Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad said: “Anyone who deserves the punishment and you did not punish him, then you have pardoned him.”
Az-Zajjaj said: “Pardoning the sin means removing and cancelling it as the wind removes the house, i.e. wipes away its traces and marks.
Accordingly, the one who pardons a sin is like the one who annuls it and removes it. If one pardons a sin then he has cancelled (annulled) it.” [Ish tiqaq al-Asma]
 When Allaah declared the innocence of ‘Aishah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anha) and He (Ta’ala) said: “Do you not love that Allaah should forgive you?” (Meaning, as you forgive people who wrong you, Allaah will forgive you), Abu Bakr’s heart softened towards Mistah and he forgave him (may Allaah be pleased with them).
- Al-Fattaah (The Judge, The Opener)
- The Name of Allaah: Dhul-Jalaali wal-Ikraam (Owner of Majesty and Honor)
- Ash-Shaheed (The Witness)
- Al-Hayiyy (The Modest)