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In Islam, Is God Forgiving or Not?



Reply Date

Feb 17, 2018


Assalaamu Alaikum. I thought Allah was the All-Forgiving. But I was told and was even quoted a verse from surat Ar-Rahman that He does not forgive shirk (associating other beings/gods with Allah). Is this true? Won't many people from polytheistic religions then lose hope of forgiveness in Islam? Thank you, I hope you will give me a clear answer.



God Forgiving

Short Answer: There is an assurance from Allah that He will forgive the sins of all those who repent and return to Him. One sin Allah does not forgive if a person leaves this world without repenting is the sin of polytheism, which is the gravest of all sins; because it is like treason. Polytheism is forgiven by Allah the All Merciful however in the case of a new Muslim who accepts Islam and Muslims who repent.


Salam Dear Zainy,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

The mercy of Allah the Almighty is described as the most important quality of Allah in the Quran as well as in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Indeed Allah’s mercy is discernible in the whole of His creation; and a whole chapter of the Quran is named after Allah the All-Merciful (Al-Rahman, Chapter 55).

Indeed 113 chapters of the Quran begin with: “In the name of Allah the Most-Compassionate; the Most-Merciful”.

This is a formula that serves to constantly remind the readers of the Quran, of the All-Encompassing mercy and forgiveness of Allah Almighty.

And there is also an assurance from Allah the All Merciful that He will forgive the sins of all those who repent and return to Him.

He says in the noble Quran what can be translated as:

{Your Lord hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) mercy: verily, if any of you did evil in ignorance, and thereafter repented, and amended (his conduct), lo! He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.} (Al-An`am 6:54)

There is a hadith qudsi (divine hadith) also that states:

“…My mercy prevails over My wrath.” (Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)

The Prophet also once said:

Allah, the Almighty, says: Whosoever does a good deed, will have (reward) ten times like it and I add more; and whosoever does an evil, will have the punishment like it or I will forgive (him); and whosoever approaches Me by one span, I will approach him by one cubit; and whosoever approaches Me by one cubit, I approach him by one fathom, and whosoever comes to Me walking, I go to him running; and whosoever meets Me with an earth-load of sins without associating anything with Me, I meet him with forgiveness like that. (Muslim)

This highlights the infinite compassion and mercy of Almighty Allah to His obedient servants.

It is also mentioned that on the Day of Judgment He will give a minimum of ten times reward for each good deed.

In some cases, it may be many times more than that; say, seven hundred times or more, as He would like.

And the important point is that such mercy and forgiveness of Allah necessitate on our part that we humans should never lose hope of His mercy and forgiveness.

Shirk: The Worst of Sins

But about shirk (polytheism), Allah the Almighty says in the noble Quran what gives the meaning of:

{Allah forgives not (the sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgives whom He pleases other sins than this: one who joins other gods with Allah, has strayed far, far away (from the right) the right what…I guess a completion needed.} (Al-Nisaa’ 4:116)

This verse in fact underscores the fact that the sin of polytheism is the gravest of all sins; because it is like treason which seeks to undermine the sovereignty and Lordship of Allah the Almighty.

All the same, we can also find another verse in the Quran, which teaches us more about the all-embracing nature of the forgiveness of Allah the Almighty:

{Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah., for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”} (Az-Zumar 39:53)

This verse makes it clear that Allah’s forgiveness is for all those who do not despair of His mercy. And so those persons who firmly believe in Allah’s mercy can be certain that all their sins will be forgiven.

The question then is should people from polytheistic religions lose hope in the forgiveness of Allah?

The answer is: No, they have no need to despair of Allah’s mercy; because, it is their hope in His forgiveness that will lead to His mercy.

Rather, they should believe in Him and pray for His mercy for past sins. And once a person leaves polytheism and embraces Islam, all their past sins are forgiven.

Their soul then is comparable to a white sheet where there is no black spot or blemish.

The verse that says that Allah does not forgive polytheism, is about people who commit polytheism even after they have understood it to be a serious sin; and the verse is not relevant to those who had earlier committed polytheism, that is, before they were aware of the gravity of the sin of polytheism.

But once they have come to know that polytheism is an unforgivable sin, their natural course of action is to avoid it at all costs. If not, they violate the command of Allah prohibiting polytheism, and consequently they do not deserve Allah’s forgiveness.

When a person enters the fold of Islam for the sake of Allah, all his or her past sins are forgiven, and they start a new life of piety and righteousness.

A person once came to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to embrace Islam; but he had placed a condition upon the Prophet for accepting Islam, that God should forgive his past sins.

Then the Prophet answered:

“Do you not know that accepting Islam destroys all sins which come before it?” (Muslim)

This means that even polytheism is forgiven by Allah the All Merciful in the case of a new Muslim. Because, when one accepts Islam, they are basically repenting of the ways and beliefs of their earlier life.

So there is no need for one to be overburdened by the sins they had committed before their acceptance of Islam. The person’s record becomes clean, and it is as if he is just born from his mother’s womb.

And all of us should try to the best of our ability to keep our records clean and strive to do as many good deeds as possible, seeking Allah’s mercy and forgiveness.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


(From Ask About Islam archive)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Is It True that Accepting Islam Wipes All Past Sins?

What is the Unforgivable Sin in Islam?

Why Shirk is So Serious

Repenting from ‘Shirk’ (Associating Partners with God)

Wiping Away Sins with Islam







About Professor Shahul Hameed

Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.

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