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How Allah is the Most Forgiving, Oft-Forgiving

Republished from Islam Today.

Al-Ghafur, Al-Ghaffar, Al-Ghafir. These three names refer to Allah’s forgiveness. The name Al-Ghafir means the Forgiver, while the names Al-Ghafur and Al-Ghaffar are more emphatic, indicating that Allah is most forgiving, oft-forgiving.

Taken together, these three names occur in the Quran ninety-eight times.

Allah says:

Announce, (O Muhammad) to My slaves that verily I am the Forgiving, the Merciful. (15: 49)

I am Forgiving to those who repent and believe and do good, and afterward follow right guidance. (20: 82)

In one instance, the Quran refers to Allah as being “the best of those who forgive” when relating where Moses offers the following supplication:

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You are our Protector: so forgive us and give us Your mercy; for you are the best of those who forgive. (7: 155)

Allah mentions the claim of the Christians who say:

Indeed Allah is one of three.

In the very next verse, Allah says:

Will they not turn to Allah and ask His forgiveness? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (5: 74)

Allah speaks about those who persecuted the believers of the past, saying:

Surely (as for) those who persecute believing men and women, then do not repent, they shall have the chastisement of Hell, and they shall have the chastisement of burning. (85: 10)

As for those who turn to Allah in sincere repentance, Allah will turn to them in forgiveness. Allah calls all the polytheists, sinners, and transgressors to seek His forgiveness and declares to them that the doors to His mercy are wide open:

O My servants who have transgressed against their souls! Do not despair of Allah’s mercy, for Allah forgives all sins. He is Forgiving, Most Merciful. (39: 53)

This verse affirms for us that Allah forgives all sins, without exception. Allah is willing to forgive even polytheism and unbelief, as long as the perpetrator renounces such falsehoods and sincerely repents.

Allah forgives whom He pleases. Allah makes it clear that His forgiveness is determined by his will.

Allah does not forgive that partners be associated with Him, but He forgives other than that for whomever he pleases. (4: 48)

This is with respect to those who believe in Allah and adhere to His guidance. If they perpetrate a sin or transgress ion, whether great or small, Allah has decreed that He can forgive that sin if He pleases or punish its perpetrator as He pleases.

It is affirmed in the Sunnah that Allah calls forth during the last third of the night, saying:

Is there anyone beseeching me, so I can give? Are any seeking my forgiveness, so I can forgive them? Are there any penitent people for me to pardon? Is anyone calling to me so I can answer? (Sahih al-Bukhari (1145) and Sahih Muslim (758))

This is an example of Allah’s generosity and boundless favor. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) relates that Allah says:

O child of Adam! However much you beseech Me and place your hopes in Me, I will forgive you without any reservation. O child of Adam! If you have sins piling up to the clouds and then ask My forgiveness, I will forgive you without any reservation. O child of Adam! If you come to me with enough mistakes to fill the Earth, and meet Me without associating anything as a partner with Me, I will come to you with enough forgiveness to fill the Earth. (Sahih Muslim (2687))

Allah refers to Himself as the Oft-Forgiving because He created us knowing that our natures would make us prone to sin, and that we would seek His forgiveness and He would forgive us.

About Salman al-Ouda
Muslim scholar. Al-Ouda is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees. He is a director of the Arabic edition of the website Islam Today and appears on a number of TV shows and authors newspaper articles.