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Thursday, June 27, 2019

99 Attributes of Allah:Al-'Afuw - The Pardoner


Al-'Afūw "العفو" is one of the 99 attributes of Allah. It describes the forgiving qualities of Allah for He is The Pardoner,  The Most Forgiving,  The Effacing, and of course, The Eliminator of Sins. 

No matter how faithful a believer may be, or no matter how much care does he take not to sin or hurt anyone, one is liable to sin. Even if one escapes physical form of sins, one may hurt someone with his loose tongue or may hurt him unknowingly. It is only afterwards one realizes what has he done and what harm has he committed not to himself but to the person who may not have deserved such and act from him.

It is then a true believer turns to Allah, the Master of the Universe, repenting and asking forgiveness. And Allah, the Al-'Afūw, the ultimate Pardoner, the Most forgiving and the Effacing, who forgives and pardons his subject, provided the repentance is sought with utmost sincerity with the promise not to repeat. 

But so much pardoner is Allah, the Al-'Afūw, who would still listen to His slave and pardon him yet again if he commits a sin again and seeks repentance. Allah in all His Might, may continue to forgive till the angel of death finally approaches the sinner, for then the time has really run out.

Al-'Afūw comes from the root ‘afw, which means to hide, obliterate, or remove something to forgive, pardon, to pass over, forgo, to obliterate all traces, efface, or to remove. This meaning connotes ‘pardoning’, which is when one looks over a another’s error and does not take them to account for it. Technically, it means Allah’s protection from trials and  sicknesses for the believers (i.e., aafiyah, safety, and well-being).

Al-'Afūw  (the Pardoner), appears five times in the Qur’an; four times with al-Ghafoor (the Most Forgiving) and once with al-Qadeer (the Creator). 
فَاُولٰٓـئِكَ عَسَى اللّٰهُ اَنۡ يَّعۡفُوَ عَنۡهُمۡ​ؕ وَكَانَ اللّٰهُ عَفُوًّا غَفُوۡرًا‏
For those it is expected that Allah will pardon them, and Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving. [Al Qur'an Surah An Nisa 4:99]
Another way to better understand this Attribute is to consider the metaphor which the classical Arabic dictionary, Taj al-Arûs, offers wherein 'afûw is said to be like the desert wind completely obliterating footprints in the sand. The same type of metaphor is used in the book, "Physicians of the Heart: A Sufi View of the 99 Names of Allah". The author states:
"Let’s begin with a physical metaphor that is part of the word’s root meaning: Afu til …. This is an image of the wind blowing across the desert vastness and completely erasing all the tracks in the sand. It is as if no one had ever walked there. Such a fundamental image in the root of the word shows us that with al-‘Afuw, you do not even notice the fault."
Al-'Afūw is also the One Who erases sins and disregards acts of disobedience. This concept approximates the sense of Al-Ghafur, (the One Who forgives much), an attribute with which Al-'Afūw has come four times in the Holy Qur'an, though the former is more far-reaching than the latter. Al-Ghufran, yet another attribute of Allah, indicates a veiling (of the sin) whereas Al-'Afūw indicates an erasing, and the erasing (of sin) is more far-reaching (than the simple veiling of it).

Here it would be appropriate to differentiate between the two attributes: Al-'Afūw and Al-Ghafur:

On the Day of Judgment, we may find that many sins we committed are not in our record; this is ‘afw, which is when Allah completely removes your sins from your record as if you never committed them. When it comes to ‘afw, Allah (swt) says:
وَيَعْفُ عَن كَثِيرٍ
And He pardons much. (42:34)
Al-‘Afuww pardons His Servants by not calling them to account for their sins and erasing their sins from their records. Not only does Allah pardon and remove our sins, but He (swt) loves to Pardon, as is implied in the du`a’ above.

Al-Ghafoor comes from the root ghafar, which means to cover, conceal, and shield. When Allah (swt) forgives a sin, it means that He covers it and conceals it. Al-Ghafoor is the One who does not expose the sins of His Slaves. He shields and protects His Slaves from the consequences of their sins and still forgives even though He is All-Aware of the wrong they committed.

Al-Ghafoor is the One who forgives any sin regardless of the size as long as one seeks sincere repentance. Al-Ghafoor even forgives sins when we don’t seek repentance; it is out of His Mercy that when a Muslim does certain acts, these acts will automatically have some or all of their sins forgiven.

One of the oft quoted hadith attributed to the Prophet of Allah to explain the meaning of this very attribute of Allah is the one narrated by Hazrat Aisha (R.A) who once asked Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him): "O Messenger of Allah! If I realize Lailat-ul-Qadr (Night of Decree), what should I supplicate in it?" He (ﷺ) replied, "You should supplicate:


الْلَّهُمَّ اِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنَّي
(Allahumma innaka 'afuwwun, tuhibbul-'afwa, fa'fu 'anni)


'O Allah, You are The Forgiver, You Love Forgiveness, so Forgive me'.

Although Hazrat Aisha (R.A) asked the Prophet of Allah for a dua to be sought during the Lailat-ul-Qadr (Night of Decree) in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan, one must remember this small dua by heart and keep repeating it day and night for one does not know always whether he has hurt someone or committed a sin unknowingly. 

You may refer to our post "99 Attributes of Allah" for complete list of 99 attributes of Allah Almighty with meaning and explanation.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | Lailat-ul-Qadr (Night of Decree) |
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