Sunday 13 October 2019

99 Attributes of Allah: Al-Ghafur - The Ever Forgiving

Al Ghafūr (الغفور) - The Ever Forgiving, The Pardoner: This attribute of Allah is a fresh breeze for those who err and sin and are ever repentant for their dark deeds. And if they are sincere in realizing their mistakes and are truly repentant, they should be rest assured that Allah is The Forgiver of Sins and Faults. He is the Ever Forgiving and Ultimate Pardoner.

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ 

"Tell them, (O Prophet): “My servants who have committed excesses against themselves, do not despair of Allah's Mercy. Surely Allah forgives all sins. He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.”  [Surah 39. Az-Zumar: 53]

In Surah 40. Al-Mu'min: verse 3, the same attribute of Allah has been explained:

غَافِرِ الذَّنۡۢبِ وَقَابِلِ التَّوۡبِ شَدِيۡدِ الۡعِقَابِ ذِى الطَّوۡلِؕ لَاۤ اِلٰهَ اِلَّا هُوَؕ اِلَيۡهِ الۡمَصِيۡرُ‏ 

"the Forgiver of sins, the Accepter of repentance, the Stern in retribution, the Bountiful. There is no god but He. To Him are all destined to return."

In this verse the attribute brings hope and causes inducement, which has been mentioned so that the people who have led lives of sin, should not despair but should reform themselves with the hope that if they refrained from their behavior even now, they could still be redeemed by Allah’s mercy. Here, one should understand well that forgiving of sins and accepting of repentance are not necessarily one and the same thing, but in most cases Allah forgives sins even without the repentance. For example, a person commits errors as well as does good and his good acts become the means of forgiveness for his mistakes, whether or not he had opportunity to show repentance for the errors, but might even have forgotten them. Likewise, all the troubles and hardships and diseases and calamities that afflict man and cause him grief in the world, serve as penance for his mistakes. That is why mention of forgiveness of sins has been made separately from the acceptance of repentance. But one should remember that the concession of forgiveness of errors without repentance only refers to those believers, who are free from defiance and who committed sins due to human weakness and not persistence in pride and sin.

Allah is the Creator of all His Creations. He bestows upon them His countless bounties without any differentiation of who believe in Him or do not , who all worship Him as One True God, or those who add associates with Him. For He in His infinite ability to forgive, doesn't punish those who do not believe in Him. But for believers, He places restrictions to test their firmness in belief and faith and restricts them from eating some of His own creations:

فَكُلُوۡا مِمَّا غَنِمۡتُمۡ حَلٰلاً طَيِّبًا ۖ  وَّاتَّقُوا اللّٰهَ​ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِيۡمٌ
"So eat that which you have obtained - for it is lawful and clean--and fear Allah. Surely Allah is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful." [Surah 8. Al-Anfal: 69]

For believers, Allah forbids meat of pigs and swines while all others devour on their meat. But for true believers, these are forbidden and believers restrain from eating swines and pigs willingly, with no questions asked for it has been so ordained by Allah.

The word Ghafur " غَفُوۡرٍ "is from the root gh-f-r which in classical Arabic mean (1) to cover, veil, conceal, hide, (2) to pardon, to forgive, to set aright, and (3) to cover a thing to protect it from dirt. It may be however noted that the root gh-f-r has given rise to three Beautiful Names that are all used in the Qur'ān: Ghaffār, Ghafūr and Ghāfir. However, only Ghaffār and Ghafūr were included in the list of 99 Names narrated by Tirmidhi.

Sheikh Tosun Bayrak portrays the differences between Ghaffār, Ghafūr and Ghāfir as: [2]
... al-Ghāfir, the veiler of our faults from the eyes of other men; al-Ghafūr, who keeps the knowledge of our faults even from the angels; and al-Ghaffār who relieves us from the suffering of continual remembrance of our faults.
نُزُلًا مِّنۡ غَفُوۡرٍ رَّحِيۡمٍ‏ 
"This is by way of accommodation from Him Who is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Surah 41. Ha-Meem: 32]

Al Ghafur also means to cover, conceal, and shield. When Allah 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.

The attribute Al Ghafur is synonymous to yet another attribute of Allah: Al-'Afūw, which also means the One Who erases sins and disregards acts of disobedience. This concept approximates the sense of Al-Ghafur, (the One Who forgives much. Al-Ghufran 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). 

The last part of the last verse (286) of Surah 2. Al Baqarah is an all encompassing prayer for the believers which they must recite much to often to seek forgiveness of their sins for it is Allah, the Al Ghafur' alone Who can rid us of the burden of our sins and forgive us:

​​ۚرَبَّنَا وَلَا تُحَمِّلۡنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهٖ​ ۚ وَاعۡفُ عَنَّا وَاغۡفِرۡ لَنَا وَارۡحَمۡنَا اَنۡتَ مَوۡلٰٮنَا فَانۡصُرۡنَا عَلَى الۡقَوۡمِ الۡكٰفِرِيۡنَ

"Our Lord! Lay not on us burdens which we do not have the power to bear. And overlook our faults, and forgive us, and have mercy upon us. You are our Guardian; so grant us victory against the unbelieving folk.”

This is an excellent example of The Ever Forgiving attribute of Allah as He Himself is telling them how to present their request for forgiveness and the granting of the request becomes virtually assured. Hence, this prayer greatly strengthened the hearts of the Muslims. Moreover, this prayer implicitly taught the Muslims not to allow their feelings to flow along undesirable channels. They should instead mould them into a prayer to their Lord.

In the verse above, it is also amply highlighted that mere forgiveness is not enough; we also need mercy so that we will not be humiliated and embarrassed. This mercy, which we want, is the manifestation of the name al-Ghafur and bears a meaning beyond pardoning.

The Arabic word astaghfirullāh  (sometimes written as astghfrallāh, estagfurullāh or estaferallāh) is from this same gh-f-r root, and is an invocation of Divine Protection having a range of possible connotations that include Allāh please forgive me, Allāh please hide away my faults, Allāh please watch over me and protect me from faults. [2]

May Allah forgive us of all of our sins and mistakes, committed knowingly or unknowingly and also help us to forgive those who have wronged us. For it is of no use asking forgiveness from Allah, but not forgiving those who expect mercy from us.

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

Photo | References1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
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