Forgiveness in Islam

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“Allah Almighty has granted intellect to human beings. The intellect entails responsibility. The more intellect a person has the more he/she is responsible. When the intellect is missing, the responsibility is also not there. Little children are not held responsible, because their intellect has not yet developed. The insane are not responsible, because they have lost the intellectual capacity.

However, part of our being human is also that we make mistakes. Sometime, we make mistakes without deliberation and intention. But sometime we knowingly and deliberately sin and do wrong to others. It is said, “to err is human and to forgive is divine.” Both parts of this statement are very true. As human beings we are responsible, but we do also make mistakes and we are constantly in need of forgiveness. Islam speaks about two aspects of forgiveness: a) Allah’s forgiveness; b) Human forgiveness. We need both, because we do wrong in our relations to Allah as well as in our relations to each other.

A. Allah’s Forgiveness:

Allah Almighty is the Oft-Forgiving. There are many Names of Allah given in the Qur’an. Some of these Names are related to His mercy and forgiveness. Let me mention some of these names:

1-Al-Ghafoor (The Oft-Forgiving): This name occurs in the Qur’an more than seventy times. There are other names from the same root, such as Ghafir and Ghaffar. The meaning of the Arabic word “ghafara” is to cover, to hide and from it comes the meaning “to excuse”, “to pardon”, “to remit” and “to forgive”. Allah Almighty does all these things. In the Qur’an, it is mentioned that Allah does not forgive the Shirk (without repentance) but He may forgive every other sin for whomsoever He wills. (al-Nisa’ 4:116) We must turn to Allah to seek His forgiveness.

2-Al-`Afuw (The Pardoning): This has another aspect of forgiveness. This Name occurs in the Qur’an five times. Literally the Arabic word `Afw means “to release”, “to heal”, “to restore”, “to remit”. Thus in relation to Allah it means “to release us from the burden of punishment due to our sins and mistakes”, “to restore our honor after we have dishonored ourselves by committing sins and making mistakes.” Sometimes in the Qur’an both names: `Afuw and Ghafoor come together.

3-Al-Tawwab (The Acceptor of repentance): This Name of Allah is mentioned in the Qur’an about 11 times. Allah accepts the repentance of those who sincerely repent and turn to him. The Arabic word “tawwab” gives the sense of “oft-returning” which means that Allah again and again accepts the repentance. We make sins and mistakes then we repent, He accepts our repentance. Then again we commit sins and make mistakes and when we repent, He again very kindly accepts us and gives us another chance.

4-Al-Haleem (The Clement): This Name is mentioned fifteen times in the Qur’an, and it means that Allah Almighty is not quick to judgment. He gives time. He forebears and is patient to see His servant returning to Him.

5-Ar-Rahman and ar-Raheem (Most Gracious and Most Merciful). These Names are the most frequent in the Qur’an. Ar-Rahman is mentioned 57 times and ar-Raheem is mentioned 115 times. Ar-Rahman indicates that Allah’s grace is abundant and plenty and al-Raheem indicates that this is always the case with Allah. He is full of love and mercy and He is ever Merciful.

The Qur’an teaches that Allah is a Judge and He also punishes, but Allah is not bound to punish. The justice of Allah, according to Qur’an is that Allah does not and will not inflict undue punishment on any person. He will not ignore the good of any person. But if He wishes to forgive any sinner, He has full freedom to do that. His mercy is unlimited and His love is infinite.

There are many verses in the Qur’an and Hadiths of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, on the love, mercy and forgiveness of Allah. In one of the prayers that the Prophet taught, he said, “O Allah, You are Most Forgiving One, You love to forgive, so...
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