الْغَفَّارُ and الْغَفُورُ will be discussed together as they have similar meanings and are used interchangeably.
الْغَفَّارُ is translated as The All-Forgiving and The Absolver. He is that Being Who hides the sins of His servants and drapes them with His compassion. Therefore there is the concept of covering/hiding in this word. Maghfirat comes from Ghaffaar and insha-allah Allah ta’ala will grant us Maghfirat in the Aakhirah, aameen.
الْغَفُورُ is translated as The Forgiver and Hider of Faults.
Allah ta’ala always has this Sifat of forgiveness and all are Mohtaaj (dependent) upon His Rahmah and forgiveness. So this is essentially connected to His Sifat of Rahmaan and Raheem as it is part of Rahmah to be forgiving, but Ghaffaar is more specific to the concept of forgiveness and hiding sins. The whole concept of hiding is that you hide things which are unclean and disliked so by hiding sins Allah ta’ala purifies and cleans a person.
In the Qur’an
الْغَفُورُ is mentioned 5 times in the Qur’an and الْغَفَّارُ is mentioned 91 times which is a lot compared to other names we have discussed so far.
One of the ways Allah ta’ala mentions His Sifat of Maghfirat in the Qur’an is:
وَإِنِّي لَغَفَّارٌ لِمَنْ تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا ثُمَّ اهْتَدَىٰ
And lo! verily I am Forgiving toward him who repenteth and believeth and doeth good, and afterward walketh aright.
[Surah Taha: 82]
This verse shows that there are conditions attached to Allah ta’ala’s forgiveness. It is for that person who has the following traits:
· • One who repents (does Tawbah)
· • One who has Imaan – Imaan has different levels which means one should always be working on it
· • One who does good deeds – the sign of true Tawbah is that the person is engaged in doing good deeds to make up for the life of sin and mistakes.
Then that person will be guided. This is a cycle or cause and effect where if the person has these three traits then that person will find Hidaayah. The word اهْتَدَىٰ has the meaning of putting effort into something so to seek and struggle for it.
In Surah Nisaa’ (verse 110) Allah ta’ala says,
وَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّهَ يَجِدِ اللَّهَ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا
If anyone does evil or wrongs his own soul and then seeks Allah's forgiveness, he will find Allah Forgiving, Merciful.
So forgiveness is for the one who, after he does a bad deed or does Dhulm upon himself, he seeks forgiveness from Allah ta’ala. We often see Ghafoor and Raheem used together as Allah ta’ala’s Rahmah is vast and covers a lot of things and a lot types of people and part of that Rahmah is that He is forgiving.
Allah ta’ala’s Rahmah comes automatically by default and His forgiveness, though it is there, to get it, some conditions have to be met and the main condition is to seek it, ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّهَ is from the same root word but means to seek Allah ta’ala’s forgiveness and then Allah ta’ala will forgive.
Differences between Istighfaar & Tawbah
These two words are used interchangeably in English and mean more or less the same but there is slight difference.
Istighfaar is to seek forgiveness for previous sins i.e. to say sorry and cover up past sins. Tawbah literally means to turn in a certain direction and decide not to go back. Therefore Tawbah includes the intention to not commit the sin again i.e. to make a resolution not to sin again and to make a promise to Allah ta’ala and to yourself not to sin again and so it is more for the future.
Differences between الْغَفَّارُ and الْغَفُورُ
These two words have almost the same meaning however Scholars have mentioned a slight difference.
الْغَفَّارُ is that Being (Allah ta’ala) Who after true Tawbah forgives the sin and removes the signs of the sin i.e. covers up. Allah ta’ala covers up and wipes it away to such an extent that He makes the person forget and it is as if the person did not commit that sin. It is mentioned in Hadith,
التَّائِبُ مِنَ الذَّنْبِ كَمَنْ لاَ ذَنْبَ لَهُ
‘The one who repents from sin is like one who did not sin.’ [Ibn Majah]
This is for sins other than sins pertaining to other people i.e. Gheebat, having hatred in the heart for someone and being revengeful etc. This makes a person Mahroom (Deprived) of Allah ta’ala’s forgiveness.
الْغَفُورُ – Allah ta’ala makes even the angels forget about the sin of that person.
Sharing in these Sifaat
Allah ta’ala hides our sins by being Ghafoor and we should also hide the faults and sins of other people.
Allah ta’ala loves those who seek Forgiveness
There are many Hadith which mention that Allah ta’ala loves those who seek forgiveness. In a beautiful Hadith Qudsi Allah ta’ala says that the crying of a sinner is more beloved to Him than the Tasbeeh of one who does His Tasbeeh.
In another Hadith Qudsi is mentioned,
“Allah Ta’ala says, ‘O Son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and have hope in Me, I shall forgive you for whatever you have done and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky and then you were to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with an earthful of sins and were you then to face Me, without having ascribing any partner to Me, I would grant you an earthful of forgiveness” [Tirmidhi]
Therefore this is the Kafiyyat (Condition) a person has to be in to attain the Rahmah and the Maghfirat of Allah ta’ala i.e. to feel remorse, shame etc.
In Surah Najm (verse 32)
Allah ta’ala say,
الَّذِينَ يَجْتَنِبُونَ كَبَائِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَالْفَوَاحِشَ إِلَّا اللَّمَمَ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ وَاسِعُ الْمَغْفِرَةِ
To those who avoid the major sins and shameful deeds and are guilty of only small offence, surely for them your Rabb will have abundant forgiveness.
Allah ta’ala is not bound
It is important to understand this point that though a person has this Kafiyyat, Allah ta’ala does not have to forgive. He is not compelled to forgive by the person’s asking for forgiveness. His being Ghafoor does not mean He is bound by it but because Allah ta’ala is Ghaalib, Azeez, He will forgive people. He only needs an excuse and a person’s asking for forgiveness is an excuse for Allah ta’ala to forgive so there is no price to His Rahmah.
We do not know which good deed we might do which will get us Maghfirat and that is why we should not regard any good deed as small. As mentioned in hadith, even half a date in Sadaqah should not be regarded as small. Anything done with the right intention and accepted by Allah ta’ala can wipe away a lot.
Forgiveness of Minor Sins
As for the minor sins, they get forgiven through good deeds like Wudhu or when a bad deed is followed up by a good deed.
“When a Muslim or a believer washes his face in ablution, then every sin that he committed with his eyes will be washed away with the last drop of water. When he washes his hands, then every sin that he committed with his hands will be washed away with the last drop of water. When he washes his feet, then every sin that he committed with his feet will be washed away with the last drop of water, until he emerges purified from sin.” [Muslim]
“Be conscious of Allah wherever you are. Follow the bad deed with a good one to erase it, and engage others with beautiful character.” [Tirmidhi]
Istighfaar – Seeking Forgiveness from Allah ta’ala
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam said,
“By Allah, I seek forgiveness from Allah and I repent to him more than seventy times in a day.” [Bukhari]
In another Hadith it is mentioned 100 times and He did not need to but he still did to attain the beauty and the Tajalli and Noor of this trait.
In Surah Nasr Allah ta’ala says,
فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَاسْتَغْفِرْهُ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ تَوَّابًا
So glorify your Rabb with His praises, and pray for His forgiveness: surely He is ever ready to accept repentance.
This was addressing the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam meaning when you are free from your mission as a Prophet, then praise Allah ta’ala and seek His forgiveness.
Seeking forgiveness is not just when we do something wrong. The Sunnah of the Prophet sallalaahu ‘alayhi wasallam is to seek forgiveness after even good deeds (and we find it hard after doing bad deeds), why? He realized that whatever good deeds we do are not according to the Shaan of Allah ta’ala. There will always be flaws and shortcomings. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam recited three times استغفر الله and thereafter the following du’a after Salaah;
اللهم أنت السلام، ومنك السلام، تباركت يا ياذا الجلال والإكرام
Therefore asking Allah ta’ala to forgive all shortcomings and any Riyaa that may have been felt.
“Glad tidings (tuba) for the one who, (on the day of judgement), finds an abundance of Istighfar in his book of deeds.” [Ibn Majah]
“By Him in whose hand is my soul, if you did not sin Allah would replace you with people who would sin and they would seek the forgiveness of Allah and He would forgive them.” [Muslim]
Allah ta’ala does not need our good deeds and He does not need our repentance but when we do Tawbah it invokes the Rahmah of Allah ta’ala and it brings humility in our lives. It is part of human Fitrah that we should want to beg for Allah ta’ala’s forgiveness for sins and for not fulfilling what we should have done. This is the higher level the Prophets had i.e. that we did not the rights of a deed and is full of shortcomings. It is the Karam of Allah ta’ala that He accepts Tawbah.
Benefits of Istighfaar
Glad tidings have been promised for who does Istighfaar in abundance as mentioned in the Hadith above. In another Hadith the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam said,
"If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not." [Abu Dawood]
There is a story in the Qur’an of a people whom Allah ta’ala gave so much but they lost it all due to their ingratitude and not repenting. Allah ta’ala would have put Barakah in their wealth, given water, crops etc. had they repented.
Incident in the time of Hasan Basri (رحمه الله)
It is related in Tafsir al Qurtubi that Hasan al-Basri (r.a) was once seated. A man came saying ” O Master, I’m very sinful do tell me an act which I can do to be forgiven”. Hasan al-Basri (r.a) replied, “Go and do Istighfar”.
Second person came and said, ” O Master, for many days rains have stopped and there is drought. Tell me an action through which Allah (s.w.t) will send down rain to us”. Hasan al-Basri (r.a) replied, “Go and do Istighfar”.
Third person came and said, ” I am under a lot of debt. I am working, but please make dua that Allah (s.w.t) give me wealth so I can be saved from debts”. Hasan al-Basri (r.a) replied, “Go and do Istighfar to Allah”
Fourth person came and said, “It is a wish of mine that Allah (s.w.t) give me an offspring. So please make dua that Allah (s.w.t) gives me pious offspring”. Hasan al-Basri (r.a) replied, “Go and do Istighfar”
Fifth person came and said, “I have an orchard please make dua that it gives more fruits, so that the return will be more.” Hasan al-Basri (r.a) replied, ” Go and do Istighfar”
Sixth person came and said, “If I was to get water spring in my house, I will be so pleased”. Shaykh Hasan replied, “Go and do Istighfar”.
Shaykh Hasan al-Basri’s (r.a) disciple, Ibn Sabih (r.a) who was sitting close, was very surprised thinking, “Why is it that Shaykh Hasan al-Basri (r.a) is giving the same solution of Istighfar to whoever comes to him”? So Ibn Sabih (r.a) eventually asked “Why are you giving one response for all the problems”? On hearing this Shaykh Hasan al-Basri (r.a) recited what Allah (s.w.t) said in Qur’an:
فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا -
saying: "Seek forgiveness of your Rabb, He is ever ready to forgive you.
يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِدْرَارًا - He will send abundant rain for you from heaven
وَيُمْدِدْكُمْ بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ أَنْهَارًا - help you with wealth and sons, and provide you with gardens and the flowing rivers [Surah Nooh: 10-12]
Istighfaar is a way of having difficulties removed, widens every constriction and provides Rizq from sources we cannot imagine. It is the antidote to all problems and not just for when we sin. Therefore we should turn to Allah ta’ala in repentance when we have any problems. Unfortunately when we say to people to turn to Istighfaar in difficulty they say they haven’t done anything wrong but actually all of Bani Adam are sinners as we all sin to some extent but the best of the sinners are those who repent.
كُلُّ بَنِي آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ وَخَيْرُ الْخَطَّائِينَ التَّوَّابُونَ
We should therefore generally do Istighfaar and think about our sins and repent and another benefit of Istighfaar is that it leads you to do Muhaasabah. We won’t need anyone telling us what mistakes we are making as consciously or subconsciously our mind will be working on where you need to make Istighfaar and then that leads you to making changes in your life. We may not act to make these changes but at least we will become aware.
To say it with the Heart
It is very important to do Istighfaar conscientiously and with feeling for full benefit and not just roll it off the tongue (which will still bring some benefit).
Du’a in Hadith
There are many Du’a for Istighfaar and many compilations by Scholars. One such very good compilation is by Mufti Abdur Rahmaan Mangera available here:
Another compilation by Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dhorat, PDF available here:
Look at these Du’a to realize how to make Istighfaar and even if you do not use the same wording, to have that feeling in the heart is important. There is a lot of inspiration in these Du’a. One very comprehensive Du’a is:
أستغفر الله ربي من كل ذنب وأتوب إليه
Forgiveness for Each Other
For Istighfaar to be proper the conditions mentioned before are important and if it involves other people i.e. you have hurt someone, then ask for forgiveness and if it is felt that it will make matters worse then make Du’a for them. We should also be forgiving toward others. We want Allah ta’ala to forgive us so we should be forgiving to others.
Levels of Forgiving
There are different levels of forgiving:
· Forgiving someone from the tongue: saying it with words but having negative feelings in the heart.
· Forgiving from the heart but when the occasion arises you may remind the person i.e. saying something like, “You still haven’t changed, you are still doing this.”
· Forgiving from the heart and not bringing up the hurt that the person caused even though you may think of it now and then.
· The highest level is Ihsaan, the level of the Ambiyaa. You forgive and you treat them better than before.
To be people who are forgiving and asking Allah ta’ala to forgive yourself and others. Sometimes it is easier to ask other for forgiveness than to forgive others from the heart especially if you have been hurt badly by someone close to you. Therefore make Du’a to be purified of all negative feelings.