- See Ghafir for the Quranic sura.
Al-Ghāfir الغافر is one of the titles of God in Islam, translated as "The Forgiver". It is derived from the root gh-f-r (غَفَرَ). The basic meaning of the root is "to cover, to shield, to protect", besides "to forgive".
Al-Ghafūr الغفور and Al-Ghaffār الغفار are two of the 99 Names of God in Islam derived from the same root. Their traditional translations are "The All-Forgiving" and "The Forgiving".
The root gh-f-r has given rise to three names in the Qur'an: Ghaffar, Ghaffur and Ghâfir. However, only Ghaffar and Ghaffur were included in the list of 99 names narrated by Tirmidhi. The concept of Gafur is different from "Afu", which is also another name of Allah. Gafur occurs when Allah forgives a mistakes that a person does knowing he is wrong—however without any retributions—such as lying. When Allah does Gaffar—Allah forgives a person for mistakes that they did unknowingly—for example if they drank or ate something that was haram unknowingly. When Allah does "Afu" Allah forgives however after taking some retributions or punishing them for what they did wrong, for example if someone steals someone's goods or does adultery, Allah will do Afu—meaning will forgive that person after they have had the punishment that is set for that action and when that person repents. At the same time Allah will be Merciful—or Rahman and Rahim to the person on whom something wrong has been done.
The difference between Al-Ghaffar and Al-Ghafur has been explained by various means. Traditionally, Al-Ghaffar is translated as "The Forgiving". This type of forgiveness is a continuous and repetitive action. No matter how many times a person may sin, God can continually forgive him/her for his/her sins. Al-Ghafur, on the other hand, is understood as forgiving a sin no matter how large the sin may be. A way to make a distinction between the two names is to consider Al-Ghaffar as dealing with the quantity of sins, while Al-Ghafur deals with the quality of a sin. In his book, Al-Maqsad Al-Asna fi Sharah Asma' Allahu al-Husna (The best means in explaining God's Beautiful Names), Imam Al Ghazali translates Al-Ghaffar as "The Very Forgiving One" and Al-Ghafur as "The Most Forgiving One".
Al Ghazali writes:
- "The sins (of man) are among the disgraceful things which He veils by placing a veil upon them in this world and disregarding their punishment in the hereafter ... Certainly Al-Ghaffar denotes an extreme ... of forgiveness in respect of forgiveness that is repeated time after time."
- "Thus He is Al-Ghafur in the sense that He forgives perfectly and completely..."
Both of these Names appear in the Quran a number of times. For example, Al Ghaffar is found in verses 20:82, 38:66, 39:5, 40:42, 71:10, Al-Ghafur in 2:173, 8:69, 16:110, 41:32.
E.g. verse 4:48: "Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him, but He forgives other than that to whom He wills. And whoever sets up partners with Allah has indeed invented a tremendous sin."
The Prophet Noah says in verse 71:10 of the Quran, "Ask forgiveness of your Lord, surely He is Ghaffar."
Sura 40 of the Quran is titled Al-Ghafur or Al-Mu'min
It has been transmitted from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim that Abu Bakr related, "I said to the Prophet: 'O Messenger of Allah! Teach me a supplication that I may make in prayer.' He replied: 'Say: O Allah! I have done my soul a great harm and no one can forgive sins except You; so grant me forgiveness with Your pleasure, and have pity on me. You are Al-Ghafur, Ar-Rahim.'"
Imam Tirmidhi reported that Anas said that he heard the Islamic Prophet Muhammad say: "Allah the Almighty has Said: 'O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not Mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.'"
It has been transmitted from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim that Ibn Umar reported that he heard the Prophet Muhammad say, "A Mumin will be brought close to his Rabb on the Day of Resurrection and enveloping him in His Mercy, He will make him confess his sins by Saying, 'Do you remember (doing) this sin and this sin?' He will reply, 'My Rabb, I remember.' Then He will Say, 'I covered it up for you in the life of the world, and I forgive it for you today.' Then the record of his good deeds will be handed to him."
Concept of Allah's Forgiveness
When reading "one-word" translations of the attributes or names of Allah, one can wonder why there are certain attributes that are very similar. For example, Al Ghaffar, Al Ghaffur, Al Haleem, Al-Afuw and At Tawwab all seem to belong to the concept of forgiveness. One may ask why there are so many Attributes that deal with one subject. This can be better understood if a person uses the analogy of color. For example, when dealing with children, a typical crayon box will have the basic fundamental colors, such as black, white, blue, green, red etc. However, a person with knowledge knows that one color can have many different shades. When taking the color "blue" into account, it can range from various shades. The child does not understand the concept of different shades of "one" color until he either learns from a teacher or experiences them. Likewise, though forgiveness can be deemed as one subject, Allah has many different "shades" of attributes that deal with forgiveness. It is very, very important to keep in mind that one Attribute of Allah should not be deemed "inferior" to another attribute.
When contemplating how Allah deals with an individual's forgiveness, the root definition of each of these words help a great deal. In general, an individual has sins that he is aware of and sins that he is not aware of. Al Haleem has been explained to mean that Allah is Forbearing and Clement, where He gives an individual respite, or time to ask Him for forgiveness. Allah is not in haste to punish an individual for his sins. He even at times overlooks sins due to His Attribute of Haleem. Al Ghaffur has been described as meaning Allah is "The Most Forgiving One". He forgives a particular sin, no matter how large it may be. If the person returns to the same sin, Allah is Al Ghaffar, The Very Forgiving One. Al Ghaffar gives the notion that Allah continuously and repetitively forgives an individual for his sins. If an individual returns to Allah and asks for repentance, it can be accepted due to Allah's Attribute of being Tawwab, the Acceptor of Repentance. Once Allah accepts the repentance of an individual through His Infinite Mercy, He can erase the sin altogether because of His Attribute, Affuw. It would be as though there is no sin at all. Since man is not perfect, he repetitively sins and asks for forgiveness and seeks repentance, so the cycle of forgiveness can repeat from Allah.
- Wahiduddin Richard Shelquist. "al-Ghaffâr". Retrieved 9 April 2014.