Allah calls Himself Al-Ghaffaar— The All-and-Oft-Forgiving— on five occasions in the Quran. He is the One who forgives and covers us time and time again. Al-Ghaffaar is the One Who forgives our sins, veils our shortcomings, and protects us from the effects of our mistakes in this life and the next so we can go on without shame or guilt!
The Oft-Forgiving, The One who veils and protects
Ghaffaar comes from the root ghayn-faa-raa, which points to three main meanings. The first meaning is to cover, veil, conceal, and hide. The second meaning is to pardon, to forgive, and to set aright. And the third meaning is to cover a thing to protect it (from dirt).
This root appears 234 times in the Quran in nine derived forms. Examples of these forms are yaghfiru (He forgives, will forgive), wa-is’taghfir (and ask forgiveness), and maghfiratun (forgiveness).
Linguistically, ghaffaar is a hyperbolized noun, which implies quantity and continuity. Al-Ghaffaar is the One who forgives all kinds of sins over and over again. He sets us free from the guilt and shame of our own faults so we can feel inner peace, and He can transform wrong deeds and change them into what become good deeds.
Al-Ghaffaar Himself says: Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, the Exalted in Might, the Perpetual Forgiver. . . [Quran, 38:66] And . . . Unquestionably, He is the Exalted in Might, the Perpetual Forgiver. [Quran, 39:5]
A beautiful invocation
The Arabic word astaghfirullah – I seek forgiveness of Allah— is from this same ghaa-faa-raa root and is a beautiful, comprehensive request to Allah ‘azza wa jall to forgive us, hide away our faults, watch over us, and protect us from faults. Maghfirah is the word for this profound concept of forgiveness, covering, and protection.
Examples of magfirah
Allah Al-Ghaffaar covers and protects in the most beautiful ways, both spiritually and physically. An example is that He keeps your thoughts and intentions hidden from other people; your innermost feelings are well-protected and covered by Al-Ghaffaar. Another example is that Al-Ghaffaar physically covers us; He clothes our inner body nicely with skin. Imagine muscles being on the surface. Without this skin man would look appalling. Another example of Allah’s maghfirah is that He veils a believer’s private sins and misdeeds and doesn’t publicize them to others.
How Can You Live by This Name?
1. Forgive to be forgiven.
Be honest with yourself— have you always forgiven others or did you just say “I forgive you,” while ill feelings lingered in your heart? . . . and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [Quran, 24:22] Each night before you go to sleep try to cleanse your heart from grudges and ill-feelings and when you find it hard to forgive, remind yourself of the greatest motivation: Allah’s forgiveness. There’s no space for a big ego if you want to be forgiven by Allah ‘azza wa jall.
2. Seek forgiveness to increase your blessings.
He says: And said, ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver.’ [Quran, 71:10] What will happen if you ask for forgiveness? Al-Ghaffaar will increase your blessings. He continues: He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers. And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers. [Quran, 71:11-12] So next time you want something, increase in seeking forgiveness (or istighfaar).
3. Don’t hunt for other people’s mistakes.
Al-Ghazali said about the attribute of maghfirah: Every creature is bound to have perfection and imperfection, or ugliness and beauty, so whoever overlooks the ugly and mentions only the beautiful is one who shares in this attribute. As a true believer, always highlight the good of others and cover their faults. Never hunt for others’ mistakes.
4. Follow up a bad deed with a good one.
Al-Ghaffaar tells you: But indeed, I am the Perpetual Forgiver of whoever repents and believes and does righteousness and then continues in guidance. [Quran, 20:82] and Except for those who repent, believe, and work righteous deeds. For those, Allah will change their evil deeds into good deeds, and Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. [Quran, 25 : 70] What often happens is that we sin and feel bad but remain passive.
Al-Ghaffaar tells you exactly what to do to get perpetual forgiveness: turn to Him sincerely in repentance no matter how often you’ve sinned, follow up your bad deed with a good one, and be determined to stay on the right path. Then Al-Ghaffaar will transform your evil deeds into good deeds— a great blessing. So next time you sin, open the Quran and read or give some sadaqah. You have much opportunity to do good, but don’t delay!
5. Give thanks.
Reflect on the fact that Al-Ghaffaar veils your sins and bad deeds for others again and again, and thank Him for this blessing.
6. Follow the examples in the Quran and Sunnah.
Look for the Quranic supplications for forgiveness Al-Ghaffaar blessed you with and use them when you ask for His maghfirah, for example: Our Lord, we have believed, so forgive us and have mercy upon us, and You are the best of the merciful. [Quran, 23:109] Study the ways the Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to seek forgiveness by using the morning and evening adhkaar (remembrance) to be found in the book of supplications Hisnul Muslim (Fortress of the Muslim). Examples are daily invocations like: ghufraanaka when you exit the toilet, saying astaghfirullah wa atoobu ilayk more than 70 times a day.
O Allah, Al-Ghaffaar, we know that You forgive, cover, and protect us continuously. Forgive our sins, the first one, the last one, the hidde,n and apparent, and enable us to keep turning to You seeking forgiveness. Conceal our shortcomings in this life and on the Day of Judgement, protect us from the effects of our sins, and aid us to be forgiving to others, ameen!
And Allah knows best.