ISLAM teaches us a lot about forgiveness. Through the Qur’an, we learn about the mercy of Allah (swt) and his desire to forgive sins great and many. Through the teachings of our Prophet (saw) we learn how to forgive those who have wronged us, and to ask it from those we have also wronged.

The Qur’an tells us about Adam’s first mistake in the garden of Eden, when he and Hawaa (Eve) disobeyed Allah’s order not to eat from the tree. Adam wanted to ask Allah for forgiveness but did not know how, and so Allah taught him the first prayer for forgiveness:

They said, “Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and if you forgive us not, and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall be losers.” Quran (7:23)

The 99 names that Allah attributes to himself are woven with many beautiful descriptions of his mercy and forgiveness. Al Ghafur describes Allah as ‘the Forgiving’, the one who will forgive any sin, while Al Ghaffar is ‘the Forgiver’, the one who continuously forgives. Both these words are rooted in the Arabic word ghufr, meaning to cover up and protect. Allah also describes himself as Al Afuww, ‘the Pardoner’, the one who erases or obliterates any trace of wrong action, and Al Tawwab, ‘the Accepter of Repentance’, the one who repeatedly beckons mankind towards repentance.

The way Allah describes himself is an encouragement to reflect on our own actions and continue to strive to make ourselves better, and ultimately to form a closer relationship with him. It also teaches us never to despair, because Allah will forgive all sins, no matter how great or how many, if only we continue to repent to him. In order to repent, we are taught that four main steps are necessary:

  1. Stopping the sin or action
  2. Repenting deeply and truly for the sin committed
  3. Returning to Allah for forgiveness
  4. Strong intention never to return to that same sin again.

There are still many people who fall into wrongdoing again once they repent, and some bad habits are much harder to give up than others. Allah tells us that a person who sins and repents over and over again will always be forgiven each time, but only if they are sincere and genuine in their repentance.
Just as it is important to maintain this relationship with Allah, it is also important to maintain a similar relationship with those around us, learning for the sake of Allah to forgive those who may wrong us. In Surat Al-Imran, Allah expresses his love for those who do good by others, describing them as those who restrain their anger, and are forgiving. These two qualities are very difficult to attain but are highlighted by Allah to show us how important they are, and how we must strive towards them in our daily actions.

It is narrated that Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was once seated in a gathering with his companions, when he looked towards the entrance and said, “A man of Paradise is coming.” At that instant a very ordinary-looking man entered the mosque where they were seated. One of the companions, curious as to what made this man so special, followed him to his house. He told the man that he was a traveller and stayed with him as a guest. For three days the companion saw nothing unusual, so he finally told the man what the Prophet (pbuh) had said and asked him what was so special about him.

The man thought for a long time and said, “There might be one thing – before going to sleep every night I forgive everyone and sleep with a clean heart.”

As human beings, we all fall into bad habits and wrongdoing, but it is how often we turn to Allah for forgiveness that defines us as Muslims. That is why Allah teaches us that the door to repentance is open until our last breath, and all we have to do is turn to him with a sincere heart and he will forgive all our transgressions.

Therefore, it is also equally important to keep in mind that, like us, people will make mistakes. By forgiving them, we also clean our own hearts from hatred, anger and burden.

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 as great as the earth, and were you then to face Me ascribing no partners to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.

– Hadith Qudsi