Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala 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.
Believers’ notion of forgiveness is very different to that of those who do not live by the morals of the Qur’an. Even though many people may say they have forgiven someone who has offended them, it nevertheless takes a long time to free themselves of the hatred and anger in their hearts. Their behaviour tends to betray that anger. On the other hand, the forgiveness of believers is sincere. Because believers know that human beings are tried in this world, and learn by their mistakes, they are tolerant and compassionate. Moreover, believers are also capable of forgiveness even when they are in the right, and the other in the wrong. When forgiving, they make no distinction between large errors and small ones. Someone may cause severe losses to them by mistake. However, believers know that everything takes place under the command of Allah, and according to a specific destiny, and therefore, they surrender themselves to these developments, never acquiescing to anger
Allah (SWT),who named Himself Ar-Rahman (The Beneficent) and Ar-Rahim (The Merciful) is also Al-Ghafoor (The Forgiving). His Mercy overtakes His punishment and anger. He is more merciful to His creations than a mother can be to her infants. He created "man with weakness"; thus He knows and we should know that "to err is human," and "no one is perfect."
Al-Ghafoor: The most 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 “ghafara” is to cover, to hide and from it comes the meaning “to excuse”, “to pardon”, “to remit” and “to forgive”. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala 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
One of the moral traits recommended in the Qur’an is forgiveness:
Hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant. (Qur’an, 7: 199)
In another verse Allah commands: “… They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 24:22)
Those who do not abide by the moral values of the Qur’an find it very difficult to forgive others. Because, they are easily angered by any error committed. However, Allah has advised the faithful that forgiveness is more proper:
The repayment of a bad action is one equivalent to it. But if someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with Allah… (Qur’an, 42:40)
It has also been revealed in the Qur’an that forgiveness is a superior moral trait: “But if someone is steadfast and forgives, that is the most resolute course to follow.” (Qur’an, 42:43) For that reason, believers are forgiving, compassionate and tolerant people who, as revealed in the Qur’an, “control their rage and pardon other people.” (Qur’an, 3:134)
Iblis (Satan), the cursed one, out of envy to Adam, has promised to himself "to attack children of Adam on their way to their journey toward God, so that those who fall prey to his attack will also have the same fate as himself (I'll take you down with me!). So he says, "I'll attack men from the front, behind and sides." (7:17) This means he will disguise himself as our friend, as our opponent, and side distractions of the world. He will then make us do wrong by presenting evil as good (poison candy in a nice wrapper), making us angry, jealous, envious, just "follow-the-leader" type, and we wrong ourselves and fall prey to his temptation. Iblis and his followers have a feast of joy and laugh at man's foolishness, until the man realizes his mistakes, repents and asks for forgiveness and he is forgiven, and then Iblis cries again.
Giving up Hope of the Mercy of Allah is a crime in itself:
In order for forgiveness to be accepted, these conditions should be met:
(1) The crime is committed out of ignorance, not with the intention that, "Let us go ahead and commit this crime as Allah is forgiving, so He will forgive us.";
(3) After asking for forgiveness, make a promise or pledge to "mend his ways", and to stick to his promise. Let us examine verses of Quran.
"...if any of you did evil in ignorance, and thereafter repented and amended (your conduct), lo! Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (6:54)
"Forgiveness is only incumbent on Allah towards those who do evil out of ignorance and then turn quickly (in repentance) to Allah. Toward them will Allah turn in mercy; for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom." (4:17)
"Forgiveness is not for those who do ill until death faces one of them, who then says, 'Lo! I repent now, nor for those who die as disbelievers, for such we have prepared a painful doom.'" (4:18)
Thus after repenting and asking for forgiveness, we must mend our ways and not go back to Kufr and fall prey to the tactics of Satan (Iblis) again. While we expect Allah to be kind and merciful and forgive our major and minor sins, we are unforgiving towards our fellow human beings!
One day our prophet (PBUH) was sleeping under a tree. His sword was hanging on a branch. Da’suur, his worst enemy saw this and became very happy. He wickedly thought that it was a chance to murder him. He moved forward quietly, took the sword and said, “who can save you from my hand.” Our prophet (PBUH) woke up and answered very calmly, “Allah.” Da’suur was embarrassed and started shivering. Te sword fell down from his hand. Our prophet (PBUH) grabbed the same sword and asked him, “Now who can save you from my hand?” Da’suur answered, you are very kind! Please forgive me.
Hearing this, our prophet (PBUH) forgave him.
* Astaghfiru-Allah, “I ask forgiveness from Allah”
* Subhanaka-Allah humma wa bi hamdika wa ash-hadu al la Ilaha illa Anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, “Glory be to You, Allah, and with You Praise (thanks) and I bear witness that there is no deity but You, I ask Your forgiveness and I return to You (in obedience)”.
Islamic teaching presents the prophet Muhammad as an example of someone who would forgive others for their ignorance, even those who might have once considered themselves to be his enemies. One example of Muhammad’s practice of forgiveness can be found in the Hadith, the body of early Islamic literature about the life of Muhammad. This account is as follows:
The Prophet (may peace be upon him) was the most forgiving person. He was ever ready to forgive his enemies. When he went to Ta’if to preach the message of Allah, its people mistreated him, abused him and hit him with stones. He left the city humiliated and wounded. When he took shelter under a tree, the angel of Allah visited him and told him that Allah sent him to destroy the people of Ta’if because of their sin of maltreating their Prophet. Muhammad (may peace be upon him) prayed to Allah to save the people of Ta’if, because what they did was out of their ignorance.
How to ask for forgiveness when Adam and Eve realized they had done wrong but did not know how to ask for forgiveness:
Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of forgiveness, and his Lord turned toward him, for He is Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful. (2:37)
What were those words taught to Adam?
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. (7:23)
How did the Prophet Muhammad (AS) teach Aisha (RA) to ask for forgiveness in Ramadan?
"O my Lord, forgive me, because you love to forgive, thus forgive me, O you Merciful!
Remember, asking for forgiveness is not just for our sins, but also for our needs as well."
On the other hand, al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn Abbas said that some of the people of shirk(associating partners with Allah) killed many people and committed zina, (illegal sexual acts) to a great extent. they came to Muhammad (pbuh) and said: ‘What you are saying and calling us to is good; if only you could tell us that there is an expiation (way of making amends) for what we have done.’ Then, the following verses were revealed:
Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes);
Those who invoke not, with God, any other god, nor slay such life as God has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication; - and any that does this (not only) meets punishment.
(But) the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to him, and he will dwell therein in ignominy,-
Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for God will change the evil of such persons into good, and God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful,
Surah 25 Verses 67 – 70
Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
"Turn ye to our Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (Will), before the Penalty comes on you: after that ye shall not be helped.
Surah 39 Verses 53 - 54
We can understand from what has been said here that Allah forgives all sins provided that a person repents. Additionally, one must not despair of the mercy of Allah, even if their sins are many and great, for the door of repentance and mercy is expansive.
Know they not that God doth accept repentance from His votaries and receives their gifts of charity, and that God is verily He, the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful?
Surah 9 Verse 104
While we are still able to perform actions, it is never too late to turn to Allah.