An Invitation to God’s Mercy
Say “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves (by sinning), do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful” – Surah Az-Zumar 39:53
Long ago, I wrote a blog about never losing hope in the mercy of Allah swt. In it, I shared what was then my understanding of God’s forgiveness and the story of the companion who symbolised this for me the most.
Fast Forward to last night, I attended a Qu’ran tafseer circle which took my understanding of Allah’s mercy even further. It focused on ayah (verse) 53 of Surah Az-Zumar. I have to admit; I stopped attending this circle for many months throwing in excuses that I was just too busy. However, that day, I had this sense of urgency in my heart that I needed to attend the circle; it was a sensation that I just could not ignore.
That night in the circle, a sister led the session reciting ayah 53 of Surah Az-Zumar, and she shared an in-depth explanation of its meaning. She described the infinite magnitude of the mercy of Allah swt against the mountainous weight of our sins. The tafseer of this one ayah left me in complete awe of the mercy of our Lord, and it reminded me of what I wrote back in 2017. It had me thinking whether I fully understood the concept of God’s mercy and so I felt it was only right that I came back and shared with you my thoughts and reflections to further your understanding on the mercy of our Lord.
‘O My servants’ – Allah swt begins this ayah addressing all of His servants – He is not only addressing the ‘pious’ or the ‘good’ Muslims, no. He is addressing all of His slaves; He is speaking to you and me. ‘Who have transgressed against themselves (by sinning)’ – every one of us has sinned- major, minor, knowingly or unknowingly, we are not infallible. This is a concept that many of us struggle to accept as we strive for perfection in our lives. You might have committed unimaginable acts or have crossed the lines that Islam has set. You may feel as a result of these sins, you are no longer a ‘worthy’ Muslim or that there is no hope for you. You may also have experienced other people telling you that you are destined for hell and that you are never going to be forgiven.
Now read carefully the command that comes next after Allah swt addresses you and acknowledges that you have sinned: He swt says ‘do not despair of the mercy of Allah’. Just take a moment and think about this.
This is a command from Allah swt for you never to lose hope, and as His servant, you must obey. You are not allowed to be pessimistic about your sins, you and no one else is allowed to pass sentence. Why? ‘Allah forgives all sins’. You aren’t the only one that has made mistakes- you, me and everyone on this earth have sinned, but we must turn to Allah swt and ask for forgiveness so that He can forgive us. It doesn’t matter how big or how many times you have sinned- Allah swt, your Lord, ‘the Forgiving, the Merciful’ is forbidding you from despairing and assuring you that He will forgive you.
It doesn’t matter how big or how many times you have sinned- Allah swt, your Lord,‘the Forgiving, the Merciful’ is forbidding you from despairing and assuring you that He will forgive you.Click to tweet this gem
I want to remind you of a narration that I hope will help you understand how merciful God is. Umar ibn Khattab RA reported that some prisoners of war were brought to the Prophet ﷺ, and there was a breastfeeding woman among them. Whenever she found a child amongst the prisoners, she would take the child to her chest and nurse it. The Prophet ﷺ said to us:
‘Do you think this woman would throw her child in the fire?’
We said, ‘No, not if she was able to stop it.’ The Prophet ﷺ said ‘Allah swt is more merciful to his servants than a mother is to her child.’-Sahih Al-Bukhari
Recently my sister had her first newborn and I was able to observe the way she would look after her child- comforting her with each cry, waking up throughout the night to feed her and making sure she was safe. SubhanAllah, I could see the affection and mercy my sister had for her daughter, and yet the Prophet ﷺ tells us that Allah SWT is more merciful than a mother. Just look to your mother on how much she cares and loves you- how can you then lose hope in God?
Du’a for forgiveness
اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي
Allahumma innaka afuwwun tuhibbul afwa fa’fu annee
“O Allah, You are Forgiving and love forgiveness, so forgive me” or “O Allah, You are Pardoning and love to pardon, so pardon me.”
Note: By asking Allah swt to pardon us for our mistakes, we are asking Him to not take us on account of them on the day of judgement, i.e. to completely wipe them out as if they never happened in the first place. Try to make a habit of saying this du’a everyday.
I also want to touch on two names of Allah swt: al-Ghaffar (The Oft Forgiving) and al-Ghafur (The All Forgiving). Al-Ghaffar means to cover and conceal, the idea that Allah swt covers His slave by hiding his sins and not taking him to account for them. It is narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said:
‘Allah- Blessed and Exalted is He!- says ‘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 having ascribed no partner to Me, I would bring you a similar amount of forgiveness.’ -Sunan Al-Tirmidhi.
The name al-Ghafur is similar to al-Ghaffar but it refers to the amplitude of His forgiveness i.e. the number of times that Allah swt will forgive you. Al-Ghafur is also said to be derived from the word ‘ghafr’ which is a medical plant that is used to heal woulds. The idea here is that forgiveness helps heals our wounds of sins similar to the medicinal plant that will help heal the physical wounds of our bodies.
The last point I also want to mention to you is the concept of being merciful to others. We as human beings are very quick to judge others for their sins- what makes you think that you can judge? If you want God to show you mercy, why aren’t you merciful to His other servants? Allah swt says:
‘Let him pardon and forgive, would you not love that Allah forgives you? Indeed Allah is all-Forgiving, Merciful’ -Surah an-Noor 24:22
I also believe that by encompassing the characteristic of being merciful, it will help you gain a better understanding of the mercy of Allah swt. If someone wrongs you, forgive them- do not grow hatred and if you see someone sin, do not judge, immediately make du’a for them that Allah swt forgives them and guides them to the straight path. This can be difficult at first, but, when you remind yourself that you are doing it for the pleasure of Allah SWT and His mercy, over time, it will become second nature. Remember that any du’a you make for your brothers and sisters; the angels will make that same dua for you as well.
So now let me ask you, Allah swt is inviting you towards His mercy. Will you accept it? Or will you allow the shaytan to make you feel hopeless? Remember that all he can do is whisper, but the promise of God is true.
It’s your choice- make the right one.
Come, come whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving
It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come