7. DUA (SUPPLICATION)
One of the five pillars of Islam is ‘salat’, an Arabic word which basically means prayer, mercy and warming up and also a synagogue which is a Greek word for a mosque for the Jews and may be extended to mean any prayer hall for a religious congregation. Here we are concerned with the more usual and specific sense of Muslim prayer. As such it amounts a Muslims’s ritual prayer to his Creator, Allah, a ritual which is made of a sequence of bodily postures throughout all of which parts of the Qur’an and several verbal glorifications to Allah and blessings on His Messenger and prayerful requests are recited. A prayer without these postures is usually called only DUA to distinguish it from the more comprehensive and formalised salat. In this lesson we mean this DUA and not the formal salat and to make sure that we are not misunderstood we shall be employing the word DUA. As for Shafa’at we are more free: We can and will be using its English equivalent ‘intercession’.
1. Say: My Lord would not bother with you, were it not for your dua (25: 77)
C. Perhaps no verse could be more illuminating than this one in explaining the very basis of our good relations with our Creator: He created us with an initial if basic comfort and full satisfaction of needs (remember the metaphor of the care-free Adam and Eve in the Garden) then allowed curiosity and temptation to drive us out of that initial blessing whereupon we became all weakness, need, fear and shame. But because we were made for His Company and Favours we sought the re-attainment of our initial security and comfort with Him (or in His Embrace). We were hard tested when we began to be bombarded with demands and promises from two mutually hostile power camps: One from God our True Friend and his heavenly hosts and another from the Devil our only enemy and its earthly hosts. Some of us went God’s way some the Devil’s way. What helped us going God’s way was that as soon as we made our minds that the demands and threats from God’s headquarters were serious matters we fell on our knees in duas to Him to save us from the enemy and enrol as securely on the Roll of His worshipful servantly friends. This dua then became our only productive link with Him, remains so and will remain so: Even in Paradise we will be making dua to Him. Do we now see why dua is so vital and indispensable and irreplaceable? And why do you think despite our desperate best efforts Allah never stops sending some trials and tribulations our way, even when we become near-perfect saints? Because He knows that we grow complacent if things go too good for us for too long; to make us need and make dua to Him He sends us the knocks and shocks He sends. Now remember some pretensions on the part of some too hasty mystics who conclude “I am no longer praying for anything: Allah knows what I need and I have too full trust in Him to feel any need for dua. Shall I remind Allah while He already knows I need?”. No doubt this can at best be a transitory illusion in the career of a mystic aspirant and should rather end sooner rather than later. Remember? The above verse means we have no value in the Sight of Allah without making dua to Him. The more we realise and declare our weakness and imperfection to Him the more His Mercy and Generosity are stirred. LASTLY: Because dua is so precious to Allah its direction to anybody or anything other than Allah is the greatest single offence committable against Him Almighty, All-Gracious. See below.
2. (Who is better? Those other than Allah to whom you make dua) or the One Who attends to the hard-pressed when he makes dua to Him (Almighty) and removes the evil from the supplicant) and made you (His) deputies in the land? How little you are thinking (27:62)
C. When deceived by the solid-looking tangibility of the material world and its cause and effect patterns many people think that they can forget about the Creator (in Whom they may not even believe sometimes or may only misbelieve) and just apply ‘the laws of nature’ as they rightly or wrongly see them in order to satisfy their morally unexamined lusts and achieve their equally morally unexamined ambitions. No wonder there have been so much crime and injustice on this earth! But because man never knows enough he is frequently stuck when he finds that he does not know how to rescue or satisfy himself in a given situation. He feels that he needs another more knowledgeable and intelligent being to help him. The first choice for the most for most of the time is another man whom he thinks is more knowledgeable and capable than himself in finding the solution he needs. A doctor is perhaps one of the commonest examples of such a superior person to seek help from in health matters. But some problems arise to which apparently no man knows the solution or those who might know are not around. Then the needful man needs a superman, a god to appeal to if he is to retain his sanity and not die of panic!
Although such a god exists and it is Allah, for many men He is too demanding and expensive a Lord. Allah demands purity of heart and decency of behaviour or at least a repentance at the critical moment all of which the ‘customer’ may not not be prepared to offer. That is why to this day magicians and fortune-telllers (often rolled into one) are sometimes resorted to. Unlike Allah, these only demand faith and fees and never mention morals or unrepented sins. Nowadays they are more called ‘mediums’ than anything else although in the poorer parts of the world the same type of people still continue to be called by their traditional names like, shaman, yogi, guru, sheikh or what have you. The hard-pressed (often more or less lazy, cowardly, imbalanced and superstitious souls) resort to these supposedly superhuman fellows who will help them, unlike Allah, not for piety in return of the favours but only and ‘mercifully’- money or other gifts! Yes, money may be precious but parting with it is less painful than parting with ego’s impous desires. That is the entire root cause of polytheism which consists of the invention of gods pliant to the whims of their supplicants, especially when the palms of the hands of the caretakers of god’s shrine are oiled. Lastly some especially talented crooks or deludeds directly pose as agents of a god or gods and accept supplications personally and may sometimes appear to deliver the goods required. Appealing to such crooks or deludeds is also a form of dua and all such duas to created things is very offensive to Allah.
Having said this, we also must note that Allah’s saints (whose top are the prophets) do have genuine lights from Allah allowing them to appeal to Allah successfully on our behalf but the duas they make come under intercession which we shall be seeing soon.
3. Those whom you make dua to are but servants (ibad) like yourselves. Make dua to them and see if they can come to your help, if you are truthful (7: 194)
4. Those to whom you make dua other than Allah cannot help you; they cannot help even themselves (7: 197)
C. Beings like Jesus or Mary, or the Buddha of many Asians or others similarly deified or quasi-deified not only are unable to help those who make dua to them but also they cannot help even themselves. Mary took refuge under a palm tree over a spring when attacked by the pangs of birth and made dua to Allah for help while alongside the dua she wished for her death rather than face the accusations of fornication from her people. Both the Qur’an and the Gospel record many desperate duas on the part of Jesus to Allah, showing that he was also helpless in many situations. He always acknowledged that what he could do in the way of miracles were in fact done by Allah and Jesus himself was just an instrument.
5. Say “Who saves you from the depths of darkness in the land or in the sea when you make dua to them with calls of distress and fear (6:63)
C. Who saves those in direst situations beyond human powers, Allah or certain named and prayed to servants, be it a human being, an angel or a jinni?
6. Those to whom they make dua to, themselves seek a way to Allah, competing for access (to Him), hoping for His Mercy and fearing His punishment. Thy Lord’s punishment is worthy of being feared (17: 57)
C. Idols as pieces of wood or stone are totally innocent beings as all the insentient, inanimate objects are. Only human beings are sentient and intelligent beings responsible for their actions and able to cope with a Divine Law’s demands on them. Men, to whom dua is made, are not only powerless in themselves to do anything about miracles-demanding situations but they themselves are only too anxious to gain access to Allah and are in fact in competition to find favour with Allah. Which means all dua must be directed to Him Almighty alone. That was how the Prophet sws and all his companions made dua and a lot of these duas are given in the Qur’an and recorded in hadith collections about dua.
7. It is He Who moves you in the land and the sea. When you (o polytheists) are in a ship moving along thanks to a goodly wind they (all on board) are upbeat. However, when an angry wind arrives and waves rush on to them from every direction until they are surrounded on all sides they begin making dua to Allah with all the sincerity of faith “If you deliver us from this we will definitely be thankful”. But when He saves them they again pursue wrongful ambitions in the land… (10: 22- 23)
C. Even idolaters forget about their gods once they are in too a real mortal danger and suddenly becoming all sincerity towards and exclusively hopeful of Allah begin to make dua to Allah for their deliverance and promise to thank Him by remaining exclusively His servants after the rescue which means they promise to abandon their idols and confine their faith and devotion to Allah. If under too dire circumstances even frank idolaters realise the futility of praying to any being other than Allah how come Muslim believers are told by some misguided mystics wrongly posing as Sufis to pray to them the mystics instead of praying to Allah, if they want rescue? This is a response to some incredibly blasphemous claims in some cheaply exaggerating and emotionalising books by or about mystics (for such cannot be called Sufis) to the effect that the disciples or admirers of a sheikh must pray direct to the sheikh and not Allah if they are to be rescued from a danger. Crass Shia are very good at this. When in distress they cry out “Ya Ali, ya Hussein, ya Jafar, ya imam etc.” and almost never ‘ya Allah’.
Unfortunately there is a group among those who call themselves Sufis which group’s beliefs are influenced by Shia claims, like an imam being infallible, being always available to hear prayers even after he dies and even far worse, an imam does not die but goes into occultation awaiting to come back and save his partisans at the end of the time- just like Jesus is believed to be. This is Christianity under the cloak of Islam and Christianity is not so much following the real historical Jesus but a version of ages-old hermetic Gnostic tradition built around the name of Jesus with little regard for the actual teachings and example of Jesus which have been largely lost anyhow. In this misguided minority version of Sufism we find the same trick repeated on Muhammad sws and Islam and such deranged Islam should better be called Muhammadanism as distinct from genuine Islam. In fact there used to be sect who called themselves Muhammadans (Muhammadiyyun) who regarded Muhammad sws as God but they died out, at least in name.
8. They to whom they make dua instead of Allah cannot create anything; they themselves are created. They are dead and not living and unaware of when they shall be raised (16: 20)
C. Complements the previous verse and expands on it. The truth of the view that what is meant by ‘to whom they make dua instead of Allah are creatures already dead, like Jesus and Mary or other prophets and saints is proven. These beings cannot create anything but were themselves created by Allah. They are dead in all the physical sense of death, although a special life spared for the prophets, martyrs and other greatly pious souls are granted to them which is entirely Heavenly in nature. Despite this glory they have no idea as to when they will be revived in a physical sense by Allah. Jesus does not know about when he is to be raised again, Mary does not, no dead prophet or saint knows when he is going to be resurrected. Both Jesus and Muhammad (peace be on them both) emphatically and severally denied knowing the time for the Hour (sa’at or qiyamat) and the Qur’an testifies to that effect only too plainly and severally. We cannot pray to Jesus or Muhammad (peace be on them) or anybody else of whatever status or pretensions but to Allah and Allah alone!
Are physically dead spiritually alive great souls aware of us? In this respect only Hadith helps us: There we find the Messenger of Allah sws telling us that our actions will be presented to him every Friday night and our salawat (benedictions) on him shall be relayed to him by the angels which benedictions he will respond with benedictions on us tenfold etc. That for the prophets there is no constant awareness of this lower world Allah states in His Book when He relates how He will question Jesus about his ummat’s conduct after him to which Jesus shall answer “I was a witness over them so long as You let me stay among them. Once You made me die You remained the Witness over them” (5: 117). If Jesus is unaware of his ummat’s condition how can he hear and answer the prayers of each and every living member of them when they wrongly call on him as God?
9. Your Lord said “Make dua to Me and and I shall come to your help (40: 60*)
C. Allah commands that we make our dua to Him and promises to kindly respond to our duas. No mention of any intermediaries is made either in this verse or anywhere in the
Qur’an. On the contrary enough anathemas are issued against praying to any other being.
10. And that mosques/prostration grounds are surely for (the service of) Allah, do not make dua to anybody alongside Allah (72: 18)
C. So one cannot say “O Allah, o Messenger of Allah sws, o so-and-so help me!”. But he can say “O Allah for Thy love/sake of thy Messenger sws please grant my dua”.
11. Say “Were the punishment of Allah or the Hour to come to you, would you make dua to anything other than Allah, if you are truthful?” Just the opposite: To Him you would make dua and He might then divert from you the matter about which you prayed if He so pleases; you would simply forget all those you used to associate with Him” (6: 40- 41)
C. For the umpteenth time in His Qur’an Allah is explaining to us that when the going becomes hard for anybody, whether a Muslim or otherwise any really or supposedly existent and holy beings from whom help used to be expected are forgotten and the servant instinctively and exclusively turns to his Creator. Could it be more explicit? So, why some people turn away from Allah’s own emphatic and categorical statements and resort to a thousand sophistries and fallacies to defend their claim that in a crisis one should appeal to Allah’s good servants ehether those servants are alive in this world or dead? A word about ‘those you associate with Him’. These are, in the first instance the lesser gods of pagans. Pagans believe in one great god, often the sky-god and a number of lesser gods, perhaps the offspring of the chief god, each of whom has a portfolio of his or her divine functions, like being the sea god or god of love (Poseidon and Aphrodite respectively for the ancient Greeks).
Secondly in some originally monotheistic faiths some creatures are subsequently deified or quasi-deified and then regarded worthy of worship or at least good for praying to. The former is the position of Jesus while the latter that of Mary in Christianity. Islam has had its own cadres of heretics as worse as some crass Alawites who deify or nearly deify and worship Ali while and his male descendants. The less offensive heresies range from the mainstream Shia’s absolute belief in the infallibility of their Alid imams (quite parallel to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the papal infallibility and to some otherwise jolly sufi groups who cannot do without a few infallible heroes of their own despite the fact that Allah in His Book has never shied away from occasionally castigating His prophets (on whom be peace) for certain things they did or did not while the prophets for their part never tired of pointing out, time and again, their weakness before Allah and fallibility among men. If such were the holy prophets what about the non-prophets whoever they might be.
In this connection we may remark that seeking and believing in a creature’s absolute perfection (i.e. he or she can do no mistake whatsoever) is an infantile obsession rather than an ingredient of full or correct faith. Many mystics are that type of infantile person who cannot outgrow his or her foetal state of complete dependence on the mother’s body let alone outgrowing their innocent and temporarily beneficent babyhood assumption that mum or dad is perfect and infallible. When their illusions are subsequently shattered, instead of maturing up and seeing the natural and innocent limitations of the parents and forgiving the imperfection, they transfer their belief’s about an infallible person to a spiritual foster parent in the hope that he will never disappoint them: That is the psychological basis of believing in infallible human spiritual masters; the believers cannot cope with the reality as it but need to sustain a belief in infallible protectors among mankind. In the most pathological case the master is frankly deified as it happened to both the Buddha and the Christ and to a lesser and on a more limited scale, to Ali RA as far as crassest Shia are concerned.
11. Allah’s are the Most Beautiful Names, with them make dua to Him (7: 180)
C. If the Holiest Name of Allah is not enough for you in your dua you need not add names of other beings to help your chances. ADD AS MANY AS ALLAH’S MOST BEAUTIFUL NAMES and that should be more than enough. In other words Allah is helping us in the matter of making more effective duas to Him and the solution is using as many Most Beautiful Names of Allah relevant to our needs as we can come up with. So, in All cases the Names Allah, al Rahman an Al Rahim are necessary (and therefore rolled into one in the basmala) while the rest we may pick and choose. For example, if our problem is rizq (provisions of livelihood) we can call out “Ya Razzaq al Karim” (O Thou Gracious Provider), if it is a health matter we may call out “Ya Shafi” (O Curer) etc.
12. Those who make dua to others outside Allah are not following any partners (in divinity with Allah, for such partners don’t exist to begin with). What they are following are suppositions and they are mainly lying (10: 66)
C. Anything imagined to be divine are just that- imagined. Jesus Christ is no god but only imagined to be so, for example. What is more such images are originally manufactured by liars like some early church fathers, e.g., Athanasius the bishop of Alexandria who was the main arguer and driver of the issue at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. Before then Jesus was less exaggerated by resort to lesser lies. This deification and the lesser blasphemy of quasi-deification by lies continues to this day. Presently, can you believe it, there are quite a few contemporary men regarded as god by their respective followers. There are among some fringe or lately deluded Sufi groups the belief that their sheikh, despite not being Allah, he is at least an effective copy of Allah in human form (that is what we mean by a quasi-god). This effective copy can order the universe around and like Allah, has only to say ‘Be!’ to anything he wants to become or happen and that thing will become or happen! The fact of the matter though is not like that at all. It is true that some exceptionally good servants of Allah with a special mission, like Jesus Christ, seemed to demonstrate miraculous effects on will but as the holy Christ himself explained both according to the Bible and the Qur’an, the effects were created by none other than Allah while the role of the Christ was issuing the command on instigation and inspiration by Allah. Such effects, albeit lesser ones, may materialise through all of us believers if and when Allah so wills.
For example, somebody may snatch your bag full of things too precious for you and runs away too fast for you to catch. A prayer goes out of your deepmost heart for the thief to be punished and lo and behold a cyclist moves in such a way the the two collide and the thief flies off to one side and the bag to another whereupon you just reclaim your bag and the thief runs of empty- handed. Even the grievance of an unbeliever may so provoke Allah’s sense of justice that He may hit the offender out of the blue even when the offender is a believer. Said the Prophet sws “Avoid the prayer of grievance of someone you did injustice to even when that person is an idolater; for between him and Allah no veil remains (but his prayer must reach Allah and be accepted). In brief, there is no automatic granting of all prayers or wishes for anybody let alone anybody ordering anything he wants to happen and it will happen.
3. Whoever makes dua to another being alongside Allah without any proof (of its permissibility) his account then rests with Allah. No doubt blasphemers never prosper (23: 41)
C. This must be another reference to the Chrsitian practice of praying to God or Jesus or Mary separately or at one and the same time. Allah is using the phrase ‘maa Allah’, i.e. together with or alongside while in the case of describing those who do not pray to Allah but pray to a false god or false gods He Almighty uses the phrase “min dunillahi” which can be translated in two supplementary ways, namely “instead of Allah” and “under Allah” (i.e. lesser gods). If Allah is so angry about praying to a great prophet like Jesus and a great saint like Mary alongside Allah would He not be angry if somebody prays to both Allah and a creature he thinks is very much loved by Allah? And what about the proof that such practice is permissible? This verse implies that there is no proof for the legitimacy of such dually-targeted duas or duas which alternate between calling on Allah and calling on the lovely servant of Allah. Allah demands exclusive rights for being called upon (dua) by His servants.
There should remain no doubt in our minds by now that being made dua to is entirely Allah’s prerogative and nobody however holy under His Rule can have any share in it. Unfortunately, in almost all religions except orthodox Judaism and orthodox Islam this prerogative of Allah has been ignored and even in Islam some persistent if sly attempts have never been wanting, attempts at following some pagan delusions. What is paganism if not an inability to understanding and appreciating Allah’s sufficiency for His servants and that no servant however saintly and holy can anywhere compare to Allah or can gain a right to share in His top Divine prerogatives, namely CREATING and BEING PRAYED TO.
Yes, we know that in our daily worldly life we have to and only too frequently ask for the help of each other. But if we are correct believers (true Muslims) in Allah we regard these give and take relations as veils for our give and take relations with Allah. Allah does not count these daily relations and transactions as shirk/polytheism. He allows them to proceed provided we keep in mind that the real Help is from Him Almighty. But when it comes to making requests on needs for the meeting of which no human agency seems available (like much needed rain in a severe draught or the forgiveness for a sin) Allah cuts in with jealous vehemence and demands that we make our duas to Him and Him Alone! The whole Qur’an and sound Sunna overwhelmingly confirm this and attempts at by-passing such an unanswerable source as the Book of Allah and after that the Sunna reports which are in full agreement with the Qur’an, are futile. That we must make dua exclusively to Allah is obvious from all the dua examples Allah gave in His Book: All are addressed to Allah beginning with Allahumma (o Allah), Rabbi (my Lord) and Rabbana (our Lord) and NOTHING ELSE! We also have more than a hundred duas reported from the Prophet sws, which duas like those in the Qur’an are BINDING MODELS OF DUA for us; they begin with, again, Allahumma, Rabbi, and Rabbana and NOT A SINGLE BEING OUTSIDE ALLAH is addressed or even mentioned except outside a pleading context. Some crass Shia call upon imams Ali, Hussein, Ismail etc instead of Allah and beginning a dua by phrases like “Ya sheikh, Ya Hazrat so and so etc.” are equally blasphemous and never the practice of Ahl al Sunna wa’l Jama’at despite some lies being said about this matter by too shameless and self-assertive voices.
Lastly may we remind our readers that unlike the Qur’an and reputable, Qur’an-following Hadith the claimants of legitimacy and efficacy of duas made to beings other than Allah have only ANECDOTES to offer as ‘proofs’ for their claims. For example they may quote from a book written seven hundred years ago which relates a story in which a distressed fellow makes dua to his hero (real or imaginary person, living or dead) and reports that lo and behold his wish was granted. In what way such reports can be compared with the authority of the Qur’an and reputable Hadith is impossible to consider! That it has no status whatsoever in the face of the Book of Allah is beyond doubt. As for its comparison with reputable ahadith like in Bukhari’s, the standards of reportage are simply that of anecdotal lore and therefore eminently despicable. Anecdotal mystic literature are full of such preposterous claims that they can only be regarded as survival of pagan myths in Islam. Take the claim that so-and-so ‘holy’ person was reported to be present at 12,000 locations on the same Friday. Is it really possible for at least 12,000 persons independent of each other to notice and recognise that holy person during the same day’s Friday prayers and then reporting it worldwide jointly agree that the man had really been at 12,000 locations at the same instant. What is more over such global distances the times for Friday prayers can only be diverse; it is eisha (night prayer) time in India when it is noon in Morocco! It is already Saturday in the Philipines when it is Friday noon in Algeria!
Even more telling is the fact that all legendary-anecdotal literatures of rival faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity claim exactly the same things as regards the efficacy of miraculous help from holy men when made dua to as well as being simultaneously all over the world. Since only Islam as in the Qur’an is true and the Allah accuses the followers of other traditions as they then existed being corrupted and often also blasphemous we must dismiss such unrecognisable claims. We are not saying that really holy men cannot help us. THEY DEFINITELY CAN. But this is by asking them to their faces, asking them to pray for us if they already do not have in their hands the means (like money or capable friends) to help us and not through making dua to them in their absence. In impossible situations we can gain benefit from them by asking them to pray Allah on our behalf and they kindly do it for us etc. This is exactly what the Prophet sws did for his sahaba occasionally. Holy persons can also demonstrate karamat simply because they are filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is next door to Allah. What they cannot do is acting as or standing in for god in the sense of being worshipped and prayed to. Allah knows best and we take refuge in Him in everything whether related to this world or the next. May He Most Kindly guide, protect and save us. Amen.
8. SHAFA’AT (INTERCESSION)
1. There is no shafi’ (intercessor) but only after His permission (10: 3)
C. So, Shafaat is true. The only thing is that for shafa’at to go ahead Allah must give permission to the would-be shafi’. The Prophet sws, according to many reliable ahadith has been given the permission to make shafa’at for his followers. We shall see why soon.
2. Say “All shafa’at belongs to Allah; His is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth (39:44)
C. Very true since servants are always the shadow actors of Divine Will implementation and as the previous verse states making shafa’at on the part of somebody needs Divine permission. When, how and why this permission is granted or denied is explained in the next verse.
3. The Day when no shafa’at can help except for whom the All-Gracious (al Rahman) allows because He Almighty is pleased with his word (20: 109)
C. So there shall be holy servants whom Allah will allow to help others on the Day of Judgment to obtain forgiveness. These holy intercessors are allowed this function simply because Allah is happy with their speech. The speech which makes Allah so happy must begin with ‘La ilaha illallah’ and continue with all that are worthy of this truest and holiest of words. Who says a better word than a true Muslim and what better Muslim than the Messenger of Allah sws. After him all true Muslims shall have their partial scopes for shafa’at; may Allah make us both receivers and givers of shafa’at.
4. How many angels are that their shafa’at gives no benefit except after Allah grants permission in favour of whom He wants and is pleased with (53: 26)
C. Which means some angels shall also be allowed to make shafa’at for some believers.
The Hadith includes also the martyrs as possible intercessors for us the sinners. The general rule in the verse 3 above is the ultimate criterion: Any servant with whose word Allah is pleased is a candidate for being allowed to intercede with Allah for the forgiveness of sinners like us. It can be a good parent, a good son, an innocent child, a good teacher etc.
9. REPENTANCE (TAWBA), ISTIGHFAR (ASKING PARDON) AND ‘AFW
The above three terms and concepts are closely related as well as linked. Overall they collectively define our positive and constructive relationship with our Creator in the sense that we as weak and fallible if spiritually evolving beings make a lot of mistakes as we go along and mistakes cause harmful changes of direction in our travel towards our Lord’s Face (which is His Pleasure with us) which deviations must be corrected sooner rather than later. If a driver makes a wrong turn he better realises and cancels it as soon as possible. If he does not care or is not aware of his wrong turn and adds on more wrong turns to it his rejoining the highroad of salvation becomes impossible or nearly so. Even when he finds a highroad lately he may be left little time and energy to reach his goal. Repentance is key to re-joining the highway. The noun ‘tawba’ comes from the verb ‘taba’ which means to turn back to Allah in the hope of forgiveness. The more we guard ourselves against committing wrongs and haste to make tawba to Allah the faster and surer we can keep to the highway.
‘Istighfar’ comes from the verb ‘ghafara’ and means ‘to cover, conceal and also to ignore (forgive and forget) a mistake or wrong. The verb for the noun istighfar is ‘istaghfara’ and means asking for pardon, for the absolution of one’s sins.
As for ‘afw’ its verb is ‘aafa’ which means to exempt, to kindly indulge, to kindly overlook (a wrong), to reduce a price. When Allah grants afw to a servant it means at least two things. One, Allah disregards his wrongs out of kindness and two, Allah exempts him from some burdens once the servant thinks that he cannot bear it easily enough and respectfully protests his weakness. On a large scale afw becomes ‘aafiya’ and it applies to a life free from too much trouble and suffering as well as exemption from burdens Allah could impose but out of kindness did not. Hence we hear the Messenger of Allah sws praying “Allahumma inni as’aluka’ l-afwa wa-l aafiya fee deenee wa dunyaya wa- a-akhira”, i.e., “O Allah I beg from Thee both afw and aafiya concerning my religion, my world and the hereafter”. By afw what he sws means is tolerant forgiveness, by aafiya he sws means easy religious practices, then easy, uncomplicated livelihood like enough food and decent shelter and lastly total and instant forgiveness at death as well as on the Day of Judgment. How wonderful and amen.