In a little over two weeks Ramadan 2020 will be upon us. It is possible that COVID- 19 will make Ramadan a very different experience to what we have previously experienced.
Although gatherings, and prayers in the mosques, might not be possible, our connection to God need not be severed.
The enforced lock downs have the potential to make Ramadan a very special time. Perhaps COVID- 19 is a chance for us to press the pause button on our very hectic lives and focus on what is really important.
Reflecting, pondering and attempting to understand God’s Names and Attributes will help us focus our attention, and allay our fears for the future. And because Ramadan is almost here, we now focus on the name Al Afuw, The Pardoner, and the names closely related to it.
‘God – There is no deity except Him. To Him belong the best names.’ (Quran 20: 8)
‘The most excellent Names belong to God: use them to call on Him, and keep away from those who abuse them– they will be revenged for what they do.’ (Quran 7:180)
Al Afuw is the Pardoner, the Forgiver, the One who eliminates sins. He is the One who blots out any trace of sin and absolves any fault. He is able to make any error disappear and make all traces of incorrect actions vanish.
Al Afuw pardons the sinners by not calling them to account and erasing sins from their records.
A person can emulate Al Afuw, by excusing those who harm him, and behaving well instead of causing harm to others. God does good in this world for the disobedient and the disbeliever and thus the believer should emulate His actions rather than seek retribution. 
In the weeks leading up to Ramadan we are reminded that throughout Ramadan and particularly in the last 10 days including on the Night of Power (Laylut Al Qadr) we must endeavor to take the advice of Prophet Muhammad and recite the following supplication.
‘Allhumma innaka afuwwun tuhibbul afwa fa’fu anni.’
This Arabic transliteration makes clear the use of reference to Al Afuw. The translation is:
‘Oh God (God)! You are Pardoning (Forgiving) and love pardon (forgiveness) so pardon (forgive) me’.
This supplication does not have to be limited to Ramadan, it can be recited at any time and was revealed when Prophet Muhammad’s beloved wife Aisha asked about the best supplication to recite on the Night of Power.
‘Messenger of God, if I know what night the Night of Power is, what do you think I should recite on that night?’
‘Say: ‘O God, You are Pardoning and you love pardon, so pardon me.’
Pardoning those who turn to Him in repentance is one of God’s most beautiful attributes. This can be seen clearly when we take the time to ponder the many layers of forgiveness manifested by God.
The classical Arabic dictionary “Taj al-Arus” offers us a beautiful metaphor; afūw (pardon) is said to be like a mighty desert wind that completely obliterates all the footprints in the sand.
When God pardons, all traces of our sin vanish. Just as the wind obliterates our footprints God’s forgiveness erases the marks and stains of our sins.
On the Day of Judgment, we may find that our sins are simply not in our records; this is afw. This is when God, Al Afuw, completely removes sins as if they were never committed.
‘…And He pardons much.’ (Quran 42:34)
Sometimes in the Quran Al Afuw is paired with Al Ghafoor and then we see an extra level of forgiveness. Al-Ghafoor is the One who forgives no matter how large the sin.
‘It may be that God will pardon them, and God is Pardoning, Forgiving.’ (Quran 4:99)
‘… most surely God is Pardoning, Forgiving.’ (Quran 22:60; 58:2)
Note: Other Names related to Al Afuw
Al Ghafoor – The Perfectly Forgiving, the Forgiver of Sins
Ghafoor comes from the root ghafar, that means to cover, conceal, or shield. When Al Ghafoor forgives a sin, it means that He covers or conceals it.
Al Ghafoor is the One who does not expose the sins of those who turn to Him in repentance. He forgives no matter the size or the number of sins. Al Ghafoor veils rather than erases whereas Al Afuw denotes complete removal or obliteration.
Prophet Muhammad said:
A believer will be brought close to his Lord on the Day of Resurrection and enveloping him in His Mercy, He will make him confess his sins by saying: `Do you remember (doing) this sin and this sin?’ He will reply, `My Lord, I remember.’ Then He will say, `I covered it up for you in the life of world, and I forgive it for you today.’ Then the record of his good deeds will be handed to him.” 
Al Ghaffar – The All Forgiving
Al Ghaffar, closely related to al Ghafoor, is the One who sets us free from our own sins and faults. Al Ghaffar transforms wrong deeds into good deeds.
The Acceptor of Repentance, The Oft-Forgiving, The Acceptor of our Return.
At Tawwab is the One who repeatedly turns each person towards repentance. He then accepts their repentance and forgives their sins.
‘O son of Adam! So long as you invoke Me and place all your hope on Me, I shall forgive you, and I do not mind. O son of Adam! Even if your sins were to pile up and reach the skies, then you seek My forgiveness, I shall forgive you. O son of Adam! If you come to Me after having committed as many sins as would fill the earth, believing in Me, associating no partners with Me, I shall grant you their equal in forgiveness.’
At Tawwab is the One who forgives those who return to Him and restores them to grace and welcomes them back. He forgives the person who slips, sincerely apologises and returns to the straight way. At Tawwab rewards those who do good deeds and He forgives those who forgive others.
Prophet Muhammad once said:
By God! I seek the forgiveness of God, and I repent to Him, more than seventy times every day.’ 
 Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
 Saheeh Bukhari
 Saheeh Bukhari & Muslim
 Ibid. This is a hadith Qudsi; it is knowledge God revealed to Prophet Muhammad and transmitted to us in Prophet Muhammad’s words.
 Saheeh Bukhari