Aisha asked the Prophet (saw) “What should I say on Laylat-al-qadr?” He replied,
'Say, “O Allah, You are Al-’Afuww and You love to ‘afw, so fa’fu me”' (Tirmidhi).
What do all these italicized words mean? The common translation of the supplication above is,
O Allah indeed you are a Pardoner, and you love pardon, so pardon me.
That’s it? The supplication for the last 10 nights, THE supplication we are supposed to focus on, is just to be ‘pardoned’ by “The Pardoner”? Isn’t there more to it?
Seems a bit strange, let’s look at it in more detail.
The linguistic meaning of ‘afuww is to leave, neglect (pardon), to wipe away, and to increase. ‘Aafiyah is Allah’s defense of His servant from things like disease and tribulation. ‘Afu is the one who possesses great ‘afw.
The Name of Allah, Al-’Afuww, occurs in the Quran only five times (4:43, 4:99, 4:149, 22:20, 58:2). Four of these times, it is linked with Al-Ghafoor, and once with Al-Qadeer (4:149).
This Name implies that He ignores the sins of the servant. He knows the sins (you must know them before you can make ‘afw of them) but He does not call the servant to account for it. The servant is deserving of punishment, and Allah has full ability to punish His servants, but Allah does ‘afw for them. It is more than just pardoning or covering it up, it is wiping it away completely.
When the Name is paired with Al-Ghafoor, we see an extra level of forgiveness. Al-Ghafoor is the One who forgives no matter how large the sin.
When we look back at the original supplication, we see a more profound meaning. Allah is Al-Qadeer, with full power to do with us as He wants,
And if Allah were to seize mankind for their wrong-doing, He would not leave on it (the earth) a single moving (living) creature, but He postpones them for an appointed term and when their term comes, neither can they delay nor can they advance it an hour (or a moment). (16:61)
In spite of that warning, He wipes our sins away for us, no matter how major they are. Not only does He wipe them away, but He loves to wipe them away. SubhanAllah.
This is why we should make this supplication fervently, seeking for it to be answered in the night, in the most special of nights, seeking the forgiveness and mercy of Allah, humbling ourselves knowing the sins we have committed, and asking for Him to pardon us for our transgressions.