Human beings are not perfect. Everybody makes mistakes in life and unknowingly commits sins. So forgiveness is a critical aspect in Islam. Muslims believe that Allah is Merciful and Forgiving. There are two kinds of forgiveness in Islam: Allah’s forgiveness and human forgiveness. Human beings are in need of both since they make mistakes in their relations to Allah as well as their relations to each other. In Islam, all that is needed is to recognize the mistake/sin, rectify it and seek forgiveness.
Recognizing the Wrong Act
The first step in asking for forgiveness is to recognize and admit the fact that you have made a mistake or committed a sin. This is a grave step because, many times, the ego prevents individuals from even acknowledging that they have wronged. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “O Allah! Make me among those who, when they commit an act of virtue, feel good, and when they commit a mistake, they seek forgiveness.”
Forgiveness from God
The words “Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” are repeated many times throughout the Quran. In Islam, individuals who commit a sin ask for forgiveness directly from God; there is no intermediary. In the Quran it says, “God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and He loves those who keep themselves pure.” It also says, “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
From Another Human Being
If an individual wrongs another human being, the act must first be rectified with the wronged individual who should be asked for forgiveness before asking forgiveness from God. The Prophet said, "Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him." Islam also teaches human beings to be forgiving and if someone sincerely asks for forgiveness, the wronged person should forgive him. The Prophet said, "Whoever suffers an injury and forgives (the person responsible), God will raise his status to a higher degree and remove one of his sins."
When sincerely asking for forgiveness, the intention should be not to knowingly repeat the same sin again. However, even if an individual does accidentally repeat the offense, forgiveness should be asked for again, for there is no limit to Allah’s forgiveness, according to the Quran. In a hadith, Allah tells His servants, “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."