Quranic Reflection No. 7:23 Āyat 7:155 – Seeking Mercy and Forgiveness

أَنْتَ وَلِيُّنَا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا ۖ وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ الْغَافِرِينَ
anta waliyyunā faghfir lanā warhamnā waanata khayrul-ghāfirīn
You are our Master, so forgive us and have mercy on us,
For You are the best of those who forgive.

(Sūratul A’rāf, No.7, Āyat 155)

The above is supplication of Prophet Moses (a) after he took seventy men with him to Mount Sinai for a meeting with the Lord. The people demanded that they see Allah physically. The Almighty struck them with a thunderbolt and they all died. Moses then prays for them and asks Allah not to punish them for the actions of a few foolish ones.

This Du‘ā is a poignant reminder of the qualities of Allah and how to ask from Him. According to ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī in Tafsīr al-Mīzān, Moses (a) does not explicitly state what he wanted. His actual wish was that God raise the dead of the group that had gone with him. But he addresses God and asks from Him with the etiquette deserving of the greatness and magnanimity of the Lord. Not stating his need directly was a sign of his humility and shame at what his people had done. His Du‘ā was answered, as stated in Sūratul Baqarah, verses 55-56: And when you said, ‘O Moses we will not believe you until we see Allah visibly’ a thunderbolt seized you as you looked on. Then We raised you up after your death so that you might give thanks.

Prophet Moses starts and ends with two qualities of Allah:
1) Wilayah or Mastership. This is an acknowledgement of the complete servitude of creation. All control and power lies with Allah.
2) Forgiver – Allah being the best of forgivers. When human beings forgive they sometimes accompany it with reminders and obligations. The forgiveness of Allah is free from such flaws.

In between these two qualities of Allah, Moses sandwiches his request, asking for forgiveness and mercy. This is expected from a Master whose servant accepts his lowly position before him and acknowledges his [people’s] mistakes. He knows that Allah knows his wish without the need for him to verbalize it. He asks just for mercy and forgiveness, two qualities that are the most prominent of God’s qualities. Allah says in the Quran: Your Lord has made mercy incumbent upon Himself (Q6:54).
Remember the words of Prophet Moses (a) when seeking mercy and forgiveness from the Lord in this holy month. This is a time when these qualities pour out for believers. Imam al-Sajjād (a) when describing the month of Ramadan says: Peace be upon you, How many sins you erased and how many faults you covered . . . how much evil was turned away from us through you and how much good flowed upon us because of you . . . (Du‘ā No. 45, Sahīfa Sajjādiyya). Humble yourself before him and acknowledge His sovereignty over you. Then ask for His forgiveness and mercy. He knows your implicit needs and will fulfill those too.

Sources:
Imam Ali Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a), Sahīfa Sajjādiyya;
‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān