Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-Uthaymeen, rahimahullah, said:

العفو عن ترك الواجبات ، والغفران عن فعل المحرمات ، هذا إذا اقترن العفو بالمغفرة ، أما إذا انفصل أحدهما عن الآخر فكل واحد منهما يتضمن معنى الثاني ، لكن إذا قيل عفا الله عنك وغفر لك ، صار عفا الله عنك ما أهملته من واجبات ، وغفر لك ما اقترفته من سيئات ؛ لان الغفر بمعنى الستر مع التجاوز ، والعفو بمعنى النزول عن الحق والإبراء منه.

“Al-Afwu is in relation to the abandonment of the obligatory acts and al-Ghufran [i.e. al-Maghfirah] is for committing prohibited acts. This is the case if they are mentioned along with one another. As for if they are separated from one another, then each one contains the meaning of the other [i.e. they have the same meaning]. However, if it is said to you, ‘may Allah have Al-Afwu for you and grant you al-Maghfirah,’ then the meaning will become, ‘may Allah have Al-Afwu for you upon what you neglected of the obligatory acts and may He grant you al-Maghfirah for what you committed of wrongdoing’. [This is the case] since al-Maghfirah means the concealment [of the act] along with the pardoning of [it] and Al-Afwu means being withdrawn from what is deserving and being set free from it.”

[Sharh Aqeedatu Safaareeniyah from here].

Shaykhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahullah, said:

أن العفو أن يسقط عنه العقاب ، والمغفرة أن يستر عليه جرمه صونا له من عذاب التخجيل والفضيحة

“Al-‘Afwu is the punishment being waived off and al-maghfirah is his crime being concealed as a form of protection for him from the torment of being embarrassed and exposed…”

[al-Majmoo’ul Fataawa, the seventh volume]

A Side Note: The more correct and common way to write العفو in the english language is al-‘Afwu and not al-Afuw. And Allah knows best.

Answered by

AbdulFattaah Bin Uthman
Abu Fajr