The Difference between the Remission of Sins and the Forgiveness of Sins
Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyah
Allah has mentioned the remission and forgiveness of sins together and separately throughout the Quran. When they are mentioned together Allah says about His servants who believe:
Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and remit from us our evil deeds, and make us die in the state of righteousness along with Al-Abrar (those who are obedient to Allah and follow strictly His Orders).[ Al-Imran 193]
And when Allah mentions these acts individually He says:
But those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and believe in that which is sent down to Muhammad for it is the truth from their Lord, He will expiate from them their sins, and will make good their state.[ Muhammad 2]
“Therein for them is every kind of fruit; and forgiveness from their Lord“.[ Muhammad 15]
“Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and our transgressions (in keeping our duties to You),[ Al-Imran 147]
There are four issues here: sins, evil deeds, forgiveness and remission. The intended meaning for sins is major sins and the definition of evil deeds is minor sins. The proof that evil deeds refers to minor sins is the verse where Allah says,:
” If you avoid the great sins which you are forbidden to do, We shall remit from you your (small) sins, and admit you to a Noble Entrance (i.e. Paradise).[An-Nisa’ 31] and in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (Radi Allahu anhu) The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi wa salam) said: ” (maintaining) The five daily prayers, Jumu’ah to the next and Ramadhan until the next are a remission for whatever sins come in between, so long as one does not commit any major sin.” 
The word forgiveness is more complete than the remission. Therefore, it’s used to refer to major sins while remission is used for minor sins. Included in the word remission is protection and removal against sins. When these words are mentioned independently, the meaning for each one is found in the other. This is similar to the verse, ” He will expiate from them their sins…” [ Muhammad 2].
Included in this verse are minor and major sins along with the protection and removal of their evils. Even at times remission of sins comprises evil deeds. Allah says, ” So that Allah may remit from them the evil of what they did…[ Az-Zumar 35]
There are three mighty rivers for major sinners in this world, if these rivers don’t cleanse them, they will be cleansed in Hell’s river on the Day of Judgment.
- The river of sincere repentance
- The river of abundance with good deeds
- The river of trials and afflictions
If Allah desires good for His slave he enters him into one of the these three rivers, so on the Day of Resurrection he arrives clean and is in no need for the fourth river of cleansing .
Taken from Madarajus Saalikeen printed Darul Jeel Beirut vol1 page247-249
Translated by Abu Aaliyah Abdullah in Dwight Battle
Doha, Qatar 1434 ©