Sadly we sometimes translate the name of Allah Al-‘Afuw the same as At-Tawwaab Oft- Returning. Or Al-Ghafoor the forgiver. This is not accurate!
Aisha (RA) said: I asked the Messenger of Allah (PPUH): ‘O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the night of Qadr, what should I say during it?’
He (The Prophet PBUH) said:
اللْهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي
“(Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Tirmidhi).
1) The One who blots out and leaves no trace of any sin or fault. 2) The One who can remove and obliterate all traces of sin.
The words Ghafûr and Ghaffâr denote simply forgiving or protecting, while ‘Afûw indicates complete removal or obliteration of the condition.
The classical Arabic dictionary Taj al-Arûs offers a beautiful metaphor wherein ‘afûw is said to be like a mighty desert wind which completely obliterates the footprints in the sand.