What is the Difference Between Being ‘Ma`sum’ and ‘Mahfuz’?
Both terms — ‘ma`sum’ and ‘mahfuz’ — imply being protected from sin, while there is a key difference, namely:
(a) Being ‘ma`sum’ means Allah makes it impossible for the person to sin; this applies to all Prophets and angels (Allah bless them and grant them peace), and no one else. This is in fact a necessary trait of all Prophets.
(b) Being ‘mahfuz’ means Allah generally protects the person from committing sin despite it being possible for him/her to do so. Most Companions — particularly those who were closest to the Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) — were ‘mahfuz’. Some saints (awliya’) can also reach this level.
[Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid]
And Allah knows best.
Answered By: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani