Who are addressed by this verse: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (az-Zumar, 39/53) The Muslims or unbelievers?

Details of the Question
Who are addressed by this verse: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (az-Zumar, 39/53) The Muslims or unbelievers?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The verse addresses both sinful believers and all of the unbelievers including polytheists. A polytheist or atheist may repent and believe in Allah. However, if a polytheist or atheist dies before he repents, he will stay in Hell forever.  

The people who have deviated from the way of Allah and committed some wrong and bad deeds are addressed by the verse and they are informed that their mistakes, faults and sins will be forgiven if they repent and follow the way of the religion of oneness:

Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (az-Zumar, 39/53).

According to what is reported from Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), some people who were polytheists and committed various sins came to Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) and said to him: "The way (religion) that you tell people and that you invite to is something good. Is there anything that will cause to forgive the bad deeds we have committed? Will you inform us about it? Thereupon, the verse mentioned above was sent down. (Abdulfattah al-Qadi, Asbabu'n-Nuzul, Egypt, 194). (Nureddin TURGAY)

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