Sins and the major sins

What is a SIN?

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Righteousness is good character, and sin is that which wavers in your heart and which you do not want people to know about.” [Muslim]

It is anything that is prohibited, immoral, shameful, alienating, or considered wrong, either in thoughts, words or actions, which contradicts the commandments or the will of Allah.

Sins are divided into:

  1. Major sins (الكبائر)
  2. Minor sins (الصغائر)

What is a major sin?

It is an act which have been forbidden by Allah in the Qur’an and by the Sunnah of His Messenger and which have been made clear by the actions of the first righteous generation of Muslims. It is any sin committed that has a punishment in this life and a threat in the Hereafter that you will be doomed in Hell.

According to scholars, it as any act which is expressly forbidden in the Qu‘ran and/or by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), for which there is a Hadd (punishment under Islamic law specified by Allah in the Qur’an).

Reward of avoiding major sins

Only a person who avoids major sins will have good deeds such as charity, praying, or fasting accepted as expiation for minor sins. “If you avoid the major part (great sins) of what you have been forbidden (to do), We will cancel out for you your other evil deeds (small sins) and will admit you (to Paradise) with a noble entry.”   [An-Nisa 4:31] Thus by this verse, Allah Most High has guaranteed the Garden of Paradise to those who avoid the major sins.

What is a minor sin?

It is an act which are displeasing to Allah but for which no specific punishment or severe warning has been issued. In this case, a Muslim’s conscience and heart help him to know that an act is sinful.

Scholars agree that while good deeds and extra acts of worship help expiate minor sins, they won’t compensate for major sins. Instead, a Muslim must make sincere repentance for major sins by showing genuine remorse, praying for Allah’s Mercy and Forgiveness, and avoiding that sin in the future.

THE 7 MAJOR SINS (السبع الكبائر)

Some scholars assert that there are seven major sins, based on the following Hadith. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Avoid the 7 major sins that will lead you straight to hell. They asked: ‘What are they, o Prophet?’ He said: ‘They are associating partners with Allah, practicing magic, killing a person unjustly, usury, running away from the battlefield and accusing a pure chaste woman of adultery.’” [Bukhari and Muslim]

The first 2 major sins mentioned in the Hadith deal with the relationship with Allah (العلاقة مع الله), the last 2 deal with the relationship with others, and the remaining 3 deal with the relationship with oneself (العلاقة مع الذاتية).

Then they divided Al-Kaba’ir into 17 parts: 4 in the heart (associating partners with Allah, insisting in committing the sin, despair in the mercy of Allah and thinking that you will never be hurt by Allah); 4 in the tongue (perjury, magic…); 3 in the stomach (drinking alcohol, consuming the orphan’s money, usury); 2 in the private parts (adultery, homosexuality); 2 in the hand; 1 in the foot and 1 in the whole body.

Other scholars cite evidence that major sins are actually much greater in number.

I. Associating partners with Allah (Shirk)

It is the one sin which Allah will not forgive.

“Verily, Allah forgives not that partners be set up with Him (in worship) but He forgives other than that to whom He pleases; and whoever sets up partners with Allah (in worship), he has indeed invented an enormous wrong.” [An-Nisa 4:48]

“Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray.” [An-Nisa 4:116]

“This is (part) of that wisdom wherewith thy Lord hath inspired thee (O Muhammad). And set not up with Allah any other god, lest you be cast into hell, reproved, abandoned.” [Al-Isra 17:39]

II. Practicing magic (Sehr)

And follow that which the devils falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon disbelieved not; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind magic and that which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Harut and Marut. Nor did they (the two angels) teach it to anyone till they had said: We are only a temptation, therefore disbelieve not (in the guidance of Allah). And from these two (angles) people learn that by which they cause division between man and wife; but they injure thereby no-one save by Allah’s leave. And they learn that which harms them and profits them not. And surely they do know that he who traffics therein will have no (happy) portion in the Hereafter; and surely evil is the price for which they sell their souls, if they but knew.” [Al-Baqarah 2:102]

Anything magic does, it never results in something good. It always does something bad to hurt you and the society in general. It spreads hatred, envy, jealousy. It affects the society and that is why Allah forbids it. What makes somebody go to the magician? You feel helpless; you cannot do it so you want somebody else to do it, somebody with more power. When you believe that this person, a human, a creation of Almighty Allah, can do it and have more power than Allah Himself, then you had committed Shirk.

Do not say it is culture; but it is normal; but you did not mean any harm. Some people will make you believe that magic is something good if you are doing good. They say that magic if it is done for the welfare of the people then it is okay. For example, it will cure the sick; the man will love his wife more, etc.  For you to commit that and ask somebody to do that, you are giving a ruling other than the ruling of Allah. And you are thinking and believing that somebody else has more than power. What this magician will think of himself? He will feel arrogance thinking that he has power equal to Allah. And that what makes him go further and further.

III. Murder/Killing a person unjustly (القتل)

“And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. Whoso is slain wrongfully, We have given power unto his heir, but let him not commit excess in slaying. Lo! He will be helped.” [Al-Isra 17:33]

“And We ordained therein for them: “Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal. But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it shall be for him an expiation. And whosoever does not judge by that which Allâh has revealed, such are the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrongdoers – of a lesser degree).” [Al-Maidah 5:45]

3 kinds of killing:

  1. Killing a Muslim: “Whoso slays a believer of set purpose, his reward is Hell for ever. Allah is wroth against him and He hath cursed him and prepared for him an awful doom.” [An-Nisa 4:93]
  2. Killing a non-Muslim: “Say: Come, I will recite unto you that which your Lord hath forbidden to you: that ye ascribe no thing as partner unto Him and that ye do good to parents, and that ye slay not your children because of penury – We provide for you and for them – and that ye draw not nigh to lewd things whether open or concealed. And that ye slay not the life which Allah hath made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He hath command you, in order that ye may discern.” [Al-An’am 6:151] “O you who believe! Squander not your wealth among yourselves in vanity, except it be a trade by mutual consent, and kill not one another. Lo! Allah is ever Merciful unto you.” [An-Nisa 4:29]
  3. Killing one’s self (suicide): Those who commit suicide are basically saying that Allah has burdened them beyond their capacity. They falsely accused Allah of treating them unfairly and they fell in disbelief. Do not kill yourselves, for surely Allah is merciful with you.” [An-Nisa 4:29] “Surely only a disbelieving people despair of Allah’s mercy.” [Yusuf 12:87]

IV. Usury (Riba)

Literal meaning: to excess or to increase

Common definition: interest on money

Islamic meaning: Effortless profit which comes free from compensation or that extra earning obtained that is free of exchange. It has been described as a loan with the condition that the borrower will return to the lender more than and better than the quantity borrowed

No matter how much you get out of interest (Riba), at the end, what you are earning will go away very fast even if it is billions of money, because there is no blessing (Barakah) in it.

“O ye who believe! Fear God, and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if ye are indeed believers.”  [Al-Baqarah 2:278] “If ye are indeed believers” highlights the gravity of offence by exhorting people to obey if they indeed think themselves as Muslims.

The Qur’an not only put a stop on usury but it also encourages leniency towards debt-ridden as way to social upliftment. “If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time until it is easy for him to repay. But if ye remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if ye only knew.” [Al-Baqarah 2:280]

“Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch hath driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like usury,” but God hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for God (to judge); but those who repeat (the offence) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever).” [Al-Baqarah 2:275]

2 major kinds of Riba

I.  Riba An-Nasia (prohibited by the Qur’an): An increase in capital without any services provided; interest on lent money

  • Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 276]
  • “O you who believe, you shall not take Riba, compounded over and over. Observe God, that you may succeed.” [Ali Imran 3:130]
  • “And for practicing Riba, which was forbidden, and for consuming the people’s money illicitly. We have prepared for the disbelievers among them painful retribution.” [An-Nisa 4:161]

II. Riba Al-Fadl (prohibited in the Sunnah): Commodity exchange in unequal quantities; taking a superior quality of goods by giving more of the same kind of inferior quality

  • Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: “Allah’s Messenger cursed the accepter of interest and its payer, and one who records it, and the two witnesses; and he said: They are all equal.” [Muslim]
  • Abdullah ibn Hanjalah related that the Prophet ﷺ said: “A Dirham of Riba knowingly taken by a man is a sin worse than committing Zina 36 times.” [Ahmad, Daraqutni]
  • Abu Hurairah related that the Prophet ﷺ said: “On the night of the Miraj, I came upon a group of people whose bellies were like houses. They were full of snakes which could be seen from outside their bellies. I asked Gabriel who they were, and he told me that they were the people who had practiced Riba.” [Ahmad, Ibn Majah]

V. Wrongfully consuming the property of an orphan

“Lo! Those who devour the wealth of orphans wrongfully, they do but swallow fire into their bellies, and they will be exposed to burning flame.” [An-Nisa 4:10]

“Come not near the wealth of the orphan save with that which is better till he come to strength; and keep the covenant. Lo! of the covenant it will be asked.” [Al-Isra 17:34]

VI. Running away from the battlefield

Your honesty and loyalty are in question here. It will affect the people and the society at large.

“Whoso on that day turned his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he truly hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be  Hell, a hapless journey’s end.” [Al-Anfal 8:16]

VII. Accusing a pure, innocent woman of adultery

Accusing any woman of adultery is a serious matter; especially if she did not do it and she never ever imagine doing it.

“Lo! As for those who traduce virtuous, believing women (who are) careless, cursed are they in the world and the Hereafter. Theirs will be an awful doom.” [An-Nur 24:23]

To cover her sins is a chance for her to repent. When people do something wrong, they always try to hide, so you would never get to see them. In Islam, 4 witnesses who saw the act are required to accuse a woman of adultery. Bringing 4 people to witness that she had committed adultery is one of the ways to make it hard to simply accuse someone. It destroys the individual, and destroys families and communities.

“And those who accuse honorable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony – They indeed are evil-doers.” [An-Nur 24:4]