Concept of Sins in Islam


(part 1 of 3) Description:  These lessons will introduce the reader to sins, their types, severity, how forgiveness is attained for them, an...

(part 1 of 3)

Description: These lessons will introduce the reader to sins, their types, severity, how forgiveness is attained for them, and how they will affect a person in the life to come.
·       To learn the definition of sin and disbelief.
·       To learn the types of sins.
·       To learn some examples of disbelief.
·       To learn who is a disbeliever.
·       To learn 4 reasons that prevent a Muslim from becoming a disbeliever.
·       To learn if a person can return to Islam after leaving it.
Arabic Terms:
·       Imaan - faith, belief or conviction.
·       Kufr – disbelief.
·       Kafir – disbeliever.
·       Shahadah – Testimony of  Faith.
·       Shariah – Islamic Law.
·       Shirk – a word that implies ascribing partners to Allah, or ascribing divine attributes to other than Allah, or believing that the source of power, harm and blessings comes from another besides Allah.
·       Sunnah - The word Sunnah has several meanings depending on the area of study however the meaning is generally accepted to be, whatever was reported that the Prophet said, did, or approved.

Definition of Sin & its Types

ConceptofSin1.jpgA sin is defined as an act of disobedience in which a person leaves Allah’s command.  A sinner contradictsShariah by opposing a command of Allah given in the Quran or Sunnah.  Scholars describe a sin with the image of “stepping out” of divine obedience by doing what is forbidden or leaving what is required.  Islam teaches that man is not born in sin, rather he becomes sinful when he commits a sin. 
Sins can be categorized into:
a)    Kufr (disbelief): It takes a person outside of the fold of Islam and makes him a disbeliever.  Examples of this sin will be clarified below, but it should be clear that kufrwill take a person out of the fold of Islam when they are consciously aware of the nature and severity of the sin they are doing.  In essence, kufr constitutes completely “stepping out” of Islam and divine obedience.  A person who commits kufr is called a ‘disbeliever’ (Arabic: kafir) and he is no longer a Muslim.  If he dies in that state, he will enter into Hell and stay there forever (9:84; 24:55).  It should be noted that calling someone a kafir (disbeliever) is not to be done by the average individual; it is a ruling issued by Islamic scholars. If a Muslim sees another committing an act of kufr they are to give that person advice repetitively but the title ‘disbeliever’ should not be given to him.
It is important to note that despite stepping into disbelief, a person can re-enter Islam at any time before death.
b)   Major and minor sins: The one who commits major and minor sins does not lose all their faith and is within the fold of Islam (49:6; 2:282).  Such a person is a Muslim, but with damaged faith (Arabic: “imaan”).
The remaining lesson will explain disbelief.

Definition of Disbelief

“Disbelief” (Arabic: kufr) is defined as absence of faith (Arabic: imaan) by all Muslim scholars.  It does not matter whether the person speaks of it or holds it in the heart.[1]  In other words, ‘disbelief’ (Arabic: kufr) is any word, act, or belief that contradicts faith (Arabic:imaan).

Examples of Disbelief

1.     Committing shirk.
2.     Hating or cursing God and the Quran.
3.     Hating, cursing, abusing, or making fun of Prophet Muhammad even if a person is convinced of his truthfulness. 
4.     Saying Prophet Muhammad lied.
5.     Knowing the Prophet conveyed the truth, but rejecting to follow his teachings.
6.     Making fun of any teaching of Islam.
7.     Prostrating to an idol.
8.     Worshipping Prophet Muhammad the way Christians worship Jesus.

Who is a Disbeliever, a Kafir?

A disbeliever is a person who disbelieves in the message of Prophet Muhammad. It is one who has not uttered the two testimonies, lacks the correct Islamic faith (imaan), or holds a belief, says a word, or does an act of disbelief. 
There is an important point to be understood here.  If a person who becomes a Muslim by uttering the Testimony of Faith (shahadah) holds a belief, says, or does what is considered kufr, he may not necessarily become a disbeliever.  The reason is that after becoming a Muslim, there are certain obstacles that prevent a person from becoming akafir

Reasons That Prevent a Person from Becoming a Disbeliever

A Muslim might fall into disbelief, but not become a disbeliever due to one of the following reasons:[2]

1.     Ignorance

A convert, a Muslim who grew up in a remote area, or a Muslim who was raised in an irreligious environment may be ignorant of the basic beliefs, religious duties, and prohibitions of Islam.  Such a person may not know, for example, that Islam prohibits homosexuality or requires prayers five times a day.  These people may fall into disbelief, but will not become disbelievers because in the sight of Allah they may be excused due to their ignorance.

2.     Mistake

A person may miss the mark and do something he never intended.  He may simply make an unintentional, honest mistake.  For example, if a convert to Islam believes that consuming alcohol is only forbidden at prayer times. From a textual perspective, consuming alcohol, while believing it to be lawful, is an act of disbelief, but this person would not become a disbeliever because of the honest mistake he committed.

3.     Compulsion

A person may be forced to do or say what amounts to disbelief because of a direct threat to their life or limb or their loved ones.  In any such situation the heart should always be content with Islam, full of faith; thereafter, a person may say or do what is kufr (16:106).

4.     Misinterpretation

He may have some confusion and some misinterpretation that he adheres to, thinking that what he believes is actually part of Islam when it is not. 

Returning to Islam After Leaving It

A person who knowingly left the fold of Islam can become a Muslim again.  His ‘repentance’ is to re-enter Islam and he does so by repeating the Testimony of Faith (shahadah). 
If he left Islam for opposing an obligatory duty, then he must also acknowledge that duty.  Let us say he used to deny the obligation of the five daily prayers. When he re-enters Islam, he must acknowledge that these prayers are required, otherwise, his repentance would not be accepted. 

[1] Majmu Fatawa li Ibn Taimiyya, vol 20, p.  86
[2] Nawaqidh al-Imaan al-I’tiqadiyya wa Dhawabit al-Takfir ind as-Salaf by Dr.  Muhammad al-Wuhaibi, vol.  1 p.  225 - vol.2 p.  36

Concept of Sins in Islam (part 2 of 3)

Description: These lessons will introduce the reader to sins, their types, severity, how forgiveness is attained for them, and how they will affect a person in the life to come.
·       To learn the definition of major and minor sins.
·       To learn if and when major sins make a person a disbeliever.
·       To learn how major sins are forgiven.
·       To learn the fate of a person who dies with unforgiven major sins.
·       To learn the number of major sins.
·       To learn when minor sins turn into major sins.
Arabic Terms:
·       Kaba’ir (sing.  kabirah) – major sins.
·       Saghair (sing.  saghirah) – minor sins.
·       Shirk – a word that implies ascribing partners to Allah, or ascribing divine attributes to other than Allah, or believing that the source of power, harm and blessings comes from another besides Allah.
·       Sunnah - The word Sunnah has several meanings depending on the area of study however the meaning is generally accepted to be, whatever was reported that the Prophet said, did, or approved.
·       Tawbah – repentance.
·       Tawheed – The Oneness and Uniqueness of Allah with respect to His Lordship, His Names and Attributes and in His right to be worshipped.
ConceptofSin2.jpgWith respect to their severity, sins are categorized into major and minor sins.  Major sins are called kaba’ir(sing. kabirah) and are mentioned in Quran 4:131, 42:37, 53:32.  Minor sins, or saghair (sing. saghirah) are mentioned in Quran 18:49.  All deeds, including major and minor sins, are recorded and these records will be given to the individual on the Day of Judgment (Quran 18:49, 54:2-3).

Definition of Major Sins[1]

Any sin for which the Quran or Sunnah prescribes a punishment in this world such as for murder, adultery, and theft; or about which there is a threat of Allah’s anger and punishment in the Hereafter, as well as anything whose perpetrator has been cursed by our Prophet. 

Definition of a Minor Sin

A minor sin is every sin that does not have a prescribed punishment for this life or a threat attached to it in the Hereafter.

Do Major Sins Make a Person a Disbeliever?

Sins damage faith by reducing it.  A Muslim’s faith reduces in proportion to the amount of his sins.  Nevertheless, neither major, nor minor sins eradicate faith completely.  A sin does not turn a Muslim into a non-believer unless the person believes the sin to be permissible.  He might deem a sin permissible either because he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that Allah has forbidden it or he doubts the prophethood of Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him.  In either case, when a sin is tantamount to denying the Quran and rejecting Prophet Muhammad the doer of that sin steps into disbelief without even doing the sin.  For example, if a person insists that Allah has allowed fornication, while they know it is forbidden in the Quran, that person turns into an disbeliever. Otherwise, we do not consider people to become non-Muslims on account of a sin they commit. 
The proof that a person who commits a sin is considered Muslim is found in the Quran and Prophetic Traditions:
1.     The Quran says:
“Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with him in worship but He will forgive whoever He wishes for anything besides that.” (Quran 4:48)
2.     Whoever dies without committing shirk with Allah shall enter Paradise.[2]
3.     A person who believes in Tawheed will enter Paradise even if he fornicates and steals.[3]
There was an alcoholic in the time of the Prophet.  One time when he was punished, a Muslim cursed him.  The Prophet forbade that Muslim from cursing that Companion and he said: ‘Do not curse him, for by Allah, he loves Allah and His Messenger.’[4] Due to his belief in Allah and His Prophet, the major sin that he was doing did not wipe out all his faith.

How Are Major Sins Forgiven?

Major sin can be forgiven by the following ways:
a)    Through sincere repentance, which entails leaving the sin, having remorse for performing it, and resolving to never perform it again.  If the sin involves wrongdoing towards others, then in addition to the above, he must also restore their rights or property or seek their forgiveness.
When Allah sees this sincere repentance from one of His slaves – a slave who truly turns to his Lord in fear and hope – He not only forgives the sin, but replaces those sins for good deeds to the slave’s credit.  This is from Allah’s infinite grace and mercy.  Allah says this right after mentioning the sins of shirk, murder, and adultery, He says: “Except those who repent and believe, and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 25:70)  This blessing is only for one who has faith, whose repentance is sincere, and who strives to work righteous deeds.
b)   By Allah’s pure grace, generosity, and favor.  Allah may therefore forgive whomsoever He wills without that individual having actually repented.
c)    By the performance of certain acts, like Hajj, according to some scholars.

Fate of a Person Who Dies Committing Major Sins

A person who dies from an unrepented major sin is at Allah’s discretion in the Hereafter.  If Allah wants, He may punish him first according to his sins and then enter him into Paradise.  Allah may also simply forgive him and enter him into Paradise directly without any punishment.[5]

Examples of Major Sins

Some of the major sins of the heart are pride, hypocrisy, to despair of God’s mercy and feel secure from the divine plan, greed, and envy.
Some of the major sins of the tongue are lying, making false promises, speaking without knowledge, slandering chaste women, boasting, and ridiculing others.
Other major sins include racism (reviling other people’s race), bribery, disobeying parents, breaking ties with relatives, harming the neighbor, mistreating animals, taking drugs and alcoholic beverages, fornication, and stealing.

Relation Between Minor & Major Sins & Number of Major Sins

How many major sins are there?  They range from four to seven hundred.  A work on major sins by a famous scholar, Imam Adh-Dhahabi, lists 70.  Imam Haytami, another scholar, describes around 476 major sins.  The famous companion of Prophet Muhammad, Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said that major sins are “closer to 700 than they are to seven, except that no sin is ‘major’ when forgiveness is sought for it (that is when one undertakes proper repentance (tawbah)), just as no sin is ‘minor’ if one persists in it.”[6]
Minor sins can become major by:
·       Persistence and repetition.
·       Belittling the sin.
·       Celebrating the sin and taking pride in it.
·       Announcing the sin and telling it to others.

[1] Al-Kabair by al-Dhahabi tahqiq Muhi ud Din Mistu, p.  36
[2] Saheeh Muslim
[3] Saheeh Muslim
[4] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[5] Shar Aqeeda al-Wasitiyya, Khalil a-Harras, p.  190-192
[6] Mukhtasar Minhaj ul-Qasideen, p.  257

Concept of Sins in Islam (part 3 of 3)

Description: These lessons will introduce the reader to sins, their types, severity, how forgiveness is attained for them, and how they will affect a person in the life to come.
·       To learn the means by which sins are forgiven.
·       To learn about the unforgiveable sin.
Arabic Terms:
·       Hajj – A pilgrimage to Mecca where the pilgrim performs a set of rituals.   The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.
·       Kafir – disbeliever.
·       Laylat al-Qadr – a blessed night in the last ten days of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
·       Ramadan - The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.   It is the month in which the obligatory fasting has been prescribed.
·       Shirk – a word that implies ascribing partners to Allah, or ascribing divine attributes to other than Allah, or believing that the source of power, harm and blessings comes from another besides Allah.
·       Ummah - Refers to the whole Muslim community, irrespective of color, race, language or nationality.
The punishment for sin is lifted from a person by the following: 

1.  Repentance

ConceptofSin3.jpgRepentance has conditions which have been discussed earlier.  There is no repentance if those conditions are not met.  Meeting the conditions of repentance guarantees forgiveness.  Repentance guarantees forgiveness from major sins as well.  Allah says:
“Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing sins)! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, indeed, Allah forgives all sins.  Truly, He is Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful’” (Quran 39:53)
“And He it is Who accepts repentance from His slaves, and forgives sins” (Quran 42:25)

2.  Praying for forgiveness

Asking for forgiveness is not tied to strict conditions like repentance.  It is simply a prayer that Allah may or may not accept.  The Prophet said: “If a person commits a sin, then says, ‘O Lord, I have committed a sin so forgive me,’ He says, ‘My slave knows that he has a Lord Who may forgive sins or punish for it; I have forgiven My slave…’”[1] 

3.  Doing good deeds which wipe out sins

Allah says:
“Indeed, the good deeds remove the evil deeds.” (Quran 11:114)
·       Daily Prayers and Friday Prayer
“Each of the five daily prayers and from one Friday prayer to the next is an expiation for the time in between, so long as one does not commit any major sin.”[2] 
·       Ablution
“When a Muslim, or a believer, washes his face (in the course of ablution), every sin which he committed with his eyes, will be washed away from his face with water, or with the last drop of water; when he washes his hands, every sin which is committed by his hands will be effaced from his hands with the water, or with the last drop of water; and when he washes his feet, every sin his feet committed will be washed away with the water, or with the last drop of water; until he finally emerges cleansed of all his sins.”[3]
·       Fasting Ramadan
“Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.”[4]
“Whoever spends the night of Laylat al-Qadr in prayer out of faith and the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.”[5]
·       Hajj
“Whoever performs Pilgrimage to this House, and does not engage in sexual relations with his wife during it and does not engage in sinful behavior will go back free of sin like the day his mother gave birth to him.”[6]
Righteous deeds such as prayer, fasting, Hajj, etc only expiate for transgressions against the rights of Allah.  With regard to sins that have to do with the rights of other people, one has to repent from them.

4.  Prayers of fellow believers such as the funeral prayer

The Messenger of Allah said: “There is no Muslim man who dies, and forty men pray the funeral prayer for him, not associating anything with Allah, but Allah will accept their intercession for him.”[7]
Angels also pray for the believer:
“Those who bear the Throne, and those who are around it, glorify their Lord with His praise, and believe in Him.  They ask forgiveness for those who believe, saying, Our Lord, You embrace all things in mercy and knowledge.  Forgive those who turn to You and follow Your path.  Save them from the punishment of Hell.” (Quran 40:7)

5.  Intercession of the Prophet on the Day of Resurrection

The Prophet said:
“My intercession will be for those among my ummah who committed major sins.”[8]
And he said:
“I was given the choice between admitting half of my ummah to Paradise and intercession, and I chose intercession.”[9]

6.  Allah wipes out sins by calamities of this world

The Prophet said: “No tiredness, exhaustion, worry, grief, distress or harm befalls a believer in this world, not even a thorn that pricks him, but Allah expiates some of his sins thereby.”[10]

7.  The torment, squeezing, and terror of the grave will also expiate sins. 

8.  Undergoing the horrors, distress and hardship of the Day of Resurrection will expiate some sins.

9.  Mercy of the Most Merciful

By the mercy of Allah, with no cause on the part of His slaves, many will be forgiven.[11]

Unforgivable Sin

If a person dies as a kafir he will not be forgiven.  The Quran says:
“Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with him in worship, but He will forgive whoever He wishes for anything besides that.” (Quran 4:48)
“They have certainly disbelieved who say, ‘Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary’.  But the Messiah said, ‘O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ Verily, whosoever sets up partners in worship with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise for him, and the Fire will be his abode.  And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers.” (Quran 5:72)

[1] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
[2] Saheeh Muslim
[3] Saheeh Muslim
[4] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
[5] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[6] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[7] Saheeh Muslim
[8] Abu Dawud
[9] Sahih al-Jami
[10] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
[11] Saheeh Muslim



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Jama Masjid: Concept of Sins in Islam
Concept of Sins in Islam
Jama Masjid
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