Hardship is an establishment of Allah’s proof

The Concept of Sin in Islam

We all are human beings and we all commit sins and make mistakes in our lives. As human beings sometimes we tend to lose the right path for a while. But if we turn to Allah by stopping making those mistakes then surely Allah will forgive us. We can say repentance is a sure path to forgiveness. After sinning, a person who fears Allah and gives high respect to Him would feel a sense of grief and misery. For these people Allah says:

إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللَّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِن قَرِيبٍ فَأُولَٰئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا

“Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn (to Allah) soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully), and Allah is ever Knowing, Wise.” (Surah Nisa, 4:17)

In Islam, sin is any act a person chooses to take that is in defiance of Allah’s law. Islam defines sin as an act that goes against the teachings of Allah. All human beings sin, as none of us is perfect. Islam teaches that Allah, Who created us and all of our imperfections, knows this about us and is All-Forgiving, Merciful, and Compassionate. In Islam, sin is any act a person chooses to take that is in defiance of Allah’s law. Allah says:

وَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ كَبِيرٍ

“If you turn away, then indeed I fear for you the punishment of a Great Day.” (Surah Hud 11:3)

Minor Sins in Islam

It is difficult to list all of the minor sins in Islam. The list should include anything which violates Allah’s guidance, which is not itself a Major sin. Minor sin is something you are ashamed of, which you would not want people to find out about. Some of the most common behaviours include:

  • Breaking a promise
  • Being suspicious or spying on others
  • Name-calling or bullying another person
  • Swearing and so on
  • Being immodest (flirting, watching obscene movies/TV, etc.)
  • Talking excessively about things that are not our business

قَالَ إِنِّي لِعَمَلِكُم مِّنَ الْقَالِينَ

“Verily, I am among those who find your deeds reprehensible.” (Surah Al-Shu’ara 26:168)

Major Sins in Islam

The major sins in Islam include the following behaviours:

  • Abandoning the battlefield during a time of war
  • Engaging in magic or fortune-telling
  • Stealing from an orphan’s estate
  • Consuming usury (interest)
  • Adultery or fornication
  • Bearing false witness
  • Murder
  • Theft
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Slandering chaste women
  • Disrespecting one’s parents
  • Associating others with God (shirk or polytheism) – This is the only sin which Allah considers unforgivable, as it violates the primary tenet of Islam which is the Unity of God.

إِن تَجْتَنِبُوا كَبَائِرَ مَا تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَنُدْخِلْكُم مُّدْخَلًا كَرِيمًا

“If you avoid the great sins which you are forbidden to do, We shall remit from your (small) sins, and admit you to a Noble Entrance (i.e. Paradise).” (Surah An-Nisa` 4:31)

Allah shows the Muslim the prayer for seeking His Guidance and avoiding His Wrath. The Mu’min is one who fully adheres to the Shari’ah and earns the pleasure of Allah, thus steering away from sin at all costs. One sees that there exists a distinct difference between sin and mistakes. One should distinguish between the two and be aware of what his or her niyyat (intention) is before proceeding with an action.

The gravest sins are forbidden by Islam, Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

  1. Great shirk, associating anything with Allah
  2. Cutting off the ties of relationships (Quran, 47: 22)
  3. Committing adultery or fornication (Quran, 17: 30)
  4. Being arrogant, boastful and vain (Quran, 16: 23)
  5. Withholding the Zakat (Charity) (Quran, 3: 180)
  6. Devouring the wealth of orphans (Quran, 4:10)
  7. Not performing the prayers (Quran, 19: 59)
  8. Disobeying one’s parents (Quran, 17: 23)
  9. Taking or paying interest (Quran, 2: 275)
  10. Giving false testimony (Quran, 25: 72)
  11. Committing murder: (Quran, 25: 68)
  12. Performing sorcery (Quran, 2: 102)
  13. Gambling (Quran, 5: 90)
  14. Stealing (Quran, 5: 38)
  15. Robbery (Quran, 5: 33)
  16. Committing suicide (Quran, 4: 29)
  17. Being a perpetual liar (Quran, 3: 61)
  18. Engaging in bribery (Quran, 2: 188)
  19. Committing oppression (Quran, 26: 277)
  20. Drinking alcoholic beverages (Quran, 5: 90)
  21. Ruling by laws other than the laws of Islam (Quran, 5: 44)
  22. Misappropriating something from the booty (Quran, 3: 161)
  23. Fleeing from jihad (battle in the cause of Allah) (Quran, 8: 16)
  24. Forging statements concerning Allah or forging Hadith (Quran, 39: 60)
  25. Consuming forbidden wealth or taking it by any means (Quran, 2: 188)
  26. Wrongdoing, deception or oppression on the part of the ruler (Quran, 26: 42)
  27. Slander against women (casting aspersions on their character) (Quran, 24: 23)

Sins are of three types:

  1. Against Allah.
  2. Against brotherhood.
  3. Against Humanity.

Making a habit of sinning brings a person further away from Allah, and causes them to lose faith. Love for people means we should treat other people the way we would love to be treated by them. They are acts about which Allah has not stated extreme anger, punishments, or warnings. Allah says:

وَلَا تُجَادِلْ عَنِ الَّذِينَ يَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ خَوَّانًا أَثِيمًا

“And (do) not argue for those who deceive themselves. Indeed, Allah (does) not love (the one) who is treacherous (and) sinful.” (Surah An-Nisa` 4:107)

Islam classifies sins according to the severity of their consequences on individuals and society.  A major sin in Islam is one that is directly warned against in the Quran, concerning a specific punishment either in this life or in the Hereafter. Allah says:

إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا فَأُولَٰئِكَ يُبَدِّلُ اللَّهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ حَسَنَاتٍ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا 

“Except for those who repent, have faith and good deeds, those Allah will change their sins for good deeds. Certainly, Allah is most forgiving and merciful.” (Surah Al-Furqan 25:70)

One of the gravest sins in Islam is the intentional taking of a life.  This is because Islam embodies a code of ethics, designed to protect the rights of an individual including his or her right to live in a secure community.

Consider these ways to control your sinful nature:

  1. Islam expects Muslims to realize their mistakes
  2. Allah is Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful
  3. Allah’s Forgiveness by doing repentance
  4. The Qur’an teaches that God is a Judge
  5. Do not ever hesitate to return to Allah
  6. Do not ever hesitate in repentance
  7. Always look to Allah for help
  8. Have faith in Allah Almighty
  9. Allah promises to forgive
  10. Know your enemy
  11. Spend time with Allah
  12. Avoid sinful situations
  13. Know the consequences
  14. Fill your mind with Allah
  15. Repentance is a dual approach 
  16. Repent immediately when you fail
  17. Stop the sin or mistake immediately
  18. Regretting deeply or truly for the sins
  19. Return to Allah (SWT) for forgiveness
  20. Make a strong intention not to go back to sin

In Islam, sinning doesn’t eternally separate a person from the Almighty. The Quran reassures us that Allah is prepared to forgive us. Allah teaches us in the Qur’an that the previous nations were destroyed due to their persistence in sins and their failure to heed the call of the Messengers to repent and amend their ways. Allah says:

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

Oh, my servants who have transgressed against their souls! Do not despair of Allah’s mercy. Indeed Allah forgives all sins, for Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah Az-Zumar 39:53)

One who recognizes that he or she is engaging in minor sins must vow to make lifestyle changes. They must recognize the problem, feel remorse, vow not to repeat the mistakes, and seek forgiveness from Allah. Believers who sincerely care about Allah and the hereafter must do their best to avoid both Major and Minor sins. Allah says:

الَّذِينَ يَجْتَنِبُونَ كَبَائِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَالْفَوَاحِشَ إِلَّا اللَّمَمَ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ وَاسِعُ الْمَغْفِرَةِ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِكُمْ إِذْ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَإِذْ أَنتُمْ أَجِنَّةٌ فِي بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ فَلَا تُزَكُّوا أَنفُسَكُمْ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِ اتَّقَىٰ

“Those who avoid the greatest sins and indecencies, except for oversights, (will find that) surely your Lord is ample in forgiveness.” (Surah Al-Najm 53:32)

The guardians and caretakers of orphans should use the property in their trust in a correct manner and only for the benefit of the orphan.  A caretaker should be very careful not to spend any of the orphan’s money on himself because this is a very serious offence.  Islam is concerned with fairness and justice and being responsible for the welfare of an orphan is a great responsibility not to be taken lightly. Allah says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ الْيَتَامَىٰ ظُلْمًا إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ نَارًا وَسَيَصْلَوْنَ سَعِيرًا

“Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire.  And they will be burned in a Blaze.” (Sura An-Nisa` 4:10)

Thus sins are termed as major or minor essentially because of their gravity or enormity in terms of their consequences or effects on individuals and society. Islam classifies sins according to the severity of their consequences on individuals and society.  A major sin in Islam is one that is directly warned against in the Quran, concerning a specific punishment either in this life or in the Hereafter. May Allah help us all to protect the purity of our hearts, and may He grant us forgiveness and mercy. Ameen.