Allah (SWT) says in Surah An-Nisa # 31
If you avoid the major sins which you are forbidden to do, We shall expiate from you your (small) sins, and admit you to a Noble Entrance (Paradise).
It is clear from this verse that there are two kinds of sins, major and minor. It is also clear that the promise of Allah (SWT) is, if a person avoids major sins, Allah (SWT) will forgive his minor ones. We should bear in mind that it is a prerequisit to perform fard (our obligations) such as Salat, Zakat, and Fasting, consistently while avoiding major sins. Defaulting in these obligations is in itself a major sin. Hence, if a person performs fard and avoids major sins Allah (SWT) will forgive his minor sins.
What is Sin? What is a minor Sin? What is a major Sin?
Anything done against the will and command of Allah (SWT) is a sin. In this sense there is no minor sin or major sin. Abdulla bin Abbas said,
Any action against Islamic teaching is a major sin. Therefore if a minor sin is committed repeatedly, carelessly and boldly it will be constituted as a major sin. One scholar explains the effect of minor sins and major sins by the following example. He said consider the bite from a small scorpion versus a bite from a bigger scorpion. Consider the burning pain from a small flame compared to a pain from a larger flame of fire. All are very painful, however, the harm inflicted by the larger is much more traumatic. Similarly, both types of sins are harmful but the major sins are more damaging than minor sins. Mohammad bin Kaab Kurazi said, “The best form of worship of Allah (SWT)is to abstain from all sins. Allah (SWT) does not accept a person’s salat and other forms of worship if that person does not abstain from sin.” Similarly, Fadail bin Ayyadh said, “The more a sin is considered minor by a person, more that sin becomes major in the eyes of Allah (SWT).”
Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “When a believer commits a sin it appears as a dark spot on his heart. If he repents, the spot will disappear. If he does not repent the spot becomes larger and may cover the entire heart.” Allah (SWT) describes this in Quran: Surah Al-Mutaffifin # 14
A kind of rust is put on their hearts due to their bad deeds.
When the heart is fully covered with the rust, no guidance can penetrate into the heart and such people will not benefit from the reminders in the Quran. The Quran stresses this point again and again that the Quran is a reminder for those who are God conscious and open-hearted to consider the guidance.
Let us define major sin in the light of the guidance from the Quran and Sunnah. According to the scholars, any sin for which the Quran has fixed a punishment, or curse of Allah (SWT) is mentioned for it, or the warning of the hellfire is described, is considered a major sin. Hence, as mentioned earlier any minor sin committed consistently, carelessly and openly will become a major sin. Some one mentioned to Ibn Abbas (RU) that there are only seven major sins. Ibn Abbas (RU) replied that they are not seven. It is better to say seven hundred. Imam Ibn Hajjar Meccy (RU) has described a list of major sins along with a detailed explanation in his book, Kitabuzawager. He has listed four hundred and sixty eight major sins, considering only the major areas of disobedience against Allah(SWT).
How can a minor sin be forgiven? An example of the removal of minor sins is described in a Hadith. According to this Hadith when a person makes ablution, and washes various parts of one’s body, the sins pertaining to that particular part of the body are washed away just like dry leaves fall from a tree as the wind blows. For example, when we gargle during ablution the sins of our tongue are washed away. When we wash our feet, sins assisted by our feet are also washed away. When a person proceeds towards the Masjid after performing ablution, each step forward acts as a ransom for his minor sins. Major sins cannot be washed away through making ablution, nor by performing salat only. This washing away of major sins requires true repentance. Repentance consists of at least three elements. First of all a person must recognize and admit that he has committed this sin. Secondly, he should be determined not to repeat it. Thirdly, he should feel ashamed of his action and must sincerely ask for forgiveness. Therefore, if a person is performing salat and observing a fast and still involves himself in major sins, his major and minor sins will not be forgiven by Allah (SWT). Prophet Mohammad (SAS) mentioned major sins varying in number according to the time and situation. Therefore, scholars agree that no fixed number can be assigned to name all of the major sins. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said “Let me inform you of the three greatest sins. Making partners with Allah (SWT), disobeying your parents, and false witness.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Someone asked the Prophet (SAS) about the greatest sin. The prophet’s (SAS) reply was to make partners with Allah (SWT). Then he asked which is the next greatest sin. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) replied, “To kill a child, because you fear the responsibility to provide the child with food.” Then again he asked which is the next greatest sin? Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said: “To commit adultery with your neighbor’s wife.” Note that adultery itself is a major sin. It is mandatory for a believer to protect his neighbor’s family. Therefore, adultery with your neighbor’s wife is a double crime. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Prophet Mohammad (SAS) also said, “It is a major sin to curse one’s parents.” His companions humbly said, “It is very unlikely that a person will curse his own parents.” Prophet Mohammad (SAS) replied, “If you curse another person’s parents he will begin to curse your parents.” Therefore, to curse another’s parents is as if you are cursing your own parents. (Sahiheen)
Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said: “Making partners with Allah (SWT), killing others unjustly, misuse of an orphan’s wealth, to use interest income, to flee from the battlefield, to blame pious ladies, to disobey parents and to disrespect the House of Allah (SWT), these all are considered to be major sins.” (Bukhari)
Prophet Mohammad (SAS) also said: “If a person falsely accuses another with the intention to insult him, or to lose hope in the mercy of Allah (SWT) and to disobey the laws of inheritance are also major sins. According to another Hadith to combine two prayers without a valid religious reason is also a major sin. It is necessary for one to make salat at the prescribed time.
One time the Prophet (SAS) said, “That person is doomed” and he repeated this statement three times. Abu Zar(RU) humbly asked, “Who is that”? Prophet Mohammad (SAS) replied, “An arrogant person who wears his clothes so long that they touch the ground, the person who spends in the way of Allah (SWT) and reminds people of his favors, a person who is old and commits adultery, a person who holds an important position and is not truthful, a person who displays arrogance while Allah (SWT) has blessed him with children, or one who shows allegiance to an Imam with the intention for worldly gain.” (Muslim)
Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said: “The following people will not go to Paradise, one who consumes alcohol, one who disobeys his parents, one who disassociates himself from relatives without just cause, who reminds people of his favors, one who indulges in satanic activity to foretell the unseen and one who does not make an effort to prevent his family from engaging in immoral activities.” (Nasai and Masnad Ahmad)
Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said: “A person who backbites will not go to Paradise” (Sahiheen)
I pray to Allah (SWT) to forgive our minor and major sins, and enable us to follow the guidance of the Quran and the Hadith. Ameen.