Do sins lead man to unbelief step by step?

Details of the Question

Will you prove with verses and hadiths that the sins that are ignored cause man to exit Islam step by step?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We should first state that the believers who commit major sins do become unbelievers. However, as you also state, sins that are ignored may cause the heart to harden and the light of belief to exit.  

Sin, penetrating to the heart, will blacken and darken it until it extinguishes the light of belief. Within each sin is a path leading to unbelief. Unless that sin is swiftly obliterated by seeking God’s pardon, it will grow from a worm into a snake that gnaws on the heart.

For example, a man who secretly commits a shameful sin will fear the disgrace that results if others become aware of it. Thus, the existence of angels and spirit beings will be hard for him to endure, and he will long to deny it, even on the strength of the slightest indication.” (Lem'alar, 9)

Similarly, the desire to deny Hell and even Allah can appear in a person due to the sins that he constantly commits. He can dare to deny with a slight sign.

“By no means! But on their hearts is the stain of the (ill) which they do.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83/14) As it is stated in the verse above, the stain on the heart caused by sins will harden so much that it will be impossible to clean them - unless the heart is cleaned by repentance and seeking forgiveness. (see ibid)

Thus, it becomes impossible for the realities of belief to give light into the heart and it also becomes impossible to extract the dirt caused by sins. After that, a way leading to unbelief will have been opened through sins.

- The hearts of unbelievers are sealed; similarly, the hearts of the believers who continue committing sins can be sealed. However, the hearts are sealed as a result of people’s preferring unbelief and disobedience to Allah by using their free will.

“(They have incurred divine displeasure): In that they broke their covenant; that they rejected the signs of Allah; that they slew the Messengers in defiance of right; that they said, "Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve Allah´s Word; We need no more)";- Nay, Allah hath set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy, and little is it they believe.” (an-Nisa, 4/155) The reason why the hearts of the deniers are sealed is stated clearly in the verse above.

- “When a slave commits sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents, gives up that sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished. However, if the sin increases, the black spot increases and starts to cover the whole heart in parallel with the sins that are committed. This issue is indicated in the following verse of the Quran: “By no means! But on their hearts is the stain of the (ill) which they do.” (al-Mutaffifin, 83/14) (see Muslim, Iman, 231; Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 75)

It is indicated in the hadith above that the way that leads believers to unbelief is insistence on sins.

- The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in another hadith:

“People must cease to neglect the Friday prayer or Allah will seal their hearts and then they will be among the negligent.” (Muslim, Jumua 40)

What is meant by “the negligent” in the hadith is that they fall into negligence/heedlessness so much that they cannot discriminate between the truth and the wrong. They will confuse the way of belief and unbelief. (see Subulus-Salam, 2/45)

However, the door of repentance is always open before death. We must not despair of the mercy of Allah. If a person repents and acts in accordance with his repentance, Allah will forgive his sins:

"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)

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