Does it mean that a person has gone corrupt if he underestimates sins?

The Details of the Question

- From Anas Bin Malik, “You people do some deeds which seem in your eyes as thinner than hair while we regarded them as destructive sins during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh).” (Bukhari, Raqaiq, 32/6492)
- Is there a hadith like that? If yes, is it sound?
- What are those sins, which are underestimated?
- How many years after the death of the Prophet did Anas bin Malik utter that statement?
- How long did it take people to start to go corrupt?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

- The hadith can be translated as follows: Anas addressed some people as follows:

“You people do some bad deeds (commit sins) which seem in your eyes as thinner than hair while we regarded them as destructive sins during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh).” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 32)

- The hadith is sound.

- Anas died in the 93rd year of the Migration [83 years after the death of the Prophet (pbuh)] at the age of 103. In general, the period in which he uttered that statement was the period of Tabi'un.

- It would be a very wrong approach to try to understand from the hadith above that many sins began to be committed during the period of Tabi'un. What needs to be understood from that statement is that some people in that period, though very few, committed some minor sins, which were considered to be destructive when the Prophet (pbuh) was alive.

- Seven destructive sins, "as-Sab’ul-Mubiqat" are included in hadiths:

“Associating partners with Allah, practicing magic, killing a person unjustly, eating up interest, eating up the property of orphans, escaping from the battle, accusing honest women of unchastity.” (Bukhari, Wasaya, 23; Tibb, 48, Hudud, 44; Mıslim, Iman, 144)

It is understood from the expression of the hadith in the question that such major sins are not mentioned.

- Anas saw that some minor sins were committed recklessly by some people at that time – they underestimated them because they were minor sins - and he was disturbed; therefore, he warned them.

- It will be useful to understand the expression of the hadith in the light of some other hadith narrations as follows:

In general, if minor sins are committed persistently without repentance, this persistence makes those minor sins major sins. It is highly probable that when Anas said, “We regarded them as destructive sins during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh)” he wanted to state that “they thought that insisting on minor sins put those sins in the category of major sins at that time”.

That Bukhari used an expression meaning "avoiding minor sins" related to the title of this hadith also shows that the essence of the issue was minor sins.

According to what Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal narrated from with Sahl b. Sad with a "hasan" chain of narrators, the Prophet said,

“Never get involved in unimportant (seemingly minor) sins because the example of those insignificant, minor sins is like the wood gathered by a community that stopped for a while in a valley. One of them brought a small piece of wood and another brought another piece of wood, and finally they gathered enough wood to bake their bread (to make a fire). Minor sins are like that. If a person takes/commits them (or if he is called to account for them), those sins will destroy him.”.” (Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, 11/329)

In another narration, a statement meaning the following is reported from Abu Ayyub al-Ansari:

“A person trusts some of his good deeds and forgets his minor sins; and when he comes to the presence of Allah, he sees that sins surround him from all sides. On the other hand, another person always feels uneasy because of some of the sins he has committed and (due to this attitude, which is like a spiritual repentance,) he will enter the presence of Allah in a safe manner.” (see Ibn Hajar, 330)

There is another important hadith narration regarding the issue. That narration came as marfu in some ways, but its chain of narrators is considered weak. The narration that came from Ibn Abbas as mawquf (as his word) is sound and is as follows:

“A major sin that is treated with repentance and asking for forgiveness is no longer a major sin. A minor sin that is committed persistently (continuously) does not remain a minor sin; it grows.” (see Tabari,8/245; Ibn Abi Hatim,3/934; Suyuti, ad-Durrul-Mansur, 2/500; Bayhaqi, Shuabul-Iman, 5/456)

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