Is it permissible to call a sinner an unbeliever?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Takfir: Attributing unbelief to a person and saying that he is an unbeliever (kafir).  

Unfortunately, some Muslims say other Muslims are unbelievers and accuse them of unbelief today. We will deal with the issue from A to Z in this work inshallah.

What underlies the issue is whether a person who commits a major sin becomes an unbeliever or not. According to Kharijites, a person who commits a major sin exits the religion of Islam and becomes an unbeliever. Thus, Kharijites say those who commit major sins are unbelievers.

According to Mutazila, which is the madhhab of Shiites in creed, a person who commits a major sin does not become an unbeliever but remains in a position between belief and unbelief. If he dies without repenting in that position, he will be a person of Hell. However, his penalty will be lighter than that of an unbeliever. Thus, Mutazila does not say that a person who commits a major sin is an unbeliever but says he is close to an unbeliever. 

Some people who call themselves Salafis state that those who do not judge by the decrees of Allah are unbelievers; they even regard those who are ruled by human-made laws as unbelievers. That is, according to them, both those who impose those laws/decrees and those who live under those laws/decrees are unbelievers.   

According to Ahl- as-Sunnah creed, our creed, deed is not a part of belief. Therefore, a person who commits a major sin does not become an unbeliever but a fasiq/sinner. If Allah wills, He will send such a person to Hell and then to Paradise. If He wills, He will send him to Paradise directly, without sending him to Hell.

In this work, we will prove that a person who commits a major sin does not become an unbeliever. We will also classify those who impose human-made decrees/laws and those who act according to them and show through evidences which ones become unbelievers.

Before starting to prove, we would like to state the following:

When we say, “Committing a major sin does not make a person an unbeliever”, we do not encourage committing sins. On the contrary, we say, “Flee from not only major sins but also minor sins as if fleeing from Satan. Sins attract Allah’s wrath, make man deserve His punishment and prevent His mercy.” We say similar things and try to prevent ourselves and our addressees from committing sins.

However, to say “a major sin makes a person an unbeliever” is a decree of fiqh. Our issue is nothing but to prove that this decree is wrong.

When we say, “Those who do not judge according to Allah’s decrees do not become unbelievers based on such and such conditions”, we do not say it because we like human-made laws. Praise be to Allah that we are people of shari’ah. We will sacrifice ourselves for the slightest decree of shari’ah. We want to live in a country where decrees of shari’ah are implemented. We also want those decrees to be dominant in the world. It is one thing to want it and it is another thing to say, “Those who live in a country where Allah’s decrees are not dominant become unbelievers.” The phrase “becomes an unbeliever” is a decree of fiqh. It is the duty of scholars to show that this decree is wrong. When we say, “they do not become unbelievers based on such and such conditions”, we do not say “We should be ruled by human-made laws.” We say, the decree “they become unbelievers” is wrong. It is not Allah’s decree.

We want you to understand very well what we explain. It is not taqwa to say, “A person who commits sins becomes an unbeliever.” It is not taqwa to say, “You live in a country where Allah’s laws are not dominant; therefore, you are an unbeliever.” There is a distance as much as the earth and the sky between a sinner and an unbeliever. An unbeliever cannot enter Paradise forever but a sinner will enter Paradise after he is burnt in Hell based on his sins.

Therefore, it is not very easy to call someone “unbeliever”. We cannot say, “You are an unbeliever” to anyone we wish. We will deal with the issue in detail in this work inshallah. We have introduced the issue; now we will deal with the first evidence of the issue.

According to the verses of the Quran, a person who commits a major sin does not become an unbeliever.

The First Evidence: If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel (fight), make peace between them.

The following is stated in verse 9 of the chapter of al-Hujurat:

وَاِنْ طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ If two parties among the believers اقْتَتَلُوا fall into a quarrel (fight) فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا make ye peace between them.

Let us pay attention to the meaning again:

“If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel (fight), make ye peace between them.”

Our question is as follows:

- Is it halal or haram for Muslims to fight each other?

It is definitely haram and a major sin. The Muslims who fight and kill each other commit a major sin.

Does committing that major sin make them exit the religion of Islam?

No. What is our evidence? The verse above. The verse states the following:

  وَاِنْ طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel (fight)... 

If their fighting and killing each other, that is, committing a major sin, made them unbelievers, Allah would not call them “believers”. Look at the verse: Allah calls those fight and kill their Muslim brothers “believers”. Who can call a person whom Allah calls “a believer” an unbeliever?

Now we address those who say, “He who commits a major sin becomes an unbeliever” as follows: You say committing a major sin makes a person an unbeliever. If committing a major sin makes a person exit the religion of Islam, why does Allah call those who commit a major sin by fighting each other “believers”? Why does He qualify those who kill each other as believers? If committing a major sin made a person an unbeliever, would Allah call them “believers”? Definitely not. Since He says they are believers, it means they are believers; committing a major sin does not make them unbelievers.

O those who call committer of sins unbelievers! Accept the decree of the verse above and give up calling those who commit sins unbelievers.

The Second Evidence: If any remission is made by the brother of the slain...

The following is stated in verse 178 of the chapter of al-Baqara for a Muslim who kills his believing brother and for whom retaliation or diyah (blood money) is necessary:

فَمَنْ عُفِيَ لَهُ But if any remission is made - that is, if the killer is forgiven - مِنْ أَخِيهِ شَيْءٌ by the brother of the slain - that is, if the guardian of the slain gives up some of the blood money فَاتِّبَاعٌ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ - for the one who forgives- then grant any reasonable demand وَأَدَاء إِلَيْهِ بِإِحْسَانٍ - for the killer - and compensate him with handsome gratitude.

We want to deal with the following part of the verse:

  فَمَنْ عُفِيَ لَهُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ شَيْءٌ But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain...

The guardian of the slain is mentioned by the phrase “the brother of” in the verse and it is stated that the guardian of the slain and the killer are brothers. Now we ask the following:

- What kind of brotherhood is it? What is the brotherhood between the guardian of the slain and the killer?

The brotherhood in question is not biological brotherhood because there is no biological brotherhood between the killer and the guardian of the slain. It is Islamic brotherhood. God Almighty uses the phrase “the brother of” in order to dissuade the guardian of the slain from retaliation and to lessen the blood money; thus, He stimulates the mercy of the guardian.   

Now we ask the following question:

- If committing a major sin made a person exit the religion of Islam, could the guardian of the slain and the killer be brothers?

If killing a Muslim, that is, committing such a major sin, made a person an unbeliever, would Allah say “his brother” for the guardian of the slain?

We know from the following statement of the Quran that the believers are but a single brotherhood:  إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ.

The continuation of that brotherhood between the killer and the guardian of the slain is an evidence showing that committing a major sin does not make a person an unbeliever. If committing a major sin made a person an unbeliever, a brotherhood between them would not be mentioned because an unbeliever and a believer can never be brothers.  

To sum up: Since Allah states that the guardian of the slain is the brother of the killer and since that brotherhood is Islamic brotherhood, the sin of killing a person does not make the killer an unbeliever and exit the religion of Islam. It proves that committing a major sin does not make a person an unbeliever.

The Third Evidence: Allah is full of grace to those who believe.

First, let us make an analysis:

Is it a sin to escape from war?

Yes, it is. It is a major sin. If committing a major sin made a person an unbeliever, those who escaped from war would become unbelievers and Allah would address them as “unbelievers”. If Allah does not call them “unbelievers” but believers, it proves that escaping from war does not make them unbelievers, which is an evidence that he who commits a major sin does not become an unbeliever.

Let us see what Allah says about those who escape from war in verse 153 of the chapter of Aal-i Imran:

إِذْ تُصْعِدُونَ Ye were climbing up the high ground وَلاَ تَلْوُونَ عَلَى أَحَدٍ without even casting a side glance at any one وَالرَّسُولُ يَدْعُوكُمْ فِي أُخْرَاكُمْ and the Messenger in your rear was calling you back.

The verse above was sent down about the Battle of Uhud. It mentions some Companions who escaped from war thinking the Prophet died. The Prophet (pbuh) called out to them so that they would not escape but they ran away and did not turn around to look at anyone.   

If committing a major sin made a person an unbeliever, those Companions who escaped from war would have become unbelievers because it is a major sin to escape form war.

Now we ask the following questions:

- What does Allah say about them?
- Does He say they are unbelievers or believers?

Allah states that He forgave them:

  وَاللَّهُ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ Allah is full of grace to those who believe.

You can see that Allah calls those who escaped from war “believers” and forgives them stating that He is full of grace to believers.

Allah calls those who escaped from war, who committed that major sin, “believers” but Salafis say, “they are unbelievers”. Do you know better than Allah? How can you call a person whom Allah calls a believer an unbeliever? Is it not enough as a sin to call a believer an unbeliever?  

Being an unbeliever is one thing and being a fasiq (sinner) is another. A person who commits a major sin is a fasiq, not an unbeliever. Our evidence is verse 152 of the chapter of Aal-i Imran.

The Fourth Evidence: O ye who believe! Turn to Allah with repentance.

Let us make an analysis:

- Who is called and wanted to repent?

A person who commits a sin is called to repent. A person without a sin is not called to repent. If committing a sin made a person an unbeliever, Allah would address those who committed sins as “unbelievers” when He wanted them to repent. If committing a sin does not make a person an unbeliever, Allah will address them as “believers”. Let us see how Allah addresses those whom He wants to repent:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا O ye who believe! تُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ Turn to Allah تَوْبَةً نَصُوحًا with sincere repentance. (at-Tahrim, 66/8)

 How does Allah address those who commit sins in the verse? He says, أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا O ye who believe! Look! Allah addresses those who commit sins as “believers” If committing a sin made a person an unbeliever, would Allah address those who committed sins as “believers”? Definitely not. Since He addresses them as believers, committer of a major sin is a believer. The sin he has committed does not make him exit the religion of Islam and an unbeliever.

Allah addresses His slaves as “believers” not only in the verse above but in all verses in which He wants the committers of sins to repent. All those verses prove that committers of sins are believers and that they do not exit the religion of Islam.

We should state the following here: We do not deal with the issue in order to encourage people to commit sins. We do not say, “Since committing sins does not make a person exit the religion of Islam, let us hurry to sin together.” We state the following as we have mentioned above:

“Flee from sins as if fleeing from snakes and Satan. Sins attract Allah’s wrath, and deprive man of His mercy; they cause a person to go to Hell and cause many other evils.”

However, they are different from saying that a person who commits sins is an unbeliever. In this work, we analyze a decree of fiqh. That decree of fiqh is that a person who commits sins does not become an unbeliever. We defend that decree against the mentality of Mutazilites, Kharijites and Salafis. Do not become encouraged to commit sins from our explanations. What we mean is different.

We make those explanations against Kharijites, Mutazilites and Salafis who say, “A person who commits a major sin becomes an unbeliever.” Our aim is to prove that committing a major sin does not make a person exit the religion of Islam and that deed is not a part of belief. We make those explanations with that purpose. Never reach the following conclusion from our explanations: “Since we do not exit belief, let us commit sins as we wish.” The topic of this lesson is not the value of righteous deeds; therefore, we do not explain it here. If this work were about the value of righteous deeds, we would say different things. The value of righteous deeds is one thing and a person without righteous deeds becoming an unbeliever is another. We should not forget that difference.

The Fifth Evidence: Allah forgives anyone He wishes except for a person who joins other gods with Him.

Let us make an analysis now:

We know that any sin can be forgiven through repentance. Even if that sin is polytheism (shirk) and unbelief, it can be forgiven through sincere repentance. If a person repents of unbelief and becomes a believer, all of his previous sins are forgiven. If a person repents, his other major sins are also forgiven. Thus, it means the door of repentance is open for all sins that are repented whether they are major sins or unbelief.

Now we ask the following question:

- Does God Almighty forgive the sin of unbelief without repentance?

We know based on the verses of the Quran that He does not forgive unbelief and polytheism without repentance. What is more, if an unbeliever repents at the last breath, his repentance is not accepted. As a matter of fact, Pharaoh repented at the last breath but his repentance was not accepted.

Now we want to list what we have mentioned so far and want to ask a question:

1. The sin of unbelief can be forgiven through repentance.

2. The other major sins can be forgiven through repentance.

3. If an unbeliever dies without repenting, the sin of unbelief is not forgiven; it will condemn a person to eternal Hell.  

Now we ask the following:

- Can the major sins outside of unbelief be forgiven without repentance?

For instance, if a person drinks alcohol and dies before repenting of that sin, will Allah forgive that sin or not?

The answer to that person is very important because if major sins can be forgiven without repentance, major sins will not make a person an unbeliever. If a person who committed a major sin became an unbeliever, his forgiveness would be impossible. The possibility of forgiveness shows that a major sin is different from unbelief and that it will not make a person an unbeliever.

Let us see what the Quran says regarding the issue:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ Indeed, Allah لاَ يَغْفِرُ forgiveth not - What does He not forgive? - أَنْ يُشْرَكَ بِهِ joining other gods with Him

-If a person repents of the sin of polytheism (joining other gods with Allah) before death, Allah forgives him. It is stated in dozens of verses. It means the polytheism mentioned in the verse is the polytheism of a person who dies as a polytheist. Allah does not forgive a person who dies as a polytheist. If the sins other than polytheism are not repented, can they be forgiven? The verse states the following: وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذلِكَ لِمَنْ يَشَاء But He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this (an-Nisa, 4/116)

Look! The verse states the following: Allah does not forgive joining other gods with Him; He forgives the sins of a person He wishes other than that. The verse above is related to the sins that are not repented because even polytheism and unbelief can be forgiven when they are repented. In that case, the meaning of the verse is as follows:

Indeed, Allah does not forgive joining other gods with Him unless repented. As for the sins other than polytheism, He forgives the major sins of any person He wishes even if he does not repent.  

The verse above is an evidence that committing a major sin does not make a person an unbeliever. If a major sin made a person an unbeliever, Allah would not forgive the committer of major sins just as He would not forgive unbelievers. However, it is stated in the verse that He forgives any slave He wishes without repentance. It means a major sin does not make a person an unbeliever and does not make him exit the religion of Islam.

The Sixth Evidence: We have indeed believed; forgive us.

The following is stated in verse 16 of the chapter of Aal-i Imran:

اَلَّذِينَ (Namely), those يَقُولُونَ who say رَبَّنَا إِنَّنَا آمَنَّا Our Lord! We have indeed believed فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا forgive us, then, our sins, وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ and save us from the agony of the Fire    

As the verse above states, believing slaves say, “We have believed; forgive us.” That is, they want forgiveness due to their belief; they do not mention righteous deeds. That statement proves that only belief can be a means of forgiveness by Allah and that only through belief can a slave attain Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. It proves that belief is different from deeds and that a person who does not do righteous deeds is also a believer.

If righteous deeds were definitely necessary for Allah’s forgiveness, the verse above would be as follows:

We have believed; we have done righteous deeds; we have not committed major sins; forgive us.

Yes, the verse would be like that but it is not so; the request for forgiveness is attributed to belief only. It proves that a person without righteous deeds is also a believer and that he can be forgiven.

Having no righteous deeds means not performing fard deeds and not avoiding major sins. That such a person can be forgiven thanks to belief proves that a person who commits a major sin is a believer and that his sin does not make him exit from belief. If his belief made him exit belief, his forgiveness would not be possible.

The Seventh Evidence: Those who believed and did not emigrate.

The following is stated in verse 72 of the chapter of al-Anfal:

  وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يُهَاجِرُوا As to those who believed and did not emigrate, مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ وَلاَيَتِهِمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ  حَتَّى يُهَاجِرُوا  ye owe no duty of protection to them until they emigrated وَإِنِ اسْتَنْصَرُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ but if they seek your aid in religion, it is your duty to help them.

When the verse above was sent down, migration from Makkah to Madinah was rendered fard. The obligation of migration was abrogated afterwards.  

 Let us look at the beginning of the verse again; what does the verse say? The verse states the following:

  وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يُهَاجِرُوا those who believed and did not emigrate...

We understand the following from the clause above:

There are some people. They did not fulfill the fard deed of migration. Although migration was fard, they did not go to Madinah by leaving Makkah; that is, they committed a sin and abandoned a fard deed.  

Did their abandoning that fard deed and committing that sin make them exit the religion of Islam? No. What is our evidence? The beginning of the verse. The verse states the following:

   وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يُهَاجِرُوا those who believed and did not emigrate...

Look! Allah qualifies those who did not fulfill the fard deed of migration as believers. If not migrating, that is, not fulfilling a fard, made a person an unbeliever, Allah would not call them “believers”. Since He calls them believers, they are believers; committing a major sin did not make them exit the religion of Islam. Along with migration, the same thing holds true for other sins.

It is one thing for a deed to be a sin and to necessitate punishment and it is another thing for a deed to make a person exit the religion of Islam. A sin is definitely something bad and leads a person to penalty but it does not make a person an unbeliever. It is one thing to lead a person to penalty and it is another thing to make a person an unbeliever. Verse 72 of the chapter of   al-Anfal is an evidence that a sin does not make a person an unbeliever.

The Eighth Evidence: Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness...

First, we will make an analysis:

- Are belief and deed a whole or are they different things?

The answer to that question is very important because if belief and deed are a whole, when a person abandons deeds, he abandons belief too. Accordingly, a person who commits a sin abandons belief. Otherwise, if belief and deed are different things, abandoning deeds does not necessitate exiting belief. In that case, the person who commits a major sin does not become an unbeliever.

To enable you to understand it better, let me put it this way: Belief is a whole. Our scholars express it as follows: “It is a whole that is impossible to divide.” That is, it is a whole that cannot be divided into parts. Therefore, if a person believes in all realities of belief but denies only one, he exits belief because belief is a whole. He who denies one part of it is as if he has denied the whole.

If deed is a part of belief, he who abandons a deed exits belief. If it is not a part of belief, he who abandons a deed does not exit belief because deed is not included in belief; therefore, he who abandons it does not exit belief.  

Kharijites, Mutazilites and some Salafis regard deed as a part of belief and say, “Belief and deed are a whole.” As a result of that wrong creed, they accuse a person who abandons deeds of exiting belief. However, according to Ahl as-Sunnah creed, deed is not a part of belief. Deed is one thing and belief is another. Since deed is not a part of belief, abandoning deeds does not lead to abandoning belief.   

In that case, if it is proved that belief and deed are different things, it will also be proved that abandoning deeds, that is, committing sins, will not cause a person to exit belief. We will do it now; we will prove that deed is different from belief.  

Our evidence is the phrase اَلَّذينَ اٰمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness...  mentioned in dozens of places in the Quran. The letter “waw” (and) mentioned in the verse is a letter of atf (conjunction). The letter of conjunction shows that what comes before it is different from what comes after it. When we say Ali and Ahmad came, we understand that Ahmad is a different person from Ali. Ali is different and Ahmad is different. What shows that difference is the conjunction “and”.

Likewise, when we say, اَلَّذينَ اٰمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness..., we understand that belief is different from deeds of righteousness. If belief and deeds were the same, the conjunction “waw” would not be used between them; only “those who believe” would be enough. However, it is not used like that. The following is stated: Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness... That phrase proves that deeds are different from belief and deeds are not a part of belief.

Besides, God Almighty always mentions belief together with deeds of righteousness. If deeds of righteousness were part of belief, it would be a repetition. Repetition is not nice in eloquence. The Quran was sent down in eloquence.

As a result of those analyses, we state the following:

Committing a sin is definitely something bad; it makes the one who commits it deserve punishment but does not make him exit belief. However, abandoning deeds can make a person exit belief only if deeds are part of belief. We have proved with the verse above that deeds are not a part of belief.

The Ninth Evidence: And when the people of taqwa do something to be ashamed of, they earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins.

God Almighty states in verse 135 of the chapter of Aal-i Imran that Paradise was prepared for the people of taqwa and mentions the characteristics of the people of taqwa. He states the following as the fourth characteristic of the people of taqwa:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا فَعَلُوا فَاحِشَةً When they do something to be ashamed of أَوْ ظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ or wrong their own souls ذَكَرُوا اللَّهَ earnestly bring Allah to mind فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا لِذُنُوبِهِمْ and ask for forgiveness for their sins وَمَنْ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ and who can forgive sins except Allah?  وَلَمْ يُصِرُّوا عَلَى مَا فَعَلُوا وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ and are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in (the wrong) they have done.  

When Allah describe the people of taqwa in the verse above, He does not say, “they do not commit sins.” He says, “When they do something to be ashamed of, they earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins.”

The people of taqwa, who are the most approved believers, are those who are at the highest level. However, they can also commit sins. It means not committing sins is something that human beings cannot attain – except for prophets and exceptional people. People of taqwa sometimes commit sins and wrong their souls.

If committing sins made a person exit belief and become an unbeliever, there would be no believers in the world; everybody would be unbelievers. In that case, God Almighty would praise the people of taqwa for being unbelievers rarely. The meaning of the verse would be as follows:

When the people of taqwa do something to be ashamed of and become unbelievers, they earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask for forgiveness for their sins. They do not insist on unbelief. They sometimes become unbelievers; then, they become believers again.  

The meaning of the verse would be like that. Is it possible for Allah to praise the people of taqwa for becoming unbelievers from time to time? If you say, “He who commits a major sin becomes an unbeliever”, you will have to say, “Yes, it is possible; Allah praises them for becoming unbelievers from time to time.” It is definitely wrong. Let alone people of taqwa, no believer is praised for becoming an unbeliever from time to time. It proves that committing sins does not make a person an unbeliever. Even people of taqwa commit sins.

The Tenth Evidence: O you who believe!

The following is stated in verse 29 of the chapter of al-Anfal:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا O ye who believe! نْ تَتَّقُوا اللَّهَ If ye fear Allah يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ فُرْقَانًا  He will grant you a criterion (to judge between right and wrong)  وَيُكَفِّرْ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ  remove from you (all) evil (that may afflict) you, and forgive you.

In the verse above, Allah addresses His believing slaves as follows: “O ye who believe!” He states that He will remove them from all evil and that He will forgive them if they fear Allah (have taqwa).

Let us make an analysis now:

The first question: Are the people whom Allah addresses not believers?

They are definitely believers. Its evidence is the fact that Allah addresses them as follows: “O ye who believe!” If they were not believers, they would not be addressed like that.

The second question: Do those believers have sins.  

They definitely do because Allah promises them to forgive their sins. Sins are necessary first for forgiveness to occur. There will be no forgiveness without sins. That Allah says to them, “I will remove you from all evil and forgive you” proves that those people committed sins before. They may have been minor sins or sometimes major sins due to being humans.

Look! God Almighty addresses the people who have committed sins as “O ye who believe!” Thus, He states that they are believers. That address by Allah proves that committing sins does not make a person exit belief. If committing sins made a person exit belief, Allah would not address them as “O ye who believe!” Since He addresses them like that, they are believers; their sins do not make them exit belief and become unbelievers. Their minor sins and rarely committed major sins will inshallah be forgiven by Allah due to their taqwa.

The Eleventh Evidence: O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls.

The following is stated in verse 53 of the chapter of az-Zumar:

قُلْ Say: يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! لاَ تَقْنَطُوا مِنْ رَحْمَةِ اللَّهِ Despair not of the Mercy of Allah. إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا For Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

The verse above was sent down about the sinful believers. Some of the evidences showing that it was sent down about believers are as follows:  

1. The word عِبَاد meaning “slaves” in the verse is always used for believers in the Quran. For instance, the following is stated in the chapter of al-Furqan:   

  وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility. (al-Furqan, 25/63)

 The following is stated in the chapter of al-Insan:

  عَيْنًا يَشْرَبُ بِهَا عِبَادُ اللَّهِ A Fountain where the Devotees of Allah do drink, making it flow in unstinted abundance. (al-Insan, 76/6)

The word “ibad” in the verses above and other verses of the Quran is used for believers. Therefore, believers are meant by the word “ibad” in the verse that we have shown as an evidence above.

2. The suffix “ye” (my) is added to the word عِبَاد in the verse and the word is in the form of عِبَادِي.  عِبَادِي means “My slaves” The phrase “My slaves” expresses value and honor. That value and honor belong to only believing slaves in the eye of Allah. For, Allah states the following about unbelievers:

 أُولَئِكَ كَالأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ They are like cattle,- nay more misguided. Thus, the word عِبَادِي meaning “My slaves” in the verse expresses honor and value, which are valid for believers.  

3. A believer is a person who accepts that he is a slave of Allah. Unbelievers reject that slavery. Therefore, the phrase “My slaves” is more appropriate for believers. 

4. God Almighty states in the verse that He will forgive all sins, which is impossible for unbelievers. Allah states in many verses that He will not forgive unbelievers. In that case, the verse in question mentions believers.

5. In the verse in question, Allah Almighty states that He will treat His slaves with His names Ghafur (Oft-Forgiving) and Rahim (Most Merciful). He treats only believers with those names. He will treat unbelievers with His names such as Aziz (Mighty), Jabbar (Compelling) and Muntaqim (Avenger). It proves that the verse in question was sent down about believers.

There are other evidences showing that it was sent down about believers but we regard the evidences above as sufficient.  

Now we ask the following question:

The following is stated in the verse: يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ   O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls!... We have proved that the slaves mentioned in the verse are believers. What does believers’ transgressing against their souls mean? Does anything other than committing sins come to your mind? Probably not. Transgressing against their souls means committing sins and disobeying Allah.

God Almighty includes those slaves who have transgressed against their souls in the group of believers and addresses them as follows: Despair not of the Mercy of Allah. The statement “Despair not of the Mercy of Allah” prohibits His slaves from despairing of the mercy of Allah. It means a command to hope and expect generosity from Him. Since Allah orders them to hope and expect generosity, it fits Allah to treat them generously. It means, He will forgive their sins.    

Besides, Allah states at the end of the verse that He is Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful and that He will forgive all sins. It proves that a believer who commits sins does not exit the religion of Islam and does not become an unbeliever. If he became an unbeliever, his forgiveness would not be possible. Allah states in dozens of verses that He will not forgive unbelievers. He states in the verse in question that He will forgive the sins of believers. That statement proves that a believer does not exit belief and does not become an unbeliever due to his sins.

The Twelfth Evidence: O ye who believe! what is the matter with you that ye cling heavily to the earth?

 The following is stated in verse 38 of the chapter of at-Tawba:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا O ye who believe! مَا لَكُمْ What is the matter with you, thatإِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمُ انْفِرُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allahاثَّاقَلْتُمْ إِلَى الأَرْضِ ye cling heavily to the earth? أَرَضِيتُمْ بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا مِنَ الآخِرَةِ Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? فَمَا مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا فِي الآخِرَةِ إِلاَّ قَلِيلٌ But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter.

According to the statement of Ibn Abbas, the verse above was sent down about the Battle of Tabuk. When the Prophet (pbuh) returned from Taif, the Muslims were ordered to fight against the Byzantines. It was the hottest time of the year then. The fruits in Madinah had ripened and it was time to harvest. The place to go was very far away and it was necessary to make more preparations compared to other wars. The Byzantine army was very big. Therefore, some Companions regarded fighting against the Byzantines as something very difficult and they did not want to take part in the expedition. Some of them did not join the army.

God Almighty addressed those who did not want to take part in the war and who did not obey the command of the Prophet (pbuh) to “make jihad!” as “O ye who believe!”

Let us make an analysis:

The first question: Are those people whom Allah addresses not believers?

They are definitely believers. Its evidence is the fact that Allah addresses them as follows: “O ye who believe!” If they were not believers, they would not be addressed like that.

The second question: Was jihad fard for them?    

It was definitely fard because if it were not fard, they would not be reprimanded like that. And their deed would not be expressed as “clinging heavily to the earth”.

Look! God Almighty addresses those who did not obey the command of the Prophet (pbuh) to “make jihad!” and who abandoned fard jihad as “O ye who believe!” Thus, he approves that they are believers.  

That address by Allah proves that abandoning a fard deed and committing a sin do not make a person exit belief. If committing sins made a person exit belief, those people who did not obey the Prophet (pbuh) would become unbelievers. Allah would not address them as “O ye who believe!” Since He addresses them like that, they are believers; abandoning a fard deed does not make them exit belief and become unbelievers. It proves that committing major sins and abandoning a fard deed do not make a person exit belief.

However, we should remind you the following again:

Do not underestimate sins acting upon our explanations. Sins and abandoning fards lead to bad results. They might not make a person an unbeliever but they can attract Allah’s wrath and cause man to go to Hell and deprive him of Allah’s mercy. They cause many other evils. Since our topic is not the badness of sins, we will not deal with it now. Do not forget this point!

We have proved so far through evidences that committing major sins does not make a person an unbeliever. In fact, there are more evidences that we can show. However, since we have proved the issue with 12 strong evidences, we do not want to lengthen the evidence part.  

In the remaining part of our work, we will answer the statements of those who accuse the committers of major sins as unbelievers.

Answers to the evidences of those who call sinners unbelievers

First: Those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed are unbelievers.

Their first statement that we will answer is as follows:

They say, ‘The following is stated in verse 44 of the chapter of al-Maida:

وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, أُولئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ they are (no better than) Unbelievers.   

- It is stated in the verse above that those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed are unbelievers. A person who commits a major sin does not judge by what Allah has revealed. Therefore, he is an unbeliever.  

That is what they say: A person who commits a major sin does not judge by what Allah has revealed. Therefore, he is an unbeliever.

Now we will prove how wrong their statement is. We want to ask you some questions regarding the issue:

- With what organ do we see? With the eye. Man does not see with his hand or ear but with his eye.

- With what organ do we hear? With the ear. Man does not hear with his eye or nose but with his ear.

- With what organ do we smell? With the nose. Man does not smell with his hand or ear but with his nose.

- With what organ do we taste? With the tongue. Man does not taste with his eye or ear but with his tongue.

- With what organ do we touch? With the hand. Man touches with his hand.

Now we ask the most important one:

- With what organ or faculty do we judge? With what organ does man judge? With the heart. Man judges with his heart; it is called approving.

Accordingly, the meaning of “He who does not judge by what Allah has revealed...” is “He who does not approve with his heart what Allah has revealed...” He who does not approve with his heart that what Allah has revealed is true is an unbeliever. There is no doubt about it.  

What happens if a person approves something but does not act according to it? Suppose that a person decreed with his heart, that is, approved, that drinking alcohol was haram but drank alcohol. What is the position of such a person?  

That person decreed/judged with what Allah revealed but he did not act accordingly. Decreeing is one thing and acting according to that decree is another. He is a believer since he accepts that alcohol is haram but he is a fasiq and sinner since he does not act accordingly.  

If the statement “He who does not act according to what Allah has revealed...” were used in the verse instead of “He who does not judge by what Allah has revealed...”, we would decree that the committer of major sins would be an unbeliever. However, Allah does not say “does not act” but “does not judge”.

That is the point that those who regard committers of sins as unbelievers do not understand; they do not understand the difference between “to judge” and “to act”; they think not to judge means not to act. However, to judge is related to the heart and it is called approval.

Let us ask the question differently:

- Suppose that a person does not drink alcohol but he does not accept that alcohol is haram; is such a person a believer?

No, he is not a believer. For, he acts according to what Allah has revealed but he does not judge by what Allah has revealed. He is an unbeliever because he does not approve that drinking alcohol is haram even if he does not drink alcohol at all.

Thus, if a person denies even only one decree of Allah, he becomes an unbeliever since he does not judge by what Allah has revealed. He is an unbeliever even if he accepts all of Allah’s other decrees. If he approves that decree but he does not act accordingly, he is regarded to have judged by what Allah has revealed but he has not acted according to that decree. He who does not judge by what Allah has revealed becomes an unbeliever but he who does not act according to what Allah has revealed becomes a fasiq and a sinner. It is one thing to become an unbeliever and another to become a sinner.  

Does a person who makes laws contrary to Allah’s decree become an unbeliever?  

Now let us deal with another issue:

- Does a person who makes laws contrary to Allah’s decree though Allah’s decrees exist become an unbeliever? For example, does a person who makes a law that drinking alcohol is legitimate though Allah says it is haram and that fornication is not a crime though Allah says it is haram become an unbeliever? That is, what is the position of those who makes laws that are contrary to the decrees of shari’ah?

Their position is as follows:

If they believe that the decrees that they impose are true and Allah’s decrees are wrong or invalid or if they disdain Allah’s decrees, they are unbelievers because they do not approve with the heart that Allah’s decrees are true. That lack of approval makes them unbelievers.

If those people accept that Allah’s decrees are true and that their decrees are wrong but they impose decrees that are contrary to shari’ah, they are believers. Since those people approve with the heart that Allah’s decrees are true, they are regarded to have judged by what Allah has revealed. However, they become fasiqs and sinners since they impose laws that are contrary to those decrees.

We should add the following:

When we say, “That person does not become an unbeliever; he is a believer”, we mean “He is treated as a believer in terms of worldly laws.” That is, his marriage is not invalidated; the meat of the animal he slaughters is permissible to eat; his worship is valid. We mean the laws that are valid for a believer are valid for him.

However, we cannot know whether such people can maintain their belief at the last breath. Nevertheless, we can say that it is very difficult. It is one thing to be treated as a believer in the world and it is another thing to maintain belief at the last breath and to die as a believer. It is very difficult for those who spend their entire lives making decrees contrary to Allah’s decrees not to attract Allah’s wrath and to maintain belief at the last breath.

Let us have a look at the following issue:

What is the position of the people who live in the countries that are ruled by human-made laws?

There are two positions. If they accept Allah’s decrees but cannot change the human-made decrees due to their weakness and are ruled by those decrees, they are believers as long as they approve Allah’s decrees by their hearts. When Hz. Yusuf became the governor of Egypt, it was being ruled according to human-made decrees. That Hz. Yusuf judged by those decrees did not make him an unbeliever because he had no power to change those laws. When he attained enough power, he replaced them with Allah’s decrees. Similarly, we do not have the power to change the current human-made laws. We do not support them with our hearts; we like only Allah’s decrees. In that case, we are believers.

If the people living in a country that is ruled by human-made laws like those laws, despise Allah’s laws and think that those laws are outdated, they become unbelievers because they do not approve Allah’s laws by their hearts.

We can even state the following: If a person believes that all decrees of Allah are true and valid but denies only one decree, he becomes an unbeliever. That he approves all other decrees does not make him a believer.  

Second: If a person kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell.

We will answer the second statement of those who call believers committing major sins unbelievers.

 They say, the following is stated in verse 93 of the chapter of an-Nisa:

وَمَنْ يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُتَعَمِّدًا If a man kills a believer intentionally, فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ his recompense is Hell خَالِدًا فِيهَا to abide therein - in Hell - (for ever). وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ And the wrath وَلَعَنَهُ and the curse of Allah are upon him وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him.

- It is stated in the verse above that he who kills a believer intentionally will remain in Hell forever. Only unbelievers will remain in Hell forever. In that case, he who kills a believer intentionally will exit the religion of Islam and becomes an unbeliever. If he were not an unbeliever, he would not remain in Hell forever. That the murderer will remain in Hell forever is an evidence that he is an unbeliever. Since killing a person makes one an unbeliever, other major sins will also make him an unbeliever.

That is what they say. Let us explain the verse in question now: When we explain it, you will see that the issue is not like what they say at all.

First, let us have a look at the reason why that verse was revealed. The verse was sent down about a person called Miqyas:  

Miqyas and Hisham were two brothers and they became Muslims in Madinah. Once, Miqyas found the dead body of his brother Hisham among the tribe of Sons of Najjar. He went to the Prophet (pbuh) at once and told him about it. The Prophet sent a Companion called Zubayr to Sons of Najjar with the following message: “If you know the murderer of Hisham, surrender him to Miqyas. If you do not know him, pay diyah (blood money) for him.”

When Zubayr and Miqyas conveyed the message to the tribe of Sons of Najjar, they said, “By Allah, we do not know the murderer but we will pay diyah for your brother.” Then, they gave Miqyas one hundred camels as diyah. While Miqyas and Zubayr was returning to Madinah, Satan started to whisper Miqyas the following: “Why did you accept diyah for your brother; it is a shame for you. Kill Zubayr to take your revenge.”

Acting upon the delusion of Satan, Miqyas killed Zubayr, exited the religion of Islam and went to Makkah with the camels. Miqyas was killed on the day when Makkah was conquered; he was not given security.

The verse “If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell” was sent down about Miqyas. The reason he will stay in Hell forever is not because he killed Zubayr but because he exited the religion of Islam. The decree of the verse holds true for the unbelievers like Miqyas.

If someone objects to the explanation above by saying, “That the reason why the verse was sent down is specific does not prevent its decree from being general; though the verse was sent down about Miqyas, its decree is valid for all killers”, we will make the following explanations:

1. The decree of the verse may be about those who regard killing a believer halal (legitimate). The reason why they will remain in Hell forever is not due to murder but accepting haram as halal. He who accepts haram as halal becomes an unbeliever and remains in Hell forever.  

2. The decree of the verse may be about a person who kills a believer due to his belief. Killing a believer due to his belief makes a person an unbeliever. The reason why such a person will remain in Hell forever is not due to his murder but targeting that believer’s belief. He who targets a believer’s belief and disdains belief becomes an unbeliever and remains in Hell forever.  

3. The phrase خَالِدًا فِيهَا translated as “He is in Hell forever” does not always express eternity. “Khulud” means remaining in a place for a long time. As a matter of fact, Arabs call days “khawalid”. It is not because days will continue forever but because they will continue for a long time. If the word “khulud” in the verse were used together with the word “abadan (eternally)” in the form of خَالِدًا فِيهَا أَبَدًا, we would understand from that phrase that the murderer would remain in Hell forever. However, the word abadan is not used. It proves that a person who kills a believer intentionally will remain in Hell for a long time, not forever. Thus, it proves that a person who commits a major sin does not become an unbeliever. Even if we put aside the previous explanations, only this explanation will be enough to explain the issue.   

Why did Ibn Abbas say, ‘A person who kills someone will remain in Hell forever’?

The following question can be asked:

- If what you say is true, why did Ibn Abbas say, ‘A person who kills someone will remain in Hell forever’? Ibn Abbas is one of the Companions who understood the Quran best. Is his view regarding the issue wrong?

That question can be answered as follows:

Ibn Abbas uttered that statement as an exaggeration in order to prevent a person from killing someone. As a matter of fact, as it is stated in Qurtubi’s tafsir, Abu Malik al-Ashjai reported the following from Ibn Ubayda:

Once a man went to Ibn Abbas and asked, “Is the repentance of a person who kills a believer intentionally accepted?” Ibn Abbas said, “No. His abode will be Hell.” When the person who asked the question left, the people sitting with him asked, “O Ibn Abbas! Did you issue us a fatwa like that? You said previously that the repentance of the killer would be accepted.”

Thereupon, Ibn Abbas said, “I noticed that the man was very nervous and furious; I think he wants to kill a believer. Therefore, I issued that fatwa.” When they followed the man, they found out that he really wanted to kill a believer.

As it is seen, the statement of Ibn Abbas “The repentance of a person who kills a believer intentionally is not accepted” aimed to dissuade the man from committing a sin; it is not his real fatwa.   

As a matter of fact, Sufyan Ibn Uyayna states the following:

If a person has not killed a man, you can say to him, “Your repentance will not be accepted if you kill somebody.” However, if a person kills somebody, regrets after that and wants to repent, you can say to him, “Your repentance can be accepted.”

That is the view of all scholars with Ahl as-Sunnah creed. There are several verses of the Quran and hadiths regarding the issue. We quoted 12 of the verses in the previous parts.

Third: Those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrong.

We will answer the third statement of those who call believers committing major sins unbelievers.

 They say, the following is stated in verse 82 of the chapter of al-Anam:

اَلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إِيمَانَهُم بِظُلْمٍ It is those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrong أُولئكَ لَهُمُ الأَمْنُ that are (truly) in security وَهُمْ مُهْتَدُونَ for they are on (right) guidance

- It is stated in the verse above that those who do not confuse their beliefs with wrong are in security and on guidance. What is meant by “zulm (wrong)” in the verse is major sins. Since being in security is stated to be peculiar to those who do not confuse their beliefs with wrong, that is, those who do not commit major sins, those who confuse their beliefs with sins, that is, those who commit major sins are not in security and on guidance. It shows that they are not believers.

That is what they say. Let us explain the verse in question now: When we explain it, you will see that the issue is not like what they say at all.

Those who do not confuse their beliefs with wrong (zulm) are mentioned in the verse. The word zulm in the verse does not mean sin but polytheism (shirk), that is, associating partners with Allah. As a matter of fact, the following is stated in the chapter of Luqman:

  إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ Zulm (false worship) is indeed the highest wrong-doing. (Luqman, 31/13)

Look! Polytheism is called “zulm” in the verse above and it is stated that it is the highest wrong-doing (zulm). The meaning of the word “zulm” in the verse in question is polytheism and the meaning of the verse is as follows:

It is those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrong (polytheism) that are (truly) in security for they are on (right) guidance.

That is the meaning of the verse. 

The evidence of it is as follows:

The verse we explain in this part is verse 82 of the chapter of al-An’am. The verse is in the part where the story of Hz. Ibrahim is narrated. That story is related to rejecting polytheism throughout. Obedience and deeds of worship are not mentioned in that story; oneness and belief are mentioned. Therefore, it is necessary to interpret the word “zulm” in the verse as “polytheism”.

If they object to our explanation and say, “We interpret the word ‘zulm’ in the verse as major sin”, we will say, “Even if you interpret it as major sins, it cannot be concluded from the verse that a person who commits a major sin becomes an unbeliever. In that case, the verse is explained as follows:   

Allah threatens the sinful Muslims, or according to you, those who confuse not their beliefs with major sins, with fear and states that they are not in security. Lack of security does not necessitate eternal punishment. There are so many moments in the hereafter when even prophets will not be in security and will fear by saying “nafsi, nafsi (my soul, myself)”. The fear of sinners will continue much longer. The verse narrates that state.

Besides, there is no sign in the verse that the punishment will last forever. If Allah wishes, He will forgive the sinners after their fear; if He wishes, He will punish them based on their sins and then send them to Paradise. That is the explanation of the verse. The verse has no indication that a person who commits major sins will be an unbeliever.

Fourth: Those who seek gain in evil, and are girt round by their sins,- they are companions of the Fire.

We will answer the fourth statement of those who call believers committing sins unbelievers.

They say, the following is stated in verse 81 of the chapter of al-Baqara:

مَنْ كَسَبَ سَيِّئَةً Those who seek gain in evil وَأَحَاطَتْ بِهِ خَطِيئَتُهُ and are girt round by their sins فَأُولئكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ they are companions of the Fire هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ Therein shall they abide (For ever).

- It is stated in the verse above that those who commit sins and are surrounded by their sins will remain in Hell forever. Remaining in Hell forever is peculiar to unbelievers. In that case, the one who commits sins must be an unbeliever. If he were not an unbeliever, he would not remain in Hell forever.

That is what they say. That he who commits sins remains in Hell forever is evidence that he is an unbeliever.  

Let us explain the verse in question now: When we explain it, you will see that the issue is not like what they say at all.

The verse was sent down related to either unbelievers or believers.  

مَنْ كَسَبَ سَيِّئَةً Those who seek gain in sayyia: The word sayyia translated as “evil (sin)” means polytheism, not sin. In that case, the meaning of the statement in the verse is as follows: Those who commit the sin of polytheism and become polytheists. The part of the verse after it is as follows: وَأَحَاطَتْ بِهِ خَطِيئَتُهُ and are girt round by their sins; “Sins’ surrounding a person” becomes possible when a person has no approval of belief in his heart, no utterance of belief in his tongue and no deed of worship in his organs. If a person has approval of belief in his heart, utterance of belief in his tongue and deeds of worship in some of his organs, his sins cannot surround him.   

Thus, sins can surround a person only if he is an unbeliever. In that case, the meaning of the verse is as follows:

Those who seek gain in sayyia - that is, those who commit the sin of polytheism and become polytheists - and are girt round by their sins - that is, if sins surround them completely because of not having approval of belief in their hearts, utterance of belief in their tongues and deeds of worship in any of their organs- فَأُولئكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ   they are companions of the Fire هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ Therein shall they abide forever.

If it is accepted that the verse was sent down related to unbelievers, the meaning of the verse is as it is explained above: If it is accepted that the verse was sent down related to believers, the meaning of the verse is as follows:

مَنْ كَسَبَ سَيِّئَةً Those who seek gain in evil وَأَحَاطَتْ بِهِ خَطِيئَتُهُ and are girt round by their sins  - that is, if they keep committing many sins - فَأُولئكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ they are companions of the Fire هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ Therein shall they abide for a long time.

Look! When we supposed that the verse was sent down related to unbelievers, we translated the word خَالِدُونَ as “abide forever”. When we supposed that the verse was sent down related to believers, we translated the word خَالِدُونَ as “abide for a long time”. The reason for it is as follows:

The word خَالِدُونَ does not always express “abiding forever”; it also means “abiding for a long time”. As a matter of fact, “khulud”, which is the root of the word, means to remain somewhere for a long time. Arabs call days “khawalid”. It is not because days will continue forever but because they will continue for a long time.

If the word “khulud” in the verse were used together with the word “abadan” in the form of خَالِدًا فِيهَا أَبَدًا, we would understand from that phrase that the murderer would remain in Hell forever. However, the word “abadan” is not used. It proves that a person who kills a believer intentionally will remain in Hell for a long time, not forever.

Even if it is accepted that the verse in question was sent down related to believers, there is no indication in the verse that sinful believers will remain in Hell forever; there is an indication that they will remain there for a long time. Even if they remain in Hell for a long time, they will exit Hell one day. It proves that a person who commits sins does not become an unbeliever.  

Fifth: An adulterer, at the time he is committing illegal sexual intercourse, is not a believer.

We will answer the fifth statement of those who call believers committing sins unbelievers.

They say: It is stated in hadiths that those who commit major sins are not believers. For instance, the following is stated in a hadith:  

  لا يَزني الزَّاني حينَ يَزني وهوَ مؤمنٌ An adulterer, at the time he is committing illegal sexual intercourse, is not a believer. ولا يَسرقُ السارقُ حينَ يسرقُ وهوَ مؤمنٌ A thief, at the time of stealing, is not a believer.  ولا يشربُ الخمرَ حينَ يشربُها وهوَ مؤمنٌ A drinker, at the time of drinking an alcoholic drink, is not a believer.

- It is clearly stated in the hadith above that the committer of sins is not a believer. There is no need to say anything else regarding the issue.

That is what they say. Let us explain the meaning of the hadith above and refute their statement.

 The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

 لا عَيْشَ إلاَّ عَيْشُ الآخِرَة There is no life other than life in the hereafter.

Is it understood from the hadith that there is no life in the world? Well, there is life in the world. If we understand the hadith like that, how can we explain the existence of life in the world? When the Prophet (pbuh) says, “There is no life other than life in the hereafter”, he does not deny life in the world; he denies the perfection of life in the world; he states that real and perfect life is in the hereafter. That is, when compared to life in the hereafter, life in the world is as if it does not exist. That is what the Prophet (pbuh) states. It is one thing to say that something is non-existent and it is another to reject its perfection.

Similarly, the meaning of the statement, “An adulterer, at the time he is committing illegal sexual intercourse, is not a believer” is “He is not a believer in its real sense. His belief is not perfect. He is not a real believer.” The Prophet (pbuh) does not deny the belief of the adulterer; he denies the perfection of his belief. It is one thing to accept belief as non-existent and it is another thing to deny the perfection of belief. What is in question here is to reject the perfection of belief.

Let us give another example:

 لاَ عِلْمَ إِلاَّ مَا نُفِعَ Knowledge (ilm) is nothing but what is benefited from.

Let us ask a question now: Is knowledge that we do not benefit from not ilm? That is ilm too but it is not perfect ilm. Knowledge is one thing and perfect knowledge is another. To reject the perfection of something does not mean to reject that thing itself.

Similarly, “A drinker, at the time of drinking an alcoholic drink, is not a believer” does not mean “that person is an unbeliever”. It means “He is not a believer in the perfect sense. His belief is not perfect. He is not a real believer.”

The Prophet’s statement, “He who does such and such a thing is not of me” means “He is not a real member of my ummah. If he were a real member of my ummah, he would not do it.” It does not mean that he is an unbeliever.

For example, the Prophet (pbuh) says, “He who sleeps on a full stomach while his neighbor is hungry is not one of us.” It does not mean, “Anyone who sleeps on a full stomach while his neighbor becomes an unbeliever.” It means “That person is not a real believer like us; his belief is not perfect.”

We can give more examples. We use similar expressions every day. For instance, when a doctor misdiagnoses, you say about that doctor, “He is not a doctor.” With that statement, you do not mean, “He does not have a medical diploma or he has not studied medicine.” You mean that person is not a good doctor.

You can say the same the same thing for any professional who makes a mistake. You even say, “He is not a man” for a man who deceives you. With that statement, you do not mean he is not a human being. You mean he is not a perfect man. Yes, he is a man but not a perfect man.  

Similarly, the Prophet’s statements for a believer, “he is not a believer; he is not one of us” mean “he is not a good believer; he is not a real believer like us”. It does not mean that he is an unbeliever. It is one thing to regard something as non-existent and it is another to regard its perfection as non-existent. What is regarded as non-existent in the hadiths in question is perfect (real) belief, not belief itself.  

We hope the issue has been understood. We end our work here.

Praise be to our Lord that He enabled us to complete another work related to belief. In fact, there are many more things to say regarding the issue but the details may bore you. We do not enter into details so as not to bore you; we regard what we have explained so far as sufficient.

May Allah not separate us from the service of belief! May He make this work atonement for my sins, the sins of those who contributed to this work and those who benefit from this work sincerely! May He make us His slaves and members of the ummah of His beloved Prophet! Amin.

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