Is it permissible to say that a person who commits a major sin becomes an unbeliever? Does a person who does not perform prayers become an unbeliever?

The Details of the Question

- Does committing haram deeds make a person an unbeliever?
- Does a person who commits major sins become an unbeliever?
- Does a person who does not perform prayers become an unbeliever?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We should say that those who boasts of the sins they commit and do not regret them are out of the scope of the answer to this question. Our real topic is those who believe but commit such sins and regret them.

Mutazila madhhab and some of Kharijites, which are outside Ahl as-Sunnah, say, “Those who commit major sins will be unbelievers or will be in a point between belief and unbelief.” They try to explain this decree as follows:

“A believer who commits a major sin becomes an unbeliever because it is not possible for a person who believes in God Almighty and Hell to commit a major sin. If a person who protects himself from illegal ways due to the fear of going to prison commits major sins without thinking of eternal penalty in Hell and the wrath of God Almighty, this shows his unbelief.”

This decree, which seems to be true at first, is a product of a wrong thought that does not know human nature. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi gives the answer to that question as follows in his work called Lem'alar:  

“...If the emotions dominate a person, they do not heed the reason and mind. Desires and delusions govern in him, and he prefers the slightest, most trivial present pleasure to huge reward in the future, and he shrinks from some minor present distress more than from some terrible postponed torment. For desire, illusions, and emotions do not see the future, indeed, they deny it. And if the soul assists them, the heart, which is the seat of belief, and the mind, fall silent and are defeated.

In which case, committing grievous sins does not arise from lack of belief, but from the defeat of the heart and mind by the predominant emotions, desires, and illusions."

Yes, as Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states, man’s nature has a feature that regards the unbelievable pleasures of Paradise very distant and pushes them into the background and that tends to the pleasures of sins, which are close to him. When a man goes to the nearest restaurant due to hunger and orders double doner kebab, he starts to eat bread on the table while waiting since it will take 10-15 minutes for doner kebab to be ready and fills half of his stomach with bread due to this feature in his nature. 

As Nursi also states, man fears a slap he is about to receive now more than the penalty of solitary confinement he will suffer a month later. That is, according to this feature, penalty in Hell is far away in his opinion and, besides, Allah is the forgiver.   

Due to those thoughts, man can tend to commit sins and fall into sins with the push of his soul - though he is a believer. Yes, committing major sins does not originate from lack of belief. However, if those sins are not eliminated by repentance, they may lead man to unbelief. Let us read what Nursi says regarding the issue:

“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...” (Lem'alar, İkinci Lem'a)

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