What are the major sins? What are the seven major sins? Fornication and polytheism (shirk) are major sins; are hidden shirk and fornication of the eyes also among major sins?

Details of the Question

What are the major sins? What are the seven major sins? Fornication and polytheism (shirk) are major sins; are hidden shirk and fornication of the eyes also among major sins?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"Kabira" which means major sin is a noun derived from kabr (kibar), which lexically means "become big materially or spiritually". Taking the common points in different definitions, we can define kabira (plural form kabair), which is used in the sense of major sin, as "a deed or act that is certain to have been forbidden by the religion and that necessitates worldly or otherworldly penalty". The other bad deeds are called saghira (minor sin).

It is generally accepted that a minor sin that is committed insistently is transformed into a major sin. It is stated in the Quran that a sin, which is generally expressed by the words dhanb, ithm, fisq and isyan, can be major or minor. According to the explanations in the relevant verses, minor sins are forgiven when major sins are avoided. (an-Nisa, 4/31) Those who believe in Allah and rely on Him avoid major sins and shamelessness. (ash-Shura, 42/36-37) It is also stated in some verses that the book of deeds to be given to people in the hereafter will include all of the sins whether minor or major. (al-Kahf, 18/49)

In the hadiths, major sins are expressed by words and phrases like "mubiqat (destructive deeds), kabair (major sins) and a'zamu'dh-dhunub (biggest sins)". In various narrations, the following deeds are mentioned among the primary major sins: Associating partners with Allah, killing a person, rebelling against one's parents, eating up the property of orphans, eating up interest, accusing honest women of unchastity, practicing magic, escaping the battle, perjury and dying with too much debt. (Musnad, 2/201, 214; 4/392; 5/413; Muslim, Iman, 143-146) It is also stated in hadiths that Hz. Prophet (pbuh) will intercede in the hereafter for the Muslims who committed major sins. (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 11)

The first most important disagreement among Muslims was the state of a Muslim who commits major sins. Two issues about this disagreement, which started to be discussed in the first ages of Islam, are seen to be in the foreground in the literature.   One of the issues is what deeds are regarded as major sins and the other is the religious status of a person who commits major sins. According to one of the views about determining major sins, all of the deeds that are contrary to divine orders are major sins. There are some scholars who say the number of major sins is seven hundred while others say the number is seventy. Ibn Hajar al-Haythami mentions four hundred and sixty-seven major sins. (az-Zawajir, 1/270-275; 2/265-27)

Kharijites are the first and primary people that regard all sins as major sins. However, it can be said that there are also some Sunni scholars like Ibn Hajar, who hold the same view. According to another view, any deed that is contrary to divine orders are included in the scope of major sins but some of them are regarded as minor sins compared to others. However, it is not possible to determine the numbers of the major sins and their properties since no sin can be regarded as a minor sin. Ashariyya scholars of the Mutaqaddimun (living previously) Era like Ashari, Baqillani, Ibn Furak , Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayni hold this view. (Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Zawajir, Beirut, 1408, 1/5)

According to the third view, the deeds which are definite to have been forbidden by the religion and about which worldly or otherworldly penalties are in question. Therefore, it is contrary to verses and hadiths to regard all sins as major sins.

Accordingly, along with the major sins mentioned above, the following deeds are also deeds that are forbidden in the Quran: abandoning visiting close relatives, talebearing, fornication or mediating for fornication, eating pork, not paying attention to cleanliness necessary for worshipping, stealing, drinking alcohol, committing perjury, giving up  hope of Allah's mercy, feeling sure that one will not be punished by Allah, violating an agreement. Kalam scholars of Mu'tazila and Maturidiyya and the majority of the mutaakhkhirun (living later) scholars of Ashariyya hold this view. (ibid. 1/6-10)

Major sins lead a person to rebellion and fisq but it is not possible to describe such a believer as fasiq and fajir. For, belief consists of approving through the heart the existence and oneness of Allah and the revelation sent by Him through Hz. Muhammad (pbuh); deeds are not a part of belief. When a person does a deed that is contrary to divine orders, his belief exists. As a matter of fact, the use of conjunctions that connect these two concepts in the verses that mention belief and deeds together indicate that belief and deeds are different things. (al-Baqara, 2/25; an-Nisa, 4/124)

Besides, when it is stated that those who commit major since like killing a person are punished in retaliation, they are still mentioned as believers; they are not deprived of the property of belief. (al-Baqara, 2/178; al-Hujurat, 49/ 9)

In terms of reason, murtakib al-kabira (committer of major sins) should also be regarded as a believer. Such a person does not regard opposing a divine order legitimate; on the contrary, he commits such a deed due to heedlessness, bad habits, extreme, anger, etc but he always hopes to be forgiven. Ahl as-Sunnah kalam scholars of Maturidiyya and Ash'ariyya madhhabs of creed hold this view.  (Maturidî, Tawhid, s. 329-334; Abu Abdullah al-Halimi, al-Minhaj, 1/409) Scholars of Salafiyye describes a murtakib al-kabira as fasiq but they hold the same view as Ahl as-Sunnah kalam scholars regarding his worldly and otherworldly position. (see Abu Bakr al-Hallal, as-Sunnah, p. 583-608; Sharhu Aqidati't-Tahawiyya, p. 295-334)

The view that some of the sins are major and that some of them are minor and that the major sins are the ones about which worldly and otherworldly penalties are in question in verses and hadiths seems appropriate. It is impossible to compromise the views of Kharijites, Murjia and Mutazila with verses and hadiths regarding the religious status of the committers of major sins. Both Sunni kalam scholars and Salafiyya scholars hold the view that the committers of major sins do not exit the religion and they accept that it is possible to be freed from sins through repentance and through worldly penalty. This approach is more appropriate in terms of verses, hadiths and reason. (see TDV. İslam Ansiklopedisi, Kabira item)

NOTE: We advise you to read the following article prepared by Vecdi Akyüz regarding the issue:

Hidden shirk (polytheism) and fornication of the eyes are also among major sins. According to the belief of Islam, everybody except prophets commits sins. Sin means a religious crime caused by words and deeds that are contrary to Allah's orders and prohibitions. It is haram both to abandon what Allah orders to be done and to do what Allah does not allow to be done.

The Concept of Major Sin

Because not all sins are equal, they are divided into two as major sins and minor sins regarding belief and daily deeds. Major sins are called kabira (pl. kabair), and minor ones are called saghira (pl.saghair).

Major sins are religious, individual and social major crimes and deeds about which there are threatening verses or hadiths and which lead to punishment both in this world and in hereafter and cause wrong and distorted faiths, abandoning faith and religion, personal and social unrest, defeatism, deviation, anomy and corruption.

A real believer tries to avoid all sins whether major or minor. However, a believer should not approach sins especially major sins because the responsibility and results of the major sins are more serious. Allah states the following in the Quran:

"If ye (but) eschew the most heinous of the things which ye are forbidden to do, We shall expel out of you all the evil in you and admit you to a Gate of great honor." (an-Nisa, 4/31)

Those who commit major or minor sins are not regarded as apostates except for the sins related to faith and accepting haram and halal unless they regard the sins they commit as permissible. However, they become sinners. One who commits major sins except for polytheism and blasphemy is called Murtakib al-Kabira (committer of major sins), Fasiq or Fajir.

Those who commit sins should try to be saved from their faults because they are sinful believers. So, at first, they should regret and return to faith from major sins which are regarded like polytheism and blasphemy; they should repent from and other major sins and should not commit them again. Allah states the following in the Quran:

"Those who avoid great sins and shameful deeds, Only (falling into) small faults--verily thy Lord is ample in forgiveness." (an-Najm, 53/32);

"Say: "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)

Major sins are among the basic principles that are necessary to be known by believers concerning the issues like creed, belief, worshipping or the everyday issues and that are haram to do and obligatory to abandon. We will try to list the 72 major sins, which are listed randomly in traditional religious books, in a way parallel to the system of 32 and 54 fard (obligatory) deeds:

Major sins” significantly appear as a result of committing what is ordered not to do and abandoning what is ordered to do related to the deeds that are among 54 fards.

There are a great number of major sins. However, a schematic and systematic list is determined in traditional religious books by improving the concept of “72 Major Sins” which primarily includes major sins - from the point of learning and keeping in mind easily with a pedagogical genius.

Major Sins (72 Major Sins)

A- Major Sins Concerning the Articles of Faith

Major sins concerning the articles of faith are the wrong and distorted beliefs in the form of the extension of the fundamentals of faith:

1. To associate partners with Allah,

2. To believe in and follow fortunetellers, soothsayers, magicians and those who claim to give information about the unseen (ghaib).

3. To swear an oath in the name of anyone except Allah.

4. To abandon the religion of Islam and to become an apostate.

5. To forget the Qur’an after memorizing it; to forget reading the Qur’an after learning it.

6. To have a strong affection for the worldly life. To have so much affection for the world as to forget the hereafter and to abandon the religious duties.

7. To impute lies/untrue words to Hz. Prophet, to report a word that he did not say.

8. To talk against, utter bad words about and swear at the Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet.

9. To swear at holy things and make fun of them.

B. Major Sins concerning the pillars of Islam

Major sins concerning the pillars of Islam are remindful and explanatory principles of the pillars of Islam concerning negative attitudes:

10. Not to perform ghusl (full ablution) and miss one of the daily prayers because of not having performed ghusl; to walk around without having ghusl.

11. To recite the adhan (call to prayer) and perform a prayer before its due time.

12. Not to perform the five daily prescribed prayers in time and miss them.

13. Not to fast in the month of Ramadan without having an excuse; to eat or drink something in the presence of fasting Muslims.

14. Not to pay zakah (almsgiving) and the tithe.

C. Major Sins concerning Halals and Harams (Permissible and Forbidden Things)

Some of the 72 major sins are about halal/haram ranging from faith to practices:

15. Not to accept halal and haram as halal and haram.

16. To get dressed in a way to excite lust (this is valid for both men and women).

17. To wearing silk clothes and adorn themselves in a pompous way (for men).

18. To uncover the private parts of the body and to show them to others and to look at the private parts of others.

19. (For a woman) to wear the clothes of men; (for a man) to wear the clothes of women and to try to look like the opposite gender.

20. To continue to eat after being full.

21. To drink wine and alcoholic drinks; to use something that intoxicates such as drugs, heroin etc.

22. To eat the leftovers of a dog.

23. To eat pork and lard.

24. To eat carrion and to make others eat it.

25. To have a tattoo done.

26. To receive or give interest (riba), to practice usury.

27. To commit a theft.

28. To grab one’s property.

D. Major Sins Concerning Ethics

An important part of 72 major sins is about bad ethics, which is the opposite of high ethics:

29. To disobey one’s mother and father, to beat them.

30. To give up visiting one’s close relatives, to break off relationship with relatives and not to visit them; not to help them when they need help.

31. To be jealous of others.

32. To misappropriate.

33. To betray people whether Muslims or unbelievers.

34. To make fun of a believer’s obedience to faith and decrees of Islam.

35.  To utter dirty and bawdy words.

36.  To retail gossip and backbite.

37.  To backbite and gossip.

38. To break the heart of his/her believing brother/sister.

39. To talk against chaste women, to insult a chaste woman calling her a prostitute, to spread the family secrets of chaste women.

40. To avoid sleeping with her husband (for a woman).

41. To visit someone without the permission of her husband (for a woman).

42. To be married with two sisters at the same time (for a man).

43. To liken the thigh of his wife to his mother’s (for a man).

44. To swear at his wife’s mother (for a man).

45. To remain ignorant; not to learn religious duties, obligations, necessities, sunnahs and to insist on ignorance. (Not to learn the information concerning the world and the hereafter and religion (such as obligatory acts and forbidden things) and not to avoid being ignorant. Those who do not learn their religious duties may easily commit forbidden deeds.)

46. Not to know how terrible ignorance is. (One who does not know that s/he does not know may easily fall into forbidden things.).

47. Not to measure and weigh in a correct and just way; to deceive people.

48. Not to fear the torture of Allah, to feel sure that one will not undergo any torture and to think that s/he is among those special people who will reach salvation.

49. To give up the hope of Allah’s mercy.

50. To commit fornication, to go after illegal lustful pleasures;

51. To have a homosexual relation (to commit anal intercourse and lesbianism).

52. To try to have a sexual intercourse when his wife is in puerperum and in menstruation (for a man).

53. To leer at non-mahram women and girls (for a man).

54. To be conceited (to regard oneself very important; to get above oneself; to move away from modesty); to oppress and tyrannize people by becoming arrogant.

55. To eat up the property of orphans unjustly. (the Qur’an, An-Nisa, 4/10)

56. To hide property when the inheritor is in deathbed.

57. To tell lies,

58. To swear in vain, to swear many times.

59. To commit perjury; not to witness truly.

60. To throw a living animal into fire.

61. To be stingy and to act stingily.

62. To remind someone a favor that had been done before. To do somebody a favor, and then to rub it in.

63. To laugh out loud unnecessarily.

64. To sing immoral songs.

E. Major Sins Concerning Sins

A few of the 72 major sins are about committing sins:

65. To insist on committing sins/minor sins. To insist on committing sins.

66. To commit sins in the Kaaba.

F. Major Sins Concerning Social Life

67. Not to obey the legitimate administration and the laws of the government; to revolt against the government and administrators.

68. To kill someone intentionally and unjustly.

69. To commit suicide.

70. To run away from enemies in a war; to give up jihad in the way of Allah.

71. To take or give bribes.

72. Not to prevent the evil from being committed despite having the power or authority.

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