Big Sin, Small Sin?

Big Sin, Small Sin?

“You think it to be small, whereas in the Sight of Allah it is grave.”

(Surah Noor, Aayat 15)

This Aayat condemns thinking of a particular sin to be trivial. The Aayat was revealed in connection with the Ifk episode in which the Munaafiqeen, and some innocent Muslims caught up in the gossip slandered, Hazrat Aishah (Radhiyallahu anha). They are warned over thinking of it to be light.

Now we should ponder over whether thinking of only that sin to be light, as the revelation suggests, or thinking of any major sin to be light is condemned as evil. Reflection reveals that the reproach is not confined to any particular sin. The particular circumstances of the revelation do not limit the censure in the Aayat.

In so far as Allah Ta’ala saying that it is ‘grave’ in His Sight, then understand that any sin, irrespective of it being a minor sin, is in actual fact grave. The reason for this is that the nature of sin is disobedience to Allah Ta’ala Jalla Jalaaluhu (Sublime is His magnificence). And it is obvious that disobedience, regardless of its kind, is evil.

The stages of sin – major and minor – are relative issues. It merely means that one sin is very bad whilst another is less evil. Otherwise, in actual fact every sin is grave. No sin should be treated lightly.

The relative issues of small and big, here, are like the sky and earth being small in relation to the Arsh. But in actual fact the sky and earth are not small.

Another example is that of dirt and najaasat. Dirt can be minor or major. When it is major it is termed najaasat. But both are dirt.

And the raison d’être for this gravity in both major and minor sins is that the greater a person’s magnificence and beneficence the graver is disobedience to that person. It is obvious that no one’s magnificence and beneficence are comparable to Allah Ta’ala’s magnificence and beneficence. Thus, disobedience to Him is deplorable in the extreme. Therefore, disobedience to Allah Ta’ala by its very nature and demand is grave.

The demand of the above is that no sin be committed. However, there are several reasons for this lapse. Some sins are considered to be ‘minor’ and thus committed, whereas on the basis of the very raison d’être mentioned the Fuqaha have declared that to trifle with any sin is kufr, be it a minor sin.

In sum, every act of disobedience unto Allah Ta’ala is grave. From this angle the reproach in the Aayat covers every type of sin.

Sin is like fire. A small flame is sufficient to burn out a house just as a blaze is. The flame is small and the blaze is big. Thus the question of whether the sin is small or big suggests that if it is ‘big’ one will stay clear of it, but if it is ‘small’ one will see. We will ask such a person if he consents to a flame being ignited to his curtain. If this is intolerable to him then how can disobedience to Allah Ta’ala be tolerable? The small flame will build up to become a raging fire.

Similarly, a person persists with a minor sin. By persistent indulgence in a minor sin the sin becomes major. In other words, some people continue sinning, thinking that afterwards they will make Taubah. This is a serious error. Once sinning becomes habitual then Taubah becomes difficult for such a person. The reason for this is that it is easy to make Taubah from a new sin which has not yet become embedded in one. But to make Taubah from a sin which has become one’s habit is problematic.

Together with that, when a person does not abstain from a ‘small’ sin then such a person becomes audacious. He then feels no inhibition in committing sin. He gradually perpetrates major sins then. This is like care is taken not to dirty clean clothes. But if the clothes have become gradually soiled then a person worries not of the clothes becoming further soiled. The whole garment then becomes soiled.

The case with sinning is the same. Once sinning becomes a habit it is left and it becomes worse. For example, purchases on interest have become common among people. People habitually back bite others. Trust funds are abused without compunction. Friendship with members of the opposite sex is the norm. Just observe how these sins are committed without reservation. But many of the same sinners won’t drink beer. The difference is because of the habit having being formed in the case of the former, not with the latter. All this confirms that from becoming a habit persistence and thinking light of the sin are the consequence. In fact, the matter can become as serious as thinking of the sin to be good. In other words, not even thinking of it to be a sin, like the case with television. Then it is rare for a person to make Taubah.

And the route Taubah that is made is of no merit. Someone said:

Tasbeeh in the hand

Taubah on the tongue

But the heart brimming with the delight of sins

Our sins just laugh at our repentance

For this reason there is no substance to our Taubah with our wanton transgression. We think that abandoning those sins will bring disgrace and indigence upon us. We do not feel bad at committing the sins, whereas the sign of Imaan is:

“When your good deed brings you joy and your evil action makes you feel bad.” (Hadeeth)

In short, these are some reasons why we find it difficult to make an honest Taubah. And all this establishes that it is foolish to continue sinning in the hope of making Taubah later. But some stupid people still labour under deception and audaciously sin thinking that they will make amends with Taubah.  The similitude of such people is like a person has a balm and feeling covered he burns his fingers in a fire. Is this person not an absolute fool? Did any intelligent person ever do such a foolish thing? When audaciousness is not displayed with this fire then the Fire of Jahannam is seventy times more intense then this fire on earth!

The balm for a burn is fully in one’s possession. And although Taubah is ostensibly volitional, but it is not 100% in one’s control like the balm for a burn. The reason for this is that the nature of Taubah is: “Taubah is becoming ashamed.” (Hadeeth)

It is also interpreted as follows: It eats up one when doing wrong and leaves the heart distressed when sinning. Thus, Taubah is the aching and burning of the heart.

It is known that aching is a feeling which is not in one’s volition. This begs the question: Since Taubah is non-volitional then why have we been instructed to make Taubah, whereas Allah Ta’ala does not impose upon anyone that which is not in his or hers volition? The answer to this question is that there are two types of volition; one is the volition directly associated with an article, and one is the volition pertaining to the means of the intended article. So Taubah is volitional as its means is volitional. The means is to meditate over the magnificence, honour and retribution of Allah Ta’ala. By doing this it is the Timeless Way of Allah Ta’ala that such feeling of remorse overtakes the heart which is in actual fact Taubah. Thus, Toobu (make Taubah) is commanded.

(Modified from Istikhfaaful Ma’aasi)