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Greater Sins and Smaller Sins

By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi 
If one avoids the Greater Sins, the Lesser sins shall be overlooked. Allah, the Almighty, by His grace, excuses the Lesser sins. As it is mentioned in the following verse of the Holy Qur’an :
 “If you shun the Greater Sins which you are forbidden, We will do away with your smaller sins and cause you to enter an honourable place of entering.”
(Surah an-Nisā’ 4: 31)

The Gates of Paradise are Open for the Pious
The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said,
“I swear by Allah, in Whose power is my life, there is not a single person who prays five times a day, fasts during the month of Ramadhan and abstains from sins that the gates of Paradise will not be opened for him.”
After this he recited the Qur’anic verse quoted above.
(Tafsīr Minhājus Sādiqīn)

A person who commits a Greater Sin and does not repent for it, is a transgressor. Salāt is not allowed behind him (he cannot lead a prayer assembly). His testimony is unacceptable. After death, he is liable for Divine punishment. By the Grace of Allah (S.w.T.) such a person may yet get salvation; and the Grace of Allah (S.w.T.) that can make this possible is the intercession of Muhammad (S) and his Progeny (a.s.).
As the Holy Prophet (S) says in one of his traditions:
“My intercession has been kept for the sinful among my followers.”
(Bihār al-Anwār vol.3).
He (S) also said,
“My intercession is specially for the sinful ones among my followers. But those who abstain from the Greater Sins, for them there is no accounting (of deeds).”
That is, they would be admitted to Paradise right away.

Intercession Should not Prompt one to Commit Sins
There is hardly any doubt regarding the reality of Shafa’at (intercession). Actually it is the right bestowed upon the Holy Prophet (S) and the purified Imams (a.s.), by Allah (S.w.T.), to show their greatness and position. The other aim of intercession is to make their respect evident. The people who have committed Greater Sins shall be entrusted to them. By the grace of their intercession the sinful people will be able to ascend the heights like other groups of people. All this is evident from the Holy Qur’an and the authentic reports. It is also clear from Mutawatir (most frequently related) traditions. It would be needless to relate all such traditions for such a short discussion.
Only one point must be stressed at this stage. Intercession should not be taken as a license for committing sins nor should it make one heedless of repentance.

Suicide in the Hope of Salvation
To sin and not to repent in the hope of intercession is akin to consuming poison or putting ones hand in the snake’s mouth with the hope that a doctor would arrive and cure you. It is against logic, because after consuming poison it cannot be taken for granted that medical assistance would be available. Even if a doctor and medicines arrive on time it is still difficult to say that life would be saved. Before the medicine could have any effect the poison may spread to the whole body and death may occur.
In the same way, one who performs lewd actions in the hope that he would be interceded after death; cannot be sure that intercession will come to the rescue immediately.

Death is of Three Types
Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s.) has related from his forefathers that Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) was queried by someone about death. He replied,
“You have come to the knowledgeable (personality).” “Death occurs to a person in one of the Three ways:
He is given the good news of everlasting bounties, or informed of the never-ending retribution or he remains in a perpetual state of terror and fear.
His affair remains undecided and unpredictable, and it is not known about the kind of future that awaits him. Then (you must know) that our devotee who is obedient of our command and does not sin, is given the good news of everlasting bounties. But our opponent shall forever be involved in Divine punishment. And the person who has been unjust to his soul and who has abused it will be found in an unsure condition. Unaware of what the future will hold. Such a person is a sinner whose death will be accompanied with terror and fear. But Allah will not consider him on the same level as our enemy. Rather he would be removed from Hell because of our intercession.
Then, act (rightly) and obey the commandments of Allah. Do not consider the Divine punishment to be trifle, and certainly there are such people who would not be able to receive our intercession till after 3,00,000 years.”
(Bihār al-Anwār vol.3 quoted from Ma’aniul Akhbār)

I am Concerned About You Regarding Barzakh
Umar Ibn Yazid says that, “I asked Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.), “I have heard you saying that all our Shia’s will enter Heaven however sinful they may be?” Imam replied,
“By Allah I had truly said, they shall all belong to Heaven.”
Then I asked, “May my life be sacrificed upon you, even if their sins are great and in large number?” Imam said,
“All of you (Shias) shall enter Paradise by the intercession of the Holy Prophet (S) or his successors on the Day of Judgement. But, by Allah I fear for you the Barzakh.”
I asked,”What is Barzakh?”
He replied,
“Barzakh is the grave. Its duration commences from the time of death until the Day of Judgement.”

Tears of Blood
 The Holy Prophet (S) called the attention of Ibn Masud and imparted some advice to him. He said in this regard.
“Never imagine a sin to be trifle and small and abstain from the Greater Sins, because, on the Day of Judgement, when the slave beholds his sins, tears of blood and puss shall flow from his eyes. At that moment Allah shall say, “This is the day when everyone shall see his good or bad deeds, and wish there be a great distance between them and their sins.”
(Bihār al-Anwār vol.17)
 It is also related from the Holy Prophet (S) that he said,
“Verily, a person shall be kept imprisoned in Hell for a hundred years for each of the sins (that he commits).”

No Intercession for Those Who Regard Salāt  Unimportant
 Making light of Salāt is counted among the Greater Sins. It is mentioned in some reports that the one who considers the prayers unimportant is not eligible for intercession.
Thus Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
“Our intercession is not for those who consider the Prayers unimportant.”
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
“Our intercession is not for those who considered the Prayers lightly.”
(Bihār al-Anwār vol.3)
 It is related from the Holy Prophet (S) that he said:
“One who considers prayers unimportant is not from me. By Allah, he is not from me. By Allah, he cannot reach near me at the Haudh al-Kauthar.” (the cistern in Paradise)
(Bihār al-Anwār)
The above discussion makes it evident that not avoiding sins, committing sins blatantly and then repenting in the hope of intercession is foolishness and a sign of arrogance and negligence.

Excessive Sins Destroy the Faith (Belief)
Whatever has been mentioned in the discussion of intercession states that intercession comes to the rescue when the person concerned has died with correct belief. It happens, sometimes that, due to excessive involvement in sins and delay in repentance, faith in religion is erased from the heart. Subsequently he enters the limit of doubt and reaches the point of denial (Kufr). At this time if he is taken away by death, such a person is similar to the one who had consumed poison in the false hope that the doctor would save his life. But when the doctor arrives, death had already preceded him. What can the doctor do to cure him. In the same way the request of the intercessors is ineffective for the one who has died as an unbeliever.
“So the intercession of intercessors shall not avail them.”
(Surah al-Muddaththir 74:48)
In order to prove my statement I propose to quote one verse from the Holy Qur’an and two traditions:
 “Then evil was the end of those who did evil, because they rejected the communications of Allah and used to mock them.”
(Surah ar-Rūm 30:10)

Sins Blacken the Heart
The first tradition is reported from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.): He said,
“There is no man who does not have a white spot in his heart. When he commits a sin a black spot emerges from this spot. If he repents, the blackness goes away but if he sinks in sin and continues to sin the blackness keeps on increasing till it surrounds the whiteness of the heart completely. When the white spot is totally covered by the blackness, the owner of this heart will never revert towards goodness. This tradition is in consonance with the utterance of Allah:
“By no means! But on their hearts is the stain of the (ill) which they do.”
(Surah al-Muťaffifīn 83:14)

The Blackened Heart is Immune to Advice and Counsel
The people with the ‘blackened heart’ are totally unaffected by any counsel because their sins have caused the darkness to spread all over their heart. The loss of the inner eye prevents them from perceiving truths nor can they recognise the truth when they see it. They cannot accept any exhortation and revert to the path of virtue. It is in this connection that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) explains:
“A man resolves to perform a sinful action but does not act upon it, but sometimes does commit it; Allah sees him and says: “By My Glory, after this I shall never forgive you.”
According to another report, the (sinner) person is kept away from the Mercy of Allah (S.w.T.) due to his sin. He also does not get the impetus to seek repentance, hence his sin is never forgiven. Allama Majlisi (r.a.) writes in the explanatory note of the above tradition: “The purport of this tradition of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) is that, the Imam has commanded us to fear all types of sins because every sin seems to be such that it may not qualify being overlooked.

To Be Fearful of the Past Sins
The believing people should always be fearful of the sins committed in the past and should weep for them since we do not know which of our sins can bring about out destruction. The Imam (a.s.) has not informed us of any sin that we can ignore and remain bereft of the Mercy of Allah (S.w.T.). However, it is certain that the sin for which we have not repented would be sure to prevent our salvation. So we must enter the domain of Allah (S.w.T.)’s grace through the door of repentance. We should sincerely repent for those sins, which are forgotten by us and especially seek forgiveness of those sins that we remember. The method of repenting shall be explained later insha’Allah.

Intercession Should Neither Raise False Hope, Nor be a Cause to be Arrogant
The preceding discussion has shown that the element of intercession does not become the cause of arrogance and disobedience. Rather, intercession imparts strength to the sinner in a state of despair. It creates in him the habit of repenting with fervour. Consequently, he would be able to reach a high position and achieve nearness to the Lord of the Worlds.

The Fear and Dread of Sins is Still Necessary 
It should not be so, that a person is hopeful of intercession and is negligent at the same time. Along with the hope of intercession the fear of Allah (S.w.T.) is also a must. Because fear is not contrary to intercession. The one who is hopeful of the grace and mercy of the Almighty Lord may also experience fear. Otherwise he may not be able to obtain intercession of his masters {The Holy Prophet (S) and the Imams (a.s.)} for a very long time. In other words, such a person would be able to receive intercession only after being afflicted with the punishment of the grave for a long period of time. In the meantime the fear, awe, agony, suffering and misery that he is experiencing, may become the cause for him to receive intercession of the purified Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.). It may also spur him to be attached to them steadily.

The Shias of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.)
One of the traditions concerning the position of the Shias and the lovers of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) states that the fire of Hell cannot scorch them. Thus, these types of traditions impart strength to our hope. Our love for the Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) is certainly a surety for us but it should not tempt us to commit sins blatantly.

Shia and Mohib
 The traditions regarding this subject are based on two important points. The first is concerned with ‘Shia’ and the second ‘Mohibs’ (Admirers) of the Holy Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.). The position and status of those Shias who have achieved excellence in the field of knowledge and good deeds is definitely higher. Even so, such people did not consider themselves fit to be called the Shias of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.). Take the example of Muhammad bin Muslim Thaqafi. He was the honourable companion (Sahābi) of Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.). Both the Holy Imams (a.s.) have recommended him to the Shias for solving their religious problems. Muhammad bin Muslim Thaqafi has also been mentioned as the greatest Jurist of his time in the books of Rijal (Chain of narrators).
 On one occasion Muhammad bin Muslim along with Abu Karibatul Azdi went to see Qazi Sharīk. Sharīk glared at him in anger and said, “These two are Ja’fari and Fatimi!” [Shias of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.)]. Upon hearing this, both of them began to cry bitterly. When the Qazi enquired the reason for their lamentation, they replied, “You have associated us with such a lofty personality [Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.)]!. Are people like us who lack in piety and abstinence to be compared with such an exalted person? What connection does the dust have with the Divine existence? (A Persian saying). We shall be highly obliged to you if you can accept our request (and give us not the title that we do not deserve).”

The True Shias are Those Who Follow (Obey) the Imams (a.s.)
Yes, we can give the title of ‘Shia’ to that individual who follows the Imams (a.s.) in all aspects of character and speech. Thus, Bab-ul-Hawaij Imam Musa al-Kadhim (a.s.) says:
“Our shias are only those who follow us (in every respect), walk in our footsteps and imitate our actions.”
(Bihār al-Anwār)
 On a certain evening ‘Ali (a.s.) was departing from the mosque. The surroundings were bright due to the moonlight. He saw behind him a group of people walking towards him. He enquired as to who they were? They said: “We are your Shias.” ‘Ali (a.s.) looked at their faces carefully and said.
“Why is it that your faces do not exhibit any sign of you being a Shia?”.
“Master, what are the signs of a Shia?”
“Their faces are pale due to excessive worship and the fear of Allah, their backs are bent due to prolonged prayers, too much fasting causes their abdomen to touch their backbones, their lips become dry be repeating endless invocations, and their hearts are filled with the fear of Allah.”
(Bihār al-Anwār, Al-Irshad).
Now I will quote three traditions for the benefit of the readers.

Mere Claim is not Sufficient
1) Jabir (a.r.) relates from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said,
“Is it sufficient for one to associate himself with Shiaism and say that, “I am a lover of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.)? By Allah, our Shia is not, but the one who fears Allah and obeys His Commands.”
2) Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) told Mufazzal bin Umar,
“If you wish to see one of our devotees then look for that person who abstains from sins and fears more His Creator and remains hopeful of His reward. Whenever you find such an individual then take it for granted that he is one of my devotees.”
3) Isa bin Abdullah Qummi entered in the presence of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.). The Imam said,
“That person is not from us nor do we hold him in esteem, the one who, if he lives in a town of a population of hundred thousand and there is even one non-Shia who is more pious than him.”
 Thus the belief, actions and the piety of the Shias of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) should be such that they should be the best and none should excel them. Allah (S.w.T.) has defined such people ‘Khairul Barīya’ in the Holy Qur’an:
 “(As For) those who believe and do good, surely they are the best of men.”
(Surah al-Bayyina 98:7)
 The Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have explained that ‘Khairul Barīya’ connotes the Shias of ‘Ali (a.s.):
“O ‘Ali, ‘Khairul Barīya’ means you and your Shias. On the Day of Judgement, they would be satisfied with what Allah has bestowed upon them and they shall be liked by Allah.
(Tafsīr Tabarsi, Manaqib Khwārazmi, Ibn Hajar).

There is not an iota of doubt that the one who possesses the Wilāyat of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) would be deserving of salvation. In fact, he shall be with the Prophets (S) and the Pure Imams (a.s.). Imam Riďa (a.s.) said:
“Allah shall collect our Shias on the Day of Judgement in such a condition that their faces shall be aglow with (radiance). His arguments would be lighted (manifest) and his proof shall be obvious before Allah. It is upon Allah to collect our Shias with the Prophets, the martyrs and the truthful ones on the Day of Judgement. These personalities are the best of the loyalists.”
(Bihār al-Anwār)

The Meaning of Wilāyat
It is written in the book Majmaul Bahraen regarding the meaning of the word ‘Wilāyat’: “Wilāyat is the love for Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.), the natural consequence of which is to follow them in religious matters, to fulfil the obligations laid down on us and to abstain from the things prohibited. Wilāyat is to walk in the footsteps of the Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) following their ways in deeds, behaviour and manner of speech.”
Wilāyat therefore means love and obedience. This idea is supported by a tradition from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) wherein the Holy Imam (a.s.) has related love with obedience.

Wilāyat of ‘Ali (a.s.) is a Strong Fort of Allah (S.w.T.)
 The tradition explaining this concept is to be found in the tradition of Silsilatuz Zahab. It is related by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) from Imam Riďa (a.s.). It is as follows:
“Allah says, “The Wilāyat of ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib is My fort. Then one who enters My Fort is safe from My wrath (Ghazab).”
(Uyūn al-Akhbār ar-Riďa).
 There is no doubt that entering the Wilāyat of the purified Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) implies taking refuge with the Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.), to abstain from all unlawful acts and to remain aloof from their enemies. The word “Tahassum” denotes ‘taking refuge in an established fort’ and it also suggests that the refuge is not only physical in nature but of a moral form (in spirit) as well. It is therefore imperative to take refuge with these exalted personalities and to follow their superior examples in all aspects of speech and behaviour. In short one who follows them has actually taken refuge in their fort.

Verbal Claim Unaccompanied by Actions is Insufficient
After describing the qualities of the Shias, Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) observed;
“O Jabir, is it enough for one, to say that ‘I love ‘Ali (a.s.) and I have achieved his Wilāyat,’ whereas he does not act upon it?”
“If someone says, “Surely, I love the Holy Prophet (S) because he was superior to ‘Ali (a.s.) and I am Shia al-Muhammad.” Inspite of this claim he does not follow the Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) whom the Holy Prophet (S) had ordered to follow. It is surprising that even after claiming to love the Prophet they do not follow his Purified Progeny (Ahl ul-Bayt a.s.). Mere claim of love is not sufficient.”

Success is through Actions Alone
The tradition continues,
“O Jabir, the nearness of Allah is not achieved without His obedience. When our Shias do not have obedience and action (to their credit) we have no authority to free them from Hell. Merely a verbal claim, “I am a Shia” is not sufficient argument for Allah. (If Allah wills he can involve him in punishment; Allah has not promised to bestow salvation upon the claimants of Shiaism- the criteria are obedience and good actions). Then, only one who obeys Allah is our Walī (lover) and the one who is a sinner is our enemy and our Wilāyat cannot be achieved but by piety and good deeds.”

Types of Taqwa According to Allama Majlisi
 According to Allama Majlisi (r.a.) there are four types of ‘Taqwa’ :
1.      “Wara at-Ta’bīri”, which means to abstain from the prohibited things.
2.      “Wara as-Salihīn”, to abstain from doubtful things so that one may not commit a Harām act.
3.      “Wara al-Muttaqīn”, to abstain from permissible things so that one is absolutely protected from ‘Harām’.
4.      “Wara as-Sādiqīn”, to avoid everything that is not religious so that one may not waste precious time in useless acts, even though there may not be any risk of committing a sin.

 According to traditions, both from the Shia and the Sunni sources, it is established that love protects one from being a slave of one’s desires and Shaitan. This is because the love of an exalted personality entails that we also love his friends and hate his enemies. The friendship of Shaitan and the following of one’s evil desires are two of the biggest hurdles in one’s love for Allah (S.w.T.) and the Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.).
Insha’Allah the followers of ‘Ali (a.s.), by the blessing of his love will remain away from the path of Shaitan. Thus, love (for Ahl ul-Bayt) protects one from evil rather than make him susceptible to sins. In order to explain this idea a few traditions are mentioned below:

Love Makes a Man Steadfast
 Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) has said,
“Whoever has been bestowed the love of ‘Ali (a.s.) in his heart by Allah, is not prone to wavering (from his path) but he becomes steadfast (on the path of Allah) and also towards other (matters).”
(Bihār al-Anwār)

The Testimony of Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari (r.a.)
 Hazrat Jabir Ibn Abdullah Ansari (r.a.) says: If the first step of the lovers of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) is in the wrong direction due to excess sins the next step is guided aright by (the grace of) their love.

The Angels Seek Forgiveness for the Partisans of ‘Ali (a.s.)
 According to the traditions of the Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.), it is an established fact that even the angels ask forgiveness (on behalf) of the followers of ‘Ali (a.s.). A tradition is quoted in Bihār al-Anwār from the Sunni sources in this regard. Anas relates from the Holy Prophet (S) that he said,
“Allah has created seventy thousand angels from the light of ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib’s face. These angels will (continue to) ask forgiveness (on his behalf and on the behalf of his devotees) till the Day of Judgement.”

Devotion for ‘Ali (a.s.) Consumes Our Sins
The love and devotion for Hazrat ‘Ali (a.s.) destroys one’s sins as is proved by the numerous reports. Bihār al-Anwār has the following tradition related from the Holy Prophet (S) by Ibn Abbas (r.a.):
“Love of ‘Ali (a.s.) consumes the sins like fire consumes wood.”
 There is a Persian ‘Qata’ (four-line poem) which summarises this discussion as follows:
The love of ‘Ali (a.s.) removes the darkness of the heart like the moon and the stars illuminate the night. Salvation will be based on ones love for him and not ones worship deeds.
But those who are his devotees, must also rely upon the Merciful (God). We should not be satisfied only with this devotion and forget Allah (S.w.T.).
Difficulties and Calamities Nullify the Sins
 The Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) imposes difficulties and sends calamities to the sinful people among the followers of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) This is because He wishes to cleanse them of their sins so that they are not liable to any punishment after death. If the sins are more, then he gets a difficult death and if the sins are still in excess then he is punished in Barzakh (grave) upto the Day of Judgement.
It is also stated in the traditions that if there is a sinner whose sins are so much that even after all the punishment they are not expiated; then that person will be interned in the Hell-fire till he has recompensed for the remaining sins. The devotee of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) shall not remain in the fire forever. The everlasting punishment is only for the unbelievers and the enemies of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.)

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