Not to Consider a Sin Small
By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
According to some jurists, repeating a smaller sin makes it a greater one. But there are some other factors that also render the smaller sin into a bigger one. The very fact that a person who commits a smaller sin, considers it small and insignificant, and thinks that he is not liable to be punished for such a trivial sin, itself makes his sin a greater one and brings down the wrath of Allah (S.w.T.) upon him. His thinking reveals that he does not give importance to the prohibitions laid down by the Almighty and is not in total submission to the will and pleasure of Allah (S.w.T.). According to traditions such a sin is unpardonable.
Scholastic theology maintains that forgiveness of smaller sins for those who abstain from greater ones is due to Divine mercy and grace. Otherwise according to reason every disobedience of Allah (S.w.T.), whether small or great makes one deserving of punishment. It is clear that Divine grace is only for those who do not leave the path of His obedience and servitude. One who is vain and proud and does not realize his insignificance and magnificence of Allah (S.w.T.) can never receive Allah (S.w.T.)’s Grace, instead he would be disgraced and humiliated.
Allah (S.w.T.) will remit the smaller sins of those who abstain from greater sins and do not consider their smaller sins, small.
Hazrat ‘Ali (a.s.) says, “The greatest sin is one, the doer of which considers it little.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 11 page 246)
Hazrat Imam Baqir (a.s.) states, “Among the unpardonable sins is the saying of a person, “I wish that except for this sin which I have committed other sins had not been accountable.” [He considered this sin insignificant.] (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 11 page 247)
Beware of the sin that are considered small and insignificant. Indeed, they are ones that shall be questioned by Allah and these (small sins) will be heaped upon the person till it (becomes a great sin and) destroys him.
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says, “Seek (Allah’s) refuge and save yourself from the sins that are considered small and insignificant.”
The narrator asked, “Which of the sins are small?”
Imam (a.s.) said, “A person commits a sin and then says: How lucky would I have been if I had not any sin except this one. (Because) this sin is small and insignificant.”
Being Pleased with a Sinful Act
One of the things that magnify a sin (make the smaller sin great) is that one feels good and is pleased after committing it. A necessary condition of faith in Allah (S.w.T.) and Qiyāma is repenting for ones sin, even though it may be small. As the Messenger of Allah, (S) says, “One, whose good deeds please him and sins make him aggrieved is a believer.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia, Vol. 11 page 266)
Allah is High and Mighty, and disobedience to His commands and prohibitions is a great sin. It is related from Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) that at the time of sinning do not consider the smallness of your sin but consider the greatness and Might of Allah Whose (law) command you are breaking.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 11 page 247)
Just as regret and repentance erase the sin and cleanse the sinner in the same way feeling happy after committing a sin reinforces it.
The Messenger of Allah (S) says: “One who is laughing (happy) while committing a sin will enter Hell weeping.” (Wasa’il ul-Shia Vol. 11 page 240)
He (S) also said, “Four things regarding sins are more severe than the sin itself: considering the sin small, being proud of it, being happy about it, being persistent in it.” (Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il)
Making it Public
Informing others of one’s sins and relating about them to other people is a greater sin. Also announcing a sin is an insult to Allah (S.w.T.)’s command. The Messenger of Allah (S) has said, “One who performs a good deed and keeps it a secret will be rewarded seventy times (than if he has announced it). And one who commits a sin and makes it public (due to shamelessness or ignorance of religious law) will be disgraced by Allah. (That is, he will not get the Tawfīq of repentance and he will remain deprived of Allah’s kindness and Mercy) but if he keeps it secret (due to shame) he will be forgiven.” (al-Kāfi Vol. 1, page 428)
Making a sin public is not harmful in two cases: One when it is necessary to do so, for example, its admission before a doctor for treatment or to a religious scholar for learning about an Islamic law.
Secondly when it is an expression of servitude and helplessness before Allah (S.w.T.) and confession of one’s sins. For example, a person can make a general statement: “O Allah! I am your sinful slave! I am a disgraced one! I am drowned in the sea of evils. I have committed mortal sins! Please forgive me.” However, it is appropriate to mention the particular sin. Like ‘I have imbibed wine,’ etc. Confessing ones sins before Allah (S.w.T.) and imploring forgiveness is the best act of worship and is very beneficial for the acceptance of repentance, illumination of one’s heart by the light of faith and raising of one’s status.
In other words, a general confession of sins and acceptance of ones mistakes is the opposite of pride and arrogance. It is the favourite habit of our religious leaders. So much so, that even in their letters and books they mention themselves as disobedient, sinners, lowly, wrong doers, the most lowly slaves etc.
Sin and Social position
According to our religious tenets, a person with knowledge, piety and purity is to be highly honoured and respected. When such a person, who is held in high esteem by the people, commits a small sin the very foundation of their faith and belief may be shaken. Just as a higher status is accorded to religious personalities by religion, so also their smaller sins are considered equivalent to greater sins of ignorant people.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “Seventy sins of ignorant one will be forgiven before one sin of an Ālim.” (al-Kāfi Vol. 1 page 48)
Misdeed of an Ālim corrupts many worlds
Muhaqqiq Khwansari comments on the above statement made by Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) in the following way. Misdeed of an Ālim could be the sin he commits himself or the mistake that he commits in the discharge of his duty as a jurisprudent. Both these mistakes are not restricted to the scholar himself but have far-reaching consequences involving a large number of people and several spheres of activity, spreading corruption and disorder. When people see a knowledgeable person committing a sin, the severity and evil of the sin is lost on them, they think it to be insignificant and begin to indulge in it. If he makes a mistake in promulgating a law of Shari’a, many people can be adversely affected by a law which is defective. Also the validity of many acts may be dependant upon this faulty command.
Therefore the responsibilities of an Ālim are tremendous and he has to be cautious and vigilant in refraining from sins and mistakes.
In the same strain is the following statement: “The sin of an Ālim is like the wrecking of ship. That takes others with it (when it sinks).” (Amali Vol. 4 page 109)
Persistence is really a greater sin
As we have already seen, lesser sins assume the proportions of greater ones under the following conditions:
1) When they are committed due to heedlessness.
2) When they are considered insignificant and not punishable.
3) When the person who commits them is pleased and happy with himself.
4) To commit them again and again without feeling any remorse and repenting for them.
5) Being aware of the fact that doing them again and again makes them a greater sin.
Another point of contention is that when an Ālim commits smaller sins which take the magnitude of greater sins, is his reliability as an Ālim maintained? The answer is not clear, but apparently his reliability is maintained.
Persistence is established by common parlance
As we have already explained before, persistence implies committing a particular sin again and again or different types of sins, without regretting it or seeking forgiveness for it. Or to commit different types of sins together. But the number of times a person must commit the sin that makes it ‘persistent’ depends upon how it is generally considered. So, there is no fixed standard because of the wide variations in smaller sins and their proximity to greater sins. Some smaller sins become great only by committing them thrice and some more than Three times and some in less than that. It all depends upon what is generally accepted.
An Important Point
The forty greater sins discussed so far are those which have been clearly named in authentic traditions.
There are two traditions in Wasa’il ul-Shia in the chapter of Taīnul Kabair. These two traditions are without chains of narrators and they have been taken from the book of Jihad. One of them is considering the property permissible for ourselves, which shall be discussed later.
Here we shall study the second one in brief. This is, depriving ones lawful heirs of their rights. By this we desire to ensure that all greater sins that are clearly mentioned in traditions have been discussed by us.
Depriving in will
It is an injustice not to include in the will some or all the heirs such that they stand to lose their lawful share. The Tafsīr of Qummi explains the verse, “Whoever then alters it after he has heard it, the sin of it then is only upon those who alter it; Surely Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2: 181)
Regarding this ayat Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says, “‘Haif’ in will is that one bestows more on some heirs and deprives others and ‘Ithm’ (sin) denotes preparing place of worship or to give order to prepare intoxicant (meaning will for unlawful activities).”
In the above two cases the legatee should disregard the instructions.
The poor heir must be kept in mind
If the heir is self-sufficient the maker of the will can bequeath one third of his property in the way he desires and he can also exceed this limit if the heir permits. If the heirs are poor or extremely pious the will-maker can give them some share even from this one third part to ensure that he is not giving more than the share of heirs which shall be derived from the two-third portion.
If the heir is poor it is better not to make a will (for the 1/3 part), or to bequeath only 1/6, 1/5 or 1/4 of ones property, because one of the best utilization of this wealth is in fulfilling the needs of a poor heir. This would constitute an act of Silet ar-Rahm, especially when the heir is yet to reach puberty.
Hazrat Imam ‘Ali (a.s.) says, “I prefer a bequest for one-fifth over that of one-fourth and the bequest of one-fourth over that of one-third. And one who makes a bequest for (full) one-third is as if he has not left behind anything.” That is, he has fully exercised his right to bequeath one-third and in this way deprived the poor heirs who might have benefited if it had been to the contrary. (Beharul Anwar Vol. 23 page 46)
Imam Riďa (a.s.) said, “It is Mustahab to bequeath some share to those relatives who are not ones heirs and if one does not make such a will his action will end in Allah’s disobedience” (Bihār al-Anwār Vol. 103 page 199)
Such a person is regarded as sinful because he has not taken care of the rights of relatives, which is one of the obligatory religious duties. Particularly, if a rich man disregards his very poor relatives who are not his heirs and does not bequeath them anything, it amounts to Qat al-Raham, which is Harām and a greater sin.
The Heir precedes others
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says that a man from Ansar died leaving many young children. He left no property except six slaves. At the time of death he be had freed all of them. When the Messenger of Allah (S) was informed of this, he asked, “What have you done with him?”
“We have buried him”, replied the people
The Messenger of Allah (S) said, “If I had known it, I would not have allowed him to be interred with Muslims because this man has compelled his children to beg from the people.”
Division of legacy according to Shariah
It is not permitted for a person to bequeath more than a third of his property. If he does so the executor of the will is not obliged to act upon it but he should give the heir to use his discretion in the matter.
Moreover, making a will for unlawful purposes is not allowed and the executor of the will is obliged to disregard it. He should, instead, utilize the funds in lawful ways. It is also not allowed to deprive any of the heirs of their share. And the executor of will must give the share of those who are eligible for it. (Please refer to books of jurisprudences, Tauzihul Masael for more information about making bequests).
If the heirs of the first level (ones children or parents) are present but the heirs of the second level (Paternal and Maternal Uncles and Aunts) are poor the rich will-maker should make some provision for them. If he does not make such a will it would generally be regarded as an act of Qat’a ar-Rahm, which is a greater sin.
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) had willed that seventy Ashrafis (gold coins) be given to Hasan al-Aqtas, the son of his paternal uncle. Imam (a.s.) had also made similar bequests for a number of his relatives. Someone expressed surprise and said, “O Master! You have made a bequest for a person who has attacked you and wanted to slay you with a knife? Imam (a.s.) said,
“Do you not want me to be included among those who are praised by the Almighty for their Sil al-Raham in the following words?”
“And those who join that which Allah has bidden to be joined and have awe of their Lord and fear the evil reckoning.” (Surah ar-Ra’d 13:21)
The full text of this tradition has passed in the chapter of Qat’a ar-Rahm.