Insanity, Suicide, Kufr, and the Need for Scholars

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani untangles certain recurring misconceptions regarding insanity, suicide, kufr, how these misconceptions arise, and how to dispel them through knowledge.

I’ve been told that people who suffer from mental illness may be exempt from certain aspects of Shari‘a. If that’s the case, why is suicide punishable given that a lot of people that commit suicide surely have some sort of mental illness?

Moral Responsibility and Legal Capacity

Our religion is the religion of Allah, the Wise, the Just,the Merciful, and in that not everything is black or white. There are also gradations in between. When we look at a soul there are those who are considered morally responsible. The same adult who is an adult with full legal capacity. Then you have those who don’t have legal capacity, such as the children or the insane.

But then there are also intermediate cases, e.g. with children there’s a difference between the young child and the discerning child. The child is gradually morally responsible, without being morally accountable. It is a responsibility granted as training for when they hit adulthood. So they’re generally encouraged, then, specifically encouraged, then, commanded with respect to the obligations.

Degrees of Insanity

Similarly not all those lacking mental capacity, short of full sanity, are at the same level. You have what’s called al-majnun. Someone who is legally insane or lacking legal capacity. But then there are different cases of insanity.

Some people are bereft of sanity. Day in day out, they’re not able to discern and distinguish between benefit and harm, right and wrong. They’re not able to make informed choices. That’s one type of insanity: insanity that lasts.

Then there’s also the lunatic. There’s incapacity that affects someone such that they may be sane at times and lacking sanity at other times. For example in our times like someone who’s bipolar in intense cases could be oscillating between when they have capacity and when they don’t.

Then there’s also an intermediate state between full legal capacity and the legally insane or the one without legal capacity, which is someone with partial legal capacity. A person with partial legal capacity is treated like the discerning child. To the extent of their capacity to discern, they’re encouraged to do the good. They’re encouraged to uphold legal responsibility in the things within their capacity but they”re not ultimately legally accountable, just like a discerning child.

Suicide Is a Major Sin

Different cases differ. Allah Most High tells us: “Allah does not hold the soul responsible for more than its capacity.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:286) We have a very nuanced, balanced, fair, set of legal criteria by which to outwardly judge different types of individuals and their capacity so that we are able to guide them towards their best interests.

Ultimately, Allah knows every single person and where they are with respect to their responsibilities. When it comes to suicide, the ruling of suicide is that committing suicide is prohibited, and suicide is itself a major sin. However, committing suicide is not kufr. Sins are one thing. Disbelief is another.

Just as we preserve the lives of others the first life that we preserve is our own, and no one should willfully take their life. That has implications in terms of end-of-life issues and so on. However, if someone commits suicide, we don’t hasten to judge. We don’t know what triggered it. What was their mental state and what would we call legal capacity at the time they made that decision?

Sensitivity Is Key

We have to be sensitive, firstly, with respect to the person themselves. We don’t know what state they were in. Secondly, we also have to be sensitive to the living. Their family has suffered a serious loss and so on. But at the same that we don’t affirm the absurd.

We’re not there to judge in the accusation manner: “That was wrong. They’re going to hell.” – Well, who are you? Are you the Lord? At the same time, we don’t we don’t go into conjectural rulings as well: “O, Allah will forgive him because he was in a bad situation.” It’s not your decision to make. These are sensitive situations.

Most of the times these kinds of confusions arise when things like that happen within a within a family, within a community – the trouble arises in these kinds of difficult situations because of two reasons. One is from people who take religion directly from texts without appreciating their context and understanding.

Textual Literalism and the Need for Scholars

People say, “O, there are hadith that say the person who commits suicide will be punished forever.” No, there isn’t. That’s not what the hadith is saying. What is the understanding sound understanding of that hadith? That’s one danger. And the connecting danger is, especially, the application of specific rules to particular situations is a specialized skill. That is why communities require scholars of guidance.

When people deal with a sensitive situation, how do you deal with it with these considerations? One cannot take a ruling from a book and apply it to a specific situation just like that, without training, because it is likely that the harm would be greater. There’s likely harm.

We should heed the divine command: “Ask the people of remembrance if you know not.” This of course requires attention to supporting institutions that facilitate scholars to be teaching in their communities. We have to have people of knowledge in every community.

It is obligatory that there be jurists who have the capacity, who have learned our religious tradition soundly and reliably, and who are trained to apply that to the the social and lived context of individuals and communities that they operate in. That is critical and we have grave shortcomings in that around the world.

How Do Sins Hinder Us?

How Do Sins Hinder Us?

How do sins hinder us in our spiritual progress?  Shaykh Walead Mosaad answers this question and explains how even a small sin can set us back in our path to Allah.

Ever get caught out on these issues? Deepen your understanding by taking a short course with SeekersHub.

Resources for Seekers

Cover photo by Anwar Vazquez

Does Allah Forgive Marital Infidelity When You Make Hajj?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: If a married woman has sex (without intercourse) with another man, then she goes for hajj and repents from her heart…is her sin forgiven? Should she feel guilty all her life for what she has done or can she feel that its all over now?

Answer: Dear Sister,

Thank you for your question. I pray this message finds you well.

If Allah has concealed this sin and she has made tawba (repentance), she should think well of Allah that He has forgiven her and she should move on with her life.

However, she should really take a good look at her marriage and what went on that she would commit such a major sin. There is no justification for violating one’s marriage vows; therefore, she needs to ask herself can she really be the sort of wife her husband deserves. It’s better to be single than be married while one violates the rights of their spouse.

And Allah knows best,

Zaynab Ansari

Repentance from Fornication

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: (1) Are kissing, hand holding, and touching major sins?

(2) If this happens between a married man and an unmarried virgin woman, what should the unmarried woman do to make up for it? I understand that three things need to be done: 1. stop doing the act, 2. feel remorse, 3. never to go back to it again.

Sometimes there is a fourth condition in repentance which is 4. to fulfill the rights of those transgressed

However, is the unmarried woman accountable to the married woman? Is the unmarried woman responsible for adultery? Should see seek the married woman’s forgiveness (it seems this would make the situation worse)?

However, it is better to fulfill the rights of people in this life? Is the married man responsible for seeking his wife’s forgiveness?


Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

(1) Yes, kissing and touching are major sins and would require sincere repentance. Allah Most High states, “And do not even approach fornication: indeed, it is shameful indecency and a wretched way” (17:32).

(2) Both persons who engaged in the sin must make sincere repentance (tawba), which as you mention entails the following three requisites:

(a) Immediately ceasing the act,
(b) Feeling sincere remorse and regret,
(c) Making the firm resolution to never repeat the act. [Nawawi, Riyad al-Salihin]

The fourth condition — fulfilling the rights of the one who was wronged — would not apply here. Neither the husband nor the unmarried woman should inform the married woman, as that would most likely make the situation worse and cause more harm than benefit.

They could perhaps donate charity to express remorse, and make sincere dua for the married woman.

Salat al-Tawba is also from the prophetic teaching; it entails performing wudu, praying 2-rakats of nafl with the intention of repentance, and then beseeching Allah from one’s heart to forgive and overlook the sin. [Musnad Ahmed]

Make much istighfar, and be committed to never return to such a shameful act. If you rectify yourself and prove sincere, then have hope in Allah that the sin was forgiven.

And Allah knows best.

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Answers:

A Reader on Repentance

Advice to a Young Man with OCD and Struggling with Pornography and Other Major Sins

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: I am a young man and have recently suffered a few physical injuries, as well as some psychiatric problems of extreme loneliness and OCD. I tried getting into Islam and stopped most of my unlawful activities, yet recently fell back into committing major sins, including pornography. Are movies allowed in Islam?

Also, I get horrible thoughts regarding Allah, and sometimes while praying the thought comes to me that I am praying to the devil. The waswasa brings me to tears… Please help.


Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

May Allah make this entire ordeal easy for you, and grant you the strength and courage that you need to overcome your trials. Below are some key aspects of our religion that might prove helpful for you in this stage of your life; I pray it is of benefit to you.

I would also like to preface this advice by stating that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious mental illness, for which a person should seek appropriate psychiatric counseling and medical treatment. It is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about: it is a trial from Allah, like any other trial.

Dealing with Trials

Do not lose hope because of the trials you face. Trials are either an expiation for sins or a means of raising one’s degrees in Allah’s sight. And scholars mention that our trials are filled with subtle blessings that we do not perceive but that are nevertheless there.

Our Master Ibn Ata’illah says, “Whoever deems His subtle kindness to be severed from that which He decrees, then that only reflects one’s shortsightedness.” The true believer, then, is the one who can find that grace amidst the trial — he sees far, well beyond the immediacy of this life, and his scope is broadened, thus enabling him to rely on Allah during the trial.

Our Master Umar (Allah be pleased with him) highlighted some of the blessings of trials when he once said, “I was never afflicted with a tribulation except that with it Allah gave me four blessings: it was not in my religion; I was not barred from being content; it was not worse than it was; and I hoped for reward through it.”

Umar (Allah be pleased with him) was able to appreciate these blessings only because he was realized in the statement of Allah Most High, “Perhaps you may hate something, yet it proves better for you.” (2:216)

And this realization was a result of his having accompanied the best of creation (peace and blessings be upon him), who confirmed this reality when he said, “How amazing is the believer’s affair! Allah decrees nothing for the servant except that it is good for him.” [Musnad Ahmed]

Divine Wisdom and Having a Good Opinion of Allah

Also with respect to trials, one must always remember that nothing exists except that it reflects Allah’s infinite wisdom, for He has called Himself ‘The All-Wise’ (Al-Hakim).

There is always the big picture, a larger context that we are often unable to perceive. Allah Most High is fully aware of how things unfold in the long run, and we must place our trust in Him, fully realizing that there is wisdom in His decisions.

Indeed, our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised us to maintain the very best opinion of our Lord, and to expect only the good from what He decrees. Allah Most High Himself states, “I am in the opinion of My servant.” [Bukhari]

If we are convinced that Allah is looking out for our best interests when He decrees painful situations, and that He will replace what is lost with something much better for us in both this life and the next, then that is exactly how we will find Him, without a doubt.

Reflecting on Those Less Fortunate

Furthermore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave us a powerful mental tool to help deal with trials, as he said, “Look towards those who are below you, not towards those who are above you, for indeed, that is more conducive to your not belittling the blessing of Allah upon you.” [Muslim]

This is an immense wisdom that we should hold firmly to when we are dealing with the struggles in our lives. Today for example, we need only reflect on the situation of those less fortunate than us: people in severe famine who sometimes have to see their infants die before their very eyes due to lack of basic food, people under oppressive governmental regimes who lack security and freedom, people who have lost all their property due to flooding or earthquakes, people who have seen their families killed or transgressed upon by tyrants, people who have no housing and therefore live under bridges, people who get into major car accidents and are paralyzed for life, etc.

We could list many other examples, yet these few should suffice us in making us appreciate that, despite the trials we face, things could be much much worse. Perhaps you should consider visiting those around you who are less fortunate: go to the local homeless shelter or cancer ward, and sit with the people there. Spend time with them, serve them, and count the innumerable blessings that you have in your life.

The Gift of Patience

Our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us that “Patience is a glowing illumination” [Muslim], and that “No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts a Muslim — not even a thorn that pricks him — except that Allah wipes out his sins by it.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Of course, patience is not only the key to dealing with the struggles of life, but it is also the characteristic that enables us to avoid crossing the limits set down by Allah and falling into sin.

In this regard, if you find it difficult to be patient, then simply work on it and force yourself to be patient, as that itself will inculcate patience. Our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever forces himself to be patient will be granted patience by Allah.” And what a great gift from Allah! Indeed, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said immediately afterwards, “No one was given a better and more expansive gift than patience.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Do your Best and Rejoice

Allah Most High says, “When My servant draws near to Me by a handspan, I draw near to him by an arm’s length, and when My servant draws near to Me by an arm’s length, I draw near to him by two arms’ length, and when he comes to Me walking, I come to him rushing.” [Bukhari]

If you take on this struggle for Allah the Exalted, to rid yourself of major sins and be truly patient with your trials, Allah will rush to you — with His concern, with His favor, with His acceptance, with His good pleasure, and with His love. You will find unforeseen provision and unexpected gifts in your life, not to mention what will await you in the afterlife. Do your best, and rely on Him.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily this religion is ease, and no one shall make the religion difficult except that it will destroy him. So do what is correct, try your best, and rejoice!” [Bukhari] Notice how the Prophet ended with the command to rejoice, yet didn’t mention what to rejoice over, as an indication of the immensity and greatness of the blessings of doing what is correct and trying one’s best. [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari] Above all, we should rejoice in Allah’s mercy and acceptance of repentance.

Allah’s Vast Mercy and the Vast Door of Repentance

If you find yourself repeatedly falling into major sins, remember that the doors of repentance and divine mercy are always open. No matter how grave the servant’s crime, the servant can at any time turn back to his Generous Lord and find Him Ever-relenting.

Amazingly enough, our Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) even described an actual door in the direction of the West of Medina through which repentance goes through to be accepted, a door so vast that it would take a rider 70 years to cross it! This vastness indicates to us that no matter how many sins we have committed, and no matter how grave those sins are, there is plenty of room for repentance. This door, by Allah’s grace, shall remain open until the sun rises from the West. [Tirmidhi, Nasa’i]

Surely, there is no room for despair in our religion. Allah Most High states, “Say: ‘O My servants who have transgressed against their own souls! Despair not of the mercy of Allah! For Allah forgives all sins: indeed He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.'” (39:53)

And Allah not only loves for the servant to turn back to Him, but rather is overjoyed at his repentance, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained:

“Allah has greater joy at the repentance of one of His slaves, at the time he returns to Him, than if one of you were on his riding mount in the middle of the desert, only to have it escape from him with his food and drink. So he despairs of it and comes to a tree to recline in its shade, in utter despair over losing his mount, when… Lo and behold! There it is standing right in front of him! So he takes it by its reigns and exclaims out of intense excitement, ‘O Allah, You are my slave and I am your Lord!’ He makes a mistake out of such intense joy!” [Muslim]

Keeping Good Company

Directly related to repentance is the divine mandate to seek out good company, since after one has decided to change his old ways and turn back towards his Lord, he must be in an environment that is conducive to his new direction in life. This connection between repentance and finding good company is evident in the narration in which our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) describes a man who, after having killed 100 men, was told to leave the town in which those sins took place and move to a new town. [Bukhari, Muslim]

You must find company that will elevate your spiritual state. This is one of the most central foundational principles in one’s relationship with Allah Most High — it cannot be taken lightly, and it cannot be emphasized enough. Allah Most High commands us to seek the best of company as He says, “O you who believe! Fear Allah, and be with the sincere and truthful.” (9:119)

Our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) reinforced this divine injunction when he advised his community, “A person is on the religion of his close friend, so let him carefully examine whom he befriends,” and he also said, “Do not keep company except with a true believer, and let not anyone eat your food except one who is godfearing.” Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud]

You should spend time with believers that are strong-willed and of good character, people who remind you of Allah Most High. Many times we cannot even perceive how we benefit from the people of Allah’s remembrance, yet there is no doubt a profound effect of keeping their company. The same applies to the harm of sitting with bad company — it is often slow, gradual, and hence unnoticed.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) alluded to this with a beautiful metaphor when he said, “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like a carrier of musk and one who blows the bellows of a blacksmith. The carrier of musk either gives it to you, or you buy some from him, or at the very least you smell its sweet fragrance. The one who blows the bellows of a blacksmith either burns your clothes, or you get from him a foul stench.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Finally, we must realize that company in our times includes virtual company: the websites we visit and the images we see there are often “bellows of blacksmiths covered in soot,” leaving our hearts enveloped in foul stench and burnt garments. It is only Satan and his devilish insinuations, coupled with the lower self and its unbridled passions, that drive so many of our young people to keep such wretched virtual company and sully their precious hearts.

Warding Off the Devil

The devil is a trickster, and deceit is his profession. He has been in business for as long as humans have existed. He is cunning and crafty, and he works very hard to achieve his goals. He has many tactics, at the top of the list being baseless misgivings and creating doubts in our minds and hearts. He wants us to become confused and obsessed to the extent that it destroys us. He knows our psychological makeup very, very well.

Take the means to ward off the devil, as taught by our Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). These include the following:

(a) Seek refuge in Allah Most High, by saying, ‘A’udhu bi Llahi min ash-shaytani r-rajim’ [Bukhari, Muslim]; and recite Ayat al-Kursi, as well as the last three surahs (Ikhlas, Falaq, Nas) [Tabarani, Mu’jam Kabir].

(b) Ignore any thoughts or fleeting notions of disbelief: these are from the Devil, and he hates to be ignored. Every time you get such a thought, remember Allah and seek His refuge. Go to Allah broken and weak, and He will fix you and grant you strength.

(c) Be consistent in the remembrance of Allah (dhikr), especially when you are on the Internet. When you get online, begin with Allah’s name by saying the basmala, and couple this with sending much salutation and blessings upon the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). While you are online, continue to remember Allah and keep your tongue moist with His remembrance, especially by sending salutations upon the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

(d) Maintain a strong relationship with the Qur’an, reading some portion daily, however little. Make sure you pray all five prayers on time, and try to attend the mosque for as many of the five as you can. When one is busy attending the mosque regularly, it is more difficult to engage in sinful activity between prayers.

Allah Most High states, “Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and regularly establish the prayer: surely, prayer keeps one away from indecency and evil. Indeed, Allah’s remembrance [of the servant] is greater yet, and Allah knows all what you do.” (29:45)

(e) Learn sacred knowledge under righteous scholars so you know the reality of the Sacred Law and its limits. Implement what you learn. The more sound knowledge one has of the religion, the more empowered one is to deal with Satan’s prodding.

(f) Seek Allah’s help in warding off the devil, whose whisperings are in reality of no power or consequence. Allah is in full control. Allah created the devil to spur us forward in our journey to Him Most High. Make supplication (dua) to Allah, and observe the various etiquettes of dua, such as eating lawful and wholesome food, praying with sincerity and focus, and being certain that Allah will answer your dua.

A more complete discussion on the etiquette of dua can be found here:

Struggling to Have Children: Ten Key Etiquettes of Du’a

Some Final Advice

It’s time to really roll up your sleeves and be strong for the sake of Allah. Our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings upon him) said, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, yet there is good in both. Be avid for that which benefits you, seek Allah’s help, and don’t be weak.” [Muslim]

Notice — may Allah have mercy on you — how the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) first stated the merit of being strong, and then followed the statement with the very means to gain strength: (a) being avid for the beneficial, and (b) seeking Allah’s help. Don’t merely do the beneficial, but be keen and avid for it: determine what benefits you, seek it out, and hold firmly to it once you find it. Then rely on Allah and seek His aid alone, for there is no might nor strength except with Him.

Masha’Allah, you have already taken the first step of recognizing your problems and having a sincere desire to quit, and this is not to be underestimated. It is a very praiseworthy thing for a someone with a problem or addiction to at least admit he has a problem and genuinely want to rid himself of it. Have hope in Allah that with each step you take towards Him, He will take ten towards you.

Also, regarding movies, the legal ruling would depend on their content, although most movies have unlawful content and are hence unlawful.

Lastly, please see the following related answer. Although it deals specifically with homosexual feelings and gay pornography, much of its advice can help with any Internet addiction:

Tackling Homosexual Feelings: Supplication, Repentance, and Going Cold Turkey

And Allah knows best.

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Answers:

A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

Major vs Minor Sins, and Haram vs. Makruh Tahriman

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: I know about many major sins (sins mentioned in the Quran and Hadith and have a legal ruling), major sins are therefore haraam to do; as for minor sins, do they encompass all that is makruh tahrim. For instance, it it makruh tahrim to pray ‘Asr saalah while the sun is setting, is this a minor sin?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

Major vs. Minor Sins

Historically, there was a good deal of discussion among scholars as to what constitutes a major versus minor sin.

According to most scholars, the definition of a major sin (kabira) is any sin that the Lawgiver (whether in the Qur’an or Sunna) has in particular conjoined to a punishment, threat or curse. Some examples are murder, theft, adultery, consuming usury, and drinking wine.

This would include, of course, sins that are not specifically mentioned in the Qur’an or hadith, yet are of equal or more trangression, as deduced by the jurists. Examples are treason, usurping wealth, and consuming intoxicants other than wine.

[Ansari/Bihari, Fawatih Rahamut sharh Musallam Thubut; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil]

A minor sin (saghira), then, would be any other act mentioned in the Sacred Law or books of jurisprudence as being sinful.

However if one were to persist in committing a minor sin until it became a part of one’s lifestyle, then it would be deemed a major sin, since that would indicate little care and concern about one’s religious practice. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Ibn Nujaym, Fath al-Ghaffar Sharh al-Manar]

Repentance and Effacement

Our books of theology mention that a major sin requires repentance (tawba) for it to be erased; otherwise, Allah may choose to pardon it or may choose to punish the servant for it.

Minor sins, however, can be effaced by certain acts of obedience as mentioned in various hadiths, such as performing wudu (in an excellent manner), the ritual prayer, the Friday prayer; fasting in Ramadan; having an accepted hajj, and as stated in the Qur’an, avoiding major sins.

Allah Most High states, “If you shun the major sins which you are forbidden, We will efface your [minor] sins for you, and cause you to enter an honorable place of entering.” [4:31]

[Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid Sharh Jawharat al-Tawhid; Sawi, Sharh Jawharat al-Tawhid]

Haram vs. Makruh Tahriman

While the criteria of major/minor sins was dealt with by all four schools of jurisprudence, the distinction between unlawful (haram) and prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) is one specific to the Hanafis.

According to the Hanafi school, a sin is unlawful (haram) if it is established as sinful by definitive texts (nusus qat`iyya), i.e., texts that have reached us by multiple-chain transmission (tawatur) and regarding which there was no scholarly disagreement. All such sins are major sins. Examples including neglecting the prayer (salat), refusing to pay almsgiving (zakat), or marrying one’s mother or sister.

Deeming such sins as permissible is considered a type of denial or rejection of what is necessarily part of the religion, and hence could entail disbelief.

A sin is prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) if it is established as sinful by non-definitive texts (nusus dhanniyya), i.e., texts that do not meet the above criteria of being definitive.

[Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Some of these are major sins (as per the definition of most scholars, mentioned above), and some are minor sins.

Examples include witnessing or recording usurious transactions, taking bribes, getting tatooed, imitating the opposite gender, praying with the urge to urinate or defecate, or for a man to wear gold or silver.

Delaying Asr Until Sunset

The example you specifically ask about – delaying the Asr prayer without a valid excuse until shortly before sunset – is prohibitively disliked. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

There is a hadith in Sahih Muslim that states, “That is the prayer of the hypocrite: he sits around watching the sun until, when it is between the two horns of Satan [i.e., about to set], he rises and pecks at it in four [i.e., prays four rakas quickly, like a bird pecking its beak], not remembering Allah therein save very little.”

Imam Kasani describes this hadith as indicating “a specific threat regarding praying Asr in this time.” [Bada`i al-Sana`i]

So as per the definition of a major sin cited above, this act would constitute a major sin according to the Hanafis. And Allah knows best.

May Allah forgive us for all sins, major and minor; and may He grant us the tawfiq to avoid all that displeases Him. Amin.


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

What is the Difference Between Major Sins and Minor Sins?

Answered by Shaykh Ilyas Patel

Question: I have heard a hadith that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah (swt) be upon him) said that if you commit a sin follow it up with a good deed for good deeds wipe out sins. (I am sorry I do not have the exact wording). Would you please explain this for me? For example, does a small sin require a small good deed and a greater sin require a greater good deed. And what are the good deeds that would be acceptable in this context and what kinds of sins would be wiped out as a result of this – would even the great sins be wiped out?

: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Greater sins mean “major sins”, which are those which appear by name in the Qur’an or hadith as the subject of an explicit threat, prescribed legal penalty, or curse, as listed in the Book of Imam Dhahabi ,Kitab al-Kaba’ir (Book of Enormities) and Imam Ibn Hajar Haythami in Al-Zawajir. Small sins mean “minor sins”, which may be forgiven from prayer to prayer, from one Friday prayer to another, and so forth, as there many acts and deeds through which minor sins are forgiven.

Below are few examples:

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “the five prayers, Jumu`ah to Jumu`ah and Ramadan to Ramadan entail forgiveness for what is between them as long as the enormities are avoided.”

Thawban reports that I heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saying, “Make prostration in abundance, because you do not make one prostration, but Allah will raise you in status and wipe your sins because of it”

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Shall I not show you something, which will wipe out your mistakes? They replied, Yes O Messenger of Allah! The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, Complete wudhu with difficulty, steps towards the masjid and waiting for prayer, because this is commitment and self-control”. (Imam Nawawi, Riyadh al-Salihin)

All what is mentioned in the Qur’an and ahadith, of following up a bad deed with a good deed means the wiping away of minor sins and not major sins. Minor sins do not require a specific proportion of small or greater good deeds, but major sins require repentance (tawba).

There are conditions for a valid tawba as mentioned by Imam Nawawi as follows:

a) to refrain from the sin

b) to regret having done it

c) and to resolve never to commit again

If the repentance is connected with the rights of another human being, repentance has four conditions: the three mentioned above, plus clearing oneself of the obligation owed to the other person. If this obligation is property or the like, one must return it( by any means, secretly or openly, even as a gift to him). If the person has right to retaliate for a murder or injury, then one must give oneself up to him or ask him to forgive him .

Forgiving Major Sins and the Hadith of the Prostitute Who Gives Water to the Thirsty Dog

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: My question is about the following hadith: A prostitute was forgiven by Allah because passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that.

Does this mean that Allah will forgive major sins (all major sins excluding major kufr/major shirk) if one does good deeds even if one hasn’t actually repented for the major sin they committed? Or does the hadith mean that when she gave water to the thirsty dog Allah forgave a part of her sin (zina) but not all of the sin, only a part of it, is it possible that this is what was meant by the hadith?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

Thank you for your question.

The position of Ahl al-Sunna is that Allah may forgive a major sin whether one repented from it or not. Even though the basis is that a major sin requires an actual act of repentance, it is within Allah’s power to forgive a slave who performs such an act even without him actually repenting. This is considered to be from Allah’s divine grace and favor.

The Meaning of the Narration in Question

The narration cited in the question is often used as proof by the scholars of Ahl al-Sunna that major sins may be forgiven even without repentance.

In his commentary on the narration in question, Imam Badr al-Din states that, “In it is a proof… that Allah may  overlook major sins due to small acts of virtue as an act of divine favor from Him.” [`Umdat al-Qari] Similarly, Mulla `Ali al-Qari states, “In this narration is a proof for the forgiveness of a major sin without repentance and this is the position of the Ahl al-Sunna.” [Mirqat al-Mafatih]

The proof for the above position is also clear from the verse, “Allah does not forgive association of partners with Him and He forgives whatever is other than this for whomsoever He wills.” (4:48) Here, the particle “maa” (whatever) is considered general, including thereby both major and minor sins. Since there is no stipulated condition of such a forgiveness being after repentance in relation to a major sin, it is understood to mean that Allah may forgive any sin – including a major one before repentance – out of His pure grace and favor. [Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil; Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir]

This further serves as a refutation of certain groups who stated that Allah is necessitated to punish an individual who commits a major sin and does not repent from it.

As such, this narration is understood to be from the forgiveness of sins, including major sins, due to Allah’s grace and favor.

The Forgiveness of Major Sins

Based on the above, it can be stated that there are three ways in which a major sin can be forgiven:

a. By sincere repentance, which entails leaving the sin, remorse at performing it, and making the reolve to never perform it again. The scholars mention that in such a case one can be confident that his repentance has been accepted by Allah.

b. By Allah’s pure grace, generosity, and favor. Allah may therefore forgive whomsoever He wills without that individual having actually repented.

c. By the performance of certain acts, like Hajj, according to some scholars.

[Bajuri, Sharh al-Jawhara; Laqani, Hidayyat al-Murid]

And Allah Knows Best


Performing the Funeral Prayer for Someone Who Committed Suicide

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Are there any restriction performing janaza for a brother who has committed suicide?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

The sounder opinion, which is chosen for fatwa in the Hanafi school is that the one who commits suicide is considered a sinful believer, and is washed, prayed over, and buried with the believers.

The Texts of the Hanafi School

The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) did not pray over an individual who committed suicide, [Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and others] but this is interpreted by the majority of scholars as being out of warning, not to indicate impermissibility; it is not understood that his Companions (Allah be pleased with them) did not pray over that individual. This also shows the importance of fiqh, and not merely relying on the outward purport of hadiths related to legal rulings.

It is mentioned in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, which is a major fatwa reference authored by a committee of top scholars led by Nidham al-Din al-Balkhi under the instructions of the righteous Moghul sultan, Aurangzeb,

“The one who kills himself intentionally is prayed over, according to Abu Hanifa and Muhammad [ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, the second major student of Abu Hanifa] (Allah have mercy on them). This is the sounder (asahh) position, as mentioned in [Imam al-Zayla`i’s] Tabyin.” [al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 1.163]

Imam Tumurtashi (Allah have mercy on him) said in his Tanwir al-Absar:

“The one who kills himself intentionally is washed and prayed over.”

Imam Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) explained, in his commentary, Durr al-Mukhtar:

“This is the fatwa position. This is even though it is a greater sin than killing another.”

He then explains that,

“Kamal [ibn al-Humam] chose the position of Abu Yusuf [f: that he is washed, but not prayed over], because of the hadith in [Sahih] Muslim that, ‘The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) did not pray over a man who had killed himself.'”

Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explained in his supercommentary (hashiya), Radd al-Muhtar that Ibn Nujaym said in his al-Bahr al-Ra’iq that,

“There is difference regarding the sounder position, though the second position [f: that of Abu Yusuf] is reinforced by the hadith.”

Ibn Abidin objected, though,

“I say: It can be said that there is no indication in the hadith about this, because all it says is that he (Allah bless him & give him peace) did not pray over him. It would appear that he did not pray over him to warn others from such actions, in the same way that he did not pray over the one in debt. It is not entailed from this that none of the Companions prayed over that individual… this is also what was researched [by Imam Ibrahim al-Halabi] in Sharh al-Munya.

… Know, too, that this [difference of opinion] is regarding one who killed himself intentionally. As for the one who did so by mistake, there is no difference of opinion that they are prayed over, as mentioned explicitly in al-Kifaya [f: a major commentary on Imam Marghinani’s Hidaya] and elsewhere…” [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar `ala Tanwir al-Absar, 1.572, Bulaq ed.]

The Position of the Shafi`i School

This is also the position of the Shafi`i school.

Imam Nawawi said in his Minhaj al-Talibin:

“The one who kills himself is like others in being washed and being prayed over.”

Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami said in his commentary, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, that the hadith in Sahih Muslim is,

“…Understood to be in order to warn against such actions. Actually, Ibn Hibban [f: a great hadith expert] said in his Sahih that the hadith was abrogated.” [Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj fi Sharh al-Minhaj, 3.28]

Suicide is Not An Option

Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (909-974 AH) wrote in his al-Zawajir `an Iqtiraf al-Kaba’ir, which lists and explains the major sins (kaba’ir),

“The 314th Major Sin: Killing oneself.

Allah Most High said, “Do not kill yourselves. Verily, Allah is ever Merciful unto you. Whoever does that through aggression and wrongdoing, We shall cast them into Fire, and that is ever easy for Allah.” [Qur’an, 4: 29-30]…” [Haytami, al-Zawajir `an Iqtiraf al-Kaba’ir]

After this, he cites numerous hadiths that indicate the tremendousness of the sin of suicide.

May Allah give life to our hearts, minds, and souls, through true love for Him and His Beloved Messenger, Sayyiduna Muhammad (Allah bless him & give him peace).

Walaikum assalam,

Faraz Rabbani.