What are major sins and minor sins in Islam?
The first step to asking for forgiveness is knowing what to repent from. Scholars differ over what exactly constitutes a major or a minor sin.
It is generally accepted that sins that Allah has designated a specific punishment for are considered major sins. Some examples of major sins include associating partners with Allah (shirk), murder, adultery (zina), and disrespecting parents.
Minor sins, on the other hand, include praying incorrectly, acting immodestly, or cursing.
Despite their name, we shouldn’t take minor sins lightly! The Prophet ﷺ said, “Beware of minor sins like a people who descend into the bottom of a valley, so one comes with a stick and another with a stick until they have fire to cook their bread. Verily, when a person is held accountable for these minor sins, they will destroy him” [Musnad Ahmad #22302]. This hadith gives us a visual sense of small sins piling up on one another until they accumulate to a raging fire.
How do I repent for a minor sin?
Good deeds wipe away minor sins, as Allah says, “And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember” [Qur’an, 11:114].
It is from the immense mercy of Allah that minor sins are forgiven readily through virtually every good deed and act of worship, like giving in charity, reading Qur’an, or praying tahajjud.
So if you’ve ever wondered, for example, “Will Allah forgive me for watching bad things?,” know that the door to repentance is always open. Quickly seek Allah’s forgiveness and follow up the bad deed with a good one.
Can minor sins become major ones?
Imam Al-Ghazali notes that pride and pleasure in minor sins drive people to engage in major sins; thus, major sins are almost always preceded by minor sins. We’re discouraged from discussing even our minor sins because keeping them a secret gives us the opportunity to repent. It also protects others from the harm that comes with publicizing and normalizing one’s sins.
How do I ask Allah for forgiveness for major sins?
There are four key steps to repentance. An easy way to remember them is through the four ‘R’s: remorse, repent, resolve, repair.
- Remorse: Feeling guilty is a sign of faith in your heart. Follow up your misdeed immediately with regret and remorse towards Allah.
- Repent sincerely by verbalizing ‘astaghfirullah,’ which means, “I seek forgiveness from Allah.”
- Resolve to never commit the sin again.
- Repair: If the sin involved wronging someone, make reparations by seeking their forgiveness and recompensing them if possible.
What if I repeat a sin again?
One of the tricks of Shaytan is to discourage people from repenting. Shaytan knows Allah forgives often. Therefore, Shaytan tricks you with whispers of, “You’re going to do it again anyway,” or “You’re repenting again? You think Allah will forgive you?”
Shaytan introduces doubt in Allah’s forgiveness. But we shouldn’t doubt the Forgiver, al-Ghafir.
Will Allah actually forgive me?
The reality is that we won’t know for sure if Allah has forgiven us until we meet Him on the Day of Judgment. We must constantly pray that we meet Him with our mountains of sin forgiven simply out of His mercy.
What we do know for sure is that Allah is al-Ghafur. Every few pages of the Qur’an highlights a merciful Allah.
The Prophet ﷺ said,
“When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His book with Him upon the Throne: Verily, My mercy prevails over My wrath.”[Sahih al-Bukhari #3194]
So we can be hopeful that no matter what sin we’ve committed, if we’re sincere in turning back to Allah, He will shower us with His forgiveness.
The believer’s hope in Allah can’t be stated and stressed enough!
Is there a du’a I can make to erase all sins?
The Prophet ﷺ taught us a very important du’a for seeking forgiveness from Allah. It’s often titled sayyidul istighfar, or the Best [Du’a] for Seeking Forgiveness:
O Allah, You are my Lord. None has the right to be worshiped but You. You created me and I am your servant. I am committed to Your covenant and promise, as much as I can. I seek refuge with You from the evil I have done. I acknowledge all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So, forgive me, for indeed, no one forgives sins but You.
Allahumma anta rabbi la ilaha illa anta, khalaqtani wa ana abduka, wa ana ala ahdika wa wa’dika mastata’tu. A’udhu bika min sharri ma sana’tu, abu’u laka bini’matika ‘alayya, wa abu’u bidhanbi faghfirli fa-innahu la yaghfiru adh-dhunuba illa anta.
The Prophet ﷺ added,
“If somebody recites this [du’a] during the day with firm faith in it, and dies on the same day before the evening, he will be from the people of Paradise; and if somebody recites it at night with firm faith in it, and dies before the morning, he will be from the people of Paradise.”[Sahih al-Bukhari #6306]
Seeking forgiveness is part of our religion
Allah made us human and knows that we will fall into mistakes. Know that hope in Allah is at the heart of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Never give up hope because Allah loves to forgive. The core of our faith is to believe that He will forgive us, no matter how much we struggle to overcome our sins. The more we sincerely try, the greater our status is in the sight of Allah.
If you want to learn more about the topic of repentance, read the paper, “Repentance as a Way of Life: Islam, Spirituality, & Practice.”