When Sins No Longer Seem Significant…

How many times, upon advising one of our sisters, her reply is something like this, “Oh! Why do you bother with such small issues? These are petty matters that Allah azzawjal can overlook. Stop picking at the small things, it’s the big sins which matter! As long as I stay away from them, I am fine.”

It would be unfair to say that we ourselves are not guilty of belittling sins. How often do we brush away what we know is a faulty action but we would never admit (or maybe stop to think) is a sin? How often do we assure ourselves that one more gossip-filled visit, one sillier chick-flick, really can’t hurt? Maybe more often than we care to admit.

Why is it that every female on earth understands that one-too-many cookies adds up to a bodily disaster, but only a minute percentage of us understands that one-too-many slips in our religion adds up to an eternal disaster which can never be jogged off? It is in shaytan’s best interest to keep it that way. The Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alihi wasalam warned us of this when giving the Farewell Speech:

‘Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in your major actions, so beware of following him in your minor actions.’

In another instance the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alihi wasalam tells us:

‘Satan has given up hope that there will be idol worship in the Arabian Peninsula [i.e. lands of the Muslims] but he will be pleased with what is less than that – with the sins that you belittle, and these will be the destroyers on the Day of Resurrection.’

If we look at our daily activities we will find that many of them go in the ‘silly little sins’ slot: some meaningless TV, an hour of backbiting and vain talk on the phone, a heated argument (which could have been easily avoided) with a spouse or sibling, a few white lies sprinkled here and there to help straighten the creases in one’s day. When these sins (yes, sins) are committed daily, they discreetly and slowly grow into much more serious, problematic sins; they take a firm hold of our hearts, and become our habits and mold our character. Who could deny that excessive vain talk and backbiting has led to much anger and disunity? Or always wanting to get in the last word, or not becoming quiet when you saw it was wise in an argument, has led to mutual hatred or divorce?

What is even more threatening to our emaan (faith) are the shady, gray actions that we do not know what to label. A Muslim woman works in an all women’s office, but has to report weekly to her male boss. During the meeting they sit across from each other, going over business matters. Caught up in the working environment, she does not even stop to think whether what she is doing is correct or not, and even if she does, the shaytan will be quick to come forth and say: “Oh come on! It’s all business! Don’t be such a prick!”

Compromising to any action that seems wishy-washy is an official invitation to shaytan. He spends his vacuous life dreaming of such a proposal – working assiduously to break the barrier that you keep between yourself and any sin. One belittled sin is like trampling all over this barrier. It is opening the door to all sins that hide in the clever disguise of ‘small and unworthy’. Shaytan stands sturdily behind this door, making sure that once opened, it is never shut, and knowing that the first step in this door, for many, is a fatal step – for the rest become all too easy to take.

How many of us have known people who committed a sin in the name of ‘it’s not completely haraam!’…only to see them later go tumbling head first into the whirl of their desires? A sister goes from wearing a hijab and skirt to hijab and pants because; she claims ‘it’s almost the same thing.’ One year later her pants have taken a firm, possessive hold of her legs and her manicured nails match her red hair highlights perfectly. I wonder if she still thinks that it’s the same thing as wearing a hijab and skirt? Another sister gives her excuse for enrolling in a college dance class: ‘It’s just for the exercise and as long as I wear baggy clothes, it is no problem!’ Fast-forward a bit ahead and she is the pony-tailed biker-shorts clad instructor demonstrating to the class exactly where your hand goes on your partner’s lower back.

Again we have been clearly warned by the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alihi wasalam to adhere to the black and white laws of Islam and not to go near what we perceive is gray, nor paint gray over the white:

‘That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly, every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly, in the body there is a morsel of flesh which if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it were diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly, it is the heart.’

How do we expect to play with the fire and not get burnt? How do we expect for Allah the Sublime, azzawjal, to ignore these sins which we find insignificant – and at the same time expect them not to harm our emaan? How can we be so ignorant to believe that shaytan will be satisfied with the minor sins we commit and is not subtlety making them appear less and less serious so that finally we begin to commit larger sins without even a sigh of remorse? The stories of the sisters above are true, sadly; yet they offer a great lesson for us to learn: shaytan’s suggestions are always artfully weaved before they are presented to the believer. Taking the examples above, would shaytan’s plan have succeeded if he approached the woman who gradually removed her hijab and become a dance instructor by telling her: remove your hijab and become a dancer! Most likely she would have immediately recoiled from such an evil suggestion and asked Allah’s refuge from shaytan. However, shaytan slyly makes small sins appear trivial in our eyes, until after the third or fourth time we no longer think of their worth and soon we are weltering in our ‘minor sins’. The depth of them does not become clear until it is too late and we are drowning in them – and even then we are too blind to realize safety is only a call away and we allow our body to be pounded with the turbulent waves that only come to destruct us. It is as Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood (ra) said:

‘Beware of viewing the sins as little, for they gather upon a person until he is devastated and Allâh’s Messenger sallallahu alihi wasalam has coined a similitude for it as a group of people who stopped in a desert and their food was brought forth (to be cooked). So a person would go and bring a twig, and another would go and bring one twig until they altogether gathered a great amount (of twigs). They lit a fire and were able to cook their food well.’

The warnings are many and clear, yet those who pay heed are few. The fatal creeping attribute of small sins is like that of the mother and her child. She spends all her time surrounded by her child, so that she does not recognize the child’s subtle yet daily physical changes until it hits her one day: My! How my child has grown!

Belittling our sins leads to devastating consequences including:

1. Once we begin to belittle our ‘small’ sins doing the same for the major sins becomes all too easy. Shaytan allowed his pride and jealousy to get the best of him and look at what he has become: the most despised and pernicious creature in the earth and heavens! Slowly, the impossible becomes possible! May Allah the Merciful, save us from such heedlessness.
“You thought it to be a light matter while it was most serious in the sight of Allah!” (Al-Noor, 24:15).

2. Repentance is forgotten once the sins are belittled and the sins accumulate in the heart until the heart becomes sick from its damp, rotting condition and the sins lie forgotten under gathering dust. The Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alihi wasalam said:

Whenever the servant commits a wrong, a black spot is put in his heart. So, if he refrains from it, seeks forgiveness and repents, his heart is polished clean. But if he returns to the sin, the spot will increase until it overcomes his (entire) heart, and this is the ‘raan’ that Allah azzawjal mentions when He says: “Nay, but on their hearts is the raan (covering) which they used to earn.”‘ (Al-Mutaffifin 83:14).

3. Its prevention of obedience. Sinning soundly kills the opportunity to do righteous deed. Just as the sick that are forbidden from eating sugar forget the sweetness of its taste, so do our sins cause us to forget the sweetness of emaan which is derived from righteous acts.

Alhamdulilah – all praise is due to Allah– there is no problem in dealing with faith in which Islam does not offer a solution. A few words of advice to myself and my sisters in avoiding the mistake of viewing our sins as insignificant or trivial:

4. Just as you should not belittle your sins, you should also never belittle what good acts you do for the sake of Allah. Even if the good that you do is small in your eyes, as long as it is sincerely for His sake and according to the Qur’an and Sunnah, cherish it and thank Allah that He gave you the ability to do such a deed – and try to make this a habit so that not only will your heart grow with these little sprinkles of faith but so too will your reward from Allah. The Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alihi wasalam said:

‘Be moderate and practice the same in proportion (revise- does not make sense to me) and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise [it is only with Allah’s Mercy we enter Paradise] and the most beloved deeds to Allâh are those which are regularly done even if they were little.’

5. Knowledge IS power! We complain of hard hearts and laziness yet we do not strive to find the root cause. We nourish and care for our physical body, yet we neglect our soul! Why do we leave it to die? Let us revive it again! However, as the soul itself is not physical, it finds no nourishment in the material matters that our physical body does. Its nourishment can only be found in the remembrance and knowledge of Allah and his religion – nourishment sent from the seventh heaven itself.

Once the mind receives knowledge of the lofty attributes of Allah, of the noble life of the Prophet sallallahu alihi wasalam, of the beauty and simplicity in Islam, it passes these sacred droplets of wisdom to the soul that thrills in such nourishment. When the soul becomes immersed in knowledge, it produces essential compounds to the human being – great taqwa and emaan in Allah. These compounds cleanse the soul completely, until the soul is as fresh and pure as it was created. Once the soul is rectified, it, being the commander of the physical and spiritual body, commands the body to do good, and forbids it from approaching wrong, and a more stern, diligent commander can not be found. Thus, the believer, with a pure, wise outlook of life quickly recognizes the stench of even the smallest sin, and is immediately repelled from it. Ibn Mas’ood (ra) has said:

‘Indeed, the believer sees his sins as if he was standing at the foot of a mountain fearing that it will fall upon him and the sinner sees his sins like a fly which passes by his nose so he tries to remove it by waving his hand around.’

6. Intention and Consciousness! If you begin your every action with the remembrance of Allah, you will find that when you start to do something that has no benefit, the tongue, which is trained to greet the actions with the remembrance of Allah, withholds such a greeting. This is because it is only a soldier of the soul, and the believing soul does not give permission to its soldiers to welcome that which does not please Allah.

The wise woman is she who uses the necessary daily chores as means to reach her goal - paradise. So even when she cleans her home, or runs errands for the family, her intention is only to please Allah through pleasing her family. Thus, when daily habits or chores are accomplished with the intention of Allah’s pleasure, Allaha blesses such a person in that she will find that her spare time will be spent in actions that do not displease Allah.

7. Immediate Repentance! If you fall into even the slightest sin, do not hesitate to turn to Allah in repentance before shaytan whispers excuses for you to make, and thus causes you to forget the small black spot on your soul which, with neglect, only becomes more persistent until it causes you to sin again. The awareness it takes to recognize a sin, however small, and quickly repent, only comes from one who is conscious and knowledgeable.

8. Eliminate your bad habits before they become large sins! Cut off the sin from its roots and do not hesitate for fear of the pangs of short-lived pain. Ibn-Al-Qayyim (ra) said,

‘A person experiences difficulty in abandoning (bad) habits and customs only if he does so for the sake of other than Allâh. As for he who abandons them truthfully and sincerely with his heart, he does not experience any difficulty except in the first attempt, to be tested whether he was truthful or not. So if he remains a little patient during that difficulty, desire would not last any longer.’

9. Stay away from evil influences whatever they are – the TV, the net, a friend, a spouse, or a relative. Know that being amongst the righteous leads to righteousness and being amongst the evil leads to evil. Good influences provide encouragement and admonishment when all else fails. Some companions, as reported by Anas (ra), said to the younger companions:

‘You are doing deeds which you view to be finer than a hair, but we, in the days of the Prophet sallallahu alihi wasalam used to consider them as major sins.’

10. Turn to Allah in du’aa and expect the reward! Expect the great Mercy and Blessings of Allahin your path to righteousness, and never forget to ask Him who is Able to smooth and ease this journey for you. The Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alihi wasalam said:

‘Whoever abandons something for the sake of Allah compensates him with things better than that which he left and he achieves the sweetness of faith in his heart.’

And all praise is due to Allah azzawjal

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