Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has described seven of the major sins as the most grievous ones in the sight of Allah, and advised people to refrain from them at all costs. He has specifically referred to these as the “sever destroyers” or “seven fatalities” recorded in a famous tradition which is as follows.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Avoid the seven great destructive sins.” The people inquired, “O Messenger of Allah, what are they?” He replied:
- “To join others in worship along with Allah;
- To practice magic;
- To kill the life which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause;
- To indulge in usury;
- To eat up an orphan’s wealth;
- To show one’s back to the enemy and flee from the battlefield at the time of fighting;
- To accuse chaste women who never even think of anything touching chastity and are good believers.” (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)
Let us briefly examine each of these sins.
Worshiping anyone besides Allah is the greatest sin in Islam, and can take various forms, such as rituals devoted to certain deities, believing such deities to control our destinies, or calling out to them for help or intercession. The second major sin in the list is practicing magic, which is completely prohibited in Islam, and so its use is not justified even for a good cause.
Next in line is unlawful killing. Allah has made human life sacred, and hence, it is not to be taken lightly or wasted, while “lawful executions” can only be practiced by the State for certain pre-defined crimes. Usury is the conditional excess amount on a debt – something inherently embedded in the existing global financial system, but rejected by the Quran as well as the scriptures of various other religions.
Depriving an orphan of his or her wealth is the next cardinal sin on the list. In contrast, looking after orphans and their kind treatment entitles one to great reward, owing to Islam’s highest regard for kindness and fairness. Another major sin is deserting the battlefield through cowardice at a time of war. The final sin on the list is falsely accusing a chaste woman, and seeking to malign her reputation. In Islam, negatively commenting on a woman’s character without proof is a major transgression, and a legal offence.
It is important to remember that while these seven sins are cardinal, they are by no means “unforgivable”. In fact, Islam lays much emphasis on being repentant after sinning, and seeking to reverse the damage caused through one’s thoughtless actions or speech.