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Sin (Arabic: الذنب) is to commit what God has prohibited or to avoid what He has commanded. Sins are divided into grave (kabira) and venial sins (saghira). Grave sins are the ones that are called so in the Qur'an or hadiths or the ones for which Hell will be the punishment, such as murder, adultery, usurping the properties of orphans, and usury.

According to Islamic teachings, some sins have certain consequences in this world, such as losing one's blessings and reputation, and precipitated death.

Righteous deeds, according to the Qur'an, may atone sins, which is called takfir (atonement). Disasters and sufferings also expiate sins. The Qur'an also states that if sinners repent, God will forgive them.

Shiites believe that prophets (a) and the Fourteen Infallibles (a) are infallible and sinless.

Sin as Disobeying God

Sin is to disobey God: to commit what God has prohibited or to avoid what He has commanded. The following Arabic words convey the meaning of sin: al-dhanb (الذنب), al-maʿsiya (المعصية), al-ithm (الإثم), al-sayyiʾa (السَيِّئة), al-khatiʾa (الخطيئة).

Grave and Venial Sins

Main article: Grave Sins

Muslim ethicists categorize sins into grave (kabira) and venial (saghira) sins. This categorization is rooted in the Qur'an and hadiths. For instance, Qur'an 4:31 reads:

"If you avoid the major sins that you are forbidden, We will absolve you of your misdeeds, and admit you to a noble abode."

According to Allama Tabatabai, the word "misdeeds" in this verse denotes venial sins, because it stands in contrast to "major" or grave sins. Thus, the verse suggests the categorization of sins into grave and venial sins. In al-Urwa al-wuthqa, a grave sin is defined as the sin which is stated to be so in the Qur'an or hadiths, the one for which Hell will be the punishment, or the one which is regarded by Muslims as a grave sin. Murder, adultery, accusing faithful women of adultery, usurping the properties of orphans, abandoning obligatory prayers, stealing, and losing hope in God's mercy are considered among grave sins.

Material and Spiritual Consequences of Sins

According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), when a person commits a sin, a dark spot appears in his heart. If he repents, the spot will be removed, but if he continues committing sins, the spot will expand until it will cover all his heart. In that stage, the sinner will never attain salvation. Citing the verse "Whatever affliction that may visit you is because of what your hands have earned," Imam Ali (a) is reported to have stated that sins are the causes of all afflictions in one's life, even a scar or falling on the ground.

Categorization of Sins Based on Their Consequences

In some traditions, sins are divided based on their consequences. In a hadith from Imam al-Sajjad (a), the following types of sins are mentioned:

  • The sins that take away the blessings: oppression, neglecting the duty of enjoining the right, and ungratefulness.
  • The sins that cause regret: murder, neglecting one's blood relatives, abandoning obligatory prayers, and not paying zakat.
  • The sins that bring about divine punishment: mocking people and forsaking the oppressed,
  • The sins that lead to disgrace: drinking wine, gambling, pointless actions, fault-finding.
  • The sins that precipitate one's death: neglecting one's blood relatives, adultery, and false oath.

Ihbat and Takfir

Main articles: Ihbat and Takfir

Ihbat is the cancellation of the rewards of one's righteous deeds due to his sins, and takfir is the atonement for one's sins by his righteous deeds.

According to Ja'far Subhani, the Mu'tazila believed in ihbat and takfir. Some of them believed that sins make all of one's righteous deeds void, and righteous deeds atone for all of his sins. Some others maintained that a righteous deed or a sin cancels out its counterpart only according to its own degree; that is, a minor righteous deed cannot atone for a grave sin but reduces its consequences according to its own degree of reward. Shiite theologians accept ihbat only in the instances that are mentioned in the Qur'an or hadiths, such as disbelief, apostasy, and hypocrisy. Their belief about takfir also is that only some righteous deeds atone for some sins.


According to the Shiite tradition, certain things atone for sins. These include poverty, sickness, helping the oppressed, frequent prostration, and asking God to bless the Prophet (s) and his family.


Main article: Repentance

Shiite jurists have stated that repentance (that is, regretting the sin one has committed and making a decision to refrain from it) is obligatory, and, according to al-Urwa al-wuthqa, one of the most necessary duties. The Qur'an 20:82 states that God will accept the repentance of sinners and will forgive their sins, whatever they may be.[1]


Main article: Infallibility

Infallibility is the spiritual state of a person who never commits a sin. Such a person is called Ma'sum (infallible). Shiites believe that the Infallibles freely choose to avoid sin, since they fully understand the disadvantages and evilness of sin and enjoy strong willpower. Twelver Shiites maintain that the prophets (a), the Twelve Imams (a), and Fatima al-Zahra (a) are all infallible.


  1. Indeed I forgive those who repent, become faithful, act righteously, and follow guidance.’


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from گناه in Farsi WikiShia.