Does Allah’s Mercy Depend on Sin?

29 May, 2017
Q Does Allah's forgiveness depend on the intensity of the sin, whether major or minor, if one repents?


Salam Nafisa,

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

I would like to thank you for trusting us, and may Allah, Majestic in His Praise, assist me in answering a question related to Him.

In response to your question, a simple and emphatic “no” suffices. No, Allah’s mercy doesn’t depend on the intensity of the sin, whether major or minor.

I don’t wish to stop here, although a “no” truly answers the given question. Still, I believe the question is a fruit of a certain way of thinking and background intellectual processes that lead to it.

It is also indicative of a way of thinking which, unfortunately, is common to so many Muslims, irrespective of their degree of knowledge and familiarity with Islam.

Let’s start tracing our way to the heart of the matter. Some people cannot conceive that Allah, Majestic in His Praise, forgives every possible sin, except polytheism of course, despite the vast number of verses, Hadith Qudsis, and traditions that testify to that.

To give but a little example, here are two verses:

{Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgives anything else, to whom He pleases.} (Al-Nisaa’ 4:48)

The meaning of “anything else” in the above verse is quite clear. Elsewhere, Allah also says what means:

{Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.} (Az-Zumar 39:53)

This is a true manifestation of absolute Divine mercy and relief for people who wrong themselves.

So, what is it that makes such a question itch in our minds? Could it be that we have a problem with such a Divine position?

The truth is, yes. In fact, such an attitude is not at all novel in Muslim thinking. Why would anyone have a problem with such overwhelming mercy is, straightforwardly, related to extreme exercise of a certain way of thinking.

You will be surprised that such questions were raised as early as the second Islamic century. Even worse, schools of thought which sought an unorthodox stance and beliefs were formed around these questions, as I will explain shortly.

Before going into that, I would like to start with a personal story. I remember that in the presence of someone with a great share of Islamic knowledge and who works in the field of Islamic education, the question of “what is the most essential value of Islam?” was raised.

One could think of many: humility, love, peace, justice, generosity, gallantry, etc. I was in a state of shock when that person was completely stunned to my firm, calm, and equally natural answer of “mercy!”

“Isn’t it justice?” was that the educator’s answer.

Why would someone have a problem with mercy superseding justice? The simple answer is that such a person has cornered themselves in an overtly rationalistic perspective, so much so, that they can’t see the prevalence of mercy— a value which can go against the very principals — over justice, which is the highest zenith for a purely rationalistic prioritization of values.

The Qur’an gives uncomplicated answers to such claims as follows:

{He cannot be questioned for His acts, but they will be questioned (for theirs).} (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:23)

From that perspective, a verse such as the one that says: {Those for whom the good (record) from Us has gone before, will be removed far therefrom.} (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:101) makes one ask why Allah, Majestic in His Praise, would give such good record (from a purely rationalistic perspective “undeservedly”) to anyone.

Because it is a matter of faith.

One of the best reads which I believe brilliantly demonstrates the superiority of mercy over all Divine and Islamic values is the article Mercy: The Stamp of Creation by Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah.

The thinking faculties can think in different planes and paradigms, some of which are superior to others; rationalistic, analytical, constructive, emotional, mystical, logical.

Although this is a philosophical issue which you can read about in depth, the plague of modern time is that the empowerment of rationalistic thought prevails over all others.

Such schools of thought are not new. Al-Mu`tazilah school, for example, in their attempt to present a coherent rational view of Islam, they made Divine justice superior to all other attributes, and in some cases annulled the rule of intersession.

To sum it up, Muslims believe that Allah forgives all sins, both major and minor, except associating others with Him. Repentance is the only condition for forgiving major and minor sins. If one commits a sin and turns back to Allah in sincere repentance, Allah will forgive his sin.

If one is guilty of disbelief, the only way out for him is to renew his belief by declaring the shahadah (testimony of faith) again and seeking Allah’s mercy and forgiveness.

When Muslims repent from a certain sin, they should have a strong resolve not to do it again. One should also follow that sin with good deeds like seeking Allah’s forgiveness, glorifying Allah, offering extra prayers, helping the needy and the poor by giving out in charity, etc.

Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an what means:

{Verily, good deeds wipe out bad deeds.} (Hud 11:114)

I hope my answer was of assistance. Thank you once again, and please keep in touch.


This response is from About Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

The Unlimited Forgiveness of God

Your Guide to Allah’s Mercy and Forgiveness