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Does Ramadan Expiate Major Sins?

Does Ramadan serve as an expiation for major sins as well or just the minor sins?

So here is a hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) says:

The five (daily) prayers and from one Friday prayer to the (next) Friday prayer, and from Ramadan to Ramadan are expiations for the (sins) committed in between (their intervals) provided one shuns the major sins. (Muslim)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that these three things serve as expiations between the two of them so long as a person avoided the major sins:

1- The five daily prayers between one another from prayer to prayer is an expiation for that which is between them.

2- Friday prayer to Friday prayer is an expiation between the two.

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3- From Ramadan to Ramadan.

This is an authentic hadith in Sahih Muslim.

So Ramadan is basically like your yearly Salah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is saying you have the five daily prayers that eliminate the minor sins between them, and you have Friday prayer to Friday prayer which eliminates the minor sins between them, and then you have annually Ramadan to Ramadan which eliminates everything between them.

Now, the Prophet says, “so long as you avoid the major sins”.

3 Things Forgive Major Sins

What are the things that forgive major sins?

1-     Becoming Muslim

2-     Hajj

3-     Hijrah, or migrating for the sake of Allah.

I’m not talking about repentance now, but these are the three actions that the Prophet said do away with major sins.

Now, here’s the thing, let’s say that you don’t have the opportunity to do those three things, like should I go commit disbelief and then become Muslim again so I can get that one? It seems pretty easy to just come back and take Shahadah the next day… It doesn’t work that way, you might die in between them.

But the Prophet also teaches us that sincere repentance can do away with anything. So the sincere repentance that you might experience in Ramadan could do away with everything.

And Ramadan sets the stage, this is the beautiful thing. Ibn al Qayyim commented on this hadith. He said:

“Even if Ramadan in and of itself is not like Hajj with the performance of it, does away with your previous major sins, there is no time of the year that you’re going to be closer to Allah than Ramadan; and there is no time that you’re more likely to really sincerely repent to Allah than when you’re closest to Allah in Ramadan.”

The closeness we experience to Allah in Ramadan is unlike the closeness we experience throughout the year. So that’s your greatest opportunity to just shed a tear! Why you’re standing up looking for Laylatul Qadr?

You shed a tear and you really make Istighfar even if you committed adultery, even if you committed a major sin in the past, it would do away with it Inshallah.

So the performance of Ramadan in and of itself does not do that, it serves in that capacity, but what Ramadan gives you spiritually makes it likely for you inshallah to experience that sincere repentance which can do away with your major sins.

About Omar Suleiman
Imam Omar Suleiman is the President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and a professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University. He’s also the resident scholar of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square, a multi-faith alliance for peace and justice.