Recently I had watched a video by Sargon of Akkad (very cool name by the way) where he compared the 7 deadly sins of both Islam and Christianity, discussing certain logical ramifications of a religion based on the 7 deadly sins and I will give my own take on these things. Click here if you want to watch the video.
Briefly, Sargon pointed out that the deadly sins in Christianity are to do with personal character traits whereas in Islam they are actions which also tend to have more societal applications rather than directly improve one’s character.
In christianity the 7 deadly sins are (in no particular order): greed, envy, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, and pride. I think that in the Christian framework, although you are saved by believing in the Resurrection of Jesus, peace be upon him (PBUH), and his 2nd coming, you still have to work on these character flaws if you have them, to live a more fulfilled life. These traits don’t seem to doom a christian to Hell.
With Islam on the other hand there are 7 actions that if you do without repentance while you are alive dooms you to Hell. These are: associating partners with Allah, glory be to Him who is Most High (so basically taking anything else as deserving of recognition and worship for things in your life). This is called shirk in arabic and is extremely serious. The 2nd one is practice of magic which involves things like reciting words to call the help of Jinn and doing various rituals involved with that. The 3rd one is killing a believer intentionally. The 4th is consuming riba (usury). The 5th is consuming an orphan’s wealth (when the guardians of orphans uses the inheritance of an orphan unrightfully). The 6th is fleeing from the battlefield if it isn’t to regroup to come back, so basically deserting. and finally slandering chaste believing women. The common point with all of these is that if they are committed while you think it is alright to do those things, then they become a grave sin, though of course the door of repentance and asking forgiveness is always open as long as you are alive.
Basically Sargon’s point was that the deadly sins in christianity, if one were to avoid them would improve themselves individually and become better and good people. I don’t disagree with him there, since of course removing bad character flaws and habits and cultivating good character habits is obviously a good thing. Then Sargon was making the point that in the case of Islam these sins were designed to protect the “institution” (my own word) of Islam and its integrity. (I got from his tone that he considered that a selfish thing on the Prophet Muhammad’s part(PBUH)). And some of the sins deal with the society as a whole and don’t really apply in most lives now.
So, when he was talking about the deadly sins in christianity, I was surprised that he never made a particular point that was playing in my mind: that everyone inevitably has one or more of these character flaws, and therefore is sinful. This is important because within the Christian narrative humans are sinful “by nature” and since for whatever reason God can’t just forgive sins, we need a sacrifice, and therefore we need Jesus’s sacrifice. The 7 deadly sins is essentially integral to the Resurrection narrative.
With the 7 major sins in Islam, it’s actually a great thing that most of them aren’t being done in daily life. Life would be harder if these sins were very easy to commit. Each of these actions have great significance and in many cases we can see the bad effects of them being done right now which I will detail.
Firstly I want to point out the significance that these sins are actions rather than character traits. Honestly if you think about it, character traits are essentially actions, and in the case of habits they are tendencies, but they are still actions. Someone can be a kind person, but this trait is rooted in the actions he does. If for example for the past 5 years a person did actions that would make us think he is kind, but then spent the next 5 years doing unkind actions, we would think of him as unkind. Basically, character traits are associated with actions you did in the past and are doing in the present. These traits are necessarily active traits that you have to constantly aspire to be and have by doing the actions associated with those traits. And of course the 7 deadly sins of christianity are logically also actions that a person does (and thoughts a person has). How can you be a sloth if you are always busy with various engagements, or be a glutton if you starve yourself even if you have thoughts of laziness and gorging on food? Obviously even these sins are rooted in actions.
Let’s start with shirk. This goes back to the fundamental core of Islam, the belief in Allah, glory to Him who is Most High, and his Messenger Muhammad (PBUH). The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came to get the people away from their worship of multiple gods and focus on Allah. This outward form of shirk is thankfully not being done by anyone calling himself muslim. But there is an inner form of shirk whereby we form an imagination of what we consider Allah and then worship this imagined being. In this case it is best to keep fixed in one’s heart the existence of Allah and focus our gratitude and requests on Him and not any humanoid interpretations of Him.
The second one is the practice of magic. Now in the time of the Prophet (PBUH) as well as today there are people that practice certain rituals that involve the use of Jinn to cause damage on someone else, or effect some changes. People seemed to use it with ill-intent and so it is a very harmful practice to be allowed, and also it is a kind of shirk to rely on magic to do things when you should simply ask Allah for these things that you need (though if you want to hurt people you should look inwards and find out why you are twisted so). Whether you believe in magic or not, the point is that this was a harmful practice for anyone involved.
Third is killing a believer intentionally. This is not only murder, but it is murder of someone Allah loves, so it is a terrible act. Of course murder is a sin anyways, but here there is no justification for killing a believer since any issues or quarrels can always be solved by milder means of conflict resolution. In the case of non-believers, killing them senselessly is no less of a crime, however in a situation of war between believers and non-believers, killing is not considered a sin. It’s important to understand that every action is in a certain degree of good or bad. All sins are not equal, nor are all good deeds equal.
This next one is honestly such a big problem in our world yet most people think it’s a normal part of economy and that is usury. Usury in the Islamic sense is making money from money, and includes trading on futures (products that don’t exist now but may exist in the future). I’ll take one example and explain how usury is extremely harmful to our economies both national and global. A very poisonous practice that is extremely common is interest charged on loans. The thing about interest is that it acts like a black hole, and by its very nature is indeed a black hole. Consider for a moment all the monies in the world. It is finite. Now the money-lenders are asking for money on top of the capitals that they lend out. The capitals are part of the existing monies but the interest charged is charged without any considerations for the debtor to pay it. It is fixed by the lender irrespective of whatever monies exist and the debtor’s ability to pay it. Logically with a fixed amount of money in the world and local economies, asking for extra amount of money automatically puts the person in debt. And the debt can’t be paid off because the money does not even physically exist. Of course there are people who are able to pay off their loans with interest, but the interest took away money that could have been diverted towards expenses and luxuries. if you examine the situation in various countries such as America and the United Kingdom the countries are in debt. The actual debts are complex in origin and nature, but for convenience the came about through the fact the country has to borrow money to make up for the budget deficit (the gap between expenditure and what the government actually has in terms of money to spend). This deficit naturally increases these countries’ debts, but because these debts are in the billions, imagine what an interest charge of 0.01% yearly will do to a debt of one billion. In a matter of a decade these debts go into the trillions which is the case for America and United Kingdom. These debts in turn are used by the governments to carry out austerity policies and cuts to reduce deficits so that debts don’t decrease, but this is like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it, you will never succeed. Usury is one of the world’s biggest problems and yet the people don’t even realise it. And interestingly in both Islam and Christianity (and Judaism) usury is forbidden, and in Islam it is a very major sin, adding further impetus to avoid it.
Yes, usury doesn’t make a person better or worse, but it is a great societal harm which is clearly evident to me. This is enough for it to be a reason to be a major sin and something to be avoided if possible. Nowadays it is virtually impossible to avoid since most people go to university and aren’t rich enough to support their education, so are forced to take out loans which of course have interest on them.
The next one is consuming an orphan’s wealth. I don’t think I need to explain the great injustice in doing such things so I will leave it at that. I think I will just point out that raising this to major sin status gives this great weight and acts as a deterrent for any greedy guardians (notice how this sin deals with greed).
The sixth major sin is deserters of a battle. There are various points I could make here but I will touch on just a few. Firstly, in Islam and Quran we are taught that the martyrs get rewarded with a place in the highest Paradise which is closest to Allah, glory to Him who is Most High. From my reading a book by Imam Ghazali about the grave I came to realise why the martyrs were given such a lofty reward. It has to do with the significance of how a believer approaches his death just before his martyrdom. At that moment when you throw away your concerns about your earthly life to be with the Divine Presence, you have given up your earthly existence and reached a state of letting go of the self. Great mystics have achieved this state while alive in their earthly life. Martyrdom is an extreme case where this happens for the individual. In both cases, all they care about is the Divine Presence and so they are rewarded with that when they die (pass to the next phase of their existence). So a deserter is the complete opposite of a martyr, he has chosen his earthly life and concerns and pleasures of life over Allah (which is a form of shirk as well). For the earthly situation of the war, the deserter is also leaving behind his brethren to be killed which is a terrible and callous thing to do. And if you want to examine the scope of history, the muslims were involved in a lot of battles, so a “rule” like this was necessary to create a absoluteness in the muslim soldiers when they are fighting.
And finally, the seventh major sin, and dare I say this happens to be extremely common as well from what I see on the internet. If you spend any time on the internet social apps and youtube comments you will find a lot of “whores”, “sluts” and “fake ass bitch” being thrown around by both men and women (actually mainly by teenage boys and girls), and honestly a lot of it is unprovoked from what I have seen. Essentially these insults is just pure vitriol and hatred and ugliness that people mindlessly type not realising the great impact their words have on the well-being and mental state of the person the insults are directed at. I think the reason this particular major sin designation came about was as a result of an incident during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) involving his wife Aisha.
One day Aisha was travelling on camel back (in a special box for that sort of thing) with a caravan and noticed that she had dropped a bracelet which was a gift from her mother. She got off the camel and went looking for it and a young man came and helped her look for the bracelet. Then they went back to the caravan together, and just from being seen together, rumours started spreading that perhaps they had done something illicit together. The Prophet (PBUH) hearing these rumours decided to keep a distance from Aisha and this along with the false rumours gave Aisha great distress. She prayed for her name to be cleared and the Prophet (PBUH) received a revelation that confirmed Aisha’s innocence and chastised those who spread the rumours making it a great sin to spread gossip as well as accuse an innocent woman of a heinous crime.
It is clear from this particular major sin and this story how the reputation of a woman is something to be protected. I think the caveat here is someone who is chaste and believing. This is important because someone who whores around is clearly not in the same status as someone who is chaste. And it’s clear that people despise whoever they think are whores or sluts though they don’t take any pains to differentiate the ones that are really slutty and the ones that are innocent of such things. This is not to say that insulting people who are promiscuous or whores is the correct way to approach them or talk with them. They should be given more support since they are really vulnerable. Also if someone has a bad habit the worst way to approach someone about this is to put them down for it, a better way is to show them kindness and politely advise them.
I hope my explanations showed the wisdom inherent in why these 7 actions are major sins. If you enjoyed please like the article and consider subscribing for more articles on this blog.