Much of what the Koran says about the practice of sin sounds very much like the Bible. For example, the Koran has several words for sin, but behind all of them is the idea of failure to come up to the standards set by Allah.
Since Islam contends that man was created for the service of Allah, and that service includes absolute obedience to what Allah has commanded, the root of sin lies in man’s prideful opposition to God’s will. Man is prone to wrong actions because he is weak. Therefore, it is up to man to choose to be strong and to do good works. If he does, his good works will ward off evil. The Koran teaches, “Surely good deeds take away evil deeds” (11:114).
The Koran does not consider the original sin to have totally depraved mankind as Christianity does. Islam therefore has no overall doctrine of a “sin nature”. The Koran reveals that Muhammad himself had no deep conviction concerning sin, and he did not demand that believers experience any such conviction-. Rather, Islam puts forth ideas about specific wrong-doing - classifying various misdeeds as being great or small for the purpose of determining the degree of punishment these misdeeds deserve.
Allah provides no means for man to be cleansed of sin, because Islam does not recognize that man needs such a cleansing. There is no means of determining when, how, or with what results a person is forgiven. Judaism and Christianity disagree sharply – man has a sin nature from birth and sin must be cleansed. For the Jews, Jehovah provided a means of atonement through the blood sacrifices of the Mosaic Law. For the Christian, the ultimate atoning sacrifice was Jesus’ death on the Cross-.
It is important to remember that in Islam, forgiveness is the prerogative of Allah. There is no reason by which a human being can know with certainty that he has been forgiven - other than the inference that since nothing bad has happened to him, ne must have been forgiven,
Islam puts forth ideas about sins or specific wrongdoing – classifying misdeeds as being great or small for the purpose of determining the degree of punishment these misdeeds deserve:
- Great Sins (kabira) include things such as murder, adultery, disobeying God, disobeying one’s parents, drinking to excess, practicing usury, neglecting Friday prayers, not keeping the fast of Ramadan, forgetting the Koran after reading it, swearing falsely or by any other name than that of Allah, performing magic, gambling, dancing or shaving the beard. Such sins can be forgiven only after repentant deeds. Adultery and fornication are often labeled as “temporary marriage” rather than sin. (4:3-34)
- Little Sins (saghira) include lying, deception, anger and lust. Sins of this class are easily forgiven if the greater sins are avoided, and if some compensatory good actions are performed. A lie may be good “as long as it helps someone.”
- The Unpardonable Sin (skirk) is the association of other deities with Allah. This sin surpasses all others. According to tradition, Muhammad was asked to identify the greatest sin and he said it was polytheism, the worship of more than one deity.
Christians are considered polytheists from the perspective of Islam, since Muslims regard Christians as believing in three gods (the Trinity) rather than one God. And, by the way, this is all the justification Muslims need to wage a holy war on Christians – and to seek to convert, conquer, or eliminate them as unbelievers who have corrupted the true faith of Allah.