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What’s the biggest sin in Islam?

Islam defines sin as any act, word, intention, or belief that goes against the will of Allah (God). While all sins are considered misdeeds that distance a person from the straight path of righteousness, Islamic scholars have debated on which sin is the “biggest” or most severe according to the teachings of the Quran and Hadith (sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad). There is no definitive consensus, but there are a few major contenders that are widely regarded as the greatest sins.

Shirk (Idolatry)

Many Islamic scholars consider Shirk, the sin of idolatry or polytheism, as the gravest and most severe sin in Islam. Shirk literally means “association” and refers to associating partners with Allah or worshipping deities other than the one true God. The Quran strictly prohibits Shirk and emphasizes that Allah is the only deity worthy of worship. He is supreme, omnipotent, and without equal. The Quran states:

“Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.” (Quran 4:48)

Committing Shirk violates the core tenet of Islam that only Allah is worthy of worship. It is seen as the highest form of disbelief and a betrayal of a person’s covenant with God. For this reason, Shirk is regarded as the most serious and unforgivable sin if maintained until death without sincere repentance.


Murder is considered one of the worst and most egregious sins in Islam. The Quran equates the killing of an innocent human being with killing all of humanity:

“Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” (Quran 5:32)

Life is seen as sacred and given by Allah, so murder is an assault on God’s creation. The person who commits murder has acted against Allah’s will and seized a life which they had no right to take. The Quran prescribes the death penalty as just retribution for premeditated murder. Murder is distinguished from justifiable killing in self-defense, during war, or through appropriate legal punishments.

Disobedience to Parents

Though not discussed as extensively as Shirk and murder, disobedience to parents is described in several verses of the Quran as a major sin:

“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.” (Quran 17:23-24)

Parents are to be treated with love, respect, and care. Failing to uphold their rights is a grave failure of character and duty. Disobedience to parents can severely damage family ties and goes against the virtues of responsibility, gratitude and humility. Depending on the level of disobedience, it can become a major wrongdoing.

Adultery and Fornication

All acts of sexual intimacy outside of marriage are prohibited in Islam. Both adultery (extramarital intercourse) and fornication (sex between unmarried persons) are mentioned repeatedly in the Quran as sins:

“And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.” (Quran 17:32)

“The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.” (Quran 24:2)

Not only is adultery extremely harmful to marriages and families, it is also a violation of the legal contract of marriage between spouses. Fornication threatens morality in society by encouraging vice. The gravity of unlawful intercourse ranks it among major sins.

Consuming Interest and Usury

Dealing with interest and usury are emphatically banned in several verses of the Quran. Gaining profit and advantage through interest is seen as exploiting others and accumulating money by unearned and unfair means:

“O you who have believed, fear Allah and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allah and His Messenger. But if you repent, you may have your principal – [thus] you do no wrong, nor are you wronged.” (Quran 2:278-279)

While engaging in usurious transactions is a major sin, modern Islamic finance has formulated Halal alternatives in banking and investment that avoid interest and share profits and risks instead.

Arrogance and Pride

Behaving arrogantly and proudly is repeatedly warned against in the Quran and Hadith. Though people often focus more on outward actions, arrogance is an inner disease of the heart:

“And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” (Quran 31:18)

Pride prevents a person from seeing their own flaws and leads them to look down on others. It fosters injustice, lack of compassion and disobedience towards Allah. The Quran emphasizes humility as a virtue and a means of getting closer to God.

Breaking Promises and Oaths

Muslims must stay true to their word and fulfill all vows, covenants and promises. Breaking solemn pledges without a valid reason is considered dishonest and hypocritical:

“And fulfill [every] commitment. Indeed, the commitment is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.” (Quran 17:34)

Going back on oaths or promises without just cause goes against the spirit of truthfulness and reliability valued in Islam. It can break trust between people and bring harm upon those relying on such assurances.


Games of chance that involve betting and risking money are strictly forbidden in Islam. The Quran stresses that gambling wastes time and resources while breeding malice and enmity:

“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” (Quran 5:90)

While games of skill, strategy and sport are permitted, gambling is an addictive vice driven by greed and desperation. The money gained through gambling is unearned which makes it impure and filthy.

Sorcery and Black Magic

The Quran clearly condemns magic and sorcery, considering it an act of deception and illusion. Verses state:

“And they followed [instead] what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic and that which was revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Harut and Marut…” (Quran 2:102)

Practicing and learning magic and sorcery corrupts faith in Allah. Relying on spells, omens and the supernatural is a form of Shirk since it ascribes power to objects other than Allah. It breeds corruption, harm and deceit in society.

Oppression and Injustice

Islam places great emphasis on justice, compassion and human rights. Committing injustice and oppression is a grave sin, second only to Shirk:

“Indeed, Allah does not wrong people at all, but it is people who wrong themselves.” (Quran 10:44)

“And whoever commits that through aggression and injustice – We will drive him into a Fire. And that, for Allah, is [always] easy.” (Quran 4:30)

All forms of oppression such as racism, misogyny, discrimination and tyranny are abhorred. The failure to uphold justice violates the core ethics of Islam and betrays people’s trust in authority.


Behaving hypocritically is described in many verses of the Quran as a trait of unbelievers and evildoers:

“Indeed, the hypocrites [think to] deceive Allah, but He is deceiving them. And when they stand for prayer, they stand lazily, showing [themselves to] the people and not remembering Allah except a little.” (Quran 4:142)

Saying one thing but doing another or presenting a false image breeds dishonesty and distrust. Hypocrisy in faith and righteous deeds is unacceptable as it demonstrates weak or imitation faith solely for social approval.

Hopelessness in Allah’s Mercy

Having despair in Allah’s mercy and forgiveness is rebuked in multiple verses of the Quran:

“And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except for those astray?” (Quran 15:56)

No matter how many sins a person has committed, the door for seeking forgiveness through sincere repentance is always open. Losing hope in Allah’s immense grace indicates weak faith, so believers must always have a positive outlook.

Anger and Wrath

Though anger over injustice and evil is natural, the Quran condemns prolonging negative emotions and excess anger:

“Those who repress anger, and who pardon people – verily, Allah loves the doers of good.” (Quran 3:134)

Unresolved rage often leads to hatred and self-destructive behavior. Controlling anger and responding with wisdom and forgiveness is praised as a noble quality.


In summary, Islamic jurisprudence debates major and minor sins based on verses of scripture. There is no definitive ranking, but idolatry, murder, disobedience to parents, adultery, usury, arrogance and breaking oaths are among the most serious sins described in the Quran and Hadith. The magnitude of sins may depend on intention, situation, harm caused, methods of repentance, and Allah’s final judgment.