Second Greater Sin – Despair

The second Greater Sin is to despair of the Mercy of Allah (S.w.T.). “Al-yā-so Min Rūhallah” (To despair of the Rūh of Allah) Rūh: according to the dictionary means a breeze that pleases and comforts. Those who do not believe in the Power, the Mercy and Bounty of Allah (S.w.T.), develop a kind of despair. The Holy Qur’an has termed such people as Unbelievers (Kafir).
“…and despair not of Allah’s Mercy; surely none despairs of Allah’s Mercy except the unbelieving people.”
(Surah Yūsuf 12:87)
The Holy Imams, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.), Imam Musa Kadhim (a.s.), Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s.) have classified “despairing of the Mercy of Allah (S.w.T.)”, to be a Greater Sin; as we have mentioned at the beginning.

The Greatest Sin after Shirk (Polytheism)

After ‘Shirk’ no sin could be greater than to despair of Allah (S.w.T.)’s mercy and benevolence. This attitude reduces a person to a state of utter hopelessness. He imagines himself to be destined for Hell, and therefore he sees no benefit in doing good and avoiding evil. Consequently he tries to achieve as much worldly pleasure as possible and thus gets further involved in all kinds of sinful acts. Any other type of sinner could be pardoned if he repents. But the one who despairs does not deserve to be pardoned because the mental condition of such a person does not lead him towards repentance, but instead, induces him to continue to commit further acts of transgression against Allah (S.w.T.)’s commands.
Hence it means that despair is the greatest of the sins. It is appropriate therefore that all the different kinds of despair may be explained and also their cures, so that the believers can keep themselves away from them.
The Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) has created a cause of all the phenomena of this world by His unlimited power and absolute strength. For example, in the physical affairs food is needed for satiation of hunger, water for quenching thirst, doctor and medicine for curing diseases and work for removing poverty.
In the same way the spiritual phenomena also depend upon various causes. The salvation of a sinner depends upon his repentance, the achievement of absolute belief needs the guidance of an infallible guide (Imam), and the attainment of grades in piety and the high stages of the hereafter depend upon the purity of intention in the deeds performed. The aim of creating man was to make him think and recognise Allah (S.w.T.) in the proper way. But the complete recognition or belief is not possible till man realizes that the Creator of causes as well as effects is Allah (S.w.T.). The causes by themselves cannot bring out an effect till the One who has created these causes gives the capability to the cause to bring out such effect. Therefore one should not be pleased at the apparent causes or be aggrieved due to their absence.

 Cause is not independent

When causes that would fulfill needs or desires appear, man becomes happy and he believes in the Might of Allah (S.w.T.). But when these causes fail to have any effect he becomes sorrowful. In order to avoid such a situation Allah (S.w.T.) has laid down a procedure. Firstly he renders the causes ineffective so that the believer may not consider these to be originally having the effective properties. On the other hand he creates the factors which were hereto non-existent, so that the believing people may not fall into despair. A few examples are mentioned to explain this fact.

First Example: Fire Did Not Burn : Knife Did Not Cut

The fire ignited by the order of Namrūd to burn Ibrahīm(a.s.) was made bereft of its burning property, by Allah (S.w.T.). It is said, that the fire was so intense that birds flying at a height of Three miles used to be scorched by the heat and drop dead.
So they threw Hazrat Ibrahīm (a.s.) into the fire with the help of a catapult from far away. In the Holy Qur’an Allah (S.w.T.) says:
“We said: O fire! be coolness and peace to Ibrahīm.”
(Surah al-’Anbiya’ 21:69)
The fire immediately lost its essential property of burning, and cooled down; and if Allah (S.w.T.) had not ordered it to be peaceful (safe) for Ibrahīm (a.s.) it would have become colder and may have frozen Ibrahīm (a.s.) to death.
In the same way when Ibrahīm (a.s.) proceeded to slaughter his son Ismail (a.s.) the knife was blunted by Allah (S.w.T.)’s command. Ibrahīm (a.s.) threw the knife away and a voice emerged from it. “The Khalil (friend) of Allah (S.w.T.) commands me to cut and the Lord of the Khalil restrains me from it.”

Second Example: Musa (a.s.) and Fir’on

History records that the tyrant rulers have always oppressed Allah (S.w.T.)’s representative on earth, the Prophets and the Imams. These rulers have made relentless use of all the might and power at their command to pursue the Prophets and terminate their lives. But the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) used to render their efforts null and void. The life of Musa (a.s.) during the reign of Fir’on is full of such instances from the beginning to end.
A powerful king like Fir’on wanted to kill Hazrat Musa(a.s.) while he was still in his mother’s womb, but he did not succeed and Musa (a.s.) was born. Fir’on continued in his efforts to murder him but all his plans were foiled by Allah (S.w.T.). Physical and spiritual causes are of no significance in comparison to the Divine decree. Thus Musa (a.s.) was not only born safely but grew up in Fir’on’s own palace and in his own lap.
“And Fir’on’s wife said: A refreshment of the eye to me and to you; do not slay him; maybe he will be useful to us, or we may take him for a son; and they did not perceive.”
(Surah al-Qaŝaŝ 28:9)

Eternal Bliss

Hur ibn Yazid Riyāhi was the commander of Ibn Ziyad. He had obstructed the way of Imam Husain (a.s.) and forced him to halt at Karbala. This despicable act would have condemned him to eternal damnation. But when he heard the sermon of Imam Husain (a.s.) on the day of Aash-Shūrā and also his Isteghasa, (call for help) his heart underwent a transformation. The Mercy and the Grace of Allah (S.w.T.) came to his rescue. He repented sincerely and aligned himself with the martyrs of Karbala. In this way he was able to achieve eternal bliss. In the last moments of his life Imam Husain (a.s.) gave him the good news, “You are ‘Hur’ (Free) as your mother has named you.”

 Wise People Never Lose Hope

One should never lose hope of achieving high moral traits and perfection in one’s faith. In fact one should not even doubt the possibility of achieving it. Even though this type of deficiency in hope is not totally Harām, yet the true believer should refrain from it. On the other hand he should not consider his apparent capabilities; like youth, strength, wisdom, capacity to think, ability to work, enthusiasm, love etc. to be sufficient for success in the hereafter
Many a people had lacked the above qualities but when the Mercy and Grace of Allah (S.w.T.) came to their aid, they were raised to a high position. For example people like Fuzail ibn Ayaz, Imran Sabi, Barham Nasrani and Sahib Riyaz who received the Tawfīq from Allah (S.w.T.) when had become weak due to old age and were incapable of hardwork and active life, yet they achieved an exalted position.

 Hopelessness is a Great Sin

Hopelessness is a Greater Sin because it implies negation of the Absolute Sovereignty of the Almighty. A heart illumined with the knowledge that Allah (S.w.T.) the Creator of all existing things is the best Planner, the best Executor and the best Protector; a person who has the knowledge that it is Allah (S.w.T.) who bestows a super-abundance of sustenance, security and welfare on His creatures because of His boundless Mercy, limitless Generosity and unsurpassed Knowledge, will be comforted and reassured. The heart of such a person will be calm and peaceful and the question of feeling sorrowful and aggrieved will just not arise. The creator is not unmindful of the needs of a child in its mother’s womb. Nourishment is supplied to him through the umbilical cord. When the child is born, Allah (S.w.T.) provides him through his mother, wholesome and easily digestible milk. Gradually Allah (S.w.T.) develops in him various capabilities needed for the different stages of his growth.
To ensure the security and happiness of the child Allah (S.w.T.) creates deep and abiding affection in the heart of the mother for the child; and she is prepared to sacrifice all her comforts and pleasures for the child’s sake.
After having the awareness, discussed above, is it possible for one to lose hope in his Lord? No! In fact it makes it easy to repose faith in the Creator and go through all the ups and downs of life with resignation and fortitude.

 Hopelessness is a Sign of Disbelief and Lack of Knowledge

Despair is a form of hidden disbelief. It is the result of ignorance about the greatness of one’s Lord (Allah (S.w.T.)). Giving in to despair is equivalent to disbelieving in one’s Lord (Allah (S.w.T.)), which is a Greater Sin. One should therefore be extremely cautious and guard against putting oneself in such a woeful state. The noble Qur’an explains this in the verse,
“… Surely none despairs of Allah’s Mercy except the unbelieving people.”
(Surah Yūsuf 12:87)

 Hope is Embedded in Human Psychology

The Almighty in His infinite Mercy, has embedded hope in human psychology. Even in the worst of circumstances, there is a faint glimmer of hope in the human heart, and this helps him to overcome his feeling of hopelessness. He therefore turns to his Lord and supplicates for Mercy, forgiveness and redress, and Allah (S.w.T.) never turns away a supplicant.

 The Cure of Hopelessness

1. Power of Allah (S.w.T.)

Praise be to Allah (S.w.T.) for His supreme and absolute authority over the vast universe; the earth and the seven skies. He sets the course of the stars and the planets; and not a leaf falls without His permission. He is able to do what He wills. Intellect and reason get bewildered in trying to understand His Might and Greatness. Can such an Almighty be unable to fulfill the meagre needs of his creatures. Certainly not! So how can hopelessness be justified.

2. Personal Experiences

One must ponder upon the various blessings Allah (S.w.T.) bestowed on us in the past and which we had taken for granted. The Almighty has brought us safely out of the darkness of the womb. He is thoughtful of our needs and He knows them better than our ownselves, and fulfills them without our asking. He has rescued us from many a dangerous situations, disease and calamities. He has bestowed numerous blessings, physical, material, mental, social and spiritual upon us yet we become confident of our standing as individuals. Then why should there be hopelessness? Is He unaware of our condition? I seek forgiveness from the Almighty Allah! Allah (S.w.T.) is far too exalted.

3.Outward Examples

Let us study the situation of those who were in extremely difficult times but were hopeful of the Lord’s Benevolence and Mercy. They continued to entreat Allah (S.w.T.) till He accepted their prayers and redressed them.
– Hazrat Ibrahīm (a.s.) and his Male Child
– Hazrat Zakaria (a.s.) and his Son Yahya (a.s.)
– Hazrat Ayyub (a.s.) and Tribulations
(follow link at bottom of article for detail on these examples)

Cure for Hopelessness in Difficult Times

If a person is involved in worldly problems he should turn towards two realities. Firstly, this world is a place of test and trial for everyone. There is no one who could escape its clutches. Secondly, one must look at the conditions of people who are worse off than us. In this way one can get peace and solace by comparing ones condition with that of others. Even in the greatest calamities, we should continue to rely upon the Mercy of Allah (S.w.T.). Many a people of the past had been afflicted with tribulations with no relief in sight. But the Merciful Allah (S.w.T.) gave them success. In the book “Faraj Bād as Shiddah” the respected author, Husain bin Saīd Dabistani has recorded more than 500 incidents where people, surrounded by troubles from all sides were given relief by Allah (S.w.T.) after all hopes were shattered. Further we ourselves witness many cases where the invocations and Sadaqah of the religious personalities help the people out of difficult situations. In the same book there is an incident where a resident of Madinahsays, “I was rich and had all the good things in life. Eventually I became poor and destitute. So I went to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) and told him of my problems. He expressed pity upon my condition and recited the following couplets for my sake, “If you fall into difficult times do not be impatient. Because for a long time you have experienced comfort.
Then after every discomfort is comfort and consolation. And the saying of Allah (S.w.T.) is the most truthful. ‘So do not despair, certainly despair is disbelief.’ Allah (S.w.T.) may enrich you in a short while. After that do not forget your Lord. Certainly Allah (S.w.T.) fulfills His promise. If the intellect had the capacity to produce food the wealth of the world would be only with the intellectuals. Beware, do not lose hope when you face calamities. Behind the curtains are concealed astounding candles (of hope).”
The narrator says, “When I heard these lines my grief changed into happiness and hopelessness turned into optimism. Very soon the doors of Mercy opened upon me and my bad times changed for the good.”

Every Sin is Pardonable 

According to the verse of the Holy Qur’an and Mutawatir (widely related) traditions all the sins which man commits are pardonable if he repents sincerely. It is wrong to say that such a sin can never be pardoned. The Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) says in the Glorious Qur’an,
“And He it is who accepts repentance from His servants and pardons the evil deeds and He knows what you do.”
(Surah Ash-Shūrā 42:25)
Allah (S.w.T.) has mentioned His names as:
1)      Tawwabun (one who accepts Tawba)
2)      Gaffarun (one who pardons)
3)      Ghafūrun (one who forgives totally)
4)      Ghāfir udh-Dhunuba (Pardoner of sins)
5)      Qābil ut-Tawba (one who accepts repentance)
Allah (S.w.T.) has given a general invitation to all the people to turn towards Him and seek forgiveness for their sins. If we study the meaning of the 54th verse of Surah az-Zumar we find that sinners have no cause to loose hope. This Ayat is also known as Ayat al-Rahma (The verse of Mercy).
“Say: O my servants! who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the Mercy of Allah ; Surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
(Surah az-Zumar 39:53).

Unlimited Grace

A few points must be noted from the above verse.
Firstly, Allah (S.w.T.) says, ‘O my servant’ and not ‘O sinners!’ Even though he is addressing the sinners he addresses them as ‘my servants’. So that the hopelessness of the servants may be transformed into hope in His Mercy.
Secondly, he says, “Who have acted extravagantly.” This denotes a soft approach. Allah (S.w.T.) does not say ‘O you who have acted blatantly,’ So that the sinners may not lose hope of obtaining pardon.

Hopelessness is Haram

The third point to be noted is that the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) has told the sinners, “Do not despair of the Divine Mercy.” The use of a negative term signifies the prohibition of hopelessness. Also it means that to lose hope regarding salvation is Harām.
The fourth point is that Allah (S.w.T.) did not stop at this, He further adds, “Surely Allah (S.w.T.) forgives the faults altogether,” signifying that the statement covers all the sins.
Fifth Point: The addition of the word ‘altogether’ at the end signifies that the statement includes all sins without any exception.
Sixth Point: The last point is that at the end of the verse, Allah (S.w.T.) repeats, “Surely He is the forgiving, the merciful,” to stress upon the fact that Allah (S.w.T.) desires and wishes to forgive those who repent.
“Only the wise could estimate, the unlimited Grace of the Almighty Allah who releases us from calamities, and removes grief from the defeated hearts. On numerous occasions, man is sorrowful in the morning. But by evening his disposition changes into happiness. So when you are surrounded by difficulties, repose absolute hope in the Unique God.”
– Imam Ali (as)
Source:  Excerpt taken from “Greater Sins” by Ayatullah Abdul Husayn Dastaghaib Shirazi

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