87. These are major sins in Islam. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud reportedly asked the Prophet about major sins, as in the Sahihayn. He answered, “That you should suggest an equal unto Allah while He alone created you.” He asked him, “Which one next?” He answered, “That you should kill your child in fear that he will share your food.” He asked him, “Which one next?” He answered, “That you should fornicate with the neighbor’s wife.”
And Allah revealed, “And those who do invoke not with Allah ..” to the end (Ibn Jarir, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
The Prophet also emphasized the evilness of fornication by saying, as in a report preserved by Ibn Abi Dunya, “There is no other sin more heinous in the sight of Allah after shirk than a drop of semen spilled into a womb that is unlawful unto him.”
He also said to a man, in a narrative recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim, “Allah forbids you that you should worship His creations and ignore the Creator, and forbids that you kill your child but feed your dog, and also forbids that you fornicate with the neighbor’s wife.” (Ibn Kathir)
Now, says Ibn Kathir, this verse appears to contradict that of Surah al-Nisa’ which says (4: 93), “And whoever killed a believer intentionally, then his reward is Jahannum, abiding therein forever.”
When asked Ibn `Abbas explained that this ayah is Madinan while that of Al-Furqan is Makkan (with a difference of eight years between them) and so, the former annuls the latter. In fact, according to Ibn `Abbas, this present ayah is referring to the unbelievers. Hence the Hadith which says that once a group of pagans came to the Prophet and inquired whether there was any hope for them seeing that they had killed a lot and had committed several other kinds of transgressions. In response this ayah was revealed.
Abu Hurayrah nevertheless held a different opinion. He said, “Once as I reached home I found a woman standing close by. I said salam to her and entered into my house closing the door behind me. Then I began to Pray in my appointed place of Prayers. Then I heard a knock. I allowed her in. She asked, ‘I have come to ask you whether there is repentance for me. I committed sin, became pregnant and then killed the child.’ I replied, ‘There is no blessing in you, nor any dignity.’ She said in grief, ‘Alas! Has this beautiful face been created for the Fire?’ Then she went away. Next day I waited for the Prophet to be alone and then narrated the story to him. He said, ‘Evil was that which you said. Have you not read this verse, ‘Except for him who repented and did righteous deeds such then, Allah will change their evil (deeds) into good (ones).’ I left him and then I did not leave a fort nor housing quarters but I went to it and announced, ‘If you have a woman among you who went to Abu Hurayrah, then, let her come to me again and receive some good news.’ And, there, as I returned from my night Prayers with the Prophet, she was standing at my door. I told her that I had raised the issue with the Prophet and he had said to me, ‘Evil was that which you said.’ And then he recited this verse, ‘Except for him who repented and did righteous deeds such then, Allah will change their evil (deeds) into good (ones).’ The woman fell prostrate and then said, ‘Allah be praised for having shown a way out through repentance. I shall free my slave-girl and her son in Allah’s way. I repent what I have done’” (Ibn Jarir).
The above report is a weak one, there being narrators whose identities could not be established (Ibn Kathir).
See Surah al-Nisa’, n. 256 for a detailed discussion concerning the possibility of repentance after a premeditated murder of a Muslim.
An interesting report in Tabarani is worth quoting. There are three versions of it in Tabarani but Ibn Kathir quoted only one. It says that a person called Al-Mamdud went up to the Prophet and asked: “What do you say about a man who committed all sorts of sins leaving none uncommitted. In that situation (of sin) he left nothing – small or big – but he did it. Is there any repentance for such a man?” He asked, “Have you embraced Islam?” He answered, “As for me, I bear witness that there is no deity save Allah and that you are Allah’s Messenger.” He said, “Do good deeds, give up the evil ones and Allah will change them into good ones.” He inquired, “And my treacheries and debaucheries?” He answered, “Yes.” He said, “Allah is Great.” He kept repeating until he disappeared.
Haythami remarked that Bazzar also narrated it slightly differently and the narrators of Bazzar’s report are all transmitters who were accepted by Sahih compilers except for Abu Nashit (through whom they did not narrate), who was trustworthy anyway (Au.).
88. The translation follows the literal explanation as offered by Zamakhshari who quotes a poetical piece to say that atham is the reward for ithm (sin). He does not close the door for other explanations. Majid writes: “Atham signifies ‘the requital or recompense for ithm.’”
Ibn `Abbas however, along with `Abdullah ibn `Amr, Mujahid, `Ikrimah and others, is quoted by Ibn Jarir as having said that atham is a vale in Jahannum wherein fornicators and adulterers will be locked up (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
Ibn `Amir said, “I went to Abu Umamah Sudayy al-Bahili and said, ‘Narrate to me something you heard from the Prophet.’ He invited me to have dinner with him after which he said, ‘I heard the Prophet say that if a stone were to be dropped from the edge of Hell, it will not reach the bottom for fifty years until it ends at ghayy and atham. I asked him, ‘And what are ghayy and atham?’ He replied, ‘Two wells right at the bottom of Hell to which flow down pus and blood of the inhabitants of the Fire. It is about these two that Allah spoke when He said (19: 59), “They wasted away the Prayers, followed lust and so will meet with ghayy,” and “…and do not fornicate. And whoever did that will meet with athama” (Ibn Jarir).
Haythamiyy does not give full clearance to the report, nor does he reject it (Au.).