THE QUR'ANIC DOCTRINE OF SIN
own best interests, rather than of that wrong wherein he transgresses
divine law, and acts contrary to God's commands and the divine will. Hence we
read, 'thus did they act who were before them. God was not unjust to them; but
to their ownselves were they unjust and the evils which they had done recoiled
upon them.' 1
In opposition to these evil deeds (as-sayyiat) are the good deeds (al-muhsinat)
and the Prophet recognized that the habit of good deeds, and the attitude of
heart and mind engendered by their performance, was a power which would assist
the believer in overcoming temptation to sin. This is specially seen in what
he says of the strength of purpose developed by devout prayer and the spirit
of prayerfulness. 'Pray regularly morning and evening, and in the former part
of the night: for good works drive away evils.' 2 The idea that good
deeds drive away evils easily passes into a somewhat different one, according
to which good deeds gain for the believer the forgiveness of sins.
In some passages there seems to be drawn a distinction between those evil
actions which are described as sayyiat, and the greater sins which must
be repented of before one can hope for the forgiveness of God. Thus we find,
'If ye turn aside from grievous sins (kaba'ir) of those which ye are
forbidden, we will cleanse you from your smaller faults (sayyiatikum).'
The next word which we shall consider is dhanb. It is unnecessary to
discuss the etymology of the word further than to say that its primary idea
seems to have been connected with injury done
THE QUR'AN DOCTRINE OF SIN
from behind; but the word has come to express the guilt or crime connected
with any action occasioning such injury. Of this transition, however, nothing
can be seen in the Qur'an. As used by Muhammad, the word means simply crime or
sin, and while it may describe many and diverse acts, there is always connected
with it the idea that the action done involves moral guilt. The word may be used
generally, 'He is sufficiently acquainted with the faults of His servants.'
1 It is used similarly in a general sense, 'Despair not of the mercy of
God, seeing that God forgiveth all sins.' 2
Under the category of
dhanb are included those moral failings to perform a duty, which though not
actively wrong in the sense of being transgressions of a command, are yet
culpable. The word is employed thus 'Wherefore be steadfast thou and patient:
for true is the promise of God; and seek pardon for thy fault.' 3 On
this passage the commentators remark that the fault spoken of consisted in being
backward or negligent in advancing the true religion for fear of the infidels.
There is thus seen to be an advance from the idea of the word formerly examined.
The action which is dhanb has clearly a moral quality.
It is this word, therefore, which covers all those cases of impiety
manifested by disbelief in the revelation of God, or by contempt shown for God's
claims to worship and obedience, or by disregard to the teachings of His
prophets. We find it thus, 'Every one of them did we