Difference between Thunoob and Sayyi'aat
Fatwa No: 358108

  • Fatwa Date:3-1-2018 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 16, 1439
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Shaykhs. Can you please define Zunoob and Sayyi’aat. Are they different? If yes, please explain the difference. And does one of them cover the other one? I mean, do Zunoob also include Sayyi’aat and vice versa? May Allah reward you, respected Shaykhs.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

The terms Thunoob and Sayyi’aat were mentioned together in the verse wherein Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {...Our Lord, so forgive us our Thunoob and remove from us our Sayyi’aat and cause us to die with the righteous.} [Quran 3:193]

Some scholars of Tafseer (exegesis) made a distinction between the two terms, saying that Thunoob refers to major sins and Sayyi’aat refers to minor sins. It was also said that they have the same meaning, and some scholars favored this view. There are other views in this regard. Below are some of the statements of the scholars:

Ibn Hayyaan said:

"Ibn ʻAbbaas said, 'Thunoob are major sins, and Sayyi’aat are minor sins. This is supported by the verse: {If you avoid the major sins which you are forbidden, We will remove from you your lesser sins (Sayyi’aat)...} [Quran 4:311] It was also said that Thunoob means abandoning acts of obedience to Allah and that Sayyi'aat means committing acts of disobedience to Him. It was also said that forgiving Thunoob and removing Sayyi’aat are close in meaning to each other but were repeated for emphasis and because they are two ways of Satr (concealment of sins), and removal of the punishment of sins after it has become due. Forgiving and removing have the same meaning, and Thunoob and Sayyi’aat also have the same meaning. They were used together as confirmation and hyperbole and to reflect the required persistence in supplication. It was reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, ‘Indeed, Allah loves those who are persistent in supplicating.’'" [Al-Bahr Al-Muheet]

Ibn ʻAshoor said:

"By Thunoob, they meant the sins whose effects do not extend to others (confined to the doer only), and they therefore asked Allah to forgive them, and by Sayyi’aat, they meant the sins whose effects extend to others (involving other people's rights), and they therefore asked Allah to remove them. It was also said that they were used synonymously for emphasis. Another view is that, by Thunoob, they meant the major sins, and by Sayyi’aat, the minor sins, because refraining from committing major sins is a reason for having one's minor sins pardoned given the fact that the term Thanb (singular of Thunoob) is more indicative of sin than Sayyi’ah (singular of Sayyi'aat)." [At-Tahreer wa At-Tanweer]

Tafseer As-Samarqandi reads:

"Al-Kalbi said, 'Thunoob are major and minor sins, and Sayyi’aat means Shirk (associating partners with Allah in worship).' Adh-Dhahhaak said, 'Thunoob, in the verse, refers to their sins committed before their conversion to Islam, and Sayyi’aat refers to their sins committed after their conversion. It is also said that Thunoob and Sayyi’aat are synonyms. Another opinion is that Thunoob are major sins and that Sayyi’aat are minor sins that are expiated by performing obligatory prayers, in the interval between each prayer and the next (as stated in a hadeeth).'"

Allah knows best.

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