Question: Some people say, "Those who abandon namaz, who drink alcohol, who go out without covering themselves, or who commit any other sins should not fast in vain." Is it true?
No, it is contrary to the religion. Commission of a few sins does not necessitate commission of other sins as well. Those who fast and commit sins at the same time cannot receive the great thawab given in return for fasting. But they will not be called to account in the Hereafter as to why they did not fast; they will be considered to have paid the debt of fasting. Moreover, with the blessings of fasting, abstinence from other sins may fall to their lot, too. Hadrat Imam-i Rabbani declares:
"It is a great blessing to be granted the lot of repenting for all one's sins and abstaining from all of them. If this cannot be obtained, it will be a blessing as well to repent for some sins. Maybe, the blessings of them will open the way to repenting all one's sins. If a thing cannot be obtained as a whole, one should not lose it all."
Though the place of namaz in our religion is more important than that of fasting, it cannot be said that a person who omits the namaz should not observe the fast, either. On the contrary, it should be said, "If you cannot perform the namaz, at least do not neglect the fast." If a person who incurs a grave sin by abandoning the namaz also omits the fast, his/her sin will multiply.
If a person who has made it a habit to commit a few sins wants to abandon one of them, it should not be said to him/her, "Since you do not quit other sins, keep committing this sin as well." The less the number of sins committed, the better. It is a sign of iman to abandon a sin out of fear of Allah. As a matter of fact, it was declared in hadith-i sharif, "A Muslim who remembers Allah or who fears Him once in his lifetime will get out of Hell" (Tirmidhi).
If a sinner keeps the fast and gives the obligatory alms, we should say to him/her, "Do not quit practicing them." If he/she does not perform these acts of worship, he/she may become altogether estranged from the religion. We should give people glad tidings rather than scare them away. Our master the Prophet stated, "Curse be upon those who cause people to despair of Allah's mercy and to hate the religion. Make things easy; do not make them difficult" (Bukhari).
A youngster said to our master the Prophet, "I cannot quit these three sins." These three sins were lying, committing fornication, and drinking. Our master the Messenger of Allah stated, "Of these three sins, quit lying for me." That youngster accepted it and left. Then when he wanted to commit the other two sins, he thought to himself, "When I come before the Messenger of Allah after committing these sins, if I say that I did not commit them, I will be telling a lie. If I say that I committed them, he will punish me." Thus, he quit the other two sins as well. (Shir'a)
One who expresses the Kalima-i Shahadah with the tongue and confirms it with the heart is a Muslim. Committing a sin does not cause one to go out of the fold of Islam. A hadith-i sharif relates:
(Jabrail alaihis-salam said, "Give glad tidings to your Ummah that he who has not died a polytheist will enter Paradise. I asked three times whether he who committed fornication and theft would enter Paradise as well. He answered, "Yes, he who commits fornication and theft will enter Paradise as well." Afterwards, he said, "He will enter Paradise at last, even if he drinks.") [Bukhari]
This is the creed of Ahl as-Sunnat, but it does not mean belittling sins. This belief should not lead one to sins. Each sin blackens the heart, so sins may drag one into disbelief and cause one to stay in Hell eternally. One must avoid all sins because Allah's wrath is hidden in sins. Though Bal'am-i Baura was a great scholar who worshiped much, he died without faith because of a single sin. Whoever commits a sin must repent for it immediately. (Kimya-i Sa'adat)