The Forty-Fourth Greater Sin: Intrigue, Deception And Breaking Covenants

The forty-fourth sin which will be punished by damnation in Hell is intrigue, deception and failure to observe covenants etc. In the book al-Kafi, Book of Iman and Kufr, six traditions are mentioned under the chapter, ‘Intrigue, Deception and Breaking covenants.’ Here we shall quote two of them.

Hazrat Amir ul-Mu’minin (‘a) says,

“If the punishment for intrigue and deception had not been Hell, I would have been the greatest plotter (of intrigue) among the people.” 1

He (‘a) also said,

“Indeed, breaking covenants, sinfulness, misappropriation; all of them are punished by Hell.”2

Wasa’il ul-Shi’a records a prophetic tradition saying that we must never cheat or deceive Muslims. According to Jibril (‘a) a cheater and deceiver belongs to Hell. Then the Messenger of Allah (S) says,

“One who cheats a Muslim or misappropriates his property is not from us.”

Other traditions on the topic are also mentioned in the books, Wasa’il ul-Shi’a and Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il. When people suggested to Amir ul-Mu’minin (‘a) that he should allow Muawiyah the post of governor till he (‘Ali) was Caliph so that there would be no danger from Muawiyah, ‘Ali (‘a) said,

“Those who deceive, cheat and break covenants; all of them belong to Hell.”3

Meanings Of Intrigue, Cheating And Breaking Covenant

Breaking Covenants has been dealt with in detail in the chapter of the Twenty-first Greater Sin. Intrigue and cheating both mean to do some evil to a person in such a way that he is not able to understand. That is a person apparently does good to another but in reality works to his detriment. Or the person pretends to love and have regard for another but in reality bears enmity and malice for him in his heart. Or the person acts as if he has nothing to do with another but as soon as he gets the chance he causes harm. Cheating and deception are hypocritical, two-coloured, double crossing acts, with an outward show of goodness but concealed evil. Cheating and deception can be practised with regard to Allah (S.w.T.), His Messenger (S) and the Imam (‘a) and secondly, with respect to the people.

Cheating And Tricking With Allah (S.W.T.)

The worst type of cheating is that which the hypocrites do against Allah (S.w.T.). These people make an outward appearance of accepting Islam and having Iman but inwardly they conceal their kufr. Allah (S.w.T.) says about them,

“They desire to deceive Allah and those who believe, and they deceive only themselves and they do not perceive.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:9).

Obviously no one can deceive Allah (S.w.T.), as He is aware of all things. Deceiving Allah (S.w.T.) means, deceiving the Holy Prophet (S) and the believers, is equivalent to deceiving Allah (S.w.T.). Or it may be said that the hypocrites think that they can fool Allah (S.w.T.) by merely repeating the formula of faith, verbally, while they carry Kufr in their hearts. By doing so they are not harming the Holy Prophet (S) or the believers, but depriving themselves of righteousness and salvation. They invite upon themselves disgrace in this life and chastisement in the hereafter. Another way by which the hypocrites think they can fool Allah (S.w.T.) is by praying to show off. This subject has been discussed in detail in the chapter on ‘Shirk’.

False Claims Of Spiritual Status

Included in cheating Allah (S.w.T.) is the false claim of having special spiritual powers and a high religious status, whereas in reality they do not even have, for example, Patience, thankfulness, reliance, love, satisfaction, submission, sincerity. For example a person says that he only worships Allah (S.w.T.), his creator, whereas he follows the path of Shaitan, or he says ‘Allah is the Greatest’, while at the same time considering wealth and worldly position more important. If he is told to give up a sin for the sake of Allah (S.w.T.) or to pay the obligatory taxes for the sake of Allah (S.w.T.), he will not be ready but he will give it up if he finds that it comes in the way of his worldly attainment. Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) says,

“When you recite the Takbir (Allahu Akbar) for prayers you should consider all the things between Thara and Tharya small in comparison to Allah’s greatness.”

When a person says Allah is the Greatest and Allah sees that what he is saying is not true He says, “O Liar! Are you trying to fool Me? By My Might and Majesty I shall deprive you of the sweetness of My remembrance and the taste of My nearness and invocation.”4

Cheating The Holy Personalities

A person claims to have love and respect for Ahl ul-Bayt (‘a) and claims that he is a friend with their friends and enemies towards their enemy, but in reality there is no sincerity in his claim, because he does not follow in their footsteps and goes against their teachings.

Tricking The People

Cheating, cunning, fraud and deception are different types of qualities common in those people who are not worried about the hereafter. All of them are Haram and Greater Sins. The more harmful they are, the more is the severity of these crimes and the more severe the punishment. The Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) says in Surah Fat’ir,

“and the evil plans shall not beset any save the authors of it.” (Surah Fat’ir 35:43).

Whenever a person plans evil for other, evil befalls him and he himself will face problems if he desires problems for others. Every kind of trickery and cheating causes disgrace to the cheater and trickster. The cheater has to suffer in the lowermost level of Hell due to this crime and the one whom he cheated receives great rewards for having undergone hardships and is granted a high position in this world and the hereafter. Thus we usually see that the cheat is disgraced in the world and he himself suffers the damage caused by this deed. According to Tafsirul Mizan the following saying was common among the Arabs: One who digs a hole for his brother; Allah (S.w.T.) throws him headlong into it. A similar proverb is present in Persian also: Do not do evil to anyone the same evil will turn towards you.

Double Crossing And Treason

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) says,

“One who meets the Muslims with a double face and double tongue will come in Qiyama in such a way that there will be two tongues of fire for him.”5

Imam al-Baqir (‘a) says,

“How evil is the person who is hypocritical and two-faced. He praises his brother on the face but maligns him behind his back and eats his flesh (Does his Ghibah). If his brother is bestowed some bounty he is jealous, if he is in some calamity he deserts him and does not help him.”6

The Messenger of Allah (S) says that the double-faced person will come in Qiyama in such a way that he would be hanging out his tongue and a flame of fire protruding from them will be scorching his body. It is said: This the one who was double faced and double-tongued in the world and he shall be recognized due to the chastisement that he has to bear. Similarly the Holy Prophet (S) said that the hypocrite who has two faces and two tongues in the world will be having two faces and two tongues in the hereafter.


There is an interesting incident in Tafsir Minhaj as-Sadiqin to illustrate a person who tries to be a blatant cheat. Two friends had collected some money. They decided to hide it below a tree lest it is stolen from them. When night fell one of the two came to the tree and took away the money. The next morning when both came together and found the money missing the one who had stolen it caught the collar of the other and said: You must have stolen it because no one else had seen us hiding it. The poor fellow swore he was innocent but the thief took him to court.

The judge asked him if he could provide a witness. He said the tree will testify for him. That night the thief told his brother to hide in the hollow of the tree and when the judge comes in the morning he should blame the other person for having taken the money. So when the judge came in the morning and asked the tree to testify, the thief’s brother shouted from inside blaming the other person for stealing the money. The judge sensed foul play for trees do not usually speak. He ordered that it should be set afire so that it will not be a cause for mischief. It was set on fire. The thief was worried but kept quiet. When it was unbearable he began to scream and shout. The people pulled out the thief’s brother half-dead from the hollow trunk. When the judge asked him he confessed the truth. The judge took away the money and gave it to the falsely accused and the thief was given a tough sentence.

Muhaddith Jazaeri writes in his book Zahra Rabi an interesting anecdote. There was a man in Isfahan who used to beat his wife but unfortunately she succumbed to his beating though he had not intended to kill her. But when she was dead he became fearful of her relatives. In a state of anxiety he came out of his house and met an acquaintance to whom he posed his problem. The friend told him to invite a young man to his house and behead him and put the severed head next to his wife’s corpse. Then he could tell the wife’s relatives that he had found them together in bed and was not able to control his ire and slew them both. The man liked the idea and sat at the doorway in anticipation of a young man. After some time a handsome youth passed by his house. He invited him inside and beheaded him. Then he summoned the wife’s relatives and told them the concocted story. They were satisfied but the person who had devised this plan had a teenaged son who did not reach home that day. The man was worried and when the son failed to turn up he came to the house of the one whom he had offered evil advice and asked him if he carried out the plan suggested by him. ‘Yes’, said he and took him near the dead bodies. He was shocked when he saw that the youth he had killed was his own son. His evil advice caused the death of his own son. The moral of this story is that one who digs a pit for others falls into it himself. History is replete with such incidents.

A similar incident is mentioned in the book Mujjatul Baiza. It concerns jealousy as well as trickery and we have mentioned it in the chapter of jealousy.

What Is The Meaning Of Two Tongued And Two Faced?

There are many types of hypocrites.

a) It is a person who says two opposite things. He is always on the look-out for worldly benefits and he makes contradictory statements. For example after accepting something he rejects it. Or after testifying to something he changes his testimony. Or he praises someone in his presence but maligns him behind his back.

b) Double faced and double tongued is the one who meets two opposing parties and expresses his solidarity with both of them.

c) A person who tells two enemies who speak against one another, what each has said against another. It is worse than tale-telling, because tale-telling is one-way. But the one who does this is a two-tongued person.

d) A person who meets two people who are hostile to each other, and to each he praises his foe. This is also double tongued behaviour.

e) To promise help and assistance to two opposing parties.

All the above examples are of hypocrites but if one meets two opposing parties and is friendly to both of them and praises both of them without conveying what each had said about the other, it is not hypocrisy.

Adulteration Is Also A Type Of Fraud

One type of fraud is to resort to adulteration. Adulteration is mixing two things such that it is not detectable. For example, mixing water in milk, or to mix the same thing of two different qualities (e.g. fine rice with coarse rice) and to sell it saying it all of higher quality.

Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (‘a) says that one day the Messenger of Allah (S) was passing through the market. He saw a grain seller selling food grains (wheat or barley). He said it was of a good quality. But revelation descended on him and he put his hand deep inside the sack and drew out grain of low quality. The man had topped the sack with high quality grain to fool the customers. The Holy Prophet (S) was angry and he said,

“You have done Khayanat with Muslims and practiced adulteration.”7

He (S) also said,

“One who resorts to adulteration in his dealings with Muslims is not a Muslim. He shall be raised with the Jews on the day of Judgement. Because the Jews are the most common adulterators with Muslims.”8

The Prophet of Allah (S) says that one who sleeps with the intention of practicing adulteration with his brother (the next day), sleeps with the displeasure of Allah (S.w.T.). He begins his day while Allah (S.w.T.) is angry with him. Allah (S.w.T.) continues to be wrathful with him till he does not repent and give up adulteration. If he dies without repenting he dies a death of a non-Muslim. After this he (S) said thrice,

“Know that! One who adulterates with Muslims is not of Muslim. And Allah removes barakat from the sustenance of one who adulterates with his Muslim brother. Allah stops his sustenance and leaves him to Himself.9

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) told a flour seller to keep aloof from adulteration because one who practiced adulteration will himself be a victim of adulteration. If he has no wealth to be adulterated there will be adulteration with his family.10

There are many traditions on this subject some of which have been described by us in the chapter of cheating in business.

Selling At Exorbitant Rates Is Also Fraud

Like adulteration, selling at a much higher rate to a person who is ignorant of its actual value, is also a type of fraud.

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (‘a) says,

“To cheat a person who is unaware of the actual value of goods is soht.”11

As we have seen “Soht” is described in the Twenty-fifth greater sin. Imam (‘a) also says,

“Cheating the Muslims is Haram.”

And in another tradition he (‘a) says,

“Do not cheat one who trusts you because it is not allowed to cheat him.”12

Adulteration is indeed Haram in dealings but a proper deal with this man is valid in Shariah. Thus one who has been cheated has the prerogative to terminate the contract or accept it with some modifications. For example, if he delivered adulterated gold he can return it and accept pure silver.

Now we shall quote a few legal rulings about cheating from Tauzihul Masael of Ayatullah Al-Uzma Agha Sistani:

2079.* If a person sells ghee mixed with fat and specifies it, for example, he says: “I am selling 3 kilos of ghee” – the transaction will be void if the quantity of fat is more, to the extent that it cannot be called ghee. But if the quantity of fat is small, so that it can just be classified as ghee mixed with fat, the transaction will be valid. But the buyer has a right of refusal, based on the deficiency in the quality, and can therefore cancel the deal and ask for refund. And if ghee and fat are distinct from each other, the deal covering the fat will be void and the seller will have to refund the price of that fat and keep the fat for himself. But in this case also, the buyer has a right of cancelling the transaction of pure ghee which is in it. Where the seller does not say that he is selling a particular thing and just sells, say, 3 kilos of ghee he possesses, and if it turns out to be ghee mixed with fat, the buyer can return it and ask for pure ghee.

2133. * If a buyer does not know the price of the commodity, or was unconcerned about it at the time of purchase and buys the thing for higher than usual price, he can cancel the transaction if the difference of price is substantial and if the difference is established at the time of abrogation. Otherwise, the buyer cannot cancel the deal. Similarly, if the seller does not know the price of the commodity, or was heedless about it at the time of selling and sells the thing at a cheaper price, he can cancel the deal if the difference is substantial.

2132. * If one of the parties presents his commodity as better than it actually is and thereby attracts the buyer, or makes him more enthusiastic about it. This is called Khiyar tadlis.

  • 1. al-Kafi Vol. 2 page 336.
  • 2. al-Kafi vol. 2 page 338.
  • 3. Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il.
  • 4. Mustadrak ul-Wasa’il.
  • 5. al-Kafi Vol. 2 page 343.
  • 6. al-Kafi Vol. 2 page 343.
  • 7. Wasa’il ul-Shi’a Vol. 12 page 210.
  • 8. Wasa’il ul-Shi’a Vol. 12 page 210.
  • 9. Wasa’il ul-Shi’a Vol. 12 page 210.
  • 10. Wasa’il ul-Shi’a Vol. 12 page 210.
  • 11. Wasa’il ul-Shi’a vol.12 page 363.
  • 12. Wasa’il ul-Shi’a Vol. 12 page 364.