Reflecting on the Quranic instructions and prohibitions, a Muslim will get convinced with the fact that it is his duty to keep himself away form all sins, minor and major. This emanates from the fact that it is a Muslim’s first priority to gain Allah’s pleasure by doing what He likes and steering clear of what He dislikes, irrespective of the gravity or the simplicity of the sin.

Coming to the question on which major sin stands in next to polytheism, in terms of its gravity, we may as well infer that from the order adopted by the Quran when dictating the duties of every Muslim. In the Quran immediately after the duty of worshiping Allah comes the duty of showing dutifulness to one s parents: And your Lord has decreed, that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. (Al-Isra : 23)

It is well-known that Islam urges every Muslim to be dutiful to his parents, extending to them the kindest treatment possible. Failing to treat one’s parents kindly makes one guilty of disobedience to those parents as well as to Allah, and this may deprive one of a chance of being admitted to Paradise. So it goes without saying that disobedience to parents or mistreating them is the second major sin after polytheism. The first commandment in Islam as revealed to all prophets is to worship Allah and the second is to treat one’s parents kindly. Accordingly, the first major sin is Shirk (association of partners with Allah), and the second major sin is mistreating one’s parents.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Shall I tell you of the three most heinous sins? He repeated this question three times and then said, They are: to associate partners with Allah, to mistreat one’s parents, and to bear false testimony. In another tradition, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, One who mistreats his parents cannot hope to enter Paradise. He also said, The pleasure of Allah is in the pleasure of one’s parents and the wrath of Allah is in the wrath of one’s parents.