Praise be to Allah Who deserves all praise and thanks, Peace and the blessings of Allah be upon the master of humankind, Prophet Muhammad, his infallible household, the righteous among his companions and those who follow the right path till the Day of Judgement.
Certainly, Allah the Most High, is the main source for Islamic laws which are distinguished from man-made laws, whether made by a single man or drafted by a body of men and approved through public vote.
Indeed, Public vote or referendum on man made laws does not grant them legality as long as these laws contradict the Divine Laws revealed through heavenly Scriptures.
Therefore, what the Islamic Shari'ah decrees as 'lawful' or 'unlawful' is not according to people's whims and fantasies but according to the commandments of Allah, the All Knowing and All-Wise, Who created man from sperm, and knows what is in the interests of His creatures, and what harms their body and soul.
The laws of Allah were revealed to all Divine Messengers in different eras and geographical places, in accordance with the intellectual progress of a society, and reached their perfection through the Glorious Qur'an and its universal message.
Therefore, the Shari'ah as the legal code of Islam is called, is not bound by time and place and is designed to cater to the different needs of the human race till eternity. The Holy Qur'an which contains the fixed sanctions is to be supplemented by the genuine traditions of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) for the practical implementation of the Shari'ah. Thus the dynamism of the Shari'ah, on one hand, declares clear and fixed 'Particular laws' and on the other, presents 'General Laws' through which qualified juriconsult experts known as mujtahids in Islamic terminology, arrive at a decision.
In the light of this 'Legislative Reality', the Shari'ah accompanies and follows not only the development stages of 'Life Reality' for an individual or a society, but also anticipates and ably resolves all future developments through its simple, deep and fairly wide mechanism by giving judgements in all fields of life.
Another merit is that Islamic law gives the mukalaf (one who is of age responsible for Islamic obligations) a proper perspective of the right to talk, listen, or abstain. In other words, it acquaints him with the Almighty's judgements and laws, and makes him practically mould his acts and behaviour accordingly.
Al-Balagh Foundation presents 'Islamic Laws' to its dear readers, humbly imploring Allah the Most High, to make it a step towards the spreading of Islamic culture and ideology.
Islamic Legal Laws
What is Meant by Lawful and Unlawful?
Humankind gifted with the powers of will and intellect, is free to chart out its course in life, whether good or evil.
Through these two powers, man is able to create or cause any action, as well as abstain from any particular act and avoid its occurrence.
Through these powers, actions or causes come out from the stage of possibility to actual deed or commitment. Man is free to eat, drink, till the land, make airplanes, build cities and plan and run factories ... etc. as well as indulge in evil and destructive acts such as drinking a wine, oppressing and killing fellow humans, and destroying the fruits of progress.
The Reason Behind Lawfulness (Ibahah)
Allah, the Almighty created man on earth and supplied him with the means of life. He made the earth and what is in it and what is on it for the benefit of man and surrounded it with cosmic system which suits the circumstances of life on it.
He made the relation between the sun, the moon, gravitation and the gaseous atmosphere, ... etc. suitable for life on earth.
He prepared for man on its surface, underneath the ground and in the seas and rivers, all the necessities of life and its progress. He created plants and animals, seas and rivers, mines, and mountains, the air and the birds which fly, all for the sake of man and his interests. He provided him with the blessings and sense of goodness and gave him all he needs without any defect or deficiency in the system of creation and its relation to man and life.
This excellent creation and perfection is a clear proof for whoever thinks carefully and sincerely concerning the wonders of life, where harmony prevails between man and nature without the least disorder or confusion. Man finds all the essential needs of life such as food, water, air, light, heat, moisture on this planet and the force of gravitation, the pressure of air, the percentage of oxygen, the elements of soil, are in exact proportion to enable him to live and practice life systematically and orderly.
Allah the Most High, says:
"Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and sent down water from the clouds, then brought forth from it fruits as a sustenance for you, and He has made the ships subservient to you to run their course in the sea by His command, and He has made the rivers subservient to you. And He has made subservient to you the sun and the moon, pursuing their courses; and He has made subservient to you the night and the day. And He gives you of all you ask of Him, and if you count Allah's favours, you will not be able to number them. Surely man is very unjust, very ungrateful."
Holy Qur'an (14:32-34)
Without this perfection and exactitude in the system of existence, life will be impossible for man on this land.
How beautifully Allah the Exalted, puts it:
" ... the handiwork of Allah, Who has made everything thoroughly. Surely He is aware of what you do."
Holy Qur'an (27:88)
Should all these things be not lawful for man? It was difficult for him to behave with or make use of them but Allah through His kindness, justice and wisdom enabled man to utilize these bounties of existence and granted him the power and ability to exploit them, then He legislated laws in a way that man exceeds not the prescribed limits.
From this connection between the principle of creation and man and life. We can conclude that laws are the origin of all necessities of human life, and that every thing in this life is allowed for man. It is among his own rights to practice them and make use of them with the exception of what is forbidden.
Nothing is forbidden for man except what is harmful and dangerous for his body and soul and what contradicts and not in harmony with the system of life.
The Almighty Allah, says:
"And what reason have you that you should not eat of that on which Allah's name is mentioned, when He has already made plain to you what He has forbidden to you - except that which you are compelled to. And surely many lead (people) astray by their low desires through ignorance; surely your Lord - He best knows the transgressors."
Holy Qur'an (6:120)
"Say: Come! I will recite what your Lord has forbidden to you : ... "
Holy Qur'an (2:152)
In Islam, the forbidden things or acts are limited and whatever else beside, is to enjoy according to a system which preserves the way of life and provides balance and harmony in every human activity. Therefore, the Qur'an condemns the attitudes of those who straiten life both upon themselves and upon other by preventing and prohibiting what is made lawful by Allah on His servants. The Qur'an questions the behaviour of such people.
"Say: Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and the good provision? ... "
Holy Qur'an (7:32)
In Islam, the concept of lawful halal and forbidden haram in life is not to prevent man and paralyse his life and activities. But Islam's view is exactly the opposite as explained by the two above-mentioned verses of the Holy Book. Islam considers all useful things permissible for man and prohibits on by harmful acts which lead him towards confusion in life.
The wise declarations of the Qur'an confirm this opinion and restrict the prohibitions only to wickedness, lewdness and abominable acts and things.
"Say (O' Muhammad unto mankind): My Lord forbids only indecencies, such of them as are apparent and such as are concealed, and sin and unjust rebellion, and that you associate with Allah for which he has sent down no authority, and that you say of Allah what you know not."
Holy Qur'an (7:33)
"Those who follow the Messenger - Prophet, the Ummi (the one who neither reads nor writes), whom the y find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel. He enjoins them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and prohibits to them impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which were on them. So those who believe in him and honour him and help him, and follow the light which has been sent down with him - these are the successful."
Holy Qur'an (7:157)
As is clear from these verses the reason behind prohibition is for the betterment of human society. The Qur'an focuses on three main prohibitions, namely. Wickedness, Lewdness?? and Abomination.
These three are used to specify the degrees of ugliness and harm in the forbidden things or acts - whether material or spiritual.
The word 'khabith' in Arabic language means 'what is disliked because of its wickedness and vileness whether, tangible or not. 1 Hence, the word 'khabith' and its derivations altogether mean what is disliked, impure, every corrupt thing or every forbidden act. For example, the word 'khaba'th' means what the Arabs used to dislike and not to eat such as snakes and beetles while the word 'khobth' means 'deceit' so far as gold and silver are concerned.
But the word fuhush (lewdness or obscenity) in Arabic language refers to 'what makes wickedness great concerning of sayings and actions'.
And we can understand the meaning of the word munker (abomination) if we know that the Arabs say 'when a man is disguised means his state is changed from happiness to dislike'.
We understand through this literary analysis the main prohibitions like khaba'ith (filth or wickedness), fawahish (lewdness or obscenity), and munkirat (abomination). Thus, it is clear Islam never forbids good and healthy things in life including food, drink and natural human behaviour ... save they are contaminated by the three main prohibitions which are dangerous and harmful for the body and soul of man.
The Meaning of a Divine Law (Hukum)
A close scrutiny of human life and incidents, attitudes, activities and dealings, concerning it, could be divided as follows:
1- Man's relations with his Creator is evident in acts such as prayer, fasting, hajj (pilgrimage) ... etc.
2- Man's relation with his self is evident from such actions as cleanliness, ritual purity, taking care of his adornment and bodily needs, ... etc.
3- Man's relations with fellow humans such as his family, the society he lives in, matrimonial rights, inheritance, trade, politics ... etc.
4- Man's relations with animal, plants, nature and its resources and treasures or his relations with things, products, materials, ... etc.
5- Man's psychological and scientific relations with the above-mentioned altogether. All these activities and relations are inter-related and inter-act in all stages of life, and hence the need to organize them and classify them into obligations, the lawful and the prohibited, etc.
Thus, this organization and classification, of man's relations, attitudes and activities, is called a law based on Islamic Shari'ah. For instance, Islam makes knowing of Allah the Creator, prayer, social and economic justice as obligatory, and it makes the resources of the earth lawful for all, while it forbids injustice, wine, backbiting, manslaughter, etc. and it declares urine to be impure, and rules that whoever kills another intentionally and unjustly and is connected with him (the dead) through the relation of inheritance, never inherits ... etc.
Islam, in order to organize life and build up a healthy and harmonious society legislates a law.
Therefore, a law based on Islam can be defined as Divine legislation or Shari'ah which organizes human life is keeping with the wonders of creation and nature.
Consequently the circle of these laws is extended according to the elasticity of the circle of life - small or big - and which implies all its developments.
So Islamic law contains a great legislative power and a unique ability to cater the healthy needs of the individual and society.
The secret behind an Islamic legislation is its being everlasting, original and dynamic. A Muslim finds Divine law for all his actions and deeds. There is no issue in life, whether big or small but has both a law based on Shari'ah (hukum) and a certain legislative situation which clarifies the responsibility of man and his practical attitude in an obvious lawful way, which says: 'There is no occurrence but Allah has made a Divine Judgement regarding it'.
On one side, man, according to Islamic legislation, enjoys an extensive and clear view of behaviour, while on the other side, he possesses practical measures through which he can specify and adjust this view continuously according to the laws of Shair'ah. This practical measure becomes obligatory for man on reaching the period of maturity in order to follow upon its guidance which will bring him happiness and ward off misery. Hence, we understand the saying of the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) about the dynamism of Shari'ah for mankind: "I bring you both the welfare of this world and the next."
Kinds of Laws
Should we track man's daily conduct and his activities and attitudes, we will find it most difficult to count them. Every man produces hundreds of quotes and does hundreds of deeds. Within himself countless thoughts, ideas and feelings flow. For instance, he can eat, drink, sleep, marry, steal, commit adultery, kill, cheat, tell lies, pray, worship, monopolize, be kind to the destitute and orphans, laugh, become desperate, be pessimistic and optimistic, produce medicines, make tools of torture, believe in Allah, think and discover sciences and knowledges ... etc.
It is a list of both evil and good deeds. They are not equal in respect to their benefit and harm to the individual who does them, and the society which absorbs their effects.
Islam regards human activities, such as actions, sayings, ideas and feelings with due attention. Islam puts these activities into a variety of categories, and so every activity is precisely weighed and described in respect to its nature and impact on man himself. Islam does so to show the path before man, and put forward a criterion by which man evaluates his activities, develops them, and steers himself clear from evil and crime.
Man is also urged to mobilize his energies in the domain of good and constructive works and preserve them from being dissipated and lost. These energies granted to man by his Creator are not to become tools of destruction and sources of calamities and torture to man. The ultimate goal, is thus, attaining Allah's pleasure.
On the basis of these considerations and goals, man's deeds fall into five categories, where every activity is valued according to its positive or negative effects on man and his varied relationships.
These categories, as stated by the scholars are:
1- Permitted (Mubah)
2- Recommended (Mustahab)
3- Disapproved but not unlawful (Makruh)
4- Forbidden (Muharam)
5- Obligatory (Wajib)
1- The Permitted (Mubah): It is an act in which a sane person mukalaf 2 who has reached his puberty has full freedom to do it or leave it aside. Within the circle of the permission, such a person is never asked concerning what he does or leaves of the permitted actions.
Examples of permissible acts are countless and innumerable in the life of a man. For instance, a mukalaf is free to choose the work that best suits him/her. He is free to do research and think on the sciences of nature and life.
He is free to select the suitable system to run the social and political offices and establishments; to determine the food, clothing and residence he likes ... etc. He is also free to use what suits his inclinations, circumstances and abilities ... on the condition that all his actions should not exceed the limits and exceptions set by Islam.
It is worth mentioning that the sphere of the permitted Mubah is the widest among the daily social human behaviours, for all acts are, as a rule, permitted according to the most well-known religious judgement. Everything is permissible except the one forbidden by a Divine law.
2- The Recommended (Mustahab): It is any ac t that the Muslim is urged to do, whereby he is viewed a performer of the good and so deserves divine reward and Allah's pleasure. But no punishment is set for any one who leaves it or considers it easy, because, if done, its fruits will be to his benefit, and if left or ignored no harm will result from it.
In the life of the individual or a group, recommended acts are numerous. Greeting others, paying visits to friends and neighbours, giving alms, being tidy and elegant, and many rites like du'a (supplication), night prayers (superogatory), fasting during the holy months of Rajab and Sha'ban, reciting the Qur'an, are but a few examples of recommended acts.
The recommended deeds in Islam uplift mark to a lofty spiritual position and make him do the maximum possible acts of good in his life on earth to obtain Allah's pleasure in the Hereafter.
The Muslim does the recommended deeds out of a sublime moral motivation, without the slightest feelings of fear or coercion. He is propelled by love and longing to walk on the path leading to perfection and continuous enrichment in this life.
3- The Disapproved But Not Unlawful (Makruh): Makruh could be defined as an act a Muslim, is urged to avoid although it is not unlawful. It is preferable to avoid such acts in the interests of self or society. However, Islam does not set a punishment for the Muslim who does it, because it is not considered haram. Islam stops short of making it haram, and only urges the Muslim to avoid it, as it is likely to lead to harm or corruption.
This law is very effective in blocking the ways ending in the commission of haram acts.
The exhortation to avoid the makruh is the second factor, following the urging to accomplish the mustahab, that supports the key laws of wujub and hurma in uplifting man spiritually to attain higher, sublime, spiritual stages so that he can ward off harm and danger in human life. Examples of makruh are: urinating in stagnant water, sleeping till after sunrise, eating in a state after intercourse or sexual discharge without performing the obligatory bath, ablutions, and making large scale advertisement to sell unworthy things ... etc.
4-The Forbidden (Muharam): It is any act that Islam prohibits the religiously responsible Muslim, from committing, and sets a punishment for the transgressors, while praising and rewarding the one who totally abstains from such acts. It is a procedure Islam takes to check the deviation that man may be led to perversion and the wrong and unnatural expression of motives and desires which are harmful to his body and soul.
It is a law which checks chaos and corruption and nips dangers and crimes in the bud. Doing the haram distances the human soul from nearness to Allah and blocks the process of sublimity. As haram action contains deep psychological» bodily, spiritual, and social risks, Islam sets both legal and social punishment for the transgressor, in addition to the severe punishment in store for him in the Hereafter.
Islam does not leave the matter unexplained. The Holy Qur'an makes it clear that the goal of forbidding certain acts is not disturbing man, depriving him, or making him deal dispiritedly with life. To the contrary, Islam aims at something else, as mentioned in the following verse:
"Say: My Lord has only prohibited indecencies, those of them that are apparent as well as those that an concealed, and sin and rebellion without justice, and that you associate with Allah for which He has sent down no authority, and that you say against Allah what you know not".
Holy Qur'an (7:33)
"Those who follow the Apostle whom the y find written down with them in the Torah and the Ummi, Evangel, (who) enjoins them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and makes unlawful to them the impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which were upon them; so (as for) those who believe in him and honour him and help him, and follow the light which has been sent down with him, those are the successful".
Holy Qur'an (7:157)
Examples of haram acts are premeditated killing, usury, drinking wine, taking other people's property by force, disseminating harmful ideas and distributing morally reprehensible books and publications, and so on.
5. The Obligatory (The Wajib): It is any act that Islam makes obligatory on a mukalaf Muslim in a decisive and final way and which, under no circumstances, can he/she ignore. Islam sets punishment for whoever leaves it intentionally, and rewards for whoever performs it perfectly. Prayer, fasting, zakat, khums, jihad, ruling justly, being kind to parents, enjoining good and forbidding evil, fighting oppression and tyranny, having love and affection for the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his Household, being truthful, obeying the orders of the Islamic state that rules by the Qur'an, are among the unavoidably obligatory duties in Islam.
Such duties and obligations were not ordained except for the welfare of mankind, preserving life and order, and safeguarding humankind's security in this world and the Hereafter.
Should we try to examine the laws of the obligations in Islam» study them analytically, trace their results and practical consequences in life, we would see that they effectively conduce to balance life, preserve the order of human nature, and nurture a systematic relationship between man and his Creator on one hand and man and society on the other. The philosophy of the obligations in Islam is based on making the wajib a quantity in an equation whose other quantity is right and reward or punishment. What is obligatory is ordained to deepen the feeling of responsibility on the part of the Muslim, emphasize the relation between right and duty, narrow the circle of egoism and to foster human conscience which opens one's eyes to the concepts of justice and equity. Man realizes, through these duties and obligations, that every human being has the right to live, and duties to perform without which social life and the ties with Allah the Glorified, cannot be balanced.
The secret behind the wajib and divine obligations in Islam, should we try to know, lies in the fact that man, when performing such duties, adds to the chain of good, a new link which makes it more effective as it expands man's best tendencies in his inner, and bears good fruit through interaction between the human self and the surrounding environment. Such results can be regarded as a criterion by which man's intentions are measured, and be the basis for his reward or punishment.
If the original law is amended by any accidental cause then the new law possesses the same legitimacy the original one had. It is an indivisible religious obligation that the responsible Muslim has to perform, or be given the choice of performing or leaving it according to the nature of the law.
If fasting, for instance, is obligatory under normal circumstances, it is haram for the sick to fast. Then fasting is, in this case, legitimately haram in a decisive way. If the sick person fasts, his action is not legitimate but is haram and ensues some consequences set and explained by Islam.
1. Raghib al-Isfahani - Mu'jam Mufradat al-fadh al-Qur'an.
2. Mukalaf: In Islam, a boy or girl is considered adult on reaching puberty, and thus has to perform all obligatories.