Kifah MustaphaUnderstanding the Term “Haram” or Forbidden  Part One
 
Looking at the way our community uses the term “Haram”, we cannot ignore that there is a sort of abuse in the use of the term. The abuse comes in two forms. One is that some people throw this term at anything they consider improper in their own personal, cultural or religious understanding. The second is that some people fail to label certain things clearly prohibited in Islam as Haram. I hope this article will bring a better understanding of this term and what it means.
 
The meaning of the term linguistically is “the opposite of permissible”[1] and in Islamic reference is: “that which is punished upon doing it.”[2] Allah (SW) used the term in many verses like: {Indeed, He has but forbidden you [to eat] carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine}2:173; {God has made selling lawful and has prohibited usury}2:275; and {Yet forbidden for you [still] is [hunting] the game of the land- as long as you remain in the [state of] pilgrim sanctity.}5:96. The Prophet (PBUH) also used the term in the Sunnah. Ali Ibn Abi Taleb (RAA) narrated the Prophet (PBUH) held (pure) silk in his right (hand) and gold in his left (hand) and said, “These two are forbidden for males from my Ummah.”[3]
 
Looking into the references in both Quran and Sunnah, we must state some facts:[4]
 
“The origin of all matters is permissible.” In support of this understanding, we can site the verse: {Do you not see, [O humanity,] that God has subjugated for you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth and has showered you with His blessings- manifest and hidden?} 31:20. Also, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “That which God made in His Book as lawful is (the) lawful and that which He made forbidden is (the forbidden) and that which He was quiet about it is (aafou) pardoned.”[5] This means that to declare something prohibited there must be a text of revelation with two conditions: authenticity and clarity. If quoting from the Quran, the matter of authenticity is secure but we need to consider the language and its meaning. If quoting from the Sunnah we need to consider both authenticity and language interpretation. As a community, in many cases we call something that is not preferred (Makrooh) or something that is improper as Haram, but that is not acceptable. This doesn’t mean people are to engage in things which are improper or not preferred, but rather to provide a clarification for understanding the term and its implications in relation to liability in this life and in the Hereafter.
 
“Declaring (that which is) lawful or forbidden is the right of God only.” In support of this understanding we can site the verse: {Or is it that they have associate-gods who have laid down for them [tenets] of religion, for which God has not given permission?} 42:21. Since the Prophet (PBUH) speaks from revelation, he (PBUH) also can declare matters as lawful or prohibited. The role of scholars is not to create rulings but rather to quote what Allah (SW) or His messenger (PBUH) said in relation to matters presented. This is how we can understand what Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal answered when asked about a matter in which he couldn’t find a quote from Quran or Sunnah “I don’t like it” or “I don’t see it fit.” We also read in many occasions that scholars would rather avoid stating a ruling (Fatwa) and refer to other scholars in fear of declaring something lawful or not preferred as forbidden, or vice versa. Imam Shafie, in his book (Al-Umm), narrated to the great judge Abu Yusuf who was a student of Abu Hanifa: “I met (witnessing) our scholars of knowledge hate making rulings (Fatwas) of Halal and Haram only that which was in the Book of Allah clear without (personal) interpretation.”
 
“Forbidding lawful (matters) or making lawful (matters) forbidden is equivalent to shirk.” That means if someone gave himself or herself the authority to declare things opposite to that which God has declared, he or she has fallen into associating someone else in worship with God. This raises their declarations to a level of the worst of all major sins; Al-Shirk. We can see that God the Almighty is protecting people from those who would enslave them into their own world of what is allowed and what is not! Remember when some companions in Madinah wanted to prohibit on themselves certain things that were lawful such as marrying women or eating mea,t Allah (SW) revealed this verse: {O you who believe! You shall not prohibit the wholesome things that God has made lawful for you. And you shall not transgress [His ordained limits]. Indeed, God does not love the transgressors. Thus eat from whatever God has provided for you, lawful and wholesome. And you shall fear God, in whom you are believers} 5:87/88.
 
“Prohibiting (matters) is in relation to harm and filth.”  We can read many verses in the Quran that relate to this fact: {[He PBUH] who enjoins them with what is right and forbids them from what is wrong., making lawful for them wholesome things, and prohibiting for them impure things}7:157; {They ask you, [O Prophet, for further clarification] about what [food] is lawful for them. Say [to them]: lawful for you are all wholesome foods}5:4. We believe that God, the Creator of humans, has the supreme knowledge that guides us into keeping away from things because of its harm. We trust Allah (SW) for that, and we look into the general reasons mentioned like the previous verse and for the specific reasons like in the following verse which gives us a great rule to imply whether a matter has more harm than benefit then it should be avoided: {They ask you, [O Prophet,] about intoxicants and gambling. Say: In both of them, there is great sinfulness- and some benefit for people. Yet their sinfulness is [far] greater than their benefit} 2:219. We all know that both were clearly prohibited later in another verse.
 
To be continued…
 
Sh. Kifah Mustapha
 
 
[1] Lisan Al-Arab for Ibn Manthour
 
[2] Al-Mustasfa for AlGhazali volume 1 page 65
 
[3] Hadith narrated by Imam Aby Daoud
 
[4] Summarized from Sh. Qaradawi book (Halal & Haram in Islam)
 
[5] Hadith narrated by Imam AlHakem