In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Undoubtedly, the issue of “the lawful and unlawful” is the essence of Islam and the evidence of true Faith in the sight of Allah. This is because good righteous work is the token of true Faith as much as commitment to Allah’s Divine Commands is the sign of righteous work. Similarly, love is the mark of sincere commitment and obedience because without love commitment is mere hypocrisy and eye-service. Hence, the importance of the issue of the lawful and unlawful in Islam, which is Allah’s last and final Religion for the establishment of the ideal human civilization.
In fact, all of the previous Revealed Divine Messages and Religions were a kind introduction to the religion of Islam and, as it were, a training course for mankind to be well-prepared to receive Allah’s Final Religion of Islam, which guarantees the establishment of the best human nation. This is because all of the nations and peoples who deviated from Allah’s Religion were destroyed and made to perish, and because all of the men who neglected Allah’s Divine Commands lost their balance and fell easy prey to confusion and loss. In this context, Allah, Most Gracious, says,
“This day, I have perfected for you your religion, completed My Favor upon you, and chosen for you Islam as your religion.
Beyond a shadow of doubt, Allah’s Religion of Islam is all mercy, justice, interest, and wisdom. It is the instructions and legislations of the Maker, All-Knowing:
“and no one can ever inform you like the All-Knowing, All-Aware”.
In fact, through the principle of “the lawful and unlawful”, Islam strives to build up a distinguished righteous human being and an ideal unified human community based on sincere Muslim fraternity to other brother Muslims as well as to all mankind. Through the principle of “the lawful and unlawful”, Islam respects man and elevates his position as it considers economy as a means for the achievement of man’s dignity, sufficiency, and security, not as a means for unfair subjugation or malicious exploitation of man. Moreover, the principle of “the lawful and unlawful” in Islam guarantees preservation of man’s honor and dignity and is able to accommodate to all kinds of transactions and issues of our modern life.
The principle of “the lawful and unlawful” has to do with man’s inner as well as outer deeds and intentions. Despite their being so close to the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), and so intimate to him, and despite their piety, righteousness and true Faith, the venerable Companions were most careful about their inner as well as outer deeds and intentions. This is because man’s overt deeds are essentially motivated by his inner intentions, which are sometimes called “will” or “determination”, and which may quite often get him involved in self-deception and render his deeds unlawful.
Man’s inner intentions are very delicate, variant and complicated, and the boarders between what is lawful and what is unlawful therein can not be discerned except after a great deal of contemplation and deliberation based on enlightenment and comprehensive knowledge of the principles and rules of religion. How can we differentiate, for example, between forbidden hypocrisy and permissible boasting, or between fear of Allah and despair of His Mercy, laudable self-esteem and arrogance, hope and pseudo-hope for Allah’s Mercy, awfulness and gravity, sincerity and eye-service.
Correctness of man’s overt deeds has to be determined by juristic rules and principles, which are traced in books of Islamic jurisprudence, but acceptability of such deeds with Allah requires other rules and principles that have to do with man’s conscience and inner intentions. In other words, human work in general, and his righteous work in particular, is not accepted by Allah unless it is proper – i.e. conforms to the Prophetic Sunna and Tradition – and sincerely dedicated – i.e. done for the sake of Allah and in pursuit of His Good Pleasure. Either prerequisite, however, is necessary but not at all sufficient.
The First Rule: All things are originally permissible:
The first rule determined by Islam is that all things and benefits that Allah has created for man are originally lawful and permissible, except the things for which there have been revealed Divine Scripture by Allah, All-Wise, in His Holy Quran or by His Messenger, Muhammad, (PBUH), in his Prophetic Sunna and Tradition, showing their unlawfulness or impermissibility. In other words, in Islam all things are permissible unless they are prohibited by Allah or His Messenger. To this effect, Allah, Most Gracious, says,
“And He (Allah) has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all as a Favor and Kindness from Him. Verily, in that are signs for a people who think deeply.”
It does not befit Allah, Most Merciful, All-Wise, to create such things and make them subjugated to man and then deprive him thereof by making them unlawful or impermissible to him. He, Most Gracious, created all things, subjugated them to man, and bestowed them upon him. Nevertheless, there are only a few things that He, All-Aware of the affairs and interests of His creatures, most wisely made unlawful or impermissible. That is why in Islam lawful things are far more numerous than unlawful ones. In this context, the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), said,
“Whatever Allah made lawful in His Book is lawful; and whatever He made unlawful is unlawful. And whatever He abstained from speaking about is pardoned; so accept from Allah His Pardon, for Allah never forgets a thing.” Then he, (PBUH), reauthord Allah’s Words, “And your Lord is never to forget (anything).”
It should be noticed, however, that permission includes deeds and activities that do not belong to issues of worship and religious observances, which are revelation-specific and are enjoined only by means of revealed heavenly Scripture.
The Second Rule: It is the right of Allah, Alone, to make things lawful or unlawful:
Making things lawful or unlawful belongs to Allah, Alone. No one else from among His slaves shares Him such right, no matter how knowledgeable or pious he might be. And whosoever tries to do that goes beyond his human limits and transgresses against Allah’s Godhood and Right of Legislation for His slaves; and those who are contented with such a rebellious act or follow it are mere polytheists who associate in worship sh3er with Allah, the One and Only. To this effect, Allah, All-Mighty, says,
“Or have they partners with Allah (false gods) who have instituted for them a religion that Allah has not ordained?!” [XLII; 21] He, All-High, also says, “And say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely: ‘This is lawful and this is unlawful,’ so as to invent lies against Allah. Verily, those who invent lies against Allah will never prosper.”
The venerable early Muslims never described anything as being unlawful unless they found in Allah’s Book, the Holy Quran, or Prophetic Sunna and Tradition, what made it as such. They would never consider anything as unlawful unless it was definitely as such. Whenever asked concerning anything, Ahmad bin Hanbal, for example, used to say, “I hate it”, “I don’t like it”, “It doesn’t appeal to me”, or “I don’t think it is good”.
The Third Rule: It is a Major Sin to make lawful things unlawful or unlawful things lawful:
According to the teachings of Islam, making lawful things unlawful and unlawful things lawful is associated with polytheism. To this effect, the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), narrates that Allah, All-Mighty, says,
“I have created My slaves as pure monotheists; but devils came unto them, deviated them from their religion (of pure monotheism), made unlawful for them that which I have made lawful for them, and bade them to associate with Me sh3er in which I have sent no authority.”
The Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), strove against, and disavowed, the tendency towards unnecessary sternness and immoderation. He also threatened with perdition those who are stern or over-strict. To this effect, he (PBUH) said,
“Those who are stern will certainly perish; those who are stern will certainly perish; those who are stern will certainly perish.”
Making lawful things unlawful can be done by anyone, even the ignorant. But learned knowledgeable sincere scholars are those who show people clearly lawful or unlawful things by providing adequate evidence and explanation. This is because it is the duty of Allah’s Prophets and Messengers to communicate Allah’s Message and Religion to mankind; while the duty of scholars is to explain and provide evidence to them.
The Fourth Rule: Lawful things are good, while unlawful ones are evil:
Being the Creator, the Benefactor, the Lord, the Educator, and the Sustainer of all things, and being the One, Who bestowed upon His slaves such unmatched Favors as creation, provision, and guidance, Allah, Most Gracious, All-Mighty, has the right to make things lawful or unlawful for them as He pleases and in accordance with His Infinite Divine Wisdom and Mercy. He, Glory to Him, also has the right to enjoin on them and ordain for them whatever duties and obligations He desires. But due to His Infinite Mercy to His slaves, He made such enjoinments and obligations reasonable and vindicated by their own benefits and interests. In other words, He, Most Gracious, made evil or detrimental things unlawful and good useful things lawful. To this effect, He, Most Merciful, says,
“And he allows them as lawful the good things and prohibits them as unlawful the evil things.”
The good things are the things that the pious and righteous find as such and are accepted by all people possessed of a pure nature, not due to any habit or custom. This is because the relationship between awful things and their consequences is a cause-and-effect relationship, and so is the relationship between unlawful things and their consequences.
The Fifth Rule: Lawful things suffice from unlawful ones:
Among the great merits of the religion of Islam is that it does not make anything unlawful unless it provides better alternatives thereof. This is because Allah, Most Gracious, does not desire to put His slaves into hardship or inconvenience but rather into ease, goodness, guidance and mercy. A well-known scholar one day said, “Allah, Most Gracious, forbade His slaves to practice divination by Azlam (arrows without heads and feathers used in divination), but He recompensed them by bidding them to pray to Him for help and guidance. He forbade them to practice usury, but He recompensed them by profitable trade. He forbade them to practice gambling, but He recompensed them by competition in good-doing and religious observances. He forbade them to wear silk, but He recompensed them by good clothes. He forbade them to commit adultery, but He recompensed them by lawful marriage. He forbade them to drink intoxicants, but He recompensed them by good wholesome drinks. He forbade them to eat evil food, but He recompensed them by good wholesome food.”
In fact, there is no deprivation in religion as some ignorant people may fancy. On the contrary, for each desire that Allah, Most Merciful, has implanted in man, He has made a clean pure channel to go through, and for each human need He has made more than one good righteous way to fulfill. In other words, lawful things always suffice from unlawful ones.
The Sixth Rule: Things conducive to unlawful things are unlawful:
One of the rules determined by Islam is that whenever it makes something unlawful, it makes all of the things or ways that are conducive to it unlawful. When it prohibits adultery, it prohibits all things that inauthor both men and women to commit it. For example, it forbids women to show off their beauty in public or to be alone with men in unlawful private meetings. It also forbids unnecessary co-mingling of both men and women, publishing of indecent pictures or immoral literature or songs. This is because Islam considers as unlawful all the things or ways that are conducive to unlawful things.
Islam also determines that evil consequences of unlawful things or deeds do not reflect negatively on those who practice them but rather all of those who share therein or help their doers one way or another. For example, Allah, All-Mighty, damns not only those who take intoxicants but also those who make them, transport them or even trade in them.
The Seventh Rule: Resorting to tricks concerning unlawful things is unlawful:
Just as Islam makes unlawful all of the things or ways that are conducive to unlawful ones, it also makes resorting to tricks and ambiguities for committing such unlawful things unlawful. According to the teachings of Islam, it is tricky and unlawful to change the name or form of an unlawful thing or way, because this will never change the reality or unlawfulness of such a thing or way. It is tricky and unlawful to sell something on a six-month credit for a hundred Pounds and buying it from the buyer in cash for eighty Pounds. This is considered as usury even though it might be called purchase because it means that the buyer receives eighty Pounds now but has to repay one hundred Pounds after six months.
The Eighth Rule: Good intentions do not make unlawful things lawful:
In its laws and legislations Islam takes good intentions and purposes into consideration. To this effect, the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), says,
“Verily, deeds are (evaluated) by intentions (standing behind them); and each man is rewarded according to his intentions.”
According to the teachings of Islam, by good intention permissible and habitual deeds or actions turn into worship and acts of devotion. He who eats food in order to preserve his life and strengthen his body for the Cause of Allah and fulfillment of his duties towards his Lord and people, his action of eating is considered as worship in the sight of Allah. In this context, the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), said,
“Even in the sexual relation of the one of you (with his wife) there is a charity (i.e. it is rewarded as a good deed).”They asked in amazement, “O Messenger of Allah! Is the one of us rewarded when he satisfies his sexual desire?!” He (PBUH) said,
“If he did that unlawfully, wouldn’t he be punished?! Then, if he does it lawfully, he will be well-rewarded.”
Hence, every permissible deed that a true believer does turns into worship by his good intention therein.
But an unlawful deed is something else; it is considered as unlawful regardless of the good intentions or purposes of its doer. This is because Islam does not accept that evil unlawful things be used for the achievement of good ends. According to the religion of Islam both the means and end must be noble and pure; and, hence, the principle that says: “The end justifies the means,” is completely rejected. For example it is definitely unlawful to collect money by unlawful or usurious ways for building a mosque or establishing a charitable project. In other words, good intentions do not make unlawful things lawful; and Allah, All-High, is the Absolute Good, and He does not accept but good things.
The Ninth Rule: It is better to keep away from dubieties:
Out of His Mercy to mankind Allah, Most Gracious, has not left them unguided concerning lawful or unlawful things. To this effect, He, Most Merciful, says,
“He has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you.”
Obviously, things that are definitely lawful are permissible, and things that are definitely unlawful are forbidden. But in the middle of both extremities do stand things that are dubious to some people, due to ambiguity of evidences or wrong interpretation or application of the relevant religious texts. According to Islam, it is far more pious and safer to keep away from such dubieties, which might be conducive to unlawful things. To this effect, the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), says,
“Lawful things are obvious, and so are unlawful things. In between both of them do stand dubious things that a great many people do not know whether they are lawful or unlawful. He who avoids them (dubious things) for the sake of purity of his honor and religion is safe; but he who commits any of them is about to fall into unlawful things.”
The Tenth Rule: Unlawful things are unlawful for all people:
In Islam, unlawful things are as such for all people regardless of color, gender, race or geography. In other words, there is nothing lawful for an Arab but unlawful for a non-Arab, lawful for a white person but unlawful for a black one. No privileges are given to a certain person or group of people over sh3er. No Muslim is given the right to commit things that are unlawful for non-Muslims. This is because Allah, Most Gracious, is the Lord of all mankind; and His Laws and Legislations are Supreme and go to all human beings. In other words, whatever Allah makes lawful is lawful to everyone; and whatever He makes unlawful is unlawful for everyone till the Day of Resurrection.
Robbery, for instance, is unlawful whether committed by a Muslim or a non-Muslim or whether the robbed person is a Muslim or a non-Muslim. Punishment is inflicted on the robber regardless of his name, position or social status. This is openly declared by the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), who says,
“Those who were before you were destroyed because if an eminent person from among them stole (something), they would let him go (unpunished or unheeded), but if a weak (common) person stole (something), they would punish him. By Allah! If Fatimah bint Muhammad stole (a thing), I would cut off her hand.”
The Eleventh Rule: Regulations for lawful earning:
This is a very important rule that has to do with earning one’s livelihood, namely lawful earning. Islam does not allow its followers to earn money the way they like and by the means they desire. It rather differentiates between lawful and unlawful ways of earning livelihood from the perspective of the general interest of the whole Muslim community. Such distinction is based on the general principle: All of the ways of earning money that bring benefit to an individual by causing loss to another individual are considered as unlawful. On the contrary, all of the ways by which individuals share mutual interests justly and contentedly are considered as lawful and permissible. To this effect, Allah, Most Gracious, says,
“O you who believe! Do not eat up your property among yourselves unjustly, unless it be a trade by mutual consent amongst you. And do not kill yourselves (nor kill one another). Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you.”The words “do not eat up your property” refer to a basic fact, namely the feeling of sincere fraternity and devoted co-partnership that believers should have among themselves, which is substantiated by the feeling that the property of a true believer belongs to the whole Muslim community. Hence, it should be well preserved and well protected from loss or destruction by all members of the Muslim community, and, more deservedly, from being devoured unlawfully. Also, if a believer devours the property of his believing brother, he weakens him and, consequently weakens himself. If a believer devours the property of another brother believer, it is as if he ate his own property. That is why the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), says,
“All of a Muslim is unlawful for another Muslim: his property, blood and honor.”
* * *
Importance of such rules:
In Islam, there are certain facts that have to be necessarily known to each and every Muslim, male or female, regardless of their job, specialization, profession, social status, or psychological condition. If they fail to know such facts, they will certainly be great miserable losers in this present world and the world to come. Such are facts that must necessarily be known to everyone. For example, parachuting, or sky-diving, requires the knowledge of a lot of facts that have to do with the parachute, the kind of cloth of which it is made, its size, shape, color, kind, length and thickness of its ropes, and the way it is opened …etc. A paratrooper or sky-diver may be ignorant of most of the above-mentioned facts or all of them; but if he is ignorant of the way the parachute is opened, he will certainly lose his life. Therefore, knowledge of the way the parachute is opened is indispensable to anyone who has to use it. Similarly, rules that have to do with lawful and unlawful things constitute the most important and dangerous part of religion and must be necessarily known to each and every Muslim. In other words, a Muslim needs to know rules of what is lawful or unlawful as much as a paratrooper or a sky-diver needs to know how a parachute is opened.
* * *
Books of Islamic history relate that a very wealthy man called Al-Hajjaj bin ‘Ulat As-Salami came to the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), after the conquest of Khaibar, in order to convert to Islam. He said, “O Messenger of Allah! My wealth is with my wife, Um Shaibah, and traders in Mecca. So, I’d like your permission to go to Mecca in order to reclaim my wealth there before they know of my conversion to Islam, because if they know of that, I won’t be able to reclaim any of it.” The Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), gave him permission. Before leaving, Al-Hajjaj said, “O Messenger of Allah! I have to tell lies to them in order to get my wealth back.” The Messenger of Allah, said, “Tell them whatever you like to tell them.” Al-Hajjaj went on until he got to Thaniatul Baida’, a place near Mecca, where he came across some men from Quraish who were inquiring about the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH). They had already known that he (PBUH) was heading for Khaibar, which was one of the strongest villages of Al-Hijaz; and they were seeking news and betting about who would win the fight: people of Khaibar or the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH). When they saw Al-Hajjaj, and of course they did not know that he had already embraced Islam, the men said, “By Allah! Al-Hajjaj must have the true news. O Hajjaj! We have been informed that Muhammad is heading for Khaibar.” Al-Hajjaj replied, “I have good news for you.” So the men gathered around Al-Hajjaj to listen. He said, “Muhammad has never fought against better fighters than those (of Khaibar). So he was badly defeated and captured; and they (people of Khaibar) said that they would not kill him until they send him to Mecca, where he would be killed before its people for those whom he had killed from among their men.” Having heard the good news from Al-Hajjaj, the men rushed most happily to the people of Mecca and told them to wait for Muhammad to be brought and killed before them. Al-Hajjaj said, “Help me get back my debts as quickly as possible because I would like to go and get my share of the booties of Muhammad before other traders arrive there before me.” So people of Mecca collected all his debts for him. When the news spread all over Mecca, polytheists rejoiced and gloated over that; while those who were in Mecca from among the Muslims who kept their embracing Islam secret were depressed and helpless. When Al-‘Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib heard the bad news, he was so shocked and depressed that he could hardly stand on his feet. Then he sent a young slave of his to Al-Hajjaj to tell him that Allah is far Mightier and Higher above what he claimed about the defeat of His Messenger, Muhammad, (PBUH). But Al-Hajjaj told the young man, “Give my greetings to Abul Fadl (Al-‘Abbas) and ask him to evacuate for me some of his dwellings so that I come to him and bring him glad tidings.” When the young slave came back with the good news from Al-Hajjaj, Al-‘Abbas was so happy that he set him free and promised to set free ten more of his slaves for the sake of Allah. When it was midday, Al-Hajjaj came to Al-‘Abbas, told him the glad tidings and asked him to keep his meeting with him secret for three days while he safely departed from Mecca. After the three days had passed, Al-‘Abbas put on his clothes and perfumes, took his walking-stick, and went out until he got to the meeting-places of Quraish, telling them that what Al-Hajjaj had informed them about Muhammad was not true and that Al-Hajjaj had played a trick on them and lied to them about Muhammad in order to get back his debts from them after he had converted to Islam. He told them that the truth was that Muhammad, (PBUH), conquered Khaibar and married Safiah, daughter of their king. They cried out in complete amazement, “O people! Allah’s enemy (i.e. Al-Hajjaj) has tricked us and fled away! Had we known (he had converted to Islam), we would have had such an evil affair with him.” Soon after, the news of Muhammad’s conquest of Khaibar came to them.
The above-mentioned story has to do with the question of the lawful and unlawful in Islam; and three facts can be deduced from it:
It is related to one of Allah’s Laws with His slaves, namely that He, All-Mighty, grants His Divine Help and Victory to His Messengers and true believers in this present world and the Hereafter.
It is related to one of the noble qualities of the character of the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), namely his mercy on his Companions and care for their interests.
It is related to one of the Islamic juristic rules concerning wealth, namely that people’s rights between themselves are based on mutual redemption, while Allah’s Rights are based on Forgiveness and Pardon.
* * *
In application of Allah’s Words,
“And he allows them as lawful the good things, and prohibits them as unlawful the evil things,”the speech will now be about a holy blessed tree, whose fruit is considered as food, protection and medicine, namely the olive-tree.
Modern medical science neglected the search in human food for protective, curative, and nutritional elements. But in 1986, research began on the influence of olive-oil on the reduction of fat in blood. Then other studies came to show that illnesses related to heart-arteries and heart attacks were very rare in the island of Creet because people there ate a lot of live-oil. In this context, the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), says,
“Eat olive-oil and anoint yourselves with it, for it comes from a blessed tree.”
Nutritionists confirm that olive-oil is one of the most easily digestible oils; and it has a high nutritional, protective and curative value. It is unanimously agreed among doctors that olive-oil has amazing curative effects. It can be used to decrease cholesterol and blood pressure. It is useful for diabetes; it prevents arteriosclerosis; and it contains a substance that prevents blood-coagulation and precipitation of fat in arteries. Chemical analysis shows that 100 grams of olive-oil contain 1 gram of proteins, 11 grams of fat, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Iron, Copper, Sulfur, and fibers. It is rich in the most important vitamins that have to do with composition and work of cells, generation and bones. It has good nutritional elements for the brain and children. It is useful for breaking up cystic calculus and gall-stones. It has a sedative effect on inflammations and skin-diseases. It is also good even for external uses. That is why the Messenger of Allah, (PBUH), who does not speak out of his own desire but rather Divine Revelation, says,
“Eat olive-oil and anoint yourselves with it, for it comes from a blessed tree.”
To wrap up, I would like to put forward the following fact:
Man excels by virtue of his religious commitment rather than the amount of theoretical knowledge he has about religion, his ardent emotions towards Islam or Muslims, or even the air of religiousness he enwraps himself with. In other words man excels in religion by being pious and committed to the Lord’s Religion. To this effect, Allah, Most Gracious, says,
“Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah are those who are most pious and dutiful.”
Man also excels by virtue of the size of his righteous work, whose benefit reflects positively on Muslims in particular and all mankind in general. To this effect, Allah, Most Merciful, says,
“For everyone there will be ranks (with Allah) according to what they have done.”
Such straightforwardness and righteous work, however, are not accepted by Allah in the Hereafter unless they are firmly established on a basis of proper definitive knowledge of Allah, Glory to Him. In this context, Allah, Most Gracious, says,
“No doubt! Verily, the friends of Allah: no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. Those who believed and were pious and dutiful.”
One of the holy knowledgeable scholars who know well their Lord, Allah, Most Gracious, was one day asked, “Who is Allah’s beloved friend? Is it someone who walks on the surface of water?” “No.” He replied. “Is it someone who flies in the air?” They asked. “No.” He replied. Then he added, “A real friend of Allah is someone who is sincerely committed to His Commands concerning the lawful and unlawful. In other words, if you want to be a friend of Allah’s, He should find you where He commands you to be, and should never find you where He forbids you to be.”