Allaah the Almighty has divided things in the world into two types, good or permissible (al-tayyibaat, al-halaal) and evil or prohibited (al-khabaa’ith, al-haraam), and there is no third type. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning) in surat al-A’raaf (7:157):
“And He makes good things halaal for them and bad things haraam.”
“He commands them for Al-Ma‘roof (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained); and forbids them from Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden); he allows them as lawful At‑Tayyibaat (i.e. all good and lawful as regards things, deeds, beliefs, persons and foods), and prohibits them as unlawful Al‑Khabaa’ith (i.e. all evil and unlawful as regards things, deeds, beliefs, persons and foods)”
According to Islaamic Law, all acts and things may be divided into two main categories: those that are permissible, known as Halaal, and those that are forbidden, known as Haraam. There is nothing in existence which does not fall under one of these two categories
The category of Halaal is further divided into four sub-Divisions based on the way in which they were made allowable:
1. Waajib of Fard (Obligatory)
The act which is considered Waajib must be done. If one does it he is rewarded by Allaah, and if he fails to do it (purposely) he has committed a sin and will be punished. How do we know if something is Waajib? If Allaah or His Prophet (r) has said it is Waajib? If Allaah or His Prophet (r) has ordered us to do something without making any exceptions, it is considered Waajib. The proof of this is in Allaah’s statement in the Qur’aan.
“Whatever the Prophet orders you, do it, and whatever he forbids you, leave it!” Soorah al-Hashr (59):7
The Qur’aan orders us to worship Allaah without partners, establish regular Salaah and pay our Zakaah in Soorah al-Bayyinah (97), verse 5:
“And they were only ordered to worship Allaah, alone, establish their Salaah and pay their Zakaah.”
That is the real religion. Therefore, it is Waajib that we worship only Allaah, pray out five daily alaah and give our yearly Zakaah to the poor. Ifwe do we will be greatly rewarded by Allaah, but if we worship someone or something other than Allaah, leave our Salaah or refuse to pay our Zakaah, we will be punished. The Prophet (r) commanded us saying,
“Pray all of you just as you saw me pray.” (Sahih al-Bukhari vol.1, p.345, no.604).
Therefore, it is Waajib on all Muslims to pray in some way that the last Prophet (r) prayed. If we do so, we will get the full reward of Salaah, but if we know the right way and pray another way, we will be punished by Allaah and our Salaah will not be accepted.
The purpose behind the category of waajib acts is:
i) to identify for humans the absolutely essential acts which they must do in order to help them succeed in both this life and the next.
ii)to train the believer in submission to God, which is the foundation of righteousness.
iii)to provide a basic framework of righteous deeds for the believer’s life.
2. Mustahabb (Recommended)
The act which is Mustahabb is one which the Prophet (r) has encouraged us to do. If someone does it, Allaah will reward him, but if he doesn’t do it, he has not done a sin and will not be punished. The Mustahabb things are there to help us get used to obeying Allaah and His Prophet (r) so that when we are given something Waajib to do, it will be easier for us to do it. It is also a means by which one can make up for the mistakes made in Fard acts. How do we know when something is Mustahabb?
Acts classified as Mustahabb are those which
(a) the Prophet (r) used to do regularly. For example, the Prophet (r) used to pray two Raka‘aat of voluntary prayer before doing the Fard Salaah of Fajr, even when he was travelling and stopped doing other prayers before and after the other compulsory prayers. (Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol.2, p.144, no.260), Muslim (Sahih Muslim ( English Trans.), vol.1,p.351, no.1568) and Abu Daawood (Sunan Abu Dawud (English Trans.), vol.1, p.329, no.1249).
Thus, it is considered Mustahabb for us to pray these two Raka‘aat whenever possible (b) those he recommended. For example, the Prophet (r) encouraged Muslims to fast on certain days in the year outside the month of Ramadaan. He was reported to have said that one who fasted six days in the month of Shawwaal *10th Month* along with the whole month of Ramadaan, would get the reward for fasting the whole year. (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol.2, p.570, no.2614) and Abu Daawood (Sunan Abu Dawud ( English Trans.), vol.2, p.669, no.2427
Similarly, he also recommended ‘Umrah in Ramadaan by saying that one who does so would be rewarded like one who made Hajj with him. (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol.2, p.570, no.2614) and Abu Daawood (Sunan Abu Dawud ( English Trans.), vol.2, p.669, no.2427
(c) those which he ordered done and then later allowed not to be done. An example of the third type of Mustahabb acts is the command for Ghusl (Islamic bath) on Friday. Initially the Prophet (r) said that “Ghusl on Friday is compulsory on everyone reaching puberty.” but he later said, “Whoever
makes Wudoo’ on Friday is blessed, but making the Ghusl is better.”
(d) those which he prohibited and then later commanded. And an example of the fourth kind can be found in the command to visit graves. Regarding this, the Prophet (r) said, “I used to prohibit you from visiting the graves, (but now) visit them, as it will remind (of the next life).” Abu Daawood (Sunan Abu Dawud (English Trans.), vol.2, p.919, no.3229)
The purpose behind the category of mustahabb acts is:
i)to identify certain beneficial acts which humans may not necessarily realize.
ii)to train humans in obeying God. Each compulsory acts as an equivalent recommended version.
iii)to protect the area of compulsory acts with a shield of other good acts. If a believer becomes weak and neglects acts, it would be from the mustahabb and not the waajib.
iv)to provide a body of good deeds which can make up for deficiencies in the compulsory acts.
The act which is considered Mubaah is one which hasn’t been ordered, recommended, disliked or forbidden by Allaah and His Prophet (r).10 It is something optional, meaning that we may or may not do it. If we do it without any particular intention, there is no reward from Allaah, and if we do not, there is no punishment. Examples of things that are Mubaah are taking a bath on a hot day to cool off, buying a Pepsi instead of a Mirinda, or scratching your head with your left hand or right hand.
Khaalid ibn al-Waleed related that he went with Allaah’s Messenger (r) to visit Khaalid’s aunt Maymoonah, who was one of the Prophet’s wives, and found that she had roasted a Dabb (a large desert lizard). When she offered the lizard (dish) to Allaah’s Messenger (r), he refused it, so Khaalid asked him if lizards were prohibited. He replied, “ No, but there were none in my people’s land and I find that I dislike in my people’s land and I find that I dislike them.” Khaalid said, “ I then bit off a piece, chewed and ate it with the Prophet (r) looking at me.” Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic English), vol.7, pp. 230-231, no.303) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol.3, p.1074, no.4790) Eating Dabb is therefore Mubaah.
The Prophet (r) disliked it personally, but permitted it for others. It should be noted that this category could become a source of reward if done with a good intention. For example, choosing the best foods to eat for the purpose of looking after one’s body, a gift from God, would be a commendable act.
The purpose behind the category of mubaah acts is:
i) to increase the area of Halaal acts and giving humans more freedom of choice so that they have no reason for going to the haraam.
4. Makrooh (Disliked)
The act which is considered Makrooh is the one which
1. Allaah or His Prophet (r) has described as being nasty or disgusting. For example, the Prophet (r) said,
“The one who plays backgammon is like one who dyes his hand in the blood of swine.”
Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.) vol.4, p.1222, no.5612) and Abu Daawood ( Sunan Abu Dawud (English Trans.), vol.3, p.1374, no.4920
Since dyeing one’s hand in pig’s blood is a nasty act, so is playing backgammon, so we should avoid it and games that are similar to it.
2. the Prophet (r) forbade but later did to let us know that it is not a sin and that it was only disliked. An example of the second category can be found in the Prophet’s prohibition of drinking while standing.
Abu Hurayrah quoted Allaah’s Messenger (r) as saying,
“ None of you should drink while standing ; And if anyone forgets, he should vomit.”
Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol.3, p.1117, no.5022
However, the Prophet (r) was also known to have drank while standing. ‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib prayed the noon prayer and then sat down in the wide courtyard (of the Masjid) of Kufah in order to deal with the affairs of the people until ‘Asr prayer. Water was then brought to him. He drank some of it, made Wudoo’, then stood up and drank the remaining water while standing and said, “Some people dislike to drink water while standing, but the Prophet (r) did as I have just done.” Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol.7, p.358, no.520).
The makrooh acts represent category of actions which contains some form of harm in them. The harm may be physical or spiritual, however, the effects are not serious enough to have the acts strictly prohibited. For example, the father of Ya‘eesh ibn Tikhafah said,
“While I was lying on my stomach in the early morning, a man began to nudge me with his foot and then said, ‘This is a method of lying which God hates.’ When I looked up I saw that it was Allaah’s Messenger.” Abu Daawood (Sunan Abu Dawud (English Trans.), vol.3, pp.1400-1401, no.502) and ibn Maajah, and authenticated in Saheeh Sunan Ibn Maajah, vol.2, p.305, no.3000.
After extensive research into spinal ailments and their causes, specialists from the medical profession made the following recommendations: “Poor sleep posture is a sure invitation to backaches. Use a firm mattress. Lie on the side with a bend to the knees. Avoid lying on the belly, a position that increases the lumber curve, causing that familiar sagging called swayback.” Thus, the avoidance of sleeping on the stomach does protect man from some physical harm. There may also be other physical harm as well as spiritual harm unknown to us.
We are encouraged to avoid the makrooh acts since they are close to being forbidden. If we avoid them, Allaah will reward us, but if we do them, there is no punishment. If someone gets into the habit of doing makrooh things it will be easy for him to fall into the forbidden things. So, we should avoid them as much as possible.
For example, one who follows the Prophet’s (r) advice regarding backgammon is rewarded by Allaah, while one who insists on playing it, we will likely end up playing it for money and fall into the sin of gambling, which is strictly forbidden and punishable in this life and the next.
The purpose behind the category of makrooh acts is:
i)to protect human beings from some harmful acts.
ii)that avoiding Makrooh acts trains man in self-control to make the avoidance of Haraam acts easier.
iii)to place a barrier between the believer and the haraam acts so that in times of weakness, a person would only fall into the disliked rather than the forbidden.
An act is considered Haraam if Allaah or His Messenger (r) ordered us not to do it, without making any exceptions. If we avoid such an act, we will be rewarded by Allaah, but if we do it, we have sinned and will be punished. How to we know when something is Haraam? An act is considered Haraam if Allaah or His Prophet (r) said that:
(1) It is forbidden by either using the term “forbidden” or by saying “ do not.”
For example, the Prophet (r) said, “Don’t eat with your left hand, for surely Satan eats with his left hand.” Muslim (Sahih Muslim ( English Trans.), vol.3, p.1115, no.5010) and Abu Daawood (Sunan Abu Dawud (English Trans.), vol.3, p.1065, no.3767).
Allaah said in the Qur’aan:
“Forbidden to you ( in marriage) are : your mothers, your daughters, your sister, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters…”
Soorah an-Nisaa’ (4) : 23
(2) We should avoid it totally as Allaah stated in the Qur’aan:
“Verily alcohol gambling and fortunetelling are filth from the work of Satan, so avoid them totally or order to be successful.”
Soorah al-Maa‘idah (5) : 90
(3) It is punishable in the Sharee‘ah. ‘Uqbah ib al-Haarith said, “An-Nu‘maan or his son was brought to the Prophet (r) in state of drunkenness. The Prophet (r) took it hard and ordered those present in the house to give him a beating. They all took part in flogging himwith the stalks of the date palmand shoes, and I was among those who beat him.” Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic -English), vol.8, p.505, no.766
(4) Whoever does it will burn in Hellfire. Haarithah ibn Wahb reported that Allaah’s Messenger (r) said, “…. Shall I inform you of the people of Hell?” And the companions replied, “ Yes.” The Prophet (r) then said, “ Every haughty, fat (from overeating) and proud person.” Sahih Muslim (English Trans.) vol.4, p.1485, no.6833
Or that they will not enter Paradise, as in the Prophet’s statement ,
“The gossiper will not enter Paradise.”
(Sahih al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol.8, p.52, no.82).
(5) It is cursed. For example, Abu Hurayrah said, “Allaah’s Messenger (r) cursed men who dressed like women and women who dressed like men.” (Sunan Abu Dawud (English Trans.), vol.3, p.1143, no.4087).
Ibn Abee Mulaykah also reported that when someone asked ‘Aa’ishah if a women could wear men’s sandals, she replied, “Allaah’s Messenger (r) cursed mannish women.”
Similarly clean shave of beard is considered Haraam due to acquiring feminine qualities.
The purpose behind the category of Haraam acts is:
i) to protect man from things which are extremely harmful to himself and society, either physically (like alcohol) or spiritually (like pride).
ii)to test man’s faith and differentiate between true believers, weak believers and disbelievers.
iii)to help develop man’s awareness of Allaah by forcing him to refrain from certain acts even though he may not be able to perceive the harm in it.