Five Categories of Laws in Islam
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
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, which are 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) 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 behaviors, 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 act 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, mustahab 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, fasting during the holy months
of Rajab and Sha`ban, reciting the Qur'an, are but a few examples of
The recommended deeds in Islam uplift man 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 largeÄscale advertisement to sell
something which is not so worthy...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
"Say: My Lord has only prohibited indecencies, those of them that
are apparent as well as those that are 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 Prophet, the Ummi, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Evangel, (who) enjoins them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful to them the good things and makes unlawful to them 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,these it is that 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 (poorÄrate), 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.