1 .Halal: that which the Legislator has permitted to be done-lawful.
2. Haram: that which the Legislator strictly and specifically forbade in such a way that doing it would bring punishment in the hereafter and possibly a penalty in this life as well-unlawful.
3. Makruh: that which is not favoured. 


As in so many other matters, the people of the Book and the pagans became terribly confused on what is Halai and Haram. In very many cases, they forbade the good and allowed the bad. This represents a trend to overdo things. For example, there were the cruel teachings of Hindu and Christian ascestics which advocated humiliating the human body and forbidding the good sustenance that Allah has provided for mankind. There is also the Mazdak ideology in Persia which called for total permissiveness, letting people follow all their desires and violate even the most sacred instincts in man’s soul. The Arabs before Islam were a typical example of this imbalance in the measures of Halal and Haram, both in things and deeds. They considered lawful both drinking and gambling, among other things. Moreover, they used to kill their daughters for economic and religious reasons. The Arab pagans also considered unlawful many of the good sustenance in tillage and in cattle. The Qur’an refers to this practice:

“They say, “these are cattle and tillage sacrosanct; none shall eat them, but whom we will’-so they assert -‘and cattle whose backs have been forbidden and cattle over which they mention not the name of God’. All that they say, forging against God. He will assuredly recompense them for what they were forging” (Al-Ana’m 138).

Islam established a number of principles which constitutes a solid base for differentiating between Halal and Haram.

The basic principles are:

1. The rule is that everything is Halal unless explicitly forbidden.
2. Only Allah has the right to legislate for man.
3. Prohibiting Halai and permitting Haram is synonymous with Shirk.
4. Haram is always associated with what is bad and harmful.
5. There is always a better substitute in Halai for that which is made Haram.
6. Anything that leads to Haram is considered Hararn.
7. It is Haram to declare something Halai when it is manifestly Haram.
8. Good intentions do not justify committing Haram.
9. One should guard himself against matters that are on the borderline between Halal and Haram (Mushtabahat).
10. In extreme circumstances, Haram is permissible within certain limits.

1. The rule is that everything is Halal unless explicitly forbidden

As long as there is no authentic statement from the Qur’an or the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him, that a particular thing is forbidden, then it is considered Halal. Muslim scholars found authority for this principle in these clear verses of the Qur’an:

“And He has subjected to you what is in the heavens and what is in the earth, all together from Him.” (Al-Jathiyah 13).

“Have you not seen how that God has subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and earth, and He has lavished on you His blessings, inward and outward?” (Luqman 20).

If Allah has created things and harnessed them for man’s use, then it cannot be true that Allah would deprive him by making them unlawful. He has made unlawful certain things for good reasons, with great wisdom. Therefore the forbidden area in the Islamic Shariah is considerably small. This is explained in the saying of the Prophet:

‘The lawful is what Allah has made lawful in His Book and the unlawful is that which He made unlawful.’

What He has left out is a mercy from Him, so accept Aiiah’s mercy. Surely Allah would not forget a thing’.

‘Then the Prophet peace be upon him, read from the Qur’an: ‘And the Lord is never forgetful’ (Maryam 64).

It is also narrated by Salman Al-Farsi,may Allah be pleased that when the Prophet, peace be upon him, was asked about animal fat, cheese and fur he answered with a Hadith similar to the one given above. It is worth noting that the Prophet did not give a narrow answer concerning those particular items he was asked about, but rather gave a broad principle to which Muslims could refer: it suffices to know what is forbidden as everything else would be lawful. It should be mentioned here that this rule applies not only for things and items but also for deeds and behaviours which are not part of lbadat (acts of worship), for example those which fall into the class of Muamalat (dealings between individuals, and everyday activities). With matters concerning lbadat, however it is different, as lbadat should be taken only from what was revealed to the Prophet. A hadith states,

“Whoever introduces into our way of life something which contradicts with it, it would amount to apostacy”.

This is obvious as the teachings of Islam is to worship only Allah, and to worship Him in the way He has taught us. Thus, whosoever devises a new way of worship on his own accord will be held responsible. Muamalat on the other hand are merely developed by man. The Shariah came to correct and rationalise them and approve what is good and not harmful.

To summarise the first principle. lbadat should not be established unless approved by Allah, while Muamalat should not be forbidden unless forbidden by Allah.

2. Only Allah has the right to legislate for man

Islam declares the legislating authority is that of Allah only, thus taking it away from the people whatever status they enjoy, whether they be priests, kings or sultans. Nobody is allowed to forbid something that Allah has permitted. If he did so he would be exceeding the limit set by Allah and claiming to himself what is a divine attribute of Allah. Moreover those who accept and follow this man-made legislation will also be held responsible. Concerning the Mushriks (those who seek partners with God) the Qur’an says:

“. . . or have they associates who have laid down for them as religion that for which God gave not leave?” (AI-Shura -21).

The Qur’an also blames the people of the Book for handing the legislative authority to their priests.

“They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords apart from God, and the Messiah, Mary’s son-and they were commanded to serve but One God; there is no God but He; Glory be to Him, above that they associate”. (AI-Taubah 31).

It is narrated that Ibn Hatim, who was Christian before becoming Muslim, once heard the Prophet, peace be upon him, reading that verse in Sura Al-Taubah. Ibn Hatim exclaimed: “Messenger of Allah, but they (the Christians) have not worshipped their rabbis and monks”? The Pro- phet, peace be upon him, replied,

“Yes they have. They forbade them what is lawful and allowed them what is forbidden and the people followed them. This is how they worshipped them”

. The Qur’an also blames the idolators for forbidding and allowing things without Allah’s leave:

“Say: ‘Have you considered the provision God has sent down for you, and you have made some of it unlawful and some lawful?’ Say: ‘Has God given you leave, or do you forge against God?’ “

From these verses and traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, Muslim scholars were aware that only Allah has the right to legislate either in His Book, or through His Prophet, peace be upon him. They also understood that their task in Fiqh was to be no more than to clarify to the people Allah’s judgement regarding Haial and Haram. Early Muslim scholars used to be very cautious in passing judgement concerning Halai and Haram. We should learn from them and never call something Haram unless we have definite authority for saying so.

3. Forbidding Halal and allowing Haram is synonymous with Shirk

Islam fought against those who forbade what is good and lawful, as this carried the danger of making life difficult and deprived man from Aliah’s mercy. Islam does not approve of this attitude and the Prophet, peace be upon him, said,

“I have been sent (by Allah) with the true and easy religion”.

The Qur’an strongly condemn’s the pagans of Arabia for their Shirk and forbidding lawful things like cattle. They used to declare Haram to eat some animal or to ride on them or to prevent them from water and pasture for various baseless reasons. The Qur’an condemns this attitude when it declares:

“God has not appointed cattle dedicated to idols, such as Bahira, Sa’iba, Wasila, Hami; but the unbelievers forge against God falsehood, and most of them have no understanding, And when it is said to them, ‘come now to what God has sent down, and the Messenger, they say: ‘Enough for us what we have found our fathers doing’. What, even if their fathers had knowledge of naught and were not guided?” (Al-Ma’ida 103, 104).

In Sura Al-A’arat there is another similar verse indicating broadly what Allah has truly forbidden:

“Say: ‘Who has forbidden the ornament of God which He brought forth for His servants; and the good things of His providing?’ Say, these, on the day of resurrection, shall be exclusively for those who believed in this present life, so we distinguish the signs for a people who (Al-Nisa 160, 161).

When Allah sent his last apostle with the message of Islam, it was a sign of his mercy that He lifted this hardship which was only a temporary punish. ment for a stubborn people. This is the essence of Islam as prophesied in the Torah and the Gospel, as the Qur’an says:

“I shall prescribe it (Aliah’s mercy) for those who are Godfearing and pay the Alms and those who indeed believe in our signs, those who follow the Messenger, the prophet of the common folk, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, bidding them to honour and forbidding them to dishonour, making lawful for them the good things and making unlawful for them the corrupt things and relieving them of their loads and the fetters that were upon them . . .” (Al-Aa’rat 157).

In Islam man could seek forgiveness from Allah in number of ways rather than forbidding themselves what is good and pure. It includes sincere repentance which abolishes sin, the good deeds that compensate for the bad deeds and giving charity. There is also the hardship and difficulty

4. Haram is associated with the bad and harmful

Having created man and bestowed upon him immeasurable blessings, Allah has the right to declare what is permitted and what is forbidden. He also has the right to command man with whatever acts of worship He desires. Man, being the creation and the subject of Allah, has to obey. Allah, however, being the most merciful and compassionate, allowed only good things and forbade bad things for the benefit of man himself. It is true that Allah forbade the Jews some of the good things but this was as a penalty due to their transgression and exceeding Allah’s limits as explained in this verse in Sura Al-Nisa:

“And for the evil doing of those Jewry, we have forbidden them certain good things that were permitted to them and for their barring from God’s way. And for taking usury, that they were prohibited, and we have prepared for the un- believers among them a painful chastisement.” know! Say, ‘My Lord has only forbidden indecencies the inward and the outward, and sin, and unjust insolence, and that you associate with God that for which He sent down never authority and that you say concerning God such as you know not’ “. (Al-Aarat 32, 33).

It should be noted that these discussions come in suras revealed in Mecca which mainly dealt with the basic fundamentals of faith. The Qur’an views this matter as one of the basic fundamentals. ties with which Allah tests the believers. It is thus well established in Islam that what is purely useful or its usefulness excels its harm is Halal and what is harmful or its harm excels its usefulness is Haram. As a step towards forbidding alcohol and gambling Allah states in the Qur’an:

“They will question you concerning wine and arrow-shuffling, say: ‘in both is henious sin, and uses for men, but the sin ;n them is more henious than the usefulness’ “. (Al-Baqara 219).

A general definition of what is Halal is that what is good by the standard of moderate person without any bias to certain habit. Allah said:

“They will question thee what is permitted to them, say: “The good things are permitted to you . . .” (Al-Maida 4).

It is not essential that the Muslims should know in detail all the reasons as to why a certain thing is forbidden, as that which is unknown today may be clear tomorrow. The believers would always say: “We hear and we obey”. An example of this is that the Prophet, peace be upon him, warned the Muslims from three bad things that would raise both the anger of Allah, and the peoples’. These concern answering nature’s call in running water, public roads and in the shade. The early Muslims understood these as bad behaviour, indecent and of bad taste. In our days we are aware how dangerous these are to the public health as they contribute to the spread of many diseases. As our knowledge increases so is our understanding of the merits of Islamic teachings regarding Halal and Haram and in fact, all aspects of Islamic Shariah.

5. In Halal, there is better substitute for Haram

One of the merits of Islam is that it shows mercy towards people in that whenever it forbids something it provides a better substitute to replace it. Islam forbids usury but allows profitable business. Islam forbids gambling, but allows winning prizes in contests of shooting, racing, wrestling. Islam forbids adultery but urges the Muslims to get married as soon as they can support a family. Islam forbids drinking alcohol but allows all other good and healthy drinks. Islam forbids what is bad in food but allows what is good and nourishing. The same principle can be traced all through the teachings of Islam. Whenever there is an apparent difficulty in one direction there is much relief in another. Allah does not wish any hardship to his people, on the contrary He guides them towards good:

“God desires to make clear to you, and to guide you in the institutions of those before you, and to turn towards you; God is All-knowing, All-wise; and God desires to turn towards you, but those who follow their lusts desire you to swerve you away mightily. God desires to lighten things for you, for man was created a weakling”. Al-Nisa 26, 28

6.Whatever leads to Haram is also Haram

Whenever Islam forbids something, it also forbids all the means that could lead to it. While forbidding adultery for example, Islam also forbids all the circumstances that might possibly lead to it such as irresponsible intermingling of the sexes, permissive,’ literature and pornography. It also commands Muslims to lower their gazes and dress decently. Judging by this, Muslim scholars concluded that whatever that could lead towards Haram would also be Haram. Similarly in committing Haram, sin will not be limited to the direct doer alone but would extend to include all those who have participated in it one way or another. The penalty would be shared among them in proportion to their participation or contribution. For example, the Prophet, peace be upon him, condemned those who drink alcohol, those who make it, those who carry it, those who sell it and so on. In taking usury also, both the borrower and the lender would share that sin.

7. Declaring a thing Halal when it is Haram, is also Haram

While restricting the ways that could lead to Haram, Islam also makes it Haram to commit Haram through hideous and indirect ways. The Prophet, peace be upon him said:

“Do not do what the Jews have done; Do not commit what Allah made Haram, with silliest of tricks”.

This is because the Jews were ordered not to fish on Saturdays. To get around this, they used to prepare their fishing gear on Friday and put it into the sea so that fish would fall into it on Saturday for them to catch on Sunday. Though this might seem in order for the one who wishes to get around the forbidden act, yet it is Haram in Islam’s point of view. What was meant by Allah’s order was to refrain from catching fish on Saturday whether directly or indirectly. Among other new tricks is giving misleading names to Haram objects, for example the different names given to alcohol, taking usury and illegal relations between sexes.

8. Good intentions do not justify committing Haram

Islam appreciates the individual’s intentions in all its directives and teachings. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said,

“The outcome of deeds depend on the intentions and every person will have what he has intended to do”.

With good intentions, performance of mundane practices that are Halal become an act of obedience to Allah and bring His pleasure. Regarding Haram, however, the case is different. Whatever good intentions the wrong doer might have and however noble his objectives could be, Islam does not accept Haram methods to be used as a means for achieving good ends. This is because Islam emphasizes both the means and the ends to be noble and never accepts the principle of the ends justify the means”. Thus earning money through dealing in usury, gambling or any other illegal means to spend on building mosques or other charitable objects is not acceptable to Islam.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, once said:

“Allah is good, He accepts only the good, and Allah has commanded the believers with what He commanded His Messengers, saying

“0, Messenger, eat of the good things and do righteousness; surely I know the things you do”.

(Al-Muminoon 51)

And Allah also said: “Believers, eat of the good things wherewith We provide you”.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, then mentioned the example of a man travelling long distance (for Hajj) his face and hair stained with dust, stretches his hands in his prayers asking favours from Allah while his food is haram, his drink is haram and his clothes are bought from haram money, How could it be that Allah listens to his prayers?

9. One should guard against things on the borderline between Halal and Haram (Musthabahat)

On the borderline between the Halat and Haram, there lies an area which could bring some confusion. This could be due to various ways of interpreting a rule or due to differences in authority concerning it. Islam recommends Muslims to keep away from these “Mushtabahat” to guard himself from committing actual Haram. This principle originates from the following tradition of the Prophet, peace be upon him:

“What is Halai is clear and what is Haram is clear. Midway between them there are things which many people do not know whether they are Halal or Haram. He who keeps away from them will protect his religion and will be saved. He who approaches them will be very near to Haram, like a herdsman wandering near Hima (the place set by the king to be used by his cattle only), who could soon fall into this protected area. 
Surely for every king there is such a protected area and God’s is what He declared forbidden”.

10. What Is Haram is Haram for everybody

In Islam, what is Haram is Haram for all the people and likewise what is Halal is Halal for all the people. There are no privileges enjoyed by a certain caste or group enabling them to do whatever they like, be they kings or monks. Theft for example is Haram, whether the thief or his victim be Muslim or non-Muslim. The thief will face the charge and pay the penalty whatever his status. 
This is what the Prophet, Peace be upon him, meant when he said,

“By God, had Fatima bint Muhammed committed theft I would have cut off her hand”.

Today Judaism claims that it is only unlawful for a Jew to deal in usury with his fellow Jews, while it is lawful to take it from non-Jews. The Qur’an pointed out this characteristic:

“And of the People of the Book is he who, if thou trust him with a hundredweight, will restore it to thee; and of them is he who, if thou trust him with one pound will not restore it thee unless even thou stand over him. That, because they say ‘there is no way over us to the common people’. They speak falsehood against God and that wittingly”. (Al-Imran 75)

It is obvious that they speak falsehood against Allah but His true Shariah would not differentiate between one people and another. The rules of Shariah are absolute and they do not favour one group of people at the expense of others.

 In case of constraint, Haram is permissible within certain limits Islam does not ignore the fact that man is weak in certain trying circumstances and could endanger his life. It is therefore allowed for a Muslim under extreme pressure to take off what is normally Haram, to enable him to survive. Allah mentioned in the Qur’an, immediately after enumerating types of Haram food:

“Yet whoso is constrained, not desiring nor transgressing, no sin shall be on him; God is All- forgiving, All-compassionate”. (Al Baqarah 173).

It is important to notice that the verse defines he who is constrained as being one also not desiring to commit Haram for its sake and without going beyond the limits of his need. A Muslim should never cornmit Haram unless he is forced to and then he does the minimum that would justify his urgent need. The spirit of Islam is that it desires things to be easy for the Muslims:

“God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship for you”. (Al-Baqarah 185).”God desires to lighten things for you, for man was created a weakling”. (Al-Nisa 28).