Know the Shari’ah Rules

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We can divide Islam into two fundamental categories; the Belief (Imaan) and actions. Imaan is from the actions of the heart where conviction is anchored. What drives man to abide by the commands and abstain from the prohibitions of Allah is the belief. Good deeds or actions are a result of the belief. Islamic creed is a comprehensive thought (Fikra Kulliyyah) which enlightens about the universe, man and life. And that before the three is Allah (swt) their Creator. And it is Allah (swt) who revealed a system to guide human life. Here is what comes the obligation of knowing the shari’ah rules by man regarding everything and action before undertaking to perform it.

What is Shari’ah Rule?

Scholars of Jurisprudence ‘Usool’ have defined Shari’ah rule as the address of the Legislator relating to the actions of the servants.

خطاب الشارع المتعلق بأفعال العباد

The Usool scholars used the word ‘the Legislator’ الشارع)) and explained it as the address of the Legislator instead of address of Allah (خطاب الله) so that people do not adopt an understanding that the only source of Islamic Shari’ah is the Book of Allah i.e. the Qur’an alone. It is a known fact by Muslims that the Sunnah, meaning the Prophet’s (saw) Hadith, is also a source of the Shari’ah by being part of the revelation. In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet (saw) said:

ألا إني أوتيت القرآن ومثله معه

Behold! I was given the Qur’an together with the like of it. The meaning of ‘the like of it’ is the Sunnah.

Therefore, Shari’ah rule is the speech of Allah (swt) addressing His servants. The address is about an action or a thing and that is the rule of Allah’s (swt) regarding it i.e. the Shari’ah rule. Based on that tafseer it is clear that Shari’ah rule is taken from the address of the Legislator (Wahyi). Were there no Wahyi (the address from Allah (swt)) to His Messenger Muhammad (saw) then there would be no Shari’ah rule. Likewise, were there no revelation then human actions would not be undertaken based on Halal and Haram, good and bad, or Khayr and Sharr. In short, the source of a Shari’ah rule is the address of Allah (swt) either from the Qur’an or from the Hadith. From this explanation, legislation from Parliament, Senate, and fatwa committees with no relevant Shari’ah evidences, are not regarded as Shari’ah rules since they do not emanate from the revelation (Wahyi). Allah (swt) says:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَٰذَا حَلَالٌ وَهَٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ لَا يُفْلِحُون

And do not say about what your tongues assert of untruth, “This is lawful and this is unlawful,” to invent falsehood about Allah. Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed.

[An-Nahl: 116]

As for the meaning of the expression: ‘Relating to actions of servants’ (المتعلق بأفعال العباد) what is intended here is the address of Allah (swt) relating to actions of the servants. As for the address that is not related to actions of the servants, it falls under the category of Imaan, which in origin, as explained earlier, is required, and its conviction is by the heart.

How many types are Shari’ah rules?

If you put aside the opinion of Abu Hanifa that Shari’ah rules are of seven types, consensus of scholars has mentioned that Shari’ah rules are of five types and this is the strongest opinion. The five types of Shari’ah rules are the ones which Allah (swt) has commissioned His servants to and are thus termed as the five Shari’ah rules commissioned to

(أحكام التكليف الخمسة)

1-Obligatory (Fardh)

2-Recommended (Mandoub/Sunnah/Naafilah/Mustahab)

3-Forbidden (Haram)

4- Reprehensive (Makrouh)

5-Permissible (Mubah)

Explanation of these rules is as follows:

Obligatory (Fardh):

It is the action ordered to be done by the Shari’ah whose request is decisive; and when someone does it, he is rewarded and when he leaves it, he is sinful. Consequently, anything ordered to be done through a decisive request is termed as obligatory like five daily prayers, fasting during Ramadhan, Jihad and doing good to parents. In order for an action to be obligatory, there must be a connotation denoting a severe punishment for he who abandons the action.  For instance, the obligation of prayers is prescribed in the verse:

مَا سَلَكَكُمْ فِي سَقَرَ * قَالُوا لَمْ نَكُ مِنَ الْمُصَلِّينَ

[And asking them], “What put you into Saqar?”* They will say, “We were not of those who prayed

[Al-Muddaththir: 42-43]

Recommended (Mandoub/ Sunnah/ Mustahab):

It is every action ordered by the Shari’ah to be done but whose request is indecisive; when someone does it, he is rewarded and when he leaves it, he is not sinful. Therefore, anything ordered to be done but lacks a connotation indicating abandoning the action leads to punishment, is termed as Sunnah. Imam Suyuti explained in his book Al-Kaukab Saatiy the terms (Mandoub, Sunnah and Mustahab) as follows: Sunnah is that which the Prophet (saw) persistently did it and emphasized it on Muslims; the like of two Sunnah rakahs after the five daily prayers (Rawaatib). As for the action done by the Prophet (saw) once in a while and never persisted on it, is what is termed as Mandoub like the Dhuha prayer. As for Mustahab, it is that which the Prophet (saw) emphasized on its performance but never did it himself like the Tasua’ fasting. As for Naafilah, scholars have termed it as any other Ibadah apart from the obligatory ones. Example include going for Hajj the second time… Fasting apart from the Ramadhan…. Charity, night prayers etc.

Forbidden (Haram/Mahdhoor):

It is that which the Shari’ah has forbidden with a decisive request to the extent that he who does it is sinful and he who leaves it is rewarded. The Haram actions are many including Riba, fornication, disobeying parents and killing.

Reprehensive (Makrooh):

It is the fourth type, which comes after Haram; which is defined as that which the Shari’ah has prohibited but is not linked to punishment. That is, there is no punishment assigned to doing the action. He who does it is not sinful while he who abstains from it is rewarded. Religious scholars gave an example of Makrouh as someone forgetting what he has memorized of the Qur’an. The Prophet (saw) forbade Muslims from forgetting anything they memorized from the Quran. Hence, the Prophet (saw) wants people not to forget and let go of what they have memorized from the Qur’an but there is no punishment for the one who forgets.

Permissible (Mubah):

It is that which the Shari’ah left it as a choice between doing it and abstaining from it. He who does it, is not rewarded and he who abstains from it, is not sinful. Here, it is important to note that the claims that he who does Mubah is rewarded are baseless from the Shari’ah point of view. In addition, Mubah is not defined as that which the Shari’ah has remained silent and gave no verdict on it. Prominent scholars agreed that there is no ruling for an action before the existence of the Shari’ah i.e. before the Shari’ah an action cannot be given a Shari’ah ruling. Therefore, Mubah as a Shari’ah rule is based on Shari’ah evidences.

هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا

    It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth.


And here is where the Shari’ah principle that says ‘The origin of things is permissibility except those that are prohibited…’ comes in. As for the Hadith of the Prophet (saw) that says… “And He remained silent on things so that it becomes a mercy to you not because He has forgotten on them…”  وسكت عن أشياء رحمة لكم غير نسيان)) it means an action done in front of the Prophet (saw) and never forbade it indicating that he has approved of it and hence it is lawful. These are the five types of Shari’ah rules which when Muslims abide by them in their daily lives, then is when it would be said that there exist an Islamic society. The most important thing to acknowledge is that our relationship between this life and the Hereafter is the accountability we will be subjected to for our actions. For a Muslim, it is imperative for him to confine himself to the Shari’ah before doing any of his actions; hence, the principle ‘The origin of all actions is abiding by the Shari’ah’ and that Allah (swt) will question all of us for what we have acted.

. فَوَرَبِّكَ لَنَسْأَلَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ * عَمَّا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

So by your Lord, We will surely question them all* About what they used to do.  [Al-Hijri: 92-93]


Shabani Mwalimu

Media Representative of Hizb ut Tahrir in Kenya