Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: I have always defined Haraam as something that is explicitly stated in the Quran as being forbidden. Music, for example, is not clearly stated as being haraam in the Quran, and so I believe music is ok. What is the definition of Haraam? Is my understanding correct? there a problem with my own definition of Haraam? Is there a problem with the fact that I constructed such a definition? I thought I was only using common sense.
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
Thank you for your question.
The definition of the impermissible (haram) mentioned in the question is not accurate.
One thing we need to understand is that the Islamic tradition comprises an intricate and nuanced legal system. As with any other legal system, there is a methodological framework in place to determine the legal status of a particular action.
Muslim jurists generally identified five categories of legal rulings: (1) the obligatory, (2) the recommended, (3) the permissible, (4) the disliked, and (5) the impermissible. Every action of a morally responsible individual falls into one of the above categories and there are specific methodological principles and considerations that assist a scholar in determining what ruling applies to a specific action.
The Impermissible (haram)
The impermissible is defined as an action that one is firmly sought to abstain from whose perpetrator is entitled to censure and punishment.
The proof for the impermissible can either be decisive, meaning there is no doubt in the transmitted text conveying such prohibition nor in the meaning it conveys, or probabilistic, where a doubt in the decisive nature of one of the previous two exists. When it is the latter, the Hanafi scholars in particular term the act as being prohibitively disliked (makruh tahrimi) as opposed to impermissible (haram), though both entail sin and entitlement to punishment when committed.
The proof for establishing the impermissibility or prohibitive dislikedness of a certain act returns to the act being explicitly prohibited or something that conveys the meaning of prohibition.
Thus, for example, the statement of Allah, “Oh believers, wine and arrow-shuffling, idols and divining-arrows are an abomination, some of Satan’s work; so avoid it” (5:90), is an explicit prohibition of the aforesaid through the phrase “so avoid it (fa’jtanibuhu), which entails their impermissible (haram) nature.
Another example is the statement of Allah, “Forbidden to you is carrion, blood, the flesh of swine…” (5:4), where there is prohibition conveyed through the use of the word “forbidden”. This also entails the impermissible (haram) nature of the aforementioned.
The Sources of Law
Here, it is important to note the sources of legal rulings to understand that these sources, though firmly based off the Qur’an, extend beyond it. The primary sources identified by Muslim jurists of the four schools are:
1. The Qur’an,
2. The sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace),
3. Consensus of the scholarly community, and
4. Legal analogy.
Explicit prohibition or an utterance that conveys its meaning are found both in the Qur’an and the statements of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), not merely the former. As such, an action being considered impermissible can be established through other than the Qur’an, such as the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), as both are agreed-upon sources from which legal rulings can be derived.
To confine it to one is contrary to the century-old juristic model the Muslim scholars have adopted and, more so, the Qur’an itself, which commands us to obey and follow the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) as in the verse, “Obey Allah and the Messenger…” (3:132)
Law and Common Sense
From the above, it becomes clear that the considerations taken into account to give a specific act a legal ruling is far more than recourse to common sense. This is because what is assumed as obvious is often-times complex and nuanced, and, if anything, common sense itself dictates that a legal system that is divinely protected and fit for all times would be rigorous, detailed, and complex.
As such, one needs to be careful when it comes to issues of the permissible and impermissible and seek out a reliable scholar for answers to their questions. This is actually commanded in the Qur’an itself when it states, “Ask those who know if you know not.” (16:43)
I hope this clarifies the issue for you.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani