Is it Unlawful to Persist in Doing Disliked Actions (Makruh)?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


I would like to know if it’s unlawful to persist, with no concern, in disliked (makruh) actions, for example, eating raw onions or playing chess?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. First, in the Shafi‘i School, there is no distinction between types or levels of disliked-ness (makruh). In other words, there is no division of makruh tahrimi and makruh tanzihi.

Second, disliked remains disliked and does not become unlawful merely because of persistence in them. Having no concern for Sacred Law, in general, is unlawful, and one should always be respectful of the status of the actions one engages in.

Furthermore, the cited examples require some elaboration before blanket categories are declared. Eating onions, raw or otherwise, is permissible. Going to sacred spaces after eating them and without cleaning the odour is disliked (makruh). There are differences of opinion about playing Chess.

Eating Raw Onions or Garlic

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Anyone who eats any of this plant, i.e., garlic, should not come near our mosque.” [Bukhari]

Abu Sa’id Al- Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) narrates, “The garlic and onions were mentioned before the Prophet of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). He was told: ‘The most severe of them is garlic. Would you make it unlawful?’ The Prophet of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Eat it, and he who eats it should not come near this mosque until its odour goes away.’” [Abu Dawud]

Mughira Ibn Shu’ba (Allah be pleased with him) narrates, “I ate garlic and came to the place where the Prophet of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) was praying; one unit of prayer had been performed when I joined. When I entered the mosque, the Prophet of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) noticed the odour of garlic. When the Prophet of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) finished his prayer, he said: He who eats from this plant should not come near us until its odour has gone away…” [Ibid.]

Khalid said: “Abu Ziyad Khiyar Ibn Salama asked ‘Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) about onions. She replied: ‘The last food, which the Prophet of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) ate, was something that contained onions.’” [Abu Dawud]

From the above narrations, we can derive that eating onion is permissible. What is not permissible is to eat onions, then without cleaning or rinsing the mouth, enter the masjid.

The commentators of this and other similar narrations mention that the ruling applies to all foul smells which emit from a person, whether from food or otherwise. Hence, this ruling would also apply to smoking in all its forms.

Why the Mosque & Is the Prohibition Limited to It?

The reason for the prohibition is two-fold. First, foul smells cause harm and annoyance to the angels and fellow believers. And second, the mosque is a place of worship, and it is highly improper that foul smells are willfully brought into such a sacred space.

The scholars add that the rulings extend to any gathering of knowledge, remembrance, or other forms of worship. Beyond the above and other similar situations eating onions remains permissible, and Allah knows best.

Playing Chess

The Schools of Law agree that if playing chess leads to one of the following, it is unlawful to play it:

  • Gambling
  • Any indecency
  • Neglecting prayer by delaying it beyond its allotted time
  • State of heedlessness of Allah.

Still, if these evils are absent, scholars differ about the permissibility or impermissibility of playing Chess. The Shafi’i School is possibly the most lenient in this regard. Imam Nawawi (May Allah have Mercy on him) mentions two positions in his various works: the official view that it is makruh or reprehensible to play chess and another view that it is permissible [Rawdat al-Talibin] Please note that, in a broad sense, ‘makruh’ is regarded as a lesser form of permissibility than ‘permissible’.

In his Tuhfa, Ibn Hajar Al-Haytami (Allah have Mercy on him) says regarding the narrations that prohibit playing Chess and the like:

“However, Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani said, “not a single tradition has been transmitted through an authentic or sound transmission. In addition, several of the senior companions and many successors (tabi‘in) played it. From among those who played it was (the great scholar) Sa’id Ibn Jubayr (may Allah be pleased with him).” [Haytami, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj]

Suppose an individual can maintain a balance such that the game does not consume them and they do not become negligent of their Creator. In that case, Allah (Most High) then playing Chess will be permissible – though makruh – according to the official view and simply permissible according to the non-official view.

Please visit this link for further information on the rulings about eating onions:
Eating Onions

For further information on the rulings about Chess, please visit this link:
Playing Chess

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides and protects you.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani


Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.