What is Halal and what is Haram? Why is it such a big deal for Muslims to understand this. In this short Quranic lesson we will look at the wisdom behind why things are Halal and Haram in Islam and why misunderstanding this causes so many problems for people.
- Definitions of Halal and Haram:
– Halal is an Arabic term which literally means permissible, allowable and legal in Islamic law.
– Haram or Haraam is also an Arabic term which literally means impermissible, forbidden and illegal in Islamic law.
So now that we have the definitions of Halal and Haram, It’s important to understand the reason behind Halal and Haram, because often people feel an internal conflict between what they want and what Islam has forbidden.
- So why are things Halal or Haram in Islam? Halal / Permissible are most things in life. Haram / forbidden are all things that are directly harmful or indirectly harmful, whether in the short term or long term.
If something is harmful to you as an individual, or as a community or society then you will usually find that this is not permissible.
Islam does not prohibit anything unless there is some negative consequence and harm coming from this thing for the individual or the group.
Also, it’s important to bear in mind that the number of things that are forbidden in Islam are limited.
As for Halal, most things are Halal.
So the general rule is that if it’s Haram there must be some negative consequence, otherwise it’s all Halal.
The foundation of Islamic law is based on the Quran and Sunnah of the Messenger (saw). The Prophet (saw) was sent with this revelation as source mercy, to create balance and order.
All prophets where sent to establish the same commands, Worship Allah, The Creator alone, and do not associate any partners with Him, and then establish justice and order on the earth.
You will find that Allah has purposely not left mankind without guidance, because we are all different in our abilities, ideas and inclinations. We humans are a people who are influenced by our strong desires and without guidelines for the best conduct and justice, we end up harming one another.
Halal and Haram are these Guidelines
Let’s take a look at the story of Banu Israel (people of Israel) and their disobedience.
“Do you believe in the part of the book and then reject a part of it? So whoever does this the recompense for him is humiliation in the life of this world; and on the Day of Judgement they will be sent back to the severest of punishments; Allah is not unaware of what you do.”
Surah Al Baqarah, v.85
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Banu Israel where commanded not to kill, oppress and shed blood, but Allah says they disobeyed and did exactly what they forbidden. So, Allah says about this that they accepted some of the revelation and rejected some of it.
What will happen if you do that? If you accept part of the revelation and reject a part of it.” Allah swt starts by saying there is no recompense for that except that you will be humiliated in this life.”
فَمَا جَزَاءُ مَن يَفْعَلُ ذَٰلِكَ مِنكُمْ إِلَّا خِزْيٌ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا
By rejecting parts of revelation by not following what was made Haram to them resulted in them being punished in this life with humiliation. The affects of their disobedience is felt immediately in this life.
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Banu Israel, they were people that rejected their revelation. They accepted what suited them, and they rejected what didn’t suit them. They changed the revelation so that it would suit them and their life style.
We Muslims have fallen into the same problem. We accept what suits our desires, our life styles and we look for a way around what Allah has forbidden.
Sometimes, we do this because we don’t understand the reasons or we don’t experience the direct effects of the Sins.
However, Allah says in this verse that people who do this will suffer humiliation in the dunya.
You’ve got to ask yourself, are we Muslims not suffering from humiliation around the world? Even though we are more than 1.8 billion people, even though the Muslim world is full of the riches of the world? This is looking at the situation globally.
What about us in our own lives. When you feel like the problems are overwhelming in life, ask yourself, are you breaking the laws of Allah, are you violating the guidelines Allah has set for you?
It’s important that we recognize the connection between our actions and what we experience in life so that we can help ourselves to change these things and improve our lives.
In this Verse Allah subhanahu wa‘ala says that the one who breaks the laws will be humiliated in this Dunya and on the Day of Judgement they will be sent back to a far worse humiliation, a worse torment than that which they faced in the world. Then Allah subhanahu wa’tala says that he is aware of what you are doing.
Lessons from the Quran on Halal and Haram:
First ask yourself how can I benefit from this verse?
Being a believer, Do you believe in Allah and his messenger? Yes…
Do you believe in the tenets of faith? Yes…
So once you’ve accepted these beliefs, you must accept the whole revelation, whether it suits you or it doesn’t suit you.
When Allah makes something halal (permissible) and haram (forbidden) it’s not to cause you harm, it’s for your benefit.
Allah makes it halal because it’s good for you and makes it Haram because it’s bad for you. This is the simple rule that we must understand, nothing is halal except that it is good for you, and nothing is haram except that it is bad for you.
Even the halal, if you do it in excess, you do too much of it, it can become bad for. Allah tells us stay away from excess, stay away from doing too much of something.
The halal keeps you in good state, it’s good for you, it helps you to get the best out of your life. And the Haram, it helps you to get the best out of your life by keeping you away from those things that would either harm you as an individual or you as a community.
We Muslims, we are not meant to be individualistic because Islam is brotherhood. The aim of that brotherhood is what? We are one body, one community, we go forward together, we sit together, we eat together, we learn together, we develop together.
The truth is everything in life is Halal except a small number of things. That’s the rule, everything is halal except that which Allah has made impermissible and Allah has only made limited things forbidden, those things that will harm you and I as individuals, or they will harm us as a community.
Haram Food and Drink
#1. Let’s take the example of drinking alcohol. Some people drink alcohol and they are okay, they are able to manage themselves, and they don’t get themselves into too much of a mess. As for others, when they have that same drink, they lose their minds, they are violent, abusive and they even cause accidents harming other peoples. In a state of being intoxicated by alcohol they take other people’s rights and they do things that they wouldn’t want others to do to them.
Alcohol has different effects on different people, but generally speaking even though the harm is less for some, the harm is great for others and the community suffers many problems due to this. So, as a community it’s bad for us because it causes many problems.
At times when people are really indulging in alcohol, the police are out, warning the people not to drink and drive. Why, because it causes accidents, it harms people, and they know that this is something that happens a lot. A lot of brawling, fighting, all sort of things happen because of people being intoxicated.
So when Allah says it’s haram, it might not be that bad for one individual but for the general public, it is bad and so Allah makes it haram. If it is harmful to the public, to the group, then Allah made it haram.
Simple Rule: If it is harmful to the individual it is Haram, Or If it is Harmful to the Group is it Haram
#2. Let’s look at eating pork. It’s harmful for the individual and there are many reasons that we won’t go into right now, but health care experts are warning people about consuming pork meat as they have now established that the meat is actually very bad for human consumption.
Allah made pig meat haram because it is bad for the human body. It is bad for the individual and also for the group.
We can see clearly in these two examples that Allah made them Haram because of the negative effects on the individual and society. Sometimes as with the case of pig meat, the wisdom behind the prohibition is not always clear. Those who lived hundreds of years ago would not have the scientific evidence that we have today regarding that harms of pork. However, Allah knows what is bad for you, even if you can’t always see it.
This is the reason why we accept all of revelation and do not pick and choose what suits us. Sometime the wisdom is just beyond our comprehension but if you believe in the truth of the Quran and Sunnah, we just follow it.
Now does that mean you should not enquire? And research to find out more and to understand the wisdom behind it? Of course, you should always look to understand. Always seek knowledge as that will give you certainty about your beliefs.
The more you understand, the more you will trust Allah, and your strength of Iman will reflect this trust and understanding.
Picking and choosing what to follow of revelation is dangerous because it leads to immediate consequence as Allah has warned about. Don’t be like Banu Israel. Allah narrates to us these stories throughout the Quran so that we can learn from the mistakes of others.
These people made excuses, and always looked for loop holes around the laws of Allah. You and I should be careful not to do that, not to be led by our desires but rather led by revelation. Always seek to understand but don’t make that your judge over the revelation. If Allah says something is Halal, it is good for you, and if He says something is Haram, then it is bad for you so stay away.
May Allah swt bless us with guidance and sincerity.