Wednesday 10 August 2022

Believers! Make not unlawful the good things which Allah hath made lawful for you

Today in our series of posts on Important DOs and DONTs in Islam, we take up the concept of asceticism: The severe self-discipline and avoiding of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. Islam does not propagate seclusion and cutting off one's links with the world and the family on the plea of being nearer to God. The same concept of self-mortification practiced, in particular, by Christian priests and Hindu monks. This has been the practice at that time and even continues till date.

Yet there are men, who have formed their own reasonings to label a thing unlawful which otherwise has been made lawful for man by God. Can a man have reasoning comparable or even greater than God? Of course never ever.  So why indulge into reasonings which have mere personal signatures.

We share today the 87th verse of Surah 5. Al Mai' da which emphasizes on the Using Allah's gifts of all kinds with gratitude, but excess is not approved of by Allah:

يٰۤـاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا لَا تُحَرِّمُوۡا طَيِّبٰتِ مَاۤ اَحَلَّ اللّٰهُ لَـكُمۡ وَلَا تَعۡتَدُوۡا​ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الۡمُعۡتَدِيۡنَ‏ 
O ye who believe! make not unlawful the good things which Allah hath made lawful for you but commit no excess: for Allah loveth not those given to excess.
This Divine Commandment implies two things:
  • First, "You have no authority to make certain things lawful and others unlawful. Lawful is only that which Allah has made lawful and unlawful is that which Allah has made unlawful. Therefore if you make a lawful thing unlawful, and vice versa, you will be following your own law and not the Divine Law." 
  • Secondly, "You should not adopt the way of asceticism like the Christian monks or the Hindu friars or the Buddhist mendicants and the like." 
This was meant to warn the Muslims against the general tendency, which has always existed among the religious-minded people, to consider even the normal satiation of the desires of the body and mind to be against spiritual progress. They imagine that self-torture, self-denial and abstinence are virtues in themselves and that one could not approach God without these austerities. As a matter of fact, there were some Companions, who had developed such tendencies. When the Holy Prophet came to know that some of his Companions had taken vows that they would always observe fast during the day and would not go to bed for sleep but keep awake and worship God the whole night, and would abstain from flesh, fat and women, he forbade them from such practices. He said, "I have not ordained such things; your own self has rights on you; therefore observe fast and also eat easefully. Stand in worship at night and also go to sleep. I myself sometimes observe fast and at others I do not. I eat flesh and butter. (This is my way) and the one who does not like my way, is not of me."

According to another 'Tradition, he emphasized the same and said, "Now is it that some people have made unlawful for themselves women, good food, scents and perfumes, sleep and other good things of the world? As for me I have not taught you to become monks and hermits. The way of life taught by me does neither allow abstention from women nor from eating flesh nor retirement and seclusion from the world. The Law has prescribed Fasting for self-discipline, and Jihad for the same benefits that might be obtained from asceticism. Worship Allah and associate none with Him as partner, perform Hajj and `Umrah, establish the Salat and pay Zakat and observe the Fasts during the month of Ramadan. The people who were doomed before you, were doomed because they practiced austerity of their own accord, and when they did so, Allah also prescribed the same for them. Those are of them whom you now see in the Monasteries.

In the same connection, we learn from some Traditions that when the Holy Prophet came to know that a certain Companion had been abstaining from having conjugal relations with his wife for a long time and had been devoting himself to worship, he immediately sent for him and ordered, "Go to your wife instantly. " The Companion replied, "I am with fast" The Prophet again said, "Break the fast and go to your wife. "

There is another instance of the same kind. A woman came to Caliph 'Umar and complained, "My husband observes fast during The day and passes the night in worship and does not have conjugal relations with me." Hadrat `Umar ordered Ka`b bin Saur al-Azdi to hear the case. He decreed that the husband was permitted to pass three nights in worship but he must go to his wife on the fourth night. 

"To go beyond the limits" has very extensive meanings. One goes beyond the limits, if one makes lawful things unlawful or abstains from things which Allah has declared to be pure as if they were impure or if one is extravagant in the use of pure things, or if one makes use of unlawful things as if they were lawful. Allah does not like such acts of transgression.

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir: There is No Monasticism in Islam
`Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas said, "This Ayah was revealed about some of the Companions of the Prophet who said, `We should cut off our male organs, abandon the desires of this life and travel in the land, just as the Ruhban (monks) do.' When the Prophet heard of this statement, he summoned them and asked them if they made this statement and they answered `Yes.' 

The Prophet said, (I fast and break my fast, pray and sleep, and marry women. Whoever follows my Sunnah is of me, and whoever abandons my Sunnah is not of me.)'' Ibn Abi Hatim also collected this Hadith. Ibn Marduwyah recorded that Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas narrated a similar Hadith. It is recorded in the Two Sahihs that `A'ishah said that some of the Companions asked the wives of the Prophet about the acts of worship that he performed in private. One of them said, "I will not eat meat,'' another said, "I will not marry women,'' while the third said, "I will not sleep on the bed.'' 

When the Prophet heard this statement, he said, (What is the matter with some people who said such and such I fast and break the fast, sleep and wake to stand to pray, eat meat, and marry women. He who is not pleased with my Sunnah is not of me.) 

Allah's statement, (and transgress not.) means, do not exaggerate and make it hard for yourselves by prohibiting the permissible things. Do not transgress the limits by excessively indulging in the permissible matters; only use of it what satisfies your need; and do not fall into extravagance. 

Allah said in other Ayat, 
(And eat and drink but waste not by extravagance.)﴿7:31﴾, and,
(And those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor miserly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).)﴿25:67﴾ 

So Allah legislated a medium way between those who are extreme and those who fall into shortcomings, and it does not allow excessive application, nor lack of application.  This is why Allah said here, (Make not unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful to you, and transgress not. Verily, Allah does not like the transgressors.)

Tafsir Qur'an Wiki:
The first address in this passage to the believers reminds them that they may not exercise any of God’s attributes, since these belong totally to God. As such, they may not forbid themselves any of the wholesome and good things that God has made lawful to them. It is not open to them to make a demonstration of self-imposed prohibition, refusing to eat of such good food God has given them. They must remember that it is God who has provided them with such lawful and wholesome sustenance. It is only He who may designate things as permissible or forbidden.

The whole question of legislation is closely linked to that of Godhead. It is God alone who has the sole authority to regulate for people’s lives. His authority is derived from the fact that it is He who has created human beings and provided them with food and sustenance. Hence, to Him alone belongs the right to make permissible to them whatever He pleases of His own provisions and to declare any part of such provisions forbidden to them. Human beings themselves acknowledge this logic. Whoever owns something enjoys the right to dispose of it in any way he pleases. Anyone who violates this basic principle is undoubtedly a transgressor. It is only to be expected that believers do not make an assault on God in whom they believe. It is inconceivable that a believer could ever assault God’s authority.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The Sūrah ends here as far as its subject is concerned. The succeeding verses form a supplement. Sūrah al-Nisā’ too ended on a similar supplement. In this supplement of Sūrah al-Mā’idah, the Almighty has responded to the questions which arose in the minds of people about the various topics discussed in the sūrah. The answer to each of these questions begins with the words: يٰ٘اَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْا. The Qur’ān has not cited the questions; however, it has answered them in a sequence and in between has also alluded to the fact that these are answers which it has given in this supplement. Sūrah al-Nisā’ and Sūrah al-Mā’idah are a pair. Their similarity in their concluding part shows what makes them a pair and what are the aspects that make sūrahs a pair in the Qur’ān.
The first question arose when, in the introductory verses of the sūrah, after mentioning that promises must be honoured, it was stated that barring a few exceptions all four-legged beasts are lawful. People wanted to ask that if promises made in the name of God are so important in religion, then what should be done if a person regards something forbidden to himself which the sharī‘ah has not forbidden?
The second question which also arose from these introductory verses is that if, except for the forbidden things they mention, everything is allowable, what is the directive about liquor and gambling? If the answer to this question is that both are forbidden, then how will people who have been involved in them before this prohibition be treated?

The third question also arose from these introductory verses. It arose because of a mention of hunting animals while wearing the iḥrām: what should a person who violates this directive do? Moreover, what is the status of hunting sea animals while wearing the iḥrām? This is because at times in sea travel there is no option but to hunt sea animals.

The fourth question also relates to these introductory verses. The Almighty has emphatically mentioned the sanctity of hadī (sacrificial animals), qalā’id (sacrificial animals wearing collars) and some other similar religious symbols (sha‘ā’ir) in these verses. The question which arose from this pertains to the final directive about the animals which because of religious rituals of ancient times were prohibited by the names of baḥīrah, sā’ibah, waṣīlah and ḥām etc. Does their prohibition still stand like that of the hadī and the qalā’id or does it stand dissolved?

The fifth and last question arose because of the comment of the Qur’ān on the attitude of concealment of evidence adopted by the Jews and the Nazarenes about the sharī‘ah of God and about the last of His Messengers. People became anxious about what they should do regarding bearing evidence to their will testaments. These are the answers to questions which are raised when the mind is diverted to things as a result of mention of some other thing.
( Do not forbid) This has been stated because certain things are originally pure and lawful, but an external factor makes them unlawful. For example, an animal is allowed, but it is not slaughtered or slaughtered such that someone other than God’s name was pronounced while slaughtering it.

(the pure and wholesome things which God has made lawful for you)  The implication is to regard something as forbidden with the claim that it is forbidden as per the directive of God or that this forbiddance is a means of attaining virtue and superiority or this can earn reward or punishment. This primarily relates to polytheistic beliefs and superstitions. However, this does not mean that not consuming something without making such a claim or estimation does not come under this Qur’ānic directive. Imām Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī writes:
… If no such concept is involved and a person purely out of taste or health considerations or caution or stringent resources does not consume anything, then this does not fall under the forbiddance mentioned by the Qur’ān. (Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 2, 588)
(And do not transgress bounds)   These words occur in contrast to the words “do not forbid” and hence refer to the fact that people should not forbid pure and wholesome things and in matters of the lawful and the unlawful they should not transgress the bounds prescribed by God thereby daring to make lawful what is unlawful.

( God does not like people who transgress bounds )  In the Qur’ān, this expression generally implies its consequence: God hates them.

Please listen to explanation of the ayat by eminent Muslim scholar Nouman Ali Khan:
May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the  Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others life miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 
وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible to make you accept it forcibly, And if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, You will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so  that they are able to discuss issues with Non Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages: Understanding Al Qur'an and Important DOs and DON'Ts from Qur'an for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
Photo | Tafsir References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that the exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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