Islamic Laws

Social Obligations in Islam

Man’s daily activities are numerous. He can eat, drink, sleep, get married, steal, commit adultery, kill, cheat, lie, offer prayers, worship God, monopolize, show kindness to the poor and orphans, laugh, become desperate, be optimistic, produce medicines, make tools for torture, believe in Allah, think, discover sciences and knowledge, etc. These activities included good and evil. They are not equal in their benefit and harm to the individual who does them, and the society which is effected by them.
Islam regards human activities in a variety of categories and every activity is precisely weighed and described in respect to its nature and impact on man himself. Islam does this to show the path before man and to put forward a criterion for man to evaluate his activities that can guide him and steer him clear from evil and crime.
Man is also urged to use his energy in the domain of good and constructive work. This energy imparted to man by Allah is not for destruction or as a source of calamities and torture to man. The ultimate goal is, therefore, attaining Allah’s pleasure.
Based on this, man’s deeds fall into five categories where every activity is valued according to its positive or negative nature and its effect on man and his varied relationships. They are: a.) permitted; b.) recommended; c.) undesirable; d.) prohibited; and, e.) obligatory.
PERMITTED: Any act that the able-bodied and sane Muslim who has attained puberty can freely do or not do. A Muslim is not asked or reckoned with for what he does or neglects to do within the sphere of the permitted actions or attitudes.
Permitted acts are innumerable. For example, a Muslim is completely free to choose the work that best suits him. He is free to ponder and research nature and life, to decide the suitable system to administer social and public offices and associations, to determine the food, clothing and residence he likes on condition that he does not trespass the limits and exception set by Islam.
The sphere of permitted acts is the widest in respect to daily social behavior and relationships. Everything is permitted that is not harmful.
RECOMMENDED: Any act that a Muslim is urged to do whereby he is viewed as a performer of good and deserves divine reward and Allah’s pleasure, but there is no punishment for not performing these acts.
In the life of the individual and group, recommended acts are numerous. Greeting others, paying visits to friends and neighbors, charity, cleanliness, supplication, additional night prayers, fasting during certain holy months, reciting Qur’an are some examples of recommended acts.
The recommended deeds lift man to a lofty spiritual position and help him to do the maximum good acts in his life on earth. A Muslim does recommended deeds out of a sublime moral motivation, with the slightest fear or coercion. He is propelled by love and longing to walk on the path leading to perfection and continuous enrichment in this life.
UNDESIRABLE: Every act a Muslim is urged to abandon though not absolutely forbidden. The one who abandons these acts is seen as good and concerned with social welfare. However, Islam does not set a punishment for one who does it because it is not considered forbidden. Islam only urges a Muslim to abandon it as it is likely to lead to harm or corruption.
The exhortation to abandon the undesirable and urging to accomplish the recommended supports the key laws of forbidden and obligatory acts. Examples of undesirable acts are urinating in stagnant water, sleeping until sunrise, eating while in a state of sexual pollution before performing ablutions or rinsing the mouth with water or sniffing water.
PROHIBITED: Any act that Islam prohibits the religiously responsible Muslim to do. There is punishment reserved for performing these acts and Allah calls man to account for these acts.
Doing prohibited acts distances the human soul from nearness to Allah. Prohibited acts contain deep psychological, bodily, spiritual and social risk. Qur’an explains that Allah has only prohibited indecencies, those of them apparent and those that are concealed, and sin and rebellion without justice, and associating any other thing with Allah for which He has sent down no authority, and saying against Allah what you do not know.
Examples of prohibited acts are premeditated murder, usury, drinking alcohol, stealing, disseminating harmful ideas, promoting immorality.
OBLIGATORY: Any act that Islam does not allow any responsible Muslim to ignore. There is punishment for whoever does not follow the obligatory acts and reward for those who do them. Daily prayers, fasting, poor tax, 20% tax of one annual surplus property given to the Islamic treasury, holy war, ruling justly, being kind to parents, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, fighting oppressors and tyrants, loving the Prophet and his household, being truthful, obeying the orders of the Islamic state that rules by the Qur’an are among the obligatory duties in Islam.
When we examine the laws of the obligatory acts, we see that they effectively conduce to balance life, preserve the order of human nature, and to nurture a systematic relationship between man and his Creator, on the one hand, and man and his society on the other.
The philosophy of the obligatory acts in Islam is based on making them a quantity in an equation whose other quantity is right and reward or punishment. What is obligatory is ordained to deepen the feeling of responsibility, emphasize the relation between right and duty, narrow the circle of egoism and to foster human conscience which opens man’s eyes to justice and equity.
In some cases an obligatory act can become prohibited. For example, if fasting is obligatory under normal circumstances, it becomes prohibited for the sick person to fast. If a sick person fasts, his action is not legal and it is prohibited and brings about some consequences set by Islam.
Ideologically, Islam makes unbelief and distrust in Allah prohibited. Also attributing injustice, incarnation and the like to Allah is prohibited. Other prohibited acts include superstition, charlatanism, blind following, anything that enslaves the mind or checks it natural activity.
Islam prohibits anything that may lead to pollution of man’s inner life, kill his conscience and moral intuition, and that may change his life to total misery and helplessness, and reduce his conduct to an animalistic level devoid of any human sign. Thus, Islam makes malevolence, hatred, despondence, mistrust, etc. prohibited.
Islam also makes prohibited any activity, practice and action that is detrimental to man’s health. Alcohol use, adultery, eating pork, dogs, and certain other animals; eating flesh of strangled animals or those that have fallen from a high place, carrion, and blood are all prohibited in Islam.
Islam protects man’s psyche and body on the one hand, and pays attention to protect the community from crime and harmful practices in sociology, politics, economy, justice, education, etc. on the other.
For this reason, Islam prohibits oppression, usury, monopoly, cheating, theft, lying, backbiting, bearing false witness, cursing, bribery, homicide, gambling, and spreading immoral ideas and ideology. This secures the health of both the individual and society.
The jurisprudents have stated a number of prohibited things which they call “carnal sins”(being the most grave and dangerous evils that plague man and society.)When these actions are studied with and open mind and the facts gathered by social experience and scientific research, the wisdom of Islam’s prohibitions is clear.
Following are the main prohibited (haram) acts: polytheism, desperation about one’s fate and the idea that Allah will never have mercy on oneself, belief that Allah will never punish oneself, neglect of duty toward one’s parents, homicide, falsely accusing a married woman of committing adultery, taking possessions and money from orphans unjustly, desertion from the battlefield in the time of holy war, usury, adultery, sodomy, witchcraft, perjury, bearing false witness, concealing testimony that could establish justice, drinking alcohol, breaking pledges, cutting relations with the near kin, emigration from a Muslim homeland to a place where one’s faith becomes at risk, theft, telling lies about Allah, His Apostles, the Holy Imams and common people, cannibalism, drinking blood, eating flesh of swine, eating animals that are slaughtered without mentioning God’s name, ill-gotten money as from selling alcohol, prostitution, dancing, bribery, and salaries given by oppressive regimes when one cooperates with them, giving short measure and weight, supporting oppressors, pride, extravagance, squandering money, fighting the faithful, working as dancers and musicians, backbiting, false accusations, cursing the faithful and insulting and humiliating them, tale-bearing, pimping, cheating, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, neglecting one’s sins.
Medical, social and psychological studies have recently uncovered the grave dangers cause by committing these Islamic haram actions. Statistics shows the phenomenal increase of hideous crimes and ailments in the communities that have discarded the concepts of permitted (halal) and haram actions from their behavior.
Every science needs scholars and specialists to ascertain its laws and teach them so that man can use them for his benefit. Similarly, the science of fiqh (jurisprudence)that deals with Islamic laws and regulations needs specialists and scholars who study it deeply to discover the rules and deduce them from reliable sources.
The Qur’an and the Sunnah (practice) of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be with him and his progeny, are the main sources from which the scholars deduce Islamic laws, regulations and precepts. These scholars are called Fuqaha or Mujtahidin.
The process of discovering and extracting the regulations from Qur’an and the sunnah is called Ijtihad.
The mujtahid or faqih is a scholar able to discern Islamic rules and codes from the Qur’an and the sunnah.
In order for these scholars to reach the level of ijtihad they must study Arabic so that they can grasp the meanings of the Qur’an and the sunnah. They should know the exegesis of the Qur’an so that they can deduce the laws from its verses. They must be able to recognize the true sunnah from the fabrications. To do this they must study the lives of the prophet and his household.
The falsifiers of the sunnah of the prophet endeavored to distort Islam, much like those who tampered with the Bible and Torah. These distortions are numerous. Therefore the clergy must be able to separate the truth from the lies.
Society is a dynamic entity. Human actions, relationships and activities are ever-increasing and ever-changing. New things, ideas and systems come into existence on a continuous and growing basis. Banks, insurance companies, radio and television, computers, network communications, satellites, space travel are all new phenomena which are to be used correctly and in line with Islamic teachings. Without the jurisprudents the Islamic codes and regulations for using these facilities would remain unknown.
There must be scholars who have reached the level of mujtahidin to examine every case to determine if it is halal or haram on the basis of the Qur’an and the sunnah. Suppose there is a fasting person who needs a medicine that must be injected by a syringe. Who could decide whether this action renders his fast invalid or not? This kind of medication was unknown during the time of the Prophet so a judgement must be made about it. The one who arrives at this judgement is the faqih. He is the specialist in Islamic law and he is the one who can tell whether the medicine invalidates the fast or not. He can give a decisive answer.
Taqlid is an obligation. Every Muslim should know the relevant details covering duties like prayer, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), zakat (poor rate), trade, marriage, divorce, and so on so that he can comply with the laws. Since we cannot all study Islamic law and become specialists, we should perform our duties in accordance with the views of a faqih. The process of accepting the religious judgements and laws from a faqih is called taqlid. It is very necessary to practice taqlid. As a patient depends on the physician for his medical knowledge, so the Muslim depends on the faqih for his religious knowledge.
The religious scholar (alim) who is able to issue religious edicts should have the following qualifications: 1.) Attain puberty; 2.) Sanity; 3.) Male; 4.) Legitimacy of birth; 5.) Faith and piety; 6.) Attain ijtihad; 7.) Be living.
Allah urges His servants to be clean and pure to fight various diseases and maladies of the body and soul, to preserve public health and to provide an atmosphere conducive to worship.
Allah made it an obligation that Muslims should always be pure. Cleanliness is a sign of Islamic culture showing the sublime Islamic values and its concern for human beings.
Purity of conscience and the self is not sufficient. The body, environment and climate should also be clean. It is a sign of the faithful that he is clean, tidy, living in a clean house and in a clean and pure society.
Purity can be summarized by the following points:
1. Greater ablution (ghusl) of Al-Janabah (state of being impure because of sexual intercourse); haydh (monthly period of women); nifas (the bleeding of women after childbirth; the obligatory ghusl after touching a dead body. These are some cases where obligatory greater ablution (ghusl) must be done before fasting, praying, entering mosques, passing the hand on the pages of the Qur’an and the names of Allah, and circumambulation (tawaf) around the Ka’ba.
2. Recommended ghusl like on Fridays, the night of the eids (holy days), etc.
3. Ablution is obligatory for praying, tawaf, touching the verses of the Qur’an and it is recommended for reciting the Qur’an.
4. If doing ghusl or ablution (wudhu) is impossible one is allowed to perform dry ablution (tayammum) with clean dust. One can do it as long as there is no way to use water.
5. Removing impurities from the body and garments is obligatory. Such impurities include blood, urine, excrement, wine, semen, and the consequence of having touched a corpse. These impurities can be removed with water.
6. Islam urges Muslims to keep themselves, their clothes, homes and environment clean.
7. Islam calls Muslims to keep away from infectious diseases and those who are plagued with them. Such laws help man to be healthy, pure, and develop an elevated state and character.

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