Principles of permissibility and prohibition in Islamic law
Islamic law has already laid down the principles of permissibility and prohibition of all things as well as all human actions. The first fundamental principles is that all things are lawful for mankind except what have been prohibited explicitly by Allah in the Quran and by the Prophet Muhammad (Sm) in his Sunnah (that is his instruction, action or consent). This principle has been explained in the Quran, the book of Allah. The Quran in this regard states as follows:
"Allah (SWT) has created everything on earth for (use of) mankind." (2:29)
"Allah (SWT) has pressed into service of mankind everything on the earth and in the sky" (45:13)
From the above, it is established that Allah (SWT) has created everything on the earth and in the sky for the welfare of mankind. By doing so, Allah (SWT) has shown His great mercy and favor to humanity. However, He has Himself prohibited use of several things. When Allah has prohibited something, such prohibition is definitely for the good of mankind and as such mankind should obey such prohibitions.
In this context, it may be said that the prohibited things are few in number. On the other hand the area of lawful things is vast and wide. This has made the life of people very easy with regard to use of things.
The second principle is that only Allah (SWT) has the right to declare a thing lawful or prohibited. Prophet Muhammad (Sm) under the guidance of Allah has only explained and detailed out some of the prohibitions and permissions given by Allah (SWT) in general form. No human being has the right to declare a thing lawful or prohibited. The Quran has stated in this regard:
"Do they imagine associates (with Allah) who have made laws for them which Allah has given no permission" (42:21)
"They have made their priests and their authorities to be their law giver in derogation to Allah. Yet they were commanded to obey only Allah, the One." (9:31)
"Say not falsehood that your tongues may put forth that this is lawful and this is forbidden so as to ascribe false things to Allah. For those who ascribe false things to Allah will not prosper." (16:116)
Any person who claims the right to declare a thing lawful or prohibited in effect commits Shirk. Shirk means claiming for oneself any of the powers, which is the exclusive power of Allah (SWT). Allah particularly dislikes prohibiting a lawful thing unlawful by any authority. The Quran states:
"Say who has forbidden the beautiful gifts of Allah (SWT) which He has produced for His servants and the things clean and pure, which He has provided for sustenance. Say, they are in the life of this world for those who believe and exclusively for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain in detail the signs for those who understand. Say, the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are shameful deeds, whether open or secret, sins and rebellion against truth, assigning partners to Allah for which He has given no authority and saying about Allah, things of which you have no knowledge." (7: 32-33)
Allah has prohibited only shameful things. Allah has not prohibited any pure, clean, good or harmless things. It is a different matter that humanity may not always understand the wisdom of some prohibitions of Allah (SWT). We know the significance of most of the prohibitions. The significance of other prohibitions may become clearer in future with the progress of knowledge.
What has been made lawful for us is sufficient. Mankind will never require resorting to unlawful things. If Allah has made flesh of swine unlawful, He has made hundred other animal meat lawful. If Islam has prohibited interest, it has allowed trade, business and investment on profit and loss basis. If Islam has prohibited adultery, it has made marriage lawful and easy. If Islam has prohibited wine, it has allowed many lawful drinks (milk, fruit, juice, etc.).
Another principle of the prohibition in Islamic law is that the means or causes that lead to unlawful action are also prohibited. For instance, Islam has prohibited sex outside marriage. Therefore, Islam has prohibited free mixing of sexes, obscene literature, dress, film etc. In the eye of Islam, not only the person who commits unlawful action is guilty but also all others who help him in that regard.
Islam has also prohibited adoption of tricks for legalizing illegal things. The Prophet of Islam has said, "Do not make unlawful things to be the lawful through tricks." Islam also said that illegal things do not become legal only because of good intention. Islam has also emphasized on the need for avoiding doubtful things to remain off from illegal things.
Another principle of the permissibility and prohibition in Islamic law is that what is prohibited, it is prohibited for all. Islam does not give any special privilege to rich or poor, white or black.
Another important principle in this regard is that a grave necessity legalizes temporarily an illegal thing. Islam has not ignored the difficulties of human beings. However such temporary relief is not unconditional. The Quran says:
"If a person is distress, if he is not rebellious and does not exceed, (he may eat prohibited food and for that) he will not commit sin. Allah is Forgiving and Merciful." (2:173)
The Quran further says:
"Allah wishes easiness for you, He does not desire for you hardship." (2:185)
The aforesaid verses clearly prove that Islam has given the detailed principles of permissibility and prohibition of things. Mankind can benefit materially and spiritually if they follow the prohibitions if Islam.