Can you please give me a detailed explanation of the term”makrooh”? I understand it to mean detestable or completely disliked. If this is the case then should it not be haraam then? If something is hated in the eyes of Allah or the Rasul then should it not be haraam instead of disliked? What do the scholars use to determine what is classified as makrooh? I know it must be from the Quran or Sunnah so therefore Allah or the Rasul had a problem with it and if so why do we still do it? I understand divorce which is a specific case of Allah hating it but it is permissible so please clear up all these nagging questions that I have in my head.
In order to understand these terms, it is very important for you to understand certain basic principles of the Shariah which will help you in many different ways.
First of all, terms like these which you have mentioned fall under the category called ‘rulings’ in the Shariah. These terms indicate to the nature of an act which is done in Islam. Sometimes the ruling of a thing might be compulsory which will be represented by the term ‘Farz’, it may be a practice of the Prophet (S.A) which will be represented by the term ‘Sunnah’. And at times it may not be compulsory or sunnah but may be a good action; words such as Mandoob, Mustahab, Hasan, Afdhal, Awlaa, etc, are words which are normally used for such.
During the time of the Prophet (S.A), the Quraan was being revealed to him with many orders, commands and prohibitions. The companions would listen to these verses and they would be guided in their understanding by the Prophet (S.A). Similarly the Prophet’s teachings were also among them where they would hear his speeches, observe his actions or get formal answers for things which affected them.
During his blessed time, the sahabahs never looked into the different levels of a certain act with respect to being essential or a practice of the Prophet (S.A). They looked at his actions and adopted his practices in their lives and tried to uphold all the teachings they received from him on the same level. There are many incidents which are quoted to show that this was the attitude of the sahabahs towards the general teachings of Islam. For example a man came to Ibn Umar and asked, ‘Is Qurbaani (Adhiya) waajib (essential) or not?’ Ibn Umar said “The Messenger of Allah (S.A) did it and the Muslims did it. The man asked the question again and Ibn Umar gave the same reply. Imam Bukhari has quoted similar responses of Ibn Umar in his saheeh compilation.
The above tradition shows the attitude of the sahabahs towards the teachings of the Prophet (S.A). They did not delve into the issues of what is Farz, Waajib, Sunnah or Mustahab. They only wanted to know whether the Prophet (S.A) did it or not.
However, as can be seen from the tradition that as the time passed, the new generation of muslims started to look into the degree of the rulings of each action which was done. In other words, if an action/practice of the Prophet (S.A) was narrated, they wanted to know whether that action was compulsory, Sunnah, commendable or optional.
For example, it is recorded that the Prophet (S.A) used the miswaak for Salaat, the question which comes up is what is the ruling regarding its usage? Is it compulsory, that if one leaves it out, will he be sinned? Is it an emphasized Sunnah? Or is it optional? The same questions can be placed for many other actions which are established from the Holy Quraan and the Ahadith.
What is clear from the Pious Predecessors is that during the period of the 2nd and 3rd generation of Muslims (Tabieen and Tabiut Tabieen), the grand scholars of Islam had used many different terms and had defined these terms to explain the degree of a ruling regarding a certain action.
For example, the Prophet (S.A) may have done an action on a continuous basis. In another act he may have done it most of the time. In another act, his doing it and leaving it out may be equal. At another time he may have done an act only a few times. In other actions, he may have expressed his love for certain things but have not done it. The question is ‘Are all these on the same level or should they be treated differently from each other’. In cases like these, the Fuqaha (Jurists) and the early scholars of Islam have differentiated between them and have used different terms to indicate to the different ruling of each of those actions based on the manner in which it was done. As such, terms like Sunnah-Al-Muakadah, Sunnah Ghair Muakadah, Mustahab, Mandoob, etc were used for these actions.
In a like manner, laws were derived from the Holy Quraan and the Ahadith with respect to orders and prohibitions and had different degrees in their rulings. Sometimes it may be a direct command from Allah or His Rasool (S.A) which indicates to its obligatory nature. Sometimes it may not be a direct command but it is recommended. The ruling may therefore be lower than the first one.
In matters of prohibitions also, there were different degrees. Sometimes there is a direct prohibition for a thing, hence it is considered to be Haraam. Sometimes there is no direct command for its prohibition but its harms and dangers have been highlighted thus indicating to the believers that they should refrain. Sometimes it can be unlawful based upon the dislike Allah has for it. And at other times, although there may be a dislike for it, it can become permissible in cases of necessity.
Sometimes there may be no prohibition for a thing but it may be filthy, which causes it to be prohibited. And at other times the thing which needs a ruling may have never existed at the time of the Prophet (S.A) and as such no ruling has been placed on it.
In light of the above, one should note that the term ‘Haraam’ can only be used upon a matter/thing when there is a clear cut, sound and authentic proof in the Shariah regarding it. If such proofs cannot be found for a certain thing, it would be impermissible to describe it as being ‘Haraam’. In this regard, the Fuqaha (Jurists) have recorded ten different principles through which a thing can be considered ‘Haraam’. Along with those actions which have clear proofs, there are many other actions/things which are reprehensibile and discouraged in Islam, however sound, clear cut and authentic proofs cannot be found to prove its total prohibition.
In such cases, the Fuqaha (Jurists) have used the word Makrooh (disliked) to refer to these actions and their main purpose of doing so is to discourage one from these things. In these cases, they would choose not to use the word ‘Haraam’, since sound, clear cut and authentic proofs cannot be found to substantiate this claim. This practice of using this term is to be found by the great scholars from among the Salafus Saaliheen (Pious Predecessors) and from the latter scholars. Imam Bukhari has also used this word (Makrooh) in many of his chapters of his saheeh compilation.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan