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Prohibitions that are taken too lightly
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 Prohibitions That Are Taken Too Lightly
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Salih al Munajjid
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Prohibitions that are taken too lightly

Introduction – Prohibitions that are taken too lightly

Praise be to Allah; we praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own souls and from our evil deeds. Whomever Allah guides will never be led astray, and whomever Allah leaves astray, no-one will guide. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah Alone, with no partners or associates, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Slave and Messenger.

Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, has laid down obligations which we are not permitted to ignore, and has set limits which we are not permitted to transgress, and has set out prohibitions which we are not allowed to violate.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whatever Allah has permitted in His Book is allowed, and whatever He has prohibited is forbidden; whatever He has remained silent about is a concession, so accept the concession of Allah, for Allah is never forgetful.” Then he recited the aayah: “. . . and your Lord is never forgetful” [Maryam 19:64]. (Reported by al-Haakim, 2/375; classified as hasan by al-Albaani in Ghaayat al-Maraam, p. 14)

The things which have been prohibited are the boundaries or limits set by Allah:

“. . . And whosoever transgresses the set limits of Allah, then indeed he has wronged himself . . .” [al-Talaaq 65:1]

Allah has issued a threat to the one who transgresses His set limits and violates His prohibitions, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, and transgresses His limits, He will cast him into the Fire, to abide therein; and he shall have a disgraceful torment.” [al- Nisaa’ 4:14]

Avoiding that which has been forbidden is a duty, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whatever you have been prohibited to do, avoid it, and whatever you have been commanded to do, do as much of it as you can.” (Reported by Muslim, Kitaab al-fadaa’il, hadeeth no. 130, Abd al-Baaqi edition).

It is well-known that some of those who follow their desires, who are weak at heart and have little knowledge, become irritated when they hear lists of prohibitions. They grumble and mutter, “Everything is haraam, you haven’t left us anything that is not forbidden! You make our lives boring and miserable. You don’t talk about anything but what is haraam, but religion is supposed to easy, not strict, and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

In response to such remarks, we say:

Allah, may He be glorified, rules as He wills and there is none to put back His judgement. He is All-Wise and Aware, and He allows whatever He wills and forbids whatever He wills, may He be glorified. One of the basic principles of our being His slaves is that we should accept whatever He decrees and submit fully to it. His rulings stem from His knowledge, wisdom and justice, and are not the matter of frivolity or foolish whims, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truth and in justice. None can change His words. And He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” [al-An’aam 6:115]

Allah has explained to us the governing principle behind the allowing and prohibiting of various things (interpretation of the meaning):

“. . . He allows them as lawful al-tayyibaat [(i.e., all good and lawful) as regards things, deeds, beliefs, persons, foods, etc.], and prohibits them as unlawful al-khabaa’ith [(i.e., all evil and unlawful) as regards things, deeds, beliefs, persons, foods, etc.] . . .” [al-A’raaf 7:157].

So what is good and pure is halaal, and what is evil and unclean is haraam.

The right to determine what is halaal and what is haraam belongs to Allah alone. Whoever claims this right or affirms it for someone else is a kaafir whose extreme kufr places him beyond the pale of Islam, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Or have they partners with Allah (false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not allowed? . . .” ((al-Shooraa 42:21))

Furthermore, no-one is allowed to speak about matters of halaal and haraam except those who have knowledge of the Qur’aan and Sunnah. Allah has issued a stern warning to those who speak about halaal and haraam with no knowledge (interpretation of the meaning):

“And say not concerning that which your tongues out forth falsely: ‘This is lawful and this is forbidden,’ so as to invent lies against Allah. . . .” [al-Nahl 16:116]

Things which are definitively forbidden have been clearly stated in the Qur’aan and Sunnah, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Say: ‘Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to al-fawaahish (shameful sins, illegal sexual intercourse, etc.) whether committed openly or secretly; and kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to Islamic law). This He has commanded you that you may understand.” [al-An’aam 6:151]

The Sunnah also mentions many prohibitions; for example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Allah has forbidden the sale of wine (intoxicants), dead meat, pork and idols.”

((Reported by Abu Dawud, 3486; see also Saheeh Abi Dawud, 977)).

“Whatever Allah has forbidden, its price is also forbidden.” ((Reported by al-Daaraqutni, 3/7; it is a saheeh hadeeth)).

Some texts mention specific types or groups of prohibitions, such as when Allah forbids certain types of food (interpretation of the meaning):

“Forbidden to you (for food) are: al-maytatah (the dead animals – cattle-beast not slaughtered), blood, the flesh of swine, and the meat of that which has been slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah, or has been slaughtered for idols, etc., or on which Allah’s name has not been mentioned while slaughtering, and that which has been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by the goring of horns – and that which has been (partly) eaten by a wild animal – unless you are able to slaughter it (before its death) – and that which is sacrificed (slaughtered) on al-nusub (stone altars). Forbidden) also is to use arrows seeking luck or decision . . .” [al-Maa’idah 5:3]

Allah has also mentioned that which is forbidden with regard to marriage, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Forbidden to you (for marriage) are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father’s sisters, your mother’s sisters, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters, your foster mother who gave you suck, your foster milk suckling sisters, your wives’ mothers . .

.”[al-Nisaa’ 4:23]

Allah also mentions what kind of earnings are forbidden, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“. . . Allah has permitted trading and forbidden riba (usury) . . .” [al-Baqarah 2:275]

Allah, Who is Merciful towards His slaves, has permitted innumerable good things, of many kinds. He has not described the permitted things in detail because they are so many; in contrast, He has described the prohibitions in detail because they are limited, so that we will be aware of them and can avoid them. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“. . . He has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you, except under compulsion of necessity . . .” [al-An’aam 6:119]

But what is halaal is permitted as a general principle: as long as something is good and pure, it is permitted:

“O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth . . .” [al-Baqarah 2:168]

It is a part of His Mercy that He has made all things halaal in principle, except where there is proof (daleel) that they are haraam. This is part of His generosity and bounty towards His slaves, for which we must obey him, and give praise and thanks.

When some people hear a detailed list of the things that are haraam, they become alarmed about the rules of Sharee’ah. This is due to their weak faith and poor understanding of Islaam. One cannot help wondering whether these people really want to be given a list of every type of thing that is halaal, so that they can be convinced that Islam is easy!

Do they need for us to enumerate every type of good thing so that they can rest assured that Islam will not make their lives dreary?

Do they want to be told that the meats of camels, cattle, sheep, rabbits, deer, goats, chickens, pigeons, ducks, geese and ostriches over which the name of Allah has been mentioned, and fish and locusts, are halaal?

That vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible seeds are halaal? That water, milk, honey, oil and vinegar are halaal?

That salt, seasonings and spices are halaal?

That using wood, iron, sand, stones, plastic, glass and rubber is halaal? That travelling via riding-beasts, cars, trains, ships and airplanes is halaal?

That using air-conditioners, fridges, washing-machines, tumble-dryers, mills, dough- mixers, meat-grinders, juicers, medical instruments, engineering tools, calculators, microscopes, telescopes, machinery for extracting water, oil and minerals, filters for purifying water, printing presses and so on is halaal?

That wearing cotton, linen, wool, camel hair, fur, permitted leathers, nylon and polyester is halaal?

That in principle marriage, buying, selling, sponsorship, bills of exchange, renting, professions and trades such as carpentry, metalworking, repairing machines and tending sheep are all halaal?

I wonder what would happen if we were to explain all this in detail to them. “And what is wrong with these people that they fail to understand any word?” [al-Nisaa’ 4:78]

As regards their claim that Islaam is easy, this is true, but they are twisting the truth to try and prove something that is false. What is meant by saying that Islaam is easy is not that it is in accordance with their desires and opinions, but that is it easy in accordance with what the Sharee’ah has brought. There is a huge difference between violating prohibitions by making false claims about Islam being easy – although it is easy, beyond any doubt – and availing oneself of legitimate concessions such as being allowed to join or shorten prayers; to break one’s fast when travelling; to wipe one’s socks when performing wudoo’ – for one day and one night for a person who is not travelling, and for three days and three nights in the case of travelling; to perform tayammum when one is afraid to use water; to join two prayers together when one is sick or when rain is falling; to look at a non-mahram woman for purposes of marriage; to have the choice, in the case of making expiation for a broken vow, between freeing a slave or feeding or clothing the poor; to eat the meat of dead animals when necessary – and other kinds of concessions allowed by Sharee’ah.

In addition to the above, the Muslim should realize that one principle underlies all the prohibitions in Islam: Allah is testing His slaves by means of these prohibitions, to see what they will do. One of the things that distinguishes the people of Paradise from the people of

Hell is that the people of Hell indulge in the desires with which the Fire is surrounded, whereas the people of Paradise patiently endure the hardships with which the Garden is surrounded. Were it not for this test, the obedient would not be distinguished from the disobedient. People of faith look at the difficulties involved from the perspective of the reward they will earn by pleasing Allah, so obedience becomes easy for them. The hypocrites, on the other hand, view these difficulties as a matter of pain, suffering and deprivation, so obedience becomes a heavy burden on them.

By foregoing what is prohibited, the obedient person gains much more: whoever forsakes something for the sake of Allah, Allah will compensate him with something better, and he will enjoy the sweet taste of faith in his heart.

This paper discusses a number of the prohibitions that have been proven in Sharee’ah, based on evidence from the Qur’aan and Sunnah. (Some scholars have grouped the prohibitions under headings such as al-kabaa’ir or major sins. Among the best books on the topic is Tanbeeh al- ghaafileen ‘an a’maal al-jaahileen by Ibn al-Nahhaas al-Dimashqi, may Allah have mercy on him).

These prohibitions include actions which are widely practised among many Muslims. By mentioning them my intention is to correct and advise people. I ask Allah to guide me and my Muslim brothers, and to help us to adhere to the limits which He has set and to avoid the things that He has prohibited, and to save us from our evil deeds. And Allah is the Best to guard, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy.

Shirk – associating partners with Allah

This is the most serious of all prohibitions, according to the hadeeth narrated by Abu Bakrah, who said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Shall I not tell you of the most serious of the major sins?’ three times. We said, ‘Of course, O Messenger of Allah!’ He said, ‘Associating anything in worship with Allah . . .’”

(Agreed upon; see al-Bukhaari, no. 2511, al-Bagha edition).

Every other sin may be forgiven by Allah, apart from shirk, which requires specific repentance, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases . . .” [al-Nisaa’ 4:48]

One of the forms of shirk which is particularly widespread in Muslim countries is:


the belief that dead awliyaa’ (“saints”) can fulfil one’s needs or help at times of distress, and calling upon them for aid. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him . . .” [al-Israa’ 17:23]

Similarly, they call upon dead Prophets, righteous people and others to intercede for m from some calamity, but Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Is not He (better than your gods) Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls Him, and Who removes the evil, and makes you inheritors of the earth, generations after generations? Is there any ilaah (god) with Allah? . . .” [al-Naml 27:62]

Some of them have adopted the habit of mentioning the name of a shaykh or wali (“saint”) when they stand up, or sit down, or stumble, or encounter problems or distress, so they might say “O Muhammad!” or “O ‘Ali!” or “O Husayn!” or “O Badawi!” or “O Jeelaani!” or “O Shaadhili!” or “O Rifaa’i!” – or they may call upon al-’Aydaroos or Sayyidah Zaynab or Ibn ‘Alwaan. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily those whom you call upon besides Allah are slaves like you . . .” [al-A’raf 7:194]

Some of those who worship graves walk around them as if in Tawaaf, and acknowledge their corners, or touch them, kiss them, wipe their faces with their dust, prostrate towards them when they see them, or stand before them in fear and humility, praying for whatever they need of healing from some disease, or for a child, or for help with some difficulty. Sometimes they call upon the occupant of the grave, saying “O my master, I have come to you from far away, so do not let me down.” But Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And who is more astray than one who calls (invokes) besides Allah such as will not answer him till the Day of Resurrection, and who are (even) unaware of their calls (invocations) to them?” [al-Ahqaaf 46:5]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever dies calling on someone else as a rival to Allah, will enter Hell.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 8/176).

Some of them shave their heads at the graves, and some have books with titles like Manaasik Hajj al-Mashaahid (“The Rituals of Pilgrimage to Shrines”), mashaahid or shrines referring to graves or tombs of awliyaa’. Some of them believe that the awliyaa’ are running the affairs of the universe and that they have the power to benefit or harm. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And if Allah touches you with hurt, there is none who can remove it but He; and if He intends any good for you, there is no one who can repel His Favour . . .” [Yoonus 10:107]

It is also shirk to make a vow to any other than Allah, as is done by those who vow to bring candles or lights for the occupants of the graves.

Another manifestation of al-shirk al-akbar is

sacrificing to anything other than Allah.

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Therefore turn in prayer to your Lord, and sacrifice (to Him only)” [al-Kawthar 108:2]

– i.e., sacrifice to Allah and in the name of Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings of

Allah be upon him) said:

“Allah will curse the one who sacrifices to anything other than Allah.” (Reported by Imaam Muslim, may Allah have mercy on him, in his Saheeh, no. 1978, ‘Abd al-Baaqi edition). This sin combines two haraam deeds, that of sacrificing to anything other than Allah and that of sacrificing in the name of anything other than Allah, both of which make the meat of the animal slaughtered haraam. One of the forms of sacrificing to anything other than Allah which was known during the first Jaahiliyyah and is still widespread nowadays is the practice of “offering a sacrifice to the jinn,” whereby upon buying or constructing a house, or digging a well, people slaughter an animal at its entrance, out of fear of harm from the resident jinn. (See Tayseer al-’Azeez al-Hameed , al-Iftaa’ edition, p. 158)

Another widespread form of al-shirk al-akbar is the sin of

allowing what Allah has forbidden and forbidding what Allah has allowed,

or believing that anyone has the right to do so except Allah, or referring matters for judgement to jaahili (non-Islamic) courts freely and by choice, and believing that this is permissible. Allah has mentioned this form of major kufr in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning):

“They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah). . .” [al-Tawbah 9:31]

When ‘Adiyy ibn Haatim heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) recite this aayah, he said, “But they were not worshipping them.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied, “Yes, but they permitted things that Allah had forbidden, and the people accepted this, and they forbade things that Allah had allowed, and the people accepted this too, and this is a form of worshipping them.” (Reported by al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubraa , 10/116. See also al-Tirmidhi, no. 3095. Al-Albaani classified it as hasan in Ghaayat al-Maraam, p. 19).

Allah described the mushrikeen as (interpretation of the meaning): “. . . [those who do not] forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth . . .” [al-Tawbah 9:29]

And Allah said (interpretation of the meaning): “Say: ‘Tell me, what provision Allah has sent down to you, and you have made of it lawful and unlawful.’ Say: ‘Has Allah permitted you (to do so), or do you invent a lie against Allah?’” [Yoonus 10:59]

Other widespread forms of shirk are:

magic, fortune-telling and divination.

Magic (sihr) is an act of kufr, and one of the seven sins which doom a person to Hell. It causes harm but no benefit. Allah says of the one who learns it (interpretation of the meaning):

“. . . And they learn that which harms them and profits them not . . .” [al-Baqarah 2:102]

“. . . and the magician will never be successful, no matter what amount (of skill) he may attain).” [Ta-Ha 20:69]

The one who deals in magic is a kaafir, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“. . . Sulayman did not disbelieve, but the shayaateen (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things as came down at Babylon to the two angels, Haaroot and Maaroot, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) things till they had said, ‘We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us).’ . . .” [al-Baqarah 2:102]

The prescribed punishment for the one who practices magic is death, and his income is haraam and impure. But people who are ignorant wrongdoers and weak in faith go to magicians to help them harm someone or take revenge on someone. Some people commit the sin of going to a magician to ask his help in undoing the magic of someone else, when they should turn to Allah to help them and heal them, by reciting His words, such as the soorahs that offer protection (al-Falaq and al-Naas), and so on.

Fortune-tellers and their ilk are kaafirs who disbelieve in Allah, because they claim knowledge of the Unseen, but no one has knowledge of the Unseen except Allah. Many of these fortune-tellers take advantage of simple-minded people and take their money.

They use many methods such as drawing lines in the sand, throwing sea-shells, reading palms, teacups (or coffee cups), crystal balls and mirrors, and so on. If they get it right one time, they get it wrong ninety-nine times, but ignorant people remember only the one time when these liars get something right.

They go to them to find out about the future, whether they will be successful in marriage or business, or to help them find something they have lost, and so on. The ruling concerning the person who visits a fortune-teller is: if he believes what he says, he is a kaafir who has left Islaam, on the basis of the hadeeth in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever goes to a fortune-teller or a soothsayer and believes in what he says has disbelieved in what was revealed to Muhammad.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 2/429; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5939). If a person does not believe that they have knowledge of the Unseen, but he goes out of curiosity or whatever, he is not a kaafir, but his prayers will not be accepted for forty days, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever goes to a fortune-teller and asks him about something, his prayers will not be accepted for forty nights” (Saheeh Muslim, 4/1751) – even though it is still obligatory to pray and to repent for this sin.

Astrology, or believing that the stars and planets have an influence on people’s lives and events.

Zayd ibn Khaalid al-Juhani reported: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) led us in the morning prayer at al-Hudaybiyah after rain had fallen during the night. When he had finished, he turned around to face the people and said: ‘Do you know what your Lord says?’ They said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said: ‘[Allah says]: This morning one of My slaves became a believer in Me and one became a disbeliever. As for the one who said, “We have been given rain by the grace and mercy of Allah,” he is a believer in Me and a disbeliever in the stars; as for the one who said, “We have been given rain by such-and-such a star,” he is a disbeliever in Me and a believer in the stars.’” ((Reported by al-Bukhaari; see Fath al-Baari, 2/333))

Similarly, the one who reads the horoscopes in newspapers and magazines and believes what they say about the influence of the stars and planets is a mushrik, and the one who reads them for entertainment is a sinner, because it is not permitted to entertain oneself by reading things that contain shirk, because Shaytaan will try to lead him to shirk through this.

Yet another form of shirk is believing that certain things can bring benefit when the Creator has not made them so.

For example. some people believe in amulets and spells, or wearing certain types of pearls or seashells or metal earrings and so on, on the advice of fortune-tellers or magicians or in accordance with inherited customs.

So they hang them around their own or their children’s necks to ward off the evil eye – or so they claim; or they tie them onto their bodies or hang them in their cars and homes, or wear rings with special stones, thinking that these things can relieve or ward off distress. This without a doubt is contrary to the idea of relying on Allah, and will only result in making a person even more weak, like seeking medicine in a haraam way.

These amulets obviously contain much shirk, such as seeking the help of some jinns and devils, or vague drawings and illegible writing. Some of these liars even write aayaat from the Qur’aan, or mix them with words of shirk, or write them with impure substances such as menstrual blood. Hanging up these amulets or tying them to one’s body is haraam because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever hangs up an amulet is guilty of shirk.” (Reported by Ahmad, 4/156; see also Silsilat al-Saheehah, no. 492).

If the one who does this believes that these things can cause benefit or harm instead of Allah, he is a mushrik who is guilty of al-shirk al-akbar . If he believes that they are a means of causing benefit or harm, then he is a mushrik who is guilty of al-shirk al-asghar , which includes shirk that consists of attributing causes to things other than Allah.

Showing off in worship:

 among the conditions for any good deed to be acceptable are that it should be free of any kind of showing off and within the framework of the Sunnah. The person who performs acts of worship, like praying, in order to be seen by other people is a mushrik and his deed is unacceptable. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allah, but it is He Who deceives them. And when they stand up for prayer, they stand with laziness and to be seen of men, and they do not remember Allah but little.” [al-Nisaa’ 4:142]

Similarly, the person who does a good deed so that news of it will reach other people has also fallen into the sin of shirk. The threat of punishment for the one who does this was reported in the hadeeth narrated by Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father), in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever does things to be seen and heard by others, Allah will cause him to be seen and heard as an example to others.” (Reported by Muslim, 4/2289).

Whoever does any act of worship for the sake of Allah and other people, his deeds will be unacceptable, as is stated in the hadeeth qudsi: “I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having an associate. Thus he who does a deed for someone else’s sake as well as Mine will have that deed renounced by Me to him who he associated with Me.” ((Reported by Muslim, no. 2985)).

It may happen that a person starts to do a deed for the sake of Allah, then the urge to show off comes over him. If he resists that impulse his deed will still be acceptable, but if he submits willingly to it, then in the opinion of most of the scholars his deed will be unacceptable.

Superstitious belief in omens:

 this is a form of pessimism, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“But whenever good came to them, they said, ‘Ours is this.’ And if evil afflicted them, they ascribed it to evil omens connected with Musa and those with him . . .” [al-A’raaf 7:131]

Before Islam, if one of the Arabs wanted to do something like travelling, he would take hold of a bird and release it: if it flew to the right, he would take this as a good omen and proceed with his plans, but if it flew to the left, he would take it as a bad omen and cancel his plans. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) gave his verdict on this practice when he said: “Al-Tiyarah (observing birds for omens) is shirk.” ((Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 1/389; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 3955)).

This kind of haraam belief that goes against Tawheed also includes the practice of regarding certain times etc., as inauspicious, such as not holding a wedding in Safar, or regarding the last Wednesday of every month as a day of evil omen and ongoing calamity, or believing that numbers such as 13, or certain names, are “unlucky.”

 It is also haraam to believe that handicapped people are bad omens, such as going to open one’s store but turning back upon seeing a one-eyed man. All of this is haraam and is part of the shirk for which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) disowned people. ‘Imraan ibn Husayn reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “He is not one of us who observes birds for omens or has someone else do this for him, or who predicts the future or asks someone else to do it for him, (and I think he said) or who practices magic or asks someone else to do it for him.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 18/162; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’ 5435).

The expiation required from the person who commits any of these sins is reported in the hadeeth reported by Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever was turned away from doing something because of a bad omen is guilty of shirk.’ The people asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what expiation is there for doing that?’ He said, ‘That he should say: “O Allah, there is no goodness except Your goodness and no omen except your omen and there is no god but You.”’” ((Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 2/220; al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 1065)).

Pessimism is a part of everyone’s nature, to a greater or lesser extent; the best cure for it is reliance upon Allah (tawakkul), as Ibn Mas’ood said: “There is no one among us (who will not feel pessimistic sometimes), but when we rely on Allah, He makes that feeling go away.” ((Reported by Abu Dawud, no. 3910; see also al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 430)).

Swearing by something other than Allah:

Allah may swear by whatever of His creatures He wills, but His creatures are not permitted to swear by anything other than Allah. Many people swear all kinds of oaths by things other than Allah, but swearing by something is like glorifying it, and it is not right to glorify anything or anyone other than Allah. Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Allah has prohibited that you should swear by your fathers.

 If anyone swears, let him swear by Allah, or else remain silent.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari; see al-Fath, 11/530). Ibn ‘Umar also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever swears by something other than Allah is guilty of shirk.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 2/125; see Saheeh al-Jaami’, 6204). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever swears by trustworthiness is not one of us.” ((Reported by Abu Dawud 3253; see also al- Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 94)).

It is not permitted to swear by the Ka’bah, by trustworthiness, by honour, by help, by the blessing of so-and-so, by the life of so-and-so, by the virtue of the Prophet, by the virtue of a wali, by one’s father and mother, by the heads of one’s children, etc. All of that is haraam, and the expiation for doing it is to say La ilaaha ill-Allah , as is stated in the saheeh hadeeth: “Whoever swears and says ‘By al-Laat’ or ‘By al-’Uzza,’ let him say ‘La ilaaha ill- Allah (there is no god except Allah).’” ((Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 11/536)).

 There are other phrases that similarly involve shirk and are therefore forbidden, but that are often spoken by Muslims, such as: “I seek refuge with Allah and with you,” “I am depending on Allah and on you,” “This is from Allah and from you,” “I have no-one but Allah and you,” “I have Allah in heaven and I have you on earth,” “If it were not for Allah and so-and-so,” “I disown Islaam,” “Time has let me down” (and every other expression which involves cursing time, like saying, “This is a bad time,” “This is an unlucky time,” “Time is a betrayer,” etc., because cursing time is an insult to Allah Who has created time), references to “Nature’s way.” Names that imply being a slave of anyone other than Allah, such as ‘Abd ‘al-Maseeh, ‘Abd al-Nabi, ‘Abd al-Rasool and ‘Abd al-Husayn, are also forbidden.

There are also modern expressions which are contrary to Tawheed and are therefore haraam, such as “Islamic socialism,” “Islamic democracy,” “The will of the people is the will of Allah,” “Religion is for Allah and the land is for the people,” “In the name of Arabism,” “In the name of the revolution,” etc.

It is also haraam to use titles such as “King of kings” or “Judge of judges” for human beings; to address munafiqeen or kuffaar with titles like “Sayyid (master)” (whether speaking Arabic or other languages), to use the words “If only…” – which imply discontent and regret, and open the way for Shaytaan, and to say “O Allah, forgive me if You want to.” (For more information, see Mu’jam al-Manahi al-Lafziyyah , Bakr or Zayd)

Sitting with hypocrites and wrongdoers to enjoy their company or to keep them company:

Many of those who do not have strong faith deliberately sit with people who are immoral and sinful. They may even sit with those who attack the Sharee’ah and make fun of Islam and the people who adhere to it strictly. There is no doubt that this is a forbidden deed, one which could undermine a person’s belief. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

And when you see those who engage in a false conversation about Our Verses by mocking at them, stay away from them till they turn to another topic. And if Shaytaan causes you to forget, then after the remembrance sit not in the company of those people who are the zaalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers, etc.) ” [al-An’aam 6:68]

In that case it is not permitted to sit with them, even if they are closely-related or are very kind and good company, except for the purposes of da’wah or refuting their false talk. But accepting and remaining quiet about their conduct is not permitted. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

They (the hypocrites) swear to you (Muslims) that you may be pleased with them, but if you are pleased with them, certainly Allah is not pleased with the people who are al- faasiqoon (rebellious, disobedient to Allah).” [al-Tawbah 9:96]

Lack of composure in prayer:

one of the worst forms of theft or cheating is cheating in prayer. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The worst type of thief is the one who steals from his prayer.” The people asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how can a person steal from his prayer?” He said: “By not doing rukoo’ and sujood properly.” (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 5/310; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 997). This lack of composure and failure to pause in rukoo’ and sujood and to stand up straight after rukoo’ or sit up properly between sujoods may be observed in many of those who pray, and hardly any mosque is free of examples of people who do not have the proper composure in prayer.

 Correct composure is one of the pillars of prayer, without which prayer is invalid. This is a serious matter. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “A man’s prayer is not good enough until his back is straight in rukoo’ and sujood.” ((Reported by Abu Dawud, 1/533; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7224)). There is no doubt that lacking the proper composure is bad, and the person who is guilty of this deserves to be reprimanded and threatened with punishment. Abu ‘Abdullaah al-Ash’ari reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) led his Companions in prayer, then he sat with a group of them. A man came in and started to pray, but made his movements rapid like a chicken pecking the ground. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Do you see this? Whoever dies having done this has died outside of the community of Muhammad, and his prayer is like a crow pecking blood.

 The person who bows then pecks in his sujood is like a hungry man who eats no more than one or two dates – what good will that do him?” (Reported by Ibn Khuzaymah in his Saheeh 1/332; see also al-Albaani, Sifat Salaat al-Nabi (The Prophet’s Prayer described), 131). Zayd ibn Wahb said: “Hudhayfah saw a man who was not performing rukoo’ and sujood properly.

He said: ‘You have not prayed, and if you were to die, you would die on a way other than that revealed by Allah to Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, see al-Fath, 2/274). Once a person is aware of this ruling, if he fails to perform prayer with the proper composure, he should repeat it and repent to Allah for what is past; he does not need to repeat all of his previous prayers, as is indicated by the hadeeth “Repeat your prayer, for you have not prayed.”

Fidgeting and making unnecessary movements in prayer:

Hardly any of the people who pray are free from this problem, because they are not following the command of Allah (interpretation of the meaning): “. . . And stand before Allah with obedience” [al-Baqarah 2:238]; and they fail to understand the words of Allah (interpretation of the meaning): “Successful indeed are the believers, those who offer their salaat with all solemnity and full submissiveness.” [al-Mu’minoon 23:1-2]

When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked about smoothing the earth before prostrating, he said, “Do not wipe it when you are praying; if you have to, then just smooth the gravel once.” ((Reported by Abu Dawud, 1/581; see also Saheeh al- Jaami’, 7452)). The scholars mentioned that continuous, excessive, unnecessary movement invalidates one’s prayer. How can those fidgets stand before Allah, looking at their watches, straightening their clothes, putting their fingers in their noses, looking to the right and the left and up to the sky, and not fearing that Allah may take away their sight or Shaytaan may steal their prayer??

Deliberately anticipating the movements of the imaam (when praying in congregation):

Man is hasty by nature, as it says in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): “. . . and man is ever hasty . . .” [al-Israa’ 17:11]. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Deliberation is from Allah and haste is from Shaytaan.” (Reported by al- Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra , 10/104; see also al-Silsilah, 1795). One often notices, when praying in congregation, people to the left and right anticipating the imaam in rukoo’, sujood and the takbeeraat that signal changes in position – one even notices it in oneself too, sometimes. People may even precede the imaam in giving salaam at the end of the prayer.

This is a matter which may appear unimportant to many, but the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) issued a stern warning when he said: “Does the person who raises his head before the imaam not fear that Allah may turn his head into the head of a donkey?” (Reported by Muslim, 1/320-321).

 If a person is required to come to the prayer with dignity and composure, how then should he be during the prayer itself? Some people are confused about this issue and seek to compensate by delaying their movements after the imaam; these people should know that the fuqahaa’, may Allah have mercy on them, have described an excellent way to control the matter, which is that the person following the imaam should only start his movements after the imaam has finished pronouncing the ra’ (“r”) of “Allahu akbar ”; then the person following the imaam is permitted to move, and not before or after.

The Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to be very keen to avoid anticipating his movements when he led them in prayer. One of them, al-Baraa’ ibn ‘Aazib (may Allah be pleased with him) said that they used to pray behind the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “When he raised his head from rukoo’, I would never see anyone bending his back in sujood until the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had placed his forehead on the ground, then everyone would go down in sujood behind him.” (Reported by Muslim, no. 474, ‘Abd al-Baaqi edition).

When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) grew older, and became rather slow in his movements, he told the people praying behind him: “O people, I have gained weight, so do not anticipate me in performing rukoo’ and sujood.” (Reported by al-Bayhaqi, 2/93 and classified as hasan in Irwaa’ al-Ghaleel, 2/290). The imaam is obliged to follow the Sunnah in making takbeer when he prays, as reported in the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him): “When

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