Abu Tha’labah Al-Khushany (Jurthum bin Nashir) (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said,
“Allah, the Exalted, has laid down certain duties which you should not transgress. He has also made certain things illegal which you should not commit, and has kept silent about other things out of mercy for you but not from forgetfulness. So do not hold discussion about them.”
[Daraqutni – hadith 4/183,184; Tabarani – Al-Kabir, hadith 22/589]
The importance of this Hadith
In this Hadith, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) divided the rulings of Allah into four: duties, that which is illegal things, legal code, and that which is not discussed. These are all the rulings of religion.
Abu Bakr bin As-Sama’ni said, “This hadith is one of the fundamentals of religion.”
He also said, “If a person acted in conformity with this Hadith, he would attain reward and escape from punishment, because once he performed the prescribed duties, avoided what is illegal things, observed the legal code and did not talk about the rulings unknown to him, he would shoulder all the prerequisites of religion, because the Islamic religion is no more than these four things. Duties include the prescribed pillars of Islam such as prayer, Zakah, fasting and Hajj.”
As for illegal things, they are the things which Allah prohibited. The illegal things are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) Sunnah, as Allah says,
“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-Fawahish (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.’
And come not near to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he (or she) attains the age of full strength; and give full measure and full weight with justice. We burden not any person, but that which he can bear. And whenever you give your word (i.e., judge between men or give evidence, etc.) tell the truth, even if a near relative is concerned, and fulfill the Covenant of Allah. This He commands you, that you may remember.
And verily, this (Le., Allah’s Commandments mentioned in the above two Verses 151 and 152) is my Straight path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you from His Path. This He has ordained for you that you may become Al- Muttuqun.” (Surah Al-An’am, 6 : 151-153)
“Say, ‘(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are Al-Fawahish (great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.) whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppression, joining partners (in worship) with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.’ ” (Surah Al-A’raf, 7 : 33)
In some verses, certain prohibited things were mentioned as in the following verse which states prohibited foods,
“Say, ‘I find not in that which has been inspired to me anything forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be Maytatah (a dead animal) or blood poured forth (by slaughtering or the like), or the flesh of swine (pork, etc.) for that surely is impure, or impious (unlawful) meat (of an animal) which is 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 …. ’ ” (Surah Al-An’am, 6 : 145)
“He has forbidden you only the Maytatah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols, etc., on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2 : 173)
“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 An-Nusub (stone altars). (Forbidden) also is to use arrows seeking luck or decision.” (Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5 : 3)
Women prohibited to be married to a man are mentioned in the following verse,
“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 wet nurse, your wet nurse’s daughters, your wives’ mothers, your stepdaughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom you have gone in, but there is no sin on you if you have not gone in them (to marry their daughters), – the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins, and two sisters in wedlock at the same time, except for what has already passed; verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah An-Nisa’, 4 : 23)
As for ill-gotten money, Allah says,
“Whereas Allah has permitted trading and forbidden Riba (usury)” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2 : 275).
As for the Sunnah, it mentioned many prohibited things.
For example, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Allah prohibited the selling of wine, dead animals, swine and idols.” [Bukhari – Kitab Al-Buyu’ (Book on Sales), hadith 2236; Muslim – Kitab Al-Musaqah (Book on Crop Sharing), hadith 1581]
He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also said, “Your blood, money and honor are sacred.” [Bukhari – Kitab Al-‘llm (Book on Knowledge), hadith 67; Muslim – Kitab Al-Qasamah (Book on Compurgation), hadith 1679]
The legal code refers to the rulings which Allah made permissible, be they obligatory, desirable or permissible. Violating this code means that one commits what Allah prohibited as Allah says,
“And those are the set limits of Allah. And whosoever transgresses the set limits of Allah, then indeed he has wronged himself.” (Surah At-Talaq, 65 : 1)
The above verse refers to the husband who divorced his wife without sticking to the rulings ordained by Allah in this regard.
Allah also says,
“These are the limits ordained by Allah, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits ordained by Allah, then such are the Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.)” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2 : 229)
This is a warning for the husband who divorces his wife in a non-Islamic manner or takes money from her in order to divorce her.
Allah also says,
“These are the limits (set by) Allah (or ordainments as regards laws of inheritance), and whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, will be admitted to Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), to abide therein, and that will be the great success. 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.” (Surah An-Nisa’, 4 : 13, 14)
This is a warning to those who transgressed the rights of heirs and usurped their rights.
An-Nawwas bin Sama’n reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Allah gave the parable of a straight path. On the two sides of this path, there are two walls which have open doors. On the doors, there are curtains hanging. On the door of the path, there is a caller saying, ‘O people, take this path and never deviate from it.’ There is another caller in the middle of the path. If the one who is passing wants to open any of these doors, he says to him, ‘Woe to you! Do not open it Once you open it, you will be in.’ This path is Islam. The two walls are the limits ordained by Allah. The open doors are the things prohibited by Allah. The caller at the door on the path is the Book of Allah. The caller in the middle of the path is Allah’s presence in the heart of the Muslim.” [Tirmidhi – Kitab Al-Amthal (Book on Parables), hadith 2859; Nasa’i in Al-Kubra – Kitab At-Tafsir (Book on Interpretation), hadith 253; Musnad Ahmad – hadith 4/182,183]
In this hadith, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) set an example for Islam with the straight path which is wide and leads to the required destination. Besides, it is not a crooked path. On the sides of the path, there are two walls which stand for the limits ordained by Allah. Just like the walls prevent those inside a house from getting out, Islam prevents its followers from encroaching on the limits ordained by Allah. Beyond the limits ordained by Allah, there are no more the things prohibited by Him. Allah praised those who stick to His legal code and condemned those who do not distinguish between the lawful and the unlawful, as Allah says,
“The Bedouins are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more likely to be in ignorance of the limits (Allah’s Commandments and His Legal Laws, etc.) which Allah has revealed to His Messenger.” (Surah At-Tawbah, 9 : 97)
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also said, “The Holy Qur’an says, ‘Whoever acts in accordance with my teachings has adhered to my limits. Whoever does not act in accordance with my teachings has not adhered to my limits.”
All this means that a person should not commit that which is prohibited. If he does, he has not adhered to the limits ordained by Allah. Allah says,
“These are the limits (set) by Allah, so approach them not.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2 : 187)
The above verse warns against committing any prohibited acts related to fasting or seclusion in mosques.
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also said, “The example of the person abiding by Allah’s orders and restrictions in comparison to those who violate them is like the example of those persons who drew lots for their places on a boat.” [Bukhari – Kitab Ash-Sharikah (Book on Partnership), hadith 2493]
“The person abiding by Allah’s orders and restrictions” is the one who renounces committing prohibited acts. The legal penalties may be called the limits ordained by Allah as we say for the penalty for fornication, the penalty for theft, and the penalty for drinking wine.
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said to Usamah, “Do you intercede regarding one of the penalties prescribed by Allah?” Usamah tried to intercede for a woman who had committed theft. This naming convention is well known by jurists.
Some interpreted the saying of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), “He has also made certain things illegal which you should not commit,” as a reference to the legal penalties. They argue that if they refer to the limits ordained by Allah, they would be a mere repetition of the saying of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), “Allah, the Exalted, has laid down certain duties which you should not transgress.” Yet, this is not true and there is no repetition in the hadith.
Non-talked about things
Non-talked about things are not defined as lawful or unlawful. There is no sin in doing such things. The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said about such things that – “Allah has kept silent about other things out of mercy for you and not from forgetfulness.” This means that Allah did not mention these things out of His mercy towards His worshippers. He did not make them unlawful so that He might punish them if done. Besides, He did not make them lawful so that He might punish them if not done. Whether done or not, there is no wrong committed.
The saying of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), “So do not hold discussion about them” may indicate that such prohibition is restricted to the era of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), because frequently asking about such things may be a reason for the revelation of a verse that may be hard on people. Too many questions on such things may lead some people to believe that they are either lawful or unlawful while they are not. This rule may apply to the following Hadith:
Ibn Mas‘ud narrated that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Ruined are those who insisted on hardship in matters of faith. He said this thrice.”
This hadith condemns those who ask about things that are not of interest to them. It also condemns those who stick to the literal meaning of the revelation without understanding its other meanings such as the Azh-Zhahlriyyah School of Jurisprudence.
Yet, one should mention that contemplating religious texts and their connotations is a prerequisite for jurists and scholars in order to reach legal rulings that may not be clear-cut. This was the practice of some Companions such as Ibn ‘Abbas. Therefore, Ibn Mas‘ud said, “Beware of excessive search for what you do not need. Stick to the manner of the Companions.”
A Muslim is also prohibited from excessively searching for the unseen things in which he was enjoined to believe without knowing how they were created.
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “People will say, ‘This is the creation of Allah. Who created Allah?’ If any of you asks this question, he should say: ‘I believe in Allah.’ ” [Muslim – Kitab Al-Iman (Book on Faith), hadith 134/212]
In another narrative, he (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “People will ask about know ledge until they say, ‘This is Allah Who created us. Who created Allah?’ ”
In a third narrative, he (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “People will ask about everything until they say, ‘This is Allah Who created us. Who created Allah?’ ” [Muslim – Kitab Al-Iman (Book on Faith), hadith 135/215,216]
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Satan will come to you and say, ‘Who created such and such?’ Until he says, ‘Who created your Lord?’ If it happens, seek refuge with Allah and stop thinking about this matter. ” [Bukhari – Kitab Bid’a Al-Khalq (Book on Creatures’ Innovations), hadith 3276]
Anas reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Allah, the Almighty, says, ‘Your nation will keep on saying, ‘What is this? What is that?’ until they say, ‘This is Allah Who created the creatures. Who created Allah?’ ” [Muslim – Kitab Al-lman (Book on Faith), hadith 136/217]
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “People will keep on saying, ‘This is Allah Who created the creatures. Who created Allah?’ ” [Bukhari – Kitab Al-I’tisam (Book on Holding Fast to Allah), hadith 7296]
By: Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali , From the book: Jami’ al Ulum wal Hikam.