Doubtful matters

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله رب العالمين وصلى الله وسلم على رسول الله وعلى آله وأصحابه ومن اهتدى بهديه إلى يوم الدين أما بعد


Abu `Abd Allah al-Nu`man ibn Basheer رضي الله عنهم relates that he heard Allaah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم say:

 إن الحلال بين ، وإن الحـرام بين ، وبينهما أمـور مشتبهات لا يعـلمهن كثير من الناس ، فمن اتقى الشبهات فـقـد استبرأ لديـنه وعـرضه ، ومن وقع في الشبهات وقـع في الحرام ، كـالراعي يـرعى حول الحمى يوشك أن يرتع فيه،ألا وإن لكل ملك حمى ، ألا وإن حمى الله محارمه ، ألا وإن في الجـسد مضغة إذا صلحـت صلح الجسد كله ، وإذا فـسـدت فـسـد الجسـد كـلـه ، ألا وهي الـقـلب

“That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear, and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which many people do not know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself (of blame) in regard to his religion and his honour, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who grazes his flock (too) close to a private sanctuary, is liable to have some of his flock stray into it. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and Allaah’s sanctuary is what He has prohibited. Truly in the body there is a piece of flesh, which, if it be whole (healthy), the whole body is healthy, and  if it is sick, the whole body is sick. Truly, it is the heart.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]


1. Hasan ibn Ali رضي الله عنهما said: “I remember (these words well) from Allaah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم: ‘Leave what is doubtful for that which causes no doubt.’” [At-Tirmidhi and Nasaa’i; classed as hasan by Tirmidhi]

In another version, the following addition is found to the above hadeeth: “for verily truth is tranquillity (i.e. peace of mind) and falsehood is doubt.”

2. An-Nawwas ibn Sam’an رضي الله عنهما narrated that he asked asked Allaah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم about birr and ithm (virtue and vice). He صلى الله عليه وسلم said: “Birr is good disposition (nature), and ithm is what rankles (agitates) your inner-self, and that you would dislike for people to find out.” [Saheeh Muslim, 6195]

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3. Ibn Hajar stated regarding Mushabbihat [Fath al-Bari, 1/127]:

واختلف في حكم الشبهات فقيل التحريم وهو مردود وقيل الكراهة وقيل الوقف وهو كالخلاف فيما قبل الشرع وحاصل ما فسر به العلماء الشبهات أربعة أشياء أحدها تعارض الأدلة كما تقدم ثانيها اختلاف العلماء وهي منتزعة من الأولى ثالثها أن المراد بها مسمى المكروه لأنه يجتذبه جانبا الفعل والترك رابعها أن المراد بها المباح ولا يمكن قائل هذا أن يحمله على متساوى الطرفين من كل وجه بل يمكن حمله على ما يكون من قسم خلاف الأولى بأن يكون متساوى الطرفين باعتبار ذاته راجح الفعل أو الترك باعتبار أمر خارج


4. It is recorded that Imam an-Nawawi (who included this hadeeth in his Arba’een)  would refuse (even) permissible things out of fear that they may lead him to doubtful matters. For example, he refused to eat any of the fruits of Damascus because he knew that many of the fruit orchards therein were wakf and were not handled properly. He feared that the food would not be from a permissible source. Another reason he gave for not eating the fruit was that much of it was handled through ‘share-cropping’ and there was ikhtilaf among the scholars concerning the validity of share-cropping. He was afraid to involve himself in any matter where there was even the slightest doubt. [see ‘Commentary on the Forty Hadeeth of an-Nawawi’, Zarabozo]

5. Yoonus ibn ‘Ubayd رحمه الله تعالى said: “True carefulness in religion is to depart from all doubtfulness and to account the soul with every step. So whoever is not like that cannot be said to be cautious.” – And the Salaf used to warn against undermining cautiousness in tiny things since that is a ladder leading to degrading cautiousness in larger things.

6. Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله تعالى said: “If the heart is completely pure it will contain only love for Allaah, love for the things that Allaah loves, fear of Allaah and fear of engaging in something that Allaah hates. Such a heart will abstain from all of the forbidden acts and will also abstain from the doubtful matters out of fear that they are forbidden…”

7. One of the tricks of Shaytan is that he will make something which is forbidden look permissible. In our times for example, there are many matters in business transactions that contain some implicit aspects of riba’. Many new issues arise where people are confused as to whether something is acceptable or not. It is better to avoid acts that we are unsure of and where there is no clear guidance from scholars etc.

8. There are also situations that may consist of both good and bad. The cautious approach would be to avoid an act if it involves both good and bad aspects. Scholarly derived usool from the Book and Sunnah (in weighing between benefits and harms), state that it is generally better to give up a minor benefit in order to avoid a major harm; or tolerate a minor harm in order to avoid a major harm or gain a major benefit.


And Allaah knows best.


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