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The Lawful and the Unlawful
Social Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

The Arabic word zīnat refers to an object which a person uses to embellish something to satisfy his aesthetic taste. Thus, dress and jewellery are the zīnat of the body; curtains, sofas, carpets, rugs, sculptures, portraits and paintings are the zīnat of the house; orchards, gardens and buildings and other similar things are the zīnat of the city; music is the zīnat of the voice and poetry is the zīnat of words. The sufistic interpretation of religion and sufistic religions consider these things to be an optical illusion, and generally regard them to be prohibited, undesirable, worthy of being forsaken and impediments to spiritual advancement. However, the Qur’ān does not subscribe to this view. It refutes all these religions, and vehemently says that all these things are lawful; in fact, it chidingly inquires of the person who dares regard as unlawful what God has created for man:

قُلْ مَنْ حَرَّمَ زِينَةَ اللّهِ الَّتِيَ أَخْرَجَ لِعِبَادِهِ وَالْطَّيِّبَاتِ مِنَ الرِّزْقِ (٧:٣٢)

Tell [them]: “Who has forbidden you the zīnat which the Almighty has created for His servants, and who has forbidden the wholesome among the edibles?” (7:32)

Not only this, the Qur’ān goes on to declare that the wholesome among edibles, and all these objects of zīnat have been created in this world solely for the believers, and as such only belong to them; the rejecters of God receive through them as a by-product and because of the period of a trial they have to endure in this world. Thus, in the Hereafter, they shall solely be reserved for the believers; the rejecters will have no share in them; they shall be deprived of them forever:

قُلْ هِي لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا خَالِصَةً يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ  (٧:٣٢)

Tell [them]: “They are for the believers in this world [though shared by others]; but on the Day of Judgement, they shall be theirs alone.” Thus do We explain Our revelations for those who want to know. (7:32)

This an amazing declaration of the Qur’ān. Contrary to general religious concepts and teachings of sufistic religions, it presents a completely different aspect of religious life. Instead of urging people to forgo the pleasures of this world in order to attain the nearness of God and union with Him, it urges the believers to abstain from being spendthrifts but to benefit without any hesitation from all the objects of zīnat within the limits prescribed by God and to show gratitude on His favours.

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُواْ زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وكُلُواْ وَاشْرَبُواْ وَلاَ تُسْرِفُواْ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ (٧:٣١)

Children of Adam! Embellish yourselves with zīnat whenever you attend your mosques and eat and drink, but avoid excess. He does not love those who commit excesses. (7:31)

After this, the question arises: What exactly are the things regarded prohibited or unlawful by the sharī‘ah? The Qur’ān has answered this question in the succeeding verses of Sūah A‘rāf quoted above: Besides some edibles, only five things are unlawful: lewd acts, usurping the rights of others, wrongful oppression, polytheism and religious innovations.

Only these things are unlawful and prohibited in the sharī‘ah of God. Nothing else is unlawful in it. This verse, in fact, is a divine declaration on what is unlawful; thus, no one has the right to declare anything as unlawful besides these. Consequently, now something can only be regarded as unlawful if it contains traces of any of the unlawful things mentioned above. Narratives of the Prophet (sws) and of the Companions (rta), historical reports and the statements of previous scriptures will be understood in the light of this verdict of the Qur’ān. Anything which deviates from it or is against it shall not be accepted. The Qur’ānic words are:

قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَن تُشْرِكُواْ بِاللّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَن تَقُولُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ (٧:٣٣)

Tell [them]: “My Lord has only forbidden all lewd acts, whether overt or disguised and usurping the rights of others and wrongful oppression and that you worship with Him what He did not sanction and that you tell of God what you know not.” (7:33)

(Translated from Maqāmāt by Shehzad Saleem)

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