Why there are ambiguous matters?

Hard Rock Moslem

I'm your brother

“That which is Halaal is clear and that which is Haraam is clear, and between the two of them are ambiguous (mutashabihat) matters about which many people do not know. Thus he who avoids ambiguous matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honour, but he who falls into ambiguous matters (eventually) falls into that which is Haraam, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allaah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh, which, if it be whole, all the body is whole, and which, if it is diseased, all of (the body) is diseased. Truly, it is the heart.”
[Related by al-Bukhaari and Muslim].

You may refer below link for explanation to the above hadith.


This is my question, Halal is clear, haram is clear. Why there are ambiguous in between both? Is this "rukhshah" (concession)?

Happy 2BA Muslim


Abû `Abd Allah al-Nu`mân b. Bashîr relates that he heard Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) say: “That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear. Between the two are doubtful matters that few people have knowledge about. Whoever avoids these doubtful matters absolves himself of blame with respect to his religion and his honor. Whoever falls into doubtful things will fall into what is unlawful, just like the shepherd who grazes his flock too close to a private pasture is liable to have some of his flock stray into it. Every king has a private pasture, and Allah’s private pasture is what he has prohibited. Verily, in the body is a small piece of flesh that if it is healthy, the whole body is healthy and if it is sick, the whole body is sick. This small piece of flesh is the heart.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

The importance of this hadîth:

This hadîth sets down an important principle of conduct for Muslims to live by. It does so by dividing all matters with respect to their Islamic rulings into the following three categories:

1. Matters that are clearly permissible.
2. Matters that are clearly unlawful.
3. Matters wherein it is unclear whether or not they are permissible.

There are many examples that we can think of for things that are clearly permissible. It is permissible to eat wholesome foods. No one can doubt the permissibility of eating an apple. It is permissible to wear clothing made form pure substances like cotton and wool. It is permissible to get married to a virtuous Muslim. The list is endless. When something is clearly permissible, a Muslim knows that he can engage in it without any fear of falling into sin.

Likewise, there are many matters that are clearly unlawful. No one can doubt the unlawfulness of murder, fornication, adultery, incest, drinking, gambling, dealing in usury, and eating pork.

Then there are doubtful matters that a Muslim should avoid. There are basically two reasons for doubt to exist about something. The first is where there is evidence indicating that something is unlawful, but that evidence is uncertain. The second is where there is a clear ruling in Islamic law that something is unlawful, but it is unclear if that ruling applies to a certain matter.

There are a number of ways that the evidence can be uncertain. For example, scholars are faced with what appears to be conflicting evidence from the Qur’ân and Sunnah about the lawfulness of a matter. They may differ about how this conflict is to be resolved. Some of them may rule that something is lawful while others rule that it is prohibited. A good case of this is the hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited drinking while standing. In another authentic hadîth, the Prophet (peace be upon him) drank while standing. This has led scholars to disagree on this matter.

Then there are cases where a hadîth is clear in its prohibition of something, but there may be something questionable about its chain of transmission. For this reason, scholars differ about the authenticity of the hadîth.

Then there are cases where the wording of the text does not clearly indicate that something is unlawful, but the ruling can be inferred from the text.

Even when we have clear evidence that something is prohibited, it is not always clear that the ruling applies to a given situation. The world is complicated and full of extenuating circumstances and unclear situations. Sheikh al-`Uthaymîn cites as an example of this the ruling on smoking when cigarettes were first encountered by the Muslims. There is a clear ruling in Islamic Law that substances that are injurious to the health are prohibited. However, it was unclear in the old days whether or not this ruling should be applied to cigarettes. There were some indications that cigarettes were unhealthy, but nothing conclusive. For this reason, scholars had widely differing opinions about smoking; many of them gave the ruling that it was disliked.

This was a good example of a doubtful matter that it was best for a Muslim to avoid.

With the experience accumulated over time and the advancement of medical knowledge, it has been proven conclusively that cigarettes have severe negative effects upon a person’s health. There can no longer be any doubt that smoking is unlawful.

“Whoever falls into doubtful things will fall into what is unlawful”

There are two possible ways that this sentence can be understood:

1. It is unlawful to get involved in doubtful matters. Whoever does so is sinning simply for doing so.

2. Getting involved in doubtful matters is not necessarily unlawful in and of itself, but it can easily lead a person to fall into sin.

The example given by the Prophet (peace be upon him) clears up which meaning is intended. He mentions a man grazing his flock near a private pasture. In this example, the private pasture represents things that are clearly prohibited in Islamic Law. A person who grazes his sheep near a private pasture is not trespassing at the moment, but he will have a very difficult time keeping his sheep from straying into it and thus breaking the law.

The same thing applies to a person who engages in doubtful matters. It is very difficult for such a person to prevent himself from falling into sin. By staying far away from the doubtful matters, he protects himself from falling into sin, just like a shepherd who keeps his flock far away from the private pasture does not have to worry about his flock straying into it.

Doubtful matters and misgivings:

In this hadîth, the Prophet (peace be upon him) has encouraged us to avoid what is doubtful. However, it is important to distinguish truly doubtful matters from mere misgivings. A matter has to be doubtful for a reason, such as one of the reasons we have discussed above. There has to be some sort of evidence indicating that it may be unlawful. In the absence of such evidence, there is no virtue in our abstaining from things.

`A’ishah narrates to us that a group of people once came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! There are people who come to us with meat, but we do not know whether or not they had mentioned Allah’s name upon it (when they slaughtered it).”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) told them: “You mention Allah’s name over it and eat it.”
[Sahîh al-Bukhârî]

The people being asked about had only recently accepted Islam and therefore the people asking the question had reservations about eating the meat that those new Muslims would bring them. They needed to know if they had to abstain from eating the meat on account of their suspicions. The prophet (peace be upon him) let them know that such baseless suspicions were not to be taken into consideration. They had no real reason to believe that the meat being brought to them by their fellow Muslims had been slaughtered improperly.

This is quite different from the problem being faced by people today living in some industrialized nations. There are many non-Muslim countries where it is the norm for animals to be killed by methods that are contrary to Islamic Law. These methods are preferred for their swiftness and efficiency in killing a large number of animals in a short period of time. If such methods are known to be highly prevalent in a country, then a Muslim living in that country who avoids eating the meat in the market is in fact avoiding something doubtful, even in a predominantly Christian country where the meat would in principle be lawful to eat were it not for the improper method of slaughter.

In Muslim countries and Christian countries where such unlawful methods are not known to be the norm, abstaining from eating the meat on the basis of the mere possibility of improper slaughter would be an extreme position to take. It would not fall under the category of avoiding suspicious things.

The role of the heart:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentions the heart after discussing the principle of avoiding doubtful matters. The reason for this is that the avoidance of doubtful matters is a very good way to protect the heart from moral disease. When a Muslim avoids what is unlawful, abstains from doubtful matters, and busies himself with what is clearly permissible and wholesome, his heart becomes strong. By contrast, if he engages in activities of doubtful legitimacy, his heart grows weak and he becomes more likely to fall into sin.

When a person’s heart is pure, his actions show it. A person with a pure heart will naturally avoid things that are doubtful just like he will avoid things that are unlawful. When a person has a sickness in his heart, he begins to crave unlawful things. He may at first involve himself in doubtful matters that will only increase the sickness in his heart and ultimately bring him to engage in what is openly sinful. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Verily, in the body is small piece of flesh that if it is healthy, the whole body is healthy and if it is sick, the whole body is sick. This small piece of flesh is the heart.”

A pure heart is one that is full of the love of Allah. It is a heart that naturally fears and loathes falling into sin and even the possibility of falling into sin.