Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul Al Fiqh):
Commands & Prohibitions
By Shah Abdul Hannan*

Commands and Prohibitions
    A command (Amr) is defined as a verbal demand to do something from a position of superiority to an inferior. Command (also prohibition) may occur in a variety of form.

     Command is mostly in imperative mood. In some cases, use of a simple past tense in Arabic may also indicate command to do something [Sura Baqarah : 178].  A Quranic injunction may occur in a form of moral condemnation (Al-Baqara : 189).

     Quranic command may be conveyed as a promise of reward or punishment (Quran - 4 : 13-14). An important question is : What is primary in command, is it obligation, a recommendation or simple permissibility? (as 'command'  may mean all these). According to the majority, command implies obligation unless there are clues to suggest otherwise. Some have held that Amr (i.e. command) is in the nature of Mushtarak or which impart all (obligation, recommendation and permission) until determined what is primary. Some have held it implies only obligation or recommendation (Nadb). Some others have held that Amr means permission to do something. Clearly, the majority opinion is more rational and justified (that obligation unless proved otherwise).

     Command (Amr) may sometimes mean permissibility. For instance when the Quran says, "Kulu Washrabu" (eat and drink - ref. 7 : 31), the context suggests that it is mere permissibility. Similar examples can be seen in verse 5:2 (wa idha halaltum Fastadu) and 62:10 (Fantashiru fil Ard).  A command may convey a recommendation in some cases (Sura Baqara : 282). A command in a few cases may indicate threat, i.e. advise to desist from doing a particular thing (ref. 24:33 and 17:64). A command may imply supplication or prayer also (Ref. Baqara : 286).  However command (Amr) mostly means obligation (Farz or Wazib, depending on whether the text and meaning both are Qati or not.)

     Majority of Ulama hold a command following a prohibition means permissibility, not obligation (ref. Quran 5:2 and 62:10). According to majority , a single instance of compliance of the command is an obligation, in the absence of indications for repeated compliance. When a command is issued in conditional terms, then it must be complied whenever it (condition) occurs (Ref. The Quran 5:7).  When a command is dependent on a cause or attribute, it must be fulfilled whenever the cause is present (Ref. Quran 17:18).

     As regard immediate or delayed execution of an Amr, it depends on the text and its indications. If the command does not itself specifies time limit (such as the times of prayers), it may be delayed. As regards whether the command implies the prohibition (Nahy) of the opposite, the majority thinks so.

     Prohibition (Nahy) is the opposite of command. It is a demand to avoid doing of something.  Prohibition may occur in the form of a statement (ref. Quran 2 : 221) or in the form of an order not to do something (62 : 9;  22 : 30).  Nahy may convey Tahrim (total prohibition) or guidance (irshad) or reprimand (tadib). Nahy which implies reprehension may be seen in Quran 5 : 87. Nahy which conveys moral guidance may be seen in Quran 5 : 104. Majority hold that Nahy primarily implies Tahrim, if there is no other indication to think otherwise.
     If the act (other than Ibadat) is not prohibited in itself but becomes prohibited because of an extraneous  reason, it is Batil (void) according to Shaffi's and Fasid according to Hanafii's. Batil means, it can not be corrected (there are many instances where marriage becomes  Fasid according to some scholars and Batil according to other scholars - so is the case of many business transactions - see a book on marriage or on business in Islamic Law).  The position is different about Ibadat (devotional matters). The Fasid here is equaivalent to Batil. In other words, there is only Batil, not Fasid in the area.

     Prohibition requires immediate and repeated compliance, whenever the prohibition is applicable. If the prohibition is conditional, it will be applicable where the condition is present (Ref. Quran 60 : 10). When a prohibition succeeds a command, it conveys Tahrim (illegality). 

     Explicit (Sarih) injunctions (whether Amr or Nahy) require total compliance. However, the spirit of the Law should also be kept in view, not only letters (as for instance in "Fasawila zikrillah" in Quran 62 : 9).  Implicit  injunctions, unless made explicit elsewhere, can be understood by scholars and they may differ therein.  The means which lead to observance of command or prohibition are covered by the same ruling which applies to commands and prohibitions.  Only a small portion of Nasus (texts) gives precise meaning. The larger portion of Nasus have to be interpreted by Mujtahid or scholars in the light of the general principles and objectives of Shariah.

* Former Secretary, Govt. of Bangladesh and Adviser,  Bangladesh Institute of Islamic Thought

Home - Quran & HadithCharity - Family & HealthIslamMiscellaneousMatrimonials

Human Rights - WomenNewscenterBoycottChechnyaPalestine - Links