Friday, January 01, 2010

The misuse of the principle of Dhuroora (necessity)

Unfortunately today some people misuse Islamic principles in order to justify clearly prohibited actions. One of the most commonly misapplied principles is that of Dhuroora (necessity). People often use it to justify taking interest based loans, working in jobs that involve haram, engaging in bribery, supporting kufr political parties and a variety of other prohibited actions.

They attempt to justify this from Islamic texts by saying that when your dying of hunger it becomes permitted to eat pork and other haram foods. From this they generalise and say therefore we can break the Shariah rules under any type of difficulty.

It is true that Allah said:

إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنْزِيرِ وَمَا أُهِلَّ بِهِ لِغَيْرِ اللَّهِ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

"He has forbidden you Al-Maytah (meat of a dead animal), blood, flesh of swine, and any animal which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than Allah. But if one is forced by necessity without willful disobedience and not transgressing, then there is no sin on him." [al-Baqara, 2:173]

So, the person who is in dire need can eat of what he finds from these prohibited food which is enough to keep him alive.

It must be understood that these rules are specific rules with specific evidences, from them we cannot generalize and say that we are allowed to bend the shariah rules on the basis of any hardship, to do this would be haram.

We must be careful here when we talk about the principle of "necessity ". Let us refer to what the classical ulema have said about this matter.

Imam al Razi Al Jassas al Hanafi says in his Ahkam al Quran (vol 1/159): "Here the meaning of necessity purports the fear for life and limb when someone avoids foods (that are in essence forbidden) ....."

Ibn Qudamah al Maqdasi al Hanabli in his Al Mughni says (9/331): "If it has become established, then the necessity that is expedient is the type that leads to starvation if the food is left".

He continues to say: "...The reason for the allowance of is the need to preserve the self from destruction because this Maslaha is more beneficial than the benefit of avoiding the impure...."

Imam Abu Hamid Al Ghazali Al Shafi says in his Wasit (7/168): "As for necessity we imply the state that probably will lead to the person's destruction, If, for example he does not eat and similarly if he fears that an illness would lead to death....."

Imam Ibn Juzi al Maliki says: "...As for necessity it is the fear of death and it is not conditional that someone is patient to such an extent that he witnesses his own death". (Al Quanin al Fiqhia p116)

Clearly then we are talking about an acute scenario that is particular. Even this has certain constraints according to many of the Ulema.

(1) That there is no other means to remove this overbearing situation.

(2) That this does not affect the rights of others. In other words we try to look for an exit that does not affect others. At least in principle to such an extent that a number of Ulema forbid Muslims to eat dead human flesh in matters of starvation because this affects the rights of others i.e. those of the dead.

Another very common example is the sinking ship scenario. What if we are going to sink because of the excessive weight of the passengers, do we throw a few overboard to their doom to save the majority? The vast majority refuse this scenario of utilitarianism in Dhuroora.

Another example is the Muslim prisoner shield that is put up in defence of a non Muslim army. This example is typically allowed for as a Dhuroora on a state level but more importantly because there are textual indications that allow collateral damage if it cannot be avoided. Some scholars understand this point as a Duroorah Kulia i.e. an all encompassing Duroorah (It applies to the Muslims as a whole rather than some at the expense of others)

(3) Uttering Kufr by force is a Rukhsa (legal permission) and it is better according when forced on pains of torture and death to avoid it.

Imam Suyuti in Ashbah wal Nadhair page 63 says: "Eating the flesh of the dead in times of necessity takes precedence over taking someone else's money (to purchase food)."

The scholars also differed on whether you can take drink alcohol when you are dying from thirst. Imam Shafi thought that alcohol makes the thirst even worse. Others also differed on whether one can take medication that has forbidden elements in it. Finally even some scholars did not consider it a sin if someone refused to take anything forbidden at all. (See Majmu'at al Bu'uth al Fiqhea by Dr Abdul Karim Zaydan pages 141-214)

Anyway all four schools of thought and in fact the consensus agree that Dhuroora in the fiqhi sense makes some things that are forbidden allowed in an acute scenario. Remember this is not a norm but for very particular severe situations. It cannot be made a law. Certainly it cannot lead to a normal rule for an entire population.

So one cannot claim that they have to take an interest based mortgage to buy a house on the pretext of necessity as they can rent or stay with relatives. Similarly someone can't claim that he has to pay bribery to achieve his interests as he can achieve them in a legitimate way even if it is more difficult. Someone working in a job that involves haram such as in a restaurant where they would have to serve alcohol or as a cashier in a bank where they would have to receive and give riba (usury) can get another job that is halal even if it is lesser in pay.

The countless ayat and ahadith ordering us to undertake our actions according to the commands and prohibitions of Allah سبحانه وتعالى can't just be washed away based upon some difficulty or hardship.

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

أُوْلَئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ وَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْمُهْتَدُونَ

"And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sâbirin (the patient ones.)." [al-Baqarah:155-157]

We should listen to the warning of the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم when he said:

«بادروا بالأعمال فتناً كقطع الليل المظلم يصبح الرجل مؤمناً ويمسي كافراً، ويمسي مؤمناً ويصبح كافراً يبيع دينه بعرض من الدنيا»

"Be prompt in doing good deeds (before you are overtaken) by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. During (that stormy period) a man would be a Muslim in the morning and an unbeliever in the evening or he would be a believer in the evening and an unbeliever in the morning, and would sell his Deen for worldly goods" [Sahih Muslim: Kitab ul-Iman, 213]

Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:

وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلاَ مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُمْ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَنْ يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلاَلاً مُبِينًا.

"It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allâh and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allâh and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in a plain error." [al-Ahzaab:36]


Anonymous said...

Salaam brother, plz correct the translation of the ayat you have used in ur article it appears that there has been some sort of typographical error:

The ayat used have a completely different translation then what you have mention :

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

أُوْلَئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ وَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ


"And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sâbirin (the patient ones.)." [al-Baqarah:155-157]

Anonymous said...


have you got an email address which i can email you articles which you could publish if you like



ldii said...

Thank you for this precious lesson, really helpful. Riba issue is quite depending on the people faith and their knowledge about Islam Rule. I think, Riba is the third biggest sin in Islam religion.

momo said...

Salaamoe alaikoem

I'm searhing for article or books that clearly explain the use of products which containts haraam ingredients, like gelatine, E-codes derived from animal origine, alcohol used in the proces, but the endproduct does not contain alcohol.

As we are asked to stay away from haraam and not to buy haraam, I need to understand this issue.

At this moment I follow the rule to stay away from these products, as so far I haven't find a clear explanation about the other opinion that allows to eat these things, so I can investigate it and adapt this meaning if the arguments are stronger.

Thanks in advance.