I came across this idea in Islamic tradition today. It’s known as the “5 Decisions”. One of my contractors said to me “it is Halal for me to do this”. I had only known of Halal as a food preparation standard similar to what “Kosher” is for Jews. The word Halal means permissible and has a broader definition, at least for some muslims, to mean that which is “the right thing to do”. I was intrigued by the concept and dug a little deeper.
As I understand it (if you’re a muslim and you’re reading this and I’m wrong please let me know!), there is a simple binary understanding of most things. Either “Halal”, that which is permissible and the right thing or “haram”, that which is not permissible and is the wrong thing.
Now, I was thinking probably what you’re thinking right now. That’s too simple. It turns out they found the same thing and so over the centuries under Sharia they developed it. I should say at this point that I disagree with some applications of Sharia law and the Islamic faith. I think liberal democracy like we have in the west is a much better system especially because we deliberately and carefully seperate religion, law and the government. However, there are many muslims I know and respect. I think this an insightful concept and worth pondering.
The Five Rulings
Sharia rulings fall into one of five categories known as “the five rulings” (al-aḥkām al-khamsa):
- farḍ/wājib – compulsory, obligatory
- mustaḥabb/mandūb – recommended
- mubāḥ – neutral, not involving God’s judgment
- makrūh – disliked, reprehensible
- ḥarām/maḥzūr – forbidden Quran al Kareem
It is a sin or a crime to perform a forbidden action or not to perform a mandatory action. Reprehensible acts should be avoided, but they are not considered to be sinful or punishable in court. Avoiding reprehensible acts and performing recommended acts is held to be subject of reward in the afterlife, while allowed actions entail no judgement from God. Jurists disagree on whether the term ḥalāl covers the first three or the first four categories. The legal and moral verdict depends on whether the action is committed out of necessity (ḍarūra).
How Could it Apply In Our Culture Today
We have no comparable system like this in the West. Especially rarely in the religious sense. In many muslim cultures, religion, law and government are inextricably intertwined. From a purely legal and cultural perspective we do see these categories being used everyday in our society.
Take for example “wearing face masks”. One day it’s “fard”, and if you aren’t wearing one, even in your car all alone, it’s illegal and if you’re caught by the wrong person you might be publicly ridiculed. Or conversely, if you live somewhere like Byron Bay where the culture is so intensely anti-vax and if your personal opinion is neutral “mubah” but you get vaccinated because you need to for work then you might still face a religious-like persecution for capitulating to the pharmaceutical devils and be outcast as an apostate. The extreme nature of certain tribes mean that they will impose an arbitrary extreme binary judgement such as “Haram”.
Mainstream religions had developed these sometimes useful tools to help better manage their communities with more nuanced structures. They needed this because of the wobbly foundation when building complex societies based on various individual interpretations of spurious scriptures. With the decline of mainstream religions we’re seeing a huge portion of the population join fragmented ideological groups such as feminism, marxism, fascism and whatever this new “woke-ism” pseudo religion is. People still have a need to belong. Immature people, who once joined religions with well structured systems and clearer value sets, will now join these small ideological groups with less structure and more ambiguous values. Upon entry they ask existing group members who they need to hate and punish to belong to that tribe. They’ll be quickly informed and handed instructions, ammunition and dossiers.