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Ahkam (Arabic: أحكام plural of Hukm حُكْم) is a reference to the Islamic commandments, derived and understood from religious jurisprudence resources (Arabic: مَنَابِعُ الفِقْهِ). A law, value, ordinance or ruling of Shari'ah (Islamic law). In order to arrive at any new legal doctrine, or hukm, one must employ a systematic methodology by which to extract meaning from the sources. Traditionally, this methodology has been categorized under the rules of ijtihad (independent reasoning, authentic scholarly endeavor).
In the Qur'ann, hukm denotes arbitration, judgement, authority, and Allah's will. Following the passing of Muhammad, with no central legal power in the post-Medina Muslim society, the noun acquired new meanings over time, with hukm coming to refer to temporal executive rule or to a court decision and the plural, ahkam, referring to specific Quranic rules, positive fiqh laws derived from Islamic legal methodology, and rules or edicts. Early in Muslim history, the Kharijites' declaration to accept only the hukm of Allah (Arabic: حُكْمُ اللّهِ ) gave the word a political connotation.
The acts of a Muslim must be done according to Islamic commandments, categorized in five groups, forming a pentad or al-ʾaḥkām al-khamsa (الأحكام الخمسة). Actions are evaluated and placed in one of these five categories and permitted or prohibited as appropriate to culture and the dictates of Islamic jurisprudence. According to Islamic terminology the pentad consists of:
- واجب / فرض (farḍ/wājib) - Compulsory, obligatory
- مستحب (mustaḥabb)/Sunnah) - recommended, also known as fadilah, mandub
- مباح (mubāḥ) - neither obligatory, recommended, disliked, nor sinful (neutral)
- مكروه (makrūh) - disliked, abominable (abstaining is recommended)
- حرام (ḥarām) - sinful (abstaining is obligatory)
Emergency conditions and public affairs
Religious precepts may be relaxed under certain extraordinary conditions. For example, although Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan, it is not only acceptable but recommended for an ill man to break his fast if fasting will worsen his illness.
The Islamic commandment for a society may become different from the one for an individual, considering the social and public aspects of certain actions.
There are three types of pentad:
- Primary commandments, in the normal condition, for personal affairs
- Secondary commandments, in the emergency condition (Arabic: اضطرار), for personal affairs
- State commandments, for public affairs
- Islamic Legal Interpretation, Harvard University Press, 1996.