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Ahkam (aḥkām, Arabic: أحكام "provisions", plural of ḥukm (حُكْم)) is an Islamic term with several meanings. In the Quran, the word hukm is variously used to mean arbitration, judgement, authority, or God's will. In the early Islamic period, the Kharijites gave it political connotations by declaring that they accept only the hukm of God (حُكْمُ اللّهِ). The word acquired new meanings in the course of Islamic history, being used to refer to worldly executive power or to a court decision. In the plural, ahkam, it commonly refers to specific Quranic rules, or to the legal rulings derived using the methodology of fiqh. Sharia rulings fall into one of five categories known as "the five decisions" (al-aḥkām al-khamsa): mandatory (farḍ or wājib), recommended (mandūb or mustaḥabb), neutral (mubāḥ), reprehensible (makrūh), and forbidden (ḥarām). According to at least historical scholar of Islam (Joseph Schacht), the categories were developed in the third century of Islam (after 200 AH).[Note 1]
Five ruling types
Sharia rulings fall into one of five categories known as “the five decisions” (الأحكام الخمسة, al-aḥkām al-khamsa):
- farḍ/wājib (واجب / فرض) - compulsory, obligatory
- mustaḥabb/mandūb (مستحب) - recommended
- mubāḥ (مباح) - neutral, not involving God's judgment
- makrūh (مكروه) - disliked, reprehensible
- ḥarām/maḥzūr (محظور / حرام) - forbidden
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).
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The ḥukm shar‘ī (aḥkām) in its literal sense carries the meaning of a rule of Islamic law. Thus aḥkām (rules) is the plural form of ḥukm (rule), which means rule, command, the absolute, order, judgment, injunction, prescription, and decree. This rule could be a rule of any kind; it is to command one to delegate an order to another whether approval or disapproval. You could say that the moon is rising or the moon is not rising, or that fire burns. Technically, it is considered a rule of Islamic law. Āmidī (d. 631/1234) defines adillah as the science of the proofs of fiqh and the indications that they provide with regard to the aḥkām of the sharī‘ah. The ḥukm shar‘ī consists of four fundamental elements. These elements are: the Ḥākim (Lawgiver), the maḥkūm alayh (the subject), the maḥkūm fīh (the act of the mukallaf), and the ḥukm (ruling).
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 five categories` as such are as yet unknown to Shafi'i and his predecessors." Al-Shafi'i died in 204 AH.
- John L. Esposito, ed. (2014). "Hukm". The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Vikør, Knut S. (2014). "Sharīʿah". In Emad El-Din Shahin. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics. Oxford University Press.
- Schacht, Joseph (1959) . The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence. Oxford University Press. p. 133.
- Hallaq, Wael B. (2009). An Introduction to Islamic Law. Cambridge University Press. p. 20.
- Kayadibi, Saim (2017). Principles of Islamic Law and the Methods of Interpretation of the Texts (Uṣūl al-Fiqh). Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust. p. 106. ISBN 978 967 0526 33 1.
- Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi (26 March 2016). The Laws of Islam (PDF). Enlight Press. ISBN 978-0994240989. Retrieved 22 December 2017.