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Islamic Law and the Five Categories of Behavior

QUESTION: Islamic Law and the Five Categories of Behavior


The Islamic Shari’ah, as classically expressed, defines five categories of human behavior: that which is commanded, recommended, indifferent, disapproved, and forbidden.
  1. Those acts that are commanded are required or obligatory. Disobedience is worthy of punishment (in this life and the next) and obedience is rewarded in eternity. These would include the five pillars of Islam as well as participation in jihad.
  2. Those acts that are recommended are deemed commendable, but not required. Although failure to do them is not punishable, accomplishing recommended acts is worthy of reward (usually in paradise, though social commendation can be significant in this life). These include charitable acts above and beyond those commanded, extra prayers or fasting, and other good deeds.
  3. Those acts that are forbidden are prohibited. To do them is to be worthy of punishment (most often in this life). To avoid them is to be worthy of reward (most often in paradise). Thievery, sexual immorality, and drinking wine are among the forbidden acts.
  4. Those acts that are disapproved are discouraged to one degree or another. While doing them does not result in punishment, avoiding them may be worthy of reward in the afterlife. Many Muslims believe divorce is in this category.
  5. Those acts that are indifferent are without either positive or negative consequences. Neither doing them nor refusing them gains punishment or reward.


Rendered with permission from the book,Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews(Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

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