One of the beauties of Islam is that it has prohibited only such things as are unnecessary and dispersible, while providing alternatives which are better and which give greater ease and comfort to human beings. This point has been explained by Ibn al-Qayyim:
Allah has prohibited seeking omens by drawing lots but has provided the alternative of istikhara (Islam teaches that if the Muslim faces a problem he should consult with others and seek guidance fAllah. The meaning of istikhara is to ask guidance from Allah in making a choice between two conflicting decisions. For this there is a salat and a du’a (supplication).) which is a supplication for seeking Allah’s guidance.
He has prohibited usury but has encouraged profitable trade. He has prohibited gambling but has permitted betting on forms of competition which are useful for their (the Muslims) religious striving, such as horse or camel racing and competing in marksmanship.
He has prohibited (to men) the wearing of silk but has given them the choice of other materials such as wool, linen, and cotton.
He has prohibited adultery, fornication, and homosexuality but has encouraged lawful marriage. He has prohibited intoxicating drinks in order that they may enjoy other delicious drinks which are wholesome for the body and mind. And He has prohibited unclean food but provides alternative wholesome food. (Rawdah al-Muhibbeen, p. 10, and A’alam al-Muwaqq’in, vol. 2, p.111.)
Thus, when we survey the Islamic injunctions in their totality, we find that if Allah limits the choice of His servants in relation to some things, He provides them with a still wider range of more wholesome alternatives in relation to other things of a similar kind. For assuredly Allah has no desire to make peoples’ lives difficult, narrow, and circumscribed; on the contrary; He desires ease, goodness, guidance, and mercy for them, according to His saying: Allah desires to make clear to you and to guide you to the ways of the (righteous) people before you and to turn to you in mercy; and Allah is Knowing, Wise. And Allah desires to lighten your burden, for man was created weak. (4:26-28)
6. Whatever Is Conducive to the Haram Is Itself Haram
Another Islamic principle is that if something is prohibited, anything which leads to it is likewise prohibited. By this means Islam intends to block all avenues leading to what is haram. For example, as Islam has prohibited sex outside marriage, it has also prohibited anything which leads to it or makes it attractive, such as seductive clothing, private meetings and casual mixing between men and women, the depiction of nudity, pornographic literature, obscene songs, and so on.
Accordingly, Muslim jurists have established the criterion that whatever is conducive to or leads toward the haram is itself haram. A similar principle is that the sin of the haram is not limited only to the person who engages in it but extends to others who have supported him in this, materially or morally; each is held accountable according to his share. For example, in the case of intoxicating drinks, the Prophet (peace be on him) cursed not only the one who drinks them but also the one who produces them, the one who serves them, the one to whom they are served, the one to whom the price of them is paid, etc. This point will be discussed again later. Again, in the matter of usury, the Prophet (peace be on him) cursed the one who pays it, the one to whom it is paid, the one who writes the contract, and the one who acts as a witness thereto. Accordingly, we derive the rule that anything which assists in the doing of what is haram is itself haram, and anyone who helps another person to do it shares in the sin of it.
7. Falsely Representing the Haram as Halal Is Prohibited
Just as Islam has prohibited whatever leads toward the haram, it has also prohibited resorting to technical legalities in order to do what is haram by devious means and excuses inspired by Satan. It has reprimanded the Jews for resorting to such practices. The Prophet (peace be on him) said: “Do not do what the Jews did in order to (technically) legalize Allah’s prohibitions by flimsy excuses.” (This hadith is in Ighathat al-Lahfan by Ibn al-Qayyim, vol. 1, p. 308. The author says: “This was reported by ‘Abdullah bin Battah on good authority, and al-Tirmidhi classifies a similar hadith as sahih.”)
This is a reference to the fact that Allah had prohibited the Jews to hunt on the Sabbath (Saturday). To get around this prohibition, they would dig ditches on Friday so that the fish would fall into them on Saturday, to be caught on Sunday. Those who resort to rationalizations and excuses to justify their actions consider such practices to be permissible, but the jurists of Islam consider them haram, since Allah’s purpose was to prevent them from hunting on the Sabbath, whether by direct or indirect means.
Calling a haram thing by a name other than its own or changing its form while retaining its essence is a devious tactic, since obviously a change of name or of form is of no consequence as long as the thing and its essence remain unchanged. Thus, when some people invent new terms in order to deal in usury or to consume alcohol, the sin of dealing in usury and drinking remains. As we read in the collections of ahadith,
A group of people will make peoples’ intoxication halal by giving it other names. (Reported by Ahmad.)
A time will come when people will devour usury, calling it “trade.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim )
And among the strange phenomena of our time is that people term obscene dance “art,” liquor “spirits,” and usury “interest.”