On the authority of Abū `Abdullāh, an-Nuʽmān bin Basheer, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah ( say: “The lawful is clear, and the unlawful is clear, and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which many people do not know. So he who avoids doubtful matters has sought to clear himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters [then ] falls into the unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a private area, all but grazing therein. Undoubtedly, every sovereign has private property, and indeed, the private property of Allah is His prohibited matters. Undoubtedly, within the body is a morsel of flesh which, when it is good, the whole body is good; but when it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. Indeed, it is the heart.” (Narrated by al-Bukhāri and Muslim)The ḥadīth presents certain facts and a directive that is fundamental to the religion. First, the Prophet ( confirmed that what is purely ḥalāl (lawful) is recognized, and what is purely ḥarām (unlawful) has been mentioned distinctly by Allah, either in the Qur’ān or through His Messenger ( As He stated: “Allah makes clear to you [His law] lest you go astray.”37 These rulings are not subject to doubt and are generally known. But other matters are not widely known by the people or even agreed upon by the scholars, having been subject to differing interpretations and opinions. These “doubtful matters,” however, are not doubtful in the absolute sense, as shown by the words “which many people do not know.” Thus, it is understood that there are some scholars who do know the truth about each of these matters and that their reasoning is correct. For those who are uncertain, either due to doubtful evidence or confusion about whether or not a ruling applies to a particular situation, the Prophet ( advised prudence and caution, which is the essence of taqwā, 38 pointing out that it is preferable to avoid that whose permissibility is doubtful. Two reasons are cited by scholars: First, that the matter in doubt could be a means leading to what is clearly ḥarām, so that the person, when indulging himself, gradually lets down his guard and drifts into what is beyond doubt. And second, that one who embarks on what is doubtful to him might possibly be doing that which is actually unlawful a nd has been declared so by those who are knowledgeable about the matter.39.Thus, whoever avoids a matter about which 37 Sūrah an-Nisaa’, 4:176.38 See footnote no. 16 to Ḥadīth No. 2.39.
There are some who deliberately avoid religious knowledge, assuming that one cannot be held responsible for what he does not know, while in reality, wherever such knowledge is obtainable,he has misgivings has sought to clear himself, i.e., he has made an effort to earn the approval of Allah, so Allah will be pleased with him in regard to his religion. As for clearing his honor, it means that he will not have given anyone an opportunity to doubt him, think ill of him, or criticize his action. A person who is careless about falling into doubtful matters has been compared to a shepherd who allows his flock to approach a plot of land whose owner has warned of the consequences of trespassing. How can he possibly prevent his animals from breaking into that plot, especially when they are lured by green grass and lush vegetation? Hence, scholars have ruled that whatever might lead to ḥarām is also ḥarām, such as the improper dress and behavior that could possibly lead to an unlawful sexual relationship or the production, sale, purchase and serving of intoxicants, the consumption of which is ḥarām.The principle of a danger zone is thus established to protect the Muslim against the whisperings of Shayṭān and of his own soul.”Every sovereign” may mean a king or an owner. It is known that some among the Arabs used to designate for themselves and mark off a portion of land, issuing a public threat to punish or fight anyone who dared to cross into it. Allah (subḥānahu wa taʽālā)has issued warnings to those who would violate His injunctions and made clear the grievous consequences in the Hereafter if not in this life as well.The Prophet ( was aware that this directive of his would only be observed by those who revere Allah and fear His displeasure. Therefore, he tied it to the mention of the heart, as he said on another occasion, “Taqwā is here ,” pointing to his chest.40The ḥadīth shows that behavior is dependent upon the state of the heart, which is sometimes compared to a king who commands his subjects (i.e., the rest of the body).So when the heart is sound, the body will do good deeds, avoid prohibited ones, and even avoid those subject to doubt. But when the heart is corrupted and ruled by worldly desires, the body will not resist temptation and will be led into disobedience, easily convinced by numerous excuses, among them, ignorance.