Our religious responsibilities
Allah has given us many blessings. The most important of these blessings is intelligence. We distinguish right from wrong, and good from evil thanks to our intelligence. For this reason, intelligence and thinking are among the fundamental characteristics of human beings that distinguish us from other living beings. The blessing of intelligence brings along with it responsibility. That is because God, Who gave us these blessings, did not leave us alone and irresponsible.
He commanded the things that are beneficial and good for us and forbade the things that are harmful and bad for us. He held us accountable for some duties that enable our worldly and next-worldly happiness and He commanded us to perform those duties. Thus, these duties and deeds that we are commanded to perform or avoid are called “Religious Liabilities.”
When does one enter puberty?
The time of puberty in children occurs depending on the children’s body structure and the climate. In general, puberty takes place around age 12 to 15 for boys and age 9 to 15 for girls. After age fifteen, a boy or girl is considered mature and becomes responsible for obeying our beautiful religion’s commands and prohibitions even if the child doesn’t show the signs of puberty.
What Does Legally-responsible Mean?
The individuals who have reached the age of puberty and who are of sound mind and therefore responsible to obey our religion’s commands and prohibitions are called “legally- responsible” (mukallaf). Insane people and children who have not reached the age of puberty are not legally-responsible.
What are the acts of the legally-responsible?
There are certain rulings about the acts of legally responsible people. These are called “Af’al al-Mukallafin” or “the Acts of Legally-Responsible Persons.”
What are the terms that express religious responsibilities? The rulings about the acts of the legally-responsible are expressed with eight terms:
- 1. Obligatory (Al-Fardh)
- 2. Necessary (Al-Wajib)
- 3. Tradition (Sunnah)
- 4. Desirable (Al-Mustahabb)
- 5. Indifferent (Al-Mubah)
- 6. Disliked (Al-Makruh)
- 7. Forbidden (Al-Haram)
- 8. Disruptive (Al-Mufsid)
Obligatory/ Al-Fardh: These are the acts of worship that are definitely commanded to perform by our religion. For example performing five daily ritual prayers, fasting, and paying poor-due (Zakat) are obligatory. Whoever performs the obligatory acts gain divine rewards (thawab). Whoever does not perform them, short of a valid excuse, would be committing sin. If someone does not believe in even one of the obligatory acts or does not acknowledge that it is obligatory would abandon the religion of Islam.
Fardhs are of two kinds:
a) Obligatory on Individuals (Fardh al-Ayn):
These are the obligatory acts that each legally-responsible Muslim is tasked with fulfilling personally. For example, praying five times a day and fasting are obligatory on individuals (fardh al-ayn).
b) Obligatory on the Community (Fardh al-Kifayah):
These obligatory acts are fulfilled even if only some Muslims do them. In this case, the responsibility is lifted from other Muslims. If no one fulfills such obligatory acts, then all Muslims are responsible.
For example, when a Muslim passes away, if a group of Muslims performs the funeral prayer, the responsibility is being lifted from the entire Muslim community in that region.
Al-Wajib: These are orders that are determined through evidence that is not as definitive as the evidence for the obligatory acts. For example, performing Festival prayers (Salah al-Eid), giving alms to the poor in the month of Ramadan (Fitr), and sacrificing an animal during Eid-ul-Adha are necessary (wajib). As in the case of obligatory acts (fardhs), whoever performs the wajib acts gains divine rewards (thawab) and whoever does not becomes a sinner. However, while a person who denies a fardh abandons the religion, if someone denies a wajib, he or she does not abandon the religion.
Sunnah: These are the acts that are not among the obligatory and necessary ones, but they were performed by our Prophet and are advised for us. Traditions (al-Sunnah) are of two groups:
a) Emphasized Tradition (Sunnah Muakkadah):
Those are the traditions (sunnahs) that our Prophet would always perform and hardly ever missed. For example, parts of Morning (Dawn) Prayer (Salat al-Fajr), and Noon Prayer (Salat al-Zuhr), Sunset Prayer (Salat al-Maghrib), and Tarawih Prayer (Salat-al-Tarawih) are all sunnah Muakkadah. ( Translator’s note: Ritual prayers are composed of parts that are obligatory and non-obligatory)
b) Non-continuous tradition (Sunnah al-Ghayri muakkadah):
These are the acts or worship that our Prophet occasionally performed and sometimes did not. For example, the sunnah parts of the Afternoon Prayer (Salah al-Asr) and Night Prayer (Salah al-Isha’) are non-emphasized traditions (sunnah Ghayr mu’akkadah). One who performs the sunnah gains divine rewards (thawab),and in the hereafter, he or she would be blessed by the Prophet’s (blessings and peace be upon him) intercession. The one who abandons the sunnah would miss the opportunity to gain divine rewards (thawab).
Mustahabb: These are the acts that are good and nice to perform according to our religion’s general guidelines. They are also called “nafilah/ supererogatory” or “mandub/praiseworthy.” For example, Performing the mid-morning ritual prayer (Salat al-Duha), fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, giving nonobligatory alms to the poor (Sadaqah), and giving gifts to each other are Mustahabb. One who does these liked and appreciated acts gains divine rewards (thawab), and one who does not engage in them does not commit a sin.
Al-Mubah: These are the acts that people are free to do or not to do. When we perform an ordinary act, we do not gain any divine reward (thawab) and, if we do not do it, it does not incur any sin. For example, sitting, walking, or sleeping are all mubah acts.
Al-Makruh: These are the acts and behaviors that are not welcome and are considered bad in our religion. There are two kinds of makruh.
a) Makruh Tahriman (Disliked, but closer to Forbidden):
These are the acts that are forbidden even though not based on evidence that is not as strong as would warrant them to be haram (forbidden). One who performs this kind of Makruh becomes a sinner. For example smoking, not performing the Ritual Festival Prayers (Salatal-Eidain), and performing the Late Afternoon Prayer (Salat al-Asr) when it is almost sunset without an important excuse – rather than performing it on time – is all considered Makruh.
b) Makruh Tanzihan (Disliked, but closer to permissible):
Those are the acts and behaviors that are not considered nice in our religion. One who engages in this kind of Makruh would not be a sinner but nevertheless commits an act that is not nice. For example, cleaning one’s nose with his right hand is considered makruh tanzihan.
Haram (Forbidden Acts)
Haram: Those acts that are strictly prohibited by definite evidence by our religion. For example, killing a person without ajust cause, stealing, drinking intoxicating drinks, adultery, gambling, eating pork, rebelling against one’s parents, and gossiping are all haram. The one who performs haram is considered as having disobeyed God and commits a big sin. The ones who distance themselves from haram acts gain the love of God and divine rewards. The ones who deny that such acts are haram, or who consider them halal/permissible abandon Islam.
Mufsid: Those things that cancel or annul any worship (ibadah) that has already begun. For example, talking during prayer (salah) and taking any food-like substance or drinking while fasting. The worship that has been annulled should be redone.