Hierarchy of Valuation in Islamic Law

Item 1 from the following list is haram (harām); there is no term corresponding to halal (halāl), with the implication that (2) – (5) are strictly speaking permitted. See the explanation below for further clarification on the distinction between the lawful and the unlawful and the degrees thereof in the context of this webpage.

1. Forbidden (هرام)

2. Reprehensible (مكروح)

3. Neutral (مباح)

4. Recommended (مستحب)

5. Required (واجب)

UK Islamic Finance Law concerns itself

  • primarily with prohibitions (1) and obligations (5),
  • secondarily and only where relevant with the degrees of moral approbation or disapprobation (2-4).

Unlike with religious and ritual duties the positive obligations (5) are few in commercial or contractual contexts where every obligation is conditional (upon entering into contractual relations). At the same time an obligation is no less absolute having been incurred voluntarily. (1) and (5) may be collapsed into one category as any prohibition may be rephrased as an obligation (to refrain from x), and any obligation may be rephrased as a prohibition (on failing to undertake a certain action y).

An example of the difference between the primary and secondary importance accorded legality and morality respectively here is that between usury and interest-free loans.

a) The primary point would be that paying or charging interest on a loan (selling money, or loaning money at a price) is prohibited by Islamic law.

b) It would also be relevant  to observe that there is no prohibition against giving or taking an interest-free loan (the rule against usury does not apply)

c) And for the secondary point it would also be relevant in understanding and delineating the rule at (a) to point out that the provision of interest-free loans to a person in need is not only lawful but laudable at Islamic law.

  • The secondary addition reveals that the primary point (the rule) is not one against transferring money to another for some purpose (without countervailing consideration or services being rendered) but rather that doing so produces an illegitimate and unlawful gain if interest is charged/paid.