How to declare that something is Halal or haram? A lot of Muslims want to know the answer to this question. They want to get a clear opinion from religious scholars about various issues important in their lives. This question is perhaps one of the most sensitive ones as our ancestors were extremely careful in issuing fatwas about various things or giving their opinion about any religious matters.
In modern-day times, people often do fatwa shopping. They try to seek fatwas or religious decrees from religious scholars for what they are looking for. They often pick the opinions of Ulemas or religious scholars which are more relaxed and easy to follow and suit their interests as well.
Imam Malik ibn Anas is the namesake of the Maliki madhab, one of the four great schools of Islamic fiqh (the science of the application of the Shari’a). He was born in Madinah in 712 CE/ 93 AH and died in 795 CE/179 AH. He spent his entire life in Madinah and was raised in a scholarly family and environment.
Imam Malik scrupulously followed the Qur’an and Sunna and tremendously feared giving an incorrect fatwa. He told his student Ibn al-Qasim, “I have been reflecting on one question for some twenty years and even now I do not have an opinion on it.” He became famous for saying, “I don’t know:”
Unlike many today who throw around the words haram and Halal easily and issue fatwas without the proper credentials, Imam Malik displayed an immense reservation in this regard:
Nothing is harder for me than when I am asked a question about the Halal and the haram because this is absolute in the judgment of Allah. I met the people of knowledge and fiqh in our land and if one of them was asked such a question, it was as if death were dearer to him. But I see the people of this time desiring to discuss it and give fatwa. If they had understood what it is that they are heading for Tomorrow, they would have done little of this…
The people of our time now pride themselves in their fatwas and the knowledge they have. It was not the way of the people nor of those who passed away before us who are followed and whom Islam is based to say, “This is Halal and this is haram”: they would say, “I dislike this” and “I think this.” But as for the Halal and the haram, that is inventing things against Allah.
I have heard the words of Allah: “Say: ‘Tell me, what do you think about the things Allah has sent down to you as provision and which you have then designated as lawful and unlawful?’” (10:59) because the Halal is what Allah and His Messenger have made Halal and the haram is what they have made haram.”
The Quranic verse quoted above is a clear indication that we should solely base our opinions as Allah and His Prophet (pbuh) asked us to do and no more than that.
There are some Halal certification bodies in different parts of the world that, unfortunately, issue fatwas without taking into account what the divine decrees say about a particular aspect. The Muslims involved in any Halal business have to be conscious in declaring whether anything is Halal or Haram. We must remember that Allah, the Lord of the World, has not given any of His creatures the power or authority to make anything Halal and Haram. Not even His beloved Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has the sole right to do so.