The word “haram” is frequently used amongst Muslims, and it means “forbidden” or “unlawful.” However, Muslim communities around the world have gotten into the habit of using this word too often, making it a quick way to dismiss many things without thinking critically about them.
This happens for multiple reasons, such as hearing from others that something is forbidden, assuming or believing it to be accurate, and passing it on. Then it becomes a common myth in society, like the ones we were told growing up, such as not swallowing your gum because it takes seven years to digest or cracking your knuckles too much would lead to arthritis.
Perhaps the more common reason for calling too many things haram is that its legality is unclear and disputed among Muslims, so it is “better to stay on the safe side.” As a result, many Muslims take part in a culture that believes “everything is haram until Allah (SWT) makes it halal (lawful/allowed)” rather than vice versa, as the Quran holistically demonstrates.
In this article, we will explore why Muslims use the term haram so liberally, what it means to label something haram, and what is defined as haram.
The term haram is used so liberally amongst Muslims that it is often used as a catch-all term for disliked or questionable things. This leads to people labeling things as haram that are not forbidden. Many Muslims participate in a culture that believes everything is haram until proven otherwise. This mindset is problematic because it leads to unnecessary restrictions that are not based on the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah.
Muslims tend to use the term haram so liberally because they hear from others that something is forbidden and assume or believe it to be true. This creates a chain reaction where misinformation is spread, and people start to think things are haram when they are not. This problem is compounded by the fact that many Muslims do not take the time to research the source of information or verify it against the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah.
Another reason why Muslims tend to use the term haram so frequently is that its legality is often unclear and disputed among Muslims. In these cases, it is “better to stay on the safe side,” and people will label something haram out of caution. However, this approach can lead to unnecessary restrictions and limitations that are not based on the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah.
The Real Meaning of Haram
Defining something as haram implies that Allah (SWT) has deemed it unlawful. However, many things we are told are haram have no proof in the Quran and Hadith. Labeling something religiously illegal or lawful without careful consideration and understanding Allah’s (SWT) words is very dangerous. It should be avoided at all costs, as the Quran tells us:
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ كَذَّبَ بِآيَاتِهِ ۗ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“Who is more transgressing than one who fabricates lies about God or denies His revelations? For certain, the transgressors will not succeed.” [6:21]
“Say, ‘Have you seen what God has brought down to you of provisions, of which you have made some unlawful and some lawful?’ Say, ‘Did God give you permission, or are you fabricating lies about God?’” [10:59]
“Do not utter lies that are portrayed by your tongues: ‘This is lawful, and that is unlawful,’ to fabricate lies and attribute them to God. Those who fabricate lies and attribute them to God will not succeed.”