[An explanation to Surah al-Ma’idah ayaat 3 – 5]
Things good, pure, clean and delightful are called “At-Tayyibat”; and in contrast, “Al-Khabaith” is used to denote things which are evil and disgusting. Therefore, this sentence of the ayah stresses that everything good, pure and beneficial has been made lawful for human beings and everything disgusting and harmful has been made unlawful. The reason is that human beings are not like animals whose purpose of life is limited to eating, drinking, sleeping, waking – being no more than a sort of live-die cycle. Nature has made them the master of the universe for some special purpose and that cannot be achieved without having high and pure morals.
The Qur’an calls immoral human beings cattle rather more astray than cattle [Surah al-A’raf 7: 179].
If we accept that the humanity of human beings depends on the betterment of their morals, it will become necessary to concede that they must be made to abstain from everything which leads to the corruption of human morals. Everyone knows how environment and society affect human morals. When things outside can do that to human morals, imagine what would be the effect of things which go inside the human body for what becomes a part of the human body must affect its ethical behavior. Therefore, caution must necessarily be observed in all foods and drinks. And let us keep in mind that unlawful income from theft, robbery, bribery, interest, gambling and evils like that, once it becomes part of anyone’s body, will inevitably remove one farther from humanity and nearer to Shaytanic nature.
Things declared evil by the Shairah are agents of corruption for the human body or the soul or both. Since they are dangerous for human life and morals, they were made unlawful. As opposed to this, good things, the ‘Tayyibat’ contribute to the nurturing of the human body, soul and morals – so, they were made lawful.
Now, as to which things are pure, beneficial and desirable and which others are impure, harmful and disgusting, the real decision of the matter lies with the desire and aversion of one’s inherent good taste. This is the reason why animals declared unlawful by Islam have been considered impure and disgusting by people of good taste during every period of time – for instance, carrion and blood.
Nevertheless, there come occasions when custom-based ignorance overpowers good taste and when the fine line between good and bad fades out. Or, the evil in some things is concealed. In such situation, the decisions of the Prophets, peace be on all of them, is the guiding and binding authority for everyone. The reason is that the Prophets are the foremost in common sense, decency, goodness and taste among human beings. They were specially gifted by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala with an intrinsically sound and balanced nature and He Himself took the responsibility of their nurturing and grooming. So the things that they took as evil are really evil and what they called “tayyab” is really good.