Al-Maidah · Juz 7 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 87 – 88

Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn Abbas radhiAllahu anhu said, “Ayah 87 was revealed about some of the Companions of the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam who said, `We should cut off our male organs, abandon the desires of this life and travel in the land, just as the Ruhban (monks) do.’ When the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam heard of this statement, he summoned them and asked them if they made this statement and they answered ‘Yes.’ The Prophet said,

لكِنِّي أَصُومُ وَأُفْطِرُ، وَأُصَلِّي، وَأَنَامُ، وَأَنْكِحُ النِّسَاءَ، فَمَنْ أَخَذَ بِسُنَّتِي فَهُوَ مِنِّي، وَمَنْ لَمْ يَأْخُذْ بِسُنَّتِي فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي

‘I fast and break my fast, pray and sleep, and marry women. Whoever follows my Sunnah is of me, and whoever abandons my Sunnah is not of me.’” Ibn Abi Hatim also collected this hadeeth.

It is recorded in the two saheehs that A’ishah radhiAllahu anha said that some of the Companions asked the wives of the Prophet about the acts of worship that he performed in private. One of them said, “I will not eat meat,” another said, “I will not marry women,” while the third said, “I will not sleep on the bed.” When the Prophet heard this statement, he said,

مَا بَالُ أَقْوَامٍ يَقُولُ أَحَدُهُمْ كَذَا وَكَذَا، لكِنِّي أَصُومُ وَأُفْطِرُ، وَأَنَامُ وَأَقُومُ، وَآكُلُ اللَّحْمَ، وَأَتَزَوَّجُ النِّسَاءَ، فَمَنْ رَغِبَ عَنْ سُنَّتِي فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي

“What is the matter with some people who said such and such I fast and break the fast, sleep and wake to stand to pray, eat meat, and marry women. He who is not pleased with my Sunnah is not of me.”

In these ayaat, we are being told not to make something unlawful which has been made lawful by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لاَ تُحَرِّمُواْ طَيِّبَـتِ مَآ أَحَلَّ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَلاَ تَعْتَدُواْ

“O you who believe! Make not unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful to you, and transgress not.”

The word tuharrimu is from the root letters ha-ra-meem i.e. haram. Tahreem is to make something unlawful, sacred, or inviolable. There are three types of tahreem.

One is khabar. Khabar means information. For example a person who doesn’t know much about Islam and he is informed that eating camel meat is haram. The informer may not have forced the person to stop eating camel meat but by giving the information that it is haram, he has made that person give up eating camel meat. Similarly, if someone asks us about an ingredient whether it is haram or halal and we tell them it’s haram without proper research or basis then we are making lawful haram.

The second type of tahreem is insha i.e. a person declares and makes something haram. He is giving a hukam or passing a law. In the first one, you’re informing someone. In the second type you’re passing a law or forcing someone. For example, in Makkah the pagans had made a she-camel which gave lot of offsprings sacred. They had gifted that camel to the gods. In a Muslim community, someone can pass the law that seafood is haram while Allah made it halal.

The third type of tahreem is making an oath of abstinence. For example, a person declares never having a certain type of food again while that food item may be halal.

When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given some commands, don’t transgress them. We must stay within our bounds because we are servants we are not the Law Maker. Similarly, “do not transgress” also means not exceeding the bounds of halal. For example, eating meat is halal but don’t eat too much. Only use of it what satisfies your need and do not fall in extravagance.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah al-A’raf ayah 31,

وكُلُواْ وَاشْرَبُواْ وَلاَ تُسْرِفُواْ

“And eat and drink but waste not by extravagance.” and, in Surah al-Furqan ayah 67, He says,

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَنفَقُواْ لَمْ يُسْرِفُواْ وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُواْ وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ قَوَاماً

“And those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor miserly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).”

So Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala legislated a medium way between those who are extreme and those who fall into shortcomings, and it does not allow excessive application, nor lack of application. This is why Allah said here,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ

“Verily, Allah does not like the transgressors.”

Who are the transgressors? Those who exceed the limits of Allah.

Ayah 88

In ayah 88, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says eat everything but then puts a condition,

وَكُلُواْ مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمُ اللَّهُ حَلَـلاً طَيِّباً وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ الَّذِى أَنتُم بِهِ مُؤْمِنُونَ

And eat of the things which Allah has provided for you, lawful and good, and have Taqwa of Allah in Whom you believe.

The condition is eat everything that is halal and tayab. It means food that it shouldn’t be pork or alcohol. Halal also means food earned through lawful earning. It should be clean, healthy and beneficial food.

And fear Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in all your affairs, obey Him and seek His pleasure, all the while staying away from defiance and disobedience of Allah.


– We learn about the prohibition of making halal haram. Allah alone has the authority to make something halal or haram even the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam was not allowed to do that. Some people out of piety make things haram upon themselves. For example, some people say I’ll not look after myself. I will shun the pleasures of dunya. I will stay away from adorning myself. This comes under self-annihilation and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala prohibits this.

He says in Surah al-A’raf ayah 32, “Say: Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good [lawful] things of provision? Say: They are for those who believe during the worldly life [but] exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection.” 

Similarly, He says in Surah an-Nahl ayah 116, “And do not say about what your tongues assert of untruth, ‘This is lawful and this is unlawful,’ to invent falsehood about Allah. Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed.”

– If a person has some allergies or has been advised by the doctor to stay away from a certain food then that’s permissible but again there should be a genuine reason.

– In our deen there is no concept of monasticism. Monasticism is leaving something out of extreme piety. Not socializing at all. Not eating food or drink. Monasticism is an innovation.

– Moderation should be observed in consuming and enjoying the halal things as well. Extravagance is disliked. We have a tendency of going to extremes. Moderation is that body likes good things but our hearts are not attached to it. For example, someone who likes eating is thinking about food and grocery shopping the entire day.

– Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala doesn’t like people who transgress whether it is against Allah or the people. Allah ta’ala has given us certain limits and we are not following them, we are becoming the law maker. When we tell others such and such thing is haram without any basis then we are making their lives difficult. We should care about ingredients but also “learn” about them before we pass judgments. Research and educate yourself.

– We learn about the favor of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that He has made the good things lawful for us, He could have made the clean and pure unlawful for us like He did for Bani Israel as a punishment.

– There is no peity in being a vegetarian, dairy-free food unless someone is really advised by doctor. This is israaf, wasting food. Some people only like meat and they don’t like vegetable. Some people only eat rice and not wheat bread. Is that going to make you pious? No it is not. Moderation is the key. Eat whatever Allah has made halal and tayab. The Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam observed moderation. He was not picky when it came to food. He never passed judgment. He chose halal and tayab for himself whether it was meat, vegetable or milk.

The mother spends so much time preparing food and the children say “yuck” that’s ingratitude. Therefore, we should teach our children the wisdom of halal and tayab and gratitude as well. If we remember all the people in the world who are hungry today, then whatever is before us we will eat it happily.

– When a person eats in moderation from all the food groups he remains healthy. When he doesn’t eat in moderation or skips one food group that’s when one falls sick. People who do not eat meat because they are compassionate towards animals should show compassion for the plants as well. Whatever Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has made permissible is fit for our consumption and we should consume it as an expression of our shukr. He taught us the way to be compassionate towards animals and that’s how we raise them or how we slaughter them.

[SOURCE: Tafseer Ibn Katheer/Lecture of Taimiyyah Zuberi]


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