Al-Maidah · Juz 7 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 103

Baheerah, Sa’ibah, Waseelah and Haam

In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is negating the rituals that some people had innovated. He says,

مَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ مِن بَحِيرَةٍ وَلاَ سَآئِبَةٍ وَلاَ وَصِيلَةٍ وَلاَ حَامٍ وَلَـكِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ يَفْتَرُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ الْكَذِبَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمْ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ

“Allah has not instituted things like Baheerah or Sa’ibah or Waseelah or aHaam. But those who disbelieve invent lies against Allah, and most of them have no understanding.”

Baheerah was a female camel whose milk was spared for the idols and no one was allowed to milk it.

Sa’ibah was a female camel let loose for free pasture for the idols, and nothing was allowed to be carried on it.

Waseelah was a female camel set free for the idols because it had given birth to a she-camel in its first delivery and then another she-camel at its second delivery. They used to set such camel free if she gave birth to two females without a male between them.

Haam was a male camel which would be freed from work for the idols after it had finished a number of copulations assigned for it.

In addition to doing what was Shirk, these people were challenging the right of benefiting from the meat of an animal, or its milk, or riding it, declared permissible by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and placing their own restrictions on their being lawful or unlawful.  Not only that but they took these polytheistic customs of theirs to be the source of attaining the pleasure and nearness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

The truth was that Allah had never appointed these customs. If their elders did it, they fabricated lies against Him, and the ignorant masses accepted them.

Abu Hurayrah radhiAllahu anhu said that the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said,

رَأَيْتُ عَمْرَو بْنَ عَامِرٍ الْخُزَاعِيَّ يَجُرُّ قُصْبَهُ فِي النَّارِ، وَكَانَ أَوَّلَ مَنْ سَيَّبَ السَّوَائِب

“I saw Amr bin Amir Al-Khuza`i pulling his intestines behind him in the Fire, and he was the first to start the practice of Sa’ibah.” Imam Ahmad recorded that Abdullah bin Masoud radhiAllahu anhu said that the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said,

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ مَنْ سَيَّبَ السَّوَائِبَ وَعَبَدَ الْأَصْنَامَ أَبُو خُزَاعَةَ عَمْرُو بْنُ عَامِرٍ، وَإِنِّي رَأَيْتُهُ يَجُرُّ أَمْعَاءَهُ فِي النَّار

“The first to start the practice of Sa’ibah and worshipping idols was Abu Khuza`ah, Amr bin Amir. I saw him pulling his intestines behind him in the Fire.” The Amr mentioned in the hadeeth is the son of Luhay bin Qam`ah, one of the chiefs of the tribe of Khuza`ah who were the caretakers of the House of Allah after the tribe of Jurhum, (and before the Prophet’s tribe, Quraysh). He was the first to change the religion of Ibraheem (Al-Khalil in Makkah) bringing idol worshipping to the area of Hijaz (Western Arabia). He also called the foolish people to worship idols and offer sacrifices to them and started these ignorant rituals concerning the animals as well as other rituals of Jahiliyyah.

In short, a two-pronged warning has been given here by saying that the way it is a crime to invite hardships in Divine injunctions by asking purposeless questions, similarly, it is much more serious a crime that one goes about proposing things as Halal or Haram based on one’s personal opinions and desires without the will and command of the Law-Giver. Allah did not legislate these invented rituals and He does not consider them acts of obedience. Rather, it is the idolators who made them into rituals and acts of worship that they used to draw near to Allah. But they did not and will not help them to draw near to Him, rather, these innovations will only harm them.


– A person should neither assume anything nor pass judgment without having knowledge. The Mushrikeen of Makkah innovated a practice on their own. They liked an animal and dedicated it to their gods. There was no such thing in the religion of Allah. Similarly, when someone asks us a question we are jumping to answer them. In hastening to answer the question we often give them an incorrect answer – an answer that is based on our judgment or opinion. For example, the matter of halal and haram. We don’t know all the things that are halal and haram but because we are so restless to give an answer we sometimes declare the halal items as haram and haram items as halal. When we don’t have knowledge about a certain matter we should either excuse ourselves or remain silent.

A group of people came to stay with Imam Malik for fifteen days. Every time they asked a question Imam Malik replied, “I don’t know.”

– Everything that is declared halal or haram must have evidence from Qur’an and Sunnah.

– A person who holds on to his opinion even though the Qur’an and Sunnah go against it then such a person has resemblance to the kuffar. When a person finds out that Qur’an and Sunnah say something other than his opinion on a certain matter then he should change his opinion.

[SOURCE: Tafseer Ibn Katheer, Marif-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]

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