Hadith 6. Avoiding doubtful matters

On the authority Abi Ab’dillahi al-Nu’man ibn Basheer (ra) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: “That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear and between the two of them are doubtful [or ambiguous] matters about which not many people are knowledgeable. Thus, he who avoids these doubtful matters certainly clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor. But he who falls into the doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Verily every king has a sanctuary and Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibition. In the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be sound, all the body is sound and which, if it be diseased, all the body is diseased. This part of the body is the heart”.


[Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim]




Brief  commentary:


  • Abu Dawud said Islam revolves around 4 ahadith, with this being one of them
  • Upon hearing that halal and haram are clear, we should thank Allah as He has made it easy for us
  • The scholars say that the halal and haram mentioned here are the evidently clear halal and haram matters
  • There are many reasons why a matter may be doubtful, examples of such include:
    • An action being doubtful due to the person not understanding the ruling properly, therefore the deficiency is not in the ruling itself, but in the understanding of that person. In this example, the action is not doubtful to everyone, as it would be clear to the scholars.
    • Not knowing the background information behind the matter e.g. you hunt a bird by shooting it, but when you arrive, you see the bird dead in a pond and you are unsure if it died from being shot or it died from drowning (which would make it haram). In this example, the matter is doubtful to everyone as there is no way of ascertaining the truth.
    • A doubtful action which leads to a haram e.g. going out with friends who you know may lead you to sin. In this example, doing the action will not necessarily be haram, but due to the risk associated with it, you should avoid it.
  • Having ill-thoughts of someone is haram, but if someone always follows the doubtful matters e.g. always associates themselves with bad people, or is often seen in unpleasant places, then it isn’t haram to think that this person is doing haram as they have brought it upon themselves by not leaving the doubtful matters
  • The hadith finished off by talking about the heart, because if you go near the boundary, you will end up with a corrupt heart
  • Signs of a pure heart:
    • Considering oneself a resident of the hereafter
    • Continuously feeling upset until you repent from the sin
    • Feeling upset if you forget to read your daily recitation/dhikr as if you had lost something from the dunya
    • Finding greatest pleasure in worshipping Allah
    • When you begin prayer, everything from the dunya leaves your heart
    • Your only concerns and worries are with pleasing Allah
    • You are more stingy with wasting time than a stingy man with his wealth
    • You are very concerned with the correctness of your actions
  • Signs of a dead heart:
    • Feeling no pain/hurt once doing a sin
    • Finding pleasure in sinning and peace of mind after it
    • Looking into less important matters and prioritising them over important ones
    • Not finding comfort when around the righteous but finding comfort with timewasters
    • You are easily led into misconceptions and doubt, and you like to debate these issues
    • You are not affected by reminders/talks


  • Benefits and action points to take from the hadith:
    • Encouragement to do more good deeds
    • Discouragement from doing haram actions
    • Not all matters will be evidently halal or haram, so we should abstain from the doubtful matters so that we can be safe
    • Whoever doesn’t stay away from the doubtful matters has exposed himself for others to think badly of him/her
    • It is better to leave the doubtful matters even though they may be halal to ensure that the doors for haram are closed
    • When it comes to sins, if we are near the boundary, we will be like sheep who do not know right from wrong, so we should never approach the boundary i.e. approach doubtful matters
    • The heart is a very important part of the body which we should all seek to purify


24 thoughts on “Hadith 6. Avoiding doubtful matters

    1. Assalamu alaikum sister,

      The intention/desire to stay away from haram is a praiseworthy one so I ask Allah to make you firm on that.

      My advice for a person who is struggling to stay away from haram is to firstly, focus on your acts of worship and ensure you are fulfilling the obligations. Don’t waste your time struggling to stay away from haram whilst neglecting the obligatory acts of worship, particularly your 5 daily prayers. This is the first thing you will be asked about on the day of judgement. There is no hope for a person that avoids haram but doesn’t pray the 5 daily prayers, but there is a lot of hope for a sinner who doesn’t neglect their prayers. Furthermore, Allah says in the Qur’an that {prayer protects from falling into obscenities and evil} so the prayer is your best protection from falling into haram. If you are upholding the 5 daily prayers, yet still fall into a lot of haram, then make sure you are praying on time, and with a present heart, as it is this type of prayer that protects you, not the prayer where you are just moving from one position to another but your mind is in a different place.

      Prayer is your strongest protection from falling into haram, but other things that could help you are to constantly praise Allah, to always try and think about the hereafter and the ill-effects of your sins, to ensure youbhave righteous companionship, and to avoid having free time. Free time usually leads to sins so plan and fill your day with beneficial activities so that you are not sitting idle, and avoid staying up at night as this too usually leads to a person being alone and thinking no one is watching them so they sin.

      May Allah protecr us all from falling into sins and allow us to immediately repent whenever we sin

    2. Assalam alaikum , good day sister, always be in a state of purity by performing ablution, observe nawafil at your convenient times, recite holy Qur’an often or listen to it, adhkar, and islamic lectures. choose pious people as friends and move away from sinners. Allah know best. salam.

    1. Salaam. From what I read I understand that a Muslim should leave that which he/she has doubts about i.e leave that which you suspect may be unlawful. What about the opposite, so when you think something may be wajib or fard upon you but you’re not sure? As a simple example, in some countries they say that if a dog comes near you you must bathe i.e do ghusl. If a person lives in a time/place where they cannot clarify such things with a learned person/Islamic scholar, and doubts this ruling or is unsure of it, should he/she stay on the safe side and bathe every time a dog comes near (because he doubts his prayers being accepted otherwise) or should he not bathe? Especially because in some interpretations of this hadith we are encouraged to take what may be the more difficult path in order to be certain that we are correct (i.e. err on the side of caution). I would very much appreciate an answer to the principle (rather than the actual example), jazakallah.

      1. Walaikum assalam,

        Jazakillah khair for the beneficial question. The short answer, is yes, this principle does apply to the opposite, if a person is doubtful whether an action is obligatory or not, they should do it. However, this is the case when a person is doubtful. If a person is comfortable with a certain opinion (based on sound knowledge and understanding of the religion), and this opinion does not obligate an action, whereas other opinions do obligate it, this person is not required to carry out the action to comply with this hadith, as he is certain, whereas this hadith is talking about doubt. Having said that, Islam was legislated with ease for the people and Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear. If a person is doubtful of a matter whether it is obligatory or not, and if they take it to be obligatory, it would cause a great burden on them, then this person should exert their efforts to try and understand the matter properly and remove the doubt. If they find themselves in a situation where they cannot remove the doubt and are still doubtful on the matter, the best thing for them to do will depend on their circumstances. If they can carry out the action without much difficulty and without it affecting them negatively in the long run, then they should do it to be on the safe side, and this is the (reverse) understanding of this hadith. However, if the matter will bring difficulty to them, then they are not required to perform the action (if there are valid opinions that say it is not obligatory). This is because leaving the doubtful is from the higher levels of eeman, and is an act of perfectionism, so doesn’t need to be acted upon if it will cause much difficulty for a person as this goes against the essence of Islam.
        I hope this makes sense. Please try to study the matter more to remove the doubt, and if not, make sure you look the matter from a long-term perspective, and make the decision which appears to be best for your eeman, whether it is to take the easier route, or to take the perfectionist route of leaving the doubtful.

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