What does Makruh mean? What is the decree on Makruh? How many kinds of Makruhs are there?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Makruh is the name given to the deeds that are not religiously appropriate to be done, that are wanted to be abandoned, that are more appropriate not to do than to do.

According to the Hanafi madhhab, makruh is divided into two as makruh tahrimi and makruh tanzihi.

Makruh tahrimi is makruh that is close to haram like abandoning something wajib. It is thawab not to commit something that is makruh tahrimi; the person who commits it might be punished.

Makruh tanzihi is makruh that is close to halal like abandoning the sunnahs and adabs of prayer. There is no thawab for a person who abandons something makruh tanzihi, and there is no punishment for a person who does it; he is only condemned.

According to Shafii madhhab, there is only one type of makruh. It is what Shari’ah wants to be abandoned without being absolute and binding. A person who abandons it is praised and rewarded, and a person who does it is not blamed or punished.

After this short explanation, some general information about makruh is as follows:

Makruh is a term of fiqh methodology meaning the deed that Shari’ah wants in a manner that is not definite and binding not to be done.

The word makruh, which is derived from the root karh (kurh, karahah, karahiyya), which lexically means “to find something ugly/bad, to regard something as bad, not to want; hardship, trouble, difficulty, etc.” means “something that contains difficulties and problems, that is unpleasant, that is regarded as ugly and bad”. Some linguists say that “karh” and “kurh” mean the same but there also some linguists who say that there is a difference between them.

Karh refers to the hardship that a person has to endure as a result of external pressure while kurh refers to an unpleasant situation that he has to endure due to his own will. It is of two types: the issues that he dislikes due to his nature and that he does not approve in terms of reason or decrees of the religion. Therefore, when someone says, “I want this, but I regard it as karih,” for something, it is possible for him to mean, “I want it in terms of my nature, but I do not like it mentally or religiously” or just the opposite.

The word karih, which is derived from the same root, means “something that is considered ugly, unpleasant”, and ikrah means “to force someone to do a deed that he does not want and does not like”.

As the term of fiqh methodology, makruh is generally defined as “a deed that the Legislator (Shari’) does not want in a manner that is not definite and binding to be done”. In addition, the sections that deal with some haram, makruh and halal deeds in the books of fiqh are called “kitabul-karahiyya wal-istihsan”.

It is seen that the words derived from the root karh are frequently used with their lexical meanings in the Quran and hadiths.

The word makruh is used only in the following verse:

“Of all such things the evil is hateful in the sight of thy Lord.” (al-Isra 17/ 38)

In the previous verses, deeds that are considered unpleasant and hateful in the sight of Allah are listed as follows: killing children for fear of sustenance, approaching fornication, taking life, which Allah has made sacred, without a justified reason, spending the property of an orphan unjustly, not paying attention to measure and weight in trade, pursuing what one has no knowledge about and walking on the earth with insolence. (al-Isra 17/ 31-37)

It is seen that the word makruh and the verbs derived from the same root, which some of the early Islamic scholars used when describing the religious decree of a deed in the statements such as “It is makruh; I regard it karih”, are used for the things that are described sometimes with the term haram and sometimes with the words makruh in the established fiqh terminology.

In fiqh methodology, the Legislator’s demand from a person whether or not to do something or to let him free do it or not do it is dealt with according to five main possibilities under the title of “taklifu hukm”. The deeds that are demanded to be done definitely and in a binding way are expressed with the term wajib (fard), the deeds that are demanded to be done in a manner that is not definite and binding are expressed with the term mandub, those that are demanded not to be done definitely and in a binding way are expressed with the term haram, the deeds that are demanded not to be done in a manner that is not definite and binding are expressed with the term makruh and those that are free to be done or not to be done are expressed with the term mubah (permissible).

The address of the Legislator about the actions of individuals is considered as decree by the scholars of Shafii madhhab (mutakallimun) and the result of that address is considered as decree by Hanafi scholars (fuqaha); therefore, according to the former, the Legislator’s demand in a manner that is not definite and binding from an individual  not to do a deed (rendering it makruh) is a decree but according to the latter, the result of such an address (the deed’s being makruh) is a decree; however, in Arabic the word “karahah” is used to denote both meanings. On the other hand, for example, the address that demands the deed not to be done in a strictly and binding manner is called “tahrim”, and the result of that address is called “hurmah”.

Stating that the word makruh is used in different senses among fiqh scholars, Ghazzali explains them as follows:

1. In the sense of “rendered haram”. When Imam Shafii says, “I regard it as karih”, he means being haram.

2. In the sense of “forbidden as tanzihi”. In this sense, makruh is a concept stating that abandoning a deed is better than doing it even if it is not punished.

3. In the sense of “abandoning it is the best (tarkul-awla) though it is not forbidden”. For example, the reason why not performing duha prayer is considered makruh is not because there is a prohibition regarding the issue but because of the greatness of its virtue.

4. In the sense of “doubt and hesitation regarding its being rendered haram” like eating the flesh of predatory animals. However, makruhs in this sense are open to ijtihad. If a mujtahid’s ijtihad leads him to the conclusion that the deed in question is haram, it is haram for him but it is halal for the mujtahid whose ijtihad leads him to the conclusion that it is halal; in that case, there is no point in considering it makruh. However, if the opinion of the mujtahid with the opposite view forms a suspicion of being haram in the heart of the mujtahid, there is no harm in using the word karahah for that deed even if he thinks that it is halal. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

“Sin is what makes the heart feel disturbed.” (see Mustasfa, 1/66-67)

Those explanations of Ghazzali about the meaning of makruh were conveyed with similar expressions by the methodologists such as Fakhruddin ar-Razi, Sayfuddin al-Amidi, Ibnul-Hajib, Zarkashi and Shawkani. What is generally meant by the term makruh in fiqh methodology is the second of the meanings listed by Ghazzali, that is, those that are forbidden tanzihi. It is not an absolute prohibition in terms of religion, and indicates the states in which it is understood from the relevant evidence that it is better to abandon it than to do it. Zarkashi states that the states called “tarkul-awla (khilaful-awla)” were neglected by methodologists and were handled by fiqh scholars, but that the majority of them objected to describing them, most of which fall between karahah and ibaha, as makruh.

Studies aiming to determin the nature of makruh in methodological works are generally carried out over the discussions whether or not it is considered a prohibited act, whether or not it is a sin to commit it, and whether or not such deeds can be qualified as qabih/ugly; and the views and reasons expressed during the studies about the term mandub, which is regarded as the symmetry of makruh, are referred to. Mu’tazila scholars, on the other hand, define makruh as “a deed that contains any benefit if it is abandoned”. (Zarkashi, 1/296-303)

The Legislator’s demand from an individual not to do something without strictly forbidding it can be in different ways; the main ones are as follows:

1. Using the word “karahah” in a context that does not necessarily mean prohibition. For example, a verb derived from the root “karahah” is used in the last sentence of the following hadith of the Prophet: “Allah prohibited showing disrespect to mothers, burying daughters alive, preventing the right to be paid and asking for what is not deserved. He also regards it as makruh for you to spend time by conveying what others have said, to ask many questions and to waste your property. (See Darimi, Riqaq, 38; Bukhari, Zakah, 53; Muslim, “Aqdiya”, 10, 13, 14)

2. Despite the use of a prohibitive expression, the existence of other evidence (qarinah) showing that it expresses being makruh, not haram.

“O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (and traffic).” (al-Jumu’a 62/9)

The command “leave off business” in the verse above is actually an expression meaning “do not do business”, that is, prohibiting doing it during Friday prayer. However, other evidence and context show that this prohibition is not due to regarding doing business as bad, but preventing a person from performing Friday prayer.

3. Using an expression that encourages not doing a deed:

“The best mahr (or marriage) is the easy one.” (Abu Dawud, “Nikah”, 31)

The fact that the way of facilitating mahr in the hadith above is encouraged shows that it is makruh to go to extremes related to the amount of mahr.

According to the majority of fiqh scholars, committing a makruh deed does not necessitate punishment, but it is considered a deed that is condemned (that does not fit a Muslim); a person who abandons such deeds for the sake of Allah deserves praise and thawab.

As for Hanafi fiqh scholars, they tried to divide makruh into two parts as “tahrimi” and “tanzihi” and to determine its decree accordingly. Makruh tahrimi refers to the deeds that the Legislator demands not to be done in a definite and binding manner, but that this demand is confirmed by assumed evidence such as khabar wahid. Since this type of makruh is regarded as close to haram and symmetrical to wajib, it is stated that doing it will necessitate punishment just like abandoning wajib. Examples of makruh tahrimi are participating in the ongoing contract negotiations of others and making a new proposal, proposing marriage upon the marriage proposal of someone else because the Prophet (pbuh) wanted us in a definite and binding manner to avoid such deeds (See Bukhari, Nikah, 4; Muslim, Nikah, 38, 49) However, since this demand was based on khabar wahid, which is presumed evidence, the deed is considered makruh tahrimi, not haram.

Makruh tanzihi is a deed that the Legislator demands in a definite and non-binding manner not to be done; since it is considered close to halal, committing such a deed is condemned even if it does not necessitate punishment. A person who abandons it for the sake of Allah deserves thawab. An example of that kind of makruh is a person’s going to the mosque after eating things that smell heavy, such as raw onions and garlic. Such a conclusion is drawn from the warning of the Messenger of Allah regarding the issue (Bukhari, Adhan, 160; Abu Dawud, Atima, 41). (Ta’rifat, “Makruh” item)

Since the majority of fiqh scholars took into account the certainty and binding nature of the demand to abandon, not the certainty and presumption of the religious evidence regarding the issue, they named the act forbidden in a definitive and binding manner haram, and the act forbidden without a definitive and binding manner makruh. Therefore, apart from the fact that different concrete conclusions can be drawn as a result of the evaluation of the evidence regarding each event, makruh tahrimi in Hanafi terminology is considered haram by the majority of scholars, and makruh tanzihi corresponds to what the majority calls makruh. As an extension of this understanding, according to Hanafis, since wajib becomes certain based on conjectural evidence, its abandonment is regarded as makruh tahrimi. On the other hand, since this distinction is based on the criterion of the sufficiency and conjecture of the evidence, denial of haram necessitates unbelief but denial of makruh tahrimi does not lead to such a conclusion in terms of creed. It is reported from Muhammad b. Hasan ash-Shaybani, one of the Hanafi imams, that all makruhs (the word makruh when it is mentioned as absolute) indicate haram, and that makruh tahrimi expresses definite haram based on conjectural evidence, not closeness to haram. Although it is understood from those narrations that there is a fundamental difference of opinion between him and Abu Hanifa and Abu Yusuf regarding the issue, Ibn al-Humam claims that Shaybani’s main purpose is to emphasize that denial of the makruh tahrimi does not necessitate unbelief, and that there is no fundamental difference of opinion between them. (see Ibn Abidin, I, 438-439)

Shatibi argues that if it becomes habitual to do the deeds that are regarded as makruh when considered one by one, a general view should be made and that it should be considered within the scope of prohibition. He also emphasizes that there is a relationship of preparation and reminder between makruh and haram - just like between manduh and wajib - that a person who tries to avoid makruh will first of all try to keep away from haram. On the other hand, he draws attention to the fact that it is necessary for makruhs not to be equated with harams and mubahs in order to enable makruhs to be established as makruh; he states that the former might lead to the emergence of a belief that they are haram and that the latter that it is permissible. (Muwafaqat, 1, 133, 151-152; IV, 331-332)

Reminding that mujtahid imams sometimes use the term “karahah” (makruh) in the sense of “haram” because they are afraid of the word “tahrim”, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya states that some members of madhhabs who overlook this point describe such deeds as makruh rather than haram and consequently the view that makruh tanzihi and even tarkul-awla is in question has become widespread; thus, a great mistake has been made against religion and mujtahids. (I’lamul-Muwaqqi’in, I, 39-40)

When it is considered that some deeds are regarded as makruh by the Legislator (Zarkashi, Bahr, 1, 298) due to a worldly benefit (karahah irshadiyya) besides religious reasons, it is natural that there may be some deeds that are not welcome to be committed by a believer in all issues of worship and transactions. Such deeds are generally examined within each main topic in the books of fiqh practice: e.g., times when it is makruh to perform prayers, makruhs of prayer, makruhs of fasting. In addition, some deeds that are considered makruh due to any worldly benefit in issues such as eating and drinking, dressing, cleaning, male-female relationships and husband-wife relations and trading are handled separately in “karahiyya and istihsan” sections of the fiqh and ilm al-hal books and in the books of ethics and good manners. (See TDV. İslam Ansiklopedisi, Mekruh item)

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