The Forgotten Element of Faith When Navigating the “Halal” and “Haram”

conscience navigating halal haram
Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash

It’s not easy to teach children. Whether someone is a parent, teacher, or some other caregiver of a child, they know that educating kids so they know right from wrong is a difficult job. It’s not only giving them a list of “things to do” and “things to avoid,” but trying to help them develop sound morals. That way, they learn to intuitively do and avoid certain actions without needing explicit instructions every time.

Life is like that after childhood, as well. Not everything will be black and white, spelled out for us. Sometimes there is a gray area, and it’s our choice how we handle that situation. Even if something is not “technically” wrong, we still know that it’s something to stay away from. Or if it’s not “officially” required, deep down, we know that we should do it anyway.

This is especially true when it comes to religious matters. It’s why Allah gave us a conscience rather than simply sending down a set of rules. Yes, we have those rules as well, but our conscience exists so that we will listen to it when the situation is doubtful. And we shouldn’t only listen to it so that we can gather good deeds or rest assured that we won’t be punished – it’s deeper than that. It’s about building a pure and sincere relationship with our Creator.

Our relationship with God shouldn’t be based on technicalities. It’s about love, loyalty, respect, and reverence.

I feel we would benefit so much (as individuals and as a community) from stepping out of the haram/halal box and thinking, “Is this helping or harming my relationship with Allah?” Obviously, the answer to that question partially does depend on whether that thing is allowed or forbidden in Islam. But there’s a lot that’s not technically required or prohibited, which we can choose to do or avoid in order to get closer to Allah.

And that can be hard, because it forces us to re-evaluate our priorities in life and think about how important our relationship with God really is to us. It’s not easy making sacrifices, forgiving people, changing our lifestyle, or giving certain things up. But if it brings us closer to our Creator, it’s more than worth it.

There’s a certain contentment that comes from being honest with oneself and listening to one’s conscience rather than shutting out its voice.

Like children who must be taught to listen to the voice they have deep down in their hearts, we also need to foster that intuition within ourselves. We have to build a level of taqwa (God-consciousness) within ourselves that surpasses the technicalities of halal and haram. Because our relationship with God shouldn’t be based on technicalities. It’s about love, loyalty, respect, and reverence. And honoring the presence of God, as we know He is always watching us.

A child might begin listening to his inner voice due to a fear that he has of being disciplined by his parents. Or perhaps he simply dreads disappointing them. Obviously, as adults, we don’t have that same level of accountability to our parents. For us, following our inner voice should be about not wanting to disappointing Allah. There’s a certain contentment that comes from being honest with oneself and listening to one’s conscience rather than shutting out its voice. And the greatest reward comes from earning the pleasure of God.

“When something weighs on your conscience, give it up.” – Prophet Muhammad (saws) [Narrated in Tirmidhi]

“The Day on which neither wealth will be of any use, nor children. But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.” [Qur’an 26:88-89]


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  • rashidpatch

    A bedouin came to the Prophet (s.a.s.) and asked how he could tell halal from haram. He had been given conflicting opinions, and he didn’t have time to spend in town studying – I have to take care of my flocks. The Prophet told him, “Consider what you are about to do. If you would regret doing it, or if you would be embarrased if people found out that you did it, it is haram. Everything else is halal” The man asked if that was all he needed to know, and the Prophet (s.a.s.) said yes. Some of the sahaba (r.a.), seeing this, asked Rasuulallah (s.a.s.) if that was really all he needed; the Prophet (s.a.s.) said, “If he follows that, he is safe from the Fire.” The point is, he did not give the man a list of “Thou shalt – Thou shalt not”s – he gave the man an a practice, an exercise to strengthen his conscience. Like every faculty, what is exercised is strengthened.