Are There Many Restrictions in Islam?
Nowadays, modern civilization tends to believe and pray to God yet live as per one's own will. Not just that, the people who are in practising religion like Islam are being condemned for being deprived of freedom and confined to a very 'disciplinary' lifestyle, as Allah Himself has mentioned in Surah Baqarah of verse 187: 'These are the limits set by Allah, so do not exceed them' and of verse 229: 'These are the limits set by Allah, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah, they are the ˹true˺ wrongdoers.' To these people, to live in absolute freedom is what a life is. If not, else the utmost meaning of life is under attack. The Islamic point of view regarding this respect is quite different.
From a human point of view, these disciplinary approaches of Islam may sound quite 'restrictive', but after having a holistic approach to the matter-in-question, one would come to know that these controls and disciplinary actions are to ease up the human experience with his life and others in this world and the hereafter.
The zoom-in approach of the world
As humans, we see things as per our ability and preparedness. Therefore, while looking at a thing, we would only pay attention to the things that we can evaluate and analyse from our perspective. Similar is the case with the restrictive/disciplinary approach of Islam. Allah is the Wise, and the Omniscient see things from an angle that humankind is unable to look at or to have any particular comprehension of. These things may not make any sense for a fleeting moment, but in the long run, these restrictive/disciplinary approaches would be turning points in one's success here and hereafter.
For instance, let's take a mother who tries to save her child from putting his hands on fire. Initially, the boy would not understand that the take was for his safety from the explosive fire. Instead, he would think his mother is trying to limit his boundaries and not letting him fly high. It is because the boy at the moment is thinking that what he was about to do a few minutes back was something he would have enjoyed if done, and now when his mother restricts him, he is deprived of his basic rights. But we - have gone through this stage- can comprehend what was better for the child and what not. The same goes with the knowledge and wisdom of Allah who is far-reaching in seeing things before the time and occurrence. Therefore, to question His prognosticate ordainments out of any proper knowledge and awareness would be of no value for money. In order to understand the subject, it would be worthy of understanding the concept of life in Islam.
Concept of life in Islam
In Islam there are two layers of life; material life and spiritual life. The prior one is temporary and mortal whereas the latter one is permanent and immortal. In material life a person would be evaluated with his demeanor and attitude towards decrees that Allah has ordained for human beings. So with every possible way, Allah would examine how obedient and submissive a person is towards putting things to the point Allah has instructed and refraining from things that Allah has restricted from. Though this worldly life is an assessment, the definition of this life with material objects and advantages has no meaning in the perspective of Islam. Rather, the life hereafter has always been hailed and urged to attain as it is the ultimate objective of this life to live the rest of life in Jannah with ease and peace after passing the trial with better grades.
As of this worldly life, there are several hadith and Quranic verses that designate how a Muslim or mu'min is supposed to live and what this world means to him in terms of gaining weightage in the life hereafter. In a verse, Allah the Almighty said:
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ
وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
(Every soul will taste death. And you will only receive your full reward on the Day of Judgment. Whoever is spared from the Fire and is admitted into Paradise will indeed triumph, whereas the life of this world is no more than the delusion of enjoyment.) (Holy Quran: 185/03).
Condemning the worldly life, Allah said in another verse:
زُيِّنَ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا وَيَسْخَرُونَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ۘ وَالَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا فَوْقَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ
(The life of this world has been made appealing to the disbelievers, and they mock the believers. Those who are mindful ˹of Allah˺ will rank above them on the Day of Judgment. And Allah provides for whoever He wills without limit.) (Holy Quran: 212/02).
In hadith, there are several instances where the Prophet ﷺ urged the Muslims to live life for the hereafter and pay no extensive attention to decorations of the world. In a hadith reported by Abdullah bin Umar (R.A.), the Prophet ﷺ said:
"كُنْ فِي الدُّنْيَا كَأَنَّك غَرِيبٌ أَوْ عَابِرُ سَبِيلٍ". وَكَانَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا يَقُولُ: إذَا أَمْسَيْتَ فَلَا تَنْتَظِرْ الصَّبَاحَ، وَإِذَا أَصْبَحْتَ فَلَا تَنْتَظِرْ الْمَسَاءَ، وَخُذْ مِنْ صِحَّتِك لِمَرَضِك، وَمِنْ حَيَاتِك لِمَوْتِك.
("Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a wayfarer." And Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say, "In the evening do not expect [to live until] the morning, and in the morning do not expect [to live until] the evening. Take [advantage of] your health before times of sickness, and [take advantage of] your life before your death."). (Saheel al-Bukhari 40).
The Prophet ﷺ upon being asked about the deed that Allah would love as well as the people would love, the Prophet ﷺ replied: "Renounce the world and Allah will love you, and renounce what the people possess, and the people will love you." (Ibn-e Majah).
The following hadith describes the inferiority of this material world and the supremacy of hereafter is the hadith narrated by Abu Huraira when the Prophet Muhamad ﷺ said:
الدنيا سجن المؤمن وجنة الكافر""
(The world is the believer's prison and the infidel's Jannah") (Riyad as-Salihin 469).
Here, it would be quite relevant to enquire how this world would become prison for Mu'mineen when they enjoy everything in this world? And how come this world is Jannah for infidels? Regarding this questions and explaining the meaning of this hadith, the interpreters have said that the this world would be prison for the Mu'mineen in a sense that when he would have any forbidden desires he would stop; when his tongue would want to talk something that wouldn't bring the contentment of Allah he wouldn't act on it, when his eyes would desire to look at forbidden sites he would put an act to it and in fact everything that his heart would ask him to do and it doesn't bring him closer to Allah he would refrain from it. At the same time, this world would be Jannah for infidels as they are free to do anything and they are not limited to any extent or boundaries, as they assume. But in Jannah the consequences would be vice versa. In addition, comparing to the blessings that a Mu’min will enjoy in the heaven, everything in this world is little and like a prison even he has rich material possession. For a non-believer, suppose he suffers various trials in this world, but it is like heaven comparing to the severe punishments that await him in the next world.
So, all these hadiths and Quranic verses are evident that this world has no meaning in the eyes of Allah and the life hereafter is the life that Muslims are supposed to work for in this world. In fact, in many other hadiths it has been mentioned that everything that has been prohibited here in the material life would be allowed thereafter in Jannah because there wouldn't be any assessment and evaluation for the deeds in the paradise. All this is because the objective of Muslims in this world is to worship Allah the Almighty as He Himself said in the Qur'an: وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ (I did not create jinn and humans except to worship Me.) (Holy Quran: 55/51) and pay no attention to any further unreasoned and unjustified allegations against Islam and its principal practices.
In Islam, every aspect of human life is governed by virtues and values. For every action, there is a specific mention that would either sanction its practice or ask to refrain from. For having this "disciplinary approach" it wouldn't be worthy to call Islam's principles or the way-of-dealing 'restrictive', rather it was the precautious approach that Islam took some fourteen hundred years back so that people in the upcoming generations would not find it difficult to cope with things. These disciplinary approaches are also to indicate that the utmost freedom would only be given to the Muslims in Jannah itself and this world is a place of assessment and evaluation for the hereafter. Therein what Allah ordained or prohibited in this world is just to ease up the experience of humankind in this world and nothing else.
The best example that would satisfy you to engulf this truth is the fact that when a phone company prepares its user manual for the phones and puts settings as per their will, nobody comes to condemn them and says they have restricted their user interface experience with their settings. It is because they know that whatever the phone company does on the phone is for the better experience of the customer and thus they don't ask any counter questions. So, we as Muslims don't dive into the wisdom of things, rather follow it knowing that when Allah has ordained it or asked us to refrain from it, it would have something to do with it. May Allah bless us to understand Islam better and stick to its teachings: Ameen.
About the author
Sirajuddin Shaikh is a PG research scholar at Darul Huda Islamic University, Kerala, India. His research areas include Islamic Studies, the Study of human behaviour, and Islamic Psychology
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily mirror Islamonweb’s editorial stance.