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Al-Ma'ruf and al-Munkar are two very commonly used terms in Islam. There meanings and depicts have been grossly misunderstood and variably misused. It is worth mentioning herein that these two terms of our discussion have no equivalent translation for them in English Language. But bringing close to our readers the referents any time they are used brought about this brief article.




Al-Ma'ruf is generally referred to in English to mean virtue, while al-Munkar is vice.  Although the said meanings come within the fold of both words, yet they go beyond them. The first, al-Ma'ruf, from the linguistic perspective indicates that which is known, understood, acknowledged, recognized, accepted etc. In that case it has to be known to the people and the society itself and accepted my them. From here the word "al-'urf" was derived, which means customs. Its meaning (i.e. al-Ma'ruf) in the Islamic context depicts anything that is known and accepted to be "good" by the unadulterated natural being of man.




In Islam, al-Ma'ruf is seen to be of different categories. These categories can be seen from the angle of being mandatory, recommended or merely permissible. The mandatory is the category of those al-Ma'ruf that are clearly and equivocally stated to be mandatory in the Qur'an and teachings of the Prophet peace be upon him. But the recommended is subdivided into strongly recommended and just recommended. The difference here is that the former has some commanding tone in its recommendation while the later was just recommended without commanding tone. The commanding tone here differs from that of the mandatory in that within the Qur'an or teachings of the Prophet peace be upon him another text exists on the same issue that makes it clear that the command tone used for it elsewhere was not a mandatory one, rather was a stressing emphatic command tone. The third category is the permissible one. Here it is either a text comes to state explicitly it is allowed or inferred from the actions of the Prophet peace be upon him or nothing at all of such, except that the matter falls within what is originally permitted without restrictions. This is the sphere within which we can legislate according to the demands of age, time and circumstances as well as remaining within the broad borders of the Islamic teachings.




The later (i.e. al-Munkar) linguistic meaning depicts something that is rejected and detested by the unadulterated natural mindset of mankind. But in the Sharria (Islamic Law) context, it encompasses all that is prohibited or disliked in Islam, notwithstanding the level of prohibition. This is subdivided into two categories: the "Haram" (the absolutely prohibited things) and "Makruh" (those that are simply disliked). Those that fall within the first categories are to be absolutely stayed away from, while the second are analyzed to know the level of abstinence from them. Some in this category are bordering around the first category, thus making the degree of abstinence weightier. On the other hand, there are others that border around permissible acts, just that they are like permissible acts that are wrongly attended to (i.e. in a prohibited manner).




This is the Islamic understanding of al-Ma'ruf and al-Munkar. Before any action is carried out or judgment is passed, these two terminologies must be well comprehended and implemented in the analyses of the said matter(s). This makes it necessary on every Muslim to have at least a fundamental understanding of the two basic terms around which the Islamic Sharria hovers its major legislation. With these the peaceful non crime engulfed society set up on Islamic Sharria is attained.


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