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You Are Here: Knowledge Base Usool al-Fiqh

Situation of Compulsion that makes Haraam, Halaal

It is essential to differentiate between a case in which harm is expected on a false basis and a case in which there is some likelihood or certainty of it occurring. As for merely imagining things, this does not make it permissible to do something haraam on the basis of mere imagination. But with regard to certain harm, this is what makes it permissible to use the concession allowing one to do a haraam action. With regard to that which is fairly certain, this situation falls in between the two rulings, but it is more likely that it allows availing oneself of the concession.

The extent of harm which allows one to commit a haraam action is not the mild type of harm such as ... being kicked out of one‘s job; rather it is that which is not bearable such as harm and punishment that has to do with religious commitment, physical well-being, mental health and honour, and it is essential that the one who is making the threat to cause harm is able to carry out his threat, and that the one who is being persecuted is incapable of warding it off.

Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdisi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

The conditions of compulsion are three:

The first is that it comes from one who is able to cause harm because of power and authority or by means of overpowering one, such as the thief and the like. It was related from al-Shu‘bi that if a thief forces a man to divorce his wife, the divorce does not count as such, but if the ruler forces him to do that, then it does count as such. Ibn …Uyaynah said: because the thief may kill him, but the ruler will not kill him. [See: Musannaf …Abd al-Razzaaq, 11422.

What we referred to with regard to the issue of forcing has to do with all cases. Those who forced …Ammaar [to speak words of kufr] were not thieves, and the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said to …Ammaar: ’If they do it again (meaning the torture) then do it again (meaning saying the words that they forced him to say).“ And because this is compulsion, so a divorce done under similar circumstances does not count as such, as in the case where it is done under the compulsion of thieves.

The second condition is that he should think it most likely that the threat will be carried out unless he responds to the demand.

The third condition is that it should be the type of threat that could cause great harm, such as killing, severe beating, tying up and lengthy imprisonment. As for reviling and insults, these do not count as compulsion according to all scholars, and the same applies to the confiscation of a small amount of wealth.

As for lesser harm, if it is done to one who is not affected by it, then it is not compulsion. But if it is done to a person of dignity and status in a manner that undermines his position, puts him down and leads to the spread of bad rumours about him, then in his case it may be like severe beating in the case of someone else.

If a person is threatened with the torture of his child, it was said that this is not a type of compulsion because the harm is affecting someone else, but it is more appropriate to regard it as compulsion, because that is worse for him than taking his wealth. Threatening to take his wealth is regarded as compulsion, so this (threatening to torture his child) is the same. [Al-Mughni (7/292)]

Islam Q&A (adapted)