Why are there so many Restrictions in Islam?

What is right after all?

Why are there so many restrictions in Islam?

Mufti Muhammad Qasim Attari

Atheists and Islam’s critics raise the objection that Islam has placed restrictions on the smallest of things. These restrictions relate to, for example, dress code, food, how to walk, how to sit, how to use the bathroom and clean yourself after answering the call to nature even, as well as other prohibitions. Hence, Islam micromanages. The proponents of such a claim argue that it is the right of people to have as much freedom as they want; to be bound by restrictions is equal to taking away freedom.

As sound as these words may appear, they are in fact detrimental to human life. Islam claims to be a complete code of conduct for life, and a code of conduct is essentially a series of restrictions. In other words, a code of conduct is referred to as a set of rules and regulations. If regulations are not in place, will this result in freedom or lawlessness? Anyone can reflect on this matter and understand the consequences. Human society cannot function without regulations and restrictions. Business, borrowing, lending, clothing, and living all have their own regulations.

Here are some examples:

Even a person travelling just one or two miles in a car for five minutes is subject to regulations at every step of the journey. For example, the driver must ensure that the car is free from certain faults, ensure all the passengers are wearing seatbelts, have a driving license, ensure the number passengers do not exceed a certain amount, stop at red lights, only drive on the right or left side of the road depending on the country’s regulations, and adhere to speed limits. In this case, will anybody object and say, “It will only take me five minutes to reach home, but these restrictions have made this short journey extremely difficult. So many rules have been imposed on us that we can’t even drive our own cars as we please. Those in charge are forcing their will on our personal rights. Our fundamental rights have been forcibly taken from us, and this is against our individual freedom. Only the country that has freedom and no laws and restrictions is a good country. A person should be able to drive on the road whatever car he wishes with as many passengers as he wants. Even a child should be allowed to drive. There should be no speed limit. There should be no restrictions on driving on the left or right side of the road. Stopping at red lights should not be mandatory. There should be total freedom!” Just ponder on these words for a moment; they would even make a 10-year-old child laugh.

Moving away from national laws, let us look at regulations linked to employment. For example, if we look at professional institutes, we see that there are many rules in place. For example, you must arrive by a certain time, your uniform should be a certain colour, you must wear a particular tie and shoes, every employee must have their ID card on them at all times, you must log the time you enter and leave, you are not permitted to use the internet, you cannot read newspapers during working hours, you cannot speak about politics, you cannot meet relatives in the office, you cannot answer personal phone calls, and you cannot speak loud. However, we never hear anyone complaining in such circumstances claiming, “There are so many restrictions concerning every little matter, whereas a good workplace is one where the employees have freedom; an employer should only be concerned with employees doing their work and leave everything else. These rules concerning food, drink, arriving, leaving, and speech suffocates workers.” Anyone with such a mindset would probably be barred from entering that place, let alone be employed by them.

Let us take a look at another example: if a person builds a house in the middle of the road and then claims, “This is Allah’s land, and I can build a house wherever I wish to,” will rules and restrictions not apply in this case? Houses cannot be built in the middle of the road, and even when they are built in their permitted areas, rules still apply. For example, the house can only have a certain number of storeys, and such-and-such amount of land must be left around the house. As a matter of fact, a house cannot even run properly without rules and guidelines. If a 10-year-old child states that the house will run according to what he says, will such a house run smoothly, and will what the 10-year-old says go, or will what his father says be given priority?

Every intelligent and rational person can understand that in order for a country, institute, society or family to function properly, it is necessary to formulate and adhere to countless restrictions, i.e. laws. It is these restrictions which produce civilised people. If a country or institute utilises its authority to ensure people are law-abiding even in the smallest of matters, then why would the creator and master of all humans not give people guidance concerning all matters of life for their own betterment and to make them good humans?

Allah Almighty states in the Quran:

یُبَیِّنُ اللّٰہُ  لَکُمْ اَنْ تَضِلُّوْا ؕ

Allah clearly relates ˹His commands˺ to you lest you go astray.[1]

As long as human society does not comprise of wild animals, it will remain bound to certain regulations. It is rules and regulations which distinguish human society from the law of the jungle. There is only one law in the jungle: the one who has power will have his way, and whoever has influence somewhere will exert his influence. For example, the lion hunts those that are weaker than it, and the elephant does as it wills to those it has power over; such is the jungle.

On the other hand, human society has limits, boundaries, rules and regulations. It is these rules and regulations which are a sign of humanity. The one who asserts that there should be no rules, he should leave human dwellings and head towards the jungle. The statement that “Religion has placed restrictions in every matter” is merely one interpretation. You can refer to them as restrictions, or as guidelines, teachings, rules and regulations. The teachings of Islam are like a compassionate parent who teaches their child the proper manner of eating, drinking, standing, sitting, walking, speaking, etc. Hence, these “restrictions” are in reality a means of teaching and guiding. Only a foolish person will state that such parents are unjust and have taken away their child’s freedom.

Another point to note is that it is the minor restrictions which make life pleasant. For instance, when the fine details pertaining to things such as eating, drinking and manners are taught in schools, it is said, “How beautiful are the manners they are teaching.” They teach how to trim nails, how to eat, how to use a napkin, how to hold and use a fork and knife, in what order to place and pick things, and how to make a morsel. Yet, these manners taught in schools are not referred to as restrictions, rather, people boast of them.

In a similar manner, the religion which Allah Almighty has granted us also teaches us these things; in fact, it teaches us even greater things. A sign of this religion being a complete code of conduct for life is that just as it has informed us about something as great as creed, it has also taught us about acts of worship, good character, navigating society, and the etiquettes of life.

[1] Translation of Quran (Kanz al-Irfān) juzz 6, Sūrah al-Nisāˈ, verse 176




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