Evidence for the Principle: Taking the Lesser of the Two Harms

 

From the greater objectives of the shariah is to increase good, to establish it, and reduce evil in order to remove it. However, life does not always bring to us pure good and pure evil such that we can abandon the evil and act upon the good. Sometimes in our lives we are faced with situations where we have to choose between two goods or two evils. Sometimes, situations may have some good and some bad in them, but we have to choose between them. So what does a Muslim do in such circumstances?  In some cases, a Muslim will find himself in a situation where whatever good he chooses, evil will result! Common sense will tell him to choose the lesser of the two evils because, if his objective is to do good, then choosing the lesser of the evils is the closest to the good.

 

If a person says: ‘I will never act on any evil, period’ then he is forgetting that there may be times when he does something that is generally good but the circumstances around that good dictate it to have an evil outcome. This person would have been actually doing evil but without realising, or he could be doing that which is further away from good and closer to evil.

 

The existence of this principle – ‘choosing the lesser of the two harms’ – is proof of the perfection of this religion and proof that it is suitable for every time and place.

 

So where did this principle come from?

 

1. In Surah Hud, verse 77 – Allah most high told us about a situation where the Prophet Lot had to choose between two evils, and he chose the lesser of the two.

 

“…and his people came rushing towards him, and they had been long in the habit of practising abominations. He said: “O my people! Here are my daughters: they are purer for you (if ye marry)! Now fear Allah, and cover me not with shame about my guests! Is there not among you a single right-minded man?”

 

So he offered his daughter to protect his guests whilst he knew it was evil. The tribe was evil, him marrying his daughter to them was evil but he chose that rather than them raping his guests (as he thought would happen), so he took the lesser of the two evils in his view. (Abdul Hameed al Balaali in his book fiq of dawah fi inkar al munkar p143-144)

 

2. In surah Nisaa verse 25, Allah most high instructed the believers to marry their believing slave girls if they feared zina. This was not allowed before this verse was revealed.

 

“…If any of you have not the means wherewith to wed free believing women, they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess. And Allah hath full knowledge about your faith. Ye are one from another. Wed them with the leave of their owners, and give them their dowers according to what is reasonable. They should be chaste, not lustful, nor taking paramours. When they are taken in wedlock, if they fall into shame, their punishment is half that for free women. This (permission) is for those among you who fear sin; but it is better for you that ye practise self-restraint. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

 

So marrying a believing slave girl is better than zina.Here, Allah teaches us to take the lesser of the two evils. Marring a slave was considered bad, and zina is considered bad. However, zina was the worse of the two evils.

 

3. In Surah Nahal verse 106, Allah most high allowed us to utter words of disbelief when faced with life threatening situations.

 

“…Anyone who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief, except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith..

 

So it is also clear here that Allah allowed the believers to utter words of kufr in circumstances where his life is threatened or even in situations less than that but that would cause him great difficulty. So the Muslim here would choose the lesser of the evils. The first evil is the threat of death, torture, or extreme hardship and the second evil is uttering kufr whilst your heart is full of faith.

 

4. Salautil Khowf (the prayer of fear): dhohr prayer is generally four rakat; when the Muslims are in the situation of war, they do not have to pray in one jamat – they can make two jamats, whereby one guards the other whilst they pray and then the two groups swap. In addition to that, the four rakats are reduced to two. So here you can see when the circumstances change, the hokum (ruling) changes also.

 

The enemy attacking is one evil and the second is shortening the prayer from four to two. Allah allowed us to take the second of shortening the prayer, which would not be allowed otherwise.

5. In Surah al Baqara verse 73 – Allah most high explains we are allowed to eat dead meat if we are forced by necessity:

“He hath only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then he is guiltless. For Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

 

And in Surah al Anaam verse 119:

 

“Why should ye not eat of (meats) on which Allah’s name hath been pronounced when He hath explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you – except under compulsion of necessity?”

 

So one evil is eating dead meat and the second is the compulsion. So the lesser of the to evils is eating the dead meat.

 

 

Allah says in Surah al Hajj verse 78,

 

“…He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion…”

6. Ibn Nuaas mentioned in page 100 of his book ‘Tanbee al Gaafileen..

 

“If you saw a man waiting to rape a women but he found some wine and became busy  drinking it and you knew if you were to prevent him from the wine he would stop drinking but would then catch the woman and you knew you would be unable to stop that, then you would not stop him from drinking wine in order to prevent a greater harm.”

 

Here you can see the great scholar Ibn Nuaas putting the principle in practice.

 

7. Ibn Taymiah mentioned in his fatwa

 

…that once he and his students went out to forbid the evil as they conducted this regularly. When they were out one day, they came across some tatar (enemies of Muslims who would rampage, pillage and kill Muslims). They were all sleeping and drunk. Ibn Taymiah’s students said let us take them now, kill them all; they are all asleep, we could take them by surprise. Ibn Taymiah said no, let us head back to our city quickly without them awakening. When they got back, they asked him why he had ordered that and he said because fighting and killing them was an obligation but what they would do to the nearby village afterwards would be far worse than what we would have done to them.

 

So this principle of taking the lesser of the two evils is an important principle to be used in all fields especially in regards to politics, jihad and society. However, the benefits and harms must be weighed up in the light of the shariah

 

Taking the lesser of the two evils is an established principle from the principles of usool of fiqh, and there are conditions which must be fulfilled before it is exercised from them:

 

  1. One should not deliberately place oneself in such a situation where one has to use such a principle, as it is disliked for one to embark upon any prohibited matter.
  2. The principle is only to be used when there is no way of avoiding one of two prohibitions.
  3. Then the least evil one is chosen as the one which is least harmful and least in opposition to the shariah.
  4. When the circumstances which dictate this principle to be used disappears, then the acting upon it must be stopped immediately according to another principle: “what is permitted in necessity is rendered nullified with the disappearance of the neccessity”
  5. The benefit from acting upon the lesser of the two evils must be greater than the evil which is trying to be avoided.
  6. There must be no other way to prevent the evil before acting upon the lesser of it.
  7. One must use the minimum of the evil in order to fulfill the necessity

 

Indeed, I could cite many more evidences to prove the validity of this principle, however, time does not allow me to, but this should suffice any intelligent person.

 

And Allah knows best.

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Taking Aid and Help from USA and Permitting them to Build Bases in KSA

A question put to me by a brother…

Allowing the American troops on Arabian soil, why and what was the reasoning ? Jazakhallah khair.

My Answer:

” Oh you who believe do not bring yourselves in front of Allah and his messenger…” (surah Hujarat v2) – your opinion has no weight after Allah and his Messenger (s) have spoken.

” and warn all those who oppose his order (s) that a trial will befall them or a dreadful punishment.”

Regarding the fatwa give by Ibn Baaz allowing the American troop on Arabian soil this is the background and the proofs that their scholars brought to allowed it.

During the first gulf war when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Iraqi troops massed on the border of Kuwait and kSA. The Saudi intelligence had informed the KSA government that an attack was iminant from the Kuwaiti, Saudi border. Now the Saudi army in comparison to the Iraqi army was far much smaller and less equipped and less trained. Remember USA armed Iraq to the teeth during the war between Iran and Iraq. They also trained Sadaam after that and his army and sold him much weapons and planes etc. as for Saudi they have a small army, no match for Iraq. KSA own intelligence found that Iraq was massing its troops on the border, so KSA believed they had no choice and that Sadaam may very well attack them next. So they decided to create a deterrent ‘using’ the Americans help. And I reiterate the word ‘using’.

On another note the Kuwaitis and Saudis have enjoyed a long relationship of co-operation and love between them. Many Saudis have relatives in Kuwait and vice versa. The tribal system is spread from Suadi to Kuwait for example the most biggest tribe in Kuwait is the al Utaibi tribe and this is also the largest tribe in KSA. The two governments have a pact to aid each other for many years. Even in the time of Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahab there was some faint links there between the two areas. So the fact Saudi came to the help of Kuwait when it was oppressed is to no surprise.

The messenger (s) said: “aid your brother the oppressed and the oppressor. The companions said we understand how to aid the oppressed but how do we aid the oppressor. He (s) replied: “by preventing him from his oppression”

So the hadeeth above is a general hadeeth  which covers the proof for Saudi to intervene in the matter and aid the oppressed and prevent the oppressor. The matter remaining is why did they use the Americans and allow them to build bases.

This following narration was explained to me by one of the students of sheikh ibn baaz about 3 years ago when I attended a course in Ryaad. He told us that sheikh ibn baaz was amongst the committee of major scholars when they were all summoned by the king Fahd. The king explained to the committee of major scholars the situation exactly as he was briefed by the Saudi intelligence. He further explained the dangers and possible consequences if Iraq was to attack Saudi. He further explained their own abilities and inabilities and why they needed the aid of USA. He finished his explanation by saying: “I do not want to be responsible on the day of judgment for this decision, so I refer the matter to you all (my scholars and learned people) I urge you to fear Allah and tell me if it is permissible for me to use the Americans as a deterrent to help defend the Kingdom and aid the oppressed Kuwaitis.”

The ulema finally gave the verdict of ‘necessity’ for the king to seek aid from the USA and use them to defend their lands and fight Iraq to aid the Kuwaiti people.

Here is the evidence some of the scholars produced to justify seeking the aid of USA and the permissibility of their presence in the KSA.

Before I begin it is worth mentioning here that there is established difference of opinions amongst the scholars over the permissibility of seeking aid from the disbeliever’s in fighting where there is a necessity. So those who say it is impermissible have their evidences and scholars behind them and those who say it is permissible in necessary situations also have their evidences and scholars behind them. So this issue is not one of clear-cut prohibition as the jhadist and takfiri and HT and other than them claim. So there should not be a wala and bara over this matter there should be tolerance.

Here are the evidences from the scholars who see it permissible to take aid from non-Muslims in fighting at times of necessity.

  1. The hadeeth of Dhee Mukhbir who said I heard the messenger of Allah say:” you will have a peace treaty of safety with Rome and you will both fight together an enemy behind you” (Ahmed and Abu Dawood)
  2. That which shafi in his musnad wrote from Ibn Abass that the Prophet (s) took aid and help from people of the Jews in his battles and gave them a share (of booty). (Tirmidhi in 4/128 said  this hadeeth is hasan ghareeb)
  3. The hadeeth that the Messenger (s) took help and aid from Safwan Ibn Umayah in the battle of Hunain by his shields. Safwan said to him (s): “ are you taking this by force Mohammad?” He (s) replied: ” No rather to pay back”  it was also narrated in some narrations that the shields were between 30 and 40 in number in other narrations it states they were 100. (Ahmed, Abu Dawood, Nisaai and al Hakim)
  4. That which was narrated by Abu Dawood that Safwan Ibn Umayah took part in the battle of Hunain with the Prophet (s) and he was at that time a mushrik and the Quraish said to him you fight with Mohammed yet you are not upon his religion? He replied “ working for the Quraish is better than working for Howzaan (another tribe)  and the Prophet gave him a share in the booty from the amount kept for softening the hearts of disbelievers.
  5. That which is found in the books of seera where the Prophet (s) wrote an agreement between the Muslims and the Jews.. he took an oath from them and allowed them to practice their religion and keep their wealth and placed conditions on them. From those conditions was: “and between us is to aid and help one another against any one who attacks the people of this agreement… “ it also stated that they would aid and help one another against anyone who attacks Madeenah.”(seera Ibn Hisham 2/119)
  6. That which has come in the hadeeth when the Prophet (s) was in Dhil Hulaifah during the year in which the battle of al Hudaibiyah took place he sent a spy from Khazaa’ah to bring him information about the Quraish and this spy was a mushrik. (Zaad al Ma’aad 3/288 and Jaami al Usool 8/297)
  7. That which has been narrated about the tribe Khazaa’ah they went out with the Prophet (s) to conquer Mekka the Muslims from them and the disbelievers from them. (Neel al Awtaar 8/45 and Rawdah al Nadiyah 2/483)
  8. That which was narrated by Bukhari where the Prophet hired the experience of Abdullah bin Ureekath al thaily during his hijrah from mekka to madeenah he was experienced in routes and maps and was a disbeliever upon the religion of the Quraish. (Fathul Bari, 7/232)
  9. The generality of the saying of the Prophet (s) “ verily Allah will aid this religion by a corrupt person” (Bukhari)
  10. That which was reported by Ibn Hazam in his Muhala with his narration from Sad ibn Abi Waqas that he fought in battle with some Jewish tribes and he obeyed their instructions.
  11. That which is established in Bukhari and Muslim and other sunnan that the Prophet (s) sought aid and help from the munafiqeen and they went out with him on jihad in many battles. San’ani and Shaowkani relate from Sahibul Bahr that there is Ijmaa on seeking help and aid from the hypocrites in fighting. (Subul al Salam 4/104 and Neel al Awtaar 8/44)
  12. Taking aid and help from the disbelievers at times of necessity is in line with the well known principle of fique              “necessities permit the prohibited’

Sayings of the scholars who said it is allowed at times of necessity:

Imam an Nawawi said in his explanation of the hadeeth: “ I will not seek help from a mushrik”.. “there is also a hadeeth showing that the Prophet (s) sought help from Safwan bin Umayah before he became a Muslim. So some scholars took the first hadeeth as final. However, Imam Shafi and others said: “if he is a disbeliever with a good opinion about the Muslims and there is a need for the help and aid then it is sought from him otherwise it is disliked and the two ahadeeth are harmonized in this way.” (Sharhu saheeh Muslim 2/198)

Imam Ibn Hajr al Askalani in Fathu Bari in his explanation of the hadeeth :”verily Allah will aid this religion by a corrupt person” said: “al Muhalab and other than him said: this hadeeth does not contradict the hadith of the Prophet (s) “ I will not seek the help of a mushrik” because it was either

  • specific for that time or
  • the meaning from the hadith is a corrupt person who is not a mushrik.

Imam Shafi answered this by affirming the first opinion brought as proof  that it was abrogated by Safwan ibn Umayah aiding the Prophet (s) in Hunain whilst he was a mushrik.(Fathul Baari 6/179)

There are many other scholars who permitted aid and help from the non Muslims in war but this short essay will become a long one if I continue so I will suffice with this.

Lastly I want to mention that there is also a number of ahadeeth to prove it not permissible to take them as aid and helpers in such a situation. So the matter is not decisive and clear cut so toleration of each others views must be accepted. As for those jhadists and takfiris who use the fatwa of Ibn Baaz to hurl abuse at the scholars, and take them out of the fold of Islam then they are not but misguided individuals with pure hatred for dawah as salafiyah, may Allah fix their affairs open their hearts and guide them aright.