Daily Archives: May 6, 2008

What is "HARAM" for you is not "HARAM" for me!!!

One word that most people must leave Islamic countries with, no matter how hard some may try to avoid learning Arabic (or don’t have the time or energy for), is “HARAM“.
In my experience, it is one word/concept that comes up quite frequently. Students love to say, “No, teacher. That is HARAM.”
The Arabic word, Haram, means, “legally forbidden by Islamic law“.
Haraam (Arabic: حرام‎) is an Arabic term meaning “forbidden”. In Islam, it is used to refer to anything that is prohibited by the faith. Its antonym is halaal.
Haraam” is a widely-used synopsis to define all that is forbidden by allah. This can be an act of sin or evil or consumption or benefit from flesh or otherwise of certain animals, or those animals that are not forbidden deemed not to have been slaughtered in accordance to God’s prescribed teaching. The most obvious example of things that are haraam or harām are products forbidden by Muslim dietary laws, such as alcohol[Qur’an 5:90] and pork[Qur’an 5:3], however, whether the said verse refers to alcohol or stronger intoxicants is debated. Pork, or Pork-derived products such as gelatine are also forbidden. It has been said that food items such as Rice Krispie treats are haraam, seeing as they contain gelatin. The category of harām also includes all manner of forbidden behaviours, from adultery to any form of abuse (emotional or physical).
Haraam” is also an expression used by non-Muslim Arabs in or upon receipt of news about certain kinds of situations, and is basically tantamount to the English expression, “for shame“. In conversational usage, it is also used to express sympathy towards a living being. Children are commonly told not to mistreat other children or animals because it is haraam‘.
It also appears in Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. It connotes the same idea of prohibition on religious grounds, however it is used by Christians in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, including bans on pork (more out of Jewish dietary laws, not Islamic). From Wikipedia)
The funny thing is that a student who (jokingly?) says, “Teacher, Haram!” when he sees me walking across campus listening to (what he assumes is music on) my i-pod will be seen the next day with a walkman listening to music. One student claims that he thinks music is “haraam” but yet he organized a music/dance/theatre production by students!!! I wonder what the Arabic word for “hypocrite” is….
How you deal with (with what you think to be) sin in your life is your business but to go around and tell others “Haraam! Haraam!” is so NOT cool. Who made them the religious police?! This is expected if one works in an extremely radically Islamic country such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or Pakistan, but not something I would expect in a country like Oman where it is constantly said that they are only moderately Islamic (versus “radical”). It is also used on a personal level when someone doesn’t like something (like getting their photo taken) and so they throw out the “haram” word (to give their point of view some extra needed support maybe.?) when they should specify that THEY don’t appreciate it.
Is it not possible to have your own religious beliefs while respecting others or does one need to force their own practices on another?

“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment. “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” (Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:15)