Meaning of Heela
Mu' meneen Brothers and Sisters,
As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)
One of our brothers/sisters has asked this question:
Dear Brother Burhan,
Assalaamo alaikum. I read your emails with great interest. Could you please define the term "Heela" in the context of Holy Quran and Sunnah, and give some examples of its applications in the time of Prophet Mohammad saws. May Allah give you rewards for the service that you are providing.
Your brother in Islam
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Meaning of Heela
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad(saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
Heela, in the Shariah terminology, would mean to follow the letter of the law without breaking the law itself! One is allowed to use heela under specific circumstances of emergency; but if one uses heela to break or circumvent the laws of Allah Subhanah, or just does heela to play with the commandments of Allah, it will be considered a grave sin in the sight of Allah Subhanah.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 7 Surah Aaraaf verses 163-166:
163 Ask them concerning the town standing close by the sea. Behold! They transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. For on the day of their Sabbath their fish did come to them openly, holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they came not: thus did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression.
164 When some of them said: "why do ye preach to a people whom Allah will destroy or visit with a terrible punishment?" Said the preachers: "to discharge our duty to your Lord and perchance they may fear him."
165 When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them We rescued those who forbade evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression.
166 When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibition, We said to them: "Be ye apes despised and rejected."
The above is the account of the transgression of the Jews, and their using heela to play with the commands of Allah. Allah had commanded the Jews to obey the Sabbath; and had taken a firm covenant with them that they would not work on Saturdays for any worldly or material gains. Allah Subhanah knew that the Jews were bent on transgression and deep in their hearts they did not want to follow this law, thus He tested them! These people used to make a living by fishing in the sea, and as Allah would have willed, six days a week there would be no fish; but on Saturday there would be abundant fish. Now since the Jews could not fish or hunt or do any worldly deed on a Saturday because of the Sabbath, what they did is look for a loop-hole to circumvent the Sabbath Law. What they would do is close the sea area of the lagoon where there were abundant fish on a Saturday, so that the fish could not leave the lagoon area; and then catch them on the next day! In their arrogance and ignorance, they used to boast that they have followed the letter of the law and did not work on a Saturday; and how they were able to circumvent the laws of Allah Subhanah!!! Little did they realize that Allah Subhanah was only testing them; and when they failed the test miserably by turning to heela, Allah cursed them and turned these people to apes as a punishment for their transgression!
Thus even today, if one tries to play with the clear commands of Allah Subhanah, he too will have a severe punishment and accounting from the All Knowing, All Wise.
Another example of heela in the Quran was given by Allah Subhanah in the case of Prophet Ayyub (a.s.), who swore that when he was relieved of his disease by Allah Subhanah, he would strike his wife (who had made an honest error) with a hundred lashes!
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 38 Surah Saad verses 41-44:
41 Commemorate Our servant Ayyub!; Behold he cried to his Lord: "The Evil One has afflicted me with distress and suffering"!
42 (The command was given:) "Strike with thy foot: here is (water) wherein to wash, cool and refreshing and (water) to drink."
43 And We gave him (back) his people and doubled their number as a Grace from Ourselves, and a thing for commemoration for all who have Understanding.
44 "And take in thy hand a little grass and strike therewith: and break not (thy oath)." Truly We found him full of patience and constancy: how excellent in Our service! Ever did he turn (to Us)!
Prophet Ayyubs wife was a righteous woman, and Allah Subhanah did not want her to be punished; but Allah also did not want that Prophet Ayyub break his oath. So Allah Subhanah guided the Prophet after he had recovered, to take some grass and strike his wife lightly therewith; thus he would fulfill the oath he had made in anger, and the righteous wife would not be punished.
I cannot remember reading about any heela done by the Last Messenger of Allah (saws). The righteous slaves of Allah do not search for heelas to break the commands of Allah; but rather they follow the commands of Allah Subhanah in letter and in spirit. Only when in a severe emergency, where one has absolutely no other way and ones intention is not to disobey or ridicule the commands of Allah, would a heela be allowed. In normal circumstances, it would be considered a grave sin to use heela to circumvent the laws of Allah Subhanah!
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your Brother in Islam,