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What are the conditions for a situation to be considered as an exigent situation?



Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

When discussing this issue, Dr Wahbah al-Zuhaili explains that exigent situations are when it is permissible to do the prohibited, in his book Al-Wasit fi Usul Fiqh al-Islami (Al-Matba’ah al-Ilmiyah, 2nd edition, 1986 pg. 115); he states that majority of scholars hold the opinion that it is permissible to say the words of disbelief if forced or threatened to be killed.

However, some scholars say that it is prioritized to not say those words, for even if the person is killed, it is considered as syahid (die for the sake of Allah SWT/martyrdom).

The following are the conditions that is set by Islam in determining whether a situation is exigent or desperate. Only if the situation meets the following criteria, then it is permissible to do what is prohibited:

  • It is truly a desperate or exigent situation, not just a mere assumption, for example on the destruction of life or property. Even if the worry is based on just an assumption, it must be based on a strong assumption through the process of experience and observation.
  • The person in the exigent situation does not have any other permissible way to avoid or prevent harm. For example, a person who is in desperate need to apply for a loan, he has to choose a loan that does not include usury, for nowadays, there are various Islamic loans available with no usury involved.
  • The person in the desperate or exigent situation must not choose something that is clearly a contradiction towards the basic principles of Islam and usul aqidah; such as choosing to commit fornication, disbelief and taking the rights of others because all of these are mafsadah (harmful and damaging). Thus, in a desperate or exigent situation where there are no permissible options, then one must choose a lesser harm course of action that does not clearly contradict the basis of Islam.
  • The prohibited act is done accordingly without being comfortable with the act itself, for exigent situations are according to the extent of the necessity.
  • In the issue of consuming or applying medication from what is prohibited, the condition for it is to consult a medical specialist who confirms that there are no other permissible options for the patient.
  • In government administration, leaders should ensure the interest of the general public is prioritized even when choosing the prohibited when there is no other permissible way or are ineffective in protecting the interest of a country. For example, several scholars state that it is permissible to take out a loan from the world bank in order to settle the country’s debt even if there is an element of interest in order to protect the country from being collateral to foreign countries.

It is clear from the above scholars’ opinion that exigent situations are only when it is desperate and there is a threat towards life, then it is made permissible for what is prohibited. However, according to scholars, it is still prioritized to not do what is prohibited.