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In the Qur'an, and throughout the hadith literature, there are numerous references to what is forbidden. However, I have noticed that what is often translated as the English word "forbade" seems to be two distinct words in Arabic:

  • حَرَّمَ, from the root (ح ر م)
  • نَهَى, from the root (ن ه ي)

What exactly is the difference between these words? Is something that is forbidden (ن ه ي ) somehow different from something that is forbidden (ح ر م)?

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The difference between the words is that حَرَّمَ or harama is closely related to make haram or unlawful its used when Allah says he has made it unlawful or forbidden for us to do something.enter image description here

For wrongdoing on the part of the Jews, We made unlawful for them [certain] good foods which had been lawful to them, and for their averting from the way of Allah many [people],

(your) obligations. Lawful to you (for food) are all the beasts of cattle except that which will be announced to you (herein), game (also) being unlawful when you assume Ihram for Hajj or 'Umrah (pilgrimage). Verily, Allah commands that which He wills.

In the examples above, the word that fits more correctly with the translation would be unlawful.

نَهَى means to prevent from doing something, stay away from or to forbid someone from doing something

And they forbid (men) from it and avoid it, and they ruin none save themselves, though they perceive not.

The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and stay away from what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those - Allah will have

In both of these examples the words prevent from doing or stay away from would be acceptable replacement for naha.

In conclusion, the word harama is used in the Quran when Allah says something is unlawful for us to do. The word naha is used when Allah is giving us advice or asking us to stay away from something.

  • +1 Good answer. Both are Past tense verb, Harama: Forbade, Prohibited, Interdicted, Proscribed, Banned, Barred, Outlawed, Enjoined, Declared unlawful, Made something illegal, Tabooed. And Naha: Proscribed, Restrained, Prevented. – ahmed Jul 2 '12 at 10:53
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I didn't know that this forum is that old till I saw the date of this question :D, however here is an answer that might help the later reader.

I will discuss the difference from the linguistic side, not the fiqh or the ahkam that using any of the two will lead to

before we discuss the difference, you might find it helpful if you take a look at the meaning of ن ه ى and ح ر م in the Arabic-Arabic dictionary for more examples on the words you can build from the 2 roots.


without digging deep to some areas of the language that I don't know much about , specially that using the 2 words has been changed a Little bit between the old Arabic فصحى and the current, I will focus on the main difference between the 2 words and how do you use them inside sentences in fosha فصحى.

as for the word-to-word translation it might be something like this

+-----------+------------+--------------+
| 1-  حَرَّمَ   |   verb     |=  forbid     |
+-----------+------------+--------------+
| 2-  نَهَى   |   verb     |=~ said don't |
+-----------+------------+--------------+

harram حَرَّمَ

is the exact translation of forbid.

when used in sentences it needs only one more "thing" to complete a meaningful sentence , that is "the forbidden thing".

Examples :

1- حَرَّمَ الله الخمر - Allah has forbidden Alcohol.

2- حَرَّمَ الدم - has forbidden the blood , (although this sentence missed the subject who did the action, it has a complete meaning of the verb(forbidding))

3- حَرَّمَ أبي لعب الكرة ليلا - my father has forbidden playing with the ball at night

So when you see the word حَرَّمَ in a sentence you must expect "a thing" that will be forbidden near

naha نَهَى

نهى is more like , when you say "don't".

it needs in the most cases one more little word to complete only "the verb" and to be equal to it's brother حَرَّمَ. that word will mostly 99.9% be (عن - about - An)

Examples :

1- نهى الله عن الخمر - Allah has forbidden Alcohol.

2- نهى عن الدم - has forbidden the blood , (although this sentence missed the subject who did the action, it has a complete meaning of the verb(forbidding))

3- نها أبي عن لعب الكرة ليلا - my father has forbidden playing with the ball at night

NOTE: you can use the word نَهَى without عن but in this case you don't expect to find the "forbidden thing" , but you expect "someone" who has been forbidden from doing something, like in 96:9


so, as a quick points to conclude the general ways of using both the word in Fosha :

  • حَرَّمَ = نَهَى عن = forbid

  • (حَرَّمَ/نَهَى عن /forbid) >>>>need to complete the meaning>>>> "something"- the forbidden thing (e.g نَهَى عن الخمر)

  • نَهَى >>>> need to complete the meaning >>>> "someone" - who has been forbidden from doing the forbidden thing (e.g نَهَى شارب الخمر)

I believe the best way to get the difference between the 2 words is by practicing more examples of how حَرَّمَ and نَهَى have been used in Quran.

please note that the usage of both words has been changed a little in the modern Arabic

  • 1
    This is not a forum so take our tour and read help center to learn more about the SE model. If you are good at Arabic please consider checking this meta.islam.stackexchange.com/questions/1311/…. – Medi1Saif May 24 '16 at 5:59
  • @Medi1Saif sorry i didn't realize the difference between a forum and a SE model , thank you for your efforts to keep Islam SE more organized – an accountant May 24 '16 at 8:38
  • Lol I'm just an active member since 10 months not a mod. But the basis of SE is the community. – Medi1Saif May 24 '16 at 13:36
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They basically lead to different ahkam:

The former is used in the context of haram actions, but the latter refers to disliked or offensive acts. Though it is not haram (sinful), a person who abstains from this act will be rewarded. Muslims are encouraged to avoid such actions when possible.

Haraam (Arabic: حَرَام‎ ḥarām) is an Arabic term meaning "sinful". In Islam it is used to refer to any act that displeases or angers Allah (God). Acts that are haram are typically prohibited in religious texts and is the highest status of prohibition given to anything that would result in sin when a Muslim commits it. A milder ruling than haram is "makruh", which means "disliked".

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