Makruh or Karaha (مكروه) also written as Makrouh/Makrūh/Makrooh is an Arabic term which means to dislike or an offensive act (literally means “detestable”) and is the opposite of liked or loved. Though it is not haram (sinful), a person who abstains from this act will be rewarded. Muslims are encouraged to avoid such actions or foods as much as possible. Technically, it refers to an act that is disliked in Shar’iah. This is one of the degrees of approvals Ahkam (أحكام) in Islamic Shar’iah law.
أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ ٱلْبَحْرِ وَطَعَامُهُۥ مَتَٰعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِلسَّيَّارَةِ ۖ وَحُرِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ صَيْدُ ٱلْبَرِّ مَا دُمْتُمْ حُرُمًا ۗ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِىٓ إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ
Lawful to you is the game of the sea and its food, a provision for you and for the travellers, and the game of the land is forbidden to you so long as you are on pilgrimage, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, to Whom you shall be gathered. Al-Mā’idah [5:96]
An example of a food which is considered “makruh” for Hanafi school of though is prawns (but only for Hanafi Madh’hab Muslims). The Hanafi school look, however, that you refrain from it and instead eat something else if possible. It is permitted to eat shrimp according to the soundest position in the Hanafi school.
The basic criterion is that anything that the Arabs considered ‘fish’ (samak) at time of the revelation is permitted. Other produce of the sea is not permitted in the Hanafi school.
Anything which is harmful to the body falls under the Makruh or Haram based upon the verse in the holy Quran which directly states that we should not kill ourselves by our own hands;
وَأَنْفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ ۛ وَأَحْسِنُوا ۛ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
Give generously for the cause of Allah and do not cast yourselves into destruction by your own hands. Be charitable: Allah loves those who are charitable. Al-Baqara [2:195]
As it is well known that over-consumption and other habit such has smoking causes many kinds of ills, it falls under this verse. And Allah swt knows best!
There are two types of Makruh:
1. Makruh Tanzihan
2. Makruh Tahriman
Makruh Tanzihan or Karaha Tanzihiyya refers to an act that is detested in Shariah, without the promise of punishment for the one who carries it out. It is closer to the lawful (Mubah مباح) than the unlawful (Haram حرام).
Some examples are:
1) Wasting water whilst performing ablution or being miserly with it
2) The consumption of horse meat in normal circumstances
3) Not taking a bath on Fridays
4) Not reciting Tasmiya at the beginning of ablution
5) Not using the Siwak whilst performing ablution
Ruling: The one who abstains from it will be rewarded, and the one who practices it will not be punished. However, to make a habit of it is considered offensive.
Makruh Tahriman or Karaha Tahrimiyya is a command for abstinence that has been established by speculative proof (dalil dhanni). It is closer to the unlawful Haram (حرام) and can also be defined as being in diametrical opposition to a wājib (واجب).
Some examples are:
1) Delaying the Asr prayer until the sun changes it’s colour
2) To hasten in offering the various integrals of Salat, such as the two prostrations and sitting in between them
3) Fasting on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr
4) The Using of gold or silver utensils for men and women
5) Buying and selling when the call for prayer Adhan (أَذَان) of Jumuah takes place
Ruling: Failure to abstain from such acts necessitates a sin and punishment in the hereafter, though the punishment will be of a lesser degree than that for committing a Haram (حرام), and abstinence will merit a reward. The one who rejects it to be unlawful will not come out of the fold of Islam, as opposed to Haram.
Note: In the Hanafi Madhab, when the word Makruh or Karaha is mentioned unrestrictedly (mutlaqan), usually it refers to Makruh Tahriman. This is a general principle for which there are exceptions.
The above has been primarily based upon the work of the great Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda (Allah have mercy on him), taken from his introduction to the Hanafi treatise, Fath bab al-Inayah Sharh Kitab al-Nuqayah) and “Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, UK”.
And Allah Knows Best!