Habib Ali al-Habashi (may Allah have mercy upon him and benefit us by him) discusses the meanings and implications of commands and prohibitions.
The commands which are found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah can be divided into that which is obligatory (wajib) and that which is recommended (mustahabb). That which is obligatory must be performed. Not performing it entails a punishment, while performing it entails a great reward and leads to the pleasure of the Lord. Performing acts which are recommended is a path which leads to the pleasure of the Lord and entering into the sphere of those who have drawn close to Allah, act with complete sincerity and love Him. Those who are wholeheartedly seeking Allah do not differentiate between actions which are obligatory and those which are recommended because all their efforts are expended doing that which draws them close to Allah and gains His pleasure.
Every act of obedience draws the servant to his Lord if he gives it its due, performs it as it should be performed, performs it is with a pious intention and desires only the pleasure of Allah in doing it. The purity of the servant’s actions and intentions is according to the purity of his heart.
Prohibitions can also be divided into two categories. The first is that which is forbidden (haram). Doing this entails a punishment and leads to the displeasure of the Lord. The second is that which is disliked (makruh). Leaving it entails a reward. Avoiding that which is prohibited is a huge obstacle which requires great strength and effort because what is at stake is being cut off from Allah. The more a person performs actions that are forbidden the further he is distanced from Allah.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was asked: “If someone has illicit sexual relations is he a believer while he is doing so?”
“No,” he replied.
“If someone steals is he a believer while he is doing so?”
This hadith implies that committing acts of disobedience causes the slave to be cut off from Allah. Thus the believer should be extremely careful to avoid that which may lead to his destruction, and extremely steadfast in this battle. If Allah knows that he is sincere, He will assist him with His own strength, and defend him from the scheming of his enemy and his troops. The slave must flee to his Lord in every situation.