Commanding Good & Forbidding Evil

Doing good

THE DUTY

“Whoever sees an evil let him change it with his hand, and if he is unable to then let him change it with his tongue, and if he is unable to then let him reject it with his heart which is the weakest level of faith”[1]
 
The concept of commanding the good and forbidding evil (al amr bil ma’ruf wan nahy ‘an al munkar‎) is important within the Muslim community. It is the thing that distinguishes us from the rest of the nations as ’the best of nations’[2].
 
We see two extremes with regards to this concept. Some make it their job to point fingers at everyone and everything, whilst others consider it none of their business what others do and don’t. Both are wrong. There needs to be a balance between the two.
 
There are two parts of this concept;

  1. Commanding good
  2. Forbidding evil

 
For the first part, a person does not need to have a lot of knowledge and can easily encourage others to good. The second part needs more detail and explaining.

 

3 THINGS TO CONSIDER FIRST

The scholars have stated three conditions to consider before physical intervention[3]:

  1. The evil must be an evil upon whose unlawfulness the scholars are agreed upon e.g. alcohol, backbiting, missing salah etc

  2. If the evil can changed by using other means than force then they must be used, e.g. if a person is drinking alcohol he should be spoken to and advised first.

  3. If the evil one intends to stop physically will lead to a greater or similar evil then other means should be used to stop that evil .

 
The hadith of the bedouin who urinated in the mosque supports this. When the companions saw the bedouin urinating, they ran towards him to stop him but before they could do anything, the Prophet SAW called out: “Leave him!” and then only when he had fully relieved himself did the Prophet take any action[4].
 
Here was a scared place, a mosque and not just any but the mosque of the Prophet SAW. The Prophet SAW stopped the companions who were about to ‘forbid evil’. The Prophet SAW asked the companions to wash the place where he urinated with a few buckets of water. The Bedouin then prayed behind the Prophet SAW. Had the Prophet allowed the companions to shout at him and chase him and throw him out, he would have urinated everywhere and maybe even on the clothes of the companions who would have tried to grab a hold of him. Thus ‘forbidding this evil’ would have led to a greater evil and only made things worse. In some narrations, the bedouin makes a dua saying “O Allah, have mercy on me and Muhammad, and not on anyone other than us”[5]. The Prophet SAW was able to win the heart of this person due to the way he treated him.
 
This isn’t an isolated incident. There are others also where the Prophet chose not do something because it would have made things worse. Another example is when the Prophet SAW wanted to rebuild the Kaba according to the original foundations of Prophet Ibrahim AS and make the Kaba bigger than that of the Quraysh and add an extra door to the rear[6]. But the Prophet chose not to do as some people had recently converted and would have made this an issue.
 

SHOULD I?

  • It is obligatory to intervene if the other person will stop and listen, provided there is no fear of harm.

  • It is not obligatory to intervene if the person will abuse or mock Islam or even say something that will lead him to kufr. Instead, just make dua for the person and try to speak to them at a more appropriate time

  • If both possibilities exist; the person may or may not listen, then it becomes necessary to intervene.

  • It is permissible to not intervene if the other is although unlikely to abuse Islam, but quite likely to abuse the advisor. But in this situation it is better to intervene.

 
Summary: if the other person will not listen but instead abuse you or the shariah, then one should not intervene. Instead one should make dua for the person and if possible find another time and way to get the message through[7]. Dua is a powerful thing that can be easily done and we underestimate its power.
 

HOW? THE GOLDEN FORMULA

There is no denying that those people who usually intervene are usually sincere and their sincerity and concern for others drives them. But just the sincerity is not enough. The approach also needs to be correct. Some people are reckless in their approach and as a result, drive people further away from the deen.
 
Mufti Shabir Ahmad Uthmani said ‘when a person says the right thing, in the right manner, with the right intention then it will not have a negative effect[8].
 
Thus when a person says something right but it has no positive effect and only makes things worse, it is usually because one the other two things were missing. Just like the fire triangle consists of three things (fuel, fire and oxygen), to have a positive effect all three things are needed; saying the right thing, right approach and right intention. If any one of these three is removed, it no longer has the effect that it should. We see this that some people only say a few sentences and people change their lives, whilst on the other hand some people can lecture for hours but the words have little to no impact.
 
Some speak out against the evils others are involved in not to solve the situation but rather to be able to put down others and feel as if they are more pious and closer to Allah. The sins of others should not be disclosed to others except with the intention that it will help in some way bring a change and help the person to rid himself from the evil. When the Prophet SAW would speak of the evils the general public or specific individuals were involved in, he would often say “what has happened to the people, that they…” as thus not expose them. Speaking ill, cursing, exaggerating etc does not help. One is more likely to listen to the person who advises calmly and softly in private than one who loves to shout, scream and cause a scene and embarrass the person. Soft words soften hearts that are harder than rock, harsh words harden hearts that are softer than silk[9]. A believer is like a mirror to another believer[10]. A mirror reflects things as they are. A true believer is honest, doesn’t exaggerate the evil, doesn’t humiliate the other person and doesn’t expose the evil to others.
 
Prophet Moosa AS was the biggest reformer of his time and was sent to the Pharaoh who claimed he was the ‘highest lord’[11]. When Allah sent Moosa and Haroon AS; He told them to ‘speak to him in gentle (kind) words, perchance he may take heed or fear (me)’[12]. None of us can be deeper in shirk or sin than the pharaoh was but even then Allah ordered his messengers to be nice to him; so what about the people today who aren’t anywhere near as bad as the pharaoh?!
 
Look at the incident of the person urinating in the masjid as a reminder. Imagine if someone did that today, how would we treat him! But the Prophet realised this person lacks knowledge and education, so was nice to him and taught him.

 

OTHER POINTS

  • A person should not object if someone misses out a mustahab, or something of adab (unless one is trying to teach their own family and train them). One shouldn’t be so strict and attach the same importance to mustahabb or adab as fard or wajib. Yes, one can encourage but shouldn’t object if someone misses it out e.g. dua after Azaan, as these things are for extra reward and a person is not sinful if he misses them out. One should object if someone misses out a fard/ wajib or is involved in sin. Islam is easy. Be strict on yourself if you want to but don’t force others.

  • Don’t be put off your duty and be passive or look for excuses such as it damages our relationship with our friends and family. One should consider what is more important; our duty to Allah or our relationship with our friends and family. It should be noted that this does not mean that one should be rude or start fights. Rather one should use wisdom and assess the best way to tackle the situation. Remember the golden formula ’say the right thing, in the right manner, with the right intention then it will not have a negative effect’.

  • True family and friends will care for one another and wish the best for each other in both the worlds. They will not give up so easily. They will try different methods to achieve their aim. Imagine someone’s brother takes drugs. They might try reasoning with him, at times hide his drugs, get others to talk to him, show him a few videos etc.

  • Some people think of others as beyond saving and only concentrate on themselves. Although it’s true that Allah has written guidance for some and not for others. But who are we to know what Allah has written for someone. Some people find guidance quickly, while it takes others some time to find the right path. People’s journeys to Allah differ; some are long whilst some are short. So don’t give up so easily and be patient.

  • One should also try to provide alternatives if possible and not just say this is haram and that is haram. E.g. if someone use a haram product, recommend a halal product that achieves the same purpose.

  • A common misunderstanding is that if a person is involved in the same or a similar sin then they do not have the right to say something to someone else till they themselves get rid of that evil from within their lives first e.g. praying in the masjid. This is wrong. Allah says ‘why do you say that which you do not do’[13] which means the opposite. That if a person is commanding others to do something, then that should also encourage him to leave the evil. The other meaning is don’t make claims about yourself which aren’t true; that you do such and such good things where as you actually don’t.

  • A sinful person can advise others. We are neither angels nor prophets. None of us are perfect but we not expected to be!

  • It’s quite obvious that good character goes a long way and actions speak louder than words. It is easier to advise others when the person himself has good character and keeps himself away from evils.

  • Hate the sin and not the sinner. Learn to see the potential in people and what they can become. Like the saying goes, ‘every saint has a past and every sinner has a future’.

[1] Sahih Muslim

[2] Quran 3/110

[3] The fiqh of dawah by Mufti Muhammad Sajjad pg 60

[4] Musannaf Al Abd Al Razzak

[5] Musannaf Al Abd Al Razzak

[6] Sahih Muslim

[7] Islam aur daur-e-hazir ke shubuhat w mugalte- Mufti Taqi Uthmani, pg 442

[8] Islam aur daur-e-hazir ke shubuhat w mugalte- Mufti Taqi Uthmani, pg 446

[9] Imam Al Gazali

[10] Bazzar and Tabrani

[11] Quran 79/24

[12] Quran 20/44

[13] Quran 61/2

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Tayyib HMC FInder

Munadil Islaam

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