Hadith 34 : The Concept Of Al-Amr Bil-Ma'ruf Wan-Nahiu ‘Anil-Munkar
(Enjoining What Is Good And Discouraging What Is Evil)
By Imam Nawawi
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger
On the authority of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, (radiyallāhu’anhu), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allāh, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa allam), say:
“When any one of you sees anything that is disapproved (of by Allāh Almighty), let him change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then let him change it with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then let him change it with his heart, though that is the weakest (kind of) faith."
[Recorded by Muslim]
The essence of the Islamic da'wah is enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, since whenever a person conveys the Message, he is enjoining good and forbidding evil. Therefore, it is a mistake to consider these two as separate matters, since they are actually performed concurrently and are synonymous.
The main objective in fulfilling this obligation is to attain and maximize benefits, and to eliminate or minimize harm.
Qualities Possessed By A Caller Who Enjoins The Good And Forbids The Evil
1.Ikhlas (Sincerity): since enjoining the good and forbidding the evil becomes an action pleasing to Allāh and accepted by Him only if it is done with sincerity for Him.
2.'Ilm (Knowledge) : Allāh commands: “Say: This is my path, I do call to Allāh upon clear knowledge”. [Surah Yusuf ,12:108]. This is an important condition since the Caller must know what matters are good, so he enjoins it, and what matters are evil, so he forbids it. Ibn Taymiyyah in his “al-Amar” stated: “It is necessary to possess the knowledge of good and evil and of the difference between them, and it is necessary to know the situation of the person being commanded or forbidden”.
3.Hikmah (Wisdom) : Saying or doing the right thing in the right way at the right time to the right person, as prescribed by Allāh in His statement: “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful admonition”. [Surah An-Nahl ,16: 125].Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimallāh) wrote: “Enjoin the good in a good way and do not forbid the evil in an evil way”.
4.Hilm (Forbearance) and Rifq (Gentleness) Especially In The Face Of Opposition From The People: Allāh said to His Messenger, (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam): “And by the Mercy of Allāh you were able to deal gently with them. If you had been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from you”.[Surah Ali-‘Imran, 3: 159]
The Prophet, (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam), also said: Indeed gentleness does not enter into anything except it beautifies it, nor is it removed from anything except that it makes it ugly [Reported by Imam Muslim].
5.Sabr (Patience) : This is in particular the people opposes the Caller enjoining good and forbidding evil, may be stubborn to his call and may even try to harm him. Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimallāh) says in his al-Istiqāmah, concerning the call to the good and away from the evil: “Knowledge must precede it, gentleness must accompany it and patience must follow it”. Shaykh al-Humaid (rahimallāh) said, in an explanation of Surah al-‘Asr : Allāh makes an oath that mankind will be in a state of deficiency, except with four conditions, which are: (a) imān, (b) good actions, (c) encouraging each other to the truth which means enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, and (d) encouraging each other to patience, which is required after enjoining good and forbidding evil. Furthermore each person will have a level of deficiency in accordance with the level of lack of any of these four.
6.Tawādhu' (Humility) : The people will not heed if the Caller is arrogant or he seeks to put himself above others.
7.Qudwah (Good example): for the Caller himself becomes a model to the people to whom he calls, doing those things which he enjoins and leaving those things which he forbids. Allāh says: O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do. It is a most hateful thing to Allāh that you say that which you do not do. [Surah As-Saff,61: 2-3]
8.Husnul-Istimā' (Good listener) : The Caller is attentive to the needs and feelings and also the complaints of the people whom he calls.
9.Shajā’ah (Courage) : It does not refer to strength of the body; rather it is the strength of the heart, together with knowledge - this differentiates between true courage and mere recklessness.
Scholars say that before using the hand, we should start with advice, warning the people of the consequence of evil and encouraging and motivating them to good actions. When this method has been fully utilised and there is no change in the people, only then is it permissible to use the hand.
Imam Ash-Shatibi (rahimallāh) says that the Caller must predict the consequences of what he says or do, whether by hand or by tongue.
If it is very likely that, as a result of attempting to change the evil, the Caller himself or another person will be harmed, then changing the situation is no longer obligatory upon him. Here harm does not refer to insults or curses, but to physical injury such as being beaten or killed. Harm can also mean that a bad reputation is spread concerning the Caller. Ibn Qudāmah (rahimallāh) also includes financial loss, whether immediate or later, to such an amount which the Caller cannot afford.
People differ in their ability to change things; in general, when someone is higher in his rank or authority, then there is more responsibility on him to remove the evil.
Principles Of Inkārul-Munkar (Forbidding What Is Evil)
1.Prioritise The Evil: Thus beginning with the higher priority before the lower.
2.Tadarruj (Being Gradual): Note the gradual method by which Allāh made the drinking of wine forbidden: Firstly, by saying that there were benefits in it and harm in it but the harm outweighed the benefits; secondly, by forbidding the people to approach the solāt in a drunken state; and finally, by an outright prohibition. This step-by-step method does not imply that wine was not forbidden in the early stages, but it is a methodology from which we can benefit.
3. Do Not Look For People's Faults: Qadi Abu Ya'lā (rahimallāh) has noted an exception to this principle, which occurs when there are clues or information that an evil is taking place or is about to take place. Thus one may be able to prevent an evil, such as a murder or rape, from taking place by following up on information.
4. Establish That The Evil Is Indeed Taking Place And Choose A Suitable Time To Forbid The Evil: The Caller should not delay until the evil has finished.The Caller should exploit situations in which the people are more likely to respond to his call, for example when Prophet Yusuf, (‘alayhi-salām), spoke to his companions in the prison about tawhid when they had been troubled by their dreams. Ibn Mas’ud (radiyallahu’anhu) said concerning this: Verily the heart has moments of yearning and responsiveness.And moments of indifference and turning away. So snatch it at the time of yearning and response.And leave it at the time of indifference and turning away.
5. Speak In Private: Imam ash-Shafie (rahimallāh) wrote: Come to me with your advice when I am alone.And do not advise me in the crowd.Because advice amongst the people is a scolding.And I do not like to hear it aloud.Then if you disobey me and do not heed my words.Do not feel sad when you are not followed.
6. Do Not Instigate Or Provoke The People, But Use A Good Argument: Allāh says:Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful admonition, and argue with them with ways that are best. Imam Ghazali (rahimallāh) wrote: Don't convey the truth in a challenging manner.
7. Forgiveness And Kindness: Show forgiveness and kindness towards the people, and not to be affected by worry or anger in case the people show a negative response to the advice.
8. Should Not Forbid The Other Opinion: If a difference of opinion arose as a result of ijtihād, then the Caller who holds one opinion should not forbid the other opinion.
9. Weighing The Principles Of Benefits And Harms: Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimallāh) wrote in “al-Amar”: If enjoining the good and forbidding the evil would result in a greater evil, then it is harām to do it. Enjoining the good should not lead to a better deed being left out and forbidding the evil should not lead to a greater evil taking place.
Ibn Rajab (rahimallāh) states that in enjoining the good and discouraging the evil the conductor is motivated by different reasons:
1.It could be by hope in Allāh's great reward for doing it.
2.It could be by fearing Allāh's punishment for renouncing this obligation.
3.It could be by getting annoyed by seeing violations to what Allāh has prescribed.
4.It could be due to being faithful to the community members who indulge in evil and by being kind and merciful to them by making the effort to save them from being subject to Allāh's anger, displeasure and punishment in this life and in the Hereafter.
5.It could be by glorifying Allāh and Loving Him much, for He deserves to be obeyed, remembered, and thanked.
Observing the last two motives alone can make burden of conducting this obligation a light, favorable one and will empower the conductor with enough potential belittle any difficulty or hardship he may encounter thereof.
The last portion of the hadith clearly states that the least a Muslim can do in the case of witnessing an evil act is to change it by his or her heart. This means that he or she should dislike the evil he or she comes across. This is an action of the heart, such as saying: "O Allāh, there is nothing that I can do to change this bad situation that You dislike and disapprove except that I hate it to take place. I do not agree to it. O Allāh forgive me, guide me and save my heart to be influenced by it."
Unless this action of the heart is practiced, the heart of the believer who witnesses that evil will be subject to be influenced by that evil. A dark spot will be placed in that heart as stated in another hadith related by al- Bukhari and Muslim.
On the authority of Abu ‘Abdillāh al-Nu’man bin Bashir (radiyallāhu’anhu) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say:
“That which is lawful (halāl) is clear, and that which is unlawful ( harām) is clear, and between the two of them are doubtful [or ambiguous] matters (mushtabihāt) about which not many people are knowledgeable. Thus, he who avoids these doubtful matters (mushtabihāt) certainly clears himself in regard to his deen and honour. But he who falls into the doubtful matters (mushtabihāt) falls into that which is unlawful (harām), like a shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Verily every king has a sanctuary and Allāh’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Beware, in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be sound, all of the body is sound and which, if it be corruptted, all of the body is corruptted. Verily, this part of the body is the heart.”
[Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim]
With the repetition of such negative attitudes, the heart will be subject to more dark spots placed in it until it is concealed and no longer appreciates what is good and no longer dislikes what is bad or evil. This means that the Muslim who does not practice the lowest level of forbidding the evil, will be subject to turn into being an evil doer him or herself.
Allāh Almighty says: "Verily, the Abrar (pious and righteous) will be in Delight (Jannah).And verily; the Fujjar (the wicked, disbelievers, sinners and evildoers) will be in the blazing Fire (Hell)." [Al-Infitar, 82:13, 14]
The Prophet, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught the ummmah to seek Allāh’s forgiveness, guidance, steadfast and hasanah.
‘Abdullāh Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu) said: We counted Messenger's saying a hundred times during one single sitting: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb ‘alayya innaka antat-tawwābul ghafūrur-raheem’ (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Accepter of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful). [Recorded by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidzi].
‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud (radiyAllāh u‘anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam) used to say: "Allāh umma inni as `alukal-huda wat-tuqa wal-‘afafa wal-ghina (O Allāh ! I ask You for guidance, piety, chastity and self-sufficiency)". [Recorded by Muslim].
Guidance here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Fear of Allāh is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Chastity is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Self-sufficiency is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the do’a of the Prophet (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.
Anas Ibn Mālik (radiyallāhu’anhu) who said: “The supplication most often recited by Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam):Rabbana-ātina-fid-dunya hasānah, Wa fil-ākhirati-hasānah, Wa-qina-‘ādzabānnār (O Lord! Bestow upon us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the punishment of the Fire).’” (Al-Baqārah 2:201) [This is recorded by Al-Bukhāri, Muslim, and Tarmidzi]. Tarmidzi (rahimullāh) said: “Hasānah is very comprehensive and includes in all kinds of good and benefits of this world and of the Hereafter. Good health, wealth and satisfaction of the world and good status in Jannah, forgiveness from sins and Allāh’s bounties and favours in both worlds are included in this duā’” [Recorded in Jāmi’ At-Tarmidzi]
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[[Excerpted from a commentary on Hadith 34 : "The Concept Of Al-Amr Bil-Ma'ruf Wan-Nahiu 'Anil-Munkar (Enjoining What Is Good And Discouraging What Is Evil)”, Forty Hadiths of Imam Nawawi, By Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, via IC Truth]