Rights of the road (4): Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil


Narrated by Abu Said AI Khudri, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) ) told us in a hadeeth:

 "Beware! Avoid sitting on the roads." 

They (the people) said:"0 Allaah's Messenger! We can't help sitting (on the roads) as these are (our places) where we have talks." The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said;

 "if you refuse but to sit, then pay the road its right." 

They said, 'What is the right of the road, 0 Allaah's Prophet?" He said:

 "Lowering your gaze, refraining from harming others, returning greeting, and enjoining what is good, and forbidding what is evil." (Bukhari)

Allaah has prescribed ordinances, which should not be neglected, outlined some limits which should not be contravened, and has forbidden some things which He has deemed inviolable. Some of them are prohibited because they contradict some of the doctrines in which a Muslim is supposed to believe or they are immoral, unethical, and unhealthy or because they represent disobedience to the Creator. While all of these are to be avoided altogether, it is even more emphatic that they are not committed in the public. Allaah says:

"come not near to Al Fawahish (shameful sins) whether committed openly or secretly." (Q 6[An'am)151) 

Streets and pathways are public places where evils are to beeschewed. However, our decision to gather and enjoy our habit of sitting on the road for social interaction places on us an important obligation - enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. This stands out as a significant obligation in the list of our responsibilities as Muslims in our communities. Every Muslim is ordered by Allaah to fulfill this duty:

 "And let there be (arising) from you a nation inviting to (all that is) good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful." (Q 3[Aal-Imran): I04) 

Ibn 'Arabi said: "Commanding right and forbidding wrong is the essence of Islamic practices"

What is Good and What is Evil

To command what is good and forbid what is evil is predicated on the knowledge and recognition of the nature of good and evil. Munkar (evil) in a general sense is everything that is rejected or objectionable from a Sharee'ah or rational point of view. However, its meaning as contained in the opening hadeeth, is that which is rejected or objected to by the Sharee'ah. In other words, there may be some acts that the people do not consider good but, if the Sharee'ah has allowed such acts, they may not be considered munkar (evil) and are not required to be removed.

An evil action is evil no matter who is performing it; even if the person performing the munkar is not sinful, because he is a minor or ignorant, for example, the act is still a munkar that must be stopped. Therefore, if a small child, for example, is seen on the street smoking cigarette, it is munkar and he must be stopped and admonished. Maroof is the opposite of munkar. It is a word that implies every act of obedience to Allaah and every act that takes one closer to Allaah, whether it is obligatory or recommended. Its meaning also has the sense that they are the deeds that people accept and are pleased with and that people can have no objection to. Everybody's Job It is true that the more pious a person is the more he may be positively responded to when preaching to others.

However, that does not mean that such is a requirement for ordering good and eradicating evil. An impious person who commits a great deal of sin has every right to, for instance, take wine out of another person's hand and throw it down the drain, given the proper conditions. Etiquette of Commanding Right and Forbidding Evil There are certain steps that one should follow in eradicating evil. This is because the overall goal is to change and rectify one's behaviour. One is not trying to harm or injure others. Therefore, the following approach is recommended: First, one should make the person realize that he is committing an evil.

This, depending on the situation, may be done directly or indirectly. The sinner may be told, "Someone like you should not be performing such an act that is displeasing to A1laah." The person should continue to persuade the sinner kindly until he accepts his advice. Many times the sinner is not aware that he is committing a sin or he may not be aware of the gravity of the sin. Hence, by first informing the person of the matter, he may immediately and directly give up the act that he is doing. And that, obviously, is the goal. Second, it is important not to state that the person is ignorant. If the person is called ignorant or foolish, this will harm him and may drive him, due to his emotions, to defend his act and not change.

Note that if the person is committing a sin in private, then this exhortation and advice should be done privately between the advisor and the sinner. If the advice is given publicly, it will simply expose the person and drive him to defend himself. He may feel that the advisor is simply seeking to make him look bad and hurt his reputation. Therefore the admonition may not be taken in the manner in which it was meant. In addition, the one enjoining good and forbidding evil should have the following qualities:

1.lkhlas (Sincerity) - since enjoining the good and forbidding the evil is an action pleasing to Allaah and accepted by Him only if it is done with sincerity for Him.

2. 'I1m (Knowledge) - as Allah commands: 

"Say: This is my path, I do call to Allaah upon clear knowledge." (Q12[Yusuf]: 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. In Ibn Taymiyyah's al-Arnar it is stated that 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. Hilcmah (Wisdom) - which means saying or doing the right thing in the right way at the right time to the right person, as prescribed by Allaah in His statement:

 "Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful admonition." (Q I6[an-Nahl}:125) 

Ibn Taymiyyah 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. As

Allaah said to His Messenger, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam):  

"And by the Mercy of Allah you were able to deal gently with them. If you had been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from you." (Q3 [lmran): 159) 

 The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), 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."(Muslim).

5. Sabr (Patience) - since the people whom the caller opposes in enjoining good and forbidding evil, may be stubborn to his call and may even try to harm him. Ibn Taymiyyah says in ailstiqaaman, "concerning the call to the good and away from the evil: knowledge must precede it, gentleness must accompany it and patience must follow it."

6. Tawaadu' (Humility) - since 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. Allaah says:

"0 you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? It is a most hateful thing to Allah that you say that which you do not do." (Q61 [Saff): 2-3)

8. Husnul:-Istimaa'(Good listening) which is that the caller is attentive to the needs and feelings and also the complaints of the people whom he calls.

9. Shajaa'ah (Courage) – which 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.

10. Karam (Generosity).

This article was culled from the publications ofDeen Communication Limited