O brothers and sisters of Islam, may Allah cause us to be from the people who uphold justice and call to justice, verily, Amar Ma’ruf (enjoining good) and Nahi Munkar (forbidding evil) is one of the primary responsibilities of our Faith. Allah the Most High has Commanded us to do good deeds and has forbidden us to do evil in the Glorious Qur’aan and from the teaching of our Prophet Muhammad (saw) along with encouraging us to give full attention to it and warning us of His Punishment, if we are ever neglectful of this honorable responsibility. Allah says in the Qur’aan :
“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: they are the ones to attain felicity.”(Surah Ali- Imran verse 104)
“Ye are the best of Peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had Faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have Faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors. ”(Surah Ali-Imran verse 110)
“The Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise. ”(Surah At-Tawbah verse 71)
“Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of Dawud and of 'Isa, the son of Maryam, because they disobeyed and persisted in Excesses. Nor did they (usually) forbid one another the iniquities which they committed: evil indeed were the deeds which they did. ”(Surah Al-Maidah verses 78-79)
Rasulullah (saw) said:
“Whosoever witnesses munkar, let him change it with his hand. If he is unable to do that, let him change it with his tongue. If that too he is unable, let him change it with his heart, and that is the weakest of Imaan.”
“O people! Enjoin good and forbid evil before your prayers to Allah are unanswered and before your seeking of forgiveness from Him is unaccepted.”
Verily, enjoining good and forbidding evil will not decrease your wealth or cause you to come nearer to your death. When the Jewish scholars and the Christian priests started to neglect this responsibility, they incurred Allah’s Wrath on themselves. Rasulullah (saw) said:
“The best Jihad is to utter one word of Truth in the presence of an unjust ruler.”
When he (saw) was asked: Who is the best of man? The answer came as follows:
“A person who fears Allah immensely, a person who strengthens ties with his kin/relations, a person who enjoins good and forbids evil.”
Never neglect this honorable responsibility.
It is known that Allah imposes His Wrath on a tribe that is populated by 18,000 people. They do very good deeds, like the deeds of the Prophets. The only exception was that they never stood up for their religion, even if Allah’s Commands was blatantly insulted in front of their very eyes.
Thus it is clear that enjoining good and forbidding evil cannot be neglected at any time. As long as we are still able, no excuse can be given for not carrying out this responsibility. Those who take this issue lightly are considered to be one of those who take Allah’s Rights for granted, with no respect for Allah’s Commands. He or she will be labeled as a person with a weak Imaan, with insufficient fear of Allah. But if one fears that by enjoining good and forbidding evil might affect his chances of a promotion, and or, one will be shunned, hated or not respected by the people by doing so, the person’s sin will be converted into a much greater one and one will be exposed to Allah’s Wrath.
However, if one fears that by enjoining good and forbidding evil that one will be opposed until something bad happens to oneself or his property, in this instance, one should keep silent. This is only if one is totally certain that something bad will happen and that one will not be able to bear the heavy consequences. If one does not take all that into consideration and still goes on enjoining good and forbidding evil no matter what the circumstances or consequences may be, then, one will acquire great Reward from Allah the Most High. This trait also shows that one loves Allah and puts His Commands as a priority over anything else.
Allah says in Al-Qur’aanul Kareem:
"O my son!(said Luqman) establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong; and bear with patient constancy whatever betide thee; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs.”(Surah Luqman verse 17)
How honorable it is for someone to be assaulted, beaten, imprisoned, criticized etc for upholding Allah’s Commands. That has been the tradition of the Prophets and Messengers, the path of the pious and righteous as we all know of their stories from well-known history books. In fact, it is of no use to be weak and cowardly which will be an obstacle in the way of our responsibility in upholding Islam or confronting the evil and the oppressors in our bid to call them back to the Straight Path of the Rabb-al’Alameen. To be angered for the sake of Allah, caused by those who go against His Commands and those who take for granted the promises of His Punishments, are characteristics of the Prophets and the siddiqin. In a particular Hadith :
“The Prophet (saw) never was angered for himself, but when one of Allah’s Commands is challenged, there will be no one who was angrier than him.”
Allah the Exalted, says in the Qur’aan:
“O ye who believe! if any from among you turn back from his Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him, lowly with the Believers, mighty against the Rejecters, fighting in the Way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault. That is the Grace of Allah, which He will bestow on whom He pleaseth. And Allah encompasseth all, and He knoweth all things. “(Surah Al-Maidah verse 54)
From this, it is clear that a true Mu`min cannot bear to stay silent, in the event of witnessing something evil and against Allah’s Commands, until he or she changes it (for the better), or to stay away from that evil in the event that he is powerless over it. In contrast, a Munafiq, or one who has a weak Imaan, in the event of witnessing something that is munkar, will come up with irrelevant excuses that are not endorsed by Allah and His Messenger. But if the munkar affects them directly, for example, they are slandered or their property were stolen etc, they will fight to the end with great anger. They will oppose those who have wronged them and make them arch-enemies for life. Ironically, if the evil affects the Haq of Allah, they prefer to keep silent and not do a single thing.
They should be angered when Allah’s Haq is threatened and not put themselves before Allah. They should oppose those who decline the Truth. They should end their relationships with those who challenge Allah.
Look closely the difference between these two categories and choose wisely the path that you should take. In our journey on the Straight Path, we need to constantly ask for Allah’s Guidance and for ourselves to be patient, verily Allah bestows His Grace on whomever He Wills and a great reward awaits those who are God-Fearing (the Muttaqoon).
Amar Ma’ruf Nahi Munkar is fardh kifayah
Thus, enjoining good and forbidding evil is fardh kifayah. If a group from among the Muslims carries out this responsibility, there will be no blame on the others. Those who undertake this responsibility will be granted great rewards from Allah the Most High. But if the whole Muslim Ummah neglects this responsibility, sin will befall every person whom, has knowledge of the Law, when munkar happens in his presence, does nothing about it even if he is able to do so.
How to change munkar?
In the event of witnessing munkar, we need to initially point out the mistake to the person in question and warn him from repeating it with carefully selected choice words. Also, we need to inform the person of the consequences in relation to the Shari’ Law with the hope that this method will work. If this proves unfruitful, the next step would be to give the person various naseeha and to inform the person of the punishment from Allah in relation to his/her wrong-doing. Use strong words in the hope that it would bring about some sense of realization to the person on the severity of his actions and its consequences. If still the munkar persists, then we should use force to correct the problem and this should be avoided as much as possible depending on situations on a case-to-case basis.
For the first two levels, that is to use choice words in pointing out the wrong and then by offering naseeha and to remind of Allah’s Punishments, usually can be done without encountering any problems or danger to oneself. Anyone who claims that one is powerless and weak to carry out these two levels are only giving irrelevant excuses and are in fact unwilling to uphold Allah’s Haqq.
As for the third level, that is changing the situation with force, not all are able to do this. Those who are able to do it are those who have really prepared themselves to uphold Allah’s Haqq, and fight with his life and soul in Allah’s Path. And they will never relent as long as they are in jihad on His Path. Or maybe those who receive authority/power or orders from a king or ruler.
Basically, one needs to carry out this responsibility in any way that one is able to do. Be it by offering advice with nice words, reminding of Allah’s Wrath and Punishments or by the use of force and power. It should be done within the means that belong to oneself. One needs to constantly uphold and defend his Deen, and never ever give irrelevant excuses to shirk this responsibility as there is no way to neglect something that has been made obligatory by Allah.
Soft approach to enjoing good
Calling people to the Truth, enjoining good and warning people against bad deeds in a soft manner with expressions of love, mercy and sincerity is one very effective way. We should hold true to this principle and never to stray from it as long as we hope for our call to be beneficial until we reach our objective.
Rasulullah (saw) said in this Hadith:
“Never there is mercy in a matter, other than it will be perfected. And never will that characteristic be taken away from a certain matter, other than it is hated”
In another Hadith:
“Verily no one enjoins good and forbids evil, unless he uses mercy and softness in regard to what he is calling to and uses mercy and softness in regard to what he is warning against”
The one who is enjoining the good must be practicing what he is preaching. And also in regard to what he is warning against, he needs to be among the first to stay away from that particular evil. This matter is important in order to be effective. For there is a grave threat to the ones who enjoin good but never practice it and forbid evil which he himself indulges in. We need to show a good example in our cause. That is the best method and that is the method of our Prophet (saw).
Do not neglect your Deen
Remember, O brothers and sisters, may Allah Guide us to the Straight Path, never neglect our Faith. That is, to neglect enjoining good and forbid evil. To refrain from speaking the Truth and to refrain from acting justly in order to please someone else. Or to desire the worldly gains. Those who indulge in the above will be humiliated by Allah, until they will be overpowered by other people and never will they gain whatever they desire.
However, it is permitted if one were to spend some of his wealth for the sake of his religion, or for his own living, or for his own safety against the evil motives of others. In a Hadith:
“Whatever is spent by a person for protection against danger, that is sadaqah.”
If someone repels a danger from bad company by spending on something that does not endanger his religion, then there is no blame or sin for him, insya-Allah. But it would be better and safer for the person to stay away from mixing with the bad company.
To be much clearer, this situation is when someone is already involved in bad company, and there is no way out other than the solution mentioned above. Otherwise, it is not permitted for a God-fearing Mu’min to mix around with bad company and with people who indulge in baathil forbidden by Allah. Moreover, we need to distance ourselves and be wary of them.
Do not spy and be a busybody
We need to distance ourselves from spying other people’s faults (‘aib) and exposing them to others. Allah says in the Noble Qur’aan:
“O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it. But fear Allah: for Allah is Oft-Returning, Most-Merciful”(Surah Al-Hujurat verse 12)
Rasulullah (saw) said:
“Whosoever spies on a fellow Muslim’s faults, Allah will spy on his faults, and He will expose it, even if the person is in the privacy of his own house”
Thus, we need to guard and conceal our fellow Muslim’s faults, never expose and spread it to others. Allah says:
“Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not. ”(Surah An-Nur verse 19)
Rasulullah (saw) also said:
“Whoever conceals the faults of a fellow Muslim, Allah will in turn conceal his secrets/weaknesses in this world and the akhirah.”
A person who likes to gather knowledge of other people’s faults, and to speak of it or to expose it to others is a Munafiq.
When a Muslim comes to know of another Muslim’s fault, he should conceal it from others. Then, he should privately offer naseeha in a nice subtle way, in line with what Rasulullah (saw) said:
“Allah will always help His slaves, as long as he helps his brother (fellow Muslim).”
Someone who witnesses others indulging in munkar, but he is unable to change it or prevent it, it is obligatory for him to hate the person along with his actions in his heart. This is in line with what Rasulullah said in an earlier Hadith:
“…If he is unable to change it with his hand or his tongue, then let him use his heart…”
And then, we need to distance ourselves from those who continue to indulge in munkar for being in their presence and witnessing their munkar, as it is being done, is not advisable. Those who have been warned against their munkar activities but pay no heed to it should be shunned until he quits indulging in it, and repents to Allah for his sins. Rasulullah (saw) said:
“One of the strongest characteristic of Imaan is to love something for the sake of Allah and to hate something for the sake of Allah.”
Do not hate the Truth
The one who is being warned of the evil in his actions, needs to guard himself from the characteristics of arrogance and denial of truth, or to say to the person who reminds him: “Mind your own business!” Also to say something that reflects hatred towards the Truth will incur Allah’s Wrath on that person. Allah tells us in the Qur’aan:
“When it is said to him, "Fear Allah," he is led by arrogance to (more) crime. Enough for him is Hell; an evil bed indeed (to lie on)! ”(Surah Al-Baqarah verse 206)
And the person who enjoins good and forbids evil will have no more obligations after performing his task. If he is hurt or opposed in turn for his advice, he will acquire a greater reward from Allah. Thus, a true Mu’min needs to be patient and non-complaining.
In the process of performing one’s duty, one needs to intend in his heart to save himself and his fellow Muslim from sin. One needs to imagine oneself trying to save a fellow brother/sister Muslim from a tragedy like a fire, or drowning at sea. In actual fact, in the task of correcting another person’s mistake in the field of his religion is much more important and a priority. Destruction and failure in one’s Faith that causes Allah to be angry is worse than the destruction of life or property whereby its risks are only limited to this world that is fana`. Destruction of worldly material things has no standing compared to the destruction and corruption of one’s Faith. Verily, the person who enjoins good and forbids evil has made an effort to save a fellow Muslim’s soul, regardless of whether his advice is taken or not.
In relation to that, it is told that on the Day of Qiamat, there will be a person who will depend on another and the second person will not recognise him. So, the second person will say, ”What is wrong with you? I do not know or recognize you!” And the first person will reply, “Yes, you have seen me before indulging in munkar and bad deeds, why didn’t you warn me then?” In a Hadith below:
“The people who stand within the limits (prescribed by) Allah and those who transgress it are like people sharing a vessel (ship) at sea. Some of them occupy the top part of the vessel and some below. The people on the lower part of the vessel, when they need to get their supply of water, needs to pass by the people who are staying on the upper part. It crossed their minds: If we make a small hole at the bottom of the vessel for us to get our supply of water, then we do not need to trouble the people on the upper part.
If they (people on the lower part) were to be left to do what they desire and fancy, everyone on the vessel will meet their destruction. But if they were given guidance, then, everyone on board the vessel shall be safe.”
Meaning: People who enjoin good and forbid evil, a task that Allah has obligated us with, has not only made an effort to save their fellow Muslims but also themselves. If we prefer to ignore and keep quiet when we are able to do something, then we are blameworthy and have sinned. In addition, those who undertake this honorable task are those who are seeking and hoping for Allah’s Rewards and Promise that have been given to anyone who upholds his religion and obeys Allah’s Commands.
“O ye who believe! If ye will aid (the cause of) Allah, He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly. ”(Surah Muhammad verse 7)
Manners/Etiquette of Amar Ma’ruf Nahi Munkar
Among the important manners of a person who enjoins good and forbids evil is to avoid being arrogant, vulgar or rough toward the people whom he is warning. These bad traits might convert his would-be rewards of enjoining good into sins and punishment. It might also affect his cause in the event that the warned person rejects his advice due to his bad methods or etiquette.
Thus, we need to guard ourselves against these bad characteristics. We need to show sympathy and empathy. We need to be humble and polite and to show mercy. Allah alone Grants Guidance to whomever He Wills, and to Him we trust and surrender all our matters.
We need to emphasize that this topic of Amar Ma’ruf Nahi Munkar needs to be further discussed and repeated until it leaves a certain effect in our hearts and gradually for our whole being to bear. As this honorable task and responsibility has its high priority in our religion and it is greatly beneficial to the whole Muslim Ummah which needs constant guidance and reminders. More so in this time and age, where we can find many who neglect this task without any proper reason or excuse for doing so. And every deed must be escorted with intention and Allah Rewards us according to our intentions. Wallaahu a’laam.
(Taken from the book An-Nashaaih Ad-Diniyah Wal-Washaaya Al-Imaaniyah by Imam Habib Abdullah Haddad. Whole book translation into Malay by Syed Ahmad Semait. This particular chapter translated into English for mirsab.com by Abu Muhammad al-Mirsab.)