Enjoining the Right and Forbidding the Wrong
All praise is due to Allah. We praise Him, seek His aid, and seek His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil which is within ourselves and from the evil in our actions. Whoever Allah guides, none can send astray; whoever Allah sends astray, none can guide.
I bear witness that there is no deity other than Allah alone, and with no partner. And I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and His messenger. Allah sent him with the guidance and the way of truth, that He might raise it above all other ways of life. Allah is sufficient as a witness. May Allah send His prayers and his greetings upon Muhammad and upon the people of Muhammad s.a.w.
Enjoining right and forbidding wrong is that with which Allah sent the revealed books, and with it He sent His messengers, and it is an integral part of the way (i.e. the deen). The message of Allah is composed of informative and directive parts. As for the informative, it is Allah informing us about Himself, such as tawhid (theology), or His informing us about His creation, such as the stories of previous peoples and Prophets in which are contained for us lessons, threats and promises. The directive part consists of commands to do, command not to do, and things left to our choice and discretion.
Thus, it has been mentioned in the hadith that the chapter of the Qur'an which starts out: “Say: He is Allah, the One...” [Al-Ikhlas, 112:1] is equal to one third of the Qur'an, because of it’s including the third of tawhid. The Qur'an consists of tawhid, commands, and historical events.
2. Enjoining Right: Our Prophet and Those before Him.
Allah said by way of description of Prophet Muhammad SAW:
“He orders them with that which is good and forbids them that which is bad. And he makes allowed for them that which is clean and good, and forbids them that which is unclean and detestable.” [Al-A’raf, 7:157].
This illustrates the perfection of the message of the Prophet Muhammad SAW. He is the one on whose tongue Allah has enjoined all that is good, forbidden all that is bad, allowed every clean thing and prohibited every unclean or harmful thing. For this reason, it is narrated that the Prophet said:
"I have been sent to complete the qualities of good character."
And he said in the agreed-upon hadith:
"My analogy in relation to the other prophets of Allah is like the analogy of a man who built a house. He completed and perfected everything about the house all except for the location of a single brick. The people used to pass by the house and express pleasure at its beauty, but they would say: "If only it weren't for that missing brick." I am that brick, and I am the seal of the Prophets."
Through Muhammad, Allah completed the way (deen) which includes the enjoining of all good, the forbidding of all evil, the allowing of everything clean, and the prohibition of everything unclean. As for the Prophets who came before him, their messages sometimes contained the prohibition of some clean and good things, as Allah said:
“Because of some crimes committed by the Jews, we forbad to them some clean things which had been allowed to them.” [Al-Nisa’, 4:160]
Also, their messages sometimes did not forbid all unclean things as Allah said:
“All food was once allowed to the children of Israel except that which they chose to forbid themselves before the sending down of the Tawrat.” [Al-‘Imran, 3: 93].
The forbidding of unclean things is included in the meaning of forbidding wrong, just as the allowing of all clean things is included in the meaning of enjoining right. This is because the prohibiting of clean and good things is part of what Allah has forbidden. Thus, the enjoining of all good and the forbidding of all bad did not reach completion except in the Prophethood of Muhammad SAW by means of whom Allah completed the qualities of good character, which includes all that is good. Allah said:
“...On this day I have perfected for you your way (deen), and have completed my favour upon you, and have accepted for you Islam as your way (deen)”. [Al-Ma'idah, 5:3]
Allah has perfected for us the way, and completed His favour upon us, and accepted for us Islam (submission) as our way of life.
3. This Nation Is the Best Nation for the People.
Allah ascribed to the nation (Ummah) of Muhammad the same characteristic which He ascribed to the Prophet himself in the previous verse when He said:
“You are the best nation brought forth for the people of the world: you enjoin right and you forbid wrong, and you believe in Allah.” [Al-‘Imran, 3:110].
And He said:
“Believing men and believing women are the protecting friends of each other: they enjoin right and they forbid wrong.” [Al-Tawbah, 9:71].
In the same vein, Abu Hurairah, a companion of the Prophet and narrator of many hadith used to say:
"You are the best people for the people; you tie them in chains and shackles and drag them off to paradise."
Allah explains in the above verse that this nation is the best nation for the people i.e. the most beneficial to them, the one doing them the greatest favour. This is because they constitute the total good and benefit for the people via their enjoining right and forbidding wrong both in quality and in quantity, since they enjoin all that is right and forbid all that is wrong, and their message is addressed to all people of the world. Furthermore, they uphold this institution with jihad (struggle) in the path of Allah with their lives and their property, and this constitutes the complete benefit for the world.
As for the previous nations, none of them enjoined all people with all that is right, nor did they prohibit all that is wrong to all people. Furthermore, they did not make jihad (struggle) in this cause. Some of them did not take up armed struggle at all, and those who did, such as the Jews, their struggle was generally for the purpose of driving their enemy from their land, or as any oppressed people struggles against their oppressor, and not for sake of calling the people of the world to guidance and right, nor to enjoin on them right and to prohibit to them wrong. Allah narrates the following discussion between Musa (Moses) and his followers:
“O people, enter the sacred land which Allah has written for you, and do not turn back on your heels to subsequently find yourselves Note: The change to pitch (12) and font (1) must be converted manually in abject loss. They said: "O Musa therein is a belligerent people, and we will not enter it until they come out - if they come out, then we will enter it.”... They said: "O Musa, we will never enter it as long as they are in it, so you go, you and your Lord, and fight. We are going to sit right here.” [Al-Maidah, 5: 21-24]
Allah says in another verse:
“Did you not see the assembly of the sons of Israel after the time of Musa when they said to a Prophet of theirs: "Raise up for us a king that we may fight in the path of Allah??” He said: "Would you perhaps not fight then, if fighting were prescribed for you?" They said: "Why would we not fight in the path of Allah, and we have been exiled from our homes and our children?" Then, when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned their backs, all except a few, and Allah is in full knowledge of the wrong-doers.” [Al-Baqarah, 2: 246]
Here we see that those speaking with this prophet cited the reason for their fighting that they had been exiled from their homes and their children. In spite of this, most of them failed to live up to their word, when in fact they were ordered to fight. For this reason, they were not allowed to keep any spoils of war, and were not allowed to take female captives as right-hand possessions.
It is well known that the greatest nation of believers before us was the children of Israel. This has been narrated in the agreed-upon hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas, that the Prophet SAW said:
"The previous nations and their prophets were shown to me last night. A prophet would pass with one man, another with two men, another with a small group, and another with no one with him. Then, I saw a great crowd, small mountains filled with people, and I said: "This is my Ummah!" It was said to me: "These are the sons of Israel, but look over there." Then I saw a huge crowd which blocked the horizons. It was said to me: "This is your Ummah, and among them are seventy thousand who will enter paradise with no account-taking." The Prophet's listeners dispersed with no further explanation being given. Then, the companions discussed this issue, saying: "As for us, we were born in associations, but have believed in Allah and His Prophet ... but these are our sons. When this speculation of theirs about who the seventy thousand were reached the Prophet, he said: "They are those who do not practice cauterization, or use incantations (i.e. believing in some mystical ability to cure or prevent illness), do not believe in omens, and who depend fully on their Lord." Ukasha ibn Mihsan stood up and said: "Am I one of them, O Messenger of Allah?" The Prophet said: "Yes". When someone else stood up and said the same thing, the prophet said "Ukasha has come before you."
From this we understand why the consensus of this ummah is a proof, i.e. because Allah has informed us that they enjoin all that is right, and prohibit all that is wrong. If they (i.e. the Muslim Ummah) were to all agree to allow something forbidden, to drop an obligation, to forbid something allowed, or to perpetrate any falsehood about Allah or about His creation, they would be enjoiners of what is wrong, prohibitions of what is good, and that is surely not of pure speech and good works. What's more, the verse implies that whatever the ummah has not enjoined is not right, and whatever it has not prohibited is not wrong. Since this is the Ummah which enjoins all right, and prohibits all wrong, it is not possible for the entire Ummah neither to enjoin something which is wrong nor to prohibit something which is good.
Just as Allah has informed us that this ummah will fulfil this function, He has also made it a collective obligation (fardhu kifayah) upon the Muslim Ummah saying:
“Let there be from among you a group which calls to what is good, enjoins right, and forbids wrong. These are the successful ones.”
It is not the duty of the practitioner of enjoining right and prohibiting wrong to deliver the message to everyone in the world. Such was not even required of the Prophets (Peace be upon them), and this is an auxiliary to the prophetic messages. Rather, what is required is to make it available to those who seek it. If they, in turn are negligent in seeking it, though it has been made accessible, then the responsibility is upon them, not him. Since enjoining right is a collective obligation, as the Qur'an clearly indicates, it is not an obligation upon every single individual Muslim, rather upon them as a group.
Since jihad is part of the perfection if enjoining right and prohibiting wrong, it, too, is a collective obligation. As with any collective obligation, this means that if those sufficient for the task do not come forward, everyone capable of it to any extent is in sin to the extent of his capability in that area. This is because its obligation when it is needed is upon every Muslim to the extent of his or her ability, as the Prophet SAW said in the hadith:
"Whoever of you sees wrong being committed let him change it with his hand (i.e. by force). If he is unable to do that, then with his tongue, and if he is unable to do that, then with his heart." [Muslim]
This being the case, it is clear that enjoining right and prohibiting wrong is one of the greatest good works that we have been ordered to do.
4. What Is Ma'ruf (Right) And Munkar (Wrong)?
Carrying out the punishments prescribed by Allah on whoever transgresses the bounds of the syari'ah is a part of prohibiting wrong. It is obligatory upon those in authority ( Ulul-amri ) i.e. the scholars from each group or nation, and their amirs, and their elders, to stand over the general population enjoining good and prohibiting wrong, thus ordering them with all that which Allah and His Prophet have enjoined. For example, the rulings of Islamic Law (Syari’ah) e.g. the five prayers in their proper time periods, obligatory alms, obligatory fasting, and pilgrimage to Makkah. Also, belief in Allah, His angels, His revealed books, His prophets, and the Judgement Day, belief in the pre-destination of all things the good and the bad, and the concept of Ihsan (the highest level of iman or faith) which means to worship Allah as if you see Him for, verily, even if you do not see Him, He always sees you. Moreover, the good (ma’ruf) includes everything both internal and external which has been enjoined by Allah and His Prophet. These include: absolute sincerity to Allah (ikhlas), dependence on Allah ( tawakkal ), that Allah and as well His Prophet be more beloved to the believer than anyone else, hope for Allah's mercy and fear of His punishment, patience with the decree of Allah and complete surrender to His order, truthfulness of speech, fulfilling of obligations, returning trusts to their owners, good behaviour toward parents, maintaining of family ties, cooperation in all acts of righteousness and good, benevolence and generosity toward one's neighbours, orphans, poor people, stranded travellers, companions, spouses, and servants, justice and fairness in speech and actions, calling people to good character, and acts of forbearance such as establishing relations with those who cut you off, giving those who deny you, and forgiving those who oppress you. Enjoining people to be close together and cooperative, and forbidding them differing and dividing themselves is also a part of enjoining what is right.
As for the bad (munkar) which Allah and His prophet have forbidden, its ultimate and worst form is the association of partners with Allah. Association’s means to pray to someone or something else along with Allah. This partner could be the sun, the moon, stars or planets, an angel, one of the prophets, a righteous man or saint, one of the jinn, images or graves of any of these, or anything else which is called to other than Allah the Exalted. Associations are also to seek aid or succour from any of the above, or to prostrate to them. All of this and anything like it is the associations’ (syirik) forbidden by Allah on the tongues of all of His prophets.
Everything which Allah has forbidden is also part of the mungkar such as unjustified killing, taking people's property by unlawful means, taking of property by force or intimidation, interest, or gambling, all types of sales or contracts which the Prophet has prohibited, breaking of family ties, cruelty to parents, cheating in weights and measures, and any form of transgression on the rights of others. Also in this category are all innovated acts of "worship" which Allah and His prophet have not ordained or sanctioned.
5. Let Your Enjoining Of Good Be Itself Good.
Friendliness and sympathy are the correct way in enjoining right and forbidding wrong. For this reason, it has been said:
"Let your enjoining of good be good, and let not your forbidding of bad be bad."
6. Benefits Must Outweigh Negative Consequences
Enjoining right and forbidding wrong being one of the greatest obligations or commendable acts in Islam, it is essential that the benefit therein outweigh its negative consequences. This is the general spirit of the messages of the prophets and the revealed books, and Allah does not like chaos and corruption. All that which Allah has enjoined is beneficial, and the epitome of benefit. Allah has praised “salah” (the opposite of corruption) and the “musliheen “(reformers, or those who bring about salah). And He has praised those who believe and do good works (saalihaat), while condemning corruption (fasad) and those who cause it in many places in the Qur'an. Thus whenever the adverse effects (mafsada) of any act of enjoining or forbidding are greater than its benefit (maslaha), it is no longer part of what Allah has enjoined upon us, even if it be a case of neglecting obligations or committing the forbidden. This is because it is upon the believer to fear Allah in relation to His slaves, and their guidance is not his responsibility. This is part of the meaning of the verse in which Allah says:
“O, you who believe, your selves are your responsibility, those who go astray will not harm you when you stick to guidance.”
"Sticking to guidance" is only accomplished by fulfilling and carrying out all obligations. Thus, when a Muslim does what is obligatory upon him by way of enjoining right and forbidding wrong, just as he fulfilled all other obligations, the going astray of those who go astray will not do him any harm.
7. Methodology of Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong
Enjoining right and forbidding wrong is done sometimes with the heart, sometimes with the tongue, and sometimes with the hand (i.e. physical force). As for practicing it with the heart, it is obligatory upon everyone in every time and situation, since its practice brings no hardship. Whoever fails to do even that is not even a believer as in the full version of the previously cited hadith?
"Whoever of you sees wrong being committed, let him rectify it with his hand, if he is unable, then with his tongue, and if he is unable, then with his heart, and this is the weakest of faith -- or in another version: beyond this there is not a single mustard seed's weight of faith (iman).
Ibn Mas’ud was once asked: "Who are the living dead?" To which he replied: "He who does not acknowledge the right as such, and does not reject the wrong."
He is referring to the person described in the following agreed-upon hadith who consistently failed to reject wrong when tested. The Prophet said:
"Tests are shown to the hearts like a straw mat, straw by straw. Whichever heart accepts them, and absorbs them, gets a black spot placed on it, and whichever heart rejects them, gets a white, clear spot on it. This goes on until the hearts are of two types: a heart which is white, smooth, and clear like a polished stone which will not be harmed by further trials or tests for as long as the heavens and the earth last, and another dark and blemished; it is like a hook turned over the wrong way on which nothing can be hung - it neither acknowledges what is right nor rejects what is wrong, except for that which happens to coincide with its lusts and inclinations with which this heart has become fully absorbed."
8. Pitfalls of Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong.
Two groups of people fall into error in this area:
One group leaves what is obligatory upon them in the area of enjoining right and forbidding wrong, clinging to an incorrect interpretation of the ayat quoted previously:
“O, you who believe, your selves are your responsibility, those who go astray will not harm you when you stick to guidance.”
Abu Bakar once explained this error in a khutbah saying:
"O people, verily you read this ayat, and you apply it where it does not belong, for I heard the Prophet SAW says: Verily when the people see the wrong-doer, and do not seize his hand, Allah is about to inflict them with a general punishment."
The second group desires to neither enjoin and forbid the people with their tongues and their hands absolutely and in all situations without sufficient knowledge of the syari'ah, nor forbearance, nor patience, nor regard for that which is beneficial and that which has more harm than benefit and that which is possible and that which is not possible. This is as in the hadith narrated by Abu Tha'laba Al-Khushaniy:
"... rather enjoin on one another what is right and forbid what is wrong until you see obedience to greed and following of lusts and preoccupation with this world and the absolute fascination of each one with his own opinion, and when you see a situation over which you have no power, what is upon you then is your private affairs. For verily, the Days of Patience are coming; patience in those days is like squeezing a hot coal in your hand. The reward of one who fulfils all of his obligations in those days is equal to the reward of fifty such people today."
This group, then, enjoins and forbids believing that they are in obedience to Allah ta'ala when in reality they are transgressors of His boundaries. In this way, many of the deviant and misguided groups considered themselves to be enjoiners of right and forbidders of wrong such as the khawarij, and the mu'tazilah, and the rafidha (Syi'ah), and others of those who erred in understanding that which Allah gave them in terms of enjoining right and forbidding wrong, and fighting jihad, and other issues. The corruption caused by this kind of enjoining and forbidding is much greater than any good which may result.
9. Rebellion against the Imam of the Muslims.
For this reason, the Prophet ordered us to be patient when there is injustice on the part of the ruler of the Muslims, and forbad us to fight them, as long as they maintain the prayer, and he said:
"Give them what is due to them, and ask Allah what is due to you." [Muslim and others]
Thus, one of the basic principles of Ahl As-Sunnah Wa Al-Jamaah : loyalty to the larger group of the Muslim Ummah, not rebelling against its rulers, and keeping away from battles when chaos and fitnah arises.
As for the deviant groups such as the mu'tazilah, they view fighting the Imams of the Muslims as one of the principles of their religion. The Mu'tazilah make the basis of their religion five principles: " Tawhid " - which in their terminology means the negation of all of Allah's names and characteristics, Divine Justice - which means the denying of the decree of Allah in all things, the station between the two stations - i.e. their erroneous theory that anyone who sins is no longer a believer and not quite a kafir , he is stuck somewhere in between, the carrying out of threats - taking literally the threats of punishment which Allah attaches to various sins in the Qur'an, and enjoining right and forbidding wrong - part of their theory here is warfare against the imams of the Muslims.
See: Enjoining the Right and Forbidding the Wrong.2
See: Enjoining the Right and Forbidding the Wrong.3
See: Enjoining the Right and Forbidding the Wrong.4
See: Enjoining the Right and Forbidding the Wrong.5
See: Enjoining the Right and Forbidding the Wrong.5