Enjoining What is Good (Al-Ma'roof) and Forbidding What is Evil (Al-Munkar)
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center or Raleigh, NC on August 25, 2000)
Allah (S.W.T) said in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 110), what can be translated as, "You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind, you enjoin Al-Ma'ruf and forbid Al-Munkar, and you believe in Allah…"
Allah (S.W.T) tells us in this verse that this Ummah (The Ummah of the prophet (S.A.W.)) is the best Ummah that Allah (S.W.T) has ever sent to humanity. He revealed the reason behind what makes this Ummah the best. It is the best not because of ethnic background, color, or language, but because of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil and the belief in Allah (S.W.T). So, if these characteristics are attained, this Ummah will be good. And if they are not attained, this Ummah will not be good. Qatadah said: We were told that while Omar Ibn Al-khattab (R.A.) was performing Hajj, he found people relaxed then read this verse and said: "He who is pleased to be from this Ummah, then let him perform Allah's due in this verse." If anyone who does not perform this duty (enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil) is like the People of the Book that Allah (S.W.T) scolded them when he said in surat Al-Ma'dah, (Verse 79), what can be translated as, "They used not to forbid one another from the Munkar which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do."
What does Al-Ma'roof mean? And what does Al-Munkar mean?
Al-Ma'roof is a noun that includes everything that is looked upon as good by Islam like obeying Allah, getting closer to Him, and being good with people.
Al-Munkar is a noun that includes everything that is looked upon as bad by Islam like disobeying Allah and turning one's back to Him and being bad with people.
Here, we must point to two important issues:
- The definition of Al-Ma'roof and Al-Munkar is not based on the customs and traditions of people, rather it is based on Islam revealed by Allah and that defined the Halal and Haram and the rest of rules. So, if Islam considers something good, then it is Ma'roof and commendable, and if Islam considers something bad, then it is Munkar and must be rejected.
- The Muslim society should only adopt Al-Ma'roof as defined by Islam and reject Al-Munkar that is rejected by Islam. For this reason, Al-Ma'roof was called Ma'roof because the believers, with all the knowledge and belief that they have, feel reassured with it because they know that is what Allah and his messenger want. And Al-Munkar was called Munkar because the believers reject it and are disgusted with it.
The meaning of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil include the whole Deen because the Deen is either an order to do something or not to do something. Imam Ibn Taimiyah said: "Sending messengers and sending down the Books, all intended: Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil."
Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil change societies, shape them and make them distinctive.
The corrupted society is infested with the Munkar, and ruled by the evil doers even if the society is not devoid of good and good doers who enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil. The straight society is the society of Ma'roof, ruled by the good doers even if the society is not devoid of evil and the evil doers.
Allah (S.W.T.) described the first society of Islam, so He said in surat At-Tawbah, (Verse 71), what can be translated as, "The believers, man and woman, are Auliya' of one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma'ruf and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar…"
In another verse, He (S.W.T.) says about the same society that there are hypocrites in surat At-Tawbah, (Verse 67), what can be translated as, "The hypocrites, man and woman, are from one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Munkar and forbid (people) from Al-Ma'ruf …"
Allah (S.W.T.) ordered this Ummah in surat Al-Imran, (Verse 104), what can be translated as, "Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma'ruf and forbidding Al-Munkar. And it is those who are the successful."
Imam Ibn Katheer said: "What is meant by this verse is that there must be a group of people dedicated to this issue, even if it takes every individual in the Ummah to do it. This is supported by a Hadith reported by Imam Muslim that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: " Whoever amongst you sees Munkar (an evil), he must change it with his hand; if he is not able to do so, than with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of faith."
All scholars have consensus that Munkar must be rejected. This is based on many verses and Ahadiths.
Rejecting Al-Munkar with the heart is obligatory upon every single individual. This rejection inside the heart of the individual relieves the individual from the responsibility if he is incapable of removing the Munkar with his hand and his tongue. Ibn Masood (R.A.) said: "There will be a time when one finds a Munkar, but he is not up to it, but Allah knows that his heart rejects the Munkar." The incapable individual has a legitimate excuse only if he knows that he can not reject the Munkar with his hand or with his tongue, or if he knows that he will be harmed knowing that he is not up to it.
Removing the Munkar with the hand and the tongue has two rules: It is either obligatory upon each and every individual or obligatory upon enough a group that can remove it. It is the latter type when more than one Muslim finds a Munkar. In this case, it is obligatory upon them to reject it. If removing this Munkar is done even by one person, then this obligatory will fall off the rest of the Muslims. If no one removes this Munkar, then everyone will be sinning.
Removing the Munkar with the hand and the tongue will be obligatory of the first type when only one Muslim finds this Munkar and he is capable of removing it.
The characteristic of everyone who enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil:
- Sincerity: It is a must that the intention must be solely for Allah (S.W.T.). His pleasure must be the only intended reward. Nothing from this worldly life can be intended. Whims and desires like showing off, fighting blindly for one's opinion, can not be intended.
- Knowledge: It is a must that the knowledge of Ma'roof and Munkar must be present and must be according to Allah's legislation. If this type of knowledge is not present, then enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil will be based on whims and desires. Many people reject what they do not like and are not used to even though it is allowed in Islam. Having the correct knowledge implies having the correct ways and etiquette of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. It also implies the knowledge of the situation of the person being spoken with.
- Kindness and wisdom: When enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, one must be kind and gentle. Without it, people will not accept it. Allah (S.W.T.) ordered the messenger Muhammad (S.A.W.) in surat An-Nahl, (Verse 125), what can be translated as, "Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better…" And also Allah (S.W.T.) ordered Mousa and Haroon when he sent them to Faroah in surat Taha, (Verse 44), what can be translated as, "And speak to him mildly,…"
- Patience: When enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, one must persevere through hardships and must stand for all the harm that he may find in his way. For this reason, Luqman advised his son: Allah (S.W.T) said in surat Luqman, (Verse 17), what can be translated as, "…And enjoin (on the people) for Al-Ma'ruf and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar and pear with patience whatever befalls you…"
- He must be doing what he is ordering people to do, and refraining from what he is ordering people to refrain from. This way he is effective in his order to people and his act will not be against him on the Day of Judgment. Allah (S.W.T.) says Allah in surat As-Saf, (Verses 2&3), what can be translated as, "O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do." Also Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "A man will be brought on the day of resurrection and will be cast into Hell, and his intestines will pour forth and he will go round them as and ass goes round its millstone. The inmates of Hell will gather round him and say: 'what has happened to you, O so-and-so? Were you not enjoining us to do good and forbidding us to do evil? He will reply: 'I was enjoining you to good, but was not doing it myself; and I was forbidding you to do evil, but was doing it myself."
If one does not have these characteristics, he will be breaking more than fixing. His silence may sometimes be better than speaking so that he may not start a bigger Munkar.
Conditions that must be there in every Munkar that needs to be removed:
- The Munkar has to be done openly. The prophet (S.A.W.) said: " Whoever amongst you sees Munkar…" It is not allowed to look for the hidden Munkar to remove because this is considered from spying that we were forbidden from.
- All scholars must have consensus that this specific thing is a Munkar. The Munkar is not the subject of debates and differences of the scholars. The differences in Ijtihad amongst scholars are not Munkar because the prophet (S.A.W.) acknowledged these differences and did not attack them like the incident of the Asr prayer at the village of Bani Quraithah, which was reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim.