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Islamic Ideology ( 2 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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‘Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil’: A Comparative Study with ‘Freedom of Choice’ For Doing Good and Evil Rejects Every Notion of Coercion



By Ghulam Ghaus, New Age Islam

02 May, 2014

Enjoining good and forbidding evil is a Qur’anic injunction. Wherever it is mentioned in the Qur’an, it is just meant for the welfare of mankind, both in the world and the Hereafter. In fact, this beautiful Islamic doctrine, in its broader sense, corroborates freedom of choice, justice, tolerance, balance, mildness, justness, blissfulness and easiness.

That is precisely why the preachers who implement this Qur’anic injunction earn great virtues and are called successful in the Qur’an. “And from amongst you there must be a community comprising the people who invite mankind towards piety, enjoin righteousness and forbid evil. And they are the successful people”. (3:104)

However, these preachers should remember that the Qur’an also says, “There is no compulsion in the religion” (2:256). ‘Enjoining good and forbidding evil’ as being one of the parts of the religion negates every idea of compulsion. So, they cannot use this part as a proof for the enforcement of even the true Sharia law, let alone the Sharia law being hijacked, radicalized and misinterpreted by the neo-Kharijites.  

‘Enjoining good and forbidding evil’ does not mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs. It never denies the people their freedom of choice for doing good or evil as is manifested in the following Qur’anic verses.

“Verily, those who turn away from the straight path with regard to (the meanings of) Our Verses are not hidden from us. Then, is he who is thrown into the Fire of Hell better, or someone who comes safe and secure (from the torment) on the Day of Resurrection? Do as you wish. Surely, He sees all that you do.” (41:40)

This verse brings three basic doctrines of Islam into light. The first is that only Allah knows those who have turned away from the straight path. The second is that the matter of punishment or reward will take place on the Day of Resurrection. The third is that men are free to do good or evil.

All the three Islamic doctrines refute the idea of the radical Wahhabi ideologues who are inciting wanton killings and suicide attacks in the public places, demolition of Sufi-Islamic shrines, mosques, churches and temples in the name of ‘enjoining good and forbidding evil’.

While enjoining good and forbidding evil, one should take into account it is God Almighty who has created all the deeds, be it good or evil. He says “Allah has created you and all your doings” (37: 96)

However, this verse does not mean God Almighty wants his creatures to do evil. Rather, every vicious deed is committed by men themselves. The reason why God the Almighty has created good and evil is simply that he wanted to test the mankind, as He says:

“Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.” (21:35)

Muslim jurists and theologians unanimously differentiate between the creation of an act and the performance of that. They hold very balanced and moderate view in this regard. They believe that enjoining good and forbidding evil is a source of attaining virtue only if it is done with compassion, affection, beautiful speech and good intentions. However, this pious act becomes forbidden (Haram) when one does it with injustice, intolerance, violence and imbalance sowing the seeds of prejudice, inciting suicide attacks and mass destruction.

Thus, men have ‘freedom of choice’ for doing good or evil on account of the divine reward or punishment.  Had the people not been endowed with ‘freedom of choice’ in their acts, God Almighty would not have charged them for their misdeeds. Allah the almighty says:

“And whatever affliction comes to you, it is on account of what your hands have done” (26:30)

Also “Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea on account of what the hands of the people have earned, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, so that they may return.” (30:41)

To differentiate between what is good and what is evil, God Almighty has endowed men with insight and intelligence. The Quran says: “Surely we have shown him (man) the way (of right and wrong), (now it rests on his will) whether to be grateful or ungrateful” (76:3)

God Almighty does not allow anyone to use coercive ways while enjoining good and forbidding evil. If it had been allowed for anyone, He would not have talked about just and kind judgment on the Day of Resurrection, as in the following verses.

“So this day no soul shall be dealt with unjustly in the least and you shall not be rewarded for anything but that which you did” (36:54)

“And you shall not be rewarded except for what you did” (37:39)

And “you shall be requited only for what you did” (52:16).

“And every soul shall be paid in full what it has earned and they shall not be dealt with unjustly” (3:24)

“That every soul may be rewarded for what it has earned and they shall not be wronged” (45:22)

“Every soul gets (the benefit of) what it has earned and gets (the evil of) what it has done” (2:286)

All the verses mentioned above strictly prohibit every coercive way and violent action being exercised by Talibani-Wahhabi radicals in the name of extirpating evil.

Since God has all power to eradicate evil, He does not interfere with the wrong doers. This is the sole will of God Almighty where no one is allowed to forbid it by force as is clear in the following verse:

“And if Allah had willed (i.e., if it had been God’s plan) they would not have taken the false gods.”

Besides, it has been repeatedly mentioned in the holy Qur’an that even the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is not allowed to force any one in his forbidding evil. He was asked not to apply any forceful arguments even in the case of his beloved uncle Abu Talib so as to fulfil his duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil.

Allah says to Prophet (pbuh):

“The truth is that whoever you like (to bring on to the path of guidance); you do not yourself bring him on to the path of guidance. Instead, (it so happens that) whomever Allah pleases, He makes him tread the path of guidance (through your mediation). And He knows best those who find the path of guidance.”(28:56)

“The messenger’s duty is but to proclaim the message.” (5:99)

These verses prohibited even the Prophet (peace be upon him) from forcibly calling anyone, including even his beloved uncle Abu Talib, to the fold of Islam. So how can any Muslim use force and deny freedom of choice in the name of enjoining good and forbidding evil?

To sum up, the radical attempts of enjoining the good or forbidding the evil can never be legitimised in Islam. Similarly, all the killings of innocent lives, ethnic and sectarian violence sweeping across the world that are being done in the name of uprooting evil are forbidden (Haram) in Islam. After an in-depth study of the Qur’anic verses mentioned above, it is clear that enjoining good and forbidding evil is legitimate only without force, without any kind of injustice and without any violence. This task should be performed with the ‘freedom of choice’ that God Almighty has given to the people to do good or evil. Let us not forget the ultimate truth that every human being will be rewarded or punished only by God Almighty on the Day of Resurrection.

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A regular columnist for New Age Islam, Ghulam Ghaus is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background. He has completed the classical Islamic sciences from a Delhi-based Sufi Islamic seminary Jamia Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Zakir Nagar, New Delhi with specialization in Tafseer, Hadith and Arabic. He completed his Alimiat and Fazilat respectively from Jamia Warsia Arabic College, Lucknow and Jamia Manzar- e- Islam, Bareilly, U.P. He has graduated in Arabic (Hons) and is pursuing his M.A in Arabic from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.