By Ghulam Ghaus, New Age Islam
October 16, 2013
Enjoining people to do good and forbidding them from evil (Amr bil Maaroof, Nahi anil Munkir) is a doctrine mentioned in the Quran a few times. Wahhabism associates it with use of force, coercion and violence in society. The words ‘Amr’ and ‘Nahi’ have a variety of meanings but they are beyond every notion of aggression. The classical Quran exegetes and the traditions of the prophet (pbuh) have explained them well enough for us to be able to refute the false interpretations of this verse. In recent times, this doctrine has been misused to provide the pretext for allowing violence being inflicted on innocents in the name of establishing Islamic law (Sharia). The Taliban justify all tier cruelties on the pretext of following this doctrine. The perpetrators of such crimes, the extremist Talibani-Wahhabi ideologues who the following exegetic analysis refers to, are themselves the evil doers who should be forbidden from their evil practices.
Talibani-Wahhabi Muslims in their mouthpiece “Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad”, or Al-Qaeda-inspired magazines like Azaan, interpret “enjoining good and forbidding evil” more fanatically than we majority of mainstream Muslims can even imagine. Such a violent manner that they have pursued corresponds neither to natural human prudence nor to the will of God Almighty as we understand it. Usually they quote the following Hadith to justify their use of force in forbidding evil regardless of whether the majority of Muslims even consider that act as evil or not:
“On the authority of Abu Sa`id (Radhi Allahu `Anhu), the Prophet Sallallaahu `Alaihi wa Sallam said, "Whoever sees something evil should change it with his hand. If he can’t, then he should do it with his tongue; and if he cannot do even that, then in his heart. That is the weakest degree of faith." (Muslim, Hadith 34)
This authentic Hadith allocates three ways of ‘enjoining good and forbidding evil’ to each Muslim. Each way that the widely approved classical exegetes believed based upon friendly nature and harmonious literature. However, the provocative way some Wahhabi and Jihadi scholars explain it is nothing but a blow upon the intra-religious and intra-faith harmony—the harmony propounded by scores of Qur'anic verses and hundreds of peaceable, compassionate traditions of the prophet (pbuh).
In the following, the readers can better understand how fanatically the three ways of ‘enjoining good and forbidding evil’—by hand, words and hearts — mentioned in the Hadith have been interpreted by extremist Wahhabi ideologues.
1) By hand: they mean an action which includes coercion and violence through the use of weapons. That is how they are implementing several other Islamic doctrines as well. More particularly, radical Wahhabis believe all other Muslims including Sufi-Sunnis and Shiites as to be evil and thus they should be forbidden by the use of hand. As a result, they are organising mass killings and committing suicide bombings which are beginning to appear now as a routine affair.
2) By words: they mean to practice harsh attitude to forbid evil. No matter if the said act, according to majority of Muslims, is even evil or not. For example, they severely accuse those Muslims who visit the holy shrines of the prophets and the saints of polytheism (Shirk) and heresy (Kufr). Such violence of words can be noticed today in every part of the Muslim world, though the practice started from what is known now as Saudi Arabia.
3) By heart: this is the weakest form of faith, so hardly they implement it. Many practices which are not evil for majority of Muslims are evil for Wahhabis. For example, in non-Muslim majority countries, they are only able to practice the third way of enjoining good and forbidding evil. Regardless of what are actually evil or not, they are bringing up hatred and prejudice in their hearts.
Since the words ‘hand, ‘words’, and ‘heart’ are mentioned in the Hadith, these extremist Wahhabis get a chance to link these words to instil Sharia law by force, injustice, intolerance and allow what are actually forbidden in Islam like killing and bombing, particularly suicide. Thus, sometimes they succeed to attract those Muslims who are ignorant of the true teachings of Islam. Here, I would like to present the explanations of the widely approved exegetes and scholars of Islam so as to clear all the doubts and false allegations with regard to the Qur'anic doctrine of Amr bil Maaroof, Nahi anil Munkir (‘Enjoining good and forbidding evil’).
The commentary of Imam Ibn Rajab al Hanbali on the Hadith of changing evil by hand
Imam Ibn Rajab al Hanbali wrote a book commentary on the fifty Hadiths including the Hadith mentioned above. The book is titled “Jame`Al Uloom Wal Hikam”. He is considered an authority on Hadith sciences. All Muslim sects unanimously approve Ibn Rajab. Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani praised him in these words: “Imam Ibn Rajab al Hanbali was a great expert in the sciences of Hadith – the historical accounts of narrators, the chains of narration, and meaning of the text.” The following excerpts from his book refute the way the fanatical Talibani Wahhabi Mullahs interpret this verse in a bid to gain political authority:
“The concept of changing evil by hand (mentioned in the Hadith) does not mean fighting. This was stated by Ahmad also in the narration of Saleh. He said: changing evil by hand does not mean changing it by the sword and weapon”.
After a few sentences, he again writes:
“Changing evil by hand does not mean changing by sword “because there is fear of sedition or insurgency that may lead to the bloodshed of Muslims”.
A little later he again says:
“if there is fear of fighting, Muslims will be free from the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil”. (Jame`Al Uloom Wal Hikam by Ibn Rajab: Page 248-249)
He also writes: “The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “O’ Lord, forgive my Ummah, because they do not know”.
The above mentioned Hadith clarifies that the prophet was a mercy to the whole world. He used to pray for his Ummah (people including Muslims and non-Muslims) not to be punished by God Almighty, then how could he allow use of force upon his whole Ummah for enjoining good and forbidding evil.
Ibn Rajab then writes “Whatever it may be, kindness is essential at the time of denial.
Sufian Sauri said:
"No one should enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, but only when he gets three qualities: Kindness while enjoining good, Kindness while forbidding evil, Justice while enjoining good, Justice while forbidding evil, Knowledge of what he is enjoining and knowledge of what he is forbidding”. (Jame`Al Uloom Wal Hikam by Ibn Rajab, Page 256)
Changing evil by hand of sympathy and not by the hand of violence
Changing evil by hand, as mentioned in the Hadith, means to change it by hand of sympathy and love rather than that of violence and force. For example, let us imagine, how would a mother save her child from evil, by hand of love or by hand of violence. Of course, by love and not by violence. Similarly, suppose I want my friend to be away from the evil he is going to do. But what I will do if he ignores me. I should then stop him by my hand of sympathy in a pleading manner. This is what the Hadith exactly means and tells us to do. However, if he does not agree with me, I can’t force him in any way. The holy Quran makes it clear in other verses:
"God does command you justness, goodness and liberality to the near ones and He does forbid you shameful deeds, impropriety and rebelliousness." (16:91)
If God Almighty has given people liberty, then who are we to break his law of liberty? Nobody is accountable to God for others’ evil deeds. God Almighty will reward them for what they are doing, on the Day of Judgment, as mentioned in the holy Quran:
“And every soul will be fully compensated (on the day of Judgment) [for] what it did; and He is most knowing of what they do.” (39:70)
Calling people to do good and forbidding them from evil is indeed a source of getting virtue. But, it can’t be done, in any way, through violence. Not to speak of getting virtue, one will be a great sinner, if one forces and attacks the people. We need to ponder over the plenty of other verses that ensure justice, maintain peace and harmony throughout the world, the verses that refute all the false interpretations of ‘Enjoining good and forbidding evil’.
While interpreting the three ways of enjoining good and forbidding evil (hand, words, and heart), we must ensure that they correspond with the following verses and sayings of the prophet pbuh as well:
“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” (An-Nahl 16:125)
Hafiz Ibn Katheer mentions the words ‘Rifq’, ‘Layyin’ and ‘Husn-e-Khitab’ which mean Kindness, soft and beautiful speech. According to his commentary, calling to the way of God will only be done with kindness, soft and beautiful speech.
According to Tafseer-Qurtabi, calling to the way of God is by kindness rather than violence and frightening. Thus, by this verse, killing non-Muslims has been abrogated (Mansookh). Besides this, Tafseer Tabari, Tafseer Baghavi and Tafseer Kabeer - all of them promote beautiful speech and abrogate fighting non-Muslims.
God Almighty clearly says:
“And speak to him mildly, perhaps he may accept admonition or fear (Allah)” (20: 44).
“Proclaim, (O dear Prophet Mohammed - peace and blessings be upon him), “O disbelievers!” Neither do I worship what you worship. Nor do you worship whom I worship. And neither will I ever worship what you worship. Nor will you worship whom I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is mine”. (Surah-Al-Kafirun)
"He commands them what is right and forbids them what is wrong, he makes lawful the things that are wholesome and makes unlawful the things that are bad and lifts from them their burdens and the yokes that were upon them." (7:157)
The methods of enjoining good and forbidding evil in the Hadith
“Tamim Ad-Dari reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Religion is sincerity.” The Prophet said so but to whom: “To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, the leaders of the Muslims, and their common people.” (Sahih Muslim 55, Grade: Sahih)
It is reported by Abu Hurairah, Radhi Allahu 'Anhu, that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Religion is easy..." [Bukhari]
The Prophet pbuh said; "The best of your religion, is the easiest." [Ahmad]
“Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: Verily, among the greatest Jihad is a word of justice in front of a tyrant”. (Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2174, Grade: Hasan)
To sum up: the study of all the verses and sayings of the prophet pbuh clearly makes it incumbent upon Muslims not to force anyone in the matter of the religion (Deen). Hence, if they attempt to enjoin people to do good, they must do it without resorting to violence. Violence and terrorism leads to more evil and more violence. Instead, Muslims must be aware of the Talibani-Wahhabi interpretation of enjoining good and forbidding evil — an interpretation that is doing nothing but sparking violence throughout the world. They should also know it is Wahhabi radicals more than anyone who have been poisoning Muslims’ relationship with non-Muslims. To stem such spiralling violence, we majority Muslims collectively need to teach every kith and kin until ‘the true meaning of enjoining good and forbidding evil’ become commonly known. We should tell them that Islamic doctrine dispels every notion of aggression and violence in every possible way.
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. from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.