FORBIDDING THE UNFAIR
Hazrat Abu Saeed Khudri (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him) has narrated that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said;
“If a person amongst you sees some bad deed being done, then he should change that bad deed with his hand, meaning that he should not just stop that bad deed but change it into a good deed. If he does not have the power and the authority to stop that bad deed, then the second degree is that he should change it with his tongue. It means that he should say to whoever is committing that bad deed that ‘please, what are you doing is not good. Please come towards doing good deeds.’ And if a person does not even have the power to say so, then he should change that bad deed with his heart, meaning he should believe in his heart that what is being done is a bad deed. About this third stage, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said that this the weakest stage of Iman (faith).”
AVOIDING BEING IN A STATE OF LOSS
In Surah Al-Asr, Allah Ta’ala has set out a general principle;
“…man is in a state of loss indeed, except those who believed and did righteous deeds, and exhorted each other to follow truth, and exhorted each other to observe patience.” (103:2-3)
So, there are these four deeds a person has to perform if he does not want to end up in a state of loss; (1) have Iman (faith), (2) do righteous deeds, (3) advising others to follow the truth, and (4) advising others to practice patience. This shows that to avoid being in a state of loss in Qiyamah (Day of Judgment) it is not enough for a person just to have Iman and do good deeds themselves. They also have to encourage other people to follow the truth and to practice Sabr (patience).
BEING HAPPY WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S SINS
In a Hadith while narrating the story of a people, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said that because those people were engaged in all sorts of sins, Allah Ta’ala decided to punish them. Allah Ta’ala ordered the angels to turn their town upside down to destroy them. Hazrat Jibra’il (Gabriel) (peace be upon him) asked, “O Allah. You have ordered to destroy this nation and You have not exempted any of its residents from that destruction. However, there is one person in that town who I know has never disobeyed You even for one moment. He has spent his entire life in obedience and Ibadah (acts of worship), and has never committed a sin. Should that person be killed too?” Allah Ta’ala replied, “Yes, destroy the whole town and kill him too. It is because he kept committing good deeds, and remained busy in Ibadah. However, when sins were committed by others, he never raised an eyebrow seeing those sins being committed. He never considered any of those sins wrong. He never took any actions to stop any of those sins from being committed. Therefore, destroy him with his people.”
THE PUNISHMENT WILL NOT BE FOR WRONGDOERS ONLY
In another verse of the Holy Qur’an Allah Ta’ala says;
“And beware of a scourge that shall not fall only on the wrongdoers from among you…” (8:25)
What this verse refers to is that the punishment will not be for sinners only. It will also fall on those people, as referred in other verses and Ahadith, who were not sinners themselves, but they kept watching other people commit sins but did not feel bad about it, and did not say a word, or raise a finger, to try to persuade others to refrain from sins.
This bidding the fair امر بالمعروف and forbidding the unfair نہی عن المنکر is an independent obligation under Shariah that is incumbent upon all of us, which many Muslims are negligent about. Even those people who consider themselves religious, and follow the dictates of Shariah, do not realize that it is their religious duty to try to tell other people to do good deeds and refrain from sins.
THE FIRST DEGREE OF FORBIDDING THE UNFAIR (نہی عن المنکر)
The first degree of Iman in the Hadith narrated above was to stop a sin being committed by hand, meaning stopping it using one’s authority and power. If a person had the power to stop a sin from being committed using his power, and didn’t do so, then it would be like he has committed the same sin himself. For example, a person is head of a family. He has authority within the family and people listen to him. If he is seeing that his family members are engaged in some sin, and he knows that if he tells them to stop engaging in that sin they would listen to him, and it would not lead to a major discord that he would not be able to tolerate, then it is Fard (compulsory) for him to stop his family members from that sin using his authority and power. Not doing so just because it would hurt someone’s feelings is not a valid consideration, because someone’s feelings being hurt carries no weight against one of Allah Ta’ala’s commandments being violated.
ALLAH’S COMMANDMENTS AND HURTING FELINGS
We should try not to hurt anyone’s feelings when we are trying to convince them about stopping sins. We must ensure that we deal with people with love, affection, and softness, and take care that we are not humiliating or belittling anyone, when we are trying to communicate Allah’s message to them. However, if a person feels that their feelings are being hurt despite us taking care of all of the above, then we need to stop worrying about their hurt feelings because violation of Allah Ta’ala’s commandments is more important than someone’s hurt feelings.
It is important that while talking to someone about Deen, we do not deliberately hurt anyone’s feelings, we do not insult them, we do not humiliate them, and we try to convey Allah’s message in a soft manner, and in privacy. However, if after doing all of that, someone still feels that their feelings are being hurt, then that should not lead us to giving up educating people about Allah’s commandments.
FORBIDDING THE UNFAIR (نہی عن المنکر) IS FARD COMPULSORY
If a person is the head of the family and the family members listen to him, in those circumstances if he keeps watching them getting more and more involved in committing sins and does not say or do anything to stop them from doing so, then he is committing a sin as, forbidding the unfair (نہی عن المنکر) was Fard (compulsory) upon him. The same applies to a teacher, an employer, or any other person in a position of authority.
IF THERE IS RISK OF CONFLICT
Sometimes there is a risk that if we try to stop someone from committing sins through our hand, it would lead to a bigger conflict or discord, or the person would become openly rebellious. And this open rebellion may lead to even bigger sins, or (may Allah protect us) Kufr (disbelief). On such occasions Shariah allows us that we do not force people to stop from committing sins by our hand, and just limit to educating them with our words.
WHEN TO TAKE A STAND?
Sometimes people go to one or the other extreme about when to take a stand about participating in activities which are not permitted in Shariah. It is a very delicate matter to decide when to take a stand, and when to compromise. There is no easy way of drawing up a simple list of occasions on which a person should take a stand, and when they should not. A person needs a guide or mentor to help them decide what to do on each individual occasion. If a person decides solely by themselves, they can go to either extreme, and if they take a stand on the wrong occasion, it can lead to more harm than good.
However, when it comes to the matter of mixed gatherings, every Muslim should take a stand. If we do not take a stand against it today, we will regret it tomorrow. There is still time when this trend can be reversed and we should do everything in our power to do so. Otherwise, after we go to our graves we will be held accountable by Allah Ta’ala about this. May Allah Ta’ala grant us strong enough Iman (faith) to do so. Ameen
THE SECOND DEGREE OF STOPPING PEOPLE FROM WHAT IS FORBIDDEN
In the Hadith above, the second degree of stopping people from what is forbidden, as described by the Holy Prophet ﷺ, is that if you can’t stop people with your hand, then stop them with your tongue. What it means is that if we see someone engaging in a sin, we say to them softly and politely that what you are doing is wrong, please do not do it. However, we should always be mindful that doing Tableegh (preaching) is not a stone or a stick that we hit other people with. It should always be done in a loving, caring, polite manner. In the Holy Quran Allah Ta’ala says;
“Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good counsel. And argue with them in the best of manners…” (16:125)
ADVICE TO HAZRAT MUSA (PEACE BE UPON HIM) ABOUT SPEAKING SOFTLY
When Allah Ta’ala commanded Hazrat Musa (Moses) AS to go to Pharaoh’s court, He advised Hazrat Musa and Hazrat Haroon AS;
“So speak to him in soft words. May be, he accepts the advice or fears (Allah)…” (20:44)
The point to note here is that Allah Ta’ala is advising Hazrat Musa and Haroon AS to speak softly to Pharaoh, who claimed to be god. Allah Ta’ala knew that he won’t accept Iman (faith) but as part of the Prophets’ training He is advising them to preach softly.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi RE used to say that today none of us can be a greater preacher than Hazrat Musa AS, and the people we are trying to preach to can’t be more misguided than the Pharaoh. If Allah Ta’ala is commanding His prophets to speak softly to Pharaoh, then what right have we got to preach harshly to people today?
ETQIUETTES OF PREACHING
There are some requirements which should be kept in mind when a person tries to stop someone else from committing a sin with their words. We should never point out other people’s mistakes publicly, we should never belittle or humiliate anyone, we should never preach in a manner which others might find insulting. Rather we should say such things privately, with love, affection, and with their best interests at heart.
Some people give the justification for using harsh language while preaching that people do not listen when spoken to politely. These people need to think about who has appointed them in charge of or responsible for other people’s Deen. The only responsibility Allah Ta’ala has bestowed upon us is that we convey Allah Ta’ala’s right message to people in the right way and with the right intention. Allah Ta’ala has placed no such obligation upon us that people must listen to us. When we are preaching to someone our intention should be for their benefit. If a person becomes ill, the doctor doesn’t get angry with that person why they became ill. The doctor treats that person kindly and shows sympathy towards them. Similarly when a person is engaged in a sin, they are sick at the time. They need our sympathy. We should not get angry with them, we should try to convey the message of Allah to them with kindness and love.
THE STORY OF A BEDOUIN
Once the Holy Prophet ﷺ was sitting in Masjid Nabvi with the Holy Companions when a Bedouin came. He prayed two Raka’at and then made a supplication, “O Allah! Show your mercy towards me and the Holy Prophet ﷺ, and do not show mercy towards anyone else.” The Holy Prophet ﷺ said, “You have narrowed Allah Ta’ala’s great mercy.”
After a short while the Bedouin sat down on the floor of Masjid Nabvi and started passing urine. When the holy Companions saw him doing this they ran to stop him and started telling him off. The Holy Prophet ﷺ stopped his companions from doing so and said, “don’t stop him now, let him finish”. When he had finished, the Holy Prophet ﷺ told the Holy Companions to wash and clean the Mosque. Then he gently told the Bedouin that the Mosque is not meant for this purpose, it is Allah Ta’ala’s home so we should keep it clean. Thus he taught him gently and with affection. Today if someone passes urine in the mosque, people would most likely get physically violent towards him. On the other hand, the Holy Prophet ﷺ did not even scold him.
OUR WAY OF PREACHING
In the Hadith above, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has taught us the etiquettes of preaching. Today, either people do not care at all about conveying Allah’s message to others. Or if someone turns towards it, it becomes a pain for everyone else. If they see someone making a mistake in the mosque, they start immediately scolding them and humiliating them in front of everyone. This is not the way of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. There is a proper way of conveying every message. When we correct someone, in our heart we should have the feeling that this person has gotten involved in this one mistake for some reason. I should guide him towards the right path so that he may come to it. We should not harbour feelings of arrogance or flaunting our knowledge as these feelings and intention destroy the effect of preaching.
OUR DUTY IS ONLY TO CONVEY THE MESSAGE OF ALLAH
Some people justify their harshness while preaching by saying that if they preach softly and politely people don’t listen to them. The answer is that Allah Ta’ala has not made us accountable for people listening or not listening to us. We are accountable for conveying Allah’s message to people only. It has been narrated in the Holy Quran there was a nation in which people were completely immersed in Allah Ta’ala’s disobedience. There was no hope that they would change their way and Allah Ta’ala’s curse was about to befall them. However, there were some pious subjects of Allah Ta’ala who kept preaching to these people. Someone asked these preachers;
“…Why do you exhort a people whom Allah is going to destroy or chastise with a severe punishment?…” (7:164)
Those pious subjects of Allah Ta’ala gave such a beautiful answer;
“…To absolve ourselves before your Lord…” (7:164)
They meant that we know these people are obstinate. They are firm in their disbelief. They are not going to change their behaviour. However, we are still preaching to them because when Allah Ta’ala asks us on the Day of Judgment that all these sins were being committed in front of your eyes, what efforts did you make to try to stop them, then at least we would be able to say that Allah Ta’ala we made our best effort to try to bring them to the straight path, and we were not amongst them. If a preacher keeps preaching with this intention in his heart, then God Willing he would have discharged the obligation of Bidding the Fair and Forbidding the Unfair (امر بالمعروف، نہی عن المنکر), even if no one listens to them.
Hazrat Nuh (Noah, Peace be upon him) kept preaching for nearly nine hundred and fifty years but only 19 people embraced Islam. This is no reflection on Hazrat Nuh AS as it was not his responsibility that people become Muslims. Therefore, we should too keep conveying Allah’s message in the right way, with the right intention, politely and with empathy. God Willing (Insha’Allah) we would have fulfilled our obligation of conveying Allah’s message. Also, when a person keeps preaching politely and gently, Allah Ta’ala grants the benefit of that message to the listeners sooner or later.
THE THIRD DEGREE OF STOPPING WHAT IS FORBIDDEN
In the hadith above, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said that if a person does not have the ability to stop someone from committing a sin with their hand as well as with their tongue, then the third degree is that they believe that act to be a sin in their heart, and keep believing that what that person is doing is not right. Here the question arises that it is possible that a person may not have the power to stop someone else from committing a sin with their hand, but everyone has the power to express their thoughts with their tongue. What does it mean then that a person does not have the power to stop someone with their tongue? The answer is that in some cases the person may have the ability to say something, but the consequences of doing so may be worse than those of keeping quiet. For example, we see a person doing something which is not in conformity with the Sunnah. But sometimes we know that if we say something to him, it is likely that rather than change his behaviour, he will start making fun of the Sunnah and ridiculing a Sunnah takes a person close to disbelief (Kufr). In such circumstances it is preferable not to say anything and keep believing in one’s heart that what the other person is doing is wrong.
CHANGING FORBIDDEN ACTS WITH OUR HEART
If the Hadith above is translated accurately, its literal meaning would be that if a person does not have the power to change a sinful deed with their words, then they should change it with their heart. The Holy Prophet ﷺ did not say that we should consider these acts wrong in our hearts, he commanded us to change them with our hearts. What does changing a sinful deed with our heart mean? Religious scholars have said that if a person does not have the power to stop a sinful act with their hand or with their words, then they should have so much dislike towards that sinful act that it should show on their face, and they should keep looking for the right opportunity to change it with their hand or their words.
Once the harmful effects of a sin set in a person’s heart, then they are always thinking about ways to stop that sin from being committed again. For example, a person’s children start going on the wrong path. If the father then uses physical means to stop them, this may create the opposite effect. If he tries to advise them verbally they may not listen. How distressed that father would be. He would keep thinking whole night how to pull his children put of that situation. This anxiety and worry itself teaches a person how to say the right thing at the right time.
THE HOLY PROPHET ﷺ AND DESIRE TO BRING CHANGE BY HEART
The Holy Prophet ﷺ came to a society in which sins, disbelief, associating partners with Allah Ta’ala, open rebellion against Allah’s commandments, were all rampant. For the first 3 years after receiving prophethood the Holy Prophet ﷺ was not allowed to preach and convey Allah’s message. In these three years he kept watching all the vices in the society and kept praying to Allah Ta’ala in the Cave of Hira. Finally, when he is granted permission to preach, he brings a revolution in that society through his preaching.
The Holy Prophet ﷺ had such strong desire for his people to come to the fold of Islam that the Holy Quran describes it in the following words;
“(O Prophet,) perhaps you are going to let yourself collapse in grief because they do not believe.” (26:3)
Allah Ta’ala is consoling the Holy Prophet ﷺ that his duty is only to convey Allah’s message to people. It was up to people themselves whether they embraced Islam or not. However, the Holy Prophet ﷺ had such strong desire to save people from the fire of Hell that he wanted to convey Allah’s message to everyone who came to him.
HOW CAN ONE’S PREACHING BECOME MORE EFFECTIVE?
Hazrat Maulana Qasim of Nanota (may Allah Ta’ala bless him) used to say that the person who is truly deserving of doing Tableegh (preaching) is one in whom the desire to convey Allah’s message has become as strong as the motivation to fulfil one’s natural desires like hunger or thirst. Just like a hungry person cannot be at peace until they have eaten, similarly this person cannot be at peace until they have conveyed Allah’s message. In our revered elders Hazrat Ismail Shaheed (may Allah Ta’ala bless him) used to be like that. In his each sermon hundreds of people used to do Taubah (repentance) on his hand from their sins, because what he said came from his heart and affected hearts.
A STORY OF HAZRAT ISMAIL SHAHEED RE
Once Shah Ismail Shaheed (may Allah Ta’ala bless him) delivered a sermon in Jama Masjid Delhi for one and a half to two hours. When he was descending the stairs after finishing the sermon a man came running and asked, “Has Maulvi Ismail’s sermon finished?” When Shah Ismail Shaheed RE replied that it had finished, he said he was very sad because he had come from quite far to listen to his sermon. Hazrat Ismail Shaheed RE said, “Don’t worry! My name is Ismail. I am the one who gave that talk and I will repeat what I said for you now.” And then sitting on the stairs of the Masjid he repeated the whole sermon. Someone asked later in incredulity, “Hazrat! You repeated the whole sermon for one person?” Hazrat replied, “I had delivered the sermon for One the first time too, and then repeated the same for that One again.”
In summary, it is a Fard Ain (فرض عین) (obligatory) upon every Muslim to preach about right and wrong to every person who is within their sphere of influence and who is likely to listen to them. If a person sees a sin being committed, it is incumbent upon them to try to stop it if they have the authority to do so, if not, they should try to stop it with their words. And if they can’t even do that, they should believe it to be wrong within their hearts. May Allah Ta’ala make us act on these commandments. Ameen
وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين