The Quran has explicitly described one of the most important missions of Muslim Ummah i.e. amr bil maruf wa nahi anil munkar – enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil) through different verses such as 3:110 and 9:71. The human is an embodiment of flaws and errors. His nafs (soul) tells him or her to follow the heart’s desires irrespective of whether they are forbidden by Allah (SWT) and Shaytan adds fuel to the fire by tempting one to sin.
In order to prevent a person’s heart from being afflicted with such diseases, Allah (SWT) has commanded us in the Quran to enjoin that which is good (Al-Ma’roof) and forbid that which is evil (Al-Munkar): “Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining Al-Ma‘roof and forbidding Al-Munkar. And it is they who are the successful.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:104]
In a broader aspect, Ma’roof means monotheism and all the good that Islam has enjoined. In contrast, Munkar means polytheism and all evil that Islam has forbidden. The above-mentioned verse makes it compulsory for Muslim Ummah to promote good, truth, and justice and prevent evil and injustice. In another verse of the Holy Quran, Allah (SWT) has commanded the same to the Muslim Ummah: “You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma‘roof and forbid Al-Munkar, and you believe in Allah.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:110]
Consider amr bil maroof wa nahi anil munkar to be a built-in correcting mechanism in society – just like Microsoft Word uses a built-in Dictionary feature to auto-correct spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Imagine a society being kind to Allah’s creation, eliminating poverty through Zakat and Sadaqah, being just and fair in their dealings, and forbidding evil such as dishonesty, corruption, and indecency. This will not just benefit individuals spiritually and mentally in a personal capacity but it is also for the greater good of society.
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The above mechanism works at two levels. The first level is where it is the responsibility of every member of the Muslim society until the Hour is established. It is obligatory upon everyone – rulers and subjects, men and women – each according to his or her circumstances. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; and if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by feeling that it is wrong] – and that is the weakest of faith.” (Muslim) It is clear that if a person does not even feel bad about an evil, he or she has no faith whatsoever.
Similarly, we are encouraged to support that which is good. One hadith assures that a person who persuades another one to do some good deed will get the same reward as the person he or she persuaded. It is best to practice amr bil maroof wa nahi anil munkar in one’s own sphere of influence, starting with family and friends.
At the second level of the aforesaid mechanism, this becomes a specialized task: a full-time job for a qualified and highly knowledgeable group of individuals who guide towards the right path, such as religious scholars. Enjoining good and forbidding bad is of so much importance that Luqman, the Wise made it a pertinent part of his advice to his son, as recounted in the Quran. If the Ummah fails to do this duty, it will lead to the destruction of society and subsequently, Allah’s wrath may prevail. Allah (SWT) mentions Bani Israel in the following verse who failed to practice this:
“They used not to forbid one another from the Munkar which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do.” [Al-Ma’idah 5:79]
In today’s antagonistic society, it has indeed become very difficult to ask anyone to do good, or more importantly, stop them from committing a sin. Prevailing Islamophobia is not the only hindrance – this has become a more alien concept in Muslim societies. Western culture is inculcated so deeply in our minds that we actually believe in “to each his own” or “live and let live.” However, this is one of the major differences between Islamic teachings and the West.
In verses 163-164 of Surah Al-A’raf, Allah (SWT) has mentioned a group of people who warned another group of people who were committing sins. People asked them not to do so as the sinners will one day be punished by Allah (SWT). To this, they said that they must, so that there is no excuse against them on the Day of Judgment and maybe the sinners would eventually start fearing Allah (SWT). Accordingly, it is a Muslim’s fundamental duty to preach what is good and forbid evil against all odds.
May Allah help us to fulfill our roles and responsibilities and may we practice what we preach.