Principles of enjoining good and forbidding evil

Principles of enjoining good and forbidding evil

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Enjoining good and forbidding evil is one of the essential teachings of Islam. It is the pillar of a justly-ordered society and the guardian of true faith. Everyone is obligated to acknowledge good and reject evil in their hearts, at the very least.

Abu Saโ€™id al-Khudri reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

ู…ูŽู†ู’ ุฑูŽุฃูŽู‰ ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูู…ู’ ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูŽุฑู‹ุง ููŽู„ู’ูŠูุบูŽูŠูู‘ุฑู’ู‡ู ุจููŠูŽุฏูู‡ู ููŽุฅูู†ู’ ู„ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูŽุณู’ุชูŽุทูุนู’ ููŽุจูู„ูุณูŽุงู†ูู‡ู ููŽุฅูู†ู’ ู„ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูŽุณู’ุชูŽุทูุนู’ ููŽุจูู‚ูŽู„ู’ุจูู‡ู ูˆูŽุฐูŽู„ููƒูŽ ุฃูŽุถู’ุนูŽูู ุงู„ู’ุฅููŠู…ูŽุงู†ู

Whoever among you sees evil, let him change it with his hand. If he is unable to do so, then with his tongue. If he is unable to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest level of faith.

Source: แนขaแธฅฤซแธฅ Muslim 49, Grade: Sahih

The lowest level of faith is to reject evil in oneโ€™s heart and it is an obligation at all times. As for changing evil with oneโ€™s tongue, or words, and with oneโ€™s hand, or by direct action, it is only an obligation for those who are able to carry out its duties according to proper methods, principles, and objectives.

Ibn Rajab commented on the many hadith of this nature, writing:

ููŽุฏูŽู„ูŽู‘ุชู’ ู‡ูŽุฐูู‡ู ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽุญูŽุงุฏููŠุซู ูƒูู„ูู‘ู‡ูŽุง ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ูˆูุฌููˆุจู ุฅูู†ู’ูƒูŽุงุฑู ุงู„ู’ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูŽุฑู ุจูุญูŽุณูŽุจู ุงู„ู’ู‚ูุฏู’ุฑูŽุฉู ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ู ูˆูŽุฃูŽู…ูŽู‘ุง ุฅูู†ู’ูƒูŽุงุฑูู‡ู ุจูุงู„ู’ู‚ูŽู„ู’ุจู ู„ูŽุง ุจูุฏูŽู‘ ู…ูู†ู’ู‡ู ููŽู…ูŽู†ู’ ู„ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูู†ู’ูƒูุฑู’ ู‚ูŽู„ู’ุจูู‡ู ุงู„ู’ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูŽุฑูŽ ุฏูŽู„ูŽู‘ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุฐูŽู‡ูŽุงุจู ุงู„ู’ุฅููŠู…ูŽุงู†ู ู…ูู†ู’ ู‚ูŽู„ู’ุจูู‡ู โ€ฆ ูˆูŽุฃูŽู…ูŽู‘ุง ุงู„ู’ุฅูู†ู’ูƒูŽุงุฑู ุจูุงู„ู„ูู‘ุณูŽุงู†ู ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ูŠูŽุฏู ููŽุฅูู†ูŽู‘ู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฌูุจู ุจูุญูŽุณูŽุจู ุงู„ุทูŽู‘ุงู‚ูŽุฉู

All of these traditions indicate that it is an obligation to condemn evil by the measure of oneโ€™s ability. As for condemnation in the heart, it is always required. Whoever does not condemn evil in his heart, it is a sign that faith has vanished from his heartโ€ฆ As for condemnation of the tongue and hand, it is only obligatory within oneโ€™s capacity.

Source: Jฤmiโ€™ al-โ€˜Ulลซm wal-แธคikam 2/245

The scholars have said that enjoining good and forbidding evil is based upon three principles, or prerequisite and necessary conditions:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Gentleness
  3. Patience

It is not appropriate for someone to enjoin good or forbid evil unless they have knowledge of Islamic rulings and their relevancy to real-life situations, they are able to be patient and forbearing with the harm this duty entails, and they are gentle with people as much as possible.

Sufyan al-Thawri, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

ู„ุง ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุจูุงู„ู’ู…ูŽุนู’ุฑููˆูู ูˆูŽู„ุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽู‰ ุนูŽู†ู ุงู„ู’ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูŽุฑู ุฅูู„ุง ู…ูŽู†ู’ ูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ูููŠู‡ู ุฎูุตูŽุงู„ูŒ ุซูŽู„ุงุซูŒ ุฑูŽูููŠู‚ูŒ ุจูู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุฑูŽูููŠู‚ูŒ ุจูู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽู‰ ุนูŽุฏู’ู„ูŒ ุจูู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุนูŽุฏู’ู„ูŒ ุจูู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽู‰ ุนูŽุงู„ูู…ูŒ ุจูู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุนูŽุงู„ูู…ูŒ ุจูู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽู‰

No one may enjoin good or forbid evil except for one who has three qualities: gentleness in what he enjoins and forbids, justice in what he enjoins and forbids, and knowledge of what he enjoins and forbids.

Source: al-Amr bil-Maสปrลซf lil-Khallฤl 1/24

And Al-Qadi Abu Yaโ€™la said:

ู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุจูุงู„ู’ู…ูŽุนู’ุฑููˆูู ูˆูŽูŠูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽู‰ ุนูŽู†ู’ ุงู„ู’ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูŽุฑู ุฅู„ูŽู‘ุง ู…ูŽู†ู’ ูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ููŽู‚ููŠู‡ู‹ุง ูููŠู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุจูู‡ู ููŽู‚ููŠู‡ู‹ุง ูููŠู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽู‰ ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ู ุฑูŽูููŠู‚ู‹ุง ูููŠู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุจูู‡ู ุฑูŽูููŠู‚ู‹ุง ูููŠู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽู‰ ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ู ุญูŽู„ููŠู…ู‹ุง ูููŠู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุจูู‡ู ุญูŽู„ููŠู…ู‹ุง ูููŠู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽู‰ ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ู

No one may enjoin good and forbid evil unless he understands what he enjoins and forbids, he is gentle in what he enjoins and forbids, and he shows forbearance in what he enjoins and forbids.

Source: al-Amr bil Maโ€™rลซf li-Ibn Taymฤซyyah 1/21

And Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

ูู„ุง ุจุฏ ู…ู† ู‡ุฐู‡ ุงู„ุซู„ุงุซุฉ ุงู„ุนู„ู… ูˆุงู„ุฑูู‚ ูˆุงู„ุตุจุฑ ุงู„ุนู„ู… ู‚ุจู„ ุงู„ุฃู…ุฑ ูˆุงู„ู†ู‡ูŠ ูˆุงู„ุฑูู‚ ู…ุนู‡ ูˆุงู„ุตุจุฑ ุจุนุฏู‡

One who enjoins good must have three qualities: knowledge, gentleness, and patience. Knowledge comes before it, gentleness comes during it, and patience comes after it.

Source: al-Amr bil Maโ€™rลซf li-Ibn Taymฤซyyah 1/20

The scholars set these three conditions because, in addition to being mentioned many times in the Quran and Sunnah, they further facilitate the ultimate objective in Islam of reforming and purifying souls on their journey to Allah into the Hereafter. If someone tries to enjoin good while lacking one of these qualities, they will likely end up making the situation worse for themselves and others.

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

ูˆู„ู‡ุฐุง ู‚ูŠู„ ู„ูŠูƒู† ุฃู…ุฑูƒ ุจุงู„ู…ุนุฑูˆู ูˆู†ู‡ูŠูƒ ุนู† ุงู„ู…ู†ูƒุฑ ุบูŠุฑ ู…ู†ูƒุฑ ูˆุฅุฐุง ูƒุงู† ู‡ูˆ ู…ู† ุฃุนุธู… ุงู„ูˆุงุฌุจุงุช ูˆุงู„ู…ุณุชุญุจุงุช ูุงู„ูˆุงุฌุจุงุช ูˆุงู„ู…ุณุชุญุจุงุช ู„ุง ุจุฏ ุฃู† ุชูƒูˆู† ุงู„ู…ุตู„ุญุฉ ููŠู‡ุง ุฑุงุฌุญุฉ ุนู„ู‰ ุงู„ู…ูุณุฏุฉ

Based on this, it is said to let not your enjoining good and forbidding evil be evil itself. As it is among the greatest of obligatory and recommended deeds, thus the benefit of obligatory and recommended deeds must outweigh their harm.

Source: al-Amr bil Maโ€™rลซf li-Ibn Taymฤซyyah 1/10

Being able to balance all considerations of time and place in sound knowledge, graceful patience, and compassionate gentleness is the essence of wisdom, as put by Ibn al-Qayyim:

ุงู„ู’ุญููƒู’ู…ูŽุฉู ุฅูุฐู‹ุง ููุนู’ู„ู ู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ุจูŽุบููŠ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ู’ูˆูŽุฌู’ู‡ู ุงู„ูŽู‘ุฐููŠ ูŠูŽู†ู’ุจูŽุบููŠ ูููŠ ุงู„ู’ูˆูŽู‚ู’ุชู ุงู„ูŽู‘ุฐููŠ ูŠูŽู†ู’ุจูŽุบููŠ

Wisdom is to act as one should, in the manner that one should, in the time that one should.

Source: Madฤrij al-Sฤlikฤซn 3/449

One who enjoins good should have a sound understanding of Islamic teachings on the issues at hand, in addition to the specific circumstances regarding people, their customs, their perceptions, and so on. Enjoining good is an act of worship done for the sake of Allah, so the good of it will be diminished or entirely nullified if it is done in ignorance.

Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

ู…ูŽู†ู’ ุชูŽุนูŽุจูŽู‘ุฏูŽ ุจูุบูŽูŠู’ุฑู ุนูู„ู’ู…ู ูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ู…ูŽุง ูŠููู’ุณูุฏู ุฃูŽูƒู’ุซูŽุฑูŽ ู…ูู…ูŽู‘ุง ูŠูุตู’ู„ูุญู

Whoever worships without knowledge will cause more harm than good.

Source: Sunan al-Dฤrimฤซ 308

One who enjoins good should be gentle to those whom he enjoins, meaning to only use such sternness or force as is necessary to achieve the desired outcome of reformation. The quality of gentleness makes the difference between a beautiful and graceful deed done for the sake of Allah, or an ugly and disgraceful deed done for the sake of oneโ€™s ego.

Aisha reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

ุฅูู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ุฑูู‘ูู’ู‚ูŽ ู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽูƒููˆู†ู ูููŠ ุดูŽูŠู’ุกู ุฅูู„ูŽู‘ุง ุฒูŽุงู†ูŽู‡ู ูˆูŽู„ูŽุง ูŠูู†ู’ุฒูŽุนู ู…ูู†ู’ ุดูŽูŠู’ุกู ุฅูู„ูŽู‘ุง ุดูŽุงู†ูŽู‡ู

Verily, kindness is not found in anything but that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything but that it disgraces it.

Source: แนขaแธฅฤซแธฅ Muslim 2594, Grade: Sahih

The Prophet (แนฃ) was very gentle and charitable whenever he needed to criticize or correct someoneโ€™s behavior. His habit was to make a general point of correction, without specifying or naming the person, in hopes of salvaging that personโ€™s reputation. The reputations of the believers, like their lives and property, are sacred.

Aisha reported: If the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, heard something bad about a man, he would not name them by saying, โ€œWhat is the matter with this person that he says this?โ€ Rather, the Prophet (แนฃ) would say:

ู…ูŽุง ุจูŽุงู„ู ุฃูŽู‚ู’ูˆูŽุงู…ู ูŠูŽู‚ููˆู„ููˆู†ูŽ ูƒูŽุฐูŽุง ูˆูŽูƒูŽุฐูŽุง

What is the matter with some people who say this?

Source: Sunan Abฤซ Dฤwลซd 4788, Grade: Sahih

When further criticism was warranted to achieve the intended result, the Prophet (แนฃ) would use mild and measured language to correct a personโ€™s behavior. He would neither outright condemn Muslims or believers for their moral shortcomings, nor would he use foul, vulgar, offensive, or ugly language.

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would not revile others, he would not use profanity, and he would not curse others. If he wanted to criticize one of us, he would say:

ู…ูŽุง ู„ูŽู‡ู ุชูŽุฑูุจูŽ ุฌูŽุจููŠู†ูู‡ู

What is the matter with him? His forehead be dusted!

Source: แนขaแธฅฤซแธฅ al-Bukhฤrฤซ 5684, Grade: Sahih

The companions likewise followed the Prophetโ€™s (แนฃ) example in correcting people as gently as they could, only being harsh with those who committed brazen sins and violations of otherโ€™s rights in public.

Ahmad ibn Hanbal reported:

ูƒูŽุงู†ูŽ ุฃูŽุตู’ุญูŽุงุจู ุงุจู’ู†ู ู…ูŽุณู’ุนููˆุฏู ุฑุถูŠ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู†ู‡ ุฅูุฐูŽุง ู…ูŽุฑูู‘ูˆุง ุจูู‚ูŽูˆู’ู…ู ูŠูŽุฑูŽูˆู’ู†ูŽ ู…ูู†ู’ู‡ูู…ู’ ู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽูƒู’ุฑูŽู‡ููˆู†ูŽ ูŠูŽู‚ููˆู„ููˆู†ูŽ ู…ูŽู‡ู’ู„ุง ุฑูŽุญูู…ูŽูƒูู…ู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู

The companions of Ibn Masโ€™ud, may Allah be pleased with him, if they passed by people from whom they saw something they disapproved, they would say: Take it easy, may Allah have mercy on you.

Source: al-Amr bil-Maสปrลซf lil-Khallฤl 1/25

And Imam Ahmad said:

ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุจูุงู„ุฑูู‘ูู’ู‚ู ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ุฎูุถููˆุนู ุฅูู†ู’ ุฃูŽุณู’ู…ูŽุนููˆู‡ู ู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽูƒู’ุฑูŽู‡ู ู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽุบู’ุถูŽุจู ููŽูŠูŽูƒููˆู†ู ูŠูุฑููŠุฏู ูŠูŽู†ู’ุชูŽุตูุฑู ู„ูู†ูŽูู’ุณูู‡ู

One should enjoin good with gentleness and humility. If they make him hear what he dislikes, he should not get angry such that he wants to avenge himself.

Source: al-Amr bil-Maสปrลซf lil-Khallฤl 1/28

And he also said:

ุงู„ู†ูŽู‘ุงุณู ู…ูุญู’ุชูŽุงุฌููˆู†ูŽ ุฅูู„ูŽู‰ ู…ูุฏูŽุงุฑูŽุงุฉู ูˆูŽุฑููู’ู‚ู ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽู…ู’ุฑู ุจูุงู„ู’ู…ูŽุนู’ุฑููˆูู ุจูู„ูŽุง ุบูู„ู’ุธูŽุฉู ุฅูู„ูŽู‘ุง ุฑูŽุฌูู„ู‹ุง ู…ูุนู’ู„ูู†ู‹ุง ุจูุงู„ู’ููุณู’ู‚ู ููŽู„ูŽุง ุญูุฑู’ู…ูŽุฉูŽ ู„ูŽู‡ู โ€ฆ ูŠูŽุฃู’ู…ูุฑู ุจูุงู„ุฑูู‘ูู’ู‚ู ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ุฎูุถููˆุนู ููŽุฅูู†ู’ ุฃูŽุณู’ู…ูŽุนููˆู‡ู ู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽูƒู’ุฑูŽู‡ู ู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽุบู’ุถูŽุจู ููŽูŠูŽูƒููˆู†ู ูŠูุฑููŠุฏู ูŠูŽู†ู’ุชูŽุตูุฑู ู„ูู†ูŽูู’ุณูู‡ู

People are in need of courtesy and gentleness in enjoining good, without harshness, except for a man who brazenly sins in public, for he has no sanctity.

Source: Jฤmiโ€™ al-โ€˜Ulลซm wal-แธคikam 2/256

As for patience and forbearance, it was the quality of the Prophets, peace and blessings be upon them all, to endure the harms of their people to whom they delivered the message of Allah.

Allah said:

ุฅูู†ูŽู‘ ุฅูุจู’ุฑูŽุงู‡ููŠู…ูŽ ู„ูŽุญูŽู„ููŠู…ูŒ ุฃูŽูˆูŽู‘ุงู‡ูŒ ู…ูู‘ู†ููŠุจูŒ

Verily, Abraham was forbearing, compassionate, and repentant.

Surat Hud 11:75

And Allah said:

ูˆูŽู„ูŽู†ูŽุตู’ุจูุฑูŽู†ูŽู‘ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ูฐ ู…ูŽุง ุขุฐูŽูŠู’ุชูู…ููˆู†ูŽุง ูˆูŽุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ููŽู„ู’ูŠูŽุชูŽูˆูŽูƒูŽู‘ู„ู ุงู„ู’ู…ูุชูŽูˆูŽูƒูู‘ู„ููˆู†ูŽ

They said: We will surely be patient with the harm you cause us, and let them rely upon Allah those who would rely.

Surat Ibrahim 14:12

One who enjoins good must be gentle to avoid provoking the harmful reactions of those whom he enjoins, but it is to be expected that such harm is inevitable in some cases. This means that the believer should advise others and neither reciprocate their harm and insults, nor retaliate against them for the sake of his or her own ego.

Amr ibn al-โ€˜As, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

ู„ูŽูŠู’ุณูŽ ุงู„ู’ุญูŽู„ููŠู…ู ู…ูŽู†ู’ ูŠูŽุญู’ู„ูู…ู ุนูŽู…ูŽู‘ู†ู’ ูŠูŽุญู’ู„ูู…ู ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ู ูˆูŽูŠูุฌูŽุงู‡ูู„ู ู…ูŽู†ู’ ุฌูŽุงู‡ูŽู„ูŽู‡ู ูˆูŽู„ูŽูƒูู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ู’ุญูŽู„ููŠู…ูŽ ู…ูŽู†ู’ ูŠูŽุญู’ู„ูู…ู ุนูŽู…ูŽู‘ู†ู’ ูŠูŽุญู’ู„ูู…ู ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ู ูˆูŽูŠูŽุญู’ู„ูู…ู ุนูŽู…ูŽู‘ู†ู’ ุฌูŽุงู‡ูŽู„ูŽู‡ู

The truly forbearing one is not one who is forbearing to those who tolerate him but insults whoever insults him. Rather, the truly forbearing one is forbearing to both those who tolerate him and to those who insult him.

Source: al-Mudฤrฤh al-Nฤs 6

Artah ibn al-Mundhir, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

ุงู„ู’ู…ูุคู’ู…ูู†ู ู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ุชูŽุตูุฑู ู„ูู†ูŽูู’ุณูู‡ู ูŠูŽู…ู’ู†ูŽุนูู‡ู ู…ูู†ู’ ุฐูŽู„ููƒูŽ ุงู„ู’ู‚ูุฑู’ุขู†ู ูˆูŽุงู„ุณูู‘ู†ูŽู‘ุฉู ููŽู‡ููˆูŽ ู…ูู„ู’ุฌูŽู…ูŒ

The believer does not take vengeance for himself. He is prevented from doing so by the Quran and Sunnah. He has been restrained.

Source: al-Amr bil-Maสปrลซf lil-Khallฤl 1/29

Enjoining good should always been done with a sincere intention for the sake of Allah, not as a pretext to vent personal grudges or any other egotistically driven motive. Sometimes one who enjoins good is motivated by hope of reward or fear of punishment, but an even better motive is good will and mercy towards the believers and the pure love of Allah and love for the sake of Allah.

Ibn Rajab writes:

ูˆูŽุงุนู’ู„ูŽู…ู’ ุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽู…ู’ุฑูŽ ุจูุงู„ู’ู…ูŽุนู’ุฑููˆูู ูˆูŽุงู„ู†ูŽู‘ู‡ู’ูŠูŽ ุนูŽู†ู ุงู„ู’ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูŽุฑู ุชูŽุงุฑูŽุฉู‹ ูŠูŽุญู’ู…ูู„ู ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ู ุฑูŽุฌูŽุงุกู ุซูŽูˆูŽุงุจูู‡ู ูˆูŽุชูŽุงุฑูŽุฉู‹ ุฎูŽูˆู’ูู ุงู„ู’ุนูู‚ูŽุงุจู ูููŠ ุชูŽุฑู’ูƒูู‡ู ูˆูŽุชูŽุงุฑูŽุฉู‹ ุงู„ู’ุบูŽุถูŽุจู ู„ูู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุงู†ู’ุชูู‡ูŽุงูƒู ู…ูŽุญูŽุงุฑูู…ูู‡ู ูˆูŽุชูŽุงุฑูŽุฉู‹ ุงู„ู†ูŽู‘ุตููŠุญูŽุฉู ู„ูู„ู’ู…ูุคู’ู…ูู†ููŠู†ูŽ ูˆูŽุงู„ุฑูŽู‘ุญู’ู…ูŽุฉู ู„ูŽู‡ูู…ู’ ูˆูŽุฑูŽุฌูŽุงุกู ุฅูู†ู’ู‚ูŽุงุฐูู‡ูู…ู’ ู…ูู…ูŽู‘ุง ุฃูŽูˆู’ู‚ูŽุนููˆุง ุฃูŽู†ู’ููุณูŽู‡ูู…ู’ ูููŠู‡ู ู…ูู†ูŽ ุงู„ุชูŽู‘ุนูŽุฑูู‘ุถู ู„ูุบูŽุถูŽุจู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ูˆูŽุนูู‚ููˆุจูŽุชูู‡ู ูููŠ ุงู„ุฏูู‘ู†ู’ูŠูŽุง ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ุขุฎูุฑูŽุฉู ูˆูŽุชูŽุงุฑูŽุฉู‹ ูŠูŽุญู’ู…ูู„ู ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ู ุฅูุฌู’ู„ูŽุงู„ู ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ูˆูŽุฅูุนู’ุธูŽุงู…ูู‡ู ูˆูŽู…ูŽุญูŽุจูŽู‘ุชูู‡ู โ€ฆ ูˆูŽู…ูŽู†ู’ ู„ูŽุญูŽุธูŽ ู‡ูŽุฐูŽุง ุงู„ู’ู…ูŽู‚ูŽุงู…ูŽ ูˆูŽุงู„ูŽู‘ุฐููŠ ู‚ูŽุจู’ู„ูŽู‡ู ู‡ูŽุงู†ูŽ ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ู ูƒูู„ูู‘ ู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽู„ู’ู‚ูŽู‰ ู…ูู†ูŽ ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽุฐูŽู‰ ูููŠ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุชูŽุนูŽุงู„ูŽู‰ ูˆูŽุฑูุจูŽู‘ู…ูŽุง ุฏูŽุนูŽุง ู„ูู…ูŽู†ู’ ุขุฐูŽุงู‡ู

Know that enjoining good and forbidding evil is at times done out of motivation to seek reward from Allah, at times done for the fear of His punishment for leaving it, at times done for anger for the sake of Allah in violating His sacred limits, at times done with good will for the believers, mercy for them.

And hope in their salvation from what might afflict them of the wrath of Allah and His punishment in the world and in the Hereafter, and at times it is done out of motivation to glorify Allah, to honor Him, and to love Himโ€ฆ Whoever considers these last two positions, it will be easy for him every time he endures harm for the sake of Allah Almighty, and perhaps he will even supplicate for the benefit of those who harm him.

Source: Jฤmiโ€™ al-โ€˜Ulลซm wal-แธคikam 2/255

Islam is based upon sincere good will (nasihah) towards the believers and human beings in general, which is to desire and intend good for them. Enjoining good always involves giving advice and therefore must be based on this type of sincerity. Believers should love for others what they love for themselves.

Jarir ibn Abdullah reported:

ุจูŽุงูŠูŽุนู’ุชู ุฑูŽุณููˆู„ูŽ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุตูŽู„ูŽู‘ู‰ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ู ูˆูŽุณูŽู„ูŽู‘ู…ูŽ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุฅูู‚ูŽุงู…ู ุงู„ุตูŽู‘ู„ูŽุงุฉู ูˆูŽุฅููŠุชูŽุงุกู ุงู„ุฒูŽู‘ูƒูŽุงุฉู ูˆูŽุงู„ู†ูู‘ุตู’ุญู ู„ููƒูู„ูู‘ ู…ูุณู’ู„ูู…ู

I pledged allegiance to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, to establish prayer, to give charity, and to be sincere to every Muslim.

Source: แนขaแธฅฤซแธฅ al-Bukhฤrฤซ 57, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

ุฅูู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ู’ู…ูุคู’ู…ูู†ููŠู†ูŽ ู‚ูŽูˆู’ู…ูŒ ู†ูŽุตูŽุญูŽุฉู ุจูŽุนู’ุถูู‡ูู…ู’ ู„ูุจูŽุนู’ุถู ู…ูุชูŽูˆูŽุงุฏูู‘ูˆู†ูŽ ูˆูŽุฅูู†ู’ ุจูŽุนูŽุฏูŽุชู’ ุฏููŠูŽุงุฑูู‡ูู…ู’ ูˆูŽุฃูŽุจู’ุฏูŽุงู†ูู‡ูู…ู’ ูˆูŽุฅูู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ู’ู…ูู†ูŽุงููู‚ููŠู†ูŽ ู‚ูŽูˆู’ู…ูŒ ุบูŽุดูŽุดูŽุฉู ุจูŽุนู’ุถูู‡ูู…ู’ ู„ูุจูŽุนู’ุถู

Verily, the believers are people with good will and love for each other, even if their lands and countries are far apart. The hypocrites are people with malevolence for each other.

Source: Tฤrฤซkh Dimashq 23310

Even when it comes to non-Muslims and unbelievers, Muslims should be merciful to them and present Islam to them in the best possible manner, as mercy and concern for all beings is at the heart of Allahโ€™s message.

Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

ุงู„ุฑูŽู‘ุงุญูู…ููˆู†ูŽ ูŠูŽุฑู’ุญูŽู…ูู‡ูู…ู’ ุงู„ุฑูŽู‘ุญู’ู…ูŽู†ู ุงุฑู’ุญูŽู…ููˆุง ู…ูŽู†ู’ ูููŠ ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽุฑู’ุถู ูŠูŽุฑู’ุญูŽู…ู’ูƒูู…ู’ ู…ูŽู†ู’ ูููŠ ุงู„ุณูŽู‘ู…ูŽุงุกู

The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhฤซ 1924, Grade: Sahih

In this regard, it should be appreciated that changing evil โ€œwith oneโ€™s handโ€ refers to direct action and not brute force or violence, unless defending oneself and others from aggression becomes legal and is necessary as a last resort.

Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

ุงู„ุชูŽู‘ุบู’ูŠููŠุฑู ุจูุงู„ู’ูŠูŽุฏู ู„ูŽูŠู’ุณูŽ ุจูุงู„ุณูŽู‘ูŠู’ูู ูˆูŽุงู„ุณูู‘ู„ูŽุงุญู

Changing evil with oneโ€™s hand does not necessarily mean with a sword or weapons.

Source: Jฤmiโ€™ al-โ€˜Ulลซm wal-แธคikam 2/248

At the same time, Muslims should not be reckless in enjoining good if it might bring excessive harm to oneself and others. This principle is most clearly understood in relation to tyrannical rulers. If one can safely correct their behavior and condemn their evil, without inciting a civil war or greater persecution,

it is an obligation to do so. But if confronting the ruler would likely result in bodily harm to oneself and the community, it is no longer an obligation and may even be prohibited.

Saโ€™id ibn Jubayr reported: I asked Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, โ€œShall I enjoin good and forbid evil upon the ruler?โ€

Ibn Abbas said:

ุฅูู†ู’ ุฎููู’ุชูŽ ุฃูŽู†ู’ ูŠูŽู‚ู’ุชูู„ูŽูƒูŽ ููŽู„ูŽุง

If you fear he will kill you, then no.

Then, I asked him again and he said:

ุฅูู†ู’ ูƒูู†ู’ุชูŽ ู„ูŽุง ุจูุฏูŽู‘ ููŽุงุนูู„ู‹ุง ููŽูููŠู…ูŽุง ุจูŽูŠู’ู†ูŽูƒูŽ ูˆูŽุจูŽูŠู’ู†ูŽู‡ู

If you must do so, then do it between you and him privately.

Source: al-Amr bil-Maสปrลซf li-Ibn Abฤซ Dunyฤ 80

Ibn Rajab commented on this narration, writing:

ูˆูŽุฃูŽู…ูŽู‘ุง ุงู„ู’ุฎูุฑููˆุฌู ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ูู…ู’ ุจูุงู„ุณูŽู‘ูŠู’ูู ููŽูŠูุฎู’ุดูŽู‰ ู…ูู†ู’ู‡ู ุงู„ู’ููุชูŽู†ู ุงู„ูŽู‘ุชููŠ ุชูุคูŽุฏูู‘ูŠ ุฅูู„ูŽู‰ ุณูŽูู’ูƒู ุฏูู…ูŽุงุกู ุงู„ู’ู…ูุณู’ู„ูู…ููŠู†ูŽ ู†ูŽุนูŽู…ู’ ุฅูู†ู’ ุฎูŽุดููŠูŽ ูููŠ ุงู„ู’ุฅูู‚ู’ุฏูŽุงู…ู ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ู’ุฅูู†ู’ูƒูŽุงุฑู ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ู’ู…ูู„ููˆูƒู ุฃูŽู†ู’ ูŠูุคู’ุฐููŠูŽ ุฃูŽู‡ู’ู„ูŽู‡ู ุฃูŽูˆู’ ุฌููŠุฑูŽุงู†ูŽู‡ู ู„ูŽู…ู’ ูŠูŽู†ู’ุจูŽุบู ู„ูŽู‡ู ุงู„ุชูŽู‘ุนูŽุฑูู‘ุถู ู„ูŽู‡ูู…ู’ ุญููŠู†ูŽุฆูุฐู ู„ูู…ูŽุง ูููŠู‡ู ู…ูู†ู’ ุชูŽุนูŽุฏูู‘ูŠ ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽุฐูŽู‰ ุฅูู„ูŽู‰ ุบูŽูŠู’ุฑูู‡ู ูƒูŽุฐูŽู„ููƒูŽ ู‚ูŽุงู„ูŽ ุงู„ู’ููุถูŽูŠู’ู„ู ุจู’ู†ู ุนููŠูŽุงุถู ูˆูŽุบูŽูŠู’ุฑูู‡ู ูˆูŽู…ูŽุนูŽ ู‡ูŽุฐูŽุง ููŽู…ูŽุชูŽู‰ ุฎูŽุงููŽ ู…ูู†ู’ู‡ูู…ู’ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ู†ูŽูู’ุณูู‡ู ุงู„ุณูŽู‘ูŠู’ููŽ ุฃูŽูˆู ุงู„ุณูŽู‘ูˆู’ุทูŽ ุฃูŽูˆู ุงู„ู’ุญูŽุจู’ุณูŽ ุฃูŽูˆู ุงู„ู’ู‚ูŽูŠู’ุฏูŽ ุฃูŽูˆู ุงู„ู†ูŽู‘ูู’ูŠูŽ ุฃูŽูˆู’ ุฃูŽุฎู’ุฐูŽ ุงู„ู’ู…ูŽุงู„ู ุฃูŽูˆู’ ู†ูŽุญู’ูˆูŽ ุฐูŽู„ููƒูŽ ู…ูู†ูŽ ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽุฐูŽู‰ ุณูŽู‚ูŽุทูŽ ุฃูŽู…ู’ุฑูู‡ูู…ู’ ูˆูŽู†ูŽู‡ู’ูŠูู‡ูู…ู’ ูˆูŽู‚ูŽุฏู’ ู†ูŽุตูŽู‘ ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽุฆูู…ูŽู‘ุฉู ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุฐูŽู„ููƒูŽ ู…ูู†ู’ู‡ูู…ู’ ู…ูŽุงู„ููƒูŒ ูˆูŽุฃูŽุญู’ู…ูŽุฏู ูˆูŽุฅูุณู’ุญูŽุงู‚ู ูˆูŽุบูŽูŠู’ุฑูู‡ูู…ู’

As for rebellion against the rulers with the sword, then it should be feared that they will cause trials leading to the shedding of Muslim blood. Yes, if it is feared that boldness in condemning the rulers will harm his people and his neighbors, it is not appropriate for him to confront them if it involves causing harm to others. Such was said by Al-Fudayl ibn โ€˜Iyad and others.

Along with this, if he fears they will put him to the sword, or whip, or prison, or shackle, or banishment, or seizure of property, and other types of harm like that, then the obligation to enjoin good and forbid evil upon them is dropped. The Imams were explicit about that, among them Malik, Ahmad, Ishaq, and others.

Source: Jฤmiโ€™ al-โ€˜Ulลซm wal-แธคikam 2/249

The issue of confronting tyrannical rulers best illustrates the need to wisely consider the harms and benefits of direct action or speech. There are plenty of examples in Islamic history, and human history in general, when zealous revolutionaries incited a civil war in their countries and made a very bad situation even worse than it had been before.

Hasan al-Basri, may Allah have mercy on him, said:

ู„ูŽูˆู’ ุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ ุงู„ู†ูŽู‘ุงุณูŽ ุฅูุฐูŽุง ุงุจู’ุชูู„ููˆุง ู…ูู†ู’ ู‚ูุจูŽู„ู ุณูู„ู’ุทูŽุงู†ูู‡ูู…ู’ ุตูŽุจูŽุฑููˆุง ู…ูŽุง ู„ูŽุจูุซููˆุง ุฃูŽู†ู’ ูŠููู’ุฑูŽุฌูŽ ุนูŽู†ู’ู‡ูู…ู’ ูˆูŽู„ูŽูƒูู†ูŽู‘ู‡ูู…ู’ ูŠูŽุฌู’ุฒูŽุนููˆู†ูŽ ุฅูู„ูŽู‰ ุงู„ุณูŽู‘ูŠู’ูู ููŽูŠููˆูŽูƒูŽู‘ู„ููˆู†ูŽ ุฅูู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ู ููŽูˆูŽุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ู…ูŽุง ุฌูŽุงุกููˆุง ุจููŠูŽูˆู’ู…ู ุฎูŽูŠู’ุฑู ู‚ูŽุทูู‘

If people had patience when they are afflicted with trials from their ruler, it would not be long before Allah gives them a way out. Yet they rush to their swords, so they are left to their swords. By Allah, not even for a single day did they bring any good.

Source: al-แนฌabaqฤt al-Kubrรก 8789

This is not to say that confronting unjust authorities should never be done. On the contrary, it is among the best acts of jihad to speak truth to a tyrant and it is an obligation for those who can reasonably do so. That said, the position of most scholars is that political violence almost always leads to greater evil than the original tyrant. The priority should be the pragmatic safety and well-being of the community, not an abstract commitment to a ruling ideology or Utopian society.

Enjoining good and forbidding evil is a trial, so it should not be rushed into without the prerequisite faith, knowledge, and character. A believer ends up harming themselves or others when they confront a trial without being prepared to endure it or manage its fallout.

Hudhayfah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

ู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽู†ู’ุจูŽุบููŠ ู„ูู„ู’ู…ูุคู’ู…ูู†ู ุฃูŽู†ู’ ูŠูุฐูู„ูŽู‘ ู†ูŽูู’ุณูŽู‡ู

It is not befitting for a believer to humiliate himself.

They said, โ€œHow does he humiliate himself?โ€ The Prophet (แนฃ) said:

ูŠูŽุชูŽุนูŽุฑูŽู‘ุถู ู…ูู†ู’ ุงู„ู’ุจูŽู„ูŽุงุกู ู„ูู…ูŽุง ู„ูŽุง ูŠูุทููŠู‚ู

He confronts a trial he cannot endure.

Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhฤซ 2254, Grade: Sahih

Ibn Rajab commented on this tradition, writing:

ููŽุฅูู†ูŽู‘ู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฏูู„ูู‘ ุนูŽู„ูŽู‰ ุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุฅูุฐูŽุง ุนูŽู„ูู…ูŽ ุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ู‡ู ู„ูŽุง ูŠูุทููŠู‚ู ุงู„ู’ุฃูŽุฐูŽู‰ ูˆูŽู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽุตู’ุจูุฑู ุนูŽู„ูŽูŠู’ู‡ู ููŽุฅูู†ูŽู‘ู‡ู ู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽุชูŽุนูŽุฑูŽู‘ุถู ุญููŠู†ูŽุฆูุฐู ู„ูู„ู’ุขู…ูุฑู ูˆูŽู‡ูŽุฐูŽุง ุญูŽู‚ูŒู‘

Indeed, it only indicates that if one knows he cannot endure the harm and be patent with it, then in that case one who would enjoin good should not confront it. This is the truth.

Source: Jฤmiโ€™ al-โ€˜Ulลซm wal-แธคikam 2/251

Lastly, it is a fact that we will sometimes be confronted with evil that we have no power to change at all, whether it is because we as individuals are in a weak position, or the community as a whole is failing in the collective obligation to forbid evil, or the supporters of evil are too numerous to counter.

In such a case, the least we can do, and perhaps the only thing we can do, is to hate the evil we see in our hearts.

Umm Salamah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

ุณูŽุชูŽูƒููˆู†ู ุฃูู…ูŽุฑูŽุงุกู ููŽุชูŽุนู’ุฑููููˆู†ูŽ ูˆูŽุชูู†ู’ูƒูุฑููˆู†ูŽ ููŽู…ูŽู†ู’ ุนูŽุฑูŽููŽ ุจูŽุฑูุฆูŽ ูˆูŽู…ูŽู†ู’ ุฃูŽู†ู’ูƒูŽุฑูŽ ุณูŽู„ูู…ูŽ ูˆูŽู„ูŽูƒูู†ู’ ู…ูŽู†ู’ ุฑูŽุถููŠูŽ ูˆูŽุชูŽุงุจูŽุนูŽ

There will be rulers from whom you will see both goodness and corruption. One who recognizes their evil and hates it will maintain his innocence, but one who is pleased with it and follows them will be sinful.

It was said, โ€œShall we not fight them?โ€ The Prophet (แนฃ) said:

ู„ูŽุง ู…ูŽุง ุตูŽู„ูŽู‘ูˆู’ุง

No, as long as they pray.

Source: แนขaแธฅฤซแธฅ Muslim 1854, Grade: Sahih

Ibn Masโ€™ud, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

ูŠููˆุดููƒู ู…ูŽู†ู’ ุนูŽุงุดูŽ ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูู…ู’ ุฃูŽู†ู’ ูŠูŽุฑูŽู‰ ู…ูู†ู’ูƒูŽุฑู‹ุง ู„ุง ูŠูŽุณู’ุชูŽุทููŠุนู ูููŠู‡ู ุบูŽูŠู’ุฑูŽ ุฃูŽู†ู’ ูŠูŽุนู’ู„ูŽู…ูŽ ุงู„ู„ูŽู‘ู‡ู ู…ูู†ู’ ู‚ูŽู„ู’ุจูู‡ู ุฃูŽู†ูŽู‘ู‡ู ู„ูŽู‡ู ูƒูŽุงุฑูู‡ูŒ

Soon one of you who lives long enough will see evil he cannot change, yet Allah knows that he hates it in his heart.

Source: al-Amr bil-Maสปrลซf li-Ibn Abฤซ Dunyฤ 79

In sum, enjoining good and forbidding evil should only be done by those who can do so with a sincere intention, knowledge, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. It is only an obligation upon Muslims in so far as they are able to properly effect change, although true believers must always hate evil in their heart.

Enjoining good involves the careful consideration of priorities, benefits, and harms, with the objective being to protect the Muslim communityโ€™s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being in this life and in the Hereafter.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil