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NOVEMBER 2000

MONTHLY    *    Vol 14-11 No:167    *   NOVEMBER 2000 / SHABAN 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

NOVEMBER 2000


Enjoining Good, Forbidding Evil

Basis of Islamic Society

Enjoining Good, Forbidding Evil

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

  You are the best nation that has ever been raised for mankind; you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid what is wrong, and you believe in Allah. Had the people of earlier revelation believed it would have been for their own good. Few of them are believers, while most of them are evildoers. (The House of Imran, "Aal Imran": 3;110)

Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A. A. Salahi and S. A. Shamsi


Belief in Allah

BELIEVING in Allah provides all that since it gives a correct concept of the universe and the relationship between the Creator and His creation, and a correct concept of man, the purpose of his existence and his true position in the universe. It is from this general concept that moral values and principles should be derived. The desire to earn the pleasure of Allah and to avoid His displeasure motivates people to work for the implementation of these principles which are in turn, safeguarded by fearing Allah and by the authority of His law.

Believing in Allah is necessary in order that those who invite to all that is good, enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong can proceed along their appointed course and bear all its hardships. They have to face the tyranny of evil at its fiercest, the pressures of worldly desires at their strongest, and they have to face complacency, weakness and narrow ambitions. As they do that, they have to be equipped by faith. It is their only weapon. Their support comes from Allah. Any other equipment is exhaustible, any other weapon can be overpowered and any other support is liable to collapse.

Distinct Quality

Earlier in the surah the Muslim community has been ordered to have some of its numbers who are charged with the task of inviting to all that is good, enjoining the doing of what is right and forbidding what is wrong. Here, the Muslim community is described by Allah as having this quality, so that it may realize that it does not come into existence unless it has this essential quality by which it is distinguished from the rest of mankind. It either invites to all that is good, enjoin what is right and forbids what is wrong, in addition to believing in Allah, and thereby gives credence to its existence as a Muslim nation, or it does not do any of that which means that it has not come into existence, and it loses its Islamic mark.

If an Islamic society has to come into existence, it should come only through enjoining of good and forbidding of evils. Unless Muslims do this, Allah would not favour Muslims for leadership of any society

The Quran stresses this in numerous places which will be discussed in their appropriate context. The Sunnah also includes a number of directives and commands by the Prophet, some of which may be quoted here:

Abu Saeed Al-Khudri reports that he heard the Prophet saying: “Let any of you who sees something wrong put it right with his own hand. If he is unable to do so, let him change it by the word of mouth. If he cannot do even that, then let him do it within himself. This is the weakest form of faith.” (Related by Muslim).

Abu Dawood and At-Tirmithi relate on the authority of Ibn Massoud that the Prophet said: “When the children of Israel began to commit sins frequently, their scholars tried to dissaude them, but they persisted. Their scholars, nevertheless, continued to attend their social gatherings, and eat and drink with them. Allah left them to stray and sealed their hearts. He also cursed them in the words of David, Solomon and Jesus, Son of Mary.” The Prophet was saying this as he reclined, but at this point he sat up and said: “By Him who holds my soul in His hand, you must make them turn back to what is right.”

At-Tirmithi relates on the authority of Huzaifah that the Prophet said: “By Him, who holds my soul in His hand, you will enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid what is wrong, or else. Allah will visit you with a punishment of His own. You will, then, pray Him and he will not answer you.”

Allah’s messenger says: “When a sin is committed on earth, a person who witnesses it and denounces it is the same as one who has not seen it, and the one who has been absent and approves of it is considered like one who has taken part in it.” (Related by Abu Dawood).

Abu Saeed Al-Khudri quotes the Prophet as saying: “One of the lightest forms of jihad is to confront ruler with the word of truth.” (Related by Abu Dawood and At-Tirmithi).

Jabir quotes the Prophet as saying: “The best of all martyrs is Hamzah and a man who stands up to a despotic ruler, enjoins him to do what is right and forbids him what is wrong, and is, therefore, killed by that ruler.”

The Prophet stresses this quality in many other Hadiths which tend to establish beyond any shadow of doubt that this quality is essential to the Muslim community. The Sunnah contains a wealth of directives which provide the best education for the Muslim community. We unfortunately tend not to give the Sunnah its true value.

Unique Position

This verse addresses the Muslim nation with its own description so that it becomes aware of its position, value and true nature. The first part of this verse imposes on the Muslim community a very heavy duty, while at the same time it honours and elevates it to a position which cannot be given to any other community. You are the best nation that has ever been raised for mankind; you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid what is wrong, and you believe in Allah.

We wrote first that the reference to the Muslim nation as one which “has been raised” is made in the passive voice. This suggests that a highly skillful hand has neatly moulded this nation and brought it forth from behind the eternal curtain which covers things known only to Allah. The expression adopted here indicates a subtle and gentle movement which brings forth onto the stage of existence a whole nation which has a unique role to play and a special position to occupy.

You are the best nation that has ever been raised for mankind. The Muslim nation should understand that in order to know its position and its true nature. It should know that it has been raised specially for the purpose of assuming the leadership of mankind, since it is the best nation. Allah wants the leadership in this planet of ours to be assumed by the forces of goodness, not the forces of evil. It follows that it should never be in the position of a recepient, taking what other nations have to offer. It must be the one of offer to others whatever it has of sound ideology, philosophy, morals, knowledge and perfect system. This is the duty of the Muslim nation imposed on it by its unique position and the purpose of its very existence. It is a duty of the Muslim nation to assume the leadership of mankind at all times. By assuming it, it also takes upon itself certain reponsibilites. Leadership cannot be given to any nation which claims it, unless it proves that it is worthy to be the leader. By its ideology and social system, the Muslim community is worthy of this position. What remains for it is to prove that in scientific advancement and in the fulfillment of man’s task of building the earth, it is also an able leader. It is clear then that the system which brings this nation into existence demands much from it and gives it the incentive to excel in every field, if only it would follow this system and appreciate its requirements and duties.

Promoting Good and Forbidding Evil

The first requirement is that the Muslim nation should work hard at protecting human life from evil. It must have the power to enable it to enjoin the doing of all that is right and to forbid the doing of all that is wrong. It is, after all, the best nation ever raised for mankind. This position is not given to the Muslim community as the result of any favouritism, coincidence or random selection. Far be it from Allah to do that Positions and duties are not given by Allah to different nations on any basis of favouritism, as the people of earlier revelation used to describe themselves as “Allah’s children and beloved people” The criterion which makes a community worthy of the position of leadership is its active work for the preservation of human life from evil and the promotion of what is right, in addition to implementing the faith which defines what is right and what is wrong; You enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid what is wrong.

The position of leadership is then earned by active fulfilment of its tasks, heavy as they are, and following the way defined for it, thorny as it may be. In practical terms, it means standing up against evil, promoting every good thing and protecting society against all elements of corruption. All these are hard tasks, but they are nevertheless necessary for the good human society to be well established and protected. There is no other way for bringing about the type of human society which Allah loves to be established.

Believing in Allah is also necessary so that the community will have a correct standard of vlaues and will have a correct definition of what is right and what is wrong. What is socially agreed by a certain community is not enough. It may happen that corruption becomes widespread that standards are no longer correct or appropriate. Hence, reference must be made to a permanent concept of good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong. This concept should have a basis other than the social norms of any particular generation. 

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