Ordering Right and Forbidding Wrong

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Ordering right and forbidding wrong is a fundamental part of wrong which is essential to our success in this life and in the hereafter both individually and collectively. It is sometimes an individual, absolute and specific obligation (fardh 'ain) and others it is a general obligation on the Ummah as a whole (fardh kifaya). The meaning of fardh kifaya is that if those sufficient for the task fulfill it, the entire Ummah is blameless. On the other hand, if this obligation is not fulfilled by a number sufficient for the task, then the entire nation is in sin, the sin of each one being according to their ability to address the problem.

Ordering right and forbidding wrong is an individual obligation upon one who personally witnesses or is in the presence of wrongdoing. This is based on the statement of the Prophet (sas): "Whoever among you sees wrongdoing (munkar), let him correct it with his hand. If he is unable to do that, then let him correct it with his tongue. If he is unable to do that, then let him correct it with his heart and there is not a single grain of faith beyond that."

A special case of this is those who are in authority over others - their responsibility is specific and absolute and they will be questioned about those under their authority. You have all heard the hadith of the Prophet (sas) in which he says: "Every one of you is a guardian and every one of you will be asked about those under his/her custody..." In one version of this hadith, the Prophet (sas) added at the end: "...until each man will be asked about those in his household: did he establish Allah's Shari'a among them or did he allow it to become lost?"

The word ma'roof literally means "that which is known", but a subtle other meaning of this word in Arabic is also something like "that which the healthy and pious soul accepts and acknowledges as good". Likewise, munkar means something "unknown" or "strange" but is also sometimes used to mean "that which the healthy and pious soul rejects and recognizes as bad". This meaning is also found in a hadith which mentions the corrupt rulers which will afflict this Ummah in its later days about whom the Prophet (sas) says:

"...ta'rifoona minhum wa tunkiroon..."

Literally: "You know from them (i.e., some of their actions) and you reject (i.e., other of their actions).

In order to carry out ordering what is right and forbidding what is wrong, an individual must develop various traits within themselves:

      Knowledge. It has been said: "Whoever worships Allah without knowledge corrupts more than he sets right." Especially in this area it is critical to have sufficient knowledge in order to be sure that one is calling to what is right and also prioritizing correctly for example not criticizing another on some small details or ritual (possibly even issues where there is significant difference of opinion) while neglecting other much more serious issues such as associating others with Allah in worship or in legislation.

      Compassion. This act of worship must be done solely out of desire for Allah's pleasure and reward first of all and out of true concern for the one being addressed secondly. Any other intentions or motivations will corrupt the act and cause it to bear no fruit or to have negative consequences.

      Justice.

      Patience

      Forbearance.

The caller must begin with himself and beware of falling into being two-faced - calling to things which he himself does not fulfill. Allah described those who do this as being "senseless" or without intelligence.

{Do you order the people with righteousness and forget yourselves? And you recite the book? Have you no sense?} Al-Baqarah: 44

Al-Hassan Al-Basri (one of the earliest members of the generation after the Companions) was a great wa'idh (preacher) who would have all eyes filled with tears in minutes and benefitted many with his words every day. Al-Hassan reported that each and every day when he returned to his home he was in fear from Allah's statement:

{O you who believe, why do you say that which you do not do? It is so hateful to Allah that you say that which you do not do.} As-Saff: 2-3

In addition to being an individual obligation upon the one who witnesses wrongdoing, enjoining right and forbidding wrong is a general obligation on the Ummah as a whole. Every Muslim is responsible to do what they can to rid this nation of wrongdoing and injustice. If people sufficient to this task are carrying it out then the rest of the Muslims are free of blame, but such a group must alway exist within this nation. Allah said:

{Let there be among you a group who call to good, command what is right and forbid what is wrong. These are the successful ones.} Aal 'Imraan: 104

Those who carry out this duty are the best among us just as we are the best among humanity because of our ordering what is right and forbidding what is wrong. Allah said:

{You are the best nation brought forth for mankind. You order what is right, you forbid what is wrong and you believe in Allah...} Aal 'Imraan: 110

Ordering what is right and forbidding what is wrong is how we aid and support one another. It is what gives us success in this life and in the hereafter. Neglecting it has grave consequences both in this life and in the hereafter. It is the cause of Allah's mercy. Allah said:

{Believing men and believing women are the allies of one another. They order what is right, forbid what is wrong, establish the prayer, pay the zakat and obey Allah and His messenger. Allah will have mercy on these and Allah is surely Mighty, Wise.} At-Tauba: 71

There is a direct relation between ordering right and forbidding wrong and earthly power and stability. Allah said:

{Those who, if we empower them in the land, establish the prayer, pay the zakat, order what is right and forbid what is wrong. Unto Allah is the finality of all affairs.} Al-Hajj: 41

It is not an easy duty and anyone who fulfills it will be met with rejection, mistreatment and abuse. Luqman said to his son:

{Dear son: establish the prayer, order what is good and forbid what is wrong and be patient with what befalls you - this is among the firmly commanded issues.} Luqman: 17

Ordering right and forbidding wrong is also one of the duties of "the street", i.e., all public places such as malls, markets and public streets and avenues. The Prophet (sas) discouraged Muslims from these places and they should not be taken as "recreation" or places to go just to wander around and enjoy oneself. A Muslim should only go to such places for some need or important benefit, otherwise they should be avoided.

Abu Saeed Al-Khudry narrates that the Prophet (sas) said: "Stay away from sitting in the streets." They said: "O Allah's Messenger, we have no alternative to our sitting places. It is where we converse." The Prophet (sas) said: "If you have refused and insisted on your sittings, then give the street its right." They said: "And what is the right of the street, O Allah's Messenger?" He (sas) said: "Lowering the gaze, witholding your harmfulness, returning the greeting, ordering what is right and forbidding what is wrong." Muslim & Bukhari

Neglect of this part of Islam can have horrible consequences in the hereafter. Usama ibn Zaid narrates: "I heard the messenger of Allah say: A man will be brought out on Qiyama. He will be thrown into the fire and his intestines pulled from his abdomen. He will circle with them like the way a donkey walks around the grindstone (turning it). The people of hell-fire will gather around him and say: 'O so-and-so what has happened to you? Did you not order what is right and forbid what is wrong?' He will say: 'Yes. I used to order what is right and not do it and forbid what is wrong and do it." Muslim & Bukhari

In this life, one of the consequences of neglecting ordering right and forbidding wrong is a general punishment which cuts off even the righteous among us from Allah Most High. The Prophet (sas) said: "By the One in whose hand my soul is, you will order what is right and you will forbid what is wrong or Allah is about to to send upon you a punishment from Him. Then, you will call to Him but He will not respond to you."

Another consequence of this neglect is the appearance of evil rulers over the Muslims. The Prophet (sas) said: "You will order what is right and forbid what is wrong or Allah will empower over you an oppressive ruler who does not respect you elders nor have mercy on you young ones. The best of you will call Allah against them but He will not respond to them. You will seek help, but no help will be found. You will ask forgiveness, but you will not be forgiven."

Hudhaifa described those who abandon ordering right and forbidding wrong as the "living dead". Hudhaifa was asked about the living dead and he said: "Those who do not forbid wrongdoing with their hands, their tongues or their hearts."

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