The Andalucian jurist, poet and theologian Imam Ibn Hazm (d. 456/1064) quotes a statement of al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728) the pre-eminent figure of the 1st generation of successors (al-tabi`un):
وقد صح عن الحسن أنه سمع إنساناً يقول: لا يجب أن ينهى عن الشر إلا من لا يفعله فقال الحسن: ود إبليس لو ظفر منا بهذه حتى لا ينهى أحد عن منكر ولا يأمر بمعروف.
وقال أبو محمد: صدق الحسن وهو قولنا آنفاً جعلنا الله ممن يوفق لفعل الخير والعمل به وممن يبصر رشد نفسه فما أحد إلا له عيوب إذا نظرها شغلته عن غيره وتوفانا على سنة محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم آمين رب العالمين.
“It was truly reported from al-Hasan that he heard a person say: ‘no-one may perform the [religious] duty of forbidding what is wrong except a person who does no wrong’. al-Hasan remarked: ‘Satan would like that to happen to us such that nobody would forbid the wrong nor command what is right.’
Abu Muhammad said: ‘al-Hasan spoke the truth and that is what we also mentioned before. May God grant us to be amongst those [He permits to] do good and to act upon it, and make us amongst those who can see the guidance, for no one is without faults. One who looks to his own weaknesses will forget those of others. May God permit us to die on the Sunna of Muhammad (Allah abundantly bless him and grant him peace). Amin, O Lord of the Worlds!’” (Ibn Hazm, al-Akhlaq wa ‘l-Siyar, p.157).
- For a person to command the right and forbid the wrong, evil and morally repugnant (al-amr bi ‘l-ma`ruf wa ‘l-nahy `an al-munkar) is not conditional upon h/her being unblemished from any faults or sins. This is impossible. There are important conditions no doubt but this is not one of them.
- The statement of the anonymous interlocuter has different shapes and forms in contemporary times. Some argue for example that until and unless one has utterly perfected and purified himself of all internal inconsistencies, faults and imperfections, only then is he permitted to engage in giving counsel, speaking out against corruption, vice, sin, evil etc. the idea that there must be an antecedent full attainment of purification before participating in the religious duty of forbidding evil.
- One serious effect this has on behaviour is that it pacifies and disarms any form of active engagement which could lead to (and often does) utter silence over injustice, evil, attacks and propaganda- especially against Islam and Muslims and their sacred symbols such as the Qur’an. Therefore, it is actually an extremely deterimental concept to carry.
And Allah knows best.