Islamic Law

Imam al-Haddad_Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong


Imam ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Alawi al-Haddad on

Amr bi ’l-Maruf wa ’l-Nahy an al-Munkar

أمر بالمعروف و النهي عن المنكر

By S. Z. Chowdhury,

August 2003.


 …There are many books in English which present Sufi doctrine, but few which can be used as practical travel guides along the Path. Originally written in Classical Arabic, the aptly-named ‘Book of Assistance’ is today in widespread use among Sufi teachers inArabia,Indonesia andEast Africa…”

“…The author Imam Abdallah Ibn-Alawi Al-Haddad (d. 1720), lived at Tarim in the Hadramaut valley between Yemen and Oman, and is widely held to have been the ‘renewer’ of the twelfth Islamic century. A direct descendant of the Prophet, his sanctity and direct experience of God are clearly reflected in his writings, which include several books, a collection of Sufi letters, and a volume of mystical poetry. He spent most of his life in Kenya and Saudi Arabia where he taught Islamic jurisprudence and classical Sufism according to the order (tariqa) of the Ba’Alawi sayids.”[1]

            The present translation is taken from the third book of the compendium Silsilah Kutub Imam al-Haddad (‘The Series of Books by Imam al-Haddad’) entitled: Risalah al-Muawanah wa ’l-Muzaharah wa ’l-Mu’awazah (‘The Epistle on Assistance’). It is the chapter regarding a pivotal moral duty of Islam which is: Amr bi ’l-Maruf wa ’l-Nahy an al-Munkar (‘Commanding the Good and Forbidding the Wrong’).[2]


And it is obligatory upon you to command the Right and forbid the wrong for it is a pivotal pole upon which the affairs of this religion revolve (fa-innahu al-qutb alladhi alayhi mudar amr al-din). And because of it Allah revealed The Books[3] and sent the Messengers.[4] The Consensus of the Muslims (ijma al-muslimin) has also affirmed its obligatory character. Moreover, texts of the Kitab[5] and the Sunnah[6] demonstrate the injunction to perform it as well as the severe chastisement for the one who abandons it (wa tazaharat nusus al-kitab wa ’l-sunnah ala ’l-amr bihi wa ’l-tahzir man tarakahu). Allah Most High said: (Let there arise from amongst you a group calling to The Good and commanding right and forbidding wrong. They are the successful ones).[7]

Allah has characterised the Muslims with the act of ‘Commanding right and forbidding wrong’ in more than one place in His Book and elsewhere has prefaced their depiction of it from that of Belief (iman)[8] and still elsewhere from the establishment of Prayer (iqamah al-salah)[9] and payment of the Zakat (ita’ al-zakah).[10] Allah Most High said: (Those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith were cursed by the tongue of David and of Jesus, the son of Mary, because they used to obey and persist in excesses. Nor did they forbid one another of the iniquities they had committed: evil indeed were the deeds they committed)[11] and He Most High also said: (Beware of discord which does not affect only those who do wrong).[12]

And the Prophet – Allah bless him and give him peace – said: “Whoever from amongst you sees (ra’a) a wrong (munkiran), let him change it with his hand (fa ’l-yughayyirhu bi-yadihi). If he is unable to do that, then let him change it with his tongue (bi-lisanihi) and if he is unable to do that, let him do it in his heart (fa bi-qalbihi);[13] and that is the weakest form of belief (dhalika adaf al-iman).”[14]

And he – may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him – said: “By him in whose hand is my soul! You must command (la-ta’muranna) the good and forbid (la-tanhunna) the wrong lest Allah sends upon you a punishment (‘iqaban) from it and then if you call upon him it will not be accepted for you.”[15]

And he – peace and blessings be upon him – said: “He is not from us (laysa minna)[16] who does not have compassion for our young ones (man lam yarham saghirana) nor respect for our elders (wa yuwaqqir kabirana) and[17] does not command the good and forbid the wrong (wa ya’mur bi ’l-maruf wa yanha an al-munkar).”[18]

And know that commanding the good and forbidding the wrong is a collective duty of sufficiency (fard kifayah),[19] so if some of the people perform the duty, then the rest are relinquished of the sin (al-haraj) but the reward is exclusively reserved for those who carried out the duty (ikhtassa ’l-thawab bi ’l-qa’ilin). If, however, no-one is able to perform the duty, then due to that, the sin extends to all those in the entire world who are able to remove the sin.”[20]

And it is a duty upon you that if you witness someone abandoning the good (yatruku marufan) and performing a wrong (wa yafalu munkaran) to let him know about that particular good or wrong. If that person does not cease to do it, then you must warn him and make him fearful of it (fa-alayk bi-wazihi wa takhwifihi).[21] If he still does not refrain from doing it (fa-in lam yanzajir), then it is incumbent upon you to put him right (bi-taghyirihi) or subdue him (qaharahu) by for example striking or breaking any unlawful instruments of amusements (alah al-lahw al-muharramah)[22] or seizing say, the intoxicants and goods he may have acquired in an unlawful manner (al-amwal al-maghsubah) from his possession (min yadihi) and returning it to the rightful proprietors (ila ’l-arbab). Such a degree [of action],[23] however, is not permitted except for one who has sacrificed, strove and has done one’s utmost only for the sake of Allah (la yastaqillu biha illa man badhala nafsahu li-Allahi) or one who has been given permission from the Sultan (kana ma’dhunan lahu min jihah al-sultan).[24] As for the first two courses of action that is to make [the unlawful action] known [to the person] and to warn [him against it], no-one may desist or refrain from doing them (la yaqsuru anhuma) except a confused ignorant individual or an knowledgeable but inadequate person.

Know that commanding the right is an obligation (wajib), forbidding the wrong is an obligation but commanding the recommended matters (al-amr bi ’l-mandub) and forbidding the disliked matters (wa ’l-nahy an al-makruh) is a desirable action (mustahabb).[25]

It is your duty that if, when you command right and forbid wrong, you are not listened to by a person, you must remove yourself from the place where the wrong is being committed (bi-mufaraqah mawdi al-munkar) and dissociate [yourself] from the perpetrator [of that wrong] unless he returns back to the command of Allah.

Also, you must detest disobedience (al-maasi) as well as detest those who persist in committing them (al-musirrin alayha) and abhor them for the sake of Allah; this is obligatory for every believer (wa hadha wajib ala kulli mu’min).

If you are wronged or insulted and become angry (fa-zahara alayk al-ghadab) and this registers on your face and you find that the act is loathsome as well as the person who did the act (wajadta min al-karahiyah al-fil wa ’l-fail) more so than anything you’ve ever heard or seen before, then it is clear that [your] faith is weak and your honour (‘irdaka) and your wealth (malaka) are more important to you that your religion (aazzu alayka min dinika).[26]

If you know (‘alimta) and are certain that if you command the right and forbid the wrong, you will neither be listened to nor accepted or that an obvious harm (darar zahir) will ensue both for yourself or your property, it is permitted for you to remain silent (jaza laka al-sukut) and the duty of commanding and forbidding become, from being an obligation, to that of an extremely commendable action (al-fada’il al-azimah) indicating that the person who does it has love for Allah and prefers Him over anyone else.[27] Moreover, if you know that a wrong will increase because of [your act of] prohibiting [it] or that harm will involve Muslims other than yourself; silence at that point is better or perhaps even obligatory.

Beware of dissimulation (al-mudahanah) for indeed it is a crime (fa-innaha min al-jara’im). This is to remain silent for fear of losing property (mal), social standing (jah) or any other benefits being on the part of (yakunu min qibal)[28] the perpetrator of the wrongful act or any other depraved person.

It is also your duty that when you command right and forbid wrong, it is done sincerely for Allah Most High (bi ’l-ikhlas li-Allahi taala), with gentleness, wisdom (husn al-siyasah) and open compassion (izhar al-shafaqah) as these qualities do not come together in a person although he is one who acts (‘amilan) by what Allah orders and is one who avoids (mujtaniban) what He prohibits but by his words there is an effectiveness and an awe and reverence produced in the hearts (haybah fi ’l-sudur) as well as a sweetness in the ears (wa hilwah fi ’l-asma‘) and seldom are such words rejected.

Anyone who has true vigilance (muraqabah) as well as utter reliance (al-tawakkul) upon Allah and has acquired the characteristic of having mercy towards His servants, cannot prevent himself from removing every wrong that is witnessed or to prevent himself from that by means which he cannot overcome (bi-ma la qudrah lahu ala dafihi).

Beware of spying (al-tajassus) which is seeking to know the private affairs of other Muslims (tatlubu al-wuquf ala awrat al-muslimin) and their hidden acts of disobedience (al-maasihim al-masturah).[29] [The Prophet] – upon him be blessings – said: “Whoever pursues seeking (man yattabiu) the private affairs of his brother, Allah will seek out his secrets until He exposes him (hatta yafdahu), even if he should be in the depths of his house (wa law fi jawf baytihi).” 

* * *

            And know that if an act of disobedience is concealed, it harms only the perpetrator but if it becomes public and the harm is not prevented it becomes general (‘amma dararuha).[30]

            If open disobedience and wrongdoing become obscenely practiced and you are amongst it and you fear that the truth will not be accepted, then you must remove yourself [from that place] as in this lies safety (fa-inna fiha al-salamah) or emigrate to another place which is better (wa hiya awla). For when a punishment afflicts a place, it includes both the wicked and the good (yaummu al-khabith wa ’l-tayyib); for a believer who is not neglectful in aiding the religion of Allah it is an expiation (kaffarah) and mercy (rahmah) but for anyone else it is a punishment (‘iqaban) and affliction (niqmah). And Allah knows best.

[1] The autobiographical excerpt is taken from Cf. also the translation by Dr. Mostafa Badawi, pp.83-85.

[2] There is an unfortunate and inaccurate misconception that the men and women of tasawwuf had an extremely lax attitude as well as apathy for the duty of commanding right and forbidding the wrong despite sayings such as that of Imam al-Harith al-Muhasibi (d.243) where he remarked that the path of the Gnostics (ahl marifah bi’llah) consisted mainly in cultivating the notion of forbidding wrong, Risalah al-Mustarshidin (Abu Ghudda’s edn), pp.100-101. The treatment of the topic by prominent Sufis had no additional or unorthodox elements that would characterise it as a specific Sufi ‘interpretation’ of the duty for it was conceived by all Muslims as being Qur’anic in origin and hence an obligation. We also find an instance of the near active enforcement of the duty by a learned Sufi Abu ’l-Husayn al-Nuri (d.295) where he was criticised as being a “meddlesome Sufi” (sufi fuduli) upon seeking to break a boatload of the Khalifah’s wine, see al-Imam al-Hafiz al-Dhahabi’s wonderful Siyar al-Alam wa ’l-Nubala’, 14:76 and his Ta’rikh al-Islam, years 291-300, p.71 and A. Shimmel’s essay in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, article: ‘Nuri, Abu ’l-Husayn.’ Moreover, one may also consult any classical manual or instructive treatise written by these learned persons and find a section devoted to the duty. See for example the great Hanbali Wali Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani’s (d.561) Ghunya li ’l-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq, 1:56-61 and the English rendering by Muhtar Holland, 1:151-168 (cf. also al-Qadi Abu Ya‘la b. al-Farra’ [d.458] in his Mutamad fi Usul al-Din, pp.194-198 where the latter likely influenced the material of the former). For another later Hanafi Jurist (faqih) and Sufi who had written on this topic see ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nablusi’s (d.1143) work al-Hadiqah al-Nadiyyah, 2:290-299. The systematic and detailed account given by Imam al-Ghazzali, however, influenced all subsequent treatment of the subject-matter and therefore stands tall as the paradigm discussion regarding it; see the Ihya’ Ulum al-Din (Bengali trans. by Muhy al-Din, 2:95-160). For further references on Sufi anecdotes on Commanding the good, see M. Cook’s, Forbidding Wrong in Islam, pp.88-95 and for Ghazzali’s account see pp.4, 6, 8-9, 13-16, 18, 21-25, 27-29, 31-38, 40-41, 47-55, 59, 61, 70, 73-79, 82-83, 90-91, 98-99, 102, 105, 116-120, 122-123, 129, 131, 143, 155, 159 & 161.

[3] Meaning the Torah, the Bible and the Qur’an.

[4] See for example Imam al-Qurtubi, al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 4:47 on surah 3:21 where he deems the duty to be incumbent on previous communities (al-umam al-mutaqaddimah), e.g. as in Luqman’s (AS) advice to his son in Qur’an 31:17. See also, al-Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir, 7:229; al-Tabari, Tafsir, 6:28 (#6780); al-Bazzar in his Musnad, 4:110 (#1285); ‘Abd al-Malik b. Habib, Wasf al-Firdaws, p.128 (#317); ibn Abi ’l-Dunya, Amr bi ’l-Maruf, p.92 (#47); al-Ghazzali, Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, 2:285; ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 1:16; al-Kisa’i’s Qisas al-Anbiya’, pp.82 & 148 and ibn al-A‘tham al-Kufi’s Futuh, 1:127 for biographical anecdotes about previous Prophets performing the duty. For further references, see M. Cook’s Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought, pp.47-50. Cf. furthermore, Salah al-Din al-Munajjid’s slender volume entitled al-Amirun bi ’l-Maruf fi ’l-Islam.

[5] i.e. the Qur’an.

[6] The word “sunnah” has a literal (i.e. linguistic) meaning as well as several technical (istilahiyy) meanings. In its literal sense, it has the meaning of ‘showing a clear and established path’ (bayyana tariqan qawiman) as in surah al-Ahzab:62 where Allah says: (Such as the law of Allah among those who lived before…) or it has the meaning of ‘conduct’ and ‘example’ (sirah) as in the hadith: “Whoever establishes a good practice or conduct (man sanna sunnah hasanah) he will have its reward as well as the reward of he who continues upon it to the Last Day and whoever establishes a reprehensible practice (sunnah sayyi’ah) he will have its sin as well as the sin of he who continues upon it to the Last Day.” As for the technical definition, it is considered to be mainly two: 1. The recommended act of worship known as mandub as opposed to the obligatory act (fard), while others consider it to be the transmitted Prophetic supererogatory acts of worship (al-nafilah al-manqulah). 2. What is transmitted from the Prophet (SAW) of his words, deeds and approvals (ma sadara an al-nabi min qawl aw fil aw taqrir). See Samih ‘Atif al-Zayn, Usul al-Fiqh al-Muyassar, p.312 and Nyazee’s Islamic Jurisprudence, pp.162-163.

[7] See surah Ali ‘Imran:104. The conjunction of ‘commanding right and forbidding wrong’ are found in seven other Qur’anic verses: 3:110 & 114; 5:78; 7:157; 9:71; 22:41 and 31:17. The focus of exegetical attention with regard to the surah 3:104 lay chiefly in the grammatical function of the preposition min (‘of/from’) in the construction minkum (‘of/from you’) i.e. whether the duty is imposed on the community of the believers as a whole or upon a segment of them. In the technical language of the mufassirun, the preposition may either function as 1) that of ‘specification’ (tabyin) and ‘elucidation of the genus’ (li-bayan al-jins) or ii) as partition (tabid), Some of the classical exegetes held the meaning to be the former such as Imam al-Zajjaj in his Maani al-Qur’an, 1:462; Abu Ja‘far al-Tusi, Tibyan, 2:548-549; Imam al-Maturidi in Ta’wilat al-Qur’an; Wahidi, al-Wajiz fi Tafsir al-Kitab al-Aziz, p.226 and al-Baghawi, Maalim al-Tanzil, 2:84 whereas the majority held it to be the latter such as amongst them al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf, 1:396-397; al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir, 8:177; al-Tabrisi, al-Majma‘, 1:483; Abu Hayyan, al-Bahr al-Muhit, 3:20; al-Suyuti, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, 1:57 and al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, 2:35.

[8] See 3:110 & 114.

[9] See 9:71; 9:112;22:41 & 31:17.

[10] Qur’an 9:71 & 22:41. The theme of true belief in Allah, observing the regular Prayers and the giving of Zakah are some of the paramount obligations in Islam and therefore the conjunction of commanding the good and forbidding the wrong with them also indicates its extreme importance.

[11] See al-Ma’idah:78-79.

[12] See al-Anfal:25.

[13] Meaning to hate it in one’s heart (fa ’l-yakrahahu bi-qalbihi) although, problematically, it does not remove or change the wrong (dhalika laysa bi-izalah wa taghyir minhu li ’l-munkar); see Sharh Sahih Muslim in the Kitab al-Iman (‘Book of Belief’) by Imam al-Nawawi (#49), p.155.

[14] See Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi, Musnad (#2196) where it has the variant verb “ankara” (‘to deny’, ‘to disown’ or ‘to disavow’); al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an, 2:30; al-San‘ani, al-Musannaf, 3:285 (#5649); ibn Abi Shaybah, al-Musannaf, 1:492 (#5686); Ahmad b. Hanbal in his Musnad, 3/10, 20/8, 49/10, 52/29, 54/23 & 92/22; the Musnad of ‘Abd b. Humayd in the Muntakhab of his student al-Shashi (#906); Muslim in the Sahih (#49); ibn Majah, Sunan (#1275, 1330 & 4013); Abu Dawud, Sunan (#1140); al-Tirmidhi, Sunan, 6:337 (#2173); ibn Abi ’l-Dunya, al-Amr bi ’l-Maruf, p.115 where the hadith is weak (daif); ibn Hibban, Sahih, 1:311 (#301); al-Bayhaqi, Shuab al-Iman, 6:85 (#7559) and ibn al-Athir, al-Jami‘, 1:324 (#107) without a chain of narrators (isnad).

[15] For this and similar ahadith that are exhortatory in urging the believers to engage in the duty, see Abu ‘Ubayd in al-Nasikh wa ’l-Mansukh, p.100; Ahmad in the Musnad, 5/388, 390 & 391; al-Tirmidhi, Sunan, 6:336 (#2170); ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musannaf, 7:460 (#37221); ibn Abi ’l-Dunya, al-Amr bi ’l-Maruf, p.54 (#12); Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an, 2:488; al-Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, 10:22 and his Shuab al-Iman, 6:84 (#7558); ibn al-Athir, al-Jami‘, 1:332 (#113) & al-Muttaqi al-Hindi’s Kanz al-Ummal, 3:70 (#5529 & 5562) where the latter two have no citation of isnads. The Mother of the believers ‘A’ishah (RA) also has a variant of the narration mentioned by Ahmad in the Musnad, 6/159; ibn Majah, al-Sunan (#4004); ibn Abi ’l-Dunya, al-Amr, p.48 (#7); al-Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, 10:93 as well as Imam ‘Ali (RA) as cited by ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musannaf, 7:504 (#37506). Cf. also Hafiz al-Haythami’s Majmaal-Zawa’id, 7:266.

[16] Imam al-Tirmidhi writes: “Some of the people of knowledge have said that the meaning of the Prophet’s saying ‘he is not from us’ (laysa minna) means: ‘it is not from our example’ (laysa min sunnatina) or ‘not from our etiquettes’ (laysa min adabina). ‘Ali b. al-Madini said that Yahya b. Sa‘id had said that Sufyan al-Thawri used to dislike this interpretation and instead used to say that ‘he is not from us’ (laysa minna) means: ‘he is not like us’ (laysa mithluna).” See the Sunan of al-Tirmidhi (#1921), p.439. This is a firm indication (qarinah) that compassion and respect to our young ones and elders respectively as well as commanding the good and forbidding the wrong all demand our attention and that it constitute part of our very character and etiquette because to leave them would be to leave a part of the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (SAW). And Allah knows best.

[17] The letter “waw” (‘and’/‘also’) functions here as the co-coordinative particle (waw al-atf) thematically joining sentences together. So, the act of commanding the good and forbidding the wrong are connected to the acts of having compassion and love towards one’s junior and honouring and revering one’s elders. Therefore, commanding the good and forbidding the wrong must be included in one’s regular set of dutiful actions.

[18] See the ahadith in Sunan of al-Tirmidhi (#1919-1920) – which are all rigorously authenticated (sahih) – for the exact narration above but without the addition: “…and does not command the good and forbid the wrong (wa ya’mur bi ’l-maruf wa yanha an al-munkar).” The hadith with the latter addition is also found in al-Tirmidhi (#1921) which is graded as “weak” (daif) by al-Albani although al-Tirmidhi grades it as “very good but peculiar” (hasan gharib). The narration is also found in al-Tabrizi’s Mishkat al-Masabih (#4970).

[19] The term “fard kifayah” is also known as wajib kifa’i (‘the communal obligatory act’) where if some individuals in the community carry out the duty, the rest are no longer liable for its omission. This is contrasted with “fard ayn” or wajibayni (‘’the universal obligatory act’) where the duty must be carried out by all who are demanded to do so; see I. A. K. Nyazee, Islamic Jurisprudence, p.64. For the duty Commanding the good and forbidding the wrong being fard kifayah – which is the majority view – see al-Zamakhsahri, al-Kashshaf, 1:396; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir, 8:178; al-Qurtubi, al-Jami‘, 4:165; al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, 2:35; Abu Hayyan, al-Bahr al-Muhit, 3:20; al-Tusi, Tabyin, 2:548 and Tabrisi, al-Majamaal-Bayan, 1:483.

[20] The additional qualification is “al-qadirin ala izalatihi” (‘those able to remove [the sin]’). 

[21] For example, exhorting him/her by quoting ahadith or highlighting the inconsistency with Islamic texts and principles, etc. preferably with a tactful, sympathetic and approving tone but not in an excessively obdurate, self-styled arrogant manner. Although it is possible that there may be a situation where harsh and castigating language may be required but it is not the norm.

[22] Like certain musical instruments, e.g. the flute.

[23] In other words, the degree of action, where one actually physically intervenes to prevent, put right and disciplines another individual.

[24] Meaning most probably the relevant authorities, e.g. the police or the military. This condition may be referring to the instance where an event of commanding good and forbidding wrong reaches such a serious and grave degree that threat or use of strong tactics is required which could lead to open conflict (shahr al-asliha) or even anarchy (fitnah ammah). See al-Ghazzali, Ihya’Ulum al-Din, 2:288 and cf. his Persian treatise Kimiya-yi Saadat, 1:499-504. However, al-Ghazzali states that excepting this, any other form of commanding the good such informing, counselling, rebuke or mild physical action, do not require official permission from the Khalifah.

[25] The general principle is that one may not reprove a person for acting upon what is established and permitted by his school (madhhab), so therefore one may not forcefully impose the understanding of one particular school over another where there is a genuine disagreement (ikhtilaf). See Zayn al-Din Salihi, Kanz al-Akhbar, p.238; Abu ’l-Layth al-Samarqandi, al-Tafsir, 1:289; Abu Ya‘la in his al-Mutamad, p.115 where he says that a matter where ijtihad exists cannot be a condition for doing amr bi ’l-maruf also echoed by ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, al-Ghunya, 1:56 and Imam al-Juwayni in his Kitab al-Irshad, pp.368-369. Cf. also Cook’s Forbidding Wrong in Islam, pp.22-25.

[26] In other words, if a Muslim finds him/herself hurt, injured or humiliated as a result of being corrected and put right and this feeling is not a genuine sense of guilt and shame but hatred and anger for the one who did the correcting, then one displays no strong signs of belief in Allah and His commandments. One should expect to be rebuked and reproved for engaging in illicit behaviour or open disobedience to the injunctions of Allah and His Messenger.

[27] Imam al-Haddad’s point here is to do with the efficacy of one’s actions. So, if one deems for sure that his actions will have an ill effect (ta’thir), then one may not proceed further thinking it an obligation but doing so will accrue an immense reward; see al-Zamakhshari, al-Minhaj fi Usul al-Din, p.78. See also, al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an, 2:486-487; Sayf al-Din al-Amidi’s position in his colossal Abkar al-Afkar, pp.310-311 and as cited by al-Laqani in his Hidayah al-Murid, p.282 as well as al-Bajuri’s position in the Tuhfah al-Murid in al-Laqani’s jawhar al-Tawhid, p.203 and al-Jurjani’s commentary on al-Iji, Sharh al-Mawaqif, p.331; Imam al-Taftazani also lays down the condition of ‘efficacy’ (tajwiz al-ta’thir) for carrying out the obligation of commanding right and forbidding wrong in his Sharh al-Maqasid, 5:171-175; Sultan al-‘Ulama’ ‘Izz al-Din ibn ‘Abd al-Salam wrote: wa yabqa ’l-wasa’il tasqutu bi-suqut al-maqasid – “if the end does not materialise, then the means has no footing,” Qawaid al-Ahkam, 1:109 which suggests that the act of commanding right and forbidding wrong is a means to an end, i.e. it must achieve something, if that end does not arise or come about, the means dissolve and become futile. Although, however, the great Imam al-Nawawi disagreed when he wrote that the duty is not voided because one thinks it will not produce results (li-kawnihi la yufidu fi-zannihi) because one’s duty should simply be prefaced on the action of commanding and forbidding not that it should be accepted by the offender (innama alayhi ’l-amr wa ’l-nahy la ’l-qabul), Sharh Sahih Muslim, (#49), p.153-155. cf. also his Sharh Matn Arbain, p.91 where he gives the example that it is still one’s duty to impart greetings (salam) even if one knows the person will not return back that particular greeting. See also ibn Daqiq al-‘Id, Sharh al-Arbain, pp.55-57 and al-Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Haythami’s Fath al-Mubin, pp.244-248 both in agreement with Imam al-Nawawi.

[28] No individual, whether in a lofty administrative position (e.g. a governor, wali) or in a local influential status (e.g. a delegate) should be a deterrent for a believing Muslim from commanding right and forbidding wrong especially if it means the believer losing his/her reputation, position, fame wealth, property etc. If an individual is committing an act of clear disobedience – whoever he may be and whatever his/her rank – that individual must not be a source of fear for the believer who carries out the duty; his/her fear, rather, should only be for Allah (SAW). Imam al-Haddad’s tone is firm and his language unequivocal. It is wonderful how the Imam’s first warning to the reader in this chapter should be about such a matter before any other warning, highlighting the extreme importance in speaking out against injustice, wrong-doing, disobedience and evil.

[29] A quite pertinent remark was made by a Maliki scholar ‘Umar ibn al-Rabi‘ al-Khashshab (d.956), who said: “the believers house is his castle” (bayt al-mu’minin hirzun lahu) as quoted by Zayn al-Din al-Salihi in his Kanz al-Akhbar, p.188. The scholars in Islam have always strongly endorsed three overlapping concepts related to upholding privacy. 1. The sanctity and inviolability of privacy (i.e. defending the home) which are enshrined in the verses regarding the permission to enter a person’s place of residence, e.g. in al-Baqarah:189 where Allah says: (…it is not virtuous if you enter your houses from the back; it is a virtue if you fear Allah and enter from the doors…) and where Allah orders: (O you who believe! Do not enter your houses other than your own until you have sought permission to do so and greeted those in them…); 2. The prohibition of spying (tajassus) which is established from the verse of surah al-Hujarat:12 where Allah commands: (O you who believe! Remain well away from suspicion for some forms of suspicion are a sin and spy not on each other…). There is also a narration where the companion ibn Mas‘ud (RA) upon being asked about a man whose beard was dripping with wine said that Allah forbade spying and prying so until the action is carried out in public (in yazharu lana shay’), no action against him can be taken, see Abu Dawud, Sunan (#4890) & al-Bayhaqi, Shuab al-Iman, 6:99 (#7604) and 3. Defending a Muslim’s honour i.e. not to divulge or expose his/her secret actions in order to publicly humiliate or belittle him/her. Numerous ahadith abound where a Muslim is rewarded for covering the faults and aberrations of his fellow brother, e.g. see Ahmad, Musnad, 8/46 (#5646), 13/161 (#7421) & 15/86 (#7929); Bukhari in his Sahih, 2:98; Muslim in the Sahih (#2580, 2074 & 2699); ibn Majah, Sunan (#225, 2544 & 2546); Abu Dawud, Sunan (#4946); al-Tirmidhi, Sunan (#1425 & 1931); ibn ‘Abd al-Hakam, Futuh al-Misr wa Akhbaruhu, p.275 and Humaydi in his Musnad (#384). Another variant of the narration is that if a believer covers the faults or shame of another believer (man satara mu’minan), it is as though he has revived a buried infant (mawudah) from her grave, see Abu Dawud, Sunan (#4891); Ahmad, Musnad, 4/147, 153 & 158.

Moreover, a basic principle was well-known and that was: ‘Not to investigate what was not out in the open (ma ghaba).’ No action is to be pursued or followed through if it is not carried out in the public domain which then becomes a concern of the state and individual citizens. Any action, therefore, if performed in the private sphere out of the reach of the formal arm of the state and other public citizens, must be left unperturbed as it is no-one else’s business to pry or investigate.

Furthermore, this dichotomy of duty and privacy, historically, was meant to prevent often over extended vigilance and enthusiasm on the part of Muslims when it came to carrying out the duty of commanding good and forbidding wrong infringing upon peoples’ private lives. The scholars found it extremely unsavoury and disliked for a Muslim’s (and non-Muslim’s) private domains to be violated even if he was committing a crime in it. So, when Sufyan al-Thawri heard that police would clamber over gates or roofs to enter a house suspected of committing crimes, he reacted with utter disgust and disfavour, See Khallal’s Amr bi ’l-Maruf, p.96 (#32).

[30] See the narration of ibn Mas‘ud in ibn Abi ’l-Dunya, ‘Uqubat, p.43 (#40) and Muttaqi al-Hindi’s Kanz al-Ummal, 3:73 (#5539 & 5582).


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