shaykh al-islam IBN TAYMIYYA on:
NEGLECTING AMR BI ’L-MA`RUF
WA ’L-NAHY `AN AL-MUNKAR
- Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya (Allah have mercy on him) comments:
وهذه حال كثير من المتدينة يتركون ما يجب عليهم من أمر ونهي وجهاد يكون به الدين لله وتكون به كلمة الله هي العليا لئلا يفتنوا بجنس الشهوات وهم قد وقعوا في الفتنة التي هي أعظم مما زعموا أنهم فروا منه وإنما الواجب عليهم القيام بالواجب من الأمر والنهي وترك المحظور والاستعانة بالله على الأمرين و القيام بالواجب وترك المحظور متالازم…
“…and this condition [s: of justifying one’s abandonment of ‘commanding right and forbidding wrong for fear of fitna’] is prevalent among [s: so called] ‘religious’ people. They leave what is obligatory on them to do such as commanding right, forbidding wrong as well as Jihad [s: when it is required] such that the din is for Allah alone and His Word is made the highest based on the reason that they want to avoid the temptations and desires [s: of this world that may come with it]. The reality is that they have already fallen into a larger fitna than the one they claim they are trying to flee from. What is required of them is to fulfil all their obligations such as commanding right, forbidding wrong, leaving what is prohibited and seeking Help from Allah in these two matters. Fulfilling all obligations and leaving what is prohibited go hand in hand…”
- amr bi ’l-ma`ruf wa’l-nahy `an al-munkar is a duty/obligation. (wajib).
- Ibn Taymiyya alerts the reader to one justification given by people – in his time ‘religious’ persons – as to why they do not engage in amr bi ’l-ma`ruf wa’l-nahy `an al-munkar and this justification is the fear of falling into temptation (e.g. coming across beautiful women, self-aggrandisement, etc.). He then comments that before even being a recipient of any ordeal or fitna that may arise from amr bi ’l-ma`ruf wa’l-nahy `an al-munkar, they have already succumbed to a fitna far worse which is: disobedience in turning away from a command of Allah, an obligation, with false protests of piety.
- In our present day, some people (purportedly religious) also present self-justifications as to why the duty of amr bi ’l-ma`ruf wa’l-nahy `an al-munkar excludes them such as:
- They are not yet spiritually adept.
- Amr bi ’l-ma`ruf is a worldly pursuit for a worldly end.
- Nothing will be achieved by engaging in amr bi ’l-ma`ruf.
- It opens up doors to more temptations.
- It contradicts pragmatic political manoeuvring.
- The non-Muslim countries are not the place for it.
- Loss of position and favour.
- Choosing not to fulfil a given obligation by rationalising justifications is in effect to fall in to disobedience to Allah even if a person avoids unlawful matters.
- Choosing to fulfil given obligations but rationalising justifications not to avoid unlawful matters is also to fall into disobedience to Allah.
- Both fulfilling obligations AND leaving prohibitions is what is required; hence Ibn Taymiyya’s description, “al-qiyam bi’l-wajib wa tark al-mahdhur mutalaziman… fulfilling all obligations and leaving what is prohibited go hand in hand.”
Therefore, it would not be correct to avoid amr bi ’l-ma`ruf wa’l-nahy `an al-munkar (a duty/obligation) just because one is engaged in spiritual retreat, or moral betterment or even religious study as several of our scholars assert today and teach us today. The munkarat (‘wrong’) we witness today – especially the most severe munkar which is the absence of the Shari`a from life – will continue and remain if we justify apathy based on what we think are religious grounds. We would thus be in disobedience to Allah if we remain silent by refraining from enjoining this noblest of duty.
And with Allah is all Help and Success.
S. Z. C.
 The Word “fitna” linguistically means ‘to put metal in fire in order to purify it’. Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-`Arab, 5:3346. The sunni-theological connotations include ‘sedition’, ‘temptation’, ‘harm’, etc. The word has a number of meanings as used in the Qur’an such as:  kufr and shirk as in Q. 24:63;  burning as a punishment as in Q.85:10;  persecution as in Q. 29:10 and  diversion as in Q.2:191 and  tests/trials as in Q.54:27. See A. Tayob, “An Analytical Survey of al-Tabari’s Exegesis of the Cultural Symbolic Construct of Fitna” in Hawtings-Shareef, Approaches to the Qur’an, pp.157-162.
 For outlines in “jihad”, see M. Bonner, Jihad in Islamic History, pp.1-20; R. Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, pp.1-8; D. Cook, Understanding Jihad, ch.1-3 and R. Bonney, Jihad: From Qur’an to Bin Laden, ch.1-2.
 Ibn Taymiyya, al-Amr bi ’l-Ma`ruf, pp.79-80. For a survey of this work, see M. Cook, Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought, pp.151-157.
 Ibn Taymiyya, al-Amr bi ’l-Ma`ruf, pp.77-79.
 Ibn Taymiyya, al-Amr bi ’l-Ma`ruf, p.80.