Islamic Themes

The Foremost Good (Ma’ruf)


“The Foremost Good (Ma`ruf)”


“Iman”[1] (belief) is the foremost good (al-ma`ruf al-awwal) and the basis or what grounds every good (ma`ruf). “Kufr”[2] (disbelief) is the foremost evil (al-munkar al-awwal) and the basis or what grounds every evil (munkar). Acts of obedience (al-ta`at) emanate from iman and acts of disobedience (munkarat) emanate from kufr. The foremost act of obedience is ruling by Allah’s laws because through it:

[1] iman itself is preserved;

[2] through it dawah is effectively carried and

[3] by it the religion is spread.

This means that the converse, ruling with other than Allah’s laws, is the foremost act of evil and disobedience as it is tantamount to ruling based on human whims, predilection, desires and caprices (and also negates the above three aspects). Hence, the absence of the Shariah, the laws of Allah, from life is the foremost munkar.[3] Every munkar has to be removed and so therefore reversing the situation of the absence of the Shariah from life would become the foremost obligation.[4]


And with Allah is all success.


[1] Iman | إيمان : this is to assent to everything the Prophet brought that is based on definitive evidence (qat`i thubut) – meaning based on mutawatir (multiple transmission) reports. Refer to Mufti Muhammad Shafi’s excellent booklet Iman aur Kufr, pp.13-23 for a discussion. This implies therefore that iman or the `aqidah (creed) is that which is based on what is definitive. al-Sakhawi in Fath al-Mughith Sharh Alfiyyat al-Hadith, p.143 states regarding the criteria for excommunicating someone from the religion:

“…because we do not excommunicate anyone from the people of the Qiblah unless they deny something definitive in the Shariah [s: i.e. the religion]…”

إذ لا نكفر احدا من أهل القبلة إلا بإنكار قطعي الشريعة…

[2] Kufr | كفر : is of several types such as: [1] the explicit or outright rejection of the Prophet as Allah’s messenger as in the case of Christians and Jews; [2] rejecting any statement of the Prophet having affirmed his Prophethood or after believing him as Allah’s messenger or believing in part and rejecting part of his Prophethood; [3] rejecting any statement or action of the Prophet established by definitive evidence (qat`i thubut) and [4] to deliberately give precedence to one’s own interpretation that clearly contradicts definitive and explicit meanings of the Qur’an and hadith texts. See Mufti Muhammad Shafi, Iman aur Kufr, pp.24-25. Shah `Abd al-`Aziz Dihlawi writes in al-Fatawa al-`Aziziyyah, 1:24: “…and therefore it is known that kufr is the lack of tasdiq (assent) to all that the Prophet is necessarily [s: meaning definitively] known to have brought and we have mentioned already that anyone who rejects one of these definitive aspects of the religion is imputed with kufr […]

فمفهوم الكفر عدم تصديق النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم فيما علم مجيئه ضرورة و هو بعينه ما ذكرنا من ان من انكر واحدا من ضروريات الدين إتصف بالكفر…

He then expounds four types or forms (maratib) of kufr: [1] jahl (ignorance): total rejection of the Prophet and all that he brought based on one’s false claims and assumptions, e.g. Abu Jahl; [2] `inad (obstinacy): rejection of the Prophet and all that he brought based on knowing he was truthful and that he spoke the truth, e.g. the People of the Book; [3] shakk (doubt): lacking confidence in what the Prophet brought, e.g. in the case of the hypocrites and [4] ta’wil (interpretation): to interpret something in the name of the Prophet that does not carry that meaning, i.e. to misinterpret him. See op.cit., 1:24.

[3] It is obligatory to rule by what Allah has revealed and nothing else from many clear-cut verses. See al-Ma’idah: 42, 44-45 and 49-50 respectively:

  1. The command to rule according to what Allah has revealed: {And so judge between them by what Allah has revealed . . .} [49]
  2. Strong warning against ruling by other than what Allah has revealed: {. . . and follow not their vain desires . . .} [49]
  3. Strong warning against compromising on any detail of what Allah has revealed: {. . . but beware of them lest they turn you far away from some of that which Allah has sent down to you . . .} [49]
  4. The absolute prohibition on seeking the ruling of jahiliyyah: {Do they then seek the judgement of (the Days of) Ignorance?} [50]
  5. The statement that Allah is the best of judges: {. . . and who is better in judgement than Allaah for a people who have firm Faith?} [50]
  6. The statement that whoever does not judge according to what Allah revealed is a kafir (disbeliever), a zalim (oppressor or wrongdoer) and a fasiq (open sinner), as Allah says: {. . . And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the kafirun} [44]; {. . . And whoever does not judge by that which Allah has revealed, they are the zalimun (wrongdoers)} [45]; {. . . And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed they are of the fasiqun (disobedient)} [47].
  7. The generic obligation to judge according to what Allah has revealed: {. . . And if you judge, judge with justice between them. . .} [42]

[4] See Shaykh Ahmad Mahmud, al-Da`wah ila’l-Islam, pp.30-31.


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