Hadeeth 34 : Forbidding the Evil is from Eemaan
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by Imâm an-Nawawî
On the authority of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (radiAllaahu anhu) who said : I heard the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) say :
Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.
It was related by Muslim.
Explanation of Hadeeth Number 34
Imaam Muslim has transmitted this hadeeth from Taariq bin Shihaab, who said : The first person to begin with the Khutbah before the Prayer on the Day of ‘Eed [instead of the Prayer followed by the Khutbah] was Marwaan [the son of Yazeed]. So a man stood up to him and said : “The Prayer [should be] before the Khutbah !” So [Marwaan] replied : “That old way has been left.” So Abu Sa’eed [al-Khudree] said : “As for this man [who spoke up to Marwaan] then he has completed the duty that was upon him. I heard the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) say ‘Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it [until the end of the hadeeth]’“.
In this hadeeth is a proof that no one before Marwaan had changed the order of the ‘Eed Prayer and Khutbah. And if it is asked why did Abu Sa’eed himself not attempt to change this evil, until the other man stood up against it, then this can be answered in a number of ways : It is possible that Abu Sa’eed was not present the first time Marwaan began to give the Khutbah before the Prayer, or that the man had begun to oppose Marwaan and then Abu Sa’eed arrived upon the scene and the two of them then opposed Marwaan together. Or it is possible that Abu Sa’eed was present but feared that if he opposed Marwaan then this would lead to a greater fitnah or he feared for his own life, and so he remained silent. Or it is possible that Abu Sa’eed was about to stand up against Marwaan, when the other man unexpectedly rose before him, and so Abu Sa’eed assisted him.
And it is narrated in another hadeeth that is agreed upon by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim, and is mentioned by them in their Chapters on the ‘Eeds, that it was Abu Sa’eed who pulled at Marwaan’s hand when he was about to climb onto the Mimbar, and Abu Sa’eed and the other man were together so Marwaan replied to them both with what is mentioned here, and so the meaning of what Abu Sa’eed said is that both of them completed their duties.
And as for his (sallAllaah alayhi wa sallam) statement “let him change it” then it is an order indicating obligation by the consensus of the Imaams, and this is in conformity to the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah regarding the obligation of commanding the good and forbidding the evil, and it is also part of giving Naseehah [sincere advice] which is the Deen [See hadeeth number Seven]. And as for His – ta’aalaa – statement :
“O you who believe! Take care of your ownselves; no harm can come to you from those who are in error if you follow the right guidance” [Soorah al-Maa’idah, 105]
then this is not in opposition to what we have mentioned. This is because the correct understanding of this Noble Aayah according to the ‘Ulamaa of the Truth is that if one performs ones duty then one will not be harmed by the deficiencies of others. And this is similar to His statement : “and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another” [Soorah al-An’aam, 164].
And if this is the case, then from what the Muslim has been charged with is commanding the good and forbidding the evil, and so if he does that and yet the one spoken to does not submit, then he carries no blame after that. This is because upon him is the commanding or the forbidding, but not the acceptance [of the correction], and Allaah knows best.
Then, commanding the good and forbidding the evil is a Fard Kifaayah [Collective Duty], so if a group of people establish it such that they suffice then the obligation falls from the rest of the people. But if all of the people leave it, then all of them, who are able to do it without difficulty, are sinful.
Further, sometimes it may be restricted to certain individuals, such as if it concerns an affair that none knows of other than he, or none other than he has the ability to stop that affair, such as the one who sees his wife or son or slave perform an evil.
The ‘ulamaa have said that the obligation of commanding the good and forbidding the evil is not removed if a person merely suspects that his admonition will not be accepted – rather he is still obliged to perform it.
Allaah ta’aalaa has said : “Verily, the reminding benefits the believers” [Soorah adh-Dhaariyaat, 55],
and it has already preceeded that upon him is to admonish, and acceptance of the admonishment is not upon him. Allaah ta’aalaa has said : “The Messenger’s duty is only to convey (the message) in a clear way” [Soorah an-Noor, 54].
The ‘ulamaa have said : “It is not a condition for the commander of good or the forbidder of evil to himself be perfect in his condition, and fully complying with that which he commands and fully leaving that which he forbids. Rather upon him is to command, even if he himself is not upon that completely. This is because he has two duties upon him : firstly, to order his own soul upon good and forbid it from evil, and secondly to command and forbid other people. So if he fulfils one of them then the other still remains obligatory upon him.”
And they said that the actions of commanding the good and forbidding the evil are not meant only for the government officals, but rather they are required from every individual amongst the Muslims, and every one possessing knowledge of what be must commanded or forbidden must do so. So if the matter is one which is well known and apparent, such as the Prayer or the Fasting [of Ramadaan] or Zinaa or drinking of alcohol, or other matters similar to these, then all of the Muslims have knowledge of them and so must command or forbid. But if the matter is from the finer matters of action or speech or that which is associated with ijtihaad, and they are not matters that the general populace have Knowledge of, then it is not for them to forbid, rather this is for the ‘ulamaa.
And the ‘ulamaa admonish others regarding those issues upon which there is ijmaa’ [consensus]. But as for the issues over which there is a difference of opinion amongst the scholars, then they do not admonish regarding them. This is because, according to the first of the two madhhabs in this issue, every mujtahid is correct in his own ruling, and this madhhab has been adopted by many of the verifying scholars. And according to the second madhhab only one opinion is correct, but which ones are in error is not identifiable by us, and hence there is no sin [upon the one who has erred]. So in such cases the scholars do not admonish, but rather advise, as a form of naseehah [sincere advice], in order to keep clear of the difference of opinion, and this is good and desirable, as long as it is done gently and with kindness.
The Shaykh Muhyee ad-Deen an-Nawawi, rahimahu Allaah, said : “And know that this affair of commanding the good and forbidding the evil has been largely abandoned since a great length of time, and in this age nothing is left of it except very few formalities, despite its being an extremely important affair, by which Authority is established in the land – rather it is its foundation and basis. And if wickedness and evil become widespread in the land then the Punishment [of Allaah] will encompass both the pious and the wicked people. So if they do not take hold of the oppressors then they will all be very near to facing the Punishment of Allaah, as Allaah ta’aalaa has said :
“And let those who oppose the Messenger’s commandment beware, lest some Fitnah (trials, afflictions, etc) befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them” [Soorah an-Noor 63].
So it is required of the one who seeks the Hereafter, and who exerts himself in attaining the Pleasure of Allaah ‘azza wa jall, that he concerns himself with this affair, for indeed its benefit is great. And this is so especially since most of the people have left it, and let not the one who admonishes fear any [evil] repurcussions, due to the raising of his rank [with Allaah]. For verily Allaah ta’aalaa has said :
“Verily, Allaah will help those who help His (Cause).” [Soorah al-Hajj 40].
And know that the reward is proportionate to the exertion made and hardship faced. And one should also not leave it due to the wrong-doer being ones friend or ones loved-one, for verily the true friend of a person is the one who exerts himself in building his Hereafter, even if this may bring about some loss in his worldly affairs. And the true enemy of a person is the one who exerts himself in taking away his Hereafter, or reducing it, even if by doing so he brings about some benefit in his worldly affairs.”
And it is required of the one who commands the good and forbids the evil that he does so with gentleness, in order to ensure the greatest chance of attaining that which is desired [ie the correction and rectification of the wrong-doing individual]. And Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee rahimahu Allaah said : “He who admonishes his brother in secret has sincerely advised him and has adorned him, while he who admonishes his brother openly [in front of everyone] has humiliated him and disfigured him.”
And from what the people [nowadays] have become negligient of in this affair is that if they see a trader selling goods or merchandise or animals that are defective, and he does not show this defect to his customers, then nobody admonishes the trader for this, nor do they inform the buyer about the defect. And they will be questioned about this [on the Day of Judgement] for verily the Religion is Naseehah [sincerity or sincere advice], and he who does not give sincere advice has cheated.
And his sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam statement “let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart” means that he must hate it with his heart, and this does not stop the evil occurring nor change it to something good, but this is all that he is capable of doing.
And his sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam statement “and that is the weakest of faith” means, and Allaah knows best, that this is the smallest possible fruit or result of his faith. And it is not upon the one who commands the good and forbids the evil to investigate and search and spy upon others, or to invade others privacy or to suspect others in order to find their wrongs. Rather, if he comes upon an evil then he changes it. And al-Maawardee (rahimahu Allaah) said : “It is not for him to invade the privacy of and spy upon others, except if he is informed by a trustworthy and reliable person that someone has secluded himself with another man in order to murder him, or with a woman in order to fornicate with her. Then in such cases it is permissible for him spy upon them and investigate, and to try to expose them in order to prevent the occurrence of that which cannot be rectified.”
And as for his sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam statement “and that is the weakest of faith” then it has already been mentioned that this means the smallest fruit of ones faith. And it has been related in a different narration of this hadeeth : “And after that there does not remain any Eemaan [Faith] even of the size of a mustard seed”, ie. that after that there does not remain any level of Eemaan. And the word ‘Eemaan’ in this hadeeth carries the meaning of ‘Islaam’.
In this hadeeth is a proof that the one who fears being killed or being beaten [for admonishing the wrong-doer] is no longer required to act to change the evil, and this is the madhhab of the Scholars of Truth from amongst the Early and Later scholars. However an extreme group has adopted the position that the responsibility to act remains even if he fears for his life or fears punishment.
And Allaah knows best.
- That it is everyone’s individual duty to improve matters as far as he is able to do
- That if one can correct something with ones hand without bringing about more harm, then he should do so
- That if it is that one can only say something under the circumstances, then one should do so
- That one must at least hate in ones heart the evil that has happened, even if one cannot do anything about it, and this is the weakest level of Faith
- That if one does not feel anything in one’s heart against the wrong then this indicates a lack of Faith
- That one should take action whenever it is conducive to do so
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