Conditions for Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil -ibn al-‘Uthaymeen

In the name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most Merciful

Conditions for Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil

By Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen may Allah have mercy on him

The Shaykh mentioned this point of benefit in his explanation to the 25th Hadith collected by Imaam Nawawi’s in his 40 Hadith. Ibn al-‘Uthaymeen says what could be translated to mean:

There are two conditions (one must observe when) enjoining good:

Condition 1: He must know that what he is enjoining is indeed a good (action). If he is unaware, then it is not permissible for him to speak. That is because if he enjoins something while being unaware/ignorant (of its ruling), then he is speaking about Allah(‘s Deen) without knowledge (and that is Haram).

Condition 2: He must know that the addressee has (indeed) abandoned this good (action). If he is unaware whether this person has abandoned the good (deed) or not, then he must find out (and be certain). The proof for this is that one time a man entered the (masjid) on the day of Jumu’ah and sat while the Prophet (peace be upon him) was giving the Friday sermon. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم asked, “Did you pray?” and the man responded “No”. The Prophet replied, “Stand up and pray two units of salah and make them short.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم did not order him to perform the two units of Salah until he questioned him first. Therefore, it necessary to learn whether or not a person has left off a good (deed first before commanding them to perform it).

There are three conditions (one must observe when) forbidding evil:

Condition 1: He must learn that the deed is (truly an) evil (deed) with its legislative evidence. It cannot be based on his taste, customs, jealousy, or emotions. Just because he sees it to be an evil, does not mean that it is (truly an) evil. Perhaps he may forbid someone from something that is (in reality) a good (deed).

Condition 2: He must know (be certain) that the person has actually fallen into that act of evil. If he does not know whether the addressee has fell into evil or not, then it is not permissible to prohibit him from it.

An example of this is if you see a man eating and drinking during the days of Ramadan in Masjid Haram. It is not obliged upon you to forbid this man from this action until you verify whether he is a traveler or not. It is possible that he may be a traveler and (in this instance) it is permissible for him to eat and drink during Ramadan.

Therefore, it is necessary to first learn whether the addressee has indeed fall into evil or not.

Condition 3: When forbidding evil, it cannot lead to something that is worse. If forbidding evil leads to something that is worse, then it becomes prohibited to do so.

The results of forbidding evil are of four types:

1. The evil disappears- this is obligatory to do because the evil disappears.

2. The evil lessens- this is also obligatory to do because the evil lessens.

3. The evil changes to something that is similar to it- this depends. Perhaps it may lead to something that is less or it may become worse.

4. The evil leads to something greater– in this case it is prohibited to forbid evil because it leads to something worse.

Now, if someone were to say, “where are the evidences for these types?” We would respond:

As for the first two, then if there is a possibility to remove the evil, it then becomes obligatory to do so. Allah stated:

تَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡبِرِّ وَٱلتَّقۡوَىٰ‌ۖ وَلَا تَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡإِثۡمِ وَٱلۡعُدۡوَٲنِ‌ۚ

“…Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression…” (5:2)

وَلۡتَكُن مِّنكُمۡ أُمَّةٌ۬ يَدۡعُونَ إِلَى ٱلۡخَيۡرِ وَيَأۡمُرُونَ بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ وَيَنۡهَوۡنَ عَنِ ٱلۡمُنكَرِ‌ۚ

“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islâm), enjoining Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden)…” (3:104)

As for the fourth, then if forbidding evil leads to greater harm, then it is prohibited to forbid this evil. The evidence for this is the statement of Allah:

وَلَا تَسُبُّواْ ٱلَّذِينَ يَدۡعُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّواْ ٱللَّهَ عَدۡوَۢا بِغَيۡرِ عِلۡمٍ۬‌ۗ

“And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides Allâh, lest they insult Allâh wrongfully without knowledge…” (6:108)

So it is prohibited to curse the gods of the polytheists, because cursing their gods would lead to them attributing something deficient to Allah which He is free from.

It is mentioned that Shaykhul Islaam ibn Taymeeyah 728 AH (may Allah have mercy on him) one time was with his companion. They witness people drinking alcohol and committing mischief in a certain place and Ibn Taymeeyah did not forbid them from doing so. His companion then said to him, “Why didn’t you prohibit them (from their actions?)” and he replied, “If I had prohibited them from their actions they would have went to the people’s homes trespassing and robbing their property. And this is more severe than what they are doing right now.” So look at his understanding in the religion of Allah.

Translated by: Michael AbdusSalaam Deonarain

الفقير الى الله

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