Imam Al-Nawawi's Riyad-us-Saliheen
Chapter 23
Enjoining Good and forbidding Evil

Allah, the Exalted, says:

"Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma`ruf (i.e., Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.'' (3:104)

"You (true believers in Islamic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) and his Sunnah) are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma`ruf (i.e., Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden)''. (3:110)

"Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish (i.e., don't punish them).'' (7:199)

"The believers, men and women, are Auliya' (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another; they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma`ruf (i.e., Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e., polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden)''. (9:71)

"Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of Dawud (David) and `Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed (Allah and the Messengers) and were ever transgressing beyond bounds. They used not to forbid one another from the Munkar (wrong, evildoing, sins, polytheism, disbelief) which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do". (5:78,79)

"And say: `The truth is from your Rubb.' Then whosoever wills, let him believe; and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve". (18:29)

"Therefore proclaim openly (Allah's Message - Islamic Monotheism) that which you are commanded...'' (15:94)

"We rescued those who forbade evil, but with a severe torment. We seized those who did wrong because they used to rebel against Allah's Command (disobey Allah)". (7:165)

184. Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is  unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith".
[Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith contains a very important prescription to prevent the Muslim society from all things which are forbidden in Islam. So long as Muslims adhered to it and ceaselessly and fearlessly performed their obligation of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, their society was largely safe from many evils and sins.

185. Abdullah bin Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Never a Prophet had been sent before me by Allah to his people but he had, among his people, (his) disciples and companions, who followed his ways and obeyed his command. Then there came after them their successors who proclaimed what they did not practise, and practised what they were not commanded to do. And (he) who strove against them with his hand is a believer; he who strove against them with his heart is a believer; and he who strove against them with his tongue is a believer ; and beyond that there is no grain of Faith".
[Muslim].

186. `Ubadah bin As-Samit (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: We swore allegiance to Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) to hear and obey; in time of difficulty and in prosperity, in hardship and in ease, to endure being discriminated against and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding which there is a proof from Allah. We swore allegiance to Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) to say what was right wherever we were, and not to fear from anyone's reproach.
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: It has been emphasized in this Hadith that even if a Muslim ruler is sinful and cruel, one should not disobey him unless he orders to go against the Divine injunctions. In that case, such rulers should not be obeyed. Similarly, it is not permissible to revolt against them until they commit clear-cut infidelity because there is a greater danger of loss in revolt and rebellion. It should be noted once and for all that the expression of truth and compliance with religious injunctions have top priority on all occasions. This should be done regardless of what people say on this account.

187. Nu`man bin Bashir (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The likeness of the man who observes the limits prescribed by Allah and that of the man who transgresses them is like the people who get on board a ship after casting lots. Some of them are in its lower deck and some of them in its upper (deck). Those who are in its lower (deck), when they require water, go to the occupants of the upper deck, and say to them : `If we make a hole in the bottom of the ship, we shall not harm you.' If they (the occupants of the upper deck) leave them to carry out their design they all will be drowned. But if they do not let them go ahead (with their plan), all of them will remain safe".
[Al-Bukhari].

Commentary: We learn from this Hadith that the consequences of committing acts which are forbidden in Islam are not confined only to those persons who commit them, but the whole society has to suffer for them. It is, therefore, essential that the people who are in the habit of committing sinful acts and violate Divine injunctions, should be checked to save the whole society from destruction. If this is not done, the entire society will have to face the Divine punishment.

188. Umm Salamah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "You will have rulers some of whom you approve and some of whom you will disapprove. He who dislikes them will be safe, and he who expresses disapproval will be safe, but he who is pleased and follows them (will be indeed sinful)". His audience asked: "Shall we not fight them?'' He replied, "No, as long as they establish Salat amongst you".
[Muslim].

Commentary:
1. By qualifying the obedience of Muslim rulers with Salat, it has been made clear that what actually distinguishes between Kufr and Islam is Salat.

2. If a person has the power to stop the rulers from committing evil deeds, he must use this power for it. If he is incapable of it, he should at least condemn their evil deeds in his heart. To join or acquiesce in the evil deeds of the rulers is an extremely dangerous trend. From this angle, participation in political parties is a dangerous affair because when these parties come into power, all their members have to endorse and pursue their good as well as bad policies.

189. Zainab  (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) came to visit me one day frightened and he ü said, "La ilaha illallah (There is no true God but Allah). Woe to the Arabs because of an evil which has drawn near! Today an opening of this size has been made in the barrier restraining Ya'juj and Ma'juj (Gog and Magog people).'' And he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) made a circle with his thumb and index finger. I said, ``O Messenger of Allah! Shall we perish while still there will be righteous people among us?'' He (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) replied, ``Yes, when wickedness prevails".
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  This Hadith also tells us about the ominous of sin. It says that when vice becomes common, then in spite of the presence of some virtuous persons, that community will be destroyed. But on the Day of Resurrection, those noble persons who had done their duty of preaching virtue and checking vice will stand apart from the sinners. Thus this Hadith induces one to keep away from sins.

190. Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Beware of sitting on roads (ways).'' The people said: "We have but them as sitting places.'' Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "If you have to sit there, then observe the rights of the way". They asked, "What are the rights of the way?'' He (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "To lower your gaze (on seeing what is illegal to look at), and (removal of harmful objects), returning greetings, enjoining good and forbidding wrong".
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:
1. This Hadith tells us that it is improper to sit on roadsides and passages in such a way which causes inconvenience to men and women who pass by. It is really very unfortunate that now we do not care about such things at all.

2. If sitting on roadside is indispensable at all, then it is essential to observe the requirements mentioned in the Hadith to justify the needful.

3. Some other Islamic etiquette mentioned in this Hadith have also been stated in other Ahadith. For instance, politeness of speech, sharing of someone's burden, helping the oppressed and the troubled, guiding the wayward person to the right path, answering (in the prescribed manner) one who sneezes, etc.

191. `Abdullah bin `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) saw a man wearing a gold ring. So he (the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)) pulled it off and threw it away, saying, "One of you takes a live coal, and puts it on his hand.'' It was said to the man after Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) had left: "Take your ring (of gold) and utilize it,'' whereupon he said: "No, by Allah, I would never take it when Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) has thrown it away".
[Muslim].

Commentary:
1. We learn from this Hadith that wearing of gold ring is prohibited for men and so is wearing of golden ornament by them. It is very unfortunate indeed that nowadays it has become a popular fashion to present men gold ring on their marriage and they wear it with great pride. It is a very dangerous custom and must be altogether shunned for two reasons. Firstly, it is an unnecessary formality and burden to exchange presents and hold big feasts on betrothal ceremony. It is also open to objection in Islamic law. Secondly, to give and take unlawful things is all the more forbidden and is akin to building one sin over another.

2. The spirit of obedience mentioned in this Hadith is matchless.

192. Abu Sa`id Al-Hasan Basri reported: `Aidh bin `Amr (the Companion) (May Allah be pleased with him) visited `Ubaidullah bin Ziyad (the ruler) and said to him: "Son, I heard Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) saying, `The worst shepherds (rulers) are those who deal harshly in respect of supervision. Beware, Don't be one of them!''' Ibn Ziyad said to him, "Sit down, you are but husk from among the Companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam).'' `Aidh bin `Amr (May Allah be pleased with him) retorted: "Was there any husk among them? Surely, husk came after them and among others than them".
[Muslim].

Commentary:  This Hadith presents a model of courage and boldness of speaking the truth before a tyrant. It was displayed by `Aidh (May Allah be pleased with him) in the court of Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, governor of Basrah. The latter humiliated `Aidh (May Allah be pleased with him) for his straight forwardness and truth but he repeated his statement about the eminence of the Companions of the Prophet ü and said none of them could be called husk.

193. Hudhaifah (May Allah bepleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "By Him in Whose Hand my life is, you either enjoin good and forbid evil, or Allah will certainly soon send His punishment to you. Then you will make supplication and it will not be accepted".
[At-Tirmidhi].

Commentary: To abandon the practice of enjoining virtue and forbidding vice is likely to incur the displeasure of Allah. This trend is indeed fraught with the danger of rejection of prayers and supplications by Him.

194. Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah bepleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The best type of Jihad (striving in the way of Allah) is speaking a true word in the presence of a tyrant ruler.''
[Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].

Commentary:  Jihad has many degrees. Preaching of virtue is also Jihad. The most meritorious of all is the effort of communicating the Message of Allah to an unjust ruler. Similarly, if a society is so much given to a vice that no one can dare to utter a word against it, then to protest against it can also be reckoned as the best Jihad.

195. Abu `Abdullah Tariq bin Shihab (May Allah bepleased with him) reported: A person asked the Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) (when he had just put his foot in the stirrup): "What is the highest form of Jihad?'' He (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Speaking the truth in the presence of a tyrant ruler".
[An-Nasa'i].

196. `Abdullah bin Mas`ud (May Allah bepleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "The first defect (in religion) which affected the Children of Israel in the way that man would meet another and say to him: `Fear Allah and abstain from what you are doing, for this is not lawful for you.' Then he would meet him the next day and find no change in him, but this would not prevent him from eating with him, drinking with him and sitting in his assemblies. When it came to this, Allah led their hearts into evil ways on account of their association with others.'' Then he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) recited, "Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of Dawud (David) and `Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed (Allah and the Messengers) and were ever transgressing beyond bounds. They used not to forbid one another from the Munkar (wrong, evildoing, sins, polytheism, disbelief) which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do. You see many of them taking the disbelievers as their Auliya' (protectors and helpers). Evil indeed is that which their own selves have sent forward before them; for that (reason) Allah's wrath fell upon them and in torment will they abide. And had they believed in Allah and in the Prophet (Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)) and in what has been revealed to him, never would they have taken them (the disbelievers) as Auliya' (protectors and helpers); but many of them are the Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah).'' (5:78-81)

Then he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) continued: "Nay, by Allah, you either enjoin good and forbid evil and catch hold of the hand of the oppressor and persuade him to act justly and stick to the truth, or, Allah will involve the hearts of some of you with the hearts of others and will curse you as He had cursed them".
[Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].

The wording in At-Tirmidhi is: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "When the Children of Israel became sinful, their learned men prohibited them but they would not turn back. Yet, the learned men associated with them and ate and drank with them. So, they were cursed at the tongues of Dawud and `Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), because they were disobedient and were given to transgression.'' At this stage Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) who was reclining on a pillow sat up and said, "No, By Him in Whose Hand my soul is, there is no escape for you but you persuade them to act justly.''

Commentary:  This Hadith tells us that the duty of `Ulama' is to check the people from vice and if, in spite of all their efforts people do not abandon them, they should avoid associating with them because it is a matter of religious reverence and vanity. If they do not do it, they will also be cursed like the disobedient lot. May Allah save us from this negligence.

197. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (May Allah bepleased with him) reported: "O you people! You recite this Verse: `O you who believe! Take care of your ownselves. If you follow the (right) guidance [and enjoin what is right (Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbid what is wrong (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden)] no hurt can come to you from those who are in error.' (5:105) But I have heard Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) saying: "When people see an oppressor but do not prevent him from (doing evil), it is likely that Allah will punish them all.''
[Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].

Commentary:  What Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (May Allah bepleased with him) had stated was that the Ayah mentioned in this Hadith was generally understood to mean that if a person is on the Straight Path then it is not necessary for him to preach virtue and forbid vice because in that case he neither has the fear of being harmed by the disobedience and sins of others nor is he answerable to Allah for their misdeeds. Thus, what it implies is that Muslim Ummah is not responsible for the enforcement of Islamic Shari`ah in the world and all it is concerned with is its own improvement only. By narrating this Hadith, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (May Allah bepleased with him) refuted this interpretation of the Ayah and made it clear that it is the duty of the Ummah and each of its member to make best possible efforts to check the vices prevalent in the society. So much so that if a Muslim has the ability to check the vices by means of force or speech but he does not do it, his negligence in this regard will become a cause of Divine wrath and punishment. The true significance of this ayah is that if, in spite of the best efforts on the part of the pious ones there is no improvement, and people do not abstain from sins and disobedience of Allah, then the pious persons will not be held responsible for what the defaulters do, nor would they suffer on this account. This interpretation of the ˘yah removes the conflict that seems to exist between the meaning of the Ayah and the Hadith