Enjoin the Right and Forbid the Wrong
By: Javad Mohadessi
A wide variety of books and treatise have been written dealing systematical with the important religious precepts of "Enjoin the Right and Forbid the Wrong" and each writing has its own characteristics and aims at a special group.
To perform any such precept, it needs a thorough knowledge thereof. Hence, the present essay is a short yet full account of the religious precepts concerning the matter at issue and the methods of putting them into effect in plain language understandable for those who are religiously eligible and duty-bound of assuming the responsibility for it. May the day come soon for full observance of these forgotten traditions and thus give our Islamic society a more vivid picture of sanctity.
To observe the precept of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, it is important, obligatory and useful, but more important is to encourage people to put it into effect as duly as the religion demands.
Before entering upon the wisdom behind this religious precept, let us take the following salient points into consideration:
1- Islam is a social religion with tenets taking care of both individuals as well as society. Islam does not only build human character but it also has such tenets as Hajj (pilgrimage), Jihad (Holy War), Enjoin the right and forbid the wrong" and other minor issues, such as leadership, imamat, mandate, deliverance from pagans, infliction of canonical punishments and talon (Qisas) - all in its social dimension.
2- until a law or plan is not fully implemented, its merits cannot be known, albeit the best law and plan. Islam that suggests the best plans for human felicity whether at individual or social level, also provides for implementation of the laws, under three major factors:
A- the inner force, virtue and faith.
Muslims with faith in God and fearing His feeling the pricks of their religious conscience act according to what Islam ordains and never do what is religiously wrong.
B- The executive force, government
The system of government in an Islamic society is bound to provide for possibilities of moral perfection and fight against moral corruption and corrupts and pave the way for implementation of divine plans including infliction of canonical punishments.
C- Public control
In an Islamic society people should show a sense of responsibility towards - Enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong - not just in words but also in action. They should not be indifferent to moral shortcomings.
3- The westernized people may find fault with the precept of - enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong - arguing that it is against public freedom and interferes somehow in other people's affairs. But considering the fact that social conditions and individual's conduct, whether decent or indecent, affects others, the freedom of humans should not in any way be detrimental of others and infringe upon the rights of others. Hence it is the indisputable right of people to protest against the behavior of those who mar and corrupt the social milieu. A diseased society makes individuals socially diseased, too.
Moral depravity is detrimental to body but it also blemishes thought, morality and behavior. In a morally
Diseased society, technological breakthrough and industrial growth do not bring happiness and prosperity to the society.
The precept of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong is a minor religious duty that is not obligatory objectively, but if performed by a person or several persons, it relieves others of the responsibility for its observance.
Unfortunately, the more this precept is forgotten, the more corruption blemishes society. To be indifferent to virtue and vice in morality is itself an imperfect propriety.
The Prophet (SAW) said: "A sinner is like a man on board a ship that makes a hole in the place where he is sitting. Other passengers object to him but he retorts that they are interfering in something that belongs to him." As a result the ship sinks because of water entering into the ship.
To enjoin the right and forbid the wrong - is somehow a public control that if ignored, makes the innocent suffer with the guilty.
Enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong - should make violators stop their wrong-doing for fear of imminent punishment to be inflicted upon them. The Qur'an says as to regard the precept of `Enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong':
"And there may spring from you a nation who initiate to goodness, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency. Such are they who are successful." (3:104)
Prophet Luqman exhorted his son, thus:
"O my dear son! Establish worship and enjoin kindness and forbid inequity, and preserve whatever may befall thee. Lo! That is of the steadfast heart of things." (31:17)
"Those who, if We give them power in the land, establish worship and pay the poor-due and enjoin kindness and forbid iniquity...." (22:41)
"They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency and vie one with another in good works." (3:114)
"Ismail enjoined upon his people worship and alms-giving...." (19:55)
"He (the Prophet) will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong." (7:157)
As for the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad and the rightful Infallible Imams,
1- Imam Baqer (AS) said: "To enjoin the right and forbid the wrong - is the practice of prophets and upright people. It is through this religious precept that other obligatory duties will be established and business will be lawful." (See Wassailu'l-Shiah, page 359)
2- The Prophet (SAW) said: "Allah does not like those who are not steadfast in their religion and do not enjoin the right and forbid the wrong." (ibid.)
3- Imam Ali (AS) said: "He who does not forbid the wrong in his heart, words and actions, is a dead man among the living." (ibid.)
4- He also said: "Religion will be established through enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong - and observing what Allah commands." (Ghurarul-Hikam)
5- He also said: "He who forbids the wrong, rubs the nose of hypocrite." (Nahjul-Balaghah)
6- He also said: "If one enjoins the right and forbids the wrong, he will be numbered among the upright people. (ibid)
Eligibility for enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong:
1- A thorough knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, for one may unknowingly confuse decency with indecency and enjoin the wrong and forbid the right.
Personal impression of the matter is to the prejudice of observing the precept of - enjoining decent conduct and forbidding the indecent conduct. Deep insight without prejudice against or in favor of a religious precept should govern in all instances.
2- Probability of effectiveness:
In case there is likelihood that our enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong can be effective and to the purpose, then it will be obligatory, otherwise, it will not be binding on us. If individual warning and on once occasion only may prove to be of no effect, a group warning will then be necessary.
3- Security from loss or danger:
In case of probable loss or danger to threaten our property or life or bring about hazardous consequences, it will not be binding on us to enjoin the right and forbid the wrong. But to rise against tyranny, that is, what Imam Hussain (AS) did against Yazid, the tyrant ruler, was the most remarkable and the greatest instance of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong - all through the human history.
To preserve the lives of others, to respect Islam and the good name of Muslims, to strive for actualization of Allah's commands, to fight against enemies and alien domination, and to struggle against heresy in religion and those who spread moral depravity, are instances that involve danger and loss, but should be observed faithfully.
4- If wrong-doing continues...
If one does something wrong and keeps on doing it, it is religiously binding on all of us to warn him to stop his act. However, if he does it only once and repents for it honestly, there is no need to forbid his wrongdoing.
The states of enjoining the right and Forbidding the wrong:
There are three states for enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong:
1-The heartfelt state.
2- The state shown in words.
3- The state shown in action.
What is meant by heartfelt state of - enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong - is that we should show a sense of religious and moral responsibility in this regard and that we should not feel indifferent to what goes around us. We should enjoin worship of Allah, devotion to the divine cause, virtue, repentance of wrong deeds, philanthropy, modesty and holy war and forbid the wrong and indecency, telling lies, fraud, harming others, not establishing prayers, putting aside hijab, indifference to what others do contrary to religion, envy, parsimony, and meanness.
The state shown in words:
This state shows that one should encourage good deeds and discourage evil deeds through exhorting and preaching the right and objecting the wrong. However, this need to act especially in dealing with doers of indecent acts, otherwise, those doing wrong show stubbornness in their behavior.
Our exalted leader says: "The ability to speak is Allah's gift to man. Why should we not use it in the right way, in the right place and for the right purpose?"
The third state of - enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong - is superior to the other two states. We are expected to put this religious into effect in our acts. We have to set for others to follow the example of good deeds and decent behavior.
What is noteworthy as regards to - enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong - refers to the heartfelt state. Allah on the Day of Judgement punishes those who themselves had not done wrong but had approved in their hearts wrong deeds done by others.
Imam Ali (AS) said: "He who likes the acts of a group, will be considered a member of that group." (Mizan al-Hikmat).
Elsewhere, he said: "He who does not negate a wrong-doer nor does he forbid him in his heart by words and actions - will be considered as dead among the living.
In an Islamic country where forbidding the wrong cannot be effected in action and is likely to end in violent conflict between the aggressive party and at times causing fatal injuries, the case should be resolved by the responsible authorities and by disciplinary force in order to avoid chaos.
Likewise, it should not be effected willfully and needs authorization on the part of the responsible. But in cases where there is the danger of murder, arson, use of alcoholic drinks or burglary, it is up to those who get to know the case, to prevent the crime and forbid the one intending to commit it.
Another important point to ponder, is to process piecemeal to enjoin the right and forbid the wrong.