Before the Boat Drowns
Ashaab As-Sabt – the people of Saturday. They were a townsfolk from Bani Israa’eel who were tested with the Sabbath, the day when they were to leave their worldly affairs and devout to Allah. All week long they would go fishing, with scant return. But on Saturdays, when they were required to put aside their activities, the fish would come in abundance. A test from Allah!
“And ask them (O Muhammad (peace be upon him)) about the town that was by the sea; when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday): when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath day, and did not come to them on the day they had no Sabbath. Thus We made a trial of them for they used to rebel against Allah’s Command (disobey Allah)” [Surah An-Nisa 4/154]
A group of the townsfolk transgressed, not satisfied with Allah’s commandments devising a scheme to by-pass the commandment. They would put out their fishing nets on Friday, and then on Sunday they would come and pick the nets up. Now all the Saturday fish would be caught.
The townsfolk divided into 2 groups when they saw the grave evil and sin that was befalling. One of them tried to advise the transgressors and warn them of the horrific consequences of their action – commanding the good and forbidding the evil.
Thinking they had no responsibility for what was taking place, the other group just went about minding their own business, holding that Allah would eventually destroy the sinners.
[And when a community among them said: “Why do you preach to a people whom Allâh is about to destroy or to punish with a severe torment?”]
Listen carefully to the reply of those callers to the obedience of Allah.
[(The preachers) said: “In order to be free from guilt before your Lord (Allâh), and perhaps they may fear Allâh.”] [Qur’an 4/155]
For 2 reasons: One – that we would be pardoned before Allah because we tried to hold back their hands. And two – that perhaps they may hear the reminder and turn back to Allah. It was only this group that survived.
[So when they forgot the reminders that had been given to them, We rescued those who forbade evil, but We seized those who did wrong with a severe torment because they used to rebel against Allah’s Command (disobey Allâh). So when they exceeded the limits of what they were prohibited, We said to them: “Be you monkeys, despised and rejected.”] [Qur’an 4/156-157]
In one sweeping night, the punishment rained down and they were transfigured into pigs and monkeys.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is the nature of a human being to feel the need to do good or feel the drive to indulge in evil. Even if he or she were to be alone, deserted and secluded, they would still feel a drive to do good or indulge in evil.
From here, it is a characteristic of this Ummah to not only do good ourselves, but we MUST encourage others to do good, we must be the driving force. And we not only distance ourselves from vice, but we MUST forbid others from doing it also, we must be the obstacle.
That shall be our discussion for today: Al amr bil Ma’roof wan Nahi ‘an al Munkar.
Dear brothers and sisters,
If we all had Muslim identification badges, there would have to be a description of the owner. If it is a valid card, under the description it should read: This man/women commands the good and forbids evil; for this is how Allah described us.
[You (true believers in Islâmic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Sunnah) are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden), and you believe in Allâh.] [Surah Al-e-Imran 3/104]
Good and Bad. When it comes to encouraging one or the other, there are two groups of people. The first are those that encourage others to do good and advise them to stop the evil they may be committing. These are the Mu’minoon and Mu’minaat, the believing men and women, the ones that shall be favored by Allah’s Mercy:
[The believers, men and women, are Auliyâ’ (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another; they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm orders one to do), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islâm has forbidden); they perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât) and give the Zakât, and obey Allâh and His Messenger. Allâh will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise.] [Surah At-Tawbah 9/71]
The second camp of people are those that encourage others towards evil and stop them whenever they see them doing acts of virtue. These are the Munaafiqoon and Munaafiqaat, those that Allah shall shun.
[The hypocrites, men and women, are from one another; they enjoin (on the people) Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief and polytheism of all kinds and all that Islâm has forbidden), and forbid (people) from Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm orders one to do), and they close their hands (from giving (spending in Allâh’s Cause) alms.). They have forgotten Allâh, so He has forgotten them. Verily, the hypocrites are the Fâsiqûn (rebellious, disobedient to Allâh).] [Surah At-Tawbah 9/76]
The Qur’an tells us that the winners, those that attain success, are those Muslim men and women that command the good and forbid the evil:
And Allah teaches us that He cursed nations before us because they lost this characteristic of encouraging good and forbidding evil:
[Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of Dâwûd (David) and ‘Isâ (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed (Allâh and the Messengers) and were ever transgressing beyond bound.
They used not to forbid one another from Al-Munkar (wrong, evil-doing, sins, polytheism, disbelief) which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do.] [Surah Maa’idah 5/78 -79]
When a nation fails in their duty to command the good and forbid the evil, their invocations will cease to be accepted.
Rasul Allah – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – said, “(I swear) by He who holds my soul in His Hands, you shall indeed command the good, and you shall indeed forbid the evil, otherwise Allah shall rain down upon you a punishment, then you shall attempt to invoke Him and your (invocations) shall be unanswered.” [An authentic hadith narrated by Ahmad and At-tirmidhi]
Our Qudwah – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – lived his entire life commanding the good and forbidding evil. When he first arrived in Madinah, the very first thing he said to the Ansar and Muhaajireen as they gathered to see his noble face – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – was as ..
Abdullaah ibn Salam narrates: When Rasul Allah – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – came to Madinah, the people raced to greet him. I went in the crowd to see him and when I saw his face I knew that that face was not the face of a liar. The first thing he said when he spoke was, “O people, spread salam, feed the hungry, and pray at night when others are sleeping – you’ll enter Jannah in peace.” [An authentic hadith narrated by Ibn Majah]
Our Qudwah – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – would command the good and forbid the evil in all categories of the community. We see him with the young Muslims advising them, as in the following hadith:
Umar ibn Abu Salamah said: I was a young boy under the care of Allah’s Messenger – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – when my hand was jumping here and there in the (food) plate. Allah’s Messenger – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – said to me, “O young boy, say Bismillah (first), eat with right hand, and eat from what is in front of you.” Ibn Abu Salamah said: After that I always ate in that manner (which I was taught). [Bukhari and Muslim]
And our Qudwah – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – would encourage good amongst the Muslim women.
As Zaynab, the wife of Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood said: Allah’s Messenger addressed us, “O women! Give charity if even with your jewelry.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Even if it came to his own wives, our Qudwah – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – would forbid.
Aisha – radi Allahu ‘anha – herself narrates that she once said to him – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, “Watch out for Safiyyah!” Meaning that she was short. So Allah’s Messenger – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – said, “You said a word that if it were to be mixed with (all) the water of the sea it would overcome (the water).” [Narrated by Abu Dawood]
Aisha said that after that that she would never have loved to mention someone (in a manner that they would dislike) no matter what anyone would give her.
This is what the Deen is all about – encouraging the good and forbidding evil. This is what the early Muslims pledged allegiance to:
Ubaadah ibn As-Saamit – radi Allahu ‘anhu – said, “We pledged allegiance to Allah’s Messenger – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – to listen and obey in what we like or dislike, and that we do not fight the people of authority, and that we would stand for the truth wherever we may be, fearing not – for the sake of Allah – any criticism of those who would criticize.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
The scholar Kirz Al-Haarithee – rahimahullaah – used to go out unto the doers of evil and warn them of the sin they were doing. They would fall upon him with their fists until he would fall unconscious in a pool of blood. But he would never pass them without advising them. [From Siyar Al ‘Alaam by Imam Adh Dhahabee]
I remember once in Islamic school when a young boy came up and told me what he was going to get for his birthday. I was kind of surprised, since birthdays is not something we find in our complete way of life in Islam, something we should not participate in. The classmates knew the ruling on birthdays so they started chanting loudly, “No more birthdays! No more birthdays!”
I was very pleased at the class reaction and it brought back memories of myself growing up in a non-Muslim school. In that non-Muslim school there was no one to forbid the evil, rather it was the evil that everyone – including the teacher – was encouraging. If you didn’t have a birthday you were the dork in the class. And if you didn’t get invited to this student’s party or that one, you weren’t one of the ‘cool’ kids.
May Allah ta’ala show His mercy to those parents who are saving their young Muslim boys and girls from such an environment.
Allah’s Messenger – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – gave us a parable that we should never forget in this issue of commanding the good and forbidding the evil.
As An-Nu’maan ibn Basheer – radi Allahu ‘anhu – narrates: The Prophet – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – said, “The similitude of the one who is steadfast on the borders of Allah and the one who has fallen over it is that of a people that come upon a boat. Some of them go to the top and the others go to the bottom. Those on the bottom – in order for them to drink – had to disturb those on top. So they said to themselves, let us make a hole in the bottom of the boat in this portion of ours, so as not to disturb those above.” The Prophet – sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam – continued, “If they leave them to what they want to do, they will all perish. And if they hold their hands they’ll save the people on the bottom, and all of them will be saved.” [Bukhari]
When someone encourages good and forbids evil they should have certain characteristics:
- One: Knowledge
- Two: Patience, as Luqman taught his son.
- Three: They should be just, not forgetting the good that that person still has.
- Four: Hikmah/having wisdom
- Five: Kindness to those whom they are advising.
The point of commanding good and forbidding evil is not to release some anger in our hearts or to revenge an insult to us. In the end we want the person to receive guidance, something which may require us to swallow our personal pride sometimes. Other times – when the situation calls for it – we may have to hurt someone’s feelings if that is the only way they can be guided. But it is only the person of ‘Ilm (knowledge) and Hikmah (wisdom) that can properly measure the situation.
Hurting the feelings of the lay Muslim is not a first resort, nor is public humiliation of someone who came to the Masjid for the first time. These are methods of those who have not schooled themselves well in the characteristics of those that call to Allah.
In conclusion, there are many ways that one can encourage good and forbid evil, try some of the following:
- With an encouraging speech/lecture
- With a booklet highlighting what needs to be encouraged or a general email
- With an Islamic tape given as a gift
- With an Islamic Magazine or newspaper
- With an email or letter addressed specifically to that person who needs to be encouraged or needs advice in abstaining from sin.And the list goes on.
You want to be successful, right? Well, here is the way:
[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). And it is they who are the successful.] [Surah Al-e-Imran 3/104]
Let’s all start today practicing that encouragement of good and forbiddance of evil with that Muslim in the mirror.