I want to begin by quoting one of the greatest of our modern scholars, Ml. Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi in his address to Muslims living in the UK and US. I have paraphrased some of what he said in my own words. The advice is beyond price. I hope I do it justice. He said, ‘Allahﷻ has given you a gold mine. Actually, it is more than that. It is a diamond mine. The mine of restless souls, agitated minds, and hearts, seeking peace and closeness to Allahﷻ. This is something that the great scholars and pious people of old dreamt of and begged Allahﷻ for, but Allahﷻ in His Infinite wisdom gave it to you. Don’t squander it. I ask Allahﷻ to give you the New World in a way that you will discover the new world. Here you are living in a new land under a new sky. Don’t import your sectarian disputes, your petty hatred, and conflicts into this land. Create a new reality for yourselves based on the wisdom of Rasoolullahﷺ with which he formed the Ummah and made strangers, brothers to one another in a way that we can only marvel at today. In this world make your lives, your dealings, your relationships, your organizations, your Masaajid, your Madaaris and schools, your society, everything you say or do, a means of Da’awa.’ I remind myself and you that people listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they see what you do. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.’ As they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ I say, ‘An action is worth a million.’ Actions create experience. Experience creates memories. Memories change attitudes. Attitudes result in actions. That is the cycle. Whether we want that to be a virtuous cycle or a vicious one, is our call. He said, ‘Remember Spain. Their Masaajid were a thousand times more beautiful than yours. Their Madaaris produced the likes of Ibn Hazm, Imam Shatibi, Ibn Rushd, Al-Zahrawi, how many more do you want me to name? But remember that when sectarian differences and religious violence started, the Masaajid became desolate and the Madaaris were abandoned, and Islam and Muslims were all but wiped out. Their glory, learning, highly sophisticated society, their libraries, and scholars couldn’t save them. The reason was an exclusionist, insular lifestyle where others didn’t benefit from them and didn’t understand what they had. By all means distance yourself from the beliefs of the non-Muslims, but not from the people. Learn their language so that you can communicate with them fluently. Words don’t just enter the ears. They go directly into the heart. The best example of that is the Qur’an. It came as a spoken word. Which changed the lives of people. Rasoolullahﷺ used to recite Qur’an when people asked him about Allahﷻ. There is a special power in the Word of Allahﷻ. But there is power in all words. Just see what happens to you if someone curses us. You know what he is saying is false. But his words have a measurable physiological effect on us. Communication is critical to building relationships. Ml. Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi said, ‘If you continue to live insular lives, engaged in your Salah and Saum, living behind the closed doors of your Masaajid and homes, not meeting and building relationships with your neighbors, then remember that what happened in Spain can happen here.’ I ask Allahﷻ for His Protection. Even more importantly, we live in a country where they have opened all doors for us to study, work, health care, politics, government, even the White House. The only requirement is the willingness to do what it takes. Imagine a time which will come to all of us without a doubt where we will stand before Allahﷻ and these people ask, ‘Ya Rabb, we gave them everything but they didn’t introduce You to us. If You are going to throw us into Jahannam today because we didn’t worship you, what is Your decision about them?’ We know. If we don’t tell them, we will answer to Allahﷻ.
يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ
Luqman 31: 17 O! my son! Aqim-is-Salat (establish prayer), enjoin (people) for Al-Ma’rouf (all good), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (all evil) and bear with patience whatever befalls you. Verily! These are some of the important commandments ordered by Allah with no exemption.
Islam places a huge premium on reforming society. On the promoting of good in society and the prohibition of evil. Sometimes we wonder why there are apparently few examples of social work (in our modern sense) in Islamic history. But if we reflect on the whole concept of Amr-bil-Ma’rouf wa Nahi an-in Munkar we realize that not only is there a very powerful focus on social work but on its fundamentals in society. For example, we praise those who feed the hungry. Then what must you say about the system that abolishes hunger and poverty? We praise those who help those in debt. Then what must we say about a system that abolishes debt? We praise those who help the oppressed. Then what must we say about a system that abolishes oppression? It’s another story that today the Muslims are up there with the best of them, racing towards materialistic goals, sacrificing all that Allahﷻ orders them to do. Forgetting that one day they will answer to Him.
Allahﷻ made this clear in His Book that all humanity are losers except those who have four qualities: Those who believe in Allahﷻ, do good deeds, invite others to the truth and advise people to bear difficulties (and they do the same) with patience. Allahﷻ made this so clear that He took an oath by time when he declared this fundamental principle of winning and losing. So, winning is not what we call winning, which in the sight of Allahﷻ is the worst form of losing. The worst criminals in the eyes of society and the sight of Allahﷻ are those who were given the job of protecting society but who instead violated it. What protection is there when the protector decides to harm or steal? Muslims were sent to demonstrate Islam, not to destroy it. Allahﷻ described the identifying qualities, the signature of the believers as those who denounce evil and enjoin good, establish Salah, and pay Zakat. He says:
وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَيُطِيعُونَ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَـئِكَ سَيَرْحَمُهُمُ اللّهُ إِنَّ اللّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
Tawba 9: 71 The believers, men and women, are Awlia (helpers, protectors) of one another; they enjoin Al‑Ma‘roof (all good), and forbid Al‑Munkar (all evil) they establish As-Salat and give Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.
He praised those who enjoin good and forbid evil and declared that such people must always be there in any society and that people must strive to do this work.
وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
A’al Imraan 3: 104 Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma’rouf (all good) and forbidding Al-Munkar (all evil). And it is they who are the successful.
Allahﷻ honored and distinguished this Ummah, not on the basis of their worship but on the basis of their service to society – the foundation of which is Amr bil Ma’rouf wa Nahi an-il Munkar (Enjoining good and forbidding evil). This underlines the importance that Allahﷻ has given to the reform of society. That is the reason He sent the Anbiya and that is the honor that the Ummah of the Last and Final Nabi was given as a mark of their being chosen to do the work of the Anbiya. With honor, comes responsibility and with it comes accountability. Allahﷻ said:
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ
A’al Imraan 3: 110 You (Muslims) are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma‘roof (good) and forbid Al‑Munkar (evil)”
There are many Ayaat which speak of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil; that is because of the importance of this issue and the great need that exists for it. It is time for us to take stock of what we are doing to ourselves and our children.
Abu Sayeed Al Khudri reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by at least hating it], and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]
Changing with the hand is incumbent upon the one who has authority, and he must do it wisely and diplomatically so that the cure is not worse than the ailment. What is critical is that the one who has authority presents a clear example of goodness because people listen with their eyes; they don’t care what you say until they see what you do.
Abdullah ibn Umar reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family, and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children, and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master, and he is responsible for it. No doubt, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” [Sahih. Bukhari, Muslim]
Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil is an important mission, so it is essential to be trained in the method of doing it. I know of many Da’awa training programs – most done over weekends, like cookery classes. All of them talk about how to talk, how to start a conversation, how to lead people to ask the right questions, how to make the final sale i.e., tell them to accept Islam. Many of them approach it from the debating and arguing angle by opening the conversation by essentially telling them how foolish they are to believe whatever they believe other than Islam. But I have yet to come across one which begins with insisting on Tazkiyatun Nafs wa Tarbiyatul Akhlaaq which is where every Nabi began. Allahﷻ guided his Anbiya Himself but every Nabi went through – not a weekend course, not even weeks or months or even years – but decades of training before they got the Ijaza (Hukm in their case) to preach. That is why their preaching had effect. So also, the Sahaba of Rasoolullahﷺ. They went through over a decade of intense, rigorous, and very painful training before they reached a stage when one of them was enough to spread the message of Islam to entire nations. But today we do a bit of work, wear T-shirts with slogans, and post selfies on FB when one person accepts Islam and think we are doing the work of the Anbiya. For the Sahaba, it was not one person, it was entire nations.
ادْعُ إِلِى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
Nahl 16: 125 Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the way of your Rabb (Islam) with wisdom and fair preaching and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Rabb knows best who has gone astray from His path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided.
Allahﷻ mentioned wisdom before preaching. That is why preparing yourself comes before Da’awa. Wisdom is not information or even knowledge. Information is what you get in courses. When you practice and only if you practice, it converts to knowledge. Practice is the fire that knowledge must be heated in to convert it to understanding. Understanding which then submits to a teacher for correction, converts to wisdom. Without Islaah, it is all held together with spit, string and hope and unravels at the first sight of strain. That is why practice under guidance is critical for all skill training. They don’t give a doctor his degree until he undergoes two years of internship under guidance. So why and how do we think that we can become preachers and Dau’aat without any internship under guidance? Nobody did this in the past. This is a new phenomenon and a sign of the sickness of mindless followership that we have become the victims of.
Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil is a mission which will never end until the Day of Judgment. It is obligatory upon all the Ummah, rulers and subjects, men, and women, each according to his or her circumstances. The Muslim Ummah is one nation, and if corruption becomes widespread in it then all the Muslims are obliged to reform it, rid it of evil things, enjoin what is good and forbid what is bad.
Rasoolullahﷺ said: “Religion is sincerity.” We said, “To whom?” He said, “To Allah and His Book, and His Messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk.” (Muslim).
No matter how learned and righteous a person may be, he needs guidance and Islaah (correction) from time to time. It is essential for those who are serious about developing themselves to fulfill the responsibility that Allahﷻ gave us, to seek this guidance. Sadly, arrogance seems to be a widespread epidemic among those who become religious. They look down on others, lose their smiles, become pompous, super critical and unbearable and think that by this they are going to win the hearts of others. The extreme among them acquire Takfir guns and shoot from the hip. All this is a sign that Shaytaan has sabotaged them from the start. Arrogance is a terminal illness which afflicts kings and those who become righteous. Allahﷻ sent us to join hearts, to make friends, to spread goodness all around and to have Akhlaaq that win the hearts of people.
We ask Allahﷻ for His guidance.