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Khutba on Commanding the Right and Forbidding the Wrong – Abdassamad Clarke

Khutbah – Ihsan Mosque, Norwich – 7/5/10

Those commands to do with the tongue are recitation of the Qur’an, dhikr and du‘a, and today we want to talk about the fourth matter: commanding the right and forbidding the wrong.

Allah, exalted is He, said, that whose meaning is:

Let there be a community among you

who call to the good,

and enjoin the right,

and forbid the wrong.

They are the ones who have success. (Surah Al ‘Imran: 104)

Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi, may Allah be merciful to him, said in his tafsir: The ayah shows that commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is incumbent, and His saying, “among you” shows that it is a an obligation on the community such that if some discharge it the others are not guilty of disobedience, a fard kifayah, i.e. it means “let some of you command the right and forbid the wrong”. But some have said that it means “be a community who call to the good and enjoin the right…“. Altering what is wrong can be done with the hand, the tongue or the heart depending on the circumstances.

The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said about that which is wrong in that which Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated from him, in his words:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, saying, ‘Whoever of you sees something wrong then let him change it with his hand, and if he is not able then with his tongue, and if he is not able then with his heart, and that is the weakest Iman’.” Muslim narrated it.

Imam an-Nawawi, may Allah be merciful to him, said, “Commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong is an obligation on the community such that if some people discharge it the others are not guilty of wrong action in failing to do so (fard kifayah) and it is specifically incumbent, contrary to the acts of dhikr which are voluntary. The reward for obligatory acts is greater than the reward for recommended acts as is shown by His words u [in the hadith qudsi], “My slave does not draw closer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him,” as is transmitted by al-Bukhari. One of the ‘ulama’ said, “The reward for an obligatory act exceeds the reward for an optional act by seventy degrees.”

And commanding the right and forbidding the wrong may be done by speech, writing or employing any of the media, whether privately or publicly, secretly or openly according to the dictates of wisdom.

Commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is the act of taking others to task, and it has four elements: the person who takes others to task, that over which he takes them to task, the person taken to task and the act of taking to task.

As for the person who performs the act of taking others to task, there are preconditions that he must fulfil, which are that he must be sane, adult, Muslim, able to perform the act of taking to task, knowledgeable about that which he takes them to task over, and secure that his repudiation of the wrong will not lead to a greater wrong such as when someone forbids the drinking of wine but his act of prohibiting it leads to homicide. Being without these preconditions means that it is not permissible for someone to carry out the act of commanding the right or forbidding the wrong.

He must know or be pretty sure that his act of repudiating the wrong will cause it to cease, and that his commanding the right will be useful and beneficial. Being without this last precondition means that it is no longer incumbent, but it then remains permissible or recommended.

There is a difference of opinion as to whether or not someone who has deviated, i.e. in that he himself is a wrongdoer, can command the right and forbid the wrong.

As for the person who is to be taken to task, then it is every human being, whether or not he is charged with responsibility.

I add that this is very important in our time, for our obligation of sincere good advice and commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is not limited to the Muslim community, but we are obliged to be clear voices calling to what is right in the wider society.

As for that over which one takes someone to task it has its preconditions, which are that it should be a wrong about which there is no doubt.

I add that today, people take others to task over tiny matters of the fiqh, or differences of the madhhabs, or peripheral matters that are unimportant, indeed it has reached such an extent that people reprimand others over doing things that are recommended or even considered by some of the people of knowledge.

One does not take someone to task over things that are past, but rather the people of authority execute the ?add punishments for them [if they are applicable], nor does one do so with respect to the future except by admonition and exhortation.

The thing must not be known about through spying on people, because if a person conceals himself and locks his door it is not permissible to spy on him.

And we would add that if someone locks their door, it is not permissible to speculate about what they do behind closed doors, or to gossip about it.

As for the act of taking to task, it has degrees the highest of which is to alter things with the hand, then if one is not able to do that, one moves to speaking about it, and then if one is not able to do that or fears its outcome, one moves to the third degree which is to alter things with the heart.

Altering things by speaking about them has different degrees, which are to prohibit them, gentle admonition – and that is more fitting and appropriate, then reprimand and then severity.

You are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind.

You enjoin the right,

forbid the wrong

and have iman in Allah. (Surah Al ‘Imran: 110)

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