ENJOINING GOOD & ESCHEWING EVIL; A NOBLE CAUSE, EVIL MEANS
“MODERATION”, THE LOST WORD IN THE WORLD OF FANATICISM
By: Aftab Ahmad Khan
The use of violence as means to enforce their version of Islam by the religious fanatics is not a new phenomena. The most common pretext is the enforcement of the Qur’anic commandment: ‘Enjoining Good & Eschewing Evil;’ a noble cause, but evil means of violence and coercion. To achieve the political objectives rather than with sharing and alleviating their sufferings and aspirations, the name of Islam, so deer to the simple innocent but ignorant Muslims is exploited. It is high time that the exploitation of the religious feelings of socially and economic deprived simple people, who are ever ready to lay down their lives on the name of Islam be stopped. The methodology of implementation of Qur’anic commandment of ‘Enjoining Good & Eschewing Evil needs to be analyzed and understood in the overall teachings of Qur’an, Hadith, the historic context.
Scenario : The state (include most of governments in Muslim countries) on its part has done nothing to towards implementation of Qur’anic commandment of ‘Enjoining Good & Eschewing Evil’, rather under the slogan of ‘Enlightened Moderation’ it appears to have resorted to ‘Enjoining Evil & Eschewing Good’ by implication if not deliberately. Qur’an says: “The hypocrite men and the hypocrite women, they are all alike. They enjoin what is evil, forbid what is just, and withhold their hands from doing good. They have forgotten Allah; so He has forgotten them. In fact the hypocrites are transgressors.”(Qur’an;9:67). Muslims can develop and gain respect among the community of nations by adhering to their cultural values, which are inherently deep rooted in the Islamic traditions. Just a simple look at the most common dress of women folk reveal that they are dressed in the moderate Islamic way since centuries, which besides meeting the religious requirements, is also convenient in the extreme weather conditions and the role rural women play in the economic and social life. The women dressed in semi naked western dress displayed in the media and advertisements is not the popular dress of ordinary Muslim women. Some forms of obscenity and vulgarity are condemned even in the most modern European culture. The pantographic web sites are routinely blocked to save the youth. They are condemned in media. Many countries, specially China has censor to block such web sites. Recently the Net Café have grown like mushrooms without any check. They are openly showing pornographic movies with impunity, destroying the moral fiber of youth. There is need to check this free for all degradation of morality under the garb of modernity. The development is required in the field of science, technology, industry, economy and education, (religious as well as secular) to change the mindset, which require short term and long term measures.
Divine Purpose of Creation:
The Divine purpose of creation may be kept in view, which in short is to; Test the human during limited life span on earth, those who obey Him by their free will and live according to His guidance, will be rewarded for good deeds and those who disobey will be punished in hereafter. It is mentioned in Qur’an: “The One Who created death and life, so that He may put you to test, to find out which of you is best in deeds: He is the All-Mighty, the All-Forgiving.”(Qur’an;67:2 also at 18:7, 2:155-157, 3:142). Allah says: “Mankind was one nation having one religion. Later when people invented other religions, Allah appointed Prophets as bearers of good news and warnings; and revealed to them the Book with the True Guidance to settle the matters of dispute between mankind. But the very people to whom it was given, started disputes after the clear arguments had come to them, because of rivalry between one another. Allah has guided the believers by His will to the truth in those matters in which they had differences. Allah guides whom He pleases towards the Right Way.”(Qura’n;2:213).
Faith is a matter of personal conviction, which can not be forced upon others: “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Qur’an;2:256), "Truth has come and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood by its nature is bound to perish.”(Qur’an;17:81). “This is Paradise; you have inherited it by virtue of your past deeds.”(Qur’an;43:72). If He wanted all humanity could have been on true guidance. Allah does not want to force the belief upon human: “If your Lord had so willed, He would have certainly made mankind one single nation but that is not what He wants, so they will continue to differ except those on whom He has bestowed His mercy; and that very freedom of choice and action is the whole purpose of their creation. That is how the Word of your Lord, that He will fill Hell with jinns and human beings all together, will be fulfilled.”(Qur’an;11:118-119).Man has been provided with guidance and endowed with intellect, so that he can use his reason and freedom of choice to either follow the true path or the evil way of devil : "Who hath ordained laws and granted guidance;” (Qur’an;87:3). “Say "The Truth is from your Lord": let him who will believe and let him who will reject (it)- -(Qur’an;18:29). “Notwithstanding that no human being can ever attain to faith otherwise than by God’s leave, and (that) it is He who lays the loathsome evil (of disbelief) upon those who will not use their reason?(Qur’an;10:100). “..whosoever follows My guidance will not lose his way nor fall into misery. But whosoever turns away from My Message verily for him is a life narrowed down and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment." (Qur’an;20:117-124).“When those who believe in Our revelations come to you, say: "Peace be upon you. Your Lord has decreed mercy upon Himself. If anyone among you commits evil because of ignorance and thereafter repents and mends his ways; you will find Allah Forgiving, Merciful.”(Qur’an;6:54); “He is the Forgiving, the Loving, (Qur’an;85:14). Hence while implementing the divine command of ‘Enjoining Good & Eschewing Evil’, the other commandments related with the divine plan of creation may be kept in view.
Universal Responsibilities: The Muslims beargreat responsibility with in themselves and then to the mankind, Allah says: “You (Muslims) are the best of peoples which has ever been raised for the guidance of mankind. You enjoin good, forbid evil, and believe in Allah.”(Qur’an;3:110). Islam being the Universal Religion urges its adherents to realize their global responsibility towards guidance of mankind, for Islam is just submission to the Will of Allah. This implies (1) Faith, (2) doing right, being an example to others to do right, and having the power to see that the right prevails, (3) avoiding wrong, being an example to others to eschew wrong, and having the power to see that wrong and injustice are defeated. Islam therefore lives, not for itself, but for the mankind as a whole.
Muslims-A Moderate Community : Allah appointed Muslims to inherit Qur’an, but He categorizes them in to three groups: “We have given the Book (Qur’an) as an inheritance to those of Our servants (Muslims) whom We have chosen, among them there are some who wrong their own souls, some follow a middle course and some, by Allah's leave, excel in good deeds; which is the supreme virtue.”(Qur’an;35:32). As inheritors of Qur’an Muslims have a great responsibility, Allah says: “We have made you a moderate (justly balanced) community so that you may be witness against the mankind and that your own Messenger may be witness against you…”(Qur’an;2:143). The essence of Islam is to avoid all extravagances and extremism on either side. It is a sober, practical balanced (wasat) religion. When two persons dispute, they advance extravagant claims. A just witness comes between them, and brings the light of reason to bear on them, pruning all their selfish extravagances. So the mission of Islam is to curb, for instance, the extreme formalism of the Mosaic law and the extreme "other-worldliness" professed by Christianity. Similarly use of violence is against the spirit of moderation. The witness must be unselfish, equipped with first-hand knowledge, and ready to intervene in the cause of justice. Such is the position claimed by Islam among rival systems. Similarly, within Islam itself, the position of witness to whom disputants can appeal is held by the last Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Responsibilities of State, Law and Muslims :
The basic purpose of believers is the attainment of desires; happiness, in this world and the next; success; prosperity; freedom from anxiety, care, or a disturbed state of mind; as opposite to failure; misery; punishment or penalty; agony or anguish. To achieve this Allah says: “Let there arise from among you a band of people who should invite to righteousness, enjoin good and forbid evil; such are the ones who shall be successful.”(Qur’an;3:104). The ideal Muslim community is happy, untroubled by conflicts or doubts, sure of itself, strong, united, and prosperous: because there has to be a group among themselves who should invite them to all that is good; enjoins the right; and forbids the wrong. Such arrangements should however be made under the state and with in the law of the land, to guard against anarchy and instability. Some people justify using force to eradicate vice and force goodness in the society by interpreting this verse with Sahish Muslim Hadith number 16, narrated by AbuSa'id al-Khudri; I heard the Messenger of Allah as saying: “He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue; and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart and that is the least of faith.” Obviously if there is an overall degeneration in the society, then as small group is not in a position to force their decision upon the majority even with good intentions. In such circumstances Prophet (peace be upon him) has urged the believers to use their tongue, i.e. preaching and persuasion through peaceful means (which was done during the initial 13 years at Makkah). This Hadith may also be understood with other Hadiths: Narrated Awf ibn Malik; The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The best of your rulers are those whom you love and who love you, who invoke God's blessings upon you and you invoke His blessings upon them. And the worst of your rulers are those whom you hate and who hate you and whom you curse and who curse you. It was asked (by those present): Shouldn't we overthrow them with the help of the sword? He said: No, as long as they establish prayer among you. If you then find anything detestable in them, you should hate their administration, but do not withdraw yourselves from their obedience.”(Sahih Muslim Hadith number 861, similar Hadith number 860 has been narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri). Narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri; The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best fighting (jihad) in the path of Allah is (to speak) a word of justice to an oppressive ruler.”(Sunan of Abu Dawood No.2040). It is evident that instead of using force and violence against Muslim rulers, the use of words, advise and peaceful protest is the preferable option.
Narrated AbuTha'labah al-Khushani; AbuUmayyah ash-Sha'bani said: I asked AbuTha'labah al-Khushani: What is your opinion about the verse "Care for yourselves". He said: I swear by Allah, I asked the one who was well informed about it; I asked the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) about it. He said: “No, enjoin one another to do what is good and forbid one another to do what is evil. But when you see niggardliness being obeyed, passion being followed, worldly interests being preferred, everyone being charmed with his opinion, then care for yourself, and leave alone what people in general are doing; for ahead of you are days which will require endurance, in which showing endurance will be like grasping live coals. The one who acts rightly during that period will have the reward of fifty men who act as he does. Another version has: He said (The hearers asked:) Apostle of Allah, the reward of fifty of them? He replied: The reward of fifty of you.” (Sunan of Abu Dawood No.2037).
Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil – An Implementation Methodology:
The implementation methodology could be deduced from guidance provided by Allah: “Make due allowance for man’s nature, and enjoin the doing of what is right (amr bil a’rif); and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant.”(Qur’an;7:199). While explaining this verse Muhammad Asad writes: “According to Zamakhshari, khudh-al-‘awf means: ‘Accept what comes easily to thee (or ‘what is willingly accorded to thee’) of doings and the nature of men, and make things easy (for them), without causing them undue hardship (khulf); and do not demand of them efforts that may be too difficult for them.’ This interpretation – which has been adopted many other classical commentators as well–is based on the identical explanation of the phrase khudh al ‘awf by ‘Abd Allah ibn az- Zubayr and his brother ‘Urwah (Bukhari), as well as by A’ishah and, in the next generation, by Hihsam ibn ‘Urwah and Mujahid (Reference; Tibri, Baghawai and Ibn Kathir). Thus, in accordance with the Qur’anic statements that “man has been created weak”(Qur’an;4:28) and that “God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear”(Qur’an;2:286, 6:152, 7:42 & 23:62), the believer is admonished to make due allowance for human nature and not to be too harsh with those who err. This admonition is the more remarkable as it follows immediately upon a discourse on the most unforgivable of all sins- the ascribing of divine powers or qualities to any one or anything but God.”
Hence the scholars are of the view that invitation towards righteousness, enjoining good and forbidding evil is to be done in the society by scholars and citizens through peaceful preaching, reason and wisdom as Allah says in Qur’an: “Call people to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and best advice, and reason with them, if you have to, in the most courteous manner: for your Lord knows best who strays from His Way and He knows best who is rightly guided.”(Qur’an;16:125); “Good deeds are not equal to the evil ones. Repel other's evil deeds with your good deeds. You will see that he with whom you had enmity, will become your close friend.”(Qur’an;41:34). However under grave circumstances force may have to be applied appropriately against evil and mischief threatening the peaceful environments, with in the ‘zone of authority’ only by those people, charged with authority, like a father in his house, head of institution with in his organization and the government with in state: “These are the people who, if We establish them (in power, authority) in the land, will establish Salah and pay Zakah, enjoin justice and forbid evil; the final decision of all affairs is in the hands of Allah.”(Qur’an;22:41), “..enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, and observe the limits set by Allah..”(Qur’an;9:112). “Verily Man is in loss. Except such as have Faith and do righteous deeds and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth and of Patience and Constancy.”(Qur’an;103:2-3). Consequently while keeping in view divine plan of creation, the scholars and Muslim should preach to ‘Enjoin Good and Eschew Evil’ through peaceful means. Under no circumstances people should take law in to their own hands as it will create anarchy (fasad, fitna) and destabilize the state as happened in the initial days of Islam through the extremist and violent sect, the Khawarij.
Avoiding Reemergence of Fitnah :
The term Fitnah (‘trial,’ or ‘test’), is used in Islamic history, which refer to heretical uprisings, especially the first major internal struggle within the Muslim community (656-661 C.E), which resulted in both civil war and religious schism. During the reign of the third caliph, 'Uthman, certain rebellious groups accused the Caliph of nepotism and misrule, and the resulting discontent led to his assassination. The rebels then recognized the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, 'Ali, as ruler but later deserted him and fought against him, accusing him of having committed a grave sin in submitting his claim to the caliphate to arbitration, they are called Khawarij. The word kharaju, from which khariji is derived, means "to withdraw" and Khawarij were, therefore, seceders who believed in active dissent or rebellion against a state of affairs they considered to be gravely impious. The basic doctrine of the Khawarij was that a person or a group who committed a grave error or sin and did not sincerely repent ceased to be Muslim. According to them mere profession of the faith"there is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God" did not make a person a Muslim unless this faith was accompanied by righteous deeds. In other words, good works were an integral part of faith and not extraneous to it. The second principle that flowed from their aggressive idealism was militancy, or jihad, which the Khawarij considered to be among the cardinal principles, or pillars, of Islam. Contrary to the orthodox view, they interpreted the Qur’anic command about "enjoining good and forbidding evil"(Qur’an;3:104) to mean the vindication of truth through the sword. The placing of these two principles together made the Khawarij highly inflammable fanatics, intolerant of almost any established political authority. They incessantly resorted to rebellion and as a result were virtually wiped out during the first two centuries of Islam.
A moderate group of the Khawarij, the Ibadis, avoided extinction, and its members are to be found today in North Africa and in Oman and other parts of East Africa, including Zanzibar Island. The Ibadis do not believe in aggressive methods and, throughout medieval Islam, remained dormant. Because of the interest of 20th-century Western scholars in this sect, the Ibadis have become active and have begun to publish their classical writings and their own journals. Although till recently Chasidism has been considered essentially a story of the past, which left permanent influence on Islam, because of reaction against it. It forced the religious leadership of the community to formulate a bulwark against religious intolerance and fanaticism. Positively, it has influenced the reform movements that have sprung up in Islam from time to time and that have treated spiritual and moral calmness and status quo with a quasi-Khawarij zeal and militancy.
The phenomenon of Talibanization in Afghanistan and adjoining areas of Pakistan, bears some resemblance to the Khawarijism, due to the intolerance and militancy being displayed by them against fellow Muslims to enforce their vision of Islam. It appears that; “We are chasing an Islamic order stripped of its humanism, aesthetics, intellectual quests and spiritual devotions…. concerned with power not with the soul, with the mobilization of people for political purposes rather than with sharing and alleviating their sufferings and aspirations .” (Eqbal Ahmad). In order to avoid other Fitnah gaining rootsin the Muslim Ummah, there is strong need to undertake short term and long term measures to satisfy the needs of morality, security, justice, social inequality and economic conditions of masses and level of education in religious institutions so that the unity and development of Muslims is not affected.