Abandoning the commanding of good and forbidding because the misguidance of the misguided will not harm us.

Abandoning the commanding of good and forbidding because the misguidance of the misguided will not harm us.

Some people say: The commanding of good and forbidding of evil is not an obligation upon us, we should only be concerned about ourselves  since Allah (swt) explained that the misguidance of others will not harm us and they infer this with His (swt) saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ۖ لَا يَضُرُّكُم مَّن ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ۚ إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ 

O you who believe! take care of your souls; he who errs cannot hurt you when you are on the right way; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will inform you of what you did. TMQ [5:105]

Refutation of this claim is from two angles:

  1. From the verse itself.
  2. From other texts mentioned in The Quran and the Sunnah.

Firstly, the verse itself.

Firstly, the reality of this claim is self-evident from the verse itself. Had the proponents of this claim pondered over the verse itself they would not make a such a claim. Allah (swt) made a condition for non-affliction of  harm from the misguidance of other is that the person is guided when He (swt) said:  لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ  -he who errs cannot hurt you when you are on the right way -, and the person will not become guided except when he fulfills whatever Allah (swt) mandated upon him. Allah (swt) has mandated to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, so the one who does not establish this then he will not be guided because he did not fulfill the condition of guidance. This has been explained by some of the companions (may Allah be pleased with them all), their followers and many of the mufassireen, scholars of the past and present. 

Based upon this; Imam  Ibn Jareer Al-Tabari narrated from Huzaifa (ra) regarding this verse said:

(إذا أمرتم ونهيتم )

“When you command and forbid” [Tafseer Al-Tabari]

Also, Imam Ibn Jareer Al-Tabari narrated from Sayed Al Musayeeb that he said: 

إذا أمرت بالمعروف ، ونهيت عن المنكر ، لا يضرك من ضل إذا اهتديت 

“When you command the good and forbid the evil, then the one who is misguided will not harm you when your guided”  [Tafseer Al-Tabari]

Imam Abu Bakr Al Jassas said in the explanation of this verse:

ومن الاهتداء اتباع أمر الله في أنفسنا وفي غيرنا ، فلا دلالة فيها إذا على سقوط فرض الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر 

“ And from those who are guided are those who comply with commands in ourselves and others, and there is no indication for the case of dropping the obligation of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil” [Ahkamul Al Quran] 

And Imam Al-Nawawi said :

وأما قول الله عز وجل: عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ فمعناه: أنكم إذا فعلتم ما كلفتم به فلا يضركم تقصير غيركم. وإذا كان كذلك، فمما كلف به الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر، فإذا فعله ولم يمتثل المخاطب فلا عتب بعد ذلك على الفاعل لكونه أدى ما عليه، فإنما عليه الأمر والنهي لا القبول. والله أعلم

As for the saying of Allah (عز وجل ):

عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ  

Then there is no disagreement for what we have mentioned because the correct opinion of the scholars about the meaning of the verse is : that when you do what you have been made responsible for, then the deficiency of others will not harm you, similar to His (swt) saying: وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى ‘and no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another’ – And when it is like that, then the responsibility of enjoining good and forbidding evil is upon him, so when he does it and the one addressed does not comply then there is no censure upon the doer after that because he has fulfilled what was obliged upon him. Therefore he is only obliged to command and forbid, not being  responsible for the outcome. And Allah knows best.” [Sharh Al-Nawawi of Sahee Al Muslim]

And Shaikh Al Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said in this regard:

والاهتداء إنما يتم بأداء الواجب، فإذا قام المسلم بما يجب عليه من الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر كما قام بغيره من الواجبات لم يضره ضلال الضلال 

“To be guided is only by fulfilling the obligation, so when a Muslim establishes what is obliged upon him from commanding good and forbidding evil just as he establishes other obligations then he will not be harmed by the misguidance of the misguided”

In addition to this, some scholars explained the saying of Allah (swt): عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ – take care of your souls-  to mean ‘to protect yourselves and do good by exhorting one another and by desiring good for others and forbidding others from evil and sin’. [Tafseer al-Qasemee]

Secondly: Refutation of the claim by other texts.

There are many texts found in the Quran and the Sunnah that explains what is obliged upon the righteous towards the evil actions of others by way of reminding and forbidding them.Failure to do this may incur the anger of Allah (swt) to fall upon them and they will supplicate to Him(swt) and He (swt) will not respond to them. 

Following are some of these texts that oblige challenging the evil acts of others.

Allah (swt) said:

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ حَتَّىٰ يَخُوضُوا فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ ۚ وَإِمَّا يُنسِيَنَّكَ الشَّيْطَانُ فَلَا تَقْعُدْ بَعْدَ الذِّكْرَىٰ مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ 

When thou seest those who plunge into Our signs, turn away from them until they plunge into some other talk; or if Satan should make thee forget, do not sit, after the reminding, with the people of the evildoers. TMQ[6:68]

وَمَا عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ مِنْ حِسَابِهِم مِّن شَيْءٍ وَلَـٰكِن ذِكْرَىٰ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ 

Nothing of their account falls upon those that are god-fearing, but a reminding; haply they will be god-fearing. TMQ[6:69]

Allah (swt) has explained that there is no obligation on the God-fearing with respect to those engage in false conversation about the signs of Allah (swt) except to remind them only. 

Al-Qadi Al-Baydawee said: 

“وما يلزم المتقين من قبائح أعمالهم وأقوالهم الذين يجالسونهم شيء مما يحاسبون عليه، ولكن عليهم أن يذكروهم ذكرى ويمنعوهم من “الخوض وغيره من القبائح ويظهروا كراهتها

“There is no responsibility upon those Muttaqun who sit with those who are accountable for their evil deeds and action except to remind them with a reminder, prevent them to plunge (into our signs) or other types evil and they manifest their dislike of it”. [Tafseer Al-Baydawee]

If reminding those evil people is a duty upon the pious then how can someone be imagined to be guided by abandoning this duty? Due to this Shaikh Thana Allah Al-Armritsar said: and the meaning of you being guided is the saying of Allah (swt) : وَمَا عَلَى الَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ مِنْ حِسَابِهِمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ وَلَكِنْ ذِكْرَى لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ  -Nothing of their account falls upon those that are god-fearing, but a reminding; haply they will be god-fearing. TMQ[6:69]

And from such texts is His (swt) saying:

وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْكُمْ خَاصَّةً وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللهَ شَدِيدُ العِقَابِ

And fear an affliction which may not smite those of you in particular who are unjust, and know that Allah is severe in requiting (evil). TMQ [8:25]

Al Hafizdh Al-Kalbi Al-Garanati said in the explanation of this verse: 

“أي لا تصيب الظالمين، بل تصيب معهم من لم يغير المنكر، ولم ينه عن الظلم، وإن كان لم يظلم”

“in other words,  it not only it (fitnah) only be inflicted on the wrongdoers, rather it will be inflicted upon the ones who were with them who did not remove the evil, and did not forbid the oppressor even if they did not oppress.” [Kitabul Al Tasheel]

And the way to protect against the punishment, it is to remove the oppression of the oppressor just as per the saying of Abdullah bin Abbas (ra) in the tafseer of this verse: 

“أمر الله المؤمنين أن لا يقروا المنكر بين أظهرهم فيعمهم الله بعقاب”

“Allah (swt) commanded the believers not accept the evil amongst them, otherwise Allah will engulf them with punishment.” [Tafseer AL-Tabari] 

Also, Abu Bakr Al Siddiq (ra) explained the mistake of those deduced from this verse the abandonment of the duty of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

‏ عن أبي بكر الصديق، رضي الله عنه ، قال‏:‏ يا أيها الناس إنكم لتقرءون هذه الآية‏:‏ ‏{‏يا أيها الذين آمنوا عليكم أنفسكم لا يضركم من ضل إذا اهتديتم‏}‏ ‏(‏‏(‏المائدة ‏:‏ 105‏)‏‏)‏ وإني سمعت رسول الله، صلى الله عليه وسلم، يقول‏:‏ “إن الناس إذا رأو الظالم فلم يأخذوا على يديه أوشك أن يعمهم الله بعقاب منه‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه أبو داود، والترمذي، والنسائي بأسانيد صحيحة‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

“O you people! You recite this Verse: ‘O you who believe! Take care of your own-selves. If you follow the (right) guidance [and enjoin what is right (Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbid what is wrong (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden)] no hurt can come to you from those who are in error.’ (5:105) But I have heard Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying: “When people see an oppressor but do not prevent him from (doing evil), it is likely that Allah will punish them all.” [Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].

In another narration…

حَدَّثَنَا وَهْبُ بْنُ بَقِيَّةَ، عَنْ خَالِدٍ، ح وَحَدَّثَنَا عَمْرُو بْنُ عَوْنٍ، أَخْبَرَنَا هُشَيْمٌ، – الْمَعْنَى – عَنْ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، عَنْ قَيْسٍ، قَالَ قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ بَعْدَ أَنْ حَمِدَ اللَّهَ، وَأَثْنَى، عَلَيْهِ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّكُمْ تَقْرَءُونَ هَذِهِ الآيَةَ وَتَضَعُونَهَا عَلَى غَيْرِ مَوَاضِعِهَا ‏{‏ عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لاَ يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ ‏}‏ قَالَ عَنْ خَالِدٍ وَإِنَّا سَمِعْنَا النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏”‏ إِنَّ النَّاسَ إِذَا رَأَوُا الظَّالِمَ فَلَمْ يَأْخُذُوا عَلَى يَدَيْهِ أَوْشَكَ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمُ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَقَالَ عَمْرٌو عَنْ هُشَيْمٍ وَإِنِّي سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏”‏ مَا مِنْ قَوْمٍ يُعْمَلُ فِيهِمْ بِالْمَعَاصِي ثُمَّ يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَى أَنْ يُغَيِّرُوا ثُمَّ لاَ يُغَيِّرُوا إِلاَّ يُوشِكُ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْهُ بِعِقَابٍ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو دَاوُدَ رَوَاهُ كَمَا قَالَ خَالِدٌ أَبُو أُسَامَةَ وَجَمَاعَةٌ ‏.‏ وَقَالَ شُعْبَةُ فِيهِ ‏”‏ مَا مِنْ قَوْمٍ يُعْمَلُ فِيهِمْ بِالْمَعَاصِي هُمْ أَكْثَرُ مِمَّنْ يَعْمَلُهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

You people recite this verse “You who believe, care for yourselves; he who goes astray cannot harm you when you are rightly-guided,” and put it in its improper place. Khalid’s version has: We heard the Prophet (ﷺ) say: When the people see a wrongdoer and do not prevent him, Allah will soon punish them all. Amr ibn Hushaym’s version has: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: If acts of disobedience are done among any people and do not change them though they are able to do so, Allah will soon punish them all.

Adu Dawud said: This tradition has also been transmitted by Abu Usamah and a group transmitters similar to the version narrated by Khalid. The version of Shu’bah has: “If acts of obedience are done among any people who are more numerous than those who do them….”

And the matter does not only stop at the falling of punishment because of leaving people who commit evil and sin only, rather the supplication will not be responded for the removal evil. 

عن حذيفة رضي الله عنه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:‏ ‏ “‏ والذي نفسي بيده لتأمرن بالمعروف، ولتنهون عن المنكر، أو ليوشكن الله أن يبعث عليكم عقابًا منه، ثم تدعونه فلا يستجاب لكم‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه الترمذي وقال‏:‏ حديث حسن صحيح‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

Hudhaifah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, you either enjoin good and forbid evil, or Allah will certainly soon send His punishment to you. Then you will make supplication and it will not be accepted“.[At-Tirmidhi]

All of this confirms that the statement: it is only a duty to focus on ourselves because the misguidance of others will not harm us, is against the Quran and the Sunnah.

The claimant of such statement may argue that the explanation of this verse: عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ’ake care of your souls; he who errs cannot hurt you when you are on the right way;  is explained by the hadith of Abu Tha’labah (ra).

سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ دَاوُدَ الْعَتَكِيُّ حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ الْمُبَارَكِ، عَنْ عُتْبَةَ بْنِ أَبِي حَكِيمٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عَمْرُو بْنُ جَارِيَةَ اللَّخْمِيُّ، حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو أُمَيَّةَ الشَّعْبَانِيُّ، قَالَ سَأَلْتُ أَبَا ثَعْلَبَةَ الْخُشَنِيَّ فَقُلْتُ يَا أَبَا ثَعْلَبَةَ كَيْفَ تَقُولُ فِي هَذِهِ الآيَةِ ‏{‏ عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ ‏}‏ قَالَ أَمَا وَاللَّهِ لَقَدْ سَأَلْتَ عَنْهَا خَبِيرًا سَأَلْتُ عَنْهَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ ‏”‏ بَلِ ائْتَمِرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنَاهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ حَتَّى إِذَا رَأَيْتَ شُحًّا مُطَاعًا وَهَوًى مُتَّبَعًا وَدُنْيَا مُؤْثَرَةً وَإِعْجَابَ كُلِّ ذِي رَأْىٍ بِرَأْيِهِ فَعَلَيْكَ – يَعْنِي بِنَفْسِكَ – وَدَعْ عَنْكَ الْعَوَامَّ فَإِنَّ مِنْ وَرَائِكُمْ أَيَّامَ الصَّبْرِ الصَّبْرُ فِيهِ مِثْلُ قَبْضٍ عَلَى الْجَمْرِ لِلْعَامِلِ فِيهِمْ مِثْلُ أَجْرِ خَمْسِينَ رَجُلاً يَعْمَلُونَ مِثْلَ عَمَلِهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَزَادَنِي غَيْرُهُ قَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَجْرُ خَمْسِينَ مِنْهُمْ قَالَ ‏”‏ أَجْرُ خَمْسِينَ مِنْكُمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Abu Umayyah ash-Sha’bani said:

I asked Abu Tha’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 Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) 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:) Messenger of Allah, the reward of fifty of them? He replied: The reward of fifty of you.

The reply to such claim using the hadith of Abu Tha’laba (ra) is from two angles:

Firstly: The Prophet (saw) was speaking about an exceptional situation where the action in that situation is equivalent to getting the reward of fifty of the companions, this indicates the severity of the situation, and it is known that there are  special rules and dispensation (ruksa) exists for such situations, and you don’t oppose, contradict and suspend the general rules by the specifics rules and dispensations.  

And in this regard Imam Abu Bakr Al Arabi mentioned after mentioning the hadith of Abu Tha’laba: 

“وذلك لعدم الاستطاعة على معارضة الخلق ، والخوف على النفس أو المال من القيام بالحق . وتلك رخصة من الله عز وجل يسرها علينا ، وفضله العميم آتانا”

 That is because, absence of capability to oppose the creation, fear upon the person or wealth from establishing the truth, and that is permission from Allah (swt) that he made easy upon us and  it is his general bounty that came to us’ [Ahkham al Quran]

ثانياً: هذه الرخصة التي نجدها في الحديث الشريف لا تدل على سقوط وجوب الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر حتى في الظروف الاستثنائية، وذلك لأن الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر درجات. فإذا تعذر للمسلم القيام به باليد واللسان فعليه أن يقوم به بالقلب، وهذا لا يسقط في حال من الأحوال. وفي هذا يقول الإمام أبو بكر الجصاص:

(وهذا لا دلالة فيه على سقوط فرض الأمر بالمعروف إذا كانت الحال ما ذكر، لأن ذكر تلك الحال تنبئ عن تعذر تغيير المنكر باليد واللسان لشيوع الفساد وغلبته على العامة، وفرض النهي عن المنكر في مثل هذه الحال إنكاره بالقلب كما قال عليه السلام: 1)فليغيره بيده، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه  () .

فكذلك إذا صارت الحال إلى ما ذكر كان فرض الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر بالقلب للتقية ولتعذر تغييره. وقد يجوز إخفاء الإيمان وترك إظهاره تقية بعد أن يكون مطمئن القلب بالإيمان، قال تعالى: إِلَّا مَنْ أُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالإِيمَانِ[النحل: 106] فهذه منزلة الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر  () .

فخلاصة الكلام أنه ليس في الآية: عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ ولا في حديث أبي ثعلبة رضي الله عنه ما يدل على ترك الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر, بل يجب على كل مسلم أن يقوم به على قدر استطاعته.  

Secondly: This dispensation (ruksa) which we find in this hadith does not indicate dropping of the obligation of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil except in exceptional circumstances, and that is because the enjoining of good and forbidding of evil has levels. So when it is impossible for the Muslim to establish it by the hand or tongue then it is a duty upon him to establish by the heart, and the establishment of it by the heart is not dropped in any situation. In this regard Imam Abu Bakr Al Jassas said:

“وهذا لا دلالة فيه على سقوط فرض الأمر بالمعروف إذا كانت الحال ما ذكر، لأن ذكر تلك الحال تنبئ عن تعذر تغيير المنكر باليد واللسان لشيوع الفساد وغلبته على العامة، وفرض النهي عن المنكر في مثل هذه الحال إنكاره بالقلب كما قال عليه السلام: ((فليغيره بيده، (فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه)

فكذلك إذا صارت الحال إلى ما ذكر كان فرض الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر بالقلب للتقية ولتعذر تغييره. وقد يجوز إخفاء الإيمان وترك إظهاره تقية بعد أن يكون مطمئن القلب بالإيمان، قال تعالى: إِلَّا مَنْ أُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالإِيمَانِ[النحل: 106] فهذه منزلة الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر

“and there is no indication in it for the dropping of duty (fard) enjoining the good and forbidding the evil when the situation that was mentioned, because mentioning of that situation is to inform the feasibility of changing the evil by the hand and tongue because of widespread corruption and its predominance over the masses. And the duty of prohibiting it in such a situation is by the hearth just as per the saying of Messenger of Allah (saw) saying: (فليغيره بيده ، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه ، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه  – Let him change it with his hand, then if he is not able to then with his tongue, then if he not able to then with his heart).Thus, when the situation becomes to what was mentioned then the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil is with the heart because of caution and the impossibility of changing it.”

 Concealment of Iman and not  manifesting it is allowed out of fear as long as there is tranquility in the heart with Imaan, He (swt) said:  إِلا مَنْ أُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالإِيمَانِ not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, TMQ [16:106] – and this is in the rank of enjoining good and forbidding evil.  ” [Ahkham Al Quran]

In summary, there is nothing in the verse:  عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ (take care of your souls) nor in the hadith of Abu Tha’laba (ra) that indicated leaving commanding and forbidding the evil, rather it is a duty upon every Muslim to establish it according to the extent of his capability.

Therefore, there is no excuse for any Muslims under the pretext ‘perfecting one self’ to leave the corruption of the masses, rulers and those who do evil, rather it is an obligation according to ability to enjoin the good and forbid the people and this includes being Islamically politically active because the essence of Islamic politics is ‘enjoining the good and forbidding the evil’.

Abu Yusuf

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References   [ + ]

1. فليغيره بيده، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه

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