PART (1) AND (2) discussed the first and second situations in which dâʿîs may find themselves today, according to Shaykh Al-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him. Here we discuss his third of three.
(3) Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong: Balancing the Two
Allah’s saying: Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, [Sûrat Al-Naḥl, 16:126] highlights the importance of knowing what is, and what is not, in the best interest of the one to whom daʿwah is made (al–madʿû). Determining what is beneficial, and what is not beneficial, to al-madʿû, however, is and must be governed by the Sharîʿah.
However, knowing what the Sharîʿah dictates in this respect hinges upon the dâʿî ‘s profound understanding of the Texts (nuṣûṣ) of the Sharîʿah and upon his ability to balance these nuṣûṣ with one another, with the fundamentals (uṣûl) of the Din, and with the context of implementation of these nuṣûṣ (al–wâqiʿ)—and not merely on the direct implementation of the nuṣûṣ, for otherwise Allah’s exhortation for dâʿîs to use wisdom (ḥikma) in daʿwah would be meaningless.
When a dâʿî, in the course of his daʿwah work, is faced with adversities, tribulations, or the recalcitrance of individuals and groups to whom he makes daʿwah, he should not go to excess in abandoning religious duties, or in implementing them in an abrasive manner. Rather, he should—guided by the Sharîʿah—navigate a medial course.
Shaykh Al-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah said:
It is well-known that commanding right and forbidding wrong, including performance of the duty of jihad, is one of the greatest religious commands (al–maʿrûf) that Allah has addressed to us. But the maṣlaḥah in honoring this divine command must preponderate over the mafsadah (harm) it might involve. This is why it is said: Make sure that your commanding of right and your forbidding of wrong is not mistaken (liyakun amruka bi al-maʿrûf wa nahyuka ʿanil-munkar ghayr munkar). For Allah does not love fasâd (corruption; harm)—this is the guiding and binding principle of Allah’s messengers; it is enshrined in each and every Heavenly Book that Allah has sent down to mankind.
In fact, everything Allah has commanded man to do is right and for our good (ṣalâḥ). Allah, moreover, commends right and the doers of right; He commends those who believe and act righteously. On the other hand, Allah denigrates, as attested in many an âyah in the Quran, the perpetrators of harm and corruption (al–mufsidîn). So whenever the wrong involved in implementing a command outweighs the right in it, then know for sure that this command has not originated with Allah.
For a believer is required to have taqwa of Allah in dealing with His slave-servants; he is not obliged to guide them aright. The following âyah underlines this meaning:
O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. [Sûrat Al-Mâ’idah, 5:105]
As for ourselves, attaining to the benefits of huda (right guidance) is achievable by acting upon Allah’s commands, meaning, if a Muslim has performed the religious duty of commanding right and forbidding wrong as well as the other religious duties incumbent upon him, then he will not be harmed by the going astray of others.
Now, there are three modes of commanding right and forbidding wrong: In (or with) the heart, with the tongue, and with the hand. As for forbidding wrong and commanding right in the heart, it is the bare minimum from which no Muslim is exempt—for it harms neither the one who does it nor the one whose behavior triggers it—and absent which a person becomes a non-believer, as the Prophet said: And that is the bare minimum or the weakest form of Imân (Muslim). Ibn Masʿûd was asked: “Who is the living dead?” “[The living dead] is the one who does not command right nor forbid wrong,” he replied.
With regard to commanding right and forbidding wrong, two groups of dâʿîs take erroneous positions:
i) . Those who outright disregard Allah’s decree to command right and forbid wrong. They base their negligent position on their misinterpretation of Allah’s saying: O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided [Sûrat Al- Mâ’idah, 5:105]. Caliph Abû Bakr Al-Ṣiddîq said during a khuṭba (public speech) which he gave: “People, indeed you read this âyah—i.e., verse 105 of Chapter 5—and misunderstand its implication, for I did hear the Prophet once say:
If people see wrong happening in front of their eyes and they do not move to right it, it won’t be long before Allah visits them with a comprehensive punitive affliction that will spare none of them. (Aḥmad and Ibn Mâjah)
ii) . Those who restrict themselves to two of the three legitimate modes of commanding right and forbidding wrong, i.e., with the hand or with the tongue (dropping the third mode, i.e., with the heart); and not only that, they approach this sensitive religious duty without fiqh (understanding), ḥilm (forbearance), ṣabr (patient endurance), or regard for the consequences of their act.
The following ḥadîth shows that there are occasions when one is justified in commanding right and forbidding wrong with the heart only. The Companion Abû Thaʿlabah Al-Khashani asked the Prophet concerning this âyah [5:105] and the latter replied:
Rather, command good and forbid wrong, but when you see that avarice has become rampant and hawa (vain passions) has become hotly pursued and dunya (worldly life) has become preferred (over other-worldly life) and when you see that everyone is happy with his own opinion and preferences and no one listens to anyone else’s advisement, then be responsible for your own self and leave al-ʿawâm (the common people) alone, for in times like these ṣabr will be needed and it [ṣabr in these circumstances] is going to be as trying as holding glowing embers in one’s hand; the ajr of the one who remains steadfast in his religion then will be multiplied fifty folds. (Tirmidhi)
(Ibn Taymiyyah, Al-Fatâwa Al-Kubra, 28:126)