greatest obligations are amr-bil-Ma’roof
(ordering for acknowledged virtues) and nahi
anil munkar (forbidding from sin). Allah (SWT)
says: “And there should be a group amongst you
who invite towards good, order for acknowledged
virtues, forbid from sin and these it is that
are the successful ones” (Ale Imran: 104).
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said: “How will it be
for you when your women will commit sins and
your youth will transgress and you will not
order for acknowledged virtues nor forbid from
sin? It was said to him: “Will that happen O
messenger of Allah?” Then he (S.A.W.) said: Yes.
Then he said: “How will it be for you when you
order for sins and forbid from acknowledged
virtues?” Then it was said to him: “O messenger
of Allah(S.A.W.)! Will that happen?” Then he
said: “Yes and worse than that how will it be
for you when you perceive acknowledged virtue as
sin and perceive sin as acknowledged virtue?”
Indeed it has also reached from them (the
ahlulbayt) – may peace be upon them – “Surely it
is through ordering for acknowledged virtues
that responsibilities stand ground, ideologies
are safeguarded, earnings become permissible,
oppression resisted, the earth inhabited,
oppressed met with justice against oppressor and
the people do not receive any good when they do
not order for the acknowledged virtues nor
forbid from sin nor co-operate in doing good.
Hence, when they do not do that blessings
withdraw, some of them over-power others and
there is no aide for them in the earth nor in
Ordering for wajib actions and forbidding from
haram is at times wajib e Aini and at times
Wajib e Kifai. Abm/Nam is Wajib e Aini by means
of expressive actions (not manhandling) or
words. Through these, ones discomfort towards
the action is expressed. In such case if one
person performs Abm/Nam then others are not
absolved from it. Ameer-ul-Momineen (A.S.) said:
“The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) ordered us that we
should meet the sinful with sullen faces” – as
quoted by Ayatullah Sistani in
Masael-ul-Muntakhabah. But if the situation is
such that Abm/Nam is possible only through
physical compelling like hitting and detaining
then it is only Wajib e Kifai - In such case if
one person does it then others are absolved from
it but if no one does it then everyone turns out
to be sinners and all are deserving of
If the acknowledged virtue is recommended then
ordering for it is also recommended. Hence, such
an ordering is worthy of reward and if someone
does not do this then there is no sin on him or
punishment. Similar is the case with preventing
from Makrooh. But with Abm/Nam for Mustahab or
Makrooh, the person addressed should not be put
to any trouble or disrespect. It is necessary to
be brief in this up to such an extent that it
does not cause the person addressed any kind of
difficulty and he does not withdraw away from
wajib only if 5 conditions are fulfilled.
The 5 Conditions
(all should get satisfied) are:-
1. The person should
have knowledge of what is wajib & Haram
related to the act although in a broad-spectrum.
But, in some
situations it may become wajib to learn
about a wajib or Haram specifically for
2. Chance of the abm/nam
having an effect:
If there is a
chance (even if small) of the sin being
given up or reduction of sin of the person
then this condition gets satisfied.
Notwithstanding this, even if there is no
chance or hope of its effect, it is Ehtiyate
Wajib to express ones displeasure through
ones actions or words.
3. Decision to repeat/do it the
become wajib if it is known that the other
person has DECIDED to commit the act as a
repetition or as a first time act in a way
that rational people feel Abm/Nam as
relevant in the particular case.
Also, if a person does a Haram and even
though he does not have any intention to
repeat it but has not done Istegfar then it
will be wajib to do Abm with respect to
performing Istegfar. This is the case when
the person notices it and if he does not
notice then it is not wajib to notify him
and do Abm.
should be applicable to the person
performing it. If he has a valid religious
excuse then Abm/Nam does not come into
force. This is true when the person does not
consider the act as wajib/haram because of
not knowing the subject (Mauzoo) like the
person eats najis food not knowing that it
was najis. In addition taqleed of different
mujtahids can make haram for one person jaiz
for another,so if there is a chance of a
different ruling also its not wajib.The
first example is for subject or mouzu &
second one is for rule or hukum.
But if the act is such that religious law
abhors it even with the above excuses then
Abm/Nam will be wajib eg. killing of a
5. No zarar or Haraj:
If the life
,property & honor(Jaan ,maal,izzat) up to a
noteworthy magnitude of the person doing Abm/Nam
is endangered or if the performance of Abm/Nam
causes unbearable distress to him then Abm/Nam
is not wajib. The same is the case if there
is a danger of causing harm to any of the
Muslims life, property and honor up to a
If the Abm/Nam is highly significant for a
particular act in religion then one should
judiciously weigh the loss and probability
of loss versus importance of Abm/Nam for
that particular act and the probability of
.^. Abm/Nam can be done even
if all conditions not fulfilled. But it is
strongly felt that the person doing Abm/Nam
in such case should bear in mind the whole
picture of how to do it.
.^. Abm/Nam can also be haram
in some cases e.g. At times, if the first
condition (knowledge) is not present .
.^. Abm/Nam can also be done
even if he does not have certainty on
condition 1of ilm , but the communication
should make it clear that 'it MAY be so"
.^. Every one is responsible
for Abm/Nam, if 5 conditions are fulfilled,
including the sinner (e.g. 2 friends doing
.^. There is additional
responsibility on Ulama and Household
members to do Abm/Nam
The 3 Stages
or steps in the Method of doing Abm/Nam, their
further division and their sequence of
Expressive Actions: Abm/Nam thru
acting, behaving, style of talking, etc in a
way that shows disapproval. This is done w/o
explicit mention of the sin to the specific
Words: Mention about it directly
through words and encouraging/discouraging
through words including advising and
Physical Compelling: Hitting,
confining, etc. but not up to the extent of
injury or breaking of body parts.
As far as
following the sequence is concerned, there is
practically no difference between point 1 &
2. There are further sub-stages or sub-steps
within point 1 & 2 based on the magnitude of
hostility. The person doing Abm/Nam should
judiciously decide which step is more effective
and least hostile and implement it first. Then,
if this is not sufficient then the next level of
hostility can be enacted within point 1 & 2.
Only if point 1 & 2 are not effective then point
3 is enacted. However if a person knows/is
confident (yakeen/Itmenan) that the lower step
will not have effect he can adopt the higher
But, based on Ehtiyate Wajib, the third step
of physical compelling can be done only with the
permission of the Hakim e Shara. Even in this
there are sub-stages or sub-steps based on the
magnitude of aggression. First the mildest one
should be adopted and then if needed a person
can gradually move to harsher steps in sequence.
Always moving from the less aggressive to the
immediately more aggressive when required.
If all the 3 steps will not have an effect then
the condition 2 does not get satisfied & Abm/Nam
is saqit (not wajib for that occasion). But as
mentioned earlier, even if there is no chance of
effect it will still be Ehtiyate Wajib to
express ones displeasure through ones actions or
There is a 4th
step of Abm/Nam ie Hurt, Injure Maim, Kill
the person .This can be done ONLY by Imam or his
representative Mujtahid & no diyat will be
applicable. This is always done to serve a
Abm/Nam cannot be done thru haram. i.e. using
any method which results in haram acts for the
person doing Abm/Nam.
There could be very special circumstances where
it can be done thru haram but this is
practically rare & shariat will have to be seen
in a more holistic manner.
According to Ehtiyate Wajib, using words that
are not gentle and adopting the above stages are
not allowed with respect to ones parents.
All the above rules are based on the
Fatawas of Ayatullah Sistani to avoid
confusion. There are further complex
situations that are not discussed herein
so as to keep the article brief and to
avoid misapprehension. It is requested
to contact the Ulema if any further
complex situation arises that is not
covered herein. The resources used are
the materials on Fatwas of Ayatullah
Sistani as is publicly available as on
January 5, 2005. Allah (S.W.T.) knows
Bidding the Good and Forbidding the Evil
By: Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
1 - Islam: A
Islam is not a
religion in the spiritual sense of the word
only; it deals with all aspects of human life.
Islam also seeks to create peace and harmony in
the social life of a Muslim society. It has
instituted ways to promote good and prevent evil
in the society. The most important social
principle of Islam is known as "amr bi 'l-ma'rûf
wa nahi 'ani 'l-munkar".
Amr bi 'l-ma'rûf means to bid the good or to
promote the good; whereas nahi 'ani 'l-munkar
means to forbid the evil or to prevent the evil.
This social principle is relevant on the
individual level as well as social level. We
have to promote good and prevent evil within the
sphere of our own family and friendship circle
as well as within the Muslim community and the
human society at large.
2 - Importance
of Amr & Nahi
Amr bi 'l-marûf &
nahi 'ani 'l-munkar is a moral and ethical
safety-net for the Muslim community and the
human society at large. It does not allow the
Muslim community to abandon its members in the
path of immorality and self-destructive path.
Nor does it allow the Muslim ummah to be
indifferent to the moral and ethical dilemma
faced by humanity at large.
should be among you (O believers), a group
(of the learned and sincere persons) who
should call (the people) towards goodness,
bid (them) to the good and forbid (them)
from the evil--they are the successful
describing the believers, Allâh says:
believing men and the believing women are
helpers of each other: they bid the good,
forbid the evil, establish the prayer, pay
the alms, and they obey Allah and His
Messenger--these are the people on whom
Allah will be merciful. Indeed Allah is
Powerful and Wise." (9:71)
In the latter
verse, while counting the positive qualities of
the believers, Allah has placed amr bi 'l-ma'rûf
and nahi 'ani 'l-munkar before the salât and the
zakât. Because it is with amr and nahi that
salât, zakât and other good deeds will be
promoted and practised in the Muslim community.
Imam 'Ali bin Abi Tâlib (a.s.) said:
people before you perished because when they
committed sins, the Rabbis and the Priests
did not forbid them from it. And when the
people became submerged into sins and the
Rabbis and the Priests did not forbid them,
then the chastisement came down upon them.
Therefore, bid towards the good and forbid
the evil; and know that bidding towards the
good and forbidding from evil will not
hasten your death or decrease your
sustenance." On the same lines, the Prophet
of Islam (may peace be upon him) had said
earlier that, "My followers will be in good
condition as long as they bid (each other)
towards the good, forbid (each other) from
the evil, and co-operate with each other in
good (deeds). If they do not do this, then
the (heavenly) blessings will be lifted from
them and some (evil ones) among them will be
imposed over them (as a ruler). In that
state, they will have no helper, neither on
the earth nor in the heaven."
Once a person from the tribe of
Khath'am came to the Prophet and
"O the Messenger of God! Please
inform me about the best [teaching]
The Prophet: "Believing in
Khath'ami: "Then what?"
The Prophet: "Maintaining [good]
relations with the relatives."
Khath'ami: "Then what?"
The Prophet: "Bidding the good
and forbidding the evil."
Then the Khath'ami asked, "And
please also tell me what are the
worst deeds in view of Allah?"
The Prophet: "Shirk: associating
a person or a thing with Allah."
Khath'ami: "Then what?"
The Prophet: "Severing relations
with the relatives."
Khath'ami: "Then what?"
The Prophet: "Promoting evil and
forbidding the good."
from the Prophet and the Imam are sufficient to
impress the importance of amr bi 'l-ma'rûf and
nahi 'ani 'l-munkar for the ethical and moral
wellbeing of the Muslim ummah and humanity at
3 - Amr & Nahi:
An Expression of Brotherhood
Amr and nahi
should not be seen as interfering in the lives
of other people; it is, on the contrary, one of
the demands of brotherhood in Islam.
The Qur'ânic verse in which Almighty Allâh has
talked about Islamic brotherhood is not actually
a verse about brotherhood--it is a verse which
gives an extreme example of amr and nahi, and it
justifies the "interference" by saying that
"indeed the believers are brothers". Now read
the entire two verses:
If two groups from among the believers fight
(against each other), then you should make peace
between them. However, if one continues its
aggression over the other, then fight the
aggressor party until it agrees to return to the
command of Allah. If the aggressor agrees to
return (to the command of Allah), then make
peace between the two on the basis of justice.
Be just; verily Allah loves those who are just.
Indeed the believers are brothers, therefore,
make peace between your brothers. And fear Allah
so that you may be dealt with mercy." (49:9-10)
This verse is saying that Muslims cannot be
indifferent to the problems of their brethren;
they have to get involved: either they should
resolve the conflict peacefully or side with the
oppressed against the aggressor until peace and
justice is achieved in the society. This is not
interference in the negative sense, this is the
demands and rights of brotherhood which Allâh
has established among the believers.
4 - Conditions
& Levels of Amr & Nahi
The issue of amr
bi 'l-ma'rûf and nahi 'ani 'l-munkar, depending
on the circumstance, can take different forms:
it can become wâjib or sunnat. Even the means of
amr and nahi depends on the circumstances of the
issue and the person involved.
The person who wants to do amr and nahi should
observe the following conditions:
1. You must be
familiar with the Islamic view on that
issue in order to properly define "good"
and "evil" before encouraging others to
do good or forbid them from evil.
2. In each given case,
you must weigh the possibility of the
influence of your advice. If you are
sure or there seems to be a great
probability that your words will have no
effect on the other person, then it is
not necessary to do amr or nahi.
3. You must also
evaluate the state of the person whom
you want to advise. Is he insisting or
repeating the evil deeds or was it just
a one time slip on his part? If you
discern or come to know that he is not
going to repeat the sin, then you do not
have to do amr or nahi.
4. You must also
evaluate the overall situation to make
sure that your action of amr or nahi
would not lead to a worse situation than
what exists at present.
Even when you have
decided that you should do amr or nahi, you will
have to look at the different level of doing amr
bi 'l-ma'rûf and nahi 'ani 'l-munkar. In all,
there are three levels of amr and nahi:
By indirect action: By indirectly
expressing your dislike of the other
person's wrongful behaviour. For
example, by not greeting him or greeting
him without the previous warmth, or by
ignoring him: with the hope that this
might lead the person to think about
change in your attitude towards him, and
hopefully guide him to the right
2. Verbally: If the first
method does not work, then talk to the
person. Whether you should talk politely
and friendly, or harshly depends on the
3. By direct action: This is only
applicable to those who have authority
over others: parents, teachers and
Islamic government. If preventing the
evil depends on physical action, then it
must be thought out very carefully. The
example mentioned in 49:9 is of this
level of amr and nahi.