Amr bil Maroof & Nahi Anil Munkar

Amr bil Maroof (Abm) & Nahi Anil Munkar (Nam)
Enjoining good & forbidding evil
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From the New Islamic Law book printed by of Ayatullah Sistani

Among the most important religious obligations is enjoining good and forbidding evil. Allah the Exalted states in the Noble Quran:

“There has to be a nation among you summoning to the good, bidding what is right, and forbidding what is wrong, it is they who are the felicitous” (Ale Imran:104).

It has been reported that the most Noble Messenger (s) said: “My nation will always be with goodness as long as its people enjoin good and forbid evil and assist one another in piety. If they do not do that, then blessings will be taken away from them and some of them will impose their rule over others, and there will be no helper for them on the earth or in the sky” (Mustadruk al-wasail wa Mustanbat al masail vol 12 pg.181). 

It has been reported that His eminence Amir Al- Momineen (as) said: “Do not abandon enjoining good and forbidding evil, otherwise the evil people among you will take charge over you, and then when you supplicate, you will not be answered” (Nahjul Balagah. Letter 47)

 Wajib when performance of the good deed in question is obligatory and performance of the evil deed in question is unlawful (haram). In this situation, enjoining good and forbidding evil is a collective obligation (al wajib al kifai), meaning that if some people act according to this duty, then everyone else is excused from it; however, it is incumbent on everyone to not be indifferent if they encounter something unlawful being done or something obligatory being abandoned, and they express their aversion in their speech and actions. Acting to this extent is an individual obligation (al wajib al ayni).

It has also been reported that his eminence Amir al Momineen (as) said: “The Messenger of Allah (s) commanded us to meet people of disobedience with sullen faces” (Dar al Kutub al Islamiyyah vol.5 pg. 59)

 When the good deed being enjoined is recommended (mustahab) act (and not an obligatory one), or the evil deed being forbidden is a disapproved (makruh) act (and not an unlawful one), enjoining good and forbidding evil is recommended.

Furthermore, when a person enjoins good and forbids evil, the status and personality of the wrongdoer must be taken into account so that he is not troubled and disrespected. In addition, one must not be so severe and harsh that the wrongdoer becomes averse to the religion and religious activities.

Ruling 1868. The following 5 condition must exist in order for enjoining good and forbidding evil to be obligatory. image

1.       1.One must have knowledge of what is good and what is evil, albeit in a general sense. Therefore, enjoining good and forbidding evil is not obligatory on someone who does not know what good and evil are and does not distinguish between them. Indeed, in order to enjoin good and forbid evil, it is sometimes obligatory to learn and know what is good and what is evil.

2.       2.One must deem it probable that it will have an effect on the wrongdoer. Therefore, if he knows that his speech and words are ineffective, the well-known (mashur) opinion among jurists (fuqaha) is that he is under no duty and it is not obligatory on him to enjoin good and forbid evil; however, the obligatory precaution (al-ihtiyat al-wajib) is that he must express in any way possible his disapproval and displeasure with the wrongdoer’s improper actions, even if he knows that it will not have any effect on him.

3.       3.The wrongdoer must intend to continue doing the improper and wrong actions. Therefore, in the event that the wrongdoer does not want to repeat his wrong actions, it is not obligatory to enjoin him to good and forbid him from evil.

4.     4.  The wrongdoer must not be legally excused (ma’dhur) in his improper and wrong actions; i.e. he must not believe that the improper act he did was not unlawful and that it was permissible (mubah); nor must he believe that the good act he abandoned was not obligatory.
However, if the evil deed is something that the Holy Legislator (Allah) is never pleased with – such as the killing of an innocent person – then it is obligatory to prevent it, even if the perpetrator is legally excused and even if he is not legally obliged to fulfill religious duties (mukallaf).

5.      5. The person enjoining good and forbidding evil must not be in danger of significant harm being inflicted to his person, reputation, or wealth. Furthermore, it must not cause excessive difficulty (mashaqqah) or unendurable hardship, except in the case where the good or evil in question is regarded by the Holy Legislator (Allah) as being so important that one must endure harm and hardship in its cause.
if the person who enjoins good and forbids evil is not in danger of any significant harm being inflicted on himself, but other muslims are – whether that be to their person, reputation, or wealth – then it does not become obligatory on him enjoin good and forbid evil. In this situation, the level of harm must be compared with the act in question, and sometimes even when harm is caused, he will not be excused from enjoining good and forbidding evil.

 Ruling 1869.  Enjoining good and forbidding evil is carried out at different levels:

1.       Displaying heartfelt aversion; for example, by turning away one’s face from, or not speaking to, the wrongdoer.

2.       Verbally advising and guiding.

3.       Physically enforcing; for example, by hitting or imprisoning the wrongdoer.

It is necessary that one starts at the first or second level and chooses a method that will be the least troublesome and the most effective. If that method does not yield any result, he must gradually increase the severity and harshness of the methods he uses. If displaying heartfelt aversion and verbally advising and guiding- i.e. the first and second levels – prove ineffective, it then progresses to the physical level.  At this level, the obligatory precaution is that he must obtain permission from a fully qualified jurist (hakim e shar). Furthermore, it is necessary that he starts in a way that causes the least displeasure and trouble, and if that does not yield any result, he must increase the severity and force he uses in his methods. However, it must not reach a point where it causes a bone to break or the body to become wounded.

Ruling 1870. The obligation to enjoin good and forbidding evil on every mukallaf is greater with respect to his family and relatives. Therefore, if with regard to his family and relatives he feels that they are inattentive to, and unconcerned about, religious obligations such as performing prayers (salah), keeping fasts (sawm), and praying the one-fifth tax (khums), and suchlike, or, if he sees that they are careless and fearless with regard to committing unlawful acts such as backbiting and lying, then he must prevent improper actions being performed by them and invite them to do good deeds with a greater sense of importance, while observing the three levels of enjoining good and forbidding evil.

However, with regard to one’s mother and father, the obligatory precaution is that he must guide them by adopting a soft and gentle approach, and he must never be harsh with them. 


Booklet by Ayatullah Bashir Najafi Pdf



Amongst the 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 the sky.”

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 punishment.

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 religion.

Imam Sadiq [a] said: "Woe to the people who do not support the religion of Allah by enjoining good and forbidding evil."  (Mustadrak Al-Wasa'il-ush-Shi'ah, vol. 12, p. 181)

Abm/Nam becomes 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 doing Abm/Nam.

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 first time:

Abm/Nam will 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.

4. No religious excuse:

The wajib/haram 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 momin.

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 noteworthy magnitude.

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 effect.

Other points:-

.^. 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 backbiting)

.^. 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 implementation: -

1. 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 person.

2. Words: Mention about it directly through words and encouraging/discouraging through words including advising and admonishing.

3. 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 step.

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 words.

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 bigger objective.

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 best.

Bidding the Good and Forbidding the Evil
By: Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi

1 - Islam: A Social Religion

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'rűf wa nahi 'ani 'l-munkar".

Amr bi 'l-ma'rűf 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-marűf & 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.
Allâh says:

"There 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 people." (3:104)

While describing the believers, Allâh says:

"...The 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'rűf 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:

"Verily the 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 asked him:
"O the Messenger of God! Please inform me about the best [teaching] of Islam."
The Prophet: "Believing in God."
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."

These ahâdîth from the Prophet and the Imam are sufficient to impress the importance of amr bi 'l-ma'rűf and nahi 'ani 'l-munkar for the ethical and moral wellbeing of the Muslim ummah and humanity at large.

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'rűf 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'rűf and nahi 'ani 'l-munkar. In all, there are three levels of amr and nahi:

1. 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 direction.

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 situation.

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.