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Tuesday 16th of April 2024
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Bidding the Good and Forbidding the Evil

Commandments or Prohibitions in Islam

Wilson: Both Christianity and Judaism preach the Ten Commandments which were revealed to Moses and recorded in the Old Testament. Does Islam have any commandments, and are they the same or similar?
Chirri: The Ten Commandments are only a portion of the Qur'anic commandments.
Islam commands its followers to avoid many things. Some of them are prohibited because they contradict some of the doctrines in which a Moslem is supposed to believe. Some of them are prohibited because they are immoral or unethical or unhealthy or because they represent disobedience to the devotional duties. These prohibitions may be regarded as Islamic commandments, the violation of which may constitute a major sin. A Muslim is prohibited:
1. To ascribe to God a partner or associate:
"Associate not any other god with the Almighty, lest thou sit down despised forsaken." 17:22
2. To deny revelation of God to His prophets.
3. To deny any of the prophets who are recognized by the Qur'an, such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and Noah. The denial of the revelation or any of the recognized prophets is a denial of Islam.
4. To feel safe in opposition to God:
"Are they secure against the plan of God? But none feels secure against the plan of God except the losing people. " 7:99
5. To lose hope in mercy of God:
"...And despair not of the mercy of God. Surely none despairs of the mercy of God except the disbelieving people." 12:87
6. To swear in the name of God falsely:
"Hast thou not seen those who take for friends a people with whom God is wrathful? They are neither of you nor of them, and they swear falsely, while they know. God has prepared for them a severe chastisement. Evil indeed is what they do!" 58:14-15
7. To break a covenant deliberately:
"And fulfill the covenant of God when you have made a covenant, and break not the oaths after making them fast, and you have, indeed, made God your surety. Surely God knows what you do." 16:91
8. To kill a human being premeditative.
"And slay not the soul which God has forbidden except for the just cause.... " 17:33
"Your lives and properties are sacred and inviolable amongst you, until you appear before your Lord.... "said the Prophet.
9. To be traitor to the right cause of one's own nation.
10. To help defeat it militarily by retreating at the battlefield when the nation is defending itself against aggression:
"And whoso turns his back to them (the aggressors) on that day (of fight), unless maneuvering for battle or turning to join a company, he indeed incurs God's wrath and his refuge is hell, and an evil destination it is." 8:16
11. To steal.
12. To cheat in measuring or weighing in selling or purchasing:
"Woe to the cheaters. Who when they take the measure (of their dues) from the people, take it fully, and when they measure out to others or weigh out for them they give less than is due." 83:1-3
13. To use an orphan's fund in a way that is not in his interest:
"And draw not nigh to the orphan's fund, except in a goodly way, till he attains his maturity, and fulfill the covenant; surely the covenant will be inquired to!" 17:34
14. To insult one's own parent:
"And thy Lord has decreed that ye worship none but Him, and do good to the parents. If one of them or both of them reach old age with thee, say not "Fie" to them, nor chide them, and speak to them kind words. And lower to them the wing of humility of mercy, and say: My Lord, have mercy on them as they brought me up (when I was) little." 17:23-24
15. To commit adultery:
"And go not nigh to fornication; surely it is an obscenity. And evil is the way." 17:32
16. To scandalize people, especially women:
"Those who love to see that scandal should circulate concerning the believers, will have a grievous chastisement in this world and the Hereafter, and God knows, while you know not." 24:19
"Those who scandalize virtuous, believing women (who are) careless, cursed are they in this world and the Hereafter. Theirs will be an awful doom, on the day when their tongues, their hands, and their feet testify against them as to what they used to do. On that day God will pay them their just dues and they will know that God is the Manifest Truth." 24:23-25
17. To spy on others for no purpose of protecting your nation or yourself.
18. To backbite others, exposing to those who do not know, some shameful doing:
". . . And spy not nor backbite each other. . ." 49:12
19. To gamble.
20. To drink intoxicants:
"O you who believe, intoxicants and games of chance. . .are only an abomination, the devil's work; so shun it, that you may succeed. The devil desires only to create enmity and hatred among you by means of intoxicants and games of chance, and to prevent you from the remembrance of God and from prayer. So will you obey this prohibition?" 5:93-94
21. To eat pork or any swine's products.
22. To eat or drink blood. (This does not include transfusion of blood for necessity.)
23. To eat meat of an animal that dies by itself, or the meat of an animal on which the name of other than God is invoked when it is slain:
"He has forbidden you only what dies of itself, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that over which (a name) other than the name of God is invoked (when it is slaughtered) . . . " 2:173
24. To lie deliberately or testify falsely or falsify the word of God willingly:
"Only they forge lies who believe not in the messages of God, and they are the liars." 16:105
25. To conceal a testimony when called to testify in litigation:
". . . And conceal not testimony. And whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful. And God knows what you do." 2:283
26. To deliberately hinder a good cause.
27. To spread hatred by conveying to a person a bad word about him spoken by another person:
"And obey not any mean swearer, defamer, going about with slander, hinderer of good, transgressing beyond the limits, sinful, ignoble, besides all that, notoriously mischievous. . ." 68:10-13
28. To violate the terms of a dead man's will:
"Then whoever changes it (the will) after he heard it, the sin of it is only upon those who change it. Surely God is Hearing, Knowing." 2:181
29. To oppress the people.
30. To aid an oppressor.
"...And let not hatred of a people because they hindered you from the Sacred Mosque incite you to make aggression. And help one another in righteousness and piety, and help not one another in sin and aggression. Surely God is severe in requiting (evil)." 5:9
31. To be proud, looking down on the people:
"And turn not thy cheek in scorn towards people, nor go about in the land in insolence. Surely God loves not any self-conceited boaster. "31:18
32. To be envious, wishing People ill:
"Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn, From the evil of things created,. . . And from the evil of the envious when he envies. "113
33. To antagonize a relative for no right cause:
"Will you be making mischief in the land and cut off the ties of kinship if you come to power?" 47:22
34. To neglect any of the five daily prayers.
35. To break fasting in the days of Ramadan without a legitimate excuse.
36. To withhold the "Zakah" this is the share of the poor in the self-supporting person's wealth.
37. To neglect the duty of pilgrimage to Mecca this has to be done once in a life-time by every person who is physically and financially able to make it.
38. To neglect the duty of advising the people to do good and avoid evil when such an advice is needed and likely to be effective.
The last five are regarded as major sins, because the prayer, fasting, paying Zakah, making pilgrimage and enjoining good and prohibiting evil are Qur'anic duties.

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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‘rūf wa nahi ‘ani 'l-munkar”.
Amr bi 'l-ma‘rūf 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-marūf & 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.
Allāh 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, Allāh 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‘rūf and nahi ‘ani ’l-munkar before the salāt and the zakāt. Because it is with amr and nahi that salāt, zakāt and other good deeds will be promoted and practised in the Muslim community.
Imam ‘Ali bin Abi Tālib (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 ahādīth from the Prophet and the Imam are sufficient to impress the importance of amr bi 'l-ma‘rūf 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’ānic verse in which Almighty Allāh 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 Allāh has established among the believers.

4. Conditions & Levels of Amr & Nahi
The issue of amr bi ’l-ma‘rūf and nahi ‘ani ’l-munkar, depending on the circumstance, can take different forms: it can become wājib 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‘rūf 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.

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