Enjoining Goodness and Prohibiting Evil-Imam Husain (a.s.)’s Viewpoint

Enjoining goodness and prohibiting evil are important fundamentals of Islam. Holy Quran and the traditions of infallible Imam (a.s.) have not only pointed towards these important duties but have discussed them at length. The Noble Quran in the following verse has ordained the Muslims to have a group from among themselves who enjoin goodness and prohibit evil:

“And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and forbid the wrong, and they it is that shall be successful.”

(Aal-e-Imran: 103)

It is not possible to do justice to this topic in this brief treatise. However, as this special issue is concerning Imam Husain (a.s.), Chief of the Martyrs, let us discuss it in the light of his traditions. Let’s understand how important was this obligation of enjoining goodness and prohibiting evil to our oppressed Imam (a.s.) and that all the steps that he (a.s.) undertook was only for the fulfillment of this divine order. If we are true lovers of Imam Husain (a.s.), then let us take a step in this direction to implement these obligations in our lives.

Allamah Hasan bin Ali, famous as Ibn-e-Sho’ba Harraani (a.r.) (a distinguished scholar of fourth century hijri and a contemporary of Sheikh Sadoq (a.r.)) in his celebrated book ‘Tohoful Oqool’ has narrated a sermon from the grandson of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), the guided Imam, Husain b. Ali (a.s.) about the excellence of ‘enjoining goodness and prohibiting evil’.

Imam Husain (a.s.) narrates from his father, Hazrat Ameerul Momeneen (a.s.) who said: ‘In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. O people! Take lessons from the advises of Allah, the Exalted where He has advised His friends and also wherein He has criticized the Jewish Scholars in these words:

‘Why do not the learned men and the doctors of Law prohibit them from their speaking of what is sinful and their eating of what is unlawfully acquired? Certainly evil is that which they work.’1 

(Maidah: 63)

“Those who disbelieved from among the children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of Dawood and Isa, son of Marium; this was because they disobeyed and used to exceed the limit. They used not to forbid each other the hateful things (which) they did; certainly evil was that which they did.”

(Maidah: 78 -79)

(It becomes crystal clear from the above verse that cursing those who deserve it is not only allowed but even recommended, else Prophets (a.s.) would have not followed it.)

The Creator of the Universe condemned them because they were witness to the evils and oppression of the evil-doers but never prohibited them in this regard. This was either due to the favours they enjoyed from the oppressors or due to the fear of the oppressors that had gripped them. 

“… therefore fear not the people and fear Me…”

(Maidah: 44)

“And (as for) the believing men and the believing women, they are guardians of each other; they enjoin good and forbid evil…”

(Tauba: 71)

Thus, Allah, the Exalted, has initiated the discussion with the mentioning of the obligation of  ‘enjoining goodness and prohibiting evil’. If this duty is implemented then all other obligations, easy or difficult, will be acted upon.

The reason being that ‘enjoining goodness and prohibiting evil’ is an invitation to the people towards Islam, radd-e-mazaalim (giving penitence for the oppression done to somebody whom you don’t know or the oppressed one is inaccessible, then the oppressor should compensate in the way of Allah according to his capacity), opposing the oppressors, distributing baitul maal and war booty, to receive charity (sadaqa) and make it available to the deserving party. These are some of the effects of ‘enjoining goodness and prohibiting evil’.

O powerful and strong people! You are famous for your knowledge, remembered for your good deeds, known for your advises. With the grace of Allah, you have instilled awe and fear in the hearts of the people. Helpless and weak people respect you. Those having the same position as you, give preference to you although you don’t enjoy any right upon them. You are the channel through which the bounties are dispersed i.e. you are the cause of opening and closing of doors of bounties for the people.

You pass with the magnificence and grandeur of a king. This is because people are hoping that you will rise in the way of Allah. (Here Imam (a.s.) has highlighted a very subtle point i.e. whatever bounties like knowledge, fame, magnificence, awe etc. we possess is from Allah, the Mighty. Therefore, use these bounties only and only in the way of Allah so that His pious servants may derive benefit from us. And it should not be expended for our own fame, position and progress. If we do not fulfill the social duties then we will be negligent in our duties towards our Imams (a.s.))

Alas! You are not fulfilling the rights of the poor and the weak and instead demanding your rights?  Neither are you spending your wealth in Allah’s way nor are you willing to endanger your life for Him even though your life is His gift. And you do not oppose your relatives (i.e. your relatives and near ones are disobeying Allah and you are satisfied with them and not opposing their evil actions.) After performing such deeds you expect Paradise, the neighborhood of Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and refuge from His punishment?

O the keeper of Allah’s hope! I fear that Allah may involve you in one of His punishments because He has adorned you with position and nobility due to which you have gained preference over others. You don’t respect those who have Allah’s cognition. Whatever respect and position you enjoy is from His side, glory be to Him. You are witnessing that Allah’s covenant is being trampled, but it has no effect on you. On the contrary, if you see the rights of your ancestors being usurped, you become restive and are deeply disturbed. You are witness to the fact that the covenant and rights of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) are being trampled upon. The blind, dumb and lame are without any guardian and are being deprived of mercy, while you are enjoying comforts as if nothing is happening around you. And even if someone is striving and struggling, you do not respect him, nor do you present yourself humbly in front of him. (Here Imam (a.s.) is drawing our attention to the fact that if we are unable to fulfill our religious duties, on account of some reason, then at least we should respect and help those people who are fulfilling them. But it is very distressing that we don’t work, nor do we allow others to work peacefully. Instead we scoff at them and make mockery of them and try to introduce as many obstacles as possible in their way.)             

On the contrary, you submit yourselves to evil doers and oppressors. You assist them in devising plans and lead a charmed existence. These are the things that Allah the High has prohibited for you, but you are nonchalant about it. The calamities on you are more intense than on others as you don’t protect the position of your scholars and learned.  I wish that you would strive more.

The reason is that religious laws and regulations are in the hands of the scholars who possess Allah’s recognition and are the trustees of what is lawful and unlawful. This position has been seized from you. This seizure was due to your distancing yourselves from the truth. Even after witnessing crystal clear reasoning and explanations, you disputed regarding the Sunnat of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and opposed it. If you would have been unwavering on the afflictions and would have endured the difficulties in Allah’s way, then the laws would have been implemented through you and people would have turned towards you for the solution of their problems. But you presented these bounties to the oppressors and accepted them as your king and handed over the responsibility of Allah’s affairs to them. The oppressors acted with disbelief and selected the path of carnal desires. They prevailed upon you because you were afraid of death and were fond of life of this world (which will soon be separated from you.).Thus, you have vested the weak and helpless in their hands. These oppressors have insulted and humiliated a few weak people and have overpowered others by keeping them away from every single morsel. They manage the state of affairs according to their fancies (i.e. disregarding Allah’s orders completely). They disgrace according to their desires. They have followed their oppressive predecessors and have confronted Allah openly. They have appointed their spokespersons from all the pulpits of all cities. The Islamic kingdom is at their feet and their reach is encompassing. All the people are under their authority. Whenever there is any attack on them, weak people are not able to fend for themselves. Some tyrants oppress the weak and helpless while others do not have faith either on Allah nor on the day of judgement. How astonishing it is?  Why should I not be surprised as the land is in the hands of the oppressors and charlatans. Zakat is not being spent in the befitting manner and the believers are being ruled by tyrants who have no mercy. Surely Allah is the Judge in our dispute and we only expect judgement from Him.

O Lord! You know whatever I have expressed is not out of desire to rule nor have I any interest in worldly wealth. The only desire I have is that Your religion is established, there is revival (of faith) in Your cities and Your oppressed servants are comforted so that they may act on the obligatory and recommended acts.

O People! Help me do justice! Oppressors are ruling over you and they are ready to put off the light of your Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Allah is sufficient for us, we only trust Him and we have to return to Him and in His Hands lies our fate.’

The words of Hazrat Sayyid al-Shohada (a.s.) draws our attention towards his feelings and his concern for the people even in that disturbing environment. He (a.s.) is constantly reminding people of the obligation of ‘enjoining goodness and prohibiting evil’. This fact highlights his untiring efforts to inculcate these feelings among the Muslims, especially the Shias.

He had made this his mission for the uprising and revolution. He (a.s.) willed to his brother, Janab Mohammad ibne Hanafiyya:

A look at today’s environment and the society, especially a Shia society, and we will be able to gauge that it is bereft of these fundamental values of religion. Those involved in it are very few. If we desire to make our Imam (a.s.) happy, then it is crucial that we make our society as an Islamic society, a Husaini society and not a Yazidi one. A society where Allah’s commands observed, laws are implemented and there is cooperation among the people. We should transform the darkness in our hearts (which is due to our sins) into light (by acting on Islamic knowledge) and quench our souls with Allah’s worship and thereby convert despair in to hope.

It is only by implementing the above, can we have some expectation from Hazrat Mahdi (a.t.f.s.), who is the real avenger of Imam Husain’s (a.s.) blood. Surely he (a.t.f.s.) is the one who will fill the earth with justice and equity as it would have been filled with injustice and oppression.