Guidelines on Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil
In order to enjoin good and forbid evil, you must know the principles governing them and
how to distinguish between them. Actions will not be any good if they are not done with full
knowledge and wisdom. `Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz said, "Whoever worships Allah without
knowledge, will do more damage than what he puts right."
Mu'adh Ibn Jabal said: "Knowledge should precede action, because if action and intention are
done without knowledge, then ignorance, misguidance and desires will prevail."
So if a believer knows that by forbidding a particular evil, his action will lead to a greater
evil, then he should not forbid that evil in the first place; or if his action will lead to the
elimination of what is of greater benefit to the Muslims, then again, he should not forbid that
The Prophet t did not kill Abdullah Ibn Ubai Ibn Salul, the leader of the hypocrites, and his
friends, because they enjoyed significant support from among their tribes. So the Prophet
avoided killing Abdullah Ibn Ubai Ibn Salul, because people might think that he was killing
his companions, and also because Abdullah Ibn Ubai Ibn Salul's tribe might have risen up
against the Prophet , and sought to avenge their leader's death.
Accordingly, you must consider the issues of maslaha and mafsada12 before embarking on
enjoining good and forbidding evil.
You should be kind and gentle in enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. The
Prophet A said, "Be gentle, for if gentleness is present in anything, it adorns it - and if it is
absent from anything, it damages it."13 The Prophet also said, "Allah it likes gentleness in all
matters and rewards it more than He rewards harshness."14 Jarir related, "I heard the
Messenger of Allah say, "Whoever is deprived of gentleness is deprived of good."15
Sufyan ath-Thawri said, "Only he who has the following qualities can enjoin good and forbid
evil: he should be gentle and just and he should know the principles of enjoining good and
Whoever intends to enjoin good and forbid evil must have patience in the face of adversities and hard times. He should know, beforehand, that he will be subjected to tribulation, just as
Luqman told his son:
( My son, establish salat,
and command what is right
and forbid what is wrong
and be steadfast in the face of all that happens to you.
That is certainly the most resolute course to follow. ) (31: 16)
Allah also ordered His Messenger to be patient:
( You who are enveloped in your cloak!
Arise and warn!
Magnify your Lord. Purify your clothes. Shun all filth.
Do not give out of a desire for gain.
Be steadfast for your Lord. ) (74: 1-7)
( Be steadfast in the face of what they say
and cut yourself off from them -
but courteously. ) (73: 9)
So you must have three qualities: knowledge, gentleness and patience; knowledge before
enjoining good and forbidding evil, gentleness in carrying this out, and patience after it.
12 maslaha (plural: masa'lih): considerations of public interest, human welfare, utility, and human good. Ash-
Sha'tibi said: "What concerns the subsistence of human life, the wholeness of his way of life, and the acquiring
of what man's emotional and intellectual faculties require of him in their absolute sense."
mafsada (plural: mafa'sid): Evil, namely anything which violates addaruriyat al-khamsa, the five essential
values of deen, life, intellect, lineage and property; the opposite of maslaha.
13 Muslim, 16/146; Abu Dawud, 2461; Ahmed, 6/58.
14 Al-Bukhari, 12/280; Muslim, 16/146.
15 Muslim, 16/145.