Conditions under Which Enjoining the Good and Forbidding Evil Becomes Obligatory
Q 1: What is the rule if enjoining the good and forbidding evil compromises the dignity of someone who fails to carry out an obligatory act or perpetrates a prohibited act, and humiliates him before the people?
A: If one observes the conditions and etiquette of enjoining the good and forbidding evil and does not transgress their limits, it is no problem.
Q 2: Is it a governmental ordinance or a fatwā that under the Islamic state the people’s duty with respect to enjoining the good and forbidding evil is limited to oral enjoining and forbidding and the other grades are the responsibility of the authorities?
A: It is a jurisprudential fatwā.
Q 3: Is it permissible to forbid evil without the permission of the ruler when stopping someone from perpetrating evil depends on hitting him, imprisoning him, putting him to hardship, or on entering in / using his properties even if it leads to their destruction?
A: There are different situations and cases. Generally speaking, the different grades of enjoining the good and forbidding evil, so long as they do not affect the life or property of the perpetrator of the evil, do not require anybody’s permission and are obligatory up on all mukallafs. But if enjoining the good and forbidding evil involve measures beyond oral enjoining and forbidding and it is in a country ruled by an Islamic government and system that has taken charge of this Islamic responsibility, the matter will depend on the Leader’s permission or that of the relevant authorities, the local police force and righteous courts.
Q 4: If forbidding evil with respect to very important matters, such as protecting the life of a ‘respected person’ [i.e., to exclude the life of a murderer and the like], cannot be performed except through violence, such as hitting which may cause injury or occasionally even killing of the assailant, will the permission of the authorized religious authority be required?
A: If saving life of a ‘respected person’ and preventing murder depends on immediate and direct intervention, it is permissible and even obligatory according to Islamic law, because it is considered defense of a ‘respected person’. This obligation neither requires the authorized religious authority’s permission nor depends on obtaining any order to that effect. However, if defending a ‘respected person’ depends on killing the assailant, there are different cases whose rulings may differ as well.
Q 5: Is it obligatory for someone who wants to enjoin another person to the good or forbid him from evil to have the power to carry it out? When is it obligatory to enjoin someone to the good and forbid him from evil?
A: Whoever enjoins and forbids must know what the good and evil are and knows that the wrongdoer commits them intentionally and without any shar‘ī excuse. It is obligatory to enjoin the good and forbid evil only when it is likely to be effective and one is secure from harm in doing it, considering the extent of the expected harm and the importance of the good or evil in question. Otherwise, it is not obligatory for him.
Q 6: If one of our relatives carelessly commits sins, what is our duty with respect to keeping relations with him?
A: If you think that cutting relations may make your relative refrain from sins, it will be obligatory for you to do so to enjoin the good and forbid evil; otherwise, it is not permissible to break ties of kinship with blood relatives.
Q 7: Is it permissible to neglect enjoining the good and forbidding evil for fear of losing one’s job, e.g. the head of an educational institution, who deals with the university youth, commits actions against the sharī‘ah or paves the way for commission of sins in that place while we fear of losing our job if we forbid him from evil?
A: As a general rule, if the mukallaf fears considerable harm for himself in enjoining the good and forbidding evil, it will not be obligatory for him.
Q 8: If the good is neglected and evil is common in some academic environments and the conditions for enjoining the good and forbidding evil are there, will one be relieved of performing this duty if he is single?
A: When there is a case to enjoin the good and forbid evil and the required conditions are available, it is the shar‘ī, as well as social and human obligation of all mukallafs to do so. Such things as being married / unmarried, does not change the ruling. Merely being unmarried does not exempt one from carrying out this obligation.
Q 9: If one comes across evidence of sinful conduct, impropriety and insincerity of a person holding a powerful position so that one fears his power and influence, is it permissible to neglect enjoining the good and forbidding evil in relation to him? Or is it obligatory for one to call him to the good and forbid him from evil even when one is afraid of his harm?
A: If there is a reasonable fear of harm, it will not be obligatory to enjoin the good and forbid evil, rather you will be relieved of the obligation. But it is not good for someone to neglect reminding and advising his brother in faith, simply for fear of the position of the person who neglects the good or that of the perpetrator of the evil, or for the mere likelihood of some harm inflicted by them.
Q 10: At times forbidding a sinner creates negative feelings against Islam due to his ignorance of Islamic duties and rules. On the other hand, if we leave him alone, it will prepare the ground for others to corrupt the environment and commit sins. What is the duty in such a situation?
A: Enjoining the good and forbidding evil — when their conditions are available — are considered public religious duties for the sake of safeguarding Islamic laws and social health. The mere suspicion that it might create negative feelings against Islam in some individuals does not justify the negligence of such an extremely crucial duty.
Q 11: If those assigned by the government to prevent corruption do not accomplish their duty well, is it permissible for people to take charge of this duty themselves?
A: It is not permissible for other people to interfere with the affairs assigned to judicial and security authorities. However, there is no objection to enjoining the good and forbidding evil when carried out with due observance of their limits and conditions.
Q 12: With regard to enjoining the good and forbidding evil, should individuals confine themselves to the oral level of enjoining and forbidding? Limiting the obligation to oral reminding contradicts with what is stated in the books on Practical Laws of Islam, particularly the Taḥrīr al-Wasīlah. And if they are allowed, when necessary, to advance to the other grades, will it be permissible for them, at times of necessity, to carry out all the graded levels mentioned in the book of Taḥrīr al-Wasīlah?
A: Considering that under an Islamic government the grades subsequent to oral enjoining the good and forbidding evil are delegated to security and judicial authorities, particularly with respect to cases where prevention of evil entails exertion of force, handling the assets of the wrongdoer, exercising ta‘zīr against him, his detention, or the like, it is obligatory for the mukallafs to confine themselves to oral enjoining and forbidding and, when the need arises for the use of force, to refer the case to the police and judicial authorities. This does not contradict the fatwā of the late Imam Khomeini (q.) in this regard. But, when and where the Islamic government is not dominant, it is obligatory for the mukallafs — when the conditions are available — to go through all grades of enjoining the good and forbidding evil — with the observation of their sequence — until its purpose is realized.
Q 13: Some bus drivers play singing and music cassettes of ḥarām kinds, without paying any attention to advice and exhortations to turn off their cassette players. Please explain the rules to be followed in such situations and for dealing with such persons. Is it permissible to be rough with them?
A: If the conditions for forbidding evil exist, you are not liable to more than oral forbidding. In case this forbidding is not effective, it is obligatory to avoid listening to unlawful music and singing. However, if unlawful music and singing reach your ears involuntarily, you are liable to nothing.
Q 14: I work in a hospital in the sacred profession of nursing. Occasionally, during my work I encounter some patients who listen to cassettes of unlawful and degenerate music. I advise them twice to stop it. And if it does not work, I take the cassette out of the player, erase its content, and then return it to its owner. Please explain if such conduct is permissible?
A: It is permissible to erase the perverse contents to prevent the cassettes to be used in a ḥarām way provided it is done with the permission of the cassettes’ owners or the authorized religious authority.
Q 15: The sound of music cassettes of uncertain permissibility is heard from some houses and is at times with such high volume that it is troublesome for the believers. What is one’s duty in this regard?
A: To break into people’s houses is not permissible. Besides, enjoining the good and forbidding evil depends on the identification of the actual instance and the existence of certain conditions.
Q 16: What is the rule of enjoining and forbidding with respect to women with inadequate ḥijāb? What is the rule when one fears that oral forbidding may cause unlawful sexual feelings?
A: Forbidding evil does not depend on looking questionably at a non-maḥram female, and it is obligatory for every mukallaf to avoid ḥarām deeds, especially when carrying out the duty of forbidding evil.
Q 17: What is the duty of a son toward his parents or that of a wife toward her husband when they do not pay khums on their assets? Are they allowed to use the assets on which khums has not been paid leading to the assets to be mixed with ḥarām, considering many traditions in which it is emphasized to avoid such properties as they contaminate the soul?
A: They (the son and the wife) should enjoin the good and forbid the evil whenever they see the parents or the husband neglecting the good or committing the evil provided that the conditions for carrying them out exist. As for using their wealth, there is no problem in it.
How to Enjoin the Good and Forbid Evil
Q 18: How should a son behave towards his parents who do not care about their religious duties due to their lack of complete faith?
A: He should orally enjoin them to the good and forbid them from evil in a soft language and with due observance of their respect as parents.
Q 19: My brother does not observe shar‘ī and moral norms, and advice has not been effective so far. What is my duty when I see his conduct?
A: It is obligatory for you to express resentment towards such conduct which is against Islamic law, and to remind him in a brotherly way which you deem effective and suitable. But breaking ties of kinship with him is impermissible.
Q 20: What kind of relation can one have with persons who formerly used to commit such unlawful acts as drinking?
A: The criterion is the present behavior of people. So if they have repented of what they used to do, they should be treated presently like other believers. As for someone who commits ḥarām acts at present, it is obligatory to deter him from it through forbidding evil. To prevent him from committing a ḥarām act, it is obligatory to avoid his company and break relationship with him if it is the only solution.
Q 21: A continuous invasion is going on against Islamic morals by Western culture, and some non-Islamic customs are being propagated. For example, some men hang golden crosses on their necks, or some women wear clothes with garish colors, and, occasionally, some men and women wear bracelets, dark glasses, and certain ornaments which attract attention and are generally considered improper. Taking into consideration that some of these people insist on such actions even after enjoining them to the good and forbidding them from evil, please explain how to treat such individuals?
A: Wearing gold or hanging it on the neck is absolutely ḥarām for men. It is, also, not permissible to wear clothes whose tailoring style, color, etc. are considered imitation and propagation of the invading culture of non-Muslims in the common view. It is not permissible, as well, to wear an ornament in a way that is regarded as imitation of the invading culture of enemies of Islam and Muslims. The duty of others towards such phenomena is to forbid the evil orally.
Q 22: Sometimes we see that a university student or employee who commits a sin and does not stop it even after repeated advice and guidance. On the contrary, he insists upon committing his wrongdoing which spoils the faculty’s atmosphere. What is your opinion on taking such effective punitive administrative measures as writing it into his personal record?
A: There is no problem in doing so while observing the university’s internal rules. The dear youth should take the issue of enjoining the good and forbidding evil seriously, learn its conditions and shar‘ī rules carefully, publicize this principle, and employ moral and effective methods to encourage the practice of the good and prevent the occurrence of the evil. They should avoid using this principle for their personal ends, and know that it is the best and most effective way of spreading good and preventing evil. May Allah grant you success in carrying out what pleases Him!
Q 23: Is it permissible not to respond to the greeting of someone who commits evil as a way of stopping and discouraging him?
A: According to Islamic law it is obligatory to respond to the salām of a Muslim, but if refusing to respond to someone’s salām with the intention of forbidding evil is normally interpreted by common view as prevention and discouraging the evil, it is permissible to do so.
Q 24: What is the duty of the authorities if it is proved definitely that some of their employees are negligent of prayers, and exhortation and guidance do not affect their conduct?
A: Nevertheless, it is obligatory not to ignore the effectiveness of enjoining the good and forbidding evil if it is performed continuously with due observance of its conditions. If the authorities become hopeless about the effectiveness of enjoining them to do good and regulations permit depriving them of employment benefits, it will be obligatory to take such measures against them and to remind them that the measure has been taken against them because of their negligence in carrying out this divine obligation.
Miscellaneous Issues of enjoining the good and forbidding evil
Q 26: My sister is married to a man who does not pray. Since he is with us all the time, I have to associate with him, talk to him, and even at times help him in some work at his request. My question is, am I permitted by Islamic law to associate with, talk to and help him in some work? What is my duty towards him?
A: Nothing is obligatory for you except to enjoin him to the good and forbid him from evil in a continuous manner, whenever its conditions exist. If associating with him and assisting him do not encourage him to continue his negligence of prayer, there is no problem in it.
Q 27: Is it permissible for high-ranking Islamic clerics to visit and associate with tyrants and tyrannical rulers if it leads to a decrease in their tyranny?
A: If it is proved for the cleric in such cases that his links with the tyrant lead to prevention of tyranny and are effective in stopping him from the evil, or the cleric considers an important issue which has to be taken care of and followed up, there is no problem in it.
Q 28: I got married several years ago. I pay great attention to religious affairs and shar‘ī matters and follow the late Imam Khomeini (q.). However, my wife, unfortunately, does not care much about religious matters. Sometimes, after a verbal argument, she offers prayer once in a while, and this is what bothers me very much. What is my duty in such a situation?
A: Your duty is to prepare the grounds for her to reform by every possible means, and to avoid any kind of rough behavior which might indicate bad temper and disharmony. Keep in mind that attending religious gatherings and associating with religious families have great effects on reforming her.
Q 29: A Muslim man comes to know from circumstantial evidence that his wife, though being a mother of several children, secretly commits acts against chastity while he does not have any shar‘ī evidence to prove it (such as a witness who is ready to testify). How can he deal with this woman in accordance with Islamic law, knowing that his children are being raised by such a woman? How should one deal with a person, or persons, who commit such obscene deeds contrary to the divine laws if he becomes aware of them without possessing any evidence which can be presented in a shar‘ī court?
A: It is obligatory to avoid suspicion and refrain from depending on conjectural evidences. If it is ascertained that a ḥarām act has been committed, it is obligatory to prevent her by reminding, advising, and forbidding evil. If forbidding her from evil is not effective, one may refer to competent judicial authorities if provable evidence is available.
Q 30: Is it permissible for a girl to guide a young man and help him with his studies etc. while observing Islamic norms?
A: Under the assumption in the question, there is no problem in it. However, one should try hard to avoid satanic temptations, and it is obligatory to observe the related shar‘ī rules, e.g. to avoid being alone with a stranger in a place where nobody else may enter.
Q 31: What is the duty of employees in official departments and institutions when they occasionally observe certain organizational and religious misconduct perpetrated by their high-ranking managers? Will the obligation be called off if the individual fears that his forbidding evil may provoke high-ranking authority or authorities to harm him?
A: If all conditions of enjoining the good and forbidding evil are present, they should enjoin the good and forbid evil. Otherwise, they have no obligation in this respect. This is the case when they fear considerable harm for themselves as a result of enjoining the good and forbidding evil and the country is not governed by an Islamic government. When there is an Islamic government that takes up the fulfillment of these divine duties, the obligation of those who are incapable of enjoining the good and forbidding evil is to inform official institutions assigned by the government to handle such a case and follow it up until corruption is uprooted.
Q 32: There is continuing misappropriation of public assets of Muslims in a government department, and there is someone who thinks that he can curtail this phenomenon if he takes charge of the department. However, it is impossible for him to acquire that post without bribing one of the managers. Is it permissible to give a bribe in order to prevent misappropriation of public assets, a measure which amounts to averting a major evil in the expense of a minor one?
A: The duty of those who become aware of violations of the law is to forbid the evil while observing its related shar‘ī conditions and norms, and it is not permissible to resort to bribery and illegal methods in order to obtain an office, even if it is done for the purpose of preventing corruption. Of course, if this is assumed to occur in a country ruled by an Islamic government, the people’s duty does not end simply with personal inability to enjoin the good and forbid evil, rather they must bring the matter to the attention of the related authorities and follow up on it.
Q 33: Is evil something relative so that one may compare the university environment with some worse environments, and make it an excuse to neglect forbidding evil with respect to some evils and avoid preventing them arguing that in comparison to other evils they are not considered ḥarām and evil?
A: There is no difference among the evils. Yet some the evils may be considered more ḥarām compared to others. In any case, forbidding evil is regarded a shar‘ī obligation for everybody whenever its conditions exist, and its negligence is impermissible. As to this ruling, there is no difference between various evils, or between university environments and other settings.
Q 34: What rule applies to alcoholic drinks found with some foreign specialists in some institutions of an Islamic country and who drink them at home or in places assigned for their stay? What rule applies to their preparation and consumption of pork, as well as their conduct contrary to chastity and the people’s ruling values? What is the duty of factory managers and those who have relations with them? What position is to be taken if the factory managers and related provincial authorities do not take any measures in these cases after being informed?
A: It is obligatory for the related authorities to order them not to openly commit such acts as drinking and eating unlawful meats and to refrain from doing so in public. As for matters which are against public chastity, they should not be allowed to commit them at all. In any case, the related authorities should take the due measures in this regard.
Q 35: Some brothers go to places — where improperly veiled women may be available at times — in order to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and for advice and guidance. Are they allowed to look at these women, considering that they go there for the sake of enjoining the good?
A: There is no problem in the first unintentional look, but an intentional look at parts other than the face and hands — up to the wrists — is not permissible, even for the purpose of enjoining the good.
Q 36: What is the duty of devout youths in mixed universities in respect of the corruptions which are noticed in some of these universities?
A: It is obligatory for them, besides being careful not to get corrupted, to enjoin the good and forbid evil if the conditions are available and they have the ability to carry it out.