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Good and Evil

3776887321_7772630e5b_oIt’s drilled into our heads time and time again that advice, in Islam, holds high status. We are commanded to enjoin good and forbid evil whenever it is possible. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes it’s just downright hard. We carefully coin the advice that we want our friends to understand, but even after much work, often times it is met with anger and resentment.

In Tafsir Surat Luqman by Imam Ibn Kathir, Ibn Kathir talks about the Ayah in which Luqman rahimahu’Allah – Allah have mercy on him) advises his son to command the good and forbid the evil—Subhan’Allah the meaning of this ayah shows the true Jihad (struggle) of the Nafs (self or soul) that one must do when advising their loved ones:

“Oh My son! Establish the Salah, enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and bear with patience whatever befalls you. Verily, these are some of the important commandments.”

The part that I wanted to focus on is that which is bold and italicized above. Ibn Kathir says that this part is encouraging people to enjoin good and forbid evil, THEN to follow it up with patience. Why? Because Luqman rahimahu’Allah knew that whoever enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil will inevitably encounter harm and annoyance from the people.

No one likes to hear that they are doing things the wrong way, and they may lash out; you must talk back, take action, but be patient because Jannah is the destination (bi’idhnir-Rahman – with the permission of Allah).

Words of Wisdom about giving advice by Ibn Hazm:

“When you give advice, do not give it only on condition that it will be taken. Do not intercede only on the condition that your intercession is accepted; do not make a gift only on the condition that you will be recompensed. Do it only in order to practice virtue, and to do what you should do when giving advice, interceding and being generous.”

“The definition of advice is that the man giving it feels bad about what harms his friend, whether the latter feels good or bad about it, and he feels happy about what is good for him, whether his friend is happy or unhappy about it. This is the added factor that a counselor has which goes beyond the limit of simple friendship.”

And my Favorite:

“Advice can be given twice. The first time is as prescribed as a religious duty. The second time is a reminder and a warning. If you repeat the advice a third time it becomes a remonstrance and a reprimand. After that you have to slap and punch and perhaps try even more serious methods which may cause harm and damage. Certainly, it is only in questions of religious practices that it is permissible to repeat advice incessantly, whether the listener accepts it or gets irritated, whether the advisor suffers from it or not. When you give advice, give it softly, do not shout it out; use hints, do not speak openly unless you are advising someone who is determined not to understand. Then explanations would be essential. Do not give advice only on condition that it is followed. Otherwise you are a tyrant, not an adviser; you are demanding obedience, you are not allowing religious feeling and brotherly spirit their due. Neither reason nor friendship gives you the right to insist. It is rather the right that a ruler has over his subjects or a master over his slaves.”

And last but not least…when we are on the other side of the advice, remember:

“Anyone who criticizes you cares about your friendship. Anyone who makes light of your faults cares nothing about you.” – Ibn Hazm

About the author

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref grew up in a small Texas city and was unexpectedly uprooted to Cairo, Egypt. The shift of countries precipitated a shift in her outlook on life; this, with her enriching experience in community activism—specifically social service, youth work, and Qur’anic Studies—provides for a rather enlightened perspective. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.

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    • Assalamualaikum Imam,

      I’ve been in situations where I have forbidden the evil on things that I later found out were open to different opinions. Because of that, I’m now hesitant to give advice. How can I follow this prescription of Luqman (AS) without a PhD in an Islamic science?

      • Salaam alaikm

        Yusuf Qaradhawi outlined things to keep in mind when enjoining good and prohibiting evil:

        1- What you are prohibiting must be agreed to be prohibited (e.g. drinking alcohol, cheating etc) and not something where there is a legitimate difference of opinion (e.g. showing the feet for women, whether your beard should be a fistful or it is sufficient for it to be just on the skin for men etc)

        2- One should not go spying on people in order to uncover the evil that they do

        3- In order to change with your hand, you should have the power/authority to do so without making things worse; if you do not have the power to change with your hand, then with your tongue etc.

        4- You cannot commit a bigger evil in your endeavor to prohibit another evil

        • Assalaamu alaykum warahmatullah

          A sister I don’t know personally emailed me (about organising fitness classes) and opened the email congratulating me on the gregorian new year

          Am I supposed to advise her & if so what should I say
          I was thinking of just putting a fatwa link below my signature..?
          JazaakAllahu khair

  • I like the fact that your articles are concise and to the point. They do not take too much of your time to read and provide evidences from primary sources, like in this case the Quran itself and Tafsir Ibn-Kathir.

  • Giving advice tricky. You have to be careful not to be hypocritical, or to steer someone based on your biases. If you’re not sure, keep your mouth shut, and if you are asked, then say, “I don’t know the answer to your question. Pray to Allah sincerely and ask Him for guidance, and He will guide you.”

    I’ve given a lot of advice, as you might deduce from my link. That website is actually a “common-sense” advice site, and I get questions every day from people who are in miserable or desperate family or personal situations. You might think it’s a heavy burden to be “advising” people about major life choices, but the answers are usually obvious. Like the young woman who married a man who turned out to be a heroin user, wife beater and cheater. Or the man who is secretly in love with a married woman and wants to know if he can seduce her away from her husband, justifying it by saying that her husband is abusive.

    Plus, I’ve been doing it for years and I start to see patterns, with the same kinds of problems being reiterated again and again. Young people who are deeply frustrated because their parents, instead of facilitating their marriages, are acting as roadblocks, often for un-Islamic reasons such as racial bigotry. Women whose husbands have disappeared, or have married younger women and essentially abandoned them, or who are extremely jealous and controlling. Muslims who have fallen in love with non-Muslims and are trying to find some way around the Islamic prohibitions. Young people who have committed sins and feel deeply ashamed, and are convinced they cannot be forgiven. Sometimes these young Muslims express suicidal thoughts. These are all common situations.

    Sometimes the answer to a problem is obvious even to the person asking the question and he/she just needs someone to tell him what he already knows, maybe to strengthen his resolve. That’s common as well.

    Other times the person is clueless and just needs a bit of Islamic direction or education. In those situations, I often perceive that the person is not ready to live a healthy life, but I cannot control that.

    But there are also the ones that stump me, maybe because the situation is so dire, but the resolution is unclear. Those are the ones that need answers most of all, and I’m sorry to say that those are the cases where I often stay silent, and simply advise the person to seek an answer from Allah, and from the elders of the community. Or sometimes to see a therapist.

    And if it’s a problem that I also have then I stay silent, because how can I advise someone when I haven’t figured it out?

    I’m rambling here, sorry, but I want to add this: I believe that advice, or commanding the good and forbidding evil, must be given with love. If it is harsh in tone, or sharply critical, it won’t be heard. You have to find genuine love in your heart, even for the person who is doing wrong, and advise them based on that love. Even if what you’re ultimately saying is, “You’re wrong and you have to stop what you are doing,” there is a way to say it with love, with concern for that person’s soul, seeing the pure fitrah inside him, seeing the potential for Islam and Iman and righteousness.

    Didn’t the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) come as a mercy to the worlds? And wasn’t that the key to his success? He denounced the mushrikeen not out of hatred for them, but out of love for them as kinsmen and Bani Adam, and a desire to see them on the right path.

    And Allah knows best.

  • SubhanAllah, having friends that really advise you for the Sake of Allah is amazing..may Allah reward them with nothing less than al firdos and make their decisions easy for them in this dunya.

    jazakAllah khayra Reehab =)

  • Salams

    Imam Suhaib Webb, Can you make dua for me. STr8 up!
    SImply put.I need Allahs guidance in my life more than ever

    jzk brother

    p.s excuse my crudeness

    • Asalamu alaykum,

      No problem, akhi. Consider it done.

      Make loads of dua for me as well; I’m in more need of yours, than you are of mine.


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