Fatawa >Section Nine > Part 2

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2. Who must be admonished?

Several issues have to be discussed, before the persons who turn their back to doing good and take to sinning be censured:

i. They must be fully aware that what they are doing funs counter to the dictated of religion, for should they be ignorant of the rules and the whole subject, the obligation of counseling them should no longer be called for, barring that what they intend to do falls within that which Allah has ordained to be harram, such as spreading corruption in the earth and killing the respected soul. In such a case, such persons must be prevented from doing so, even if they were excused (through ignorance).

157. Should the mukallaf be negligent for not acquiring knowledge, he should be treated as though he has turned his back to doing what is good; he must therefore be directed in that avenue.

158. It is necessary to teach the ignorant those Islamic laws with which he is frequently tested, such as the rules governing acts of worship and transactions, especially when it is difficult for him to learn them through personal effort, i.e. by way of reading, listening and so on.

ii. The person who is doing that which is evil should not be justified in so doing. For example, he could be thinking that what he is doing is not harram, or that which shuns is not obligatory on him; this conclusion could have stemmed from a personal opinion, or it could have been based on the fatwa of the jurist he is following. If it transpires that the doer is justified in what he has done, no further action should be taken. That is, unless what he intend to do falls within that which Allah has ordained to be haram, such as spreading corruption in the earth and killing the respected soul. In such a case, such a person must be prevented from doing so even if they were justified in what they wanted to do (as a matter of opinion), and not deemed sinners.

159. The party intending to give counsel should be guided by what is actually happening before his eyes of the perceived commissioning of sin. That is, unless he is sure, he must not jump into conclusions that the would-be sinner could be justified in what he is doing; if need be, he may be asked to clarify the situations, as a matter of ihtiyat.

iii. Some jurists are of the opinion that the obligation of enjoining good and forbidding evil becomes obligatory only when the culprit is caught red-handed, or that they are known for their habitual breaking of the laws. However, it is evident that upholding the duty becomes operative once knowledge is gained that the would-be sinner is bent on turning away from what is good or insisting on commissioning a ghastly act for the first time, or his intention to repeat same, or he may have manifested readiness to do it again. Where giving counsel is sanctioned by sensible people, it becomes dutiful wajib.

If the culprit has committed the act and showed remorse and willingness not to do it again, it is not obligatory to give him counsel. However, should he take repenting for his sins lightly, he must be enjoined to hasten to penance.

iv. There is the possibility of reaping results of giving counsel to would-be sinners, i.e. by desisting from commissioning the bad act not necessarily immediately. Even the slim chance that he might be deterred or at least think twice before commissioning the act, etec. is a sufficient reason to admonish him.

The person intending to carry out the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil must not resort to a mere suspicion that the doer of the bad deed would not be deterred from that which he is intent on doing to absolve themselves of the responsibility. They must reach a clear-cut conclusion that no benefit would be reaped from counseling the would- be sinner, in that he is not interested in anybody's advice; only then the obligation could be waived.

However, for counseling to be effective every effort has to be put into studying the circumstances of the sinful and choosing the right person and time to make inroads into rehabilitating them, as will be discussed.

160. Wherever we have rules that enjoining good and forbidding evil could be dropped we do not mean that they no longer be permissible; rather the obligation can be embarked on by way of reminding the sinning or their duty towards Allah a nice manner and good counsel. That is, of course, barring being derogatory or insulting to the intended person.

3. Levels of Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil

there are three ways at the disposal of the mukallaf to carry out his duty:

i. Expressing one's disapproval of the wrong action by attitude, such as turning away the sinner, not shaking hands with themů etc.

161. Boycott is one of the means could be employed to deter people from committing that which is haraam. It should be maintained, even if it leads to abandoning what is obligatory. Some examples:

a. It is permissible not to return the salutation to sinner, if in so doing they indulge further in their transgression, or detract from the opportunity of reforming them. Otherwise, it is not permissible.

b. Rupture of relations with one's relatives, by maintaining a semblance of relations, which does not detract from the effectiveness of the boycott.

c. It is permissible for a wife to refrain from having sex with her sinning husband, should the sin he is indulging in have far reaching consequences on the personal or the social levels. That is, if in so doing the wife could persuade him to mend his ways. There are also other examples.

ii. Showing aversion by speech, i.e. in an appropriate and effective manner. It is not necessary that it should take the form of a dressing down, unless it is the only effective way in yielding results. The tone of the speech must be friendly, quiet, and persuasive. "The carrot and the stick" approach could prove fruitful in certain cases, i.e. by stressing the resultant reward and punishment .

No doubt achieving results could hinge upon the style used in giving counsel, be it harsh or mild; it also vary from one person to the other, male/female, young/old, father/son, etc., from time to another, from one venue to another, one to one or in a group, during the month of Ramadhan or the commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (a.s.), by way of a play, a film, a picnic, music, and so forth. So, one has to be tactful in using the best way possible that may yield results in rehabilitating the sinner. Under no circumstances is it permissible to use any violent means in speech, where the gentle approach could do the job.

iii. In the last resort, where possible, one should try to stop the sinner from commissioning the vile act. Stopping them could be by making them suffer physically, i.e. beating them up. However, in applying this method, one had to bear the following in mind:

a. Beating up should be the last resort, i.e. after exhausting all the other alternatives, as will be discussed.

b. The maximum level of beating should not include causing a fracture or opening a wound. Should the deterrence only be achieved by resorting to either or even killing the sinner, this has to be sanctioned by the Infallible Imam (a.s.), or his personal representative; however the Imam's general agent, i.e. the just jurist could rule in this matter, after having considered it in a way that serves Islam's interest which stipulates that one should revolt against the oppressive ruler which in turn may lead to his killing or getting him wounded, or to that of his lackeys, with a view to toppling the regime.

iii. The order of hitting must be gradual, i.e. from the very mild to the hardest. This means that each case should be treated on its own merits, taking into account the accused, the time, and the circumstances. Thus, it can be said that this regime of deterrence should be part of the whole system that the Islamic state, if it existed, adopt in its scheme of things for the ummah.

In the absence of an Islamic government, i.e. where Islamic society is under the rule of non-Islamic government, the faithful may take the responsibility, or indeed it is obligatory on them to do so the order of banishing evil and establishing good. This however should be decided upon after consulting the experts in the fields, in order to avoid bringing the name of Islam and all what it stands for into disrepute.

4. Rules Governing Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil

162. There is no need to act according to the order of expressing disapproval by way of attitude or speech; the use of either way, which may serve the purpose, as the case maybe would do. As for hitting, it should, as we have already mentioned, be the last resort. The objective behind all these means should be to urge the sinner to repent and obey the dictates of the faith with the absolute minimum of injury to their dignity, hence the admonishment with wisdom and good counsel.