In surah Al-Asr, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) said:
This surah specifies that everyone is immersed in loss, except for the ones who possess the four qualities: believing in everything that Allah and His Messenger ﷺ (Peace be upon him) told us to believe in, doing righteous deeds, advising each other to truth, and advising each other to patience. Advising to truth means advising people to do good and abandon evil, and advising to patience means doing good deeds and staying away from sins and the very act of advising each other itself require a great deal of patience.
An interesting fact here is that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) has placed ‘and’ between the four qualities of success. It means that one must possess all four of these qualities to be successful. If a Muslim misses out just one of them, according to this surah, he or she is considered among those who are immersed in loss.
A sad reality of our time is that many practicing Muslims take the first two qualities mentioned in surah Al-Asr seriously but remain indifferent regarding the other two, either unknowingly or knowingly. For those who unknowingly abandon the obligation of enjoining good and forbidding evil, actually do not know the importance of enjoining good and forbidding evil.
Books and treatise have been written about the importance of enjoining good and forbidding evil, but here I would like to mention two reasons about why enjoining good and forbidding evil is of paramount importance.
First, enjoining good and forbidding evil is one of the defining characteristics of the ummah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ (Peace be upon him). Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) said:
You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah. [The Noble Quran 3:110]
Second, enjoining good and forbidding evil is the means to prevent a society from making desire worshipping the norm. To understand this concept, we need to define freedom. What is freedom? According to Islam, freedom means to free oneself from the slavery of everything by submitting one’s own will to the Will of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). This submission hands a human being down the true freedom. On the other hand, the definition of freedom according to the predominant materialistic view is that one is entitled to do whatever he or she pleases without any restriction or resistance from anyone, as long as whatever he or she does do not harm other people.
An example will illustrate the difference between these two concepts of freedom. If a brother is not keeping his garment above his ankles despite knowing the ruling regarding this matter for example, Islamically he will be considered as someone who is not truly free as he did not submit his desire of keeping his garment above the ankles to the requirement of sharia, and thus to bring him out of the slavery of his own desire, he must be advised. Such advice will not be given if freedom is understood from the materialistic point of view. When enjoining good and forbidding evil is abandoned, people start acting as they please, and consequently, the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) fades gradually and desire worship replaces it. Therefore, to ensure that people truly remain free by worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), we must enjoin good and forbid evil.
For those who know the importance of enjoining good and forbidding evil but still shrink back from this obligation, they do so because of any of the following three obstacles:
Obstacle 1: They are simply too shy to enjoin good and forbid evil.
Obstacle 2: Even before giving advice, they start thinking about the reaction their advice will bring about from the people they should advise.
Obstacle 3: They are not sure about how to broach the subject and start a conversation.
As for the first obstacle, this can be overcome with practice. It is natural to feel shy when you begin giving dawah. I remember when I first started speaking in English, which was not my first language, I would feel very shy. However, I kept speaking as my situation forced me, and my shyness withered away with time. Same will happen if we simply take the first step and keep enjoining good and forbidding evil. With time, we will become comfortable with this practice.
As for the second obstacle, we need to remember that worries about how people would react if they are advised come from the Shaytaan. To overcome this obstacle, we should simply have the intention of advising them for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) and proceed by putting our trust on Him.
Regarding the third obstacle, there is no hard and fast answer. If we want to advise someone, how do we broach the subject? It depends on the situation. Depending on when we are advising, who we are advising, where we are advising, and what we are advising about, we should determine our tactics of how we should broach the subject and give our advice.
While browsing my facebook page, I came across the following picture. The picture includes a quote and it came to my mind (of course by the will of Allah) that this quote is something that can be used to break the ice before enjoining good and forbidding evil in many situations.
Here is how it worked out when I first give it a trial.
I was coming from masjid when I saw a teenage brother of 16-17 years listening to music. I approached him and started the following conversation:
Me: Assalamualikum brother. How are you?
He: Waalikumussalam. I am doing well. How are things with you?
Me: Alhamdulillah good. You know brother; I was browsing my facebook page when I came across a profound quote. I want to share it with you.
He: Go ahead.
Me: The quote said, “Hurt me with the truth but never comfort me with a lie.”
He: Good quote.
Me: Have you actually grasped what I said?
He: I did. It is better to be hurt by the truth than to be comforted by a lie.
Me: So, get ready. I am now going to hurt you with the truth.
He: OK. Go ahead.
Then I gently explained to him the evils of music and why music is not allowed in Islam.
Therefore from now on, remember this quote. If you see an opportunity to enjoin good and forbid evil but struggle about how you should approach and start a conversation, this quote may help you.