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 “Kufr, corruption, and disobedience are the cause of evil and strife. A person or group may fall into sin and disobedience. Then another group keeps quiet, and does not fulfill their obligation of enjoining right and forbidding wrong, and that becomes a sin of theirs. And another group enjoins and forbids, but in a manner forbidden by Allah, and that becomes a sin of theirs. The end result is division, difference, strife, and evil. This is one of the greatest sources of evil and chaos in all times, former and present.” (Taymiyyah 1440)
                                 The passage above is quoted from the famous work, ‘Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong’, of the  great Muslim thinker,  Ibn  Taymiyyah  – who  unwittingly became the single most quoted  source lending authority and legitimacy to many of the most famous fundamentalist movements of pre-modern (Wahabbism, Salafism) and modern (Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas) times.   Moreover, this specific excerpt succinctly highlights the timeless evil that can occur, according to Ibn Taymiyyah, as a result of the inability of different peoples to act as the guardians of each others’ actions as prescribed in the scriptures and seen at the time of the Salaf. And it is in an effort to avoid such a fate that many of these popular fundamentalist movements have used the tool of Jihad to forcefully enjoin the good and forbid evil within and without Islam.

                  This paper will attempt to, first of all, outline the Quranic ayahs, in conjunction with supporting hadith, that support and encourage Muslims to enjoin right and forbid wrong.  Moreover, we will further analyze how different scholars (including Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Abd al Wahhab, Syed Qutb and Mawdudi) have incorporated this duty in their doctrine of jihad. It is important to note at this point that such a discussion would be incomplete unless the views of each on justice and Islamic state  are  taken into account. Furthermore,  the positions taken up by ‘apologists’ and ‘moderates’ will then be juxtaposed against the views of these scholars in attempt to find a middle ground or a conclusive winner.

                              In the Quran, the call for enjoining good and forbidding evil  is clearly addressed to Muslims as  follows: “Let there arise out of you a band of people (wa-l-takun minkum ummatun) inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong  (wa-ya’muruna bi’l-marufi wa-yanhawna ‘ani ‘l-munkar); They are the ones to attain felicity” (3:104). In fact this message is repeated in another seven verses of the Quran including “Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors” (3:110) and “The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise” (9:71) along with Q3:114, Q7:157, Q9:112, Q22:41 and Q31:17.

                      Now that we know that enjoining good and forbidding wrong is strongly rooted in Quranic diction, it is important to understand what this duty pertains to; what is good? And what is evil? There is no clear cut demarcation of activities that could or would constitute the performance of this duty. Similarly, right and wrong remain just as vague. However, certain educated guesses can be made by looking at related verses. For instance, Cook says that based on related verses the term ma’ruf  (right) occurs as an ethical term which then allows us to view it vis-à-vis established standards of behavior. Moreover, themes appearing in relation with commanding right include, but are not limited to: believing in God, paying alms, reciting His signs etc.(Cook, 2000)  Moving on to forbidding wrong, verses Q5:79 and Q7:163-6 gives an idea of forbidding wrong being something that ‘individual believers do to each other (Ibid 14) yet there is relatively little information to be gleaned here as well. 

                        As for who is supposed to perform this duty, different verses present different actors. For instance, Q3:104 talks of the ‘collectivity of believers’ i.e. the Muslim Ummah commanding right and forbidding wrong. Verses Q3:110, Q3:114 and Q9:71 also have a similar explanation. On the other hand, a couple of verses (Q9:112 and Q22:41) put forward the concept of believers, who are specifically engaged in holy war, performing this duty. However, in two verses (Q7:157 and Q31:17) this duty seems to be an individual one. Furthermore, we are generally unguided regarding the addressee at whom this duty is being targeted. Indeed, only one verse (Q7:157) touches upon this issue telling the prophet to command and forbid his followers.

                In case of the tradition, the hadith, “Whosoever of you sees a Munkar (an evil or wrong) let him change it with his hand, if he could not, then let him change it with his tongue, if he could not, then let him change it with his heart, and this is the weakest of Iman (faith)” (Sahih and has been used by different scholars as the foundation for their set of guidelines for forbidding wrong. Another famous, oft-quoted tradition is that of Abu Bakr recorded by Ibn Maja, Ahmad, Tirmizi, and others; authenticated by Al-Albani: “Oh people, you are reading this verse and misinterpreting it {“O you who believe! Take care of your own souls; no hurt can come to you from those who go astray if you are guided”} and I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say “if the people see the wrong and they do not change it, Allah will cover them with a punishment from him”. 

                      Hence, we know that the Quran and hadith  speak clearly of  the duty of enjoining right and forbidding wrong. However, it is important to note that the right and wrong remain obscured. We try to clue in on their meanings by referring to related verses of the Quran to find that ‘right’ is an ethical term and that the act of forbidding evil is one that is ‘performed by members of a community towards each other. (Ibid 16)
                         Moving onto the discussion of the doctrines of various scholars, Ibn Taymiyyah was an embattled scholar in the true sense of the word. Indeed, in his treatise Al Siyasa Al Shariyya he described jihad as the summation of all virtues and religious duties.  Moreover, he considered the duty of forbidding wrong closely linked with jihad. According to Ibn Taymiyyah it was a collective duty but at the same time every person on the face of this Earth was liable to fulfill it, such was the scope of this duty. 

                Firstly, Ibn Taymiyyah considered that in order to perform this duty the knowledge of good and bad was of utmost importance, To this end, he defined  the good (ma'ruf) to ‘include everything both internal and external which has been enjoined by Allah and His Prophet… Enjoining people to be close together and cooperative, and forbidding them differing and dividing themselves is also a part of enjoining what is right.’(Taymiyyah 1440) Similarly, the bad (munkar) is defined as that ‘which Allah and His prophet have forbidden, its ultimate and worst form is the association of partners with Allah’(Ibid).  However, in implementing this duty Ibn Taymiyyah held that the benefits must outweigh the costs of such an action with emphasis on civility (rifq). This cost-benefit analysis would, according to Michael Cook, preclude any attempts to enact this duty through revolt. This utilitarian outlook seems to completely do away with moral absolutes allowing fundamentalists to later on use this to their benefit.

               Continuing in this vein, Ibn Taymiyyah felt the need to conduct jihad not against external actors (Dar al Harb) but inwards, against the infidels and heretics populating the Sunni world (Dar al Islam), in order to forbid the wrong which seemed to be rampant in the Dar al Islam at the time.  Indeed, he considered the jihad against ‘the unbelievers and those who refuse to abide by certain prescription of Shariah, like those who refuse to pay zakaah…’(Taymiyyah 2001) to be the most serious kind of jihad. Moreover, he also identified two groups in need of guidance: firstly, the group of people who did nothing and as aconsequence fell short in doing their duty; secondly, those who overdid their duty and went too far; for example, the Kharijites. 

   Moreover, the obligation to forbid bad also falls upon those who have power (qudra).  These were found to be elders, scholars along with the political and military figures.  The compulsory performance of the duty by these actors was linked with the theory that success would be assured if the Actors had the power to execute their actions.  Here, once again the role of the government is highlighted as being the provider of trust and justice. In a sense, at this point Ibn Taymiyya provides his own version of ‘an Islamic polity constructed not so much on Islamic government’(Boner 2006) but more an Islamic identity based on outwardly communal practice and rituals rather than politics.

                  Moving onto another Hanbali, Ibn Abd Al Wahab, we enter into the period of Najdi history that predates Wahhabism.  Ibn Abd al Wahab considered the Muslims of his time to have fallen into ‘shirk’ with practices that reeked of polytheism.  Hence, for him they were the perfect targets of a holy war in order to enjoin good and forbid evil. 

                      Another party without whom maybe today we would not know what Wahabbism stood for was the Al Saud family lead by Muhammad ibn Saud played a crucial role in cementing Wahhabbism in place along with the major religious revivalist movements of the eighteenth century.  As far as Ibn Abd al Wahab and Wahabbism are concerned, it is important to make a distinction between the two and carefully navigate through the multitude of diametrically opposed literature in order to understand the two.  According to De Long-Bas, an apologist of Wahabbism, the extremist tendencies attributed to Ibn Abd al-Wahhab were not so much his own as they were the legacy of the great Hanbali jurist, Ibn Taymiyyah(De Long-Bas 2004).
                       On the other hand, Dallal (a critic of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab) speaks of Ibn Abd al-Wahab’s worldview being based on three concepts: tawhid, Shirk, Kufr. Firstly, tawhid, as defined by Abd al-Wahab, is of two types: tawhid rububi (professing the lordly unity) and tawhid uluhi (professing the Godly unity)(Dallal 1993). Of these two, the former was believed to be professed by most people whereas the latter, entailing ‘bearing witness to God and that Muhammad is His messenger, ridding oneself of shirk  and abandoning the worship of anything but God’(Ibid 351), was professed exclusively by Muslims.  For the fulfillment of belief in tawhid, recognition of shirk was required; this shirk included, but was not limited to, any and all acts of association including supplicating pious people, learning magic and astrology, harboring innovators as well as becoming friends with unbelievers. He blamed taqlid for a major part of the kufr that was present then. The last concept of Ibn Abd al Wahab’s was that of kufr, unbelief, which he represented as, for example, the state of someone who would, having known  both, choose the Ash’ari school over that of the school of the first generation. 

                         Consequently, on the basis of these concepts Ibn Ad al-Wahab would classify Muslims into believers and non-believers and then proceed to perform his duty of forbidding evil to these people and do justice to these people. Here, Ibn Abd al-Wahab displays a similarity to Ibn Taymiyyah in terms of the fact that both of them carried out internal jihad against apostates. Moreover, another similarity was the focus both had on the performance of external rituals as testament to a Muslim’s belief. Hence, the emphasis placed on Abu Bakr’s wars of apostasy/zakaat  in order to legitimize his fight against the ‘hidden unbelievers’. A point of departure for both is the role of the government. For Ibn Taymiyyah it was essential to have the governemet act out the duty as it had the qudra to successfully execute the duty. However, Ibn Abd al-Wahab observed a complete separation from political power in his doctrine; he just wanted the moral reconstruction of society and it was only for this reason that he even allied himself with the Saud family. Needless to say that Ibn Abd al-Wahhab also ended up successfully executing the duty thanks to the political clout of the Saud family. 

                   Moreover, Ibn Abd al-Wahab favored a literal interpretation of the Quran which restricted the corpus of Quranic teachings to only the unambiguous verses without allowing for the facility of ijtihad, tehreby undermining the authority of the ulema. This literalist interpretation also favored a more violent jihad (as would be apparent if we were to look at the verses of the sword without the historical context). 

Michael Cook provides an alternate reading which separates the man from the movement and puts forward interesting suggestions to the effect that  the duty of enjoining the right was never a significant part of  Ibn Abd al-Wahab’s agenda, restricted to just forbidding ‘innovations tending to polytheism (Cook 2000). The movement is identified as being an intolerant and belligerent exclusivist actor such that it was not spread as one of the schools within Islam. Instead it presented itself as the orthodox Islam.

The doctrine of Ibn Abd al-Wahab is also similar to a twentieth century scholar whose work was later adopted by many militant  Islamist movements and his text ‘Milestones’ influenced  the eventual assassins of President Sadat of Egypt; the scholar is Sayyid Qutb. Not only is Sayyid not a Hanbali scholar, he also does not espouse any of the teachings of Wahabbism; this similarity is purely on the basis of the following two issues: firstly, the emphasis both place on going back and indulge in direct interpretation of the Quran and the hadith; secondly, both share a streak of radical reading of Islam put forward by Ibn Taymiyyah. 

However, before going onto discuss Sayyid Qutb, it is important to include another actor in this dialogue: Abu’l-Ala al-Mawdudi, the founder of the Jama’a-i-Islami. Mawdudi greatly influenced the work of Sayyid Qutb; and by virtue of this fact, any discussion on Sayyid Qutb’s doctrine would beincomplete without ample elucidation of Mawdudi’s set of guidelines. Firstly, the principle of hakimiyya is espoused by both Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb with a slight difference in emphasis. Mawdudi starts with premise that God is the ‘ultimate and absolute sovereign of all creation (Blinder 1988). By virtue of this fact, He has the authority to ‘command absolute and unquestionable obedience (Ibid 175) of all creation; and the source of this authority is the fact that God created everything in the world. 

                           Sayyid Qutb’s emphasis here was not on the unity of all creation. Rather, he looked at the concept of human freedom within this context of sovereignty of God over all creation. In doing so, Sayyid Qutb came to the conclusion that the sovereignty of God was so all-encompassing that it precluded any sort of human sovereignty. Hence, Muslims are likewise slave of Allah; so, the concept of sovereignty of a Muslim over anther does not make sense. Hence, the spiritual conversion of an individual is prior to and precedes the Islamic state in importance; this spells out the anarchy of believers in the sense that the true believers cannot be ruled by other humans with their worldly laws.

           The term ‘Jahilliya’ (ignorance) refers to the conditions of the Arabs before the advent of Islam. Mawdudi took a more inclusive view of this term tending to include within its scope any and all things that are un-Islamic, whether of the pre-Islam era or current times, which are then subject to severe condemnation. In current times, two such expressions of un-Islamic things exist - and were criticized by both Qutb and Mawdudi - namely: western-influenced Muslim states which are not governed according to the rules of Shariah along with the influence of Western culture. However, Mawdudi focused more on the ignorance aspect i.e. that most of the currently available knowledge can explain everything is just plain ignorance. However, Sayyid Qutb   contrasted abstract theory with practical experience to come to the conclusion that abstract systems derived just from worldly praxis are jahili. In this way he condemnsall sorts of philosophy and the jahilliya posing as Islam. Furthermore, Sayyid Qutb also advocates fighting against these pretenders.

Jihad is the third idea which Maududi and Sayyid Qutb share in their respective ideologies. As Concerns jihad, Mawdudi considered it necessary only as a tool for gaining freedom of religious speech. However, for Sayyid Qutb jihad provided a natural way to respond to and free  the Muslims from the clutches of jahilliya societies and cultures. He called for a forbidding of the wrong, through jihad, which includes non-Muslims along with Muslims: ‘In the verse giving permission to fight, God has informed the believers that the life of this world is such that checking one group of people by another is the law of God, so that the earth may be cleansed of corruption’.(Qutb) Over here he made the distinction that jihad is only for religion never for anything else. Hence, such a use of jihad is an instance of politics in service of religion and its conclusion is the establishment of an Islamic system that would be beneficial for all people, both Muslims and non-Muslims.  The Islamic state, according to Mawdudi, would be a modernization of the classical doctrine of the caliphate (Nasr 1996) as, among other things, it would have a democratically elected leader. (Nasr 1996)

                                Regarding Islamic revolution, Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb along with  many of the Muslim theorists agree to a revolution that starts off with quiet, secret conversions, akin to the Prophet’s time in Mecca, only to keep on growing in strength of numbers until one day it is able to assert itself politically (and if need be militarily) against the status quo. Sayyid Qutb emphasizes highly on the role of the individual in such a group. 

             Now that we have covered the major pre-modern and modern Islamists, this paper will highlight what the ‘moderates’ or ‘apologists’ have to say about religious liberty, justice and the Islamic state starting with Khaled Abou El Fadl as well as other contributors to ‘The Place of Tolerance in Islam’ and moving onto Abdulaziz Sachedina and contributors to Mehran Kamrava’s  ‘the New Voices of  Islam’. El Fadl calls out the Muslim puritans as being ‘fundamentally at odds not only with a Western way of life but also with the very idea of an international society or the notion of universal human values’(El Fadi 2000) and goes on to show that they are only a minority in Islam.   

Furthermore, he argues that Puritans base their views on readings of the verses of the Quran in isolation without taking into account the moral and historical context of the verses.  However, it seems that El Fadl falls into his own trap when he argues for an Islam that allows for there to be without any reservations multiple truths  existing at the same time ignoring several ayahs, mentioned in the beginning of this paper, which talk of forbidding wrong (that which is forbidden by God) in the context of people within a single community. Instead he prefers to talk only of ma’ruf, justice and moral agency. Even so, El Fadl does point, correctly, to their being no compulsion in religion. He talks of jihad only as striving hard or struggling for a just cause and even when struggling for the just cause, Muslims must not transgress the requirement of proportionality. 

Sohail Hashmi argues against El Fadl’s proposition that Muslim Puritans have misappropriated Quranic resources. He highlights the more prevalent intolerance and exclusivity that is present in Islamic intellectual history and continues even now. However, such a gloomy view of things is a bit uncalled for;
Since, in the past many pre-modern Islamic empires  have presented exemplary elasticity in the formation of Shariah and interpretation of the scriptures.

                                 Some scholars, like Tariq Ali stipulate that actions of peoples and societies including the Islamists are motivated by political reasons. Hence, there is no point in arguing on the theological stances of the different actors in the arena as the solution necessary has to be political. Even radicalstrands of Islamic society have their foundations in the political motivations of Western powers such as the birth of the Taliban during the Cold War.  El Fadl counters Tariq Ali’s argument, by saying that theological debate is important as it denies the Islamic banner to such fundamentalist Islamist groups.

                           Abid Ullah Jan talks of an organized attempt to destroy the Muslims by the West. In  such readings of current affairs,  authors more  often  than not  indulge in the victim’s syndrome which definitely hurts the credibility of their argument.  Moving on to Abulaziz Sachedina, we find that common morality is not in  conflict with the concept of morality in Islam. Indeed if different cultures seek the universal ideal out of the multiplicity of the human experience, a common groundwork can be laid for ‘an ethical language that can be shared cross-culturally in the project of creating a just society’(Sachedina 2001). However, as far as the question of religion becoming a ‘source of democratic pluralism’ the situation is not bright at all  for Islam keeping in mind the antagonistic relations maintained by different agents, within the religion, with each other.

Next we will look at the points of view contributors to Mehran Kamrava’s reader starting with Mohamed Talbi.  In  his  article  ‘Religious Liberty: A Muslim Perspective’, Talbi  first defines religious freedom as being not only the freedom to reject a religion but also the right to espouse one. Moreover, he also cites verses of Quran including 2:256 to provide proof for this freedom of religion in Islam.  This right is preserved unless in order to exercise it one infringes upon the rights of others.  Preaching of one’s religion to others also has same caveat attached plus one must be ready to be preached to by others as well. 

                               Furthermore, Talibi incorporates jihad in this point of view by describing its purpose as having been ‘to pave the way for Islam, in practice Islam almost never imposed by compulsion’(Kamrava 2006).  Moreover as for the issue of apostates, Talibi brings forth multiple ayahs (3:85, 5:57, 47:38, 47:32) that all give the same message: there is no earthly punishment for apostasy and it is to be left to Allah’s judgment. There is only one case where Muslims can take up arms: when their faith  is in jeopardy and they are being attacked (2:216, 2:217, 2:194). 

Similarly, Mohsen Kadivar (Freedom of Religion and Belief in Islam) reiterates the provision in Islam of freedom of religion along with restating the fact that there is no earthly punishment for apostasy i.e. persecutions of non-Muslims not allowed in Islam. Besides, Kadivar mentions that ‘dialogue between civilizations and cultures not possible without freedom of religion and thought’ (Kamrava 2006). Hence, Islam as religion is capable of entering into intelligent dialogue with the West. 

Moreover, Kadivar highlights the points of disagreement regarding the treatment dealt to apostates, People of the book and infidels  going on to emphasize the undesirability of such alternates on the rational basis of intellectual and religious freedom. Once again, jihad  is defined as a primarily defensive act which is supposed to protect the right of people to choose their religion freely. Rather than presenting a choice between Islam and the sword.

                     Chandra Muzaffar (Islam, Justice and Politics) has focused on the importance of justice in Islam quoting 3:135 which states that justice transcends one’s bond ton oneself. Moreover, in order to be just, we need the knowledge of right and wrong which can be acquired through the study of the Quran. This study should be done personally (96:1-5) and not via someone else. This will help decrease the  lack of knowledge that currently infects the majority of Muslims. Moreover, Muzaffar speaks of the role of government in spreading Islamic education that is focused on compassion and justice. This is reminiscent of Ibn Taymiyyah’s insistence on the government acting to enjoin good and forbid wrong.

                     Having looked at the discourse of the ‘moderates’/’apologists’, we now come to the end of this discussion. In conclusion, one thing can definitely be said which is that  both the discourses of the apologists and the Islamists are set in the traditional Islamic sources and as such they have the same foundations. However, the, at times diametrically, opposed nature of two can be explained by the fact that one is conditioned by the other i.e. they react to each other and use language as well as rhetoric to sway people to their side. But one difference does exist between the two: the apologists do not wish to establish an Islamic state and they do not have a textual approach to the scriptures, which is commonly espoused by Islamists. 

As for the middle ground, no such solution is probable until and unless they start talking to each other rather than against each other, since right now both have their shortcomings either in reasoning of the scriptures or methodology of study.

Works Cited
Binder, L. (1988). Islamic Liberalism: A Critique of Development Ideologies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bonner, M. (2006). Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Cook, M. (2000). Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dallal, H. (1993). Origins and Objectives of Islamic Revivalist Thought. Journal of American Oriental Society , 113 (3), 349-352.
De Long-Bas, N. (2004). Wahhabi Islam. New York: Oxford University Press.
El Fadl, K. A. (2002). The Place of Tolerance in Islam. (K. A. El Fadl, Ed.) Boston: Beacon Press.
Kamrava, M. (Ed.). (2006). The New Voices of Islam: rethinking politica and modernity: a reader. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Kurzman, C. (1998). Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook. New York: Oxford University Press.
Nasr, S. V. (1996). Maududi and the Making of the Islamic Revivalism. New York: Oxford University Press.
Qutb, S. (n.d.). Milestones. Kazi Publications.
Sachedina, A. (2001). The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism. New York: Oxford University Press.
Taymiyyah, I. (1440). Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong. Al-Madrasah Al-Jauzia: Mawhoob ibn
Ahmad ibn Hilal As-Saalihiy Al-Hanbaliy. <http://www.java-man.com/pages/books/alhisba.html>
Taymiyyah, I. (2001). The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihad. Birmingham: Maktabah Al Ansaar Publications.

Written By: Neelam Sohail (LUMS)

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