"Amr bil Ma'ruf wa Nahy an al Munkar" (امر بالمعروف و نهى عن المنكر)

"Establish worship and enjoin kindness and forbid iniquity, and persevere whatever may befall thee. Lo! that is of the steadfast heart of things." 31:17 (Glorious Quran)

The expression 'amr bi al-ma'ruf wa-nahy an al-munkar' is a very significant one. It is related to Jihad, that is, doing one's utmost to realize a goal. Jihad is not necessarily war fought on the battlefield for which the specific Arabic and Quranic term is 'qital.' Jihad has a very wide connotation and refers to striving for the cause of Allah Almighty to promote goodness and eradicate evil. A mujahid is a person who carries out Jihad or works hard for the cause of promoting the principles of the Glorious Quran.

Thus, Amr bil ma‘ruf wa nahy an al-munkar which means enjoining good and forbidding evil, is a Jihad related principle. It seeks to intellectually convey the benefits of Islam to the people and to inform them of the importance of abandoning evil practices. The Quran calls Muslims the model community which requires to convey the Prophet’s message to entire humanity and to live the Quran, just as the Prophet did.

"Amr bil Ma'ruf wa Nahy an al Munkar" is an essential Islamic duty, collectively accepted by all Muslims. The difference is in the interpretation of it. Some consider that it is sufficient to fulfil the duty by the "heart and tongue," which means one should support al-ma'ruf and oppose al-munkar in his heart and use his tongue to speak out for al-ma'ruf and against al-munkar. But there are some who justify taking up arms (if necessary) for the sake of fulfilling this duty.

As per the wishes of the Ummayad rulers, most Hadith narrators (who lived during their era) constructed Ahadith to suit their political interests. They considered it sufficient to fulfil the duty of al-Amr wa al-nahy by the heart and tongue. The Ummayads had a deeply autocratic trend and were not enthusiastic about peoples' opinion. Because of their many political blunders, the they were in need of the theory of Predestination, that man is not responsible for his actions because all human actions proceed from God. But as per the contents of the Noble Quran confirmed by Allah Almighty, the Ummayad view of predestination is not quite correct. Though Allah is All-Powerful and All-Knowing and can do anything at anytime, He has generally chosen to pre-ordain human fate in accordance with human action. Allah Almighty has plainly stated in the Noble Quran that He has given humankind a conscience and it's upto them whether they make it grow or leave it stunted. Allah has also said in the Quran that He does not change the condition of people until they first change that which is in their hearts.

"And the heaven and Him Who built it,
And the earth and Him Who spread it,
And a soul and Him Who perfected it
And inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it.
He is indeed successful who causeth it to grow,
And he is indeed a failure who stunteth it." (91:5-10) Glorious Quran

"Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts;" (13:11) Glorious Quran

There are many more similar verses that express the concept of human ability to initiate actions and thus reap its rewards or consequences.

The Islamic school of Mu'tazilah that originated in Basra and Baghdad between the 8th and 10th centuries bitterly opposed the Ummayad approach encouraging docility among the people. The Mu'tazilah school accepted the conditions for al-'amr wa-nahy by not limiting it to the heart and tongue. They maintained that if unlawful practices become widespread or if the state is oppressive and unjust, it is obligatory for Muslims to rise in armed revolt to confront corruption. I would think, this view is a lot more compatible with the Noble Quran than the theory of the Ummayad rulers. The Prophet (SAAW) and his early companions strongly upheld the doctrine of Sovereignty of Allah and the freedom of human will, that humankind would be judged by their actions. The early Islamic Empire was built precisely on this principle.

It's clear to perceive the difference of interpretation of Amr bil-ma'ruf wa-nahy 'an al-munkar between the Mu'tazilah and the ahl-Hadith. The Hadith ideology has a much more complacent approach toward governmental corruption in favor of which many Hadiths had been scribbled condemning peoples' revolt as Haram for the purpose of appeasing the rulers. The repercussions of this mentality can be found uptil the present in many Muslim countries, mostly in the predominantly Sunni circles.


  1. What is exactly the meaning of "amr bil ma'roof" and particularly the word "amr." Similarly what is the meaning of "nahee 'anil munkar" and particularly the word 'nahee?'

  2. wa amur bil-maʿrūfi = and enjoin the right.
    (amr = enjoin).

    wa-in'haʿani l-munkari = and forbid from the wrong.
    (wa-in'ha = and forbid).


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