Before the Boat Drowns

Ashaab As-Sabt - the people of Saturday. They were a townsfolk from Bani Israel who were tested with the Sabbath, the day when they were to leave their worldly affairs and be devout to Allah. All week long they would go fishing with scant return. But on Saturdays, when they were required to put aside their activities, the fish would come in abundance. A test from Allah!
"Ask them (O Muhammad) concerning the town standing close by the sea. Behold! they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday). For on the day of their Sabbath their fish did come to them, openly holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they came not: thus did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression." (Surah Al A'raf 7:163)
A group of the townsfolk transgressed, not satisfied with Allah’s commandments devising a scheme to by-pass the commandment. They would put out their fishing nets on Friday, and then on Sunday they would come and pick the nets up. Now all the Saturday fish would be caught.

The townsfolk divided into 2 groups when they saw the grave evil and sin that was befalling. The first group tried to advise the transgressors and warn them of the horrific consequences of their action – commanding the good and forbidding the evil.

Thinking they had no responsibility for what was taking place, the other group just went about minding their own business, holding that Allah would eventually destroy the sinners.

And when a community among them said, "Why do you preach to a people whom Allah is about to destroy or to punish with a severe torment?"

Listen carefully to the reply of the first group.
"When some of them said: "Why do ye preach to a people whom Allah will destroy or visit with a terrible punishment?"- said the preachers: "To discharge our duty to your Lord, and perchance they may fear Him."" (Surah Al A'raf 7:164)
So the first group spoke out against the disobedience that was taking place for two reasons: One, so that they would be pardoned before Allah because they tried to hold back the transgressors. And two, so that perhaps the transgressors may hear the reminder and turn back to Allah. It was only this group that survived.
"When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: "Be ye apes, despised and rejected."" (Surah Al A'raf 7:165-166)
In one sweeping night, the punishment rained down and they were transfigured into pigs and monkeys.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is the nature of a human being to feel the need to do good or feel the drive to indulge in evil. Even if we were to be alone, deserted and secluded, we would still feel a drive to do good or indulge in evil.

But as for our ummah, it should of our characteristic to only do good. And we should not only do good ourselves, but we must encourage others to do good; we must be the driving force. And we should not only distance ourselves from vice, but we must forbid others from doing it also, we must be the obstacle.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we all had Muslim identification badges, and the badge was valid, the description that would go on the badge would read: This man/woman commands the good and forbids evil, for this is how Allah described us.
"Ye (true believers in Islam) are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah..." (Surah Ali 'Imran 3:110)
Good and evil. When it comes to encouraging one or the other, there are two groups of people. The first are those who encourage others to do good and advise them to stop the evil they may be committing. These are the mu’minoon and mu’minaat, the believing men and women, the ones that shall be favored by Allah’s Mercy:
"The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just (al-ma'ruf), and forbid what is evil (al-munkar): they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Apostle. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise." (Surah Al Tawbah 9:71)
The second group of people are those who encourage others towards evil and stop them whenever they see them doing acts of virtue. These are the munaafiqoon and munaafiqaat, the hypocrite men and women who Allah shall shun.
"The Hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other : They enjoin evil (al-munkar), and forbid what is just (al-ma'ruf), and are close with their hands. They have forgotten Allah; so He hath forgotten them. Verily the Hypocrites are rebellious and perverse." (Surah Al Tawbah 9:67)
The Quran tells us that the winners, those that attain success, are those Muslim men and women who command the good and forbid the evil. And Allah teaches us that He cursed nations before us because they lost this characteristic of encouraging good and forbidding evil:
"Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses. Nor did they (usually) forbid one another the iniquities which they committed: evil indeed were the deeds which they did." (Surah Al Ma'idah 5:78-79)
When a nation fails in their duty to command the good and forbid the evil, their invocations will cease to be accepted. Rasul Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:

“(I swear) by He who holds my soul in His Hands, you shall indeed command the good, and you shall indeed forbid the evil, otherwise Allah shall rain down upon you a punishment. Then you shall attempt to invoke Him and your (invocations) shall be unanswered” (An authentic hadith narrated by Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi)

Our Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, lived his entire life commanding the good and forbidding evil. Abdullah ibn Salam narrates the scene of when he, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, first arrived in Madinah and the very first words he said to the Ansar and Muhaajireen as they gathered to see his noble face sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam:

“When Rasul Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam came to Madinah, the people raced to greet him. I went in the crowd to see him and when I saw his face I knew that that face was not the face of a liar. The first thing he said when he spoke was, ‘O people, spread salam, feed the hungry, and pray at night when others are sleeping - you’ll enter Jannah in peace’” (An authentic hadith narrated by Ibn Majah)

Our Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam would command the good and forbid the evil in all categories of the community. We see him with the young Muslims advising them, as in the following hadith where 'Umar bin Abu Salama said,

"I was a boy under the care of Allah's Apostle and my hand used to go around the dish while I was eating. So Allah's Apostle said to me, 'O boy! Mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish what is nearer to you." Since then I have applied those instructions when eating.'" (Sahih Muslim, Book #65, Hadith #288)

And our Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam would encourage good amongst the Muslim women.

As Zainab, the wife of 'Abdullah (b. Mas'ud) reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: "0 women, give sadaqa even though it be some of your jewellery." (Sahih Bukhari, Book #005, Hadith #2188)

Even if it came to his own wives, our Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam would forbid.

Aisha radi Allahu anha herself narrates that she once said to him, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, “Watch out for Safiyyah!” Meaning that she was short.
So Allah’s Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “You said a word that if it were to be mixed with (all) the water of the sea it would overcome (the water)”
Aisha said that after that that she would never have loved to mention someone (in a manner that they would dislike) no matter what anyone would give her.  (Narrated by Abu Dawood)

This is what the deen is all about – encouraging the good and forbidding the evil. This is what the early Muslims pledged allegiance to.

'Ubada bin as-samit radi Allahu anhu narrated: "Allah's Apostle said to us while we were in a gathering, "Give me the oath (Pledge of allegiance for): (1) Not to join anything in worship along with Allah, (2) Not to steal, (3) Not to commit illegal sexual intercourse, (4) Not to kill your children, (5) Not to accuse an innocent person (to spread such an accusation among people), (6) Not to be disobedient (when ordered) to do good deeds." The Prophet added: "Whoever amongst you fulfill his pledge, his reward will be with Allah, and whoever commits any of those sins and receives the legal punishment in this world for that sin, then that punishment will be an expiation for that sin, and whoever commits any of those sins and Allah does not expose him, then it is up to Allah if He wishes He will punish him or if He wishes, He will forgive him." So we gave the Pledge for that." (Sahih Bukhari, Book #89, Hadith #320)

The scholar Kirz Al-Haarithee rahimahullaah used to go out unto the doers of evil and warn them of the sin they were doing. They would rain down upon him with their fists until he would fall unconscious in a pool of blood, but he would never pass them without advising them. (From Siyar Al ‘Alaam by Imam Adh-Dhahabee).

I remember once when I was teaching in Islamic school a young boy came up and told me what he was going to get for his birthday. I was kind of surprised since birthdays are not something we find in our complete way of life in Islam and they are something we should not participate in. The classmates knew the ruling on birthdays so they started chanting loudly, “No more birthdays! No more birthdays!”

I was very pleased at the class reaction and it brought back memories of myself growing up in a non-Muslim school. In that non-Muslim school there was no one to forbid the evil. Rather, it was the evil that everyone, including the teacher, was encouraging. If you didn’t have a birthday you were the dork in the class, and if you didn’t get invited to this classmate’s party or that one, you weren’t one of the ‘cool’ kids.

May Allah ta’ala show His mercy to those parents who are saving their young Muslim children from such an environment.

Allah’s Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam gave us a parable that we should never forget in this issue of commanding the good and forbidding the evil. As An-Nu'man bin Bashir radi Allahu anhu narrates, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said:

"The example of the person abiding by Allah's order and restrictions in comparison to those who violate them is like the example of those persons who drew lots for their seats in a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part, and the others in the lower. When the latter needed water, they had to go up to bring water (and that troubled the others), so they said, 'Let us make a hole in our share of the ship (and get water) saving those who are above us from troubling them.' So, if the people in the upper part left the others do what they had suggested, all the people of the ship would be destroyed, but if they prevented them, both parties would be safe." (Sahih Bukhari, Book #44, Hadith #673)

When someone encourages good and forbids evil he should have certain characteristics:

1. Knowledge
2. Patience, as Luqman taught his son.
3. Hikmah – having widom
4. Kindness to those whom they are advising.
5. They should be just, not forgetting the good that; that person still has.
The point of commanding good and forbidding evil is not to release some anger in our hearts or to revenge an insult to us. In the end we want the person to receive guidance, something which may require us to swallow our personal pride sometimes. Other times – when the situation calls for it – we may have to hurt someone’s feelings if that is the only way they can be guided. But it is only the person of ‘ilm (knowledge) and hikmah (wisdom) who can properly measure the situation.

Hurting the feelings of the lay Muslim is not a first resort, nor is public humiliation of someone who came to the masjid for the first time. These are methods of those who have not schooled themselves well in the characteristics of those who call to Allah.

About those who encourage good and forbid evil. Allah says:
"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity." (Surah Ali 'Imran 3:104)
Let’s begin practicing the encouraging of good and the forbidding of evil today. Let’s begin with that Muslim in the mirror.
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