By Mohammad Omar Farooq
As the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was the last prophet, the prophetic heritage of da'wah, sanctification and education, and community-building must be carried on by his Ummah.
This is a special Ummah, not based on any race, language, geographical nationality, color, gender, or any other artificial classification. It has been evolved by Allah for humankind for the express purpose of: enjoining good and forbidding evil (Amr bil Ma'roof and Nahi anil Munkar) witnessing over humankind; and invitation to all that is good (Khair).
This is the reason of the existence of this Ummah. All other aspects of being a Muslim are subservient to this role to carry on the prophetic heritage.
You are the best of peoples, evolved for humankind, enjoining what is Ma'roof and forbidding what is Munkar and believing in Allah
[surah ali-Imran; 3: 110]
Thus, have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the humankind and the Messenger a witness over yourselves
[al-Baqarah; 2: 143]
Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining the Ma'roof and forbidding the Munkar: They are the ones to attain felicity.
[ali-Imran; 3: 104]
The sublimity of the Ummah is based upon its reason for existence -- evolved for humankind -- enjoining what is ma'roof and forbidding what is munkar. Both ma'roof and munkar have a broad range of meaning and a clear understanding of these two concepts is critical to a Muslim's life.
means well known; universally accepted; generally recognized; that which is good, beneficial, right. Munkar
means wrong; abominable; disagreeable; denied, not recognized, rejected; evil; atrocity.
Islamic shariah represents the ma'roof and munkar, because it incorporates what is universally recognized as good and right and rejects what is universally recognized as evil and wrong. For example, no society considers stealing or lying to be good and right, even though people may practice those acts. Every society considers honesty to be a virtue, even though some people are dishonest. Calling mankind to ma'roof and away from munkar thus represents the universal nature of Islam.
Muslim Ummah does not exist for its own sake. It has a definite mission, a divinely ordained service to render to humankind. "The logical conclusion to the evolution of religious history is a non-sectarian, non-racial, non-doctrinal, universal religion which Islam claims to be. For Islam is just submission to the will of God.
This implies (1) faith, (2) doing right, being an example to others to do right, and having the power to see that right prevails, (3) eschewing wrong, being an example to others to eschew wrong, and having the power to see that wrong and injustice are defeated. Islam (the author probably meant Muslim Ummah) therefore lives, not for itself, but for mankind."
[Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation, and Commentary; explanatory note #434.]
Living for humankind implies a noble responsibility on the shoulder of the Muslim Ummah. The Ummah must be imbued with the spirit of being 'evolved for humankind.' Its goal and aspiration, dream and vision, commitment and endeavor, and attitude and conduct must be molded with a genuine touch of love and compassion for humankind and a deep, sublime sense of duty, the former emanating from the essence of rahmah (compassion) of its Creator and the latter from its Iman (faith) and its submission to God.
Also it is a fundamental requirement of believers to act on what they preach. Vested with the mission of ensuring that justice prevails, the Ummah cannot be either unjust or indifferent to injustice, within or outside its fold. The Ummah cannot be low in virtue, while preach others about the nobility of virtue. It cannot teach morality, if the Ummah itself is submerged in corruption and vice.
The Ummah will not be fit to show others how to fear only God, while itself is frightened by everyone who appears powerful in this world.
It cannot play a preventive role among others, if it is involved in the same kind of wrongdoings. This role model is primarily based on the preeminence, excellence, and superiority of the Ummah over others in terms of its faith, morality, virtue, and sacrifice, spirit of love and justice, and capable leadership.
Performance of this noble role also requires power and authority attained legitimately (that is, without coercion or deception) and exercised faithfully and accountably, according to Islam. Doing Amr bil ma'roof and Nahy anil munkar
is not preaching or da'wah only. It requires full support of legitimate authority of 'Islamic state'; our beloved Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) could not escape this fact either. He had to secure an arrangement whereby an Islamic state could be established in Madinah. Only then the Ummah could effectively assume the role of khair-e-ummah for humankind. Indeed, the verse 110 of Ali Imran was not revealed until such a state came into existence.
If understanding of ma'roof and munkar is important, so is the understanding of amr and nahy. Amr
means order, instruction, or command; not just preaching, admonishing, or advising. Similarly, nahy
means forbidding, prohibiting, or proscribing. Both of these two terms imply an 'authority' behind them. An individual or a group can only preach, call, or admonish. Without the relevant authority and power, it cannot command, instruct, or order; nor can it prohibit, forbid, or proscribe.
Also noticeable is that all the verses about amr-bil-ma'roof and nahy-anil-munkar in the Qur'an were revealed after the establishment of the Islamic State in Madinah. Every Muslim must participate in the fulfillment of this collective duty of the Ummah. But to do so, internally within the Muslim Ummah and externally for mankind as a whole, necessitates, based on Islamic Shariah and under the institutional framework of Islamic State, legitimate political and moral authority to provide necessary means and support for this noble duty.