Selfishness and man’s being busy with himself without caring for others, as long as he is at ease and not needy is one of the serious problems that civilization has created in societies. This is more dangerous than any disease.
When people are selfish, the society is afflicted with paralysis and the welfare of the nation is suspended. Its fate is played with so that there is no one who can offer anything for reprieve. Then, the values of magnanimity, heroism, sacrifice for others, altruism and the fight against injustice and corruption die. In such a case, religion and conscience shall wither away and become weak.
The Prophet (S) said:
Either you enjoin the good and forbid the wrong or Allah will set against you the worst of you. Then the best of you shall pray to Allah and it shall not be responded to.
“The enjoining of good and the forbidding of the wrong” is such a necessary matter in the life of a nation that some of the imams have considered it as one the pillars of Islam. Therefore, you see that the first motto that the modern Islamic movements adopt is “the enjoining of the good and forbidding of the wrong”. However, civilized societies today object seriously to this matter through the institutions created recently in the democratic societies such as the Assembly of the Human rights, the Assembly of Women’s rights and even the Rights of animals.
If a government is not responsible for the “enjoining of the good and forbidding of the wrong”, it will be impossible for a group or individuals to undertake it by themselves. Today, you see wrong and corruption everywhere and you cannot change anything. It is very easy for any girl to bring a suit against you, and in the best condition it shall be said to you - do not interfere in what does not concern you! If you say that you just enjoin the good and forbid the wrong, the answer shall be - ‘and who are you? And by which right you permit yourself to do so? And who has given you this authority?’
I myself have tried these experiments, as have many other Muslims. We got bitterness of weakness and failure out of those experiments. I remained confused between beliefs that forced me to carry out this duty and threatened me if I did not. The reality that we live in prevented me from this right, and threatened me if I tried to do it again.
I remember that once a governor said to me, “Are you the Messenger of Allah that Allah has sent with a new religion to reform people?” I said, “Certainly not.” He said, “Then be satisfied with yourself and family and keep us away from your evil. It is we who are responsible for the safety and peace of people. If we leave the matter for every nosy one to enjoin and forbid, there shall be anarchy.”1
I knew my worth and stopped at the boundaries! I was afraid, and my soul incited me to venture forth at one time and to retire at another. I remained so for some years until a tradition of the Messenger of Allah (S) attracted my attention. In this tradition, the Prophet (S) said:
Whosoever of you sees an evil let him change (reform) it with his hand, and if he cannot do so - let him do it with his tongue, and if he cannot do so then let him do with his heart, and this is the weakest of faith.2
The Prophet (S) said:
No prophet that Allah has sent for his nation before me, except that he had from his community disciples and companions who followed his Sunna and obeyed his commands. Then after them their came successors who say what they did not do what they were not to do. Whoever resists them with his hand is faithful, whoever resists them with his tongue is faithful, and whoever resists them with his heart is faithful, and anything else than that is not from faith inasmuch as a grain of mustard.3
I praised Allah the Almighty that He has not imposed on us that which we have no capacity to bear. Thus, the Prophet’s traditions explained the Book of Allah, and because Allah knows all things in the past, present, and future, so He knew that a time would come to people where a Muslim would be unable to reject the evil. Therefore, He made it easy for Muslims and imposed on them only what they could bear. Therefore, the saying of the Prophet (S), “Whoever of you sees an evil let him change (reform) it with his hand, and if he cannot do so, let him do with his tongue…” is a proof on the changing of the Muslim society from a state of powerfulness into the state of weakness. Besides that, it is a proof that the legal obligation changes from a state into another.
So the duty of one, who is powerful, is to reform the evil by power which is represented by the “hand” in the tradition, and the one, who is powerless, has to reform the evil through speech and breaches which are represented by the “tongue”. And the one, who is certain that his speech shall cause him harm and trouble, has to deny the evil in his heart without announcing his opinion openly and this shall be his legal duty.
Glory be to Allah Who does not impose on a soul except what it can bear, and blessings and peace be on the Prophet (S) of mercy who was more merciful to the believers than they themselves were and on his generous, immaculate progeny.4