‘Bidding the Good and Forbidding the Evil’ (Amr Bil Ma‘Ruf Wa Nahi ‘Anil Munkar) By The Traditional Institution Of Religious Police Stands Un-Islamic Today
By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
September 18, 2013
This is complementary to Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi’s just posted article on the theme, though offering some fresh insights.
The Qur’an enjoins what it calls Ma’ruf – which it connotes with doing good to others and behaving in the most decent and reasonable manner in the community, forbids the Munkar: all acts, gesture, and behaviour that run counter to reason and contradict all norms of good behaviour (3:104, 3:110, 7:157, 9:112, 22:41, 31:17). For simplicity, we will be rendering these terms as the good (Ma’ruf) and the evil (Munkar).
At an early phase of the Medinite period, the Qur’an declares:
“Let there be a community among you who will invite (others) to all that is good, enjoin the good (Ma’ruf), and forbid the evil (Munkar), and it is they who shall succeed” (3:104).
“Thus We have made you a justly balanced community that you may be witnesses to humanity, and the Messenger, a witness to you …” (2:143),
Traditionally Muslim scholars interpret the verse 3:104 in conjunction with the opening statement of the verse 2:143 (above) to claim exclusivity of the Muslim community for all times. This conflicts with the pluralistic message of the Qur’an (49:13, 5:48), and its common criteria of divine justice (2:62, 4:124, 5:69, 22:17, 64:9, 65:11) which posit the Muslims at a par with the non-Muslims in the divine scheme. Notably, the verse 3:103 which immediately precedes 3:104 refers to the mutual hostility of pagan tribes in pre-Islamic Arabia [“Remember God’s favour to you as you were enemy to one another and God joined your hearts and you became friends”..]. Thus, read as a passage, the verses 3:103-104 were addressed to the immediate audience of the revelation and ‘the community among you’ mentioned in it refers to the Muslim community that was evolving under the leadership of the Prophet, and not to any ‘select group’ within the Muslim community. The Qur’an further declares: