Among the most important obligations upon a duty bound Muslim is the enjoining of good and forbidding of evil.
The Almighty Lord states,
"وَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَ الْمُؤْمِناتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِياءُ بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَر"
“And the believing men and the believing women, some of them are comrades of one another. They enjoin the good and they prohibit the evil.” (9: 71)
Enjoining good and forbidding evil is the path of the prophets of Allah. It is through this religious obligation that the rest of the obligations and commandments are carried out. It paves the way for legal earnings, and guarantees the safety, life, dignity and property of the general public. It restores the rights of those who are entitled to them, and purifies the earth from the filth of evil and sin, and revives it with goodness and righteousness.
The tradition of the sixth Imam is sufficient as a reminder, wherein he stated, “The Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s Blessings be upon him and his progeny) has stated, ‘What will be your state when your women become immoral and your youth are corrupted, while you will not have been enjoining good and forbidding evil?’ It was said to him, ‘O Prophet of Allah, will it be so?’ He said, ‘Yes, and even worse. What will be your state when you will enjoin evil and prohibit good?’ Again that companion said, ‘O Prophet of Allah, will it be so?’ He said, ‘Yes, and even worse. What will be your state when you perceive good as evil and evil as good?’ ”
1. The person enjoining good and forbidding evil should have knowledge of what is good and what is evil. Hence, one who is ignorant of what is good and evil, should not undertake the responsibility of enjoining others or forbidding them. In fact, the act of enjoining good and forbidding evil by an ignorant person is itself an evil that should be forbidden.
2. One should entertain the possibility that it will be effective. If however he knows that the person who is abstaining from what is right or committing what is wrong, will not pay heed to his advice, then it will not be obligatory upon him.
3. The person committing the sin or abstaining from goodness should not have ceased to abstain from goodness or committing of sin. However, if he has ceased, or there is a possibility that he may have ceased, it is not obligatory.
4. The person committing the sin or abstaining from goodness should not be excused in that case. An example of this is a person who does taqlÐd of a mujtahid who does not consider the act to be a sin or an obligation, even if it is a sin or an obligation according to the taqlÐd of the one who wishes to enjoin good or prohibit evil.
5. If he does not know whether the act of enjoining or prohibiting will be effective, then it should not jeopardize—owing to the act of enjoining or prohibiting—the life, honor, or wealth of a Muslim.
However, if he knows that it will be effective, he will have to consider which of the two is more important. In the event that the act of enjoining good or forbidding evil is canonically more important, owing to the importance of performing the virtuous act or the abstaining from the evil one, he will not be relieved of the obligation to enjoin good and prohibit evil.
"يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَ أَهْليكُمْ ناراً وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَ الْحِجارَة"
O those who believe! Save yourselves and your families from the fire of hell, whose fuel is people and stones. (al-TaÎrÐm: verse 6)
He should enjoin them towards the practices that he enjoins upon himself, and prohibit them from those which he prohibits upon himself.
In the practice of enjoining good and forbidding evil, one should first try to compel another to perform good or abstain from evil by displaying his esoteric detest for it, even if it is by breaking social ties with the person who abstains from what is good or commits what is evil, and through his speech by advising and counseling him, and informing him of the rewards of performing what is good and the divine punishment for committing evil.
However, if these two methods bear no results, and stopping the person is contingent on striking the person, then it should be in a manner that does not entail a diyah (blood money) or qiÒÁs (retribution), such as a case where it causes an injury. In the event that the injury is caused intentionally, the injured person may seek retribution, and if it is caused unintentionally, the injured person may claim the diyah.
Every sin is a major violation, because the greatness, majesty and grandeur of the Lord is not limited by any boundaries, and therefore disobeying the Exalted Lord is a major violation, given that sinning against the Exalted Lord is a grave act. It has been narrated, “Do not consider the sin that you have committed, rather consider the one whom you have disobeyed.”
However, when sins are compared to each other, some of them are graver than others and their punishment is more severe. The punishment or the fire of hell has been explicitly or implicity promised for some of these sins. These sins have also been termed as the major sins (kabÐrah) within the corpus of traditions from the Ahl al-Bayt (Peace be upon him). In addition, based on the following verse, abstaining from such sins is a cause for the forgiveness of other sins:
" إِنْ تَجْتَنِبُوا كَبائِرَ ما تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنْكُمْ سَيِّئاتِكُم"
If you refrain from the major sins that you have been prohibited from, we shall absolve you of your (minor) sins. (al-NisÁ’: verse 31)
Some of the jurisprudents (may the Lord raise their station) have enumerated them to seventy, and some of them have added a few more to this list. Below we will mention those which are more common:
1. Disbelieving in the Lord and ascribing partners to Him, the gravity of which cannot be compared to any of the major sins.
2. Losing hope and despairing from mercy of Allah.
3. To feel secure from the plans of the Lord.
4. To falsely swear by the name of the Lord.
5. Rejecting Divine revelation.
6. Declaring war against the friends of Allah.
7. Declaring war against the Lord and His messenger by banditry or making mischief in the land.
8. Giving judgment based on sources which are not Divinely revealed.
9. Ascribing a lie to Allah, His messenger and the messenger’s successors.
10. Obstructing people from remembering Allah in the mosques and working to destroy the mosques.
11. Obstructing the payment of the obligatory ZakÁt.
12. Fleeing from an obligatory jihad.
13. Fleeing from a war fought by the Muslims against the kÁfirs.
14. Leading people astray from the path of Allah.
15. Persisting in committing minor sins.
16. Intentionally abstaining from prayers and other divinely legislated obligations.
17. Showing off.
18. Engaging in vain practices, such as playing the tar (guitar like instrument).
19. Befriending an oppressor.
20. Helping an oppressor
21. Breaking a pledge or an oath.
22. TabdhÐr: damaging a property or spending it for futile purposes.
24. Consuming wine.
25. Practicing magic.
27. Ghina (like Singing).
28. Upsetting one’s parents and treating them unkindly.
29. Breaking off familial relations.
32. Accusing a married woman of adultery.
33. Pandering, be it for heterosexual or homosexual relationships.
36. Consuming illegal profits, such as the profits from the sale of wine, the payment of a prostitute, and the bribe acquired by a judge for a court judgment.
37. Giving short measure.
38. Defrauding Muslims.
39. Confiscating the property of an orphan unlawfully.
40. Giving false testimony.
41. Concealing testimony.
42. Spreading indecency and sin amongst the believers.
44. Taletelling that leads to disunity amongst the believers.
45. Verbally abusing a believer, insulting or humiliating him.
46. Slandering a believer.
47. Backbiting. This is defined as the act of relating a concealed and hidden defect of a believer in his absence, regardless of whether one conveys the defect through his speech or his actions. It will also make no difference if he did not have the intention of insulting or damaging his character. However, if a person reveals the defect of a believer with the intention of insulting him, he will have committed two sins.
One who backbites must seek repentance (from the Lord), and obligatory precaution dictates that he should also seek forgiveness from the one who was backbitten, unless doing so would cause harm.
1. One who commits sins openly and publicly, in which case it is permissible to backbite him with respect to that sin.
2. For an oppressed person to backbite an oppressor who has oppressed him, with respect to that act of oppression.
3. For the purpose of counselling, wherein the purpose of revealing the defect is to advise the one who is seeking counsel, and only to the extent that is required for him to be advised.
4. Backbiting one who innovates new practices within the religion, and one who causes people to go astray.
5. Backbiting for the purpose of revealing the corrupt of the witness, in the sense that if the person testifying is an immoral person, then to backbite him with the intent of revealing his immorality so that a person’s right is not violated owing to his testimony, is permissible.
6. Backbiting a person for the purpose of defending his life, honor or property.
7. Backbiting a sinner with the intention of restraining him from committing the sin, in the event that it is not possible to restrain him using any other means.