Commanding the Good & Forbidding the Evil, And The Honor of Scholars

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

What is the proper adab when people intentionally speak ill of our Shuyukh? I am normally a calm person, but when people speak so disrespectively of our scholars I get enraged inside, and can’t properly express myself with words and refute their statements.

Answer:
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Walaikum assalam,

This follows the rules of commanding the good and forbidding the evil:

1. Commanding the good and forbidding the evil is one of the most important of Islamic duties.  The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) cautioned us, “”Command the right and forbid the wrong, or Allah will put the worst of you in charge of the best of you, and the best will supplicate Allah and be left unanswered.” [For details, read the related posting from the Reliance, Book Q]

2. Scholars mention, however, that commanding the good and forbidding the evil is only obligatory if one thinks that the person would listen.

3. Otherwise, if one does not think they will listen, it is recommended.

4. However, if a greater harm or worsening of the situation is feared, then it would be better (or even obligatory, in some cases) not to say anything, because legally one choose the less harmful of two matters.

5. It would be an obligation, however, to hate the wrong in one’s heart.

6. With this, if it is happening in one’s presence (such as listening to unlawful talk) it would be obligatory to leave if even stopping it (such as by subtly changing the topic is not possible.

7. Sayyidi Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi (Allah have mercy on him) cautions that the general Prophetic way in commanding the good and forbidding the evil is to do so in a discreet, non-specific manner, in order to preserve the honor and feelings of the one who is wrongdoing to the extent possible.

[From: Sharh al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, Sayyidi Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi; Radd al-Muhtar, Allama Ibn Abidin; al-Hadhr wa’l Ibaha, Shaykh Khalil al-Nahlawi]

I have heard that there is a hadith that goes something like we are allowed to backbite on our leaders. Some people use this as an excuse to pick apart our beloved scholars, is this permissible?

Absolutely not. If anything, Islam has commanded that we have respect (or, at least, deference) for even worldly leaders.

The Hanafi fuqaha mention that disparaging scholars is very dangerous, because it could entail disparaging the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), for scholars are the inheritors of Prophets.

The sunna regarding the faults of others is to overlook them. If this is not possible, one should remain silent about them and not bring them up. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Whoever conceals the faults of a believer, Allah conceals his faults in this life and the next.”

As for the scholars, al-Khatib reports in his al-Faqih wa’l Mutafaqqih from both Imam al-Shafi`i and from Imam Abu Hanifa (Allah be pleased with them) that they said, “If scholars who act on their knowledge are not the awliya of Allah, then Allah does not have awliya.” And in the divine words related to us by the Prophet (in a hadith qudsi), Allah Most High tell us, “Whoever shows enmity to a friend of mine, I have declared war on.” [Bukhari]

One should avoid voluntarily keeping the company of those who show enmity to Allah, His Messenger, the scholars, and awliya.

And Allah alone gives success and honor.

Wassalam,

Faraz Rabbani.