Commanding the right & forbidding the wrong: Using wisdom with those who are new to the fai

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher

I have a sister in Islam she is a convert like I am only she is much older, has been a convert for 4 years and has no Muslim community in her area. She is in the USA but her area is small. She is 67 years old, has been married 45 years and loves her husband so much. She found Islam online 4 years ago after being Christian all her life. She is not having much help trying to find answers to some very hard questions. She has not been intimate with her husband since she converted due to worry that she will be in sin. She loves him and has talked to him about Islam but he is not wanting to convert. She feels so bad and does not want to leave him after all these years as he has been very good to her. She loves him so much and I feel sad for her. He is not trying to get her to change her mind just misses her love.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

Marriage and Conversion

When a woman accepts Islam but her husband doesn’t, she enters into her waiting period (‘idda). If the husband accepts Islam during this period, the marriage continues; otherwise, the marriage is automatically annulled. During the waiting period and after the annullment of the marriage, the wife must treat the husband like any other non-mahram: she must cover properly in front of him and avoid being alone with him (Reliance of the Traveller, m7.4, n9).

Commanding the Right and Forbidding the Wrong

The fields of da’wah, education, and tarbiya all fall under the rubric of “commanding the right and forbidding the wrong,” which is a communal obligation on the Muslim umma. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand. If unable to, then let him change it with his tongue. If unable, then with his heart. And that is the weakest degree of faith.” (Muslim)

Scholars have noted, however, that this obligation is among the most difficult of obligations to fulfill. This is because fulfilling this obligation requires wisdom. Converts, especially, need to be dealt with properly. Two points should be kept in mind:

(1) The point is not simply to tell someone that they are doing something forbidden; rather, the point is to get them to desist. Sometimes, the best way to achieve this goal is to use indirect means to guide new Muslims instead of “bashing them on the head” with your blunt nasiha. Encourage them about their newfound religion. Encourage them to keep the company of other Muslims. Encourage them to listen to good lectures and to attend Islamic events. Give them your time. Give them good books to read. Sometimes, making them feel welcome in their new faith and letting them figure things out on their own is more effective than giving them a list of “now you must do this” and “now you must not do this.”

(2) If one thinks that commanding the right or forbidding the wrong will have the opposite effect and push the person in question further into sin, then it becomes forbidden to say anything and one must remain silent. In the case of new Muslims, overburdening them with obligations may cause them to leave their faith altogether because they mistakenly think that it’s a choice between being a perfect Muslim or not being a Muslim at all. This is a false dichotomy and one should never put converts into this situation. The most important thing is their faith: better an imperfect Muslim than a non-Muslim. Someone who takes away the Islam of a convert by being strict and rigid with them has committed a grave sin.

These are just guidelines and are not meant to be applied blindly. If one feels that a new Muslim will respond to explicit advice, then it is not permitted to remain silent. These principles need to be taken and applied with wisdom and gentleness, without being overly rigid or overly lax. Every case will have its own nuances and specific rulings.

And Allah knows best.