Even if not practicing it, enjoin the good
Fatwa No: 18468

Question

We work as teachers and are keen on seeking good for our students. We sometimes advise them to keep away from some prohibited matters that we ourselves commit. Are we, therefore, included in the saying of Allaah The Almighty (that means): {Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason?} [Quran 2:44]. Does this mean that we have to stop advising students until we abandon these matters ourselves?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.

 

Undoubtedly, a caller to Allaah The Almighty must not forbid others from doing what he himself does. This was illustrated by prophet Shu‘ayb  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention in the saying of Allaah The Almighty (which means): {…And I do not intend to differ from you in that which I have forbidden you; I only intend reform as much as I am able. And my success is not but through Allaah. Upon Him I have relied, and to Him I return.} [Quran 11:88]

While interpreting the verse (which means): {Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason?} [Quran 2:44], Ibn Katheer  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him discussed whether or not practicing what one preaches entails not enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. In brief, he said that scholars have two opinions in this regard:

1.     It is impermissible to call to Allaah The Almighty in such a case and they have taken as proof the previous verse as well as others.

2.     This does not entail abandoning the call to Allaah The Almighty.

Ibn Katheer  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him subsequently stated that the correct opinion is that a scholar has to enjoin the good even if he himself does not do it. He took as evidence the saying of S‘aeed ibn Jubair  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him which indicates that if one ceases to enjoin the good and forbid the evil until he does nothing wrong, no one would then enjoin the good or forbid the evil. Imaam Maalik  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him supported his opinion and added that no one is free of sins.

Further proof is that enjoining the good and applying it are both obligatory, therefore, neither of them is cancelled if the other is not observed. Ibn Katheer  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him refuted the stance of those who held the first opinion by explaining that the verse they took as proof does not entail reproaching them for enjoining the good without practicing it; rather it means reproaching them only for neglecting the practical application. Enjoining the good is an act of piety which is obligatory upon scholars but it is also obligatory and more fitting that a scholar practices it along with those to whom he preaches.

Therefore, the fact that a teacher does not adhere to some laws of the Sharee‘ah does not cancel his obligation of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.  We advise teachers and others to be righteous, to comply with the commandments of Allaah The Almighty and to keep away from His prohibitions. Doing so alone is one of the most effective means of preaching and advice, if not the best one. If they fall short in observing the commands and abandoning the prohibitions, this should not be a reason for them to stop advising and guiding their students. This is because both matters are mandatory; if one falls short to fulfil either of them, it does not mean that he is not required to do the other.

Allaah Knows best.

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