Commanding Good and Forbidding Wrong
(amr bil-maʿrūf, nahy ʿan al-munkar)
This article comprises the following sections: (i) Definitions and usage; (ii) The many ethical categories of maʿrūf and munkar; (iii) Context determines specific meaning; (iv) Amr and nahy as enjoined by Allah Most High, the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, and the Believers; (v) The inverted amr and nahy of Satan, Pharaoh, and the hypocrites; (vi) Primacy of amr and nahy and centrality of the Umma; (vii) Amr and nahy as jihad; (viii) Basic method and significance of performing amr and nahy; (ix) Legal status, qualifications and levels; (x) A collective rather than an individual obligation; (xi) Ḥisba: institutional amr and nahy, its integrals and proprieties; (xii) Monographs; (xiii) Bibliography.
- Definitions and usage
- The many ethical categories of maʿrūf and munkar
- Context determines specific meaning
- Amr and nahy as enjoined by Allah, the Prophet and the Believers
- The inverted amr and nahy of Satan, Pharaoh, and the hypocrites
- Primacy of amr and nahy and centrality of the Umma
- Amr and nahy as jihad
- Basic method and significance of performing amr and nahy
- Legal status, qualifications and levels
- A collective rather than an individual obligation
- Ḥisba: institutional amr and nahy, its integrals and proprieties
Definitions and usage
“Sacred law from its first word to its last consists in commanding good and forbidding wrong” (Imām al-Ḥaramayn, Ghiyāth, p. 365). “It is the over-arching reference-point (al-quṭb al-aʿẓam) in the Religion, the foremost concern for which Allah sent forth all of the Prophets” (Ghazālī, Iḥyāʾ, 4:537, al-Amr bil-maʿrūf wal-nahy ʿan al-munkar, Preamble). “It is the fundamental principle of the Religion and the caliphate of the Muslims” (Ibn al-ʿArabī, Aḥkām, 2:226).
The topic of commanding good and forbidding wrong is formed of four distinct aspects that lexically go back to four stems: a-m-r (to command), n-h-y (prohibit), ʿ-r-f (know), and n-k-r (disavow, disacknowledge).
The stem a-m-r points to five principal meanings: any given matter; command as opposed to prohibition; growth and blessing; road sign; and surprise (al-ʿajab) (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, 1:137, sub a-m-r). The sense of command occurs 60 times in verbal forms (amara and its cognates) and 130 times in nominal forms (amr and its cognates) in the Qurʾān, including āmirūn (those who command) (Q 9:112).
The stem n-h-y points to the end point of something (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, 5:359, sub n-h-y) while the verb nahā (forbid) and its infinitive noun nahy (prohibition) are the diametrical opposites of amara and amr (Farāhīdī, ʿAyn, 4:93; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān, sub n-h-y). When the subject of nahā is Allah Most High or His Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, the verb is synonymous with ḥarrama (to declare unlawful and categorically prohibited in the law) (Saraqusṭī, Afʿāl, 3:172, Nūn, al-muʿtall bil-yāʾ fī lām al-fiʿl). The VIII-Form verb intahā can thus have either or both of the meanings of “finishing” and “complying with prohibition,” as in the verse, …And whatever the Messenger brings you, take it; and whatever he forbids you (nahākum ʿanh), desist from it (intahū)… (Q 59:7). N-h-y and its cognates occur a total of 53 times in all of the above senses, including the expressions al-nāhūn, “those who forbid” (Q 9:112) and ulī al-nuhā (sing. nuhya) “possessors of virtuous minds” (Q 20:54, 20:128), thus called because “the nuhya is the mind that forbids [its possessor] ugly acts” (Rāghib, Mufradāt).
The stem ʿ-r-f denotes the primary meaning of knowledge (Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam), but also visible prominence (Abū ʿUbayda, Majāz; Ibn Qutayba, Gharīb, sub Q 7:46) as well as “continuity (as in ʿurf, custom) and tranquility (because the mind is at peace with what is known)” (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, 4:281, sub ʿ-r-f). It appears 70 times in the Qurʾān in seven different forms (ʿarafa, ʿarrafa, taʿārafa, iʿtarafa, aʿrāf, ʿurf and maʿrūfan), of which only one, aʿrāf (sing. ʿurf), “heights” (Q 7:46, 7:48) falls in the category of prominence while everything else falls in that of knowledge. The most frequent term to that effect, the passive participle noun maʿrūf, literally “known” and translatable as “universally-shared values,” occurs 38 times in various contexts, such as rights to be respected (Q 2:233, 4:5-7, 4:25, 33:6), especially in connection with parents Q 31:15), the wealth of orphans(Q 4:6), marriage and divorce(Q 2:231-241, 65:2, 65:6), marital cohabitation (Q 4:19), divorcees (Q 2:229, 2:231, 65:6), blood money(Q 2:178), deeds(2:233-234, 2:240, 4:25, 31:15, 33:6), language(Q 2:235, 2:263, 4:5, 33:32, 47:21), and the proscription of funeral wailing (Q 60:12, cf. Mujāhid; Ṭabarī, Tafsīrs).
The stem n-k-r primarily denotes disquieting ignorance (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs, 5:476; Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub n-k-r) and appears in eleven forms a total of 37 times, of which 20 are in the sense defined as the diametrical opposite of maʿrūf (Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam; Rāghib, Mufradāt; Zamakhsharī, Asās, sub n-k-r), sixteen of them as munkar, “reprehensible matter,” and four times as nukr/nukur “spectacular enormity” (Q 18:74, 18:78, 54:6, 65:8; Farāhīdī, ʿAyn, 5:355, sub n-k-r; Ibn Qutayba in Samarqandī, Baḥr, sub Q 18:71). All other instances denote change and lack or refusal of recognition (i.e. of truth), whether genuine or affected (see Disbelief; Reward and Punishment).
These four stems and their relevant cognates cover an all-encompassing activity closely related to, and in several respects synonymous with, daʿwa (see Calling unto Allah),
The many ethical categories of maʿrūf and munkar
Maʿrūf is defined as “any deed that is deemed good” (Zajjāj, Maʿānī, sub Q 31:15), “every righteousness, justice, and goodness” (Dhahabī, Juzʾ, p. 44), as defined by human intellect or, in religious terms, sacred law(Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub ʿ-r-f) alone (Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ, 10:448, qawluhu bāb ṭayyib al-kalām). Insofar as the legal obligation to command and prohibit, maʿrūf and munkar are exclusively defined in the latter, religious sense, as “the matters sacred law makes obligatory and prohibits respectively” (Haytamī, Zawājir, jihād, kabīra 393-395: tark al-amr bil-maʿrūf wal-nahy ʿan al-munkar). Munkar is defined as “every deed sound minds deem ugly or refrain from deeming either ugly or fair, but which sacred law stipulates is ugly” (Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub n-k-r), “every corruption, rebellion, injustice and indecency” (Dhahabī, Juzʾ, p. 44). Thus the wide range of meanings covered by the two terms branch off into a number of other key terms of the Qurʾān. Maʿruf includes ʿadl (justice), ʿafw (see Forgiveness and Forbearance), keeping amānāt (see Trusts), birr and ṣalāḥ (see Righteousness and Virtue), law abidance (ḥalāl and ḥarām, see Lawful and Unlawful) iḥsān (excellence,), īmān (see Belief), istiqāma (uprightness, see Guidance and Misguidance), ṣabr (see Perseverance, Patience and Fortitude), taqwā (wariness), tawba (see Repentance), tawḥīd (monotheism absolute), and zuhd (abstinence), all of which can be subsumed under ethics.
Munkar includes all sins, not only polytheism, adultery and fornication , murder (see Killing), theft , winebibbing (see Intoxicants) and the rest of the fire-bound enormities and indecencies (fawāḥish) that all constitute transgressions of the Boundaries of Allah, but also the non-boundary “minor sins” (ṣaghāʾir, sing. ṣaghīra, cf. Q 18:49) also called “broodings,” al-lamam (Q 53:32), in such fledgling acts as craving and wishing, gazing, and talking:
Ibn ʿAbbās said: “I saw nothing resembling lamam more than what Abū Hurayra related from the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace: ‘Allah has decreed (kataba) for human beings their portion of fornication and they shall come to that without fail. The fornication of eyes is the gaze; the fornication of tongues is utterance; the psyche craves and wishes; and the genitals either confirm or deny all that’” (Bukhārī, Istiʾdhān, zinā al-jawāriḥ dūna al-farj; Muslim, Qadar, quddira ʿalā ibn Ādam ḥaẓẓuh min al-zinā wa-ghayrih).
The lamam were also defined as “kissing, touching, any [minor or major] sin followed by repentance without recidivism, or a man marrying two sisters at one and the same time in Jāhiliyya” (Samarqandī, Baḥr, sub Q 53:32). In the Sunna the minor sins are named “trivialized,” muḥaqqarāt al-dhunūb, but as a caution against their potentially devastating consequences, the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, placed them among the “annihilators” (mūbiqāt) of religion and soul (Sindī, Ḥāshiya, 6:333 §4758) and warned his Companions against them (Ibn Masʿūd: Ḥumaydī, Musnad, 1:207 §98; Sahl b. Saʿd: Aḥmad, 37:466-467 §22809; ʿĀʾisha: Dārimī, Riqāq, fīl-muḥaqqarāt), promising that there would be an angel tasked by Allah with interrogating believers about them (Dārimī, op. cit.; Aḥmad, 40:477-478 §24415). Yet they might have been deemed less than hair-thin offenses from the time of the Successors onwards (Bukhārī, Riqāq, mā yuttaqā min muḥaqqarāt al-dhunūb; Aḥmad, 17:25-26 §10995). Those hadiths illustrate the same meanings as the verse of the Great Lie (al-ifk), When you received it with your tongues and you said with your mouths that whereof you had no knowledge, counting it as something easy, whereas such was, to Allah, an enormity (Q 24:15) (ʿAynī, ʿUmda, Riqāq, mā yuttaqā min muḥaqqarāt al-dhunūb) (see Falsehood). Also included among the ṣaghāʾir are “wearing silk [for men], listening to [instrumental] entertainment (samāʿ al-malāhī), playing with dice, sitting with bibbers at the time of bibbing, or alone with female strangers” (Ghazālī, Iḥyāʾ, Tawba, al-rukn al-thānī, bayān aqsām al-dhunūb).
Context determines specific meaning
In light of such multiplicity of meanings it comes as no surprise that glosses for maʿrūf and munkar can differ widely according to specific contexts. In absolute terms their meaning is belief and its opposite: “Whoever calls unto belief and forbids the worship of idols has commanded maʿrūf and forbidden munkar” (Mujāhid, Tafsīr, sub Q 31:17); “All the exegetes have said that those who command good means Islam and belief in Allah; while those who forbid wrong means the disregard of obligations and boundaries set by Allah, and polytheism” (Wāḥidī, Basīṭ, sub Q 9:112); “maʿrūf is monotheism absolute (tawḥīd) while munkar is unbelief (kufr)” (Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar, sub Q 3:104). In relative terms, maʿrūf means honest trusteeship or, more precisely, reasonable parameters of self-administered loans for the poor custodians of the estates of orphans: whoever is self-sufficient, let him steer clear of their wealth; but whoever is poor may consume [some] in maʿrūf terms (Q 4:6), i.e. let the poor custodian help himself to it with extreme discretion and repay all he took if and when he becomes self-sufficient (Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar). Another meaning is the annulment of marriage for merciful reasons as stipulated in the verse on the process of divorce: And when you divorce women and they are reaching their irrevocable term, either retain them in maʿrūf terms or give them leave in maʿrūf terms (Q 2:231); that is, the husband must meet all the rights the wife has over him, and if he cannot afford to, maʿrūf here means he should divorce her (Tafsīrs of Qurṭubī and Abū Ḥayyān, citing ʿUmar, ʿAlī, the saying of Abū Hurayra “The woman says, ‘Either feed me or divorce me’” (Bukhārī, Nafaqāt, wujūb al-nafaqa ʿalā al-ahl wal-ʿiyāl), Ibn al-Musayyib, Mālik, Shāfiʿī, Aḥmad, Isḥāq b. Rāhawayh, Abū Thawr, Abū ʿUbayd, Yaḥyā al-Qaṭṭān, and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Mahdī; cf. Ibn al-ʿArabī, Aḥkām, 1:270), divorce being the one and only avenue of fulfilling the obligation of deflecting harm from her (Burnū, Mawsūʿa, 10:838, Qāʿida 522: al-maqṣad wa-wasāʾiluh).
Similarly, munkar ranges from polytheism, as already mentioned, to misdemeanor and vulgar behavior: the foul acts in the verse and We saved him from the town that practiced foul acts (Q 21:74) were glossed as “sodomy of males, casting stones at people, breaking wind in their assemblies, and other munkar things they did” (Ṭabarī). The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, disapproved a diminutive hand gesture by one of his wives as forming backbiting (ghība) (Aḥmad, 42:467 §25708) and pushed the face of a male Companion away from a good-looking woman at whom he was gazing at the Farewell Pilgrimage(Bukhārī, Istiʾdhān, bāb; Muslim, Ḥajj, ḥijjat al-Nabī ṣallā Allāh ʿalayh wa-sallam).
Amr and nahy as enjoined by Allah, the Prophet and the Believers
The originator and agent of commanding good and forbidding wrong is, first and foremost, Allah Himself: Verily Allah commands justice, excellence, and giving to relatives; and He forbids indecencies, wrong and rebellion; He admonishes you. Perhaps you will take heed (Q 16:90). One of the Companion exegetes, ʿAbd Allāh b. Masʿūd (d. 32/652), considered this “the most comprehensive verse in the whole Qurʾān regarding good and evil” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr). “Justice is to say ‘There is no god but Allah and Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allah’ and adhering to the Sunna of His Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, while excellence is to treat one another well” (Tustarī, Tafsīr). Thus, the sequence of priorities are belief and disbelief first, followed by societal and personal values. Examples of the latter include absolute equity in all dealings (Verily Allah commands you to discharge trusts to their beneficiaries and that, when judging between parties, you judge equitably, Q 4:58; Believers, be upholders of justice, witnesses for Allah, even against yourselves, or parents, or relatives, Q 4:135; Be upholders of right for Allah, witnesses to justice, Q 5:8). This enjoining of justice informs the urge to respond to or punish severe transgressions in kind, both in the conduct of war and the application of statutory (ḥudūd) and judiciary penalties (taʿzīr) (see Legal Punishments) such as talion (qiṣāṣ, see Retaliation), where the Qurʾānic clause of exact equivalency (Q 2:178, 2:194, 16:126) is tempered by the urging of the avoidance of excess (Q 17:33), fairness in dealing with tyranny (Q 5:2, 5:8), and the superiority of forgiveness (Q 2:178) and patience over even proportionate retaliation (Q 16:126-127). Other examples of the divine enjoining of values are the proscription of indecencies in the verse, Say: verily Allah never commands indecency… Say: my Lord commands justice (Q 7:28-29), and the complex verse, They ask you about menses. Say: It is harm; therefore stay away from women during menses and do not approach them until they are clear; when they are clear, go to them as Allah commanded you (Q 2:222) which stipulates (i) the prohibition of sexual intercourse in any unclean place (see Health and Sickness; Ritual Purity and Impurity), i.e. “stay away from vaginal intercourse” (iʿtazilū nikāḥ furūjihinn) (Ṭabarī, Ibn Abī Ḥātim); (ii) the normalcy of all other aspects of marital social life, unlike pre-Islamic Arabs, who kept women at bay during menstruation; (iii) the implied confirmation of the proscription of anal intercourse at any time whatsoever, also unlike pre-Islamic Arabs; and (iv) parting once and for all with the mores of Jāhiliyya in social and sexual practices (Ṭabarī).
The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, and the generality of the Believers are also described as commanding good and forbidding wrong: Those that follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet whom they find cited in their records, in the Torah and the Evangel, commanding them good and forbidding them wrong (Q 7:157); The believers, men and women, are protectors of one another; they command good and forbid wrong, establish prayer and remit zakāt, and obey Allah and His Messenger (Q 9:71). Again, the first objective of the Prophetic and Communal amr and nahy is belief, you command good and you forbid wrong and you believe in Allah (Q 3:110) as monotheism absolute (tawḥīd) (Know, therefore, that there is no god but Allah Q 47:19), alternately enjoined as the rejection of the cult of idolatry of angels and Prophets (Q 3:80) and “wariness” (taqwā) against it (Q 29:16, 71:3, 96:12) (ʿAskarī, Wujūh, p. 147-148, sub al-taqī; Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt, sub Q 2:21; Samarqandī, Baḥr, and Wāḥidī, Wasīṭ, sub 96:12; Ibn al-Jawzī, Nuzha, p. 219-220, sub taqwā). Next come societal ethics such as the practice of forgiveness, goodness, forbearance (Take to forgiveness, command goodness, and turn away from the ignorant, Q 7:199), the enjoining of almsgiving, reconciliation, virtue and righteousness, all of which reaps immense reward (Q 4:114, 58:9).
The Qurʾān generalizes such duties through universal parables of justice and uprightness (Q 16:76), patience and perseverance as in the advice of Luqmān the Wise to his son: dearest son, establish the prayer, command good and forbid wrong, and show fortitude in the face of adversities; verily that is resolve and constancy (Q 31:17). Following up the enjoining of amr and nahy with the enjoining of fortitude implies that the latter will be needed in the face of duress and enmity caused by the implementation of the former, just as the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, experienced with his people (Tafsīrs of Muqātil, Ṭabarī; Wāḥidī, Wasīṭ). The Madīnan Companion and foremost secretary of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, Ḥudhayfa b. al-Yamān b. Jābir (d. 36/656), mentioned amr and nahy as second only to the Pillars of Islam, followed by jihad: “Islam is eight shares: submission is one share, prayer one share, zakāt one share, pilgrimage one share, Ramadan one share, commanding good one share, forbidding wrong one share, and jihad one share. Whoever has no share has lost everything” (Musnads of Ṭayālisī, 1:329 §413; Bazzār, 7:330 §2928; rated ṣaḥīḥ-chained by Ibn Ḥajar, Itḥāf, 1:100 §64).
The inverted amr and nahy of Satan, Pharaoh, and the hypocrites
In contrast to the command and prohibition by Allah, the Prophet and the Believers, the inverted amr and nahy of Satan, Pharaoh (see Firʿawn) and the hypocrites are meant to eradicate belief in the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, promote disbelief and spread corruption. Satan commands disobedience, indecency, faleshoods about Allah, and every wrong (Q 2:169, 2:268, 24:21); Pharaoh commands disbelief in Prophets, misguidance and deviance (Q 7:123-124, 11:97; 43:54); and the hypocrites command wrong and forbid good, and they keep their hands shut (Q 9:67). Commanding wrong and forbidding good is one of their most characteristic signs (Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, pp. 50-51, 174-175), “and most of those on earth, human beings and jinns, are enemies of the people of truth in speech and deeds” (Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, p. 297).
The hypocrites thoroughly pervert the reality of their state, as a result of which Allah Most High abandons them and seals their perdition: They have forgotten Allah, so He has forgotten them (Q 9:67). This verse is “a proof of their deeply-ingrained disbelief and hypocrisy, whereby they order munkar by denying the Message of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, and forbid good by prohibiting the utterance of the Witnessing of faith and any acknowledgment of all that was revealed by Allah Most High” (Ālūsī, Rūḥ). They swear by Allah that they belong with the Believers (Q 9:56) and, when ordered Do not spread corruption in the land, protest Nay, but we are civilizers (Q 2:11):
The meaning is: “It is not right to address us in such a way when, in reality, we stand for nothing but betterment, and our state is devoid of the least trace of corruption.” … They only said this because they imagined corruption to be integrity due to the sickness in their hearts; as Allah said, Is he for whom his evil-doing was made fair, so that he deems it good—? (Q 35:8) (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:11).
One of the types of the hypocrites commanding wrong and forbidding right includes the scholars of the Jews who commanded others good outwardly, while practicing the contrary (Q 2:44); they forbade themselves no wrong but would commit it instead (Q 5:79):
On the Day of Resurrection a man will be cast into the Fire; his bowels will spill out in it and he turns round and round in them like an ass in the mill. The denizens of hell will gather up and ask him: “You, here? Did you not use to command us good and forbid us wrong?” He will reply, “I commanded you good but did not do it; I forbade you wrong and committed it” (Bukhārī, Badʾ al-khalq, ṣifat al-nār; Muslim, Zuhd, ʿuqūba man yaʾmur bil-maʿrūf wa-lā yafʿaluh wa-yanhā ʿan al-munkar wa-yafʿaluh; cf. Baghawī, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:44).
Such a type includes all worldly religious scholars who preach what they do not practice, even Muslims:
The night I was taken on a journey I saw men whose lips were scissored off with scissors of fire then reconstituted again. I asked Jibrīl, “Who are these?” He said, “These are certain preachers from the world (min ahl al-dunyā). They used to command people good and forget themselves as they recited the Book; do they have no sense? (cf. Q 2:44) (Aḥmad, 19:244 §12211). Another wording has, “certain preachers from your Community” (Aḥmad, 21:104 §13421; Tafsīrs of Yaḥyā b. Sallām, sub Q 17:1 and Ibn Kathīr, sub Q 2:44).
Primacy of amr and nahy and centrality of the Umma
The paramount illustration of the excellence of amr and nahy is given in the verse, You are the best community ever produced for mankind. You command good, you forbid wrong, and you believe in Allah (Q 3:110). The verse primarily refers to the Companions, particularly the Emigrants (see Muhājirūn) (Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī, Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Thaʿlabī), then all Muslims for all time (Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī, Zajjāj, Rāghib). The motto related from the staunchest exemplar in that regard, the rightly-guided caliph ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUthmān b. ʿĀmir al-Taymī, known as Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (d. 13/634), was “toughness without violence, softness without weakness” (Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Bahja, 1:331). The same is related from the second staunchest, the rightly-guided caliph Abū Ḥafṣ ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb b. Nufayl al-ʿAdawī (42BH-23/581-644) (Balādhurī, Ansāb, 10:344), who impersonated those directives in life and death (see Ibn al-Mabrid, Maḥḍ al-ṣawāb, 1:246-253, 2:614-688, 3:838-839).
A similarly-worded hadith, “Truly you conclude seventy communities, and you are the best and dearest to Allah” (ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Tafsīr, sub Q 3:110; Aḥmad, 18:131-133 §11587; Tirmidhī, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, wa-min Sūrat Āl ʿImrān, rated ḥasan), confirms the more inclusive, transhistorical gloss of Q 3:110. So does the equally momentous verse And thus did We make you a central community (ummatan wasaṭan) so that you be witnesses (shuhadāʾ) over people and the Messenger be witness (shahīd) over you (Q 2:143). The key concepts of this verse, as of other very crucial passages such as the last verse of Sūrat al-Fātiḥa (Q 1:7), we do not pick and choose among any of them [Prophets and Messengers] (Q 2:137, 2:285, 3:84) and the blessed tree, the olive neither eastern nor western in the Verse of Light (Q 24:35), are the normative, qualitative, historical and teleological centrality of Islam between Judaism (see Children of Isrāʾīl) and Christianity in the senses of excellence, uprightness, witnessing, and avoidance of extremes, all of which presupposes the purification of the Community through knowledge and deeds (Rāghib, Bayḍāwī, Shaʿrāwī, sub Q 2:143) and forms special characteristics of the Muḥammadan Umma from first to last (Mālikī, Khaṣāʾiṣ, pp. 21-22, 27-30, 34-35). These concepts have received particular scrutiny in the past four decades with the doctrine of wasaṭiyya (centrality) as it bears on the parameters of “moderation,” state governance, and the moral responsibility of common Muslims (Farfūr, Wasaṭiyya; Khaṭīb, Wasaṭiyya; Qaraḍāwī, Fiqh, Khaṣāʾiṣ; Ṣalābī, Wasaṭiyya).
It is also said that the first half of the verse, You are the best community…, is conditional upon the second—amr, nahy, and belief (Tafsīrs of Ṭabarī, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn al-Jawzī, sub Q 3:110). This gloss is confirmed by the pre-eminence of those who command good and forbid wrong as the chief among eight attributes integral to the believers in the verse extolling (i) the repentant, (ii) the worshippers, (iii) the praisers, (iv) the fasters (al-sāʾiḥūn), (v) those who bow, (vi) those who prostrate, (vii) those who command good and forbid wrong, (viii) and those who observe the boundaries set by Allah (Q 9:112). This pre-eminence is due to a grammatical subtlety (laṭīfa) highlighted by the Qurʾānic canonist (see Readings of the Qurʾān), grammarian and litterateur Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad b. Khālawayh al-Hamadhānī (d. 370/981):
The Arabs count from one to seven and call that [the same as what we call] “ten” (ʿashran), then they insert this “and” (wāw) and they call it “the ‘and’ of the ten” (wāw al-ʿashr) to indicate thereby the completion of a count. This is illustrated by the saying of Allah Most High, the repentant, the worshippers… (Q 9:112): once He named seven, He brought up the wāw; likewise when He said, they will say seven, and the eighth is their dog (Q 18:22); and when He said, in the description of Paradise, “and” its gates had been opened wide (Q 39:73), because Paradise has eight gates while Hell has seven (Ibn Khālawayh, Ḥujja, p. 311, sub Q 39:73; cf. Baghawī, Tafsīr, sub Q 18:22).
The same principle was observed in Q 66:5 and 69:7 and, although counted “among the subtleties rather than the sciences” (Ibn ʿĀshūr, sub Q 18:22), “the rare intelligence in the perception of him [Ibn Khālawayh] who first told of this” (Ibn ʿĀshūr, sub Q 66:5, cf. Q 9:112). Exegetes subsequently explained the unusual scarcity of the adjunctive “and” (waw al-ʿaṭf) in the verse as indicating that, in terms of meaning, the first six attributes all serve as descriptives of the seventh—those who command and forbid—as seven is the number of completion and whatever follows is a new sequence. In grammatical terms, they all form one inceptive nominal subject (mubtadaʾ) of which the predicate (khabar) is the seventh item perfecting the sequence. The eighth, “those who observe the boundaries,” serves as a recapitulative adjective for the seventh and is introduced by what became famous as “the ‘and’ of the eight” (wāw al-thamāniya: Thaʿlabī, Kashf, sub Q 18:22; Wāḥidī, Basīṭ; Kirmānī, Gharāʾib; Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr, all sub Q 9:112; Rāzī, Tafsīr, sub Q 18:22).
Amr and nahy as jihad
Another illustration of the excellence of commanding good and forbidding wrong is their being equated with jihad and part of the definition of “one’s utmost effort” (ḥaqqa jihādih) in the verse and struggle in Allah to your utmost effort (Q 22:78) which concludes the Sura of the Believers (Q 23). Its primary meanings are both non-armed jihad against one’s own ego (Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt; Rāghib, Tafsīr, sub Q 2:244; Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar) and the just war (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Thaʿlabī, Kashf; Wāḥidī, Wasīṭ). The major exegete, jurist, and liegelord of the Successors in Basra, Abū Saʿīd al-Ḥasan b. Yasār al-Baṣrī (d. 110/728) commented Q 22:78 with the words: “A man can do real jihad (la-yujāhidu) in Allah to his utmost effort without ever using a sword” (Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr). The latter sense is established by a definitive hadith on jihad spoken by the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, as he had placed one foot in his stirrup when someone asked, “What is the best jihad?” He replied, “A word of truth [spoken] before a tyrant” (Aḥmad, 31:126 §18830; Abū Dāwūd, Malāḥim, al-amr wal-nahy; Nasāʾī, Bayʿa, faḍl man takallama bil-ḥaqq ʿinda imām jāʾir). A similar saying attributed to ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib (16bh-40/606-661) states, “The entirety of the works of piety (aʿmāl al-birr), next to commanding good and forbidding wrong, are nothing more than spittle in the deep sea; and the best of it all is a word of justice [spoken] before a tyrant” (Zamakhsharī, Rabīʿ, 2:299 §293). “And struggle in Allah, that is, for Allah Himself and for His sake; to the utmost effort is an order to go on military campaigns and also to struggle against one’s ego and lust, which is the greatest jihad. Part of the latter is to speak truth before a tyrannical ruler” (Ibn ʿAjība, Baḥr, sub Q 22:78).
In light of the above glosses of Q 22:78 and the foundational hadith on amr and nahy by hand, tongue and heart equating them with jihad (see next section), another illustration of their excellence is the collective weight of the verses praising or advising fortitude in the Path of Allah, such as O Believers, persevere, encourage others to persevere, and beware Allah; perhaps you will be successful (Q 3:200); then he was of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance, and exhort one another to mercy (Q 90:17); Human beings are all bankrupt except those who believe, do good deeds, exhort one another to truth, and exhort one another to perseverance (Q 103:3, cf. Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, pp. 65-66). Such fortitude in the cause of defending and promoting right and truth may come not only at the cost of harm to oneself (see two sections down) but at the supreme price of one’s life, as suggested by the synonymous meaning of shahīd as “witness” with that of “martyr”: and such days we cause to turn among people, so that Allah will determine those who believe and take from among you martyrs (shuhadāʾ, Q 3:140).
Basic method and significance of performing amr and nahy
Two foundational hadiths address the three-tiered method of amr and nahy:
Whoever among you sees a wrong, let him change it forthwith (fal-yughayyirh) with his hand; if he is unable, then with his tongue; if he is unable, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith (Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī in Muslim, Īmān, bayān kawn al-nahy ʿan al-munkar min al-īmān; Nasāʾī, al-Īmān wa-sharāʾiʿuh, tafāḍul ahl al-īmān); There is no Prophet sent by Allah to any community before me but he had disciples and companions from his community applying his Sunna and obeying his orders. After that, succeeding generations came saying what they did not do and doing what they were not ordered. Whoever struggles against them (jāhadahum) with his hand is a believer; whoever struggles against them with his tongue is a believer; and whoever struggles against them with his heart is a believer. There is not a mustard seed of faith beyond that (Ibn Masʿūd in Muslim, Īmān, bayān kawn al-nahy ʿan al-munkar min al-īmān)
The context of the injunction of “changing it with the hand” presumes the onlooker’s capacity to do so, as explicited in additional wordings of the same injunction: “Whoever among you sees a wrong and is able to change it with his hand, let him change it with his hand, etc.” (Abū Dāwūd, Malāḥim, al-amr wal-nahy; Ibn Mājah, Fitan, al-amr bil-maʿrūf wal-nahy ʿan al-munkar). The “hand,” moreover, is meant literally as far as the general public is concerned: “With the hand, not with a sword or a weapon” (Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal in Khallāl, Amr, p. 38 §28).
The wording of the above reports and chapter headers under which they are subsumed, furthermore, shows that (i) the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, called amr and nahy a jihad; (ii) the early authorities understood the activity of amr and nahy as being integral to the core of one’s belief (min al-īmān), (iii) illustrating the competing merits of the believers (tafāḍul ahl al-īmān), and (iv) typical of the eschatological End-times of great wars (malāḥim) and strife (fitan). These times began from the very end of the Rightly-Guided Caliphate, as illustrated by the unsuccessful interventions of Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī (10bh-74/612-693) and others (possibly ʿUmāra b. Ruʾayba: Shawkānī, Nayl, ʿĪdayn, khuṭbat al-ʿĪd wa-aḥkāmuhā) upon beholding the governor of Madīna Marwān b. al-Ḥakam (2-65/624-685) (possibly repeatedly) giving the ʿĪd sermon before the prayer and using a pulpit, two novelties turning on their head the order and modality instituted by the Prophetic Sunna (Bukhārī, ʿĪdayn, al-khurūj ilā al-muṣallā bi-ghayr minbar; Muslim, Īmān, bayān kawn al-nahy ʿan al-munkar min al-īmān; cf. ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Muṣannaf, 3:284 §5648). The latter case shows that reprehensible innovation(bidʿa) is yet another meaning for nahy-compelling munkar.
Legal status, qualifications and levels
Of concern to the early generations, therefore, were several issues in the implementation of amr and nahy:
- In light of the verse that singles out a sub-group of the believers as meant to focus on commanding and forbidding, Let there be of you a community that calls unto goodness, commanding good and forbidding wrong (Q 3:104), “which is not appropriate for everyone” (Bayhaqī in Tafsīrs of Qurṭubī and Bayḍāwī, sub Q 3:104, cf. Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, p. 184), as “people have different levels in that” (Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar), is someone with moral shortcomings qualified to do so?
- In light of the divine scolding would that the rabbis and doctors forbade them from speaking evil and devouring tainted wealth (Q 5:63) which startled scholars more than any other verse (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr; Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, p. 44) and the curse and punishment of those who kept mum despite their knowledge or refrained from forbidding others in communities past (Q 2:159, 7:165, 11:116, cf. Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt, sub Q 3:104; Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, pp. 135-155, 165-175), what about the verse commanding Believers, be responsible for yourselves alone (Q 5:105)?
- What about potential backlash from a powerful, hostile addressee?
The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, addressed the first two concerns with several hadiths:
- Command good even if you do not put it all into practice, and forbid wrong even if you do not desist from all of it (Abū Hurayra in Ibn Abī al-Dunyā, Amr, p. 61 §19; Anas in Ṭabarānī, Awsaṭ, 6:365 §6628; cf. Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt, sub Q 3:104).
- When they see the oppressor and do not try to stop him, soon Allah shall include them in His requital (Aḥmad, 1:208 §29-30; Abū Dāwūd, Malāḥim, al-amr wal-nahy; Tirmidhī, Fitan, mā jāʾ fī nuzūl al-ʿadhāb idhā lam yughayyar al-munkar).
- By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, I swear that you shall certainly command good and forbid wrong, or else Allah shall soon send against you His dire requital! Then you shall supplicate Him but He shall not respond (Aḥmad, 38:332 §23301; Tirmidhī, Fitan, mā jāʾ fīl-amr bil-maʿrūf wal-nahy ʿan al-munkar, rated ḥasan).
- Command one another good and forbid one another wrong until you see avarice, lusts and worldliness rule, and each one is pleased with his own opinion; then be responsible for yourself alone, and do not concern yourself with people at large anymore. Days are coming when enduring will be like grasping live coals. One who does good deeds in such days will have the reward of fifty men doing the like of your deeds. Someone asked: Messenger of Allah, fifty of us or fifty of them? He replied: Nay, the reward of fifty of you (Tirmidhī, Tafsīr, wa-min Sūrat al-Māʾida, rated ḥasan; Abū Dāwūd, Malāḥim, al-amr wal-nahy).
The senior jurists among the Companions addressed the third concern: “The leader of the Muslims should be fearless; let everyone else focus on his own affairs and be candid with (yanṣaḥ) his leader” (ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb in Saʿīd b. Manṣūr, Sunan, 4:1659 §847); “Command good and forbid wrong as long as there is no whip-lash or sword-blow as a consequence. If such is the case, then you are responsible for yourselves alone (Q 5:105)” (ʿAbd Allāh b. Masʿūd, op. cit., 4:1656 §844); “If you fear your leader will kill you then do not, but if you must, then strictly in private” (Ibn ʿAbbās, op. cit., 4:1657 §845, cf. Ibn Masʿūd, 4:1660 §850).
The abandonment of commanding good and forbidding wrong is sometimes listed among the enormities (Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, p. 156; Haytamī, Zawājir, Jihad, al-kabīra 393-395). The jurists and legal theorists justified in detail, in the terminology of the principles of jurisprudence (uṣūl al-fiqh), the causality of the rulings they derived:
Forbidding the wrong is a means to repel the corruption of that forbidden wrong. The merit and reward of such forbidding are proportionate to the level of corruption in the act that is being forbidden, down to the least significant sins. The forbidding of unbelief in Allah is therefore better than any other forbidding of any other wrong. Also, obviously, whatever leads to something reprehensible is reprehensible, whatever leads to something recommended is recommended, and whatever leads to something indifferent is indifferent (Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām in Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, pp. 118-119). It is obligatory to disapprove the abandonment of what is obligatory and the performance of what is forbidden, while it is recommended (mandūb) to disapprove the abandonment of what is recommended and the performance of what is reprehensible (makrūh) (Ibn Mufliḥ in Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, p. 119).
A collective rather than an individual obligation
Jurists also took special notice of the leeway forwarded in the hadith of Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī: “In this time of ours it is difficult, yet there is easing (tashīl) in the hadith of Abū Saʿīd: ‘with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.’ He, upon him blessings and peace, also said, ‘Whatever order I give you, fullfill whatever of it you can’ [Bukhārī, Iʿtiṣām bil-Kitāb wal-Sunna, al-iqtidāʾ bi-sunan Rasūl Allāh; Muslim, Faḍāʾil, tawqīruh ṣallā Allāhu ʿalayh wa-sallam wa-tark ikthār suʾālih ʿammā lā ḍarūrata ilayh] (Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal in Khallāl, Amr, pp. 34-35). The status of amr and nahy within Sacred Law consequently is, by general agreement, that of a communal obligation (farḍ kifāya) (see Legal Responsibility), but the role played by state and scholarly authorities in that looms larger than that of common people:
People have different levels in changing wrong and commanding good. The categorical obligation of the ulema in this regard is to notify rulers and governors and exhort them to follow the dictates of knowledge; that of the rulers is to change it by their power and authority—in which respect the hand belongs to them; and that of the rest of the people is to bring it to the attention of the governors after verbalizing the prohibition. This is for long-standing wrongs; as for extemporaneous ones such as spoliation, fornication and the like which one might witness, one changes them by oneself to the extent one can, in which case it is fine for a believer to put up with the harm he/she may face in the process (Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar, sub Q 3:104; cf. Ibn Dawūd, Kanz, pp. 68-69).
The Book, the Sunna, and the consensus of the Community are in full agreement over the obligatoriness of commanding good and forbidding wrong, which is also part of the ingenuousness (naṣīḥa) that defines religion. The saying of Allah the All-Glorious, You are responsible for yourselves alone, and whoever goes astray cannot harm you as long as you are well-guided (Q 5:105) does not contradict what we said, as it means that when you yourselves perform what you are tasked with, others’ neglectfulness will not harm you. Furthermore, it is a communal obligation: when some perform it, the rest are no longer at fault; if all leave it, all that are capable and have no excuse are guilty of sin. Nor is that duty cancelled if one estimates it will not benefit. Nor is the one who performs it presupposed to be perfect or practicing what he says; but only one who knows what he is commanding and prohibiting should command and prohibit. Finally, the learned scholars only prohibit that over which there is consensus (“munkar must be known without ijtihād,” Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, p. 225); as for what scholars differ about, one must not prohibit it (Nawawī, Sharḥ, Īmān, bayān kawn al-nahy ʿan al-munkar min al-īmān, abridged; cf. Ibn Dawūd, Kanz, pp. 34-37, 111-112, 123-127, 225-228, 397-404).
Within the broader context of its legal status as being a communal responsibility, individual choices, especially by leading scholars, become exemplary. Such was the reason the Imam of Madīna and founder of the eponymous school, Abū ʿAbd Allāh Mālik b. Anas al-Aṣbaḥī (93-179/712-795), after his arrest, public disgracing, and the dislocation of his shoulder caused by a lashing by the Madīnan authorities in 154/771 (age 61)—his mention of a certain hadith was construed by the Caliph Abū Jaʿfar al-Manṣūr (95-158/714-775) as a political barb (ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb, 2:130-136)—reportedly did not pray Jumuʿa or any other congregational prayer in the mosque for the last 25 years of his life (Ibn Saʿd, Ṭabaqāt, 7:574; Ibn Qutayba, Maʿārif, pp. 498-499; Dhahabī, Siyar, 7:424) and would say, “I might see something wrong and be forced to change it” Dhahabī, Siyar, 7:395). The Imam of Baghdad, “by whom Allah strengthened Islam after Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq… the Proof of Allah over His creatures” (Ibn al-Madīnī in Ibn Surūr, Miḥna, pp. 31, 161) and founder of the eponymous school Abū ʿAbd Allāh Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. Ḥanbal al-Shaybānī (164-241/781-855) was imprisoned for 28 months in his mid-thirties and lashed on the rack (“I was conscious up to the 38th lash”) for refusing to endorse the Muʿtazilī doctrine of the createdness of the Qurʾān, also ending up with a dislocated shoulder. The “Ordeal” (al-Miḥna) festered under three successive ʿAbbasid caliphs—Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Maʾmūn (170-218/786-833), his brother Abū Isḥāq al-Muʿtaṣim (179-227/795-842), the latter’s son Abū Jaʿfar al-Wāthiq (200-232/816-847)—and was ended by the fourth, the latter’s half-brother Abū al-Faḍl al-Mutawakkil (205-247/822-861), as chronicled by Aḥmad’s eldest son Abū al-Faḍl Ṣāliḥ b. Aḥmad (d. 265/879) and others (Sāliḥ, Sīra, pp. 48-65; Ibn Surūr, Miḥna, pp. 38-117, 123, 130-131, 149-153). The intrepid Berber mutakallim and Ashʿarī student of al-Kiyā al-Harrāsī, al-Ghazālī and al-Ṭurṭūshī, Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Masmūdī al-Hirghī, known as Ibn Ṭūmārt (d. 522 or 524/1130), described as “the shaykh, imam, jurist, scholar of principles, and ascetic of Morocco,” was undaunted in commanding good and prohibiting evil and was beaten for it in Makka, Cairo, and everywhere he went (Dhahabī, Siyar, 14:444-451 §4717).
Ḥisba: institutional amr and nahy, its integrals and proprieties
Abū al-Maʿālī ʿAbd al-Malik b. ʿAbd Allāh b. Yūsuf al-Juwaynī, known as Imām al-Ḥaramayn (419-478/1028-1085) said, “Calling unto good and forbidding wrong is a firm right of all Muslims who put forth a clear and knowledgeable proof. However, citizens can only use sermons, encouraging and discouraging. If the addressees are not deterred, the citizens cannot fight and draw weapons; but they can report matters to the authorities, after which the latter can devise effective ways of deterrence” (Ghiyāth, pp. 365-366). Since enforcement is the task of government, governments and scholars of governance created and codified, to that effect, the ḥisba, “defined as commanding good when it is openly abandoned, and forbidding wrong when one openly commits it” (Māwardī, Aḥkām, 20: Aḥkām al-ḥisba), “a comprehensive term for commanding good and forbidding wrong…. the forceful prevention (manʿa) of any wrong for the sake of Allah while safeguarding the prevented from committing wrong” (Ghazālī, Iḥyāʾ, al-Amr bil-maʿrūf wal-nahy ʿan al-munkar, arkān wa-shurūṭ), translatable as “market supervision or public morals office” (Wahba in Māwardī, Ordinances, p. 260).
Ḥisba is literally “a noun akin to calculation (min al-iḥtisāb), the way ʿidda is akin to counting (iʿtidād)” (Zamakhsharī, Fāʾiq, sub ḥ-s), which is the meaning for most of the 109 Qurʾānic cognates of the stem ḥ-s-b (see Judgment). Ḥisba is the infinitive noun of the reflexive verb iḥtasaba, used in the Qurʾān exclusively in the general sense of “expect” (Q 39:47, 59:2, 65:3) but here meaning “expecting reward” (Farāhīdī, ʿAyn, 3:149; Jawharī, Ṣiḥāḥ, 1:110, sub ḥ-s-b). Iḥtisaba can also be used as a transitive: “Iḥtasaba fulān ʿalā fulān means he denounced the ugliness of his act” (Ibn Sīda, Muḥkam 3:149, sub ḥ-s-b). One who does such a calculation or denunciation is called a muḥtasib, a title for the official appointed as the quality inspector of market goods, prices, weights and measures, trades and crafts under the Mamluks and the Ottomans (Ibn al-Subkī, Muʿīd, p. 56; Ḥallāq, Muʿjam, p. 75, sub al-ḥisba) and the police constable of public ethics and morals in general, as described in a major work by Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Māwardī (364-450/974-1058):
Although [ḥisba] is valid from every Muslim, there are nine differences in it between a volunteer (mutaṭawwiʿ) and an official (muḥtasib): (i) the farḍ of it is personally obligatory for the muḥtasib, by virtue of his appointment, but part of the collective obligations for all others; (ii) it is the muḥtasib’s job and he can have no other occupation, while the mutaṭawwiʿ can do something else anytime; (iii) the muḥtasib is appointed to receive grievances; (iv) he must respond to whoever asks for his help while volunteers do not have to; (v) he must search out open wrongs in order to denounce them, and investigate whatever good is openly disregarded in order to command its implementation, while others must neither search nor investigate; (vi) he may use helpers to do his job while others may not; (vii) he may carry out chastisement (taʿzīr, see Legal Punishments), not statutory penalties; (viii) he may get paid out of the treasury; not so volunteers; (ix) he may exercise independent reasoning with regard to custom as opposed to sacred law; volunteer may not (Māwardī, Aḥkām, 20: Aḥkām al-ḥisba; cf. Ordinances, p. 260; Amedroz, “Ḥisba,” pp. 77-78).
Ḥujjat al-Islām, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (450-505/1058-1111) listed the integrals (arkān) demanded of the state muḥtasib—also called wālī al-ḥisba, al-nāẓir fīl-maẓālim, ṣāḥib al-maẓālim (grievance inspector)—as five: (i) legal liability (taklīf, see Legal Responsibility); (ii) belief: the amr and nahy of a non-Muslim are invalid; (iii) integrity (but sinners must still command and forbid); (iv) permission from the authorities; and (v) power to enforce (Ghazālī, Iḥyāʾ, 5:555-565, al-Amr bil-maʿrūf wal-nahy ʿan al-munkar, arkān al-amr bil-maʿrūf wa-shurūṭuh; cf. Ibn Dāwūd, Kanz, pp. 176-183, 310-393: attributes of the one who does amr and nahy). Ideally, he must be “immensely respected and authoritative, majestic, temperate, disinterested, scrupulous, unintimidated by anyone, untouchable by bribery of any kind” (Ibn al-Aʿraj, Taḥrīr, p. 38). The post and its duties were sometimes synonymous with the police (shurṭa), or might have been held by a vizier among his many other offices, but it was mostly carried out by judges from Abbasid times in Iraq, Egypt, Spain and elsewhere; the Mamluks housed it in a permanent venue called the palace of justice (dār al-ʿadl) (see sources in Amedroz, “Ḥisba;” Tillier, “Qāḍīs and maẓālim;” Tyan, Histoire, 2:436-484; Nielsen, “Maẓālim”).
In addition to the classics already cited in this article, the following are some of the notable works dedicated to the subjects of amr and nahy and its offshoot, the ḥisba, in chronological order:
i. al-Amr bil-maʿrūf wal-nahy ʿan al-munkar, Dhamm al-baghy, Dhamm al-dunyā, Dhamm al-malāhī, Dhamm al-muskir, Iṣṭināʿ al-maʿrūf by one of the foremost hadiths masters and educators, Abū Bakr ʿAbd Allāh b. Muḥammad al-Baghdādī, known as Ibn Abī al-Dunyā (208-281/823-894).
ii. al-Tawbīkh wal-tanbīh by the nonagenarian hadith master Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd Allāh b. Muḥammad b. Jaʿfar b. Ḥayyān, known as Abū al-Shaykh al-Aṣbahānī (d. 274-369/887-980).
iii. al-Targhīb fī faḍāʾil al-aʿmāl wa-thawāb dhālik by the hadith master and preacher Abū Ḥāfṣ ʿUmar b. Aḥmad b. ʿUthmān al-Baghdādī, known as Ibn Shāhīn (297-385/910-995).
iv. al-Targhīb wal-tarhīb by the hadith master Abū al-Qāsim Ismāʿīl b. Muḥammad b. al-Faḍl al-Taymī al-Aṣbahānī, known as Qawwām al-Sunna (457-535/1065-1141).
v. Nihāyat al-rutba fī ṭalab al-ḥisba and al-Nahj al-maslūk fī siyāsat al-mulūk by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAbd Allāh b. Naṣr al-Shayzarī (d. 590/1194). This is the first known monograph on ḥisba, written not in the juridical style of the Aḥkām sulṭāniyya and the Iḥyāʾ but as a detailed manual for municipal administrators, in forty chapters.
vi. al-Targhīb wal-tarhīb and Arbaʿūn ḥadīthan fī iṣṭināʿ al-maʿrūf lil-Muslimīn wa-qaḍāʾ ḥawāʾijihim by the hadith master of Egypt Zakī al-Dīn ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm b. ʿAbd al-Qawī al-Mundhirī (581-656/1185-1258).
vii. Qāʿida fīl-ḥisba and al-Siyāsat al-sharʿiyya by the Damascene jurist Taqī al-Dīn Aḥmad b. ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥarrānī, known as Ibn Taymiyya (661-728/1263-1328).
viii. Maʿālim al-qurba fī aḥkām al-ḥisba by Ḍiyāʾ al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Qurashī, known as Ibn al-Ukhuwwa (648-729/1250-1329) in 70 chapters expanding on al-Shayzarī’s 40 chapters, the most detailed administrative manual on the areas meant to be checked by the muḥtasib and the modalities of coverage, written for the redoubtable Mamluk governor of Cairo Sayf al-Dīn Qadādār (d. 721/1321).
ix. al-Targhīb wal-tarhīb by the Yemeni-Makkan jurist, heresiologist and historian ʿAfīf al-Dīn ʿAbd Allāh b. Asʿad b. ʿAlī al-Yāfiʿī (698-768/1299-1367).
x. al-Kanz al-akbar min al-amr bil-maʿrūf wal-nahy ʿan al-munkar by the Damascene Ḥanbalī jurist ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Abī Bakr b. Dāwūd al-Ṣāliḥī, known as Ibn Dāwūd (783-856/1381-1452), a 500-page work that is the most comprehensive and thorough compilation on the topic, in which the author states, “the first thing that is desirable for the one who commands good and forbids wrong—indeed, for every doer of deeds—is to renew, in each command and prohibition, in each motion and stillness, a righteous intention, clarifying his jihad from any kind of taint” (p. 310), “and to intend candor (nuṣḥ) with the entire Umma” (p. 393).
xi. Thalāth rasāʾil Andalusiyya fī ādāb al-ḥisba wal-muḥtasib = Trois traités hispanique de ḥisba, ed. Évariste Lévi-Provençal (Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 1955), three Andalusian texts by Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Saqaṭī and two others, ʿUmar al-Jarsīfī and Ibn ʿAbd al-Raʾūf, undocumented and undated beyond their names, on the practicalities of ḥisba resembling the itemized models of al-Shayzarī and Ibn al-Ukhuwwa.
xii. Bughyat al-irba fī maʿrifat aḥkām al-ḥisba by the hadith master of Yemen Wajīh al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAlī al-Shaybānī, known as Ibn al-Dībaʿ (866-944/1461-1537).
xiii. al-Qawl al-maʿrūf fī faḍl al-maʿrūf, forty hadiths selected by the Egyptian jurist and hadith scholar Marʿī b. Yūsuf b. Abī Bakr al-Karmī (d. 1033/1624).
xiv. al-Durar al-mubāḥa fīl-ḥaẓr wal-ibāḥa by the Damascene Ḥanafī jurist Khalīl b. ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Naḥlāwī (d. 1350/1931), probably the most widely-studied text in this list.
xv. Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islam by Michael Cook, first published in 2000, a book-length coverage in English of the history of the doctrine across the schools, notably Ḥanbalīs, Muʿtazilīs, Ibāḍīs, Ghazālī, and post-classical developments.
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