The responsibility of women to enjoin good and forbid evil and its importance

 
Some people limit the responsibility to enjoin good and forbid evil to the role of men and not women, and make little of the importance and effect of women fulfilling this duty. Many texts have been revealed which indicate responsibility of women to enjoin good and forbid evil, as does the importance of women in this respect become apparent in many ways. In this section I will discuss this subject, with the help of Allah, under the following headings:

1. The responsibility of women to enjoin good and forbid evil.
2. The importance of women fulfilling this duty.

The responsibility for fulfilling the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil becomes apparent in the light of the general texts which indicate the obligation of al-Hisba. Likewise, from these texts it becomes apparent that this responsibility clearly applies to women. As Allah wills, I will discuss this topic underneath these two headings:

1. The proof of texts regarding the duty to enjoin good and forbid evil.
2. The texts which clearly prove the responsibility of women in enjoin ing good and forbidding evil.

1. The proof of texts regarding the duty to enjoin good and forbid evil

Many texts from the Noble Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah have indicated the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil.[1] The language form used in many of these texts, although masculine, also contains and applies to the feminine gender as explained by the scholars, may Allah have mercy on them. For example, Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah said, ‘It has been established in the custom of the Law giver that if a judgement is made in the masculine form, and is not accompanied with a feminine form, then it applies to both men and women, as the male gender is more dominant than the female gender when mentioned together, as in His statement:

“…and the witnessess should not refuse when they are called on…” [2]

and His statement:

“O You who believe! Fasting has been made compulsory for you.”[3,4]

2. The texts which clearly prove the responsibility of women in enjoining good and forbidding evil

There are texts in the Noble Qur’an and the authentic hadith which prove the responsibility of women in enjoining good and forbidding evil clearly. Among these texts are: 1. Allah’s statement:

“O Wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah) then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease should be moved with desire but speak in an honourable manner.” [5]

One of the most respected commentators of the Qur’an, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas says regarding the explanation of Allah’s statement: ‘and speak in an honourable manner’:

“He (Allah) ordered them to enjoin good and forbid evil.”[6]

No one should think that this order applies specifically to the Mothers of the Believers only (the wives of the Prophet (SAW ), as they are addressed in this verse, because although they are the ones addressed by this verse, the rest of the Muslim women are the intended also.

Regarding this, the Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas said:

“All these matters are matters by which Allah disciplined the wives of the Prophet (SAW), as an honour to them, and the rest of the women of the believers are meant by them”[7]

2. Allah’s statement:

“The believers, men and women are helpers/supporters of one another, they order good and forbid evil and offer their prayers perfectly and pay zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. They are the ones Allah will have mercy on. Indeed, Allah is Most Powerful, Most Wise. Allah has promised the believers – men and women – gardens underneath which rivers flow, where they will dwell forever -and beautiful mansions in Gardens of Paradise. But the greatest bliss is the Good Pleasure of Allah. That is the supreme success.” [8]

Allah, Most Glorious, mentioned five attributes, among them the fulfilment of enjoining good and forbidding evil, and made clear His promise of a great reward for those who have this attribute, and Allah made clear that the female believers can achieve this attribute as can the male believers, and that they have the promise of a good reward as do the male believers.

Imam Ibn an-Nuhas ad-Dimashqi said, ‘In Allah’s statement “…and believing women…” is a proof that to enjoin good and forbid evil is obligatory upon women in the same way as it is obligatory upon men, if they are capable.’[9]

1. Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim related from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said,

“Indeed are you not all guardians? And each of you is responsible for your flock: So the leader who is in authority over the people is a guardian, and he is responsible for his flock, and a man is guardian over the members of his house, and he is responsible for his flock, and the woman is a guardian over the members her husband’s household and his children, and she is responsible for them, and the man’s servant is a guardian over the wealth of his master and he responsible for it. Indeed, you are all guardians, and all of you are responsible for your flocks.”[10]

Imam al-Khattabi said: ‘The meaning of””guardian” here is: the protector and one entrusted with those under him, who orders them with advice/guidance, and warns them from betraying or wasting that which he has entrusted them with.[11]

So the circumstance of a woman being a guardian dictates that she undertake the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil when good is neglected, or when evil occurs among those she is responsible for.

The woman will be asked, as will the others who are guardians, about this on the Day of Resurrection, as has been related in the noble hadith: “…and she is responsible for them”, and in the hadith related by Anas,

“Surely, Allah will ask every guardian about that which He made him a guardian over, whether he protected it or neglected it.”[12 ]

And in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah,

“Every guardian will be asked on the Day of Resurrection, (whether) he carried out the order of Allah or neglected it.”[13]

It is therefore incumbent upon the Muslim woman – as it is upon others who are responsible – to prepare for this question an answer, by fulfilling what Allah has obligated her with before the day upon which neither regret nor sorrow will be of help.


1 See some these texts in my book al-Hisba (pp.41-67)

2 al-Baqarah 282.

3 al-Baqarah 181.

4 Flam al-Muwaqqi’in 1/92-91, condensed.

5 al-Ahzab 12.

6 Taken from Tafsir al-Qurtubi 14/178.

7 Ahkam al-Qur’an 1/160.

8 at-Tawbah 71-72

9 Tanbih ai-Ghafilln an A ‘mat al-Jahilin (p.20).

10 Agreed upon. See Sahih al-Bukhari, The Book of Laws, [Chapter] Allah’s statement: “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in power.” No. 7117, 11/111. his wording, and Sahih Muslim, The Book of Leadership, [Chapter] The virtue of the Just Imam, No. 20(1829), 1/1159.

11 Ma’alim as-Sunan 1/2. See also Sharh an-Nawawi, in which it says, ‘The scholars say: the Ra’i (literally shepherd, or gaurdian) is the protector and guarantor who is obligated with the good of what he has undertaken and what is under his supervision. So in this, is that whoever supervises something, then he is required to be just toward it, and perform that which benefits it in its religion and worldly affairs, and all things related to it. 12/213.

12 Taken from fath al-Bari 13/113. Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar says about him, ‘…and from ibn ‘Adi with an authentic chain from Anas…’

13 Taken from the previous source 13/113- Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar says, ‘…he also has at- Tabarani in al-Awsat from the hadith of Abu Hurayrah…’

 

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