ASHAAB As-Sabt, the people of the Sabbath (Saturday),  were a townsfolk from the Children of Israel  who were tested with the Sabbath, the day when they were to leave their worldly affairs and devote themselves to the worship of Allah. All week long, they would go fishing, with scant return. But on Saturdays, when they were required to put aside their activities, the fish would come in abundance. A test from Allah!

And ask them (O Muhammad, peace be upon him)) about the town that was by the sea; when they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath ( i.e. Saturday): when their fish came to them openly on the Sabbath day, and did not come to them on the day they had no Sabbath.

Thus We made a trial of them for they used to rebel against Allah’s Command (disobey Allah.)” [Qur’an, An-Nisa 4:154]

A group of the townsfolk transgressed, not satisfied with Allah’s commandments they devised a scheme to bypass the commandment. They would put out their fishing nets on Friday, and then on Sunday they would come and pick the nets up. Now all the Saturday fish would be caught.

The townsfolk divided into two groups when they saw the grave evil and sin that was befalling. One of them tried to advise the transgressors and warn them of the horrific consequences of their action – commanding the good and forbidding the evil.

Thinking they had no responsibility for what was taking place, the other group just went about minding their own business, holding that Allah would eventually destroy the sinners.

And when a community among them said: “Why do you preach to a people whom Allah is about to destroy or to punish with a severe torment?”  Listen carefully to the reply of those callers to the obedience of Allah.

(The preachers) said: “In order to be free from guilt before your Lord (Allah), and perhaps they may fear Allah.”  (Qur’an, 7:164)

In one sweep in the night, the punishment rained down and they were transfigured into pigs and monkeys.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is the nature of a human being to feel the need to do good or feel the drive to indulge in evil. Even if he or she were to be alone, deserted and secluded, they would still feel a drive to do good or indulge in evil.

From here, it is a characteristic of this Ummah (Islamic nation) to not only do good ourselves, but we must encourage others to do good, we must be the driving force. And we must  not only distance ourselves from vice, but we must forbid others from doing it also – we must act as the barrier between the evil and the men.  The Qur ‘an tells us that the winners, those that attain success, are those Muslim men and women who command the good and forbid the evil: And Allah teaches us that He cursed nations before us because they lost this characteristic of encouraging good and forbidding evil:

[Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of Dâwûd (David) and ‘Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed (Allah and the Messengers) and were ever transgressing beyond bound.  They used not to forbid one another from Al-Munkar (wrong, evil-doing, sins, polytheism, disbelief) which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do. (Qur’an, 5:78-79).

When a nation fails in its duty to command the good and forbid the evil, their supplications and prayers will cease to be accepted.

When someone enjoins good and forbids evil he should have certain characteristics:

  • Knowledge
  • Patience, as Luqman taught his son.
  • They should be just, not forgetting the good that that person being addressed still has.
  • Have wisdom
  • Kindness to those whom they are advising.

In conclusion, there are many ways in which one can promote virtues and forbid evil, try some of the following:

  • With an encouraging speech/discourse
  • With a booklet highlighting what needs to be commanded or a general email
  • With an Islamic tape given as a gift
  • With an Islamic magazine or newspaper
  • With an email or letter addressed specifically to that person who needs to be advised or needs exhortation in abstaining from sin. And the list goes on.

Let’s all start today practicing that promotion of virtue and prohibition of evil with that Muslim in the mirror.