Home>Posts>Politics, Religion & Culture>Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil: Finding the Right Perspective

Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil: Finding the Right Perspective


As American Shias, we honor the sacrifice of Imam Husain (as) by defending the weak in America through meaningful political participation.

As American Shias, we honor the sacrifice of Imam Husain (as) by defending the weak in America through meaningful political participation.

By Asghar Rizvi

Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq (as) once said:

God (Exalted is He!) sent two of his angels to turn a city upside down on its people. When the angels came to the city [before destroying it], they found a man praying to God whilst in a state of humility and abasement. One of the angels then asked his companion, ‘Do you see this man praying?’ The other angel replied, ‘Yes, I have seen him but I must obey the command which my Lord has tasked [me to do].’ The other angel said, ‘No, I will not bring about [any destruction] before going back to my Lord [and asking] about it [i.e. the man.]’ The angel then returned to God (Exalted is He!) and said, ‘O Lord, I went to the city and found your servant so-and-so praying to you and humbly beseeching you.’ The Lord said, ‘fulfill your task as you were commanded to do; he is a man who never even frowned for my sake in anger against evil [that was committed by people around him.]”

(Translation of this hadith is not mine, it is taken from the following doctoral dissertation)

Source: al-Kāfī by Muḥammad al-Kulaynī

We can find many common traits among Shia Islamic centers in the United States after a quick perusal. Among other things, these traits include Thursday night Dua Kumayl, Ramadan programs, Muharram programs, occasional congressional and Friday prayers, and the all too common delicious but oil ridden high-fat and high-carb meals. Let us also not forget the presence of a foreign-born imported cleric, or more commonly termed as a “maulanas” in the Desi community which is a priest with a turban, namely who has studied abroad for a number of years.

Perhaps the most distinctive marker of Shia centers in the America revolves around the mourning of Imam Husain (as), the murdered grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and the third Imam of the Shias. Many centers mourn his death for almost two months out of the year. They dress in black, cry almost daily and lead processions outside protesting the injustice that was done to the Imam and perhaps even protesting the injustices done to people today across the world.

If Muharram and Imam Husain’s (as) sacrifice at Karbala could be summed up in one Islamic principle, it would be the principle of Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil (al-amr bi al-maʿrūf wa nahī ʿan al-munkar). The principle or doctrine is quite vast. It includes exhorting people to perform or maintain ritual practices such as prayer, fasting or upholding proper religious dietary rules as well as Islamic notions of social justice (ʿadālah) including fighting oppression and defending the lives and rights of the weak.

Our communities place great emphasis on commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husain (as) and they will go at great lengths to organize events, peace walks, blood donations, fundraisings and all sorts of other programs to show their devotion to the Imam’s sacrifice. Yet one thing that conspicuously lacks among American Shias is devotion and focus on the religious principle that was at the foundation of Imam Husain’s revolt against Yazid, namely the enactment of Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil in the face of great political and social crises.

America is facing great injustice at the moment. The poor and disadvantaged are slowly being stripped of their dignity by corporations and their political marionettes. The military-industrial complex is ravaging the poor and the weak in the world, in the Muslim world and beyond, yet little do these communities do in order to participate in  the political process, fundraise and lobby to help put an end to the madness we call the 21st century.

The centers behave as if they do not live in America but in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran or what not. The principle of Commanding Good and Forbidding Evil is not restricted to our home villages or crying in centers, they encompass the places we have chosen to live in. As U.S residents and citizens, we have the duty to promote justice and defend the weak at home be they Muslim or non-Muslim, Shia or non-Shia. It is in this way that we can please Allah (swt), honor the memory of Imam Husain (as) and actually make a difference in the world and not waste away with empty tears and high calorie oily foods.

Asghar Rizvi is a U.S based Muslim community leader and founder of several Shia Muslim organizations. He heads several Shia think tanks and provides critical analysis of incorporating important Muslim, and especially Shia Muslim, into mainstream American society. He is currently a senior blogger at the World Shia Forum. He lives with his family in Los Angeles, California.


Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


Latest From Twitter