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The Nature of a Muslim’s Relationship with Evil

The meaning of a hadith (saying) of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is that if a Muslim sees evil, he should stop it with force. If he is unable to do that, he should denounce it verbally. If a Muslim is not even capable of that, then he should at least consider it evil in his heart, but this is the lowest level of faith. Three basic truths emerge prominently from this hadith:

(1) It cannot be conceived of a Muslim who remains ‘neutral’ in matters of evil. The people of faith will always be ‘partisan’ in the struggle between good and evil. They will support goodness and resist evil. The ‘contemporary importance’ of this point is that the weakness of faith and the compulsion of the international environment are making a large number of Muslims indifferent in the face of evil. The reason for this is that there are many worldly benefits in maintaining neutrality regarding evil and no harm. Since the terms ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’ against Muslims have started to be used, there has been an increase in the inclination towards so-called ‘neutrality’ among Muslims. Those who become neutral in the battle between right and wrong consider themselves ‘safe’ on the one hand and establish opinions about themselves on the other hand that they are ‘very peaceful’ and civilized people.

(2) The second important fact that emerges from this blessed tradition is that a Muslim not only refrains from neutrality in matters of evil but also the level of his faith is directly related to the extent of his resistance to evil. As much as his resistance to evil is, so is his faith. The person who actively opposes evil with strength possesses the highest degree of faith, and the one who merely considers evil as bad in his heart is at the lowest level of faith.

(3) The third important aspect of this holy hadith is that the very absence of evil is the greatest good. But what does this mean? In our religious, spiritual, and moral education, there is a major shortcoming in that we don’t pay as much attention to the promotion of good as to the eradication of evil, whereas the eradication of evil is more important than the promotion of good. For example, one Muslim may worship less but there is no evil in him. On the contrary, another Muslim worships a lot but two or three evils are also found in him. The question is who is the better person among them?

(3) The third important aspect of this blessed hadith is that the absence of evil itself is the greatest good. But what does this mean? A major flaw in our religious, spiritual, and ethical education is that while we pay attention to promoting goodness, we do not pay as much attention to the eradication of evil, even though eliminating evil is more important than promoting goodness. For example, one Muslim may worship less, but there is no evil in him. On the contrary, there is a Muslim who worships a lot but also engages in two or three evils. The question is, which of them is better?

In our environment, the element of “ostentation” has increased, which is why people will generally think better of the second person, even though the first person is the better Muslim. This blessed hadith makes clear that the nature of a Muslim’s relationship with evil itself defines him. The question here is what is the meaning of the levels of faith in the context of resisting evil?

The faith of the person who ends evil with force is the highest because that person understands the concept of power. He understands that every form of power bestowed upon man, including the power of knowledge and reasoning is given solely to promote goodness and eradicate evil.

The second virtue of eliminating evil with power is that the one exercising power strives to end evil completely rather than partially. The struggle between good and evil is perpetual. Even after being eliminated, evil does not end; it reemerges in a different form. But when evil is uprooted, its “return” does not remain easy. In such cases, it takes longer for evil to resurface, giving people respite from it for a considerable time.

The faith of those who eliminate evil with power is also superior because the one who wields power, by using it, exposes themselves to all kinds of dangers. In this struggle, not only their life but also their strength and wealth are at greater risk.

The one who challenges evil verbally confronts evil at the level of idea and concept and works to eradicate it at the level of thought and reasoning. This too is an open battle and carries serious risks, but these risks, in their scope and intensity, are lesser compared to the risks of challenging evil with force which is why the faith of those who battle at this level is of the second degree.

The one who perceives evil as evil in their heart only essentially declares that they have no affiliation with the outside; though, he will not allow evil to enter his being. Such a person is engaged in love for life and the world, prioritizing a secure and safe life above all else. Such a person is not bereft of faith but his faith is weak, as is his self-defense capability regarding evil. Such a person is also engulfed in dangers. He is a man embroiled in dangers. He can prove to be fertile ground for the enticements of Satan and base desires. Therefore, such a person should strive to increase his level of faith. The question here is, when Islam prohibits highlighting the faults of others and forbids their exposure, what should be the behavior of a Muslim in such a situation?

The answer to this question is that while Islam does not ignore personal deviations or misguidance, it also does not condone aggression against it. However, if falsehood gains collective power and evolves into a local or international system, Islam does not overlook it for a moment and challenges it at every level. It has two aspects.

On an individual level, evil is a matter between God and His subject and does not impact the spiritual or moral well-being of society. However, when evil takes on a collective hue, it can affect the entire society, even the entire international community. Especially if it turns into a system. The second egregious aspect of the systemization of evil is that after that, falsehood doesn’t just stand in place of truth, but it often starts to be perceived as truth itself, to the extent of making truth appear false. There are two major examples of this in modern history. Communism, as long as it existed as a major system in the world, continued to present Islam as false. The same function is now being performed by capitalist order or secularism in general.

One way of looking at this blessed hadith is that the lowest level of faith is that which merely considers evil as evil in the heart. However, in the present age, the situation has become so dreadful, when there was a time when such a concept was inconceivable. The people of faith could never have imagined that a time would come when many Muslims would not only fail to perceive evil as evil but would go further to justify it. Seen from this perspective, millions of Muslims stand two degrees below the lowest level of faith. What is even more alarming is that they are not only content with their state but take pride in their secular and liberal ideologies.

However, in the present age, the situation has become so dreadful that it was inconceivable before. The faithful could never imagine that a time would come when many Muslims would not even regard evil as evil; rather, they would go a step further and justify evil – that is, make excuses for it. If we look at it from this perspective, millions of Muslims today stand two levels below the lowest level of faith. What is more appalling is that they are not only satisfied with this condition but take pride in their secular and liberal ideas.

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