Amr Bi’l-Maruuf

This concise work, called Kitaab al-Amr bi’l-Ma`ruuf wa Nahyi `An al-Munkar (the Book of Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil) was composed by the Islamic reformer of the 12th century hijra, Uthman ibn Muhammad ibn Uthman ibn Saalih, known as Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio. For a detailed history of the Shehu, I advise the reader to see the introduction to my commentary upon the Sawq al-Umma of the Shehu, which I named Tawq al-Lama wa Itmaam an-Ni`ama from the digital archive.

For our purposes here, the time in which the Shehu composed this text was around the year 1795 C.E. (1210 A.H.) at the age of forty-one. This was during the reign of Ya`qubu Dan Babari over the Hausa Gobir kingdom, when the Shehu was still residing in Degel. It was an auspicious period for the Shehu and his jamaat, because he had been given authorization by the previous ruler, Bawa Dan Gwazo in 1788 C.E. to call its people to Islam and to establish social reform. The social contract (mu`ahida) stipulated that: [1] allowance to call the people Allah; [2] not prevent anyone from answering the call of Islam; [3] social respect to everyone who Muslim attire; [4] the freeing of all political prisoners; and [5] to removal of all unjust taxes from your subjects. It was under this social contract, for more than twenty years, the Shehu was able to develope a network of students which stretched across the central Bilad as-Sudan, from as far as Djenne in present day Mali and Kutum in the lands of Dar Fur in present day Sudan.

By the year 1795 C.E., the Jamaat of the Shehu had morphed into a well-organized clerical network which resembled a ‘government’ within the seven prevailing Hausa states responsible for educating the people and bringing about social reform in these societies. Social reform (tajdeed) in Islam falls under the duty of ‘commanding good and forbidding evil’ (amr bi’l-ma`ruuf nahy `an’l-munkar). And it was for this reason the Shehu composed the text in order to instruct and guide his Jamaat in how to go about the responsibility of reforming society.

In his Ihya as-Sunna wa Ikhmad al-Bid`a, the Shehu said: “Most of the people are ignorant of the shari`a. Thus, it is incumbent that there be in every mosque and quarter in the town, a jurist (faqih) teaching the people their deen. Likewise in every village it is incumbent for every faqih who has completed his individual obligations (fard `ain) and is now devoted to the study of his collective obligations (fard kifaya) that he go out to the people neighboring on his town in order to teach them their deen and the obligations of their shari`a.” As result, the Shehu sent out missionaries throughout Hausaland and the surrounding regions to teach the people the obligations and prohibitions of the religion of Islam.

He composed the Kitaab al-Amr bi’l-Ma`ruuf wa Nahyi `An al-Munkar (the Book of Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil) as a manual for those missionaries to stay within the bounds of teaching and instructing with kindness and to avoid harshness and force. The text was informed from Shaykh Muhammad ibn Yusef as-Sanusi’s commentary upon the al-Wusta in which the Shehu opens with almost the same wording where he said: “Commanding the good and forbidding evil are two obligations made so by the Book, the Sunna and the consensus (ijma`).”

The Shehu cited Qur’anic verses, sound prophetic traditions and the opinions of Sunni scholars from the first century of Islam until his time, demonstrating that commanding the good and forbidding evil were both individual and collective obligations upon the Umma of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. 

The Shehu said: “Muslims in the first age and after that have always advocated commanding good and forbidding evil and have condemned the neglecting of that. More than one among the scholars of the Sunna have written specifically about this.” To corroborate this, the Shehu cited scholars from first century of Islam, such as Ibrahim ibn Yazid an-Nakhai` [d. 96 A.H.]; Imam Sahnun [240 A.H.] of the second century of Islam; Shaykh Ibn al-Hindi [d. 399 A.H.] of the third century of Islam; Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni [d. 478 A.H.] of the fourth century of Islam; Shaykh Abd’l-Haqq ibn Abd’r-Rahman al-Azidi [d. 581 A.H.] of the fifth century of Islam; Shaykh `Izz’d-Deen ibn Abd’s-Salaam [d. 660 A.H.] of the sixth century of Islam; Shaykh Ibn al-Hajj [d. 737 A.H.] of the seventh century of Islam; both Shaykh Muhammad ibn Yusef as-Sanusi [d. 895 A.H.] and Shaykh Ahmad Zarruq [d. 899 A.H.] of the eighth century of Islam; Shaykh Abd’l-Wahaab as-Sha`raani [d. 973 A.H.] of the ninth century of Islam; Shaykh al-Hassan ibn al-Mas`ud al-Yusi [d. 1102] of the tenth century of Islam; and Shaykh Shihab’d-Deen Ahmad an-Nafrawi [d. 1126] of the eleventh century of Islam.

All of these scholars from the first centuries of Islam until the time of the Shehu upheld the view that commanding the good and forbidding evil were two distinct obligations upon every Muslim who possessed knowledge of the obligations and prohibitions. The Shehu defined “commanding the good” as commanding or ordering what is obligatory (waajib); and “forbidding evil” as forbidding or prohibiting what is forbidden (haraam). 

The Shehu asserted that commanding the good and forbidding evil were obligations incumbent upon the common Muslim as well as the scholars, in those matters of the religion that were well known to everyone, such as the obligations of prayer, alms, and fasting; and the prohibitions of consuming intoxicants, illicit sex, injustice and abandoning the obligations.

The Shehu clarified that commanding the good and forbidding evil were not specific responsibilities of the government, nor were they depended upon the appearance of the Awaited Imam al-Mahdi, as some of the shi`a claim. However, in those matters of the religion which require ijtihad (independent judgment), that there is no way for the common people to command or forbid. This is the same in those matters of the religion about which the scholars of Islam differ, there is no way to command one juristic opinion over another or to forbid one juristic opinion over another.

The social contract which the Shehu was given by the Gobir government in 1788 C.E. gave his jamaat some limited power to command the good and forbid evil. The success of the Shehu and his Jamaat in reforming the Central Bilad as-Sudan was so positive that a famous Hausa song illustrating the success of the Jamaat commanding good and forbidding evil became widespread:

“Verily a cloud has settled on Allah’s earth

A cloud so dense that escape from it is impossible.

Everywhere between Kordofan and Gobir

And the cities of the Kindin (Tuareg)

Are the settlements of the dogs of the Fulani

Worshipping Allah in all their dwelling places

In reforming all districts and provinces

Ready for the future bliss

So in this year of 1214 they are following their beneficent theories

As though it were time to set the world in order by preaching.”

The Shehu clearly stipulated that commanding the good and forbidding evil could in certain circumstances lead to conflict and social strife. In such conditions the scholars asserted that in Islamic societies it was better to remain silent if speaking out would likely lead to warfare. However, in societies that are non-Muslim, the scholars asserted that it is better to command the good and forbid evil, even if it results in being punished, sanctioned, or killed. This last point is significant because it was exactly this challenge which the Shehu and his Jamaat encountered in 1798, just two years after composing the Kitaab al-Amr bi’l-Ma`ruuf wa Nahyi `An al-Munkar. The ruler of Gobir at that time, Ya`qubu Dan Babari, who acknowledged and maintained the social contract (mu`ahida) which was arranged for the Shehu and his Jamaat, died. In his place ruled his brother, Nafata Dan Babari, who immediately repealed all the resolutions of the social contract between the Gobir kingdom and the Shehu’s community. They were afraid of the growth and popularity of the Shehu’s community and feared that the Muslims would eventually win over the hearts of the subjects. 

Sultan Muhammad Bello, explains in his Infaq al-Maysur: “When those after them conceived that the Shehu would not cease his mission, that he increased daily in distinction and discretion and the common people continued to enter the deen of Allah in large numbers – the rulers began to fear him regarding their own affairs. This was because their affairs were diametrically opposed to what the Shehu was trying to implement in most issues. Indeed their authority was contrary to the rules of the shari`a.  This is because they only took from their worship what was necessary to clean up their act and conceal their misdeeds.  They performed the outer form of the prayer, fasting and zakat and even pronounced the words of the shahadatayn, but without adhering to the prerequisites of what they had testified to. The system of rule, which they implemented, was a system they had accumulated from their ancestors who openly pronounced Islam but did not act on it themselves. The majority of their governmental authority conflicted with the Book, the Sunna and the consensus of the Muslim community as is well known. In addition to this they were deceived by ideas and actions, which only emerged from those who disbelieve. So of course, the manifestation of the deen and the establishment of the shari`a was not in keeping with their aims and objectives. For this reason they mustered their schemes in order to instigate war between them and the Shehu and his jama`at. They were convinced that the government belonged to them since they saw that the supporters of the Shehu were too oppressed to fight them. After deliberation they all agreed to penalize the disciples of the Shehu who invited others to Allah by preventing them from giving sermons. The rulers ordered everyone to return back to the pagan religion of his father and grandfather. Nothing frightened us except the sanctions of the ruler of Gobir, Nafata, which amounted to three: [1] no one was to preach to the people except the Shehu; [2] no one was to adhere to the religion of Islam except those who had inherited the religion from their fathers. Those who did inherit Islam were to return to the religion of their fathers and grandfathers. And [3] no one was to wear the turban and women were forbidden from covering their breast with their head wraps. These sanctions were posted in all the markets places. These were a part of the steps which the ruler took in punishing us.”

Thus, the commanding of good and forbidding evil always leads to an encounter with government powers. The ability to command the good and forbid evil can never be truly accomplished without autonomy, self-determination and lawful sovereign authority. It is for this reason the Shehu ends his Kitaab al-Amr bi’l-Ma`ruuf wa Nahyi `An al-Munkar with the following words from Shaykh as-Sanusi which could only be a political forecast for the government he was yet to establish: “Being that having the power to establish the good, commanding it, giving assistance to the truth, giving assistance to its people, eradicating falsehood, and holding to the truth in a complete manner; completely depends upon the appointing of an Imam of the Muslims, who is Muslim, sane, male, holding firmly to uprightness, efficient of opinion, firmly established in tenacity and courage, described with strength of knowledge in the foundations of the religion and its branches, not budging during controversial dilemmas and not being astonished when matters are extremely dark; it is then obligatory by Divine law upon the Muslims to put forward one who has these attributes, or someone who has as much of the attributes as possible; and to avoid appointing anyone who is devoid of these attributes.”

It was in 1803 C.E., some eight years after composing the Kitaab al-Amr bi’l-Ma`ruuf wa Nahyi `An al-Munkar (the Book of Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil) that the Shehu and his Jamaat did just that. They made the hijra from under the political jurisdiction of the Gobir kingdom, and then appointed Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio as the Amir al-Mu’mineen of what became the Sokoto Caliphate; where they were able to complete the dispensation of commanding the good and forbidding evil by establishing a Dome of Islam in the central Bilad as-Sudan.

Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid

Friday, 17th Rabi`a Thani, 1444 [11/11/2022]

Bamako, Mali

3 thoughts on “Amr Bi’l-Maruuf

  1. Your name is Joshua your mom is an African American and you do not even know your father! So go and see a psychiatrist!

  2. Bis-Mi-Allah,


    First of all i wanna give praises to my Lord who raised me up in this hell of a nation to redeem falling humanity. I have seen the corruption, dysfunction and calamaties widespread and have been seen to establish justice.

    I wanna thank Allah for my bloodline, BAH’Nso of the Fulani Tribe who hail out of the Banyo Emriate of the Adamawa Sub-Goverment of the Sokoto Caliphate in Cameroon. In a small village in Bamenda the heirs of my throne who run through my blood came to Bamenda to teach the Nso people about Islam.

    As heir of my families throne the Mahdi is here in the name of Allah and my ancestors speaking to erdicate the corruption and confusion for the sake of calling out my true followers in this ja’maah

    To begin;

    Allah says

    وَقَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا۟ ٱلْعِلْمَ وَٱلْإِيمَـٰنَ لَقَدْ لَبِثْتُمْ فِى كِتَـٰبِ ٱللَّهِ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ ٱلْبَعْثِ ۖ فَهَـٰذَا يَوْمُ ٱلْبَعْثِ وَلَـٰكِنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ ٥٦

    “Those who are giving divine knowledge and the ayman (covenant) will say.” (30.56)

    ۞ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱشْتَرَىٰ مِنَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَٰلَهُم بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ ٱلْجَنَّةَ ۚ يُقَـٰتِلُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ فَيَقْتُلُونَ وَيُقْتَلُونَ ۖ وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّۭا فِى ٱلتَّوْرَىٰةِ وَٱلْإِنجِيلِ وَٱلْقُرْءَانِ ۚ وَمَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِعَهْدِهِۦ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ ۚ فَٱسْتَبْشِرُوا۟ بِبَيْعِكُمُ ٱلَّذِى بَايَعْتُم بِهِۦ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ هُوَ ٱلْفَوْزُ ٱلْعَظِيمُ ١١١

    Allah has indeed purchased from the believers their souls and wealth in exchange for Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah and kill or are killed. This is a true promise (ah’dee) binding on Him in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Quran. And whose promise is truer than Allah’s? (9.111)

    *** Who are these men whom Allah made a promise with that are mentioned in the Torah? Who have sold their souls and who inherit the knowledge?

    “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.”

    Gensis 17.20

    The true scholars of Islam who can make no mistakes who Allah promised that 12 there would be, whom I am the 12th Imam Mahdi.

    What Shehu Uthman failed to do was to emphasize the importance of this Divine station of my family. And so you have scholars in his books who say its not mandatory to follow or adhere to any scholar which is confusion.

    Why would there be a concensus to agreee that you don’t have to adhere to any scholar who makes independent judgement about obsure matters ;-/

    That’s like telling a child to make its own decisions about what kind of future they want to have.

    How can a child even know without knowledge? The purpose of a child is to fufill the purpose of their father. That’s why its called a dynasty or sucession.

    Islam is a religion of Aristocracy, a Royal Family like the Queen of England. To Teach islam like this is to maintain its purity and order.

    Allah says;

    ثُمَّ أَوْرَثْنَا ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱصْطَفَيْنَا مِنْ عِبَادِنَا ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ ظَالِمٌۭ لِّنَفْسِهِۦ وَمِنْهُم مُّقْتَصِدٌۭ وَمِنْهُمْ سَابِقٌۢ بِٱلْخَيْرَٰتِ بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ ٱلْفَضْلُ ٱلْكَبِيرُ ٣٢

    “Then We inherited (warith) The Holy Scripture to those We have chosen (satafaine) from Our servants.” (35.32)

    The very Quran you read from is an inhertance right for a chosen and if youre not of the blood or royal family then your in complete violation.

    Why you think they killed Imam Hussein? Imam Ali? This has been a fight we have been pushing since the death of my father (S).

    Shehu Uthman will get his reward for talking about me even for not calling himself the Mahdi. But the truth of the matter is he was not centered in the love of the chosen but he was Maliki based who were the enemies of my family.

    Muhammad said:

    in the canonical Sunni collection Musnad Ahmad is as follows:

    I [Muhammad] leave among you two treasures which, if you cling to them, you shall not be led into error after me. One of them is greater than the other: The book of God [Quran], which is a rope stretched from Heaven to Earth, and [the second one is] my progeny, my Ahl al-Bayt. These two shall not be parted until they return to the pool [of abundance in paradise, kawthar]”

    Many people have astrayed from my family and as a result strayed from me.

    Im just a warner sent to make things clear. Youre either going to adhere to my teachings now that i have come or suffer the consequences from Allah in the end.

    Allah says;

    هُوَ ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَـٰٓئِفَ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۚ

    “It is Allah who chooses (ja’la) your Khalifa in the Earth.” (35.39)

    But you and people like you actually think you can choose the Khalifa. My that sounds like some Democratic western system of government where peoples egos and emotions get the best of them and now they can levy who they want to put on the throne.

    This is exactly what they did to my father, (S) may he rest in perfect peace.

    I have come to avenge my name and my families honor.

    You have done good work O Abu Alpha, exposing the false narrations about the pale face. You gave us a sense of pride about the black man. You remind me of Elijah Muhammad (A) may he rest in perfect peace. But all of your work can be nullified if you deny me. So follow me and be rightly guided.

    Take heed

    – PEACE

    Syed El-Mahdi

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