Article written by Muhammad Alshareef.
Ashaab As-Sabt – the people of Saturday. They were a townsfolk from Bani Israel who were tested with the Sabbath, the day when they were to leave their worldly affairs and be devout to 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!
“Ask them (O Muhammad) concerning the town standing close by the sea. Behold! they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath (i.e. Saturday). For on the day of their Sabbath their fish did come to them, openly holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they came not: thus did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression.” (Surah Al Araf 7:163)
A group of the townsfolk transgressed, not satisfied with Allahs commandments devising a scheme to by-pass 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 2 groups when they saw the grave evil and sin that was befalling. The first group 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 the first group.
“When some of them said: “Why do you preach to a people whom Allah will destroy or visit with a terrible punishment?”- said the preachers: “To discharge our duty to your Lord, and perchance they may fear Him.”" (Surah Al Araf 7:164)
So the first group spoke out against the disobedience that was taking place for two reasons: One, so that they would be pardoned before Allah because they tried to hold back the transgressors. And two, so that perhaps the transgressors may hear the reminder and turn back to Allah. It was only this group that survived.
“When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them, We rescued those who forbade Evil; but We visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment because they were given to transgression. When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.”" (Surah Al Araf 7:165-166)
In one sweeping 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 we were to be alone, deserted and secluded, we would still feel a drive to do good or indulge in evil.
But as for our ummah, it should of our characteristic to only do good. And we should not only do good ourselves, but we must encourage others to do good; we must be the driving force. And we should not only distance ourselves from vice, but we must forbid others from doing it also, we must be the obstacle.
Dear brothers and sisters, if we all had Muslim identification badges, and the badge was valid, the description that would go on the badge would read: This man/woman commands the good and forbids evil, for this is how Allah described us.
“Ye (true believers in Islam) are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah…” (Surah Ali Imran 3:110)
Good and evil. When it comes to encouraging one or the other, there are two groups of people. The first are those who encourage others to do good and advise them to stop the evil they may be committing. These are the muminoon and muminaat, the believing men and women, the ones that shall be favored by Allah’s Mercy:
“The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just (al-maruf), and forbid what is evil (al-munkar): they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Apostle. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise.” (Surah Al Tawbah 9:71)
The second group of people are those who encourage others towards evil and stop them whenever they see them doing acts of virtue. These are the munaafiqoon and munaafiqaat, the hypocrite men and women who Allah shall shun.
“The Hypocrites, men and women, (have an understanding) with each other : They enjoin evil (al-munkar), and forbid what is just (al-maruf), and are close with their hands. They have forgotten Allah; so He hath forgotten them. Verily the Hypocrites are rebellious and perverse.” (Surah Al Tawbah 9:67)
The Quran 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:
“Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses. Nor did they (usually) forbid one another the iniquities which they committed: evil indeed were the deeds which they did.” (Surah Al Maidah 5:78-79)