The Campaign Against Vices
An effective way of encouraging good people and discouraging those guilty of misconduct is to implement the rule of 'enjoining good conduct and forbidding misconduct' (al-amr bi al-ma'ruf wa al-nahy 'an al-munkar) in society. The spread of immorality and vicious conduct obliterates the worth of moral values which are the foundations of society's welfare and glory, and drive people off the path of piety and godfearing towards sinfulness. Sin, by nature, spreads rapidly, and like an epidemic spreads from one point to another affecting entire society.
If a serious and consistent effort is not made against vice at the point of its origin, its circle of influence increases continually, contaminating the surrounding areas and spreading to other healthy regions. The evil consequences of vice not only affect those who perpetrate it, but ruin even those who by their connivance and indifference permit it to grow and spread. That is because they abstain from any kind of corrective action and despite their power to prevent sin take a passive attitude towards it. Such persons share the guilt of polluting and ruining the social environment and get punished for their offence.
Hence, instead of remaining silent and indifferent, one should realise his own duty to counter immoral conduct. Because in the same way as one who leads others into deviance is an agent of corruption, so also one who is indifferent to the sinner's conduct and who fails to assist him despite possessing the means to do so is also an agent of immorality of another kind.
The teachers of morality and human excellence and the guides of nations-each in accordance with his level and situation-have brought the vices of various kinds and their harmful consequences to the notice of the people. They have called attention to the fact that any misfeasance and negligence in regard to any of these matters and immorality in the Vice results in destroying and undermining the spirit of freedom. In a society whose members have lost the capacity to perceive realities, vice is seen as virtue, waywardness as freedom, and retrogression as progress.
The precepts of religion emphasise that anyone who sees an immoral act being committed should stop it with the means at his disposal. They prescribe various levels and degrees of opposition to vice, so that whatever one's situation might be he should be able to use these means for its prevention. Those who have the influence and power to prevent unlawful conduct have the duty, assigned by God, to use their power to discipline the offenders and draw them toward the path of purity. If one does not possess the needed power to prevent moral misconduct in society, his duty is to guide by the word of mouth and to point out in an effective manner the evils of misconduct and its undesirable effects on life. Obviously, the speaker himself should be one who practices these moral virtues and values and is committed to them, so that his exhortations are earnestly accepted by others. Otherwise his admonitions would not go to their hearts and his insipid and lifeless preaching would be barren and fruitless.
The duty of someone who does not possess even this capacity is to condemn immoral conduct by disapproving of it and resenting it in his heart. Of course, in such circumstances when one cannot influence others one must not be content with merely taking a negative and passive attitude; rather, it is necessary that his inner indignation should lead to positive results. That is, he must break his ties of friendship with the offender so that the latter is made to feel like an outcast who cannot expect friendship and co-operation from others.
Opposition to immoral conduct has a special importance in Islam, which is very earnest in its struggle against vice and in its commitment to guide humanity towards ethical merits in all phases of moral development. The Qur'an has well described the meaning of salvation by stating that it exclusively belongs to those who call people to virtue and prevent them from vice:
Let there be one nation of you, calling to good, and bidding to honour, and forbidding dishonour; those are the finders of salvation. (3:104)
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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