Written by Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin
Translation by Umm Hajar (ummhajar@gmail.com)

Thousands of miles away from Malaysia, I read the Malaysia newspaper daily and keep myself abreast on how the security of the Malaysians is turning into a menacing state. Major crimes are occurring in all places. There are homicides, rapes, aggravated burglaries, snatch thefts and various other crimes that pain us by just thinking about it.

In our country, a person is always in a state of anxiety or terror when he has to walk alone or carry precious items or own luxurious belongings or even to carry a bag around his shoulder for fear that it will jeopardize his life. One does not only fear for his safety while on the road but also when one is at home.

Parents are afraid to let their children to play out in their front yard and are even more reluctant of letting them to go further out to play with their friends. Criminals can be found everywhere with all their gruesome evil acts. Even worse, some of them may be defended by powerful lawyers in court. Political parties that are ‘power thirst’ will probably take the opportunity to defend criminals if they perceive the issue can be politicized.

We have lost the pleasure of having a serene life which we once enjoyed tremendously. Or probably Allah has purposely withdrawn His Blessing from us. This is the biggest calamity a nation has to ever endure. Among the reasons for it is because of the lacking in Al-Amr bi al-Ma’ruf Dan al-Nahy ‘An al-Munkar (inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong).

This particular duty is profusely mentioned in the al-Quran and al-Sunnah. Among the verses is when Allah says (translated as):

“And the believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: They enjoin what is good, and forbid what is evil; they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted In power and Most Wise.” (Surah al-Taubah: verse 71)

The word munkar (evil) is always narrowly interpreted by some of us as referring only to acts of adultery, alcohol consumption, gambling and others of same species. Because of that, only those who join the operation to inhibit these activities will feel that they are executing the religious duty.

At the same time, other kind of crimes such as drug abuse, robbery, hooliganism, vilification of others, illegal racing that endangers people’s life and other offenses are considered as common crimes that are not related to the religion. Therefore, the acts of inhibiting these crimes are not regarded as pious deeds commanded by the religion.

Probably, this is one of the drawbacks of constricting the functions of Shariah Court in our country. It causes the mosque congregation to feel that apprehending couples engaged in khalwat (close proximity) is a religious task but at the same time, they do not do anything to stop the youngsters from taking drugs or marijuana or destroying the public property.

A group of religious officers performing ‘khalwat snoop operation’ is seen as performing religious acts even though it contradicts the teachings of Islam. In the meantime, the task performed by the police or members of rukun tetangga (community center) to prevent crimes that ruin the community is deemed as ordinary tasks or social duties. They do not see it as executing the duty commanded by Allah and His Messenger.

Similarly, the definition of munkar used by many dakwah groups or Islamic organizations or religious orators is also limited. Without realizing it, this is one of the narrow Islamic understandings being adopted by the majority of us. We can identify this as one of the impacts of secular thinking our community is experiencing.

At times, when we leave one munkar unchecked, it will lead to another kind of munkar. For instance, we do not give enough attention to the issue of drug abuse involving the youngsters in our neighborhood. Probably, it is because we feel that it does not have anything to do with our life. In the end, because of their uncontrolled addiction, they turn into thieves and even murderers just like the recent tragedy that we have heard of.

We tolerate vandalism when it does not affect our property but in the end, the country suffers the loss and one day, we may become a victim. We do not criticize or protest the acts of ‘mat rempit’ but in the end, we or the ones we love will become their victims.

When Ibn ‘Abbas interpreted verse 25 in surah al-Anfal (translated as): “And fear tumult or oppression, which affect not in particular (only) those of you who do wrong: and know that Allah is strict in punishment” he said, “Allah commands the Believers to avoid accepting the acts of munkar among them for fear that Allah will punish all of them (because of that).” (Al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Tabari: Taqrib wa Tahdhib, 4/59, Damsyik: Dar al-Qalam)

The Messenger of Allah s.a.w once said:

“By Him in Whose Hand my soul is in, you must enjoin what is reputable and forbid what is disreputable or Allah will certainly send his punishment to you, then you will make supplication but will not receive an answer” (Reported by al-Tirmizi, ranked as sahih as al-Albani). Because of that, one who sees an act of munkar must stop it using means that is within his capability.

The Messenger of Allah s.a.w also said:

“He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue, and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart, and that is the least of faith.” (Reported by Muslim)

Most importantly, we must keep in mind that a government’s main function is to enjoin what is makruf (reputable) and forbid what is munkar as stated in Surah al-Hajj verse 41 (translated as):

“(They are) those who, if we establish them in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid wrong. And (remember) with Allah rests the end (and decision) of (all) affairs.”

If a government fails to enjoin the makruf and forbid the munkar in a broad and comprehensive sense then it means that the government has failed to function as required by Allah and His Messenger. Therefore, it is recommended that the government in our country run a campaign to prevent crimes from the perspective of Al-Amr bi al-Ma’ruf Dan al-Nahy ‘An al-Munkar as dictated by Islam.

The community, particularly the Muslim community, must be encouraged to perceive the undertaking attempted by the police and the volunteers among the community as a virtuous effort of executing the religious duty. For the sake of realizing the meaning of helping each other in forbidding the munkar, the rakyat should be educated to assist the police and this should in turn be driven by their religious awareness. At the same time, it is also a part of the government’s duties in this whole process to preserve the welfare of the members of the police force. This includes, among others, increment to their salaries and increase to their numbers.

Also, bear in mind that when the police’s reputation is tainted, that will lower the feeling of fear the criminals hold against the police. The community’s respect for the police too will erode. Therefore, the government must ensure that the trustworthiness of our police force is preserved and their independency is guaranteed.

It is most unfortunate if the police are too occupied with the nonsensical endeavors of the politicians whereas the community’s state of security is in trouble. Regrettably, political parties are so engaged in securing their respective seats that they forget to discourse the issues on people’s security that is getting more and more threatened by the increase in crime.

One important matter for us to be aware of is that crime is increasing because felons are no longer fearful of the authority or the existing criminal law and this may be caused by two factors. First is because the authority or the law enforcers are deemed unfit giving them the belief that the chance to dodge the penalty is wide. Second is because the existing law is not fear-provoking enough.

When Islam prescribes ‘hudud’, it is designed in such a way that it is very difficult for the accused to be convicted but its punishment is exceptionally frightening if convicted. In other words, only those who are guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt are punished and the punishment can really send a stern warning to the criminals and the criminal wannabes.

Yes, the method of punishment and its process of execution may be adjusted with the change in time and generation. Nevertheless, the authority must revert to the teachings of Islam in tackling crimes. Seminars and discussions on confronting crimes based on the teachings of Islam must be conducted in a serious manner. This is the duty of ‘enjoining the makruf and forbidding the munkar’ that is shouldered by the government. If that is not done, crimes will overcome the makruf in our country.