Imposing Outward Guidance and Sunnah Acts: Acceptable?
In fact, calling people to Islam and its ethics should be done by means of wisdom and proper preaching. No one is allowed to forcefully impose ethics or morals on people. Moreover, people are not entitled to take the law in their own hands, for it’s the responsibility of the State and its concerned bodies to maintain peace, security, etc., and to prevent chaos and disorder from creeping into the Muslim society.
Answering the question, Dr. Rajab Abu Maleeh, states,
If true, these events that have been reported in news agencies are totally divorced from the teachings of Islam, its general spirit, and its sublime objectives. They also indicate a shallowness of thought and understanding of Islam on the part of those Shabab. This group may have sincere intentions in what they do, but sincerity alone is not enough; deep understanding of the teachings of our religion is necessary. If such understanding did not exist, the Shari`ah, which is full of mercy, beneficial rules, justice, spaciousness, would turn into one that is cruel and hard. Islam is far from being cruel or hard.
Proving that this is a grave error, we raise the following points:
First, organizing the affairs of Muslims and imposing laws that govern their lives are the responsibility of the ruler or the one assigned by him. A ruler should come to power through legal means; that means he should be elected and accepted by the people he will govern. Along with the ruler, there should also be a constitution or a law to which people would appeal for legal decisions and to whose text they would refer, should disputes arise.
These are a group of young people that no one has elected or accepted. Hence, they do not have the right to appoint themselves as judges of people’s actions, nor do they have the right to impose such laws, whether they are related to outward guidance or religious obligations and pillars of Islam. They can only invite people to Islam —as understood by them— through wisdom and good exhortation, without any form of compulsion.
Second, before he may claim any rights, the ruler has duties to carry out. Should he fail to fulfill his duties, the ruler cannot claim his rights from people. Indeed, a ruler is not supposed to be one who only flogs people and punishes them. Instructing the governors of the provinces of the Muslim Caliphate, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “I have not sent you to people to beat their faces or take their money. By Allah, should any of you beat one of the subjects, I would inflict punishment on him.”
It was more appropriate for those young people to occupy themselves with providing peace and security for those living with them, and to provide the basic necessities of life, such as food, drink, medicine, and education. Many other duties — that any ruler should fulfill — were to fall on their shoulders, since they have appointed themselves as rulers.
Third, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) continued to invite people to Islam in Makkah for 13 years. He called people to pure monotheism, good manners, and little worship. For 10 years in Madinah, he built a strong state, yet he did not execute hudud (prescribed penalties), except in very few cases.
After the Prophet, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs continued to follow in his footsteps. During the Year of Famine, for example, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab ordered that the hands of thieves not be cut. That was because he knew that it was his duty as a ruler to make it possible for people to live with dignity before applying hudud.
Fourth, it is not recorded in the Sunnah or Islamic history that a ruler may impose outward guidance and sunnah acts on people. A student of the science of the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence knows well that a doer of a sunnah act gets a reward, yet a person who fails to do it receives no punishment. Consequently, it is not permissible to set penalties for failure to perform sunnah and supererogatory acts. Rather, people should be left to choose whether to do them or not.
Fifth, these young people are unaware of the fiqh of priorities, which is to say that first things first. They should have observed the order of priorities. Indeed, the application of hudud was the last thing the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did after establishing the state in Madinah.
Sixth, any matter, where kindness exists, is pleasant and good, and any matter that lacks kindness is always unpleasant and bad. Islam is not a religion that is eager to exact penalties. It is reported a man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), admitting the commission of a crime and asking for purification from his offence through the prescribed punishment. The Prophet turned away from such a person until he witnessed against himself four times. Then, the Prophet tried to find a way out for him, saying, “I think you may have did so and so.” He would not inflict the due punishment until the person admitted categorically that he had committed the crime.
Seventh, these rash young people — who do not understand their religion or present it wisely to others — are to blame for the fuss that happened worldwide and the accusations that were leveled to Islam in the wake of these events. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, they are like those who bar access to the way of Allah and harm Islam from where they will good for it.
Eighth, there is a legal government in Somalia now, though it is so weak. Rebelling against a legal government is not accepted except if it commits a clear kufr (disbelief). Supporting the internal power against the external challenges should take priority; internal fighting and blood-shedding is not justified under nay pretext. Allah says, (O ye who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam. And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.) (Aal-`Imran 3:102-103)