The meaning of al-Ma’roof and al-Munkar: Ibn Rajab

In his famous collection of 40 comprehensive ahaadeeth, Imam al-Nawawi brings the following two connected hadeeth in the same section:

عَنْ النَّوَّاسِ بْنِ سَمْعَانَ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “الْبِرُّ حُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ، وَالْإِثْمُ مَا حَاكَ فِي صَدْرِك، وَكَرِهْت أَنْ يَطَّلِعَ عَلَيْهِ النَّاسُ” رَوَاهُ مُسْلِمٌ . رَوَاهُ مُسْلِمٌ

On the authority of an-Nawwaas bin Sam’aan (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Righteousness (birr) is in good character, and wrongdoing (ithm) is that which wavers in your soul, and which you dislike people finding out about.” [Muslim]

وَعَنْ وَابِصَةَ بْنِ مَعْبَدٍ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: أَتَيْت رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم فَقَالَ: “جِئْتَ تَسْأَلُ عَنْ الْبِرِّ؟ قُلْت: نَعَمْ. فقَالَ: استفت قلبك، الْبِرُّ مَا اطْمَأَنَّتْ إلَيْهِ النَّفْسُ، وَاطْمَأَنَّ إلَيْهِ الْقَلْبُ، وَالْإِثْمُ مَا حَاكَ فِي النَّفْسِ وَتَرَدَّدَ فِي الصَّدْرِ، وَإِنْ أَفْتَاك النَّاسُ وَأَفْتَوْك” .
حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ، رَوَيْنَاهُ في مُسْنَدَي الْإِمَامَيْنِ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ حَنْبَلٍ ، وَالدَّارِمِيّ بِإِسْنَادٍ حَسَنٍ.

And on the authority of Waabisah bin Ma’bad (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and he said, “You have come to ask about righteousness.” I said, “Yes.” He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels at ease and the heart feels tranquil. And ithm is that which wavers in the soul and causes uneasiness in the breast, even though people have repeatedly given their legal opinion.”

A good hadeeth transmitted from the musnads of the two imams, Ahmed bin Hanbal and Al- Daarimi, with a good chain of authorities.

[al-Arba’een #27]

The haadidh ibn Rajab al-Hanbali brings the following point of clarification in his expansive commentary:

وقد قيل إن الدين كله خلق وأما في حديث وابصة فقال البر ما اطمأن إليه القلب واطمأنت إليه النفس وفي رواية ما انشرح إليه الصدر وفسر الحلال بنحو ذلك كما في حديث أبي ثعلبة وغيره وهذا يدل على أن الله فطر عباده على معرفة الحق والسكون إليه وقبوله وركز في الطباع محبة ذلك والنفور عن ضده

It is been said that “Verily the entire deen is good character.” And as for in the hadeeth of Waasibah where he said, “Righteousness is that about which the soul feels at ease and the heart feels tranquil“, and in another narration, “towards which the breast expands,” then this explains the halaal by the likes of that, such as in the hadeeth of Abu Tha’labah and other than him. And this shows that Allah fashioned His slaves with the recognition of the truth, and to be at ease with it and to accept it, and He affixed the love of that and the aversion to its opposite in our very nature.

وقد يدخل هذا في قوله في حديث عياض بن حمار إني خلقت عبادي حنفاء مسلمين فأتتهم الشياطين فاجتالتهم عن دينهم فحرمت عليهم ما أحللت لهم وأمرتهم أن يشركوا بي ما لم أنزل به سلطانا

And this (meaning) is included in his statement in the hadeeth [qudsi] of ‘Iyaadh ibn Himaar, “Verily I have created My slaves as Hunafaa’ [having a natural inclination to worship Allah alone] and as Muslims, and then the shayaateen came to them and made them deviate from their deen, and they forbade them what I had permitted for them and commanded them to make shirk [associate partners with Me in worship] for which I had never revealed any authority.”

وقوله كل مولود يولد على الفطرة فأبواه يهودانه أو ينصرانه أو يمجسانه كما تنتج البهيمة بهيمة جمعاء هل تحسون فيها من جدعاء قال أبو هريرة رضي الله عنه اقرأوا إن شئتم فطرة الله التي فطر الناس عليها لا تبديل لخلق الله الروم

And his statement, “Every one born is born upon the fitrah [natural inclination to pure monotheism], so then his parents make him a Jew or make him a Christian or make him a Magian. Just as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal; do you perceive any mutilation in it?” Abu Hurayrah said, “Recite, if you wish, ‘the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah‘ [30:30]

ولهذا سمى الله ما أمره به معروفا وما نهى عنه منكرا فقال تعالى ‏{‏إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاء ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاء وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ‏}‏ النحل وقال تعالى في صفة الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏{‏وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَآئِثَ‏}‏ الأعراف‏.‏

And for this reason Allah has named that which He commands as ma’roof and that which He forbids as munkar.* So Allah said, “Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded” [16:90], and He said, “and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil” [9:157]

وأخبر أن قلوب المؤمنين تطمئن بذكره فالقلب الذي دخله نور الإيمان وانشرح به وانفسح سكن للحق واطمأن به ويقبله وينفر عن الباطل ويكرهه ولا يقبله‏.‏

And He informed us that the hearts of the mu’minoon are find tranquility in His remembrance, so the heart for which noor and eemaan has entered and it has been opened to it and expanded to the indwelling of truth, and tranquil because of it, and it accept it; and it flees from falsehood and dislikes it and does not accept it.

[Jaami’a al-‘Uloom w’al-Hikam 2/99-100]

*Translator’s Note: al-Ma’roof [الْمَعْرُ‌وف] is generally used to refer to what is good or right, and al-munkar [الْمُنكَر] is generally used to refer to what is evil and wrong, such as in the common phrase:

يَأْمُرُ‌هُم بِالْمَعْرُ‌وفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ‌

“Commanding the right and forbidding the evil”

However, Ibn Rajab is making a fine linguistic point here. The root of al-ma’roof [الْمَعْرُ‌وف] is “to know” [عَرَفَ] from which one derives ma’rifah [مَعْرِفَة], or knowledge/acquaintance. Similarly, the root of al-munkar [الْمُنكَر] is “to not know” [نَكِرَ], from which one derives [نَكِير] and related words indicating denial, rejection, and disapproval.

So Ibn Rajab makes the connection between the fitrah which Allah created His slaves upon and their natural inclination to recognize the good (al-ma’roof), and to reject evil (al-munkar).

For more linguistic insights from Ibn Rajab, please see: The Sharee’ah of Moosaa and the Sharee’ah of Muhammad

For more on the issue of the Fitrah, please see: Imam al-Nawawi on the Fitrah
See also: “All of you are astray except whomever I guide”: Ibn RajabSee also: “Consult your heart”: Clarification from Ibn Rajab

10 thoughts on “The meaning of al-Ma’roof and al-Munkar: Ibn Rajab

  1. Pingback: The Sharee’ah of Moosaa and the Sharee’ah of Muhammad | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Imam an-Nawawi on the Fitrah | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: “All of you are astray except whomever I guide”: Explanation of Ibn Rajab | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: “Consult your heart”: Clarification from Ibn Rajab | Tulayhah

  5. Pingback: The meaning of al-thulm : Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali | Tulayhah

  6. Pingback: Prophets with multiple names and the meaning of “Israa’eel”: Tafsir al-Qurtubi | Tulayhah

  7. Pingback: al-Qaḍaaʼ and al-Qadr: al-Raghib al-Isfahani | Tulayhah

  8. Pingback: “There is no good in much of their private conversation, except…”: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  9. Pingback: The Meaning of Taghoot: Sheikh al-Fawzan | Tulayhah

  10. Pingback: Imam an-Nawawi on the Fitrah | Tulayhah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.