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Prevent Evil from Spreading
Dr Khalid Zaheer


Travelling by an otherwise comfortable bus service plying between Lahore and Islamabad, I had an uncomfortable time facing constant disturbance through involuntary ‘consumption’ of filthy songs and indecent dialogues of films/dramas that were ‘entertaining’ the passengers. The hostess, whose duty was to make the passengers feel comfortable, conveniently ignored the mild protest I made to her. I had to endure the five-hour long agony, making vain attempts to fight the Satanic messages. On leaving the coach, I took two decisions: first, I will not travel on this service again, and, second, I’ll report the matter to the higher officials of the bus service. I got the opportunity of immediately implementing the latter decision on reaching the destination. The passengers’ lounge of the bus service had a complaint book. I availed the opportunity to freely express my feelings of disgust at the experience I went through. I also warned the officials that if the policy I am complaining against would continue, I and my like-minded friends would never use the service again. While writing the protest, I was convinced that apart from gaining a spiritual satisfaction that I was discharging my religious duty, there wasn’t any real possibility that my protest would effectuate any change in the policy of the service.

Sometime later, when I was in need to travel again, I used the same bus service, completely forgetting that I had made a resolve not to avail it anymore. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that although the ‘facility’ of songs and films/dramas was still available to the passengers, those who were not interested in getting ‘entertained’ were spared from being disturbed by it. Earphones were provided to the passengers so that the voice of the system goes selectively to only those passengers who opt for it. I am not too sure whether my written complaint had anything to do with this change in policy or not, but it did strengthen my confidence in the act of controlled protest.

Commercial organizations pursue their business interests when they make attempts to ensure customer satisfaction. If committed Muslims make officials of these ventures realize that they are in danger of losing considerable customer patronage if they continue to follow their un-Islamic policies, they would most certainly be forced to rethink their business strategies, if only for commercial reasons. In order for the protest to be effective, however, its message should be clear and directed only towards the relevant authorities. Messages similar to the one I delivered need to be delivered to the owners of general stores and other retail outlets also, who display in their stores cover pages of magazines that seem to be in some kind of competition of outperforming each other in disseminating obscenity. The revenues generated by these journals are normally a very small component of their overall sales proceeds. However, the trend of spreading vulgarity is accelerating at a rapid pace through these retailers, apart from other reasons, because good Muslims – who form a decent chunk of the overall customer population – seem to be indifferent to the phenomenon of this threatening menace.

Preventing evil from spreading (Nahī ‘anil Munkar) is a necessary part of a believer’s list of Islamic obligations. Let us, therefore, make a serious attempt to do our best to check evil from increasing. There are good reasons to believe that our sincere efforts would bear fruits in the society. Even if they don’t, we will have an excuse to present to our Creator that we did try our bit to check evil from spreading. The Qur’ān informs us about the example of a few God-fearing people who used to urge others not to commit sins. When they were discouraged by some others from doing Nahī ‘anil Munkar because of, what they thought, the apparent futility of the exercise, the rightly guided people defended their strategy thus:

[We are doing so because] we want to have some excuse [to present] before your Lord and, who knows, they might become God-fearing [as a consequence of our efforts]. (7:164)


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