Is it the duty of the Government or Individuals to Prevent the Evil in the Community?
The Prophet (PBUH) states the following in one of his Glorious Hadiths:
Whoever of you witnesses an evil, he should correct it by his hands if he can. If he cannot, he should correct it by his words. If he cannot do even that, the at least he should hate it in his heart. But this last resort is the manifestation of the weakest level of belief.(1)
Some scholars of Islam expressed that the government should carry out the duty of repulsing evil by using force; that scholars should fulfill it by means of conveying; that individuals should fulfill that duty by means of hating it in their hearts.
Thus, in al Fatawa al-Hindiyya, the following is stated in the section Amr bil Ma'ruf (Enforcing the Good):
Administrators realize Amr bil Ma'ruf by means of hand, scholars do it by means of tongue, as for individuals, they fulfill it by means of their hearts.
Yes, repulsing an evil by using force is the duty of the government, the authority to use force belongs to the government not to individuals. The power is in the law and the execution of laws is the duty of the government. If individuals excess their limits, it is impossible to determine a boundary. There always exists a person stronger than another stronger person. Consequently, it causes various oppressions, anarchy and disorder. For example, while punishing a person who deserves death penalty is the duty of the government, an individual cannot attempt to execute it on his own.
When an individual exceeds his limits in terms of using force, physical anarchy will take place; similarly, when an ignorant person attempts to carry out the duty of a scholar, intellectual anarchy will take place. Consequently, it will bring about physical anarchy, too.
From that point of view, some scholars explained the above-mentioned Glorious Hadith as follows:
If a person sees an evil; he should prevent it by his hands. However, even if that person is strong enough to prevent that evil, he should give up preventing it by means of his hands and he tries to stop by his words and by giving advice if he knows that such attempt will cause a bigger disturbance, If he realizes that a disorder will occur if he tries to prevent it by words, then he at last hates it in his heart and does not approve it.
We shall explain the phrase weakness of belief mentioned in the Glorious Hadith. The minimum reaction of a believer when he/she encounters an evil must be to disapprove it in his/her heart. The Hadith should not be understood as the belief of a believer who does not have enough power to repulse that evil is weak. In fact, Imam Nawawi, an Islamic scholar, interpreted the weakness of belief as shortness of reward. Similarly, many scholars interpreted the word belief as deed.
As to whether the word Whoever stated in the Hadith includes everyone:
Each believer is responsible for repulsing an evil happening in the boundaries of his area of or responsibility or at least disapproving it. In a Glorious Hadith as the following is stated:
All of you are shepherds; all of you are responsible for your flocks. (2)
Head of a family is responsible for the family; teacher is responsible for the students and finally the government is responsible for the whole nation. One of the aspects of the responsibility is to preserve the community from evil actions and to dispel the wrongdoings they commit. Regarding that issue, both individuals and governments have to fulfill their responsibilities.
(1) Tirmizi, Fitan, 11; Ibn Majah, Fitan, 20; Abu Dawud, Salat, 242
(2) Bukhari, Nikah, 90