[In the talk “Need for Tablīgh”, Maulāna Ashraf ῾Ali Thānvi rehmatullāhi ῾alayh says]
…Let us look at an Ayah which has been used to take proof that no one should propagate dīn until he brings that action into his own life.
لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ . كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَنْ تَقُولُوا مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ
Why do you say that which you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do. (61:2-3)
In reality these people have relied on the apparent translation only and have been deceived. They think that the Ayah is saying that an action which one is not doing himself, then he should not tell others to do that act, whereas that is completely incorrect. In order to understand Qurān in proper way we need to keep in mind the Asbāb un Nuzūl1 in mind.
The Sabab un Nuzūl of this particular Ayah is that, some Muslims said that if it was told to them which action is the best and most rewarding, then they would go at length to accomplish that action. Upon this it was revealed that the best of action for the Muslim is Jihād fi Sabīlillah. When some Muslims heard this revelation they became apprehensive. This Ayah was revealed about these Muslims, and it rebuked them that why do they say something when they themselves would not be able to fulfill.
So in this Ayah “لم تقولون” has neither come to mean “لم تنصحون غيركم”2 nor any commanding order, rather it is an informative statement. In other words this ayah is from the chapter of Da῾wā (Claiming) and not from the chapter of Da῾wah (Propagating). This should have been understood after reading the reason for its revelation, that this Ayah has absolutely nothing to do with Amr bil Ma῾rūf Wan Nahiyun ῾anil Munkar.
Hence, while it is necessary to propagate and rectify (Islāh) other Muslims, rectifying oneself takes precedence over that. Despite this necessity Allah has not disregarded the propagation and rectification of others; rather Allah has emphasized the command of Tablīgh at numerous places without restricting it to self-rectification.
The reason for this is that everyone deems self-rectification to be necessary, but does not give much importance to propagating to others. This is why the propagation and rectification (Islāh) of others is greatly emphasized. This is why in the Ayah “كنتم خير امة”3 has placed this propagation (Amr bil Ma῾rūf Wan Nahiyun ῾anil Munkar) before self-rectification (Islāhun Nafs), so that one should not forget the work of Tablīgh along with one’s self rectification.
Khutbāt Hakīmul Ummat, vol. 13, pg. 300-301
1. Asbāb un Nuzūl is a field of study which looks at the reasons for the revelation of particular Ayāt of Qurān. It is one of the studies which is required to understand the correct understanding of the Ayāt.
2. “Why do you advise others…”; In its apparent translation the verse seems to suggest that Allah is rebuking those who advise others while they themselves do not practice. However, this particular Ayah is not revealed for that purpose as is understood from the explanation.
3. The complete Ayah is 3:110 “كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَلَوْ آمَنَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ مِنْهُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ’ This ayah was also dealt with in the previous topic here