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 shall report the matter to the higher officials of the bus service. I got the opportunity of immediately implementing the latter decision on reaching my destination. The passenger’s lounge of the bus service had a complaint book. I availed the opportunity to freely express my feelings of disgust at the experience I had gone through. I also warned the officials that if the policy I was 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 spiritual satisfaction that I was discharging my religious duty, there was no real possibility that my protest would effectuate any change in the policy of the service.

Sometime later, when I needed to travel again, I used the same bus service, completely forgetting that I had made a resolve not to avail it. 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 went selectively to only those passengers who opted for it. I am not sure whether my written complaint had anything to do with this change, but it did strengthen my confidence in the act of controlled protest.

Commercial organizations pursue their business interests when they make attempts to meet their perceived customer needs. If committed Muslims make officials of these ventures realise 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 relevant authorities. Messages similar to the one I had delivered need to be given to the owners of general stores and other retail outlets also, who display magazines with obscene covers. The revenues generated by these journals are normally a very small component of overall sales proceeds of these outlets. However, the trend of spreading vulgarity is accelerating at a rapid pace, apart from other reasons, through these retailers, because good Muslims - who form a decent chunk of the overall customer population - seem to be indifferent to this threatening menace.

Preventing evil from spreading (Nahi ‘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 do not, we will have an excuse to present to our Creator that we did try our bit to check evil from spreading. The Qur’an 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 Nahi ‘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)

(Dr Khalid Zaheer)