In the name of Allah the Most Beneficent and Merciful.
The rules of Shariah are flexible to allow Hikmah. For instance, the scholars are unanimous in their opinion that when there are two wrongs. then the lesser wrong may be chosen. However, something which is Haram does not become Halal (e.g. by drinking alcohol with your mates in order that they will trust you and then guiding them to pray salaah would not be a permissable way of Dawah.)
In the same way it is the act of the beloved Prophet to miss a Sunnah when an obligatory act is jeopardised, e.g. If there is only enough time left for Fardh Salaah then it is necessary to leave out the Sunnah.
As far as ways of Dawah or promoting the good and forbidding evil is concerned then the following rules apply:
The essential purpose of commanding the good and forbidding the evil is to increase the good, and reduce wrong. As such, it must be done after clear thinking and proper assessment of the situation, and possible outcomes. Until reasonably sure that one’s words or actions will be of benefit (the least of which would be to affirm the truth, even if it is not heeded), and bereft of harm, one should not act. The scholars deduce this from the Prophet’s words (Allah bless him and give him peace), “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say what is good or remain silent.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
“Every legally responsible person should refrain from saying anything except when there is a clear advantage to speaking. Whenever speaking and not speaking are of equal benefit, it is sunna to remain silent, for permissible speech easily leads to that which is unlawful or offensive, as actually happens much or even most of the time – and there is no substitute for safety. The Prophet (Allah) bless him and give him peace) said,
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say what is good or remain silent.”
This hadith, whose authenticity Bukhari and Muslim concur upon, is an explicit legal text indicating that a person should not speak unless what he intends to say is good, meaning that the benefit of it is apparent to him. Whenever one doubts that there is a clear advantage, one should not speak. Imam Shafi`i (Allah have mercy on him) said, “When one wishes to speak, one must first reflect, and if there is a clear interest to be served by speaking, one speaks, while if one doubts it, one remains silent until the advantage becomes apparent.” [Nawawi, al-Adhkar, as translated by Shaykh Nuh Keller, Reliance of the Traveller, r.1.1]
The Essentials Of The Fiqh Of Commanding The Good And Forbidding The Evil:
1. Commanding the good and forbidding the evil is one of the most important of Islamic duties. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) cautioned us, ““Command the right and forbid the wrong, or Allah will put the worst of you in charge of the best of you, and the best will supplicate Allah and be left unanswered.”
2. Scholars mention, however, that commanding the good and forbidding the evil is only obligatory if one thinks that the person would listen.
3. Otherwise, if one does not think they will listen, it is recommended.
4. However, if a greater harm or worsening of the situation is feared, then it would be better (or even obligatory, in some cases) not to say anything, because legally one choose the less harmful of two matters.
5. It would be an obligation, however, to hate the wrong in one’s heart.
6. With this, if it is ongoing in one’s presence (such as listening to unlawful talk) it would be obligatory to leave if even stopping it (such as by subtly changing the topic) is not possible. Similarly, if a sister is not properly covered, one cannot allow oneself to look at her uncovered hair or limbs. Similarly, if a brother is wearing very tight trousers, one cannot look at the (tightly-covered) area between his navel and knees.
7. Sayyidi Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi (Allah have mercy on him) cautions that the general Prophetic way in commanding the good and forbidding the evil is to do so in a discreet, non-specific manner, in order to preserve the honor and feelings of the one who is wrongdoing to the extent possible.
[From: Sharh al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya, Sayyidi Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi; Radd al-Muhtar, Allama Ibn Abidin; al-Hadhr wa’l Ibaha, Shaykh Khalil al-Nahlawi]
Of course Allah knows best
[Answer provided by: Muhammad Salim Ghisa]