Sources:

  • Sharh Riyad us-Saliheen by Shaikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaimeen
  • Riyadh-us-Saliheen by Darus-Salaam
  • Al-Makhraj minal Fitan by Shaikh Muhammad an-Najdi 

Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) says in Surat an-Nisa’ (4:59):

 “O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority.”

Those who are in authority are of two categories:

1-    The ‘Ulamaa’ (the scholars)

2-    The Rulers

The ‘Ulamaa’ are incharge of the Muslims in clarifying and explaining the Shari’ah; (Islamic Law), teaching the Shari’ah and guiding the people to the truth.

The Rulers are incharge of controlling the security, protecting the Shari’ah (Islamic law) and obliging people to abide by it.

The ‘Ulamaa’ are the bases because they are the ones who clarify the Shari’ah of Allaah to the Rulers and ask them to abide by it and act upon it. The Rulers have no way to know the Shari’ah except through the ‘Ulamaa’, and when they come to know the Shari’ah, then they implement it (execute it) on their people.

Therefore, the Muslim Ummah (nation) needs both the ‘Ulamaa’ and Rulers, and it is obligatory upon the Muslim nation to obey the ‘Ulamaa’ and the Rulers. However, their obedience follows the obedience of Allaah, i.e. we obey them if they command with what agrees with Allaah’s Command and not in what constitutes disobedience to Allaah, because Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) said: “Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger” and did not say, “Obey those who are in authority”. Allaah did not repeat the word obey because their obedience is dependent on the obedience of Allaah and His Messenger. Accordingly, there is no obedience to anyone in disobedience to Allaah.

The conditions required in the obedience to the Rulers:

Ibn ‘Umar (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) narrated that Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “It is obligatory upon a Muslim that he should listen (to the ruler) and obey whether he likes it or not, except when he is ordered to do a sinful thing; in such a  case there is no obligation to listen or to obey.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

This Hadeeth makes it clear that it is binding upon Muslims to show obedience to the Muslim ruler as long as he does not call to a sin or disobedience to Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) because Allaah’s obedience comes first above all.

A Muslim is required to listen to and obey the rulers in whatever he likes or dislikes. If he is ordered with something he dislikes (which opposes his desire), it is still obligatory upon him to act upon their command, even if he thinks contrary to what he is ordered with. If he dislikes to execute it, he should still act upon it except in the case when the ruler commands something sinful.

This Hadeeth is an evidence for the futility of the behavior of those who claim that: “if the rulers command us with a legal matter we will obey them, i.e. if they order with Salaat we will pray, if they order us to pay Zakaat we will pay Zakaat, but if they command us with a matter which is not religious then we will not obey them.”

In fact, this thought is void and against the Book (the Qur’an) and the Sunnah of the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam). This is because we are commanded by Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) and His Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) to obey the rulers as long as what they order us with is not prohibited by the Qur’an or Sunnah. We obey them even in the set of laws that they put in place for us to regulate our worldly matters, such as the traffic systems. The traffic laws are set by the ruler and comprise no sin; therefore, one should act upon them and whoever violates them is considered a sinner.

For example: stopping at a red traffic light is obligatory. One cannot say that Allaah did not order it. The rulers have enacted this law or system and ordered us to act upon it, and if one violates it then he is a sinner. It is as if one says to his Lord, “no hearing, no obedience.”

Similarly, we are obliged to obey the rulers regarding the regulations set for leadership, judgment, construction, etc., as long as they do not contradict or oppose the Shari’ah. Without such regulations, everything will be in confusion and every man will judge according to his opinion and with what he wants, and the ruler or those who have the authority over people will have no value or respect.

The command of the rulers and those who have authority are divided into three categories

First:           To command with what Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) has commanded with. In this case, it is obligatory to obey them, because Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) ordered us with that.

Second:     To command a sinful thing or disobedience to Allaah, such as forbiddance to offer the Salaat in congregation or offer Jumu’a prayer, or to command the men to shave their beards, etc. Here we say, “no hearing, no obedience” no matter who he is, because he is opposing Allaah and His Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam). If any harm or punishment is incurred due to disobeying the ruler then the ruler will be punished for that on the Day of Resurrection for two reasons.

  1. Because he ordered with disobedience to Allaah.
  2. Because he has transgressed against his people.

Third:   To command with something which is neither prohibited, nor commanded in the Shari’ah. In this case, it is obligatory to obey them and if one does not obey them, he is considered a sinner and they (rulers) have the right to rebuke him and punish him because he has opposed Allaah’s Command of their obedience.

Obedience to a ruler is indispensable in view of the collective interests of a community. A believer has, therefore, been enjoined to obey the ruler in all circumstances, rising above his personal interests, preferences and psychological urges.

Abu Hurairah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: It is obligatory to listen to and obey the orders of the ruler in prosperity and adversity, whether you are willing (in matters which comply with your desire) or unwilling (in matters that you dislike), or when someone is given undue preference over  you. [Muslim]

Even if the ruler or those who have authority live in palaces, travel in the most expensive cars, wear the best clothes, get married and have slaves and live this life in luxury, and other people are living miserably in addition to suffering hunger and hardship; we still have to listen to and obey them, because they are commanded to look after the people’s prosperity and moral development, and we must deal with them in accordance with the guidance shown by the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam).

Obedience to the rulers is obligatory, even if someone is given undue preference over us.

The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said to the Ansaar: “After me you will see others given preference over you; so be patient till you meet me at Al-Haud (the tank i.e. Al-Kawthar) (on the Day of Resurrection).” [Al-Bukhaari]

The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) informed the Ansaar one thousand and four hundred years ago that after him the rulers would be giving (themselves or their relatives) preference over their subjects, and despite that, he (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “Be patient till you meet me at the tank.”

The undue preference of the rulers should never prevent us from being obedient.

The Aqeedah of Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah regarding the revolution against the transgressive behavior of the rulers:

Waa’il ibn Hujr (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that Salamah ibn Yazeed al-Ju’fee (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) asked Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam): “O Prophet of Allaah! Tell us, what do you command us to do if there arises over us rulers who demand of us what is due to them and refuse us what is due to us.” Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) turned away from him, but he repeated the same question. Thereupon Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “Listen to them and obey them. They are responsible for their obligations and you are accountable for yours.” [Muslim]

This Hadeeth means that both the ruler and the ruled have their own respective obligations. If any of the two fails to play his due role, he will bear the brunt of its deficiency on the Final Day.

The word ruler implies all those who have authority, starting with the ruler of the country and those who are less than him in rulership.

People are prohibited from disobeying a ruler who neglects to do what is required of him. Negligence is not rectifiable by negligence, as it will make matters worse.

The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) commanded us to give them their rights. We are accountable for obedience to them and they are responsible for judging with justice among their people, not oppressing anyone, establishing and setting the limits of Allaah upon His slaves, abiding by and establishing the Shari’ah (law) of Allaah in the land of Allaah, and fighting the enemies of Allaah. This is what is enjoined upon them. If they fail in their responsibilities we are still obliged to give them their rights of obeying them, coming out with them in Jihad, praying behind them on Friday, and Eid and other congregational prayers, etc. and we ask Allaah for our rights, as it is mentioned in the following Hadeeth:

‘Abdullah ibn Masood (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that ‘Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “There will be discrimination after my death and there will be other matters that you will disapprove of.” He was asked: “O Messenger of Allaah! What do you command us to do when we are encountered with such happenings?” He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) answered: Give what is due from you and supplicate to Allaah for your rights.” [Agreed upon]

This Hadeeth approves the methodology of Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah. The methodology of our Righteous Predecessors is obedience to the rulers and avoiding disobedience to them in matters where obedience is obligatory upon us, and to avoid raising any hatred against them.

Imam Ahmad (Rahimahullaah) was beaten by the Sultan (ruler), was pulled by mules and was lashed in the market places till he was unconscious; despite all that, he continued supplicating for the Sultan and calling him the commander of the believers. Once he (Rahimahullaah) was prevented from preaching to people, so he listened and obeyed and did not preach publicly. His friends were coming to him to learn the Hadeeth from him. His attitude shows clearly that he did not want to revolt against the ruler.

The Evil Consequence of rebellion

Ibn ‘Abbas (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) narrated that the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “Whoever disapproves of something done by his ruler, then he should be patient, for whoever disobeys (revolts against) the ruler even a little, will die as those who died in the period of ignorance (i.e. as rebellious sinners).” [Agreed upon]

There are two aspects to this Hadeeth:

  1. Believers have been told to obey and support rulers for the sake of national interest and welfare and they are advised to patiently endure the transgressive behavior of rulers as well as their monopolization of all the national resources, as long as they (the rulers) desist from committing an overt disbelief and maintain congregational Salaat and other duties of religion.
  2. Whoever revolts against the ruler by utterance or actions (through demonstrations, strikes, etc.) and dies, he dies like those who died in the Days of Ignorance. This has two meanings:

First meaning: that his heart will be turned away (from the right way) until this sin will be a cause to his apostasy.

Second meaning: It probably means that he dies like those who died at the time of Jahiliyyah (i.e period of ignorance before Islam) because the people of Jahiliyyah never had an Imaam or Ameer (a ruler). They only had Chieftains who did not have any authority over people, unlike rulership in Islam.

Accordingly, it is not permissible to rebel against the rulers and those who have authority, neither by utterances nor by actions. We are not supposed to talk among the public with what incites hatred against the rulers, because this will cause mischief at the cost of unity and the common interest of the Muslim community. One may think that talking and revolting against the ruler is Gheera for the sake of Allaah and acknowledgement of the truth (confession with truth). In fact, acknowledging the truth is never done from behind the veils, in a hidden way. The acknowledgement of truth is done face to face with the ruler; the ruler should be in front of you and you should tell him: “You did such and such thing and this is not permissible, you abandoned this and it is obligatory” and so forth. However, backbiting and abusing the ruler from behind a screen and defaming him is not of the acknowledgement of truth, rather it is a kind of mischief which causes hatred for the rulers, and revolution against them which is even more mischievous.

Therefore, we should follow the way of Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah regarding this matter.

Shaikh ul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah (Rahimahullaah) mentioned in the book “Al-Aqeeda al-Waasitiyyah”, the methodology (Manhaj) of Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah and their way; that they show loyalty to the Muslim rulers, and establish the Jihad with them and go to Hajj with them, offer the Friday congregational prayer and the Eid prayer behind them, regardless of their righteousness, i.e. whether they are righteous or wicked. Ahl us-Sunnah are of the opinion that one should obey them and offer the Salaat behind them.

The conditions required for revolting against the ruler:

‘Ubadah ibn as-Samit (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated: “The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) called us and we gave him the Bai’ah – pledge for Islam, and the conditions on which he took the Bai’ah – pledge from us, was that we were to listen to and obey (the orders of a Muslim ruler) both at the time when we were energetic and at the time when we were exhausted, at our difficult times and at our times of ease; to be obedient to the ruler and give him his right, even if he did not give us our right, and not to fight against him unless we noticed him committing open Kufr (disbelief) for which we would have a proof with us from Allaah.” [Al-Bukhaari]

This Hadeeth mentions the conditions that allow a revolution against the ruler:

  1. Seeing the ruler committing Kufr openly (i.e. not just hearing about it).
  2. Committing Kufr (disbelief) and not a sin openly (in public), such as preventing the congregational prayer, changing the Islamic law, etc.
  3. Clear Kufr which there is no interpretation for it except being Kufr.
  4. Having a proof from the Book and Sunnah that the sin committed is Kufr (disbelief).

In such cases, it is obligatory upon the people to change him, if they have the ability and power to exchange him with one who is better than him. If the people are incapable of changing him, then it is not obligatory to do that and the Muslim in a such case should emigrate from his land to another land where he can save his religion. [Mentioned by Imaam an-Nawawi in his explanation]

Accordingly, it is clear that rebellion against the Kaafir is not obligatory except in case the Muslims have the power and ability, which is for the most part, not the case nowadays.

Bear in mind that committing sins and giving undue preference are not excuses for rebellion against the rulers. Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah are of the opinion that the ruler should be listened to and obeyed despite all that, and that it is prohibited to fight against him or promote hatred against him.

Abu Bakrah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated: I heard Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) saying: ‘He who dishonors the ruler will be disgraced by Allaah”. [At-Tirmidhi]

Dishonoring the ruler has different forms:

1. To mock at the command of the ruler. For example, if the ruler commands with something, the person will say, “Look at what he (the ruler) says!”

2. If the ruler does something, the person will degrade him in order to belittle the command of the ruler upon the people. In fact this impairs his power, honor and dignity, and as a consequence this will lead the people to contempt him and his orders and they will not obey his command nor abstain from his prohibitions.

Therefore, whoever dishonors the ruler by spreading his defects among the people, or by abusing him and defaming him will be exposed (disgraced) by Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala), because dishonoring the ruler causes the rebellion against him and disobedience to him and this is great evil and mischief. Allaah’s disgrace for this person could afflict him in this life; if he is not disgraced in this life, then he deserves to be disgraced in the Hereafter. Whoever obeys the Ameer (leader), in fact, obeys Allaah and His Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam), and whoever helps the Ameer or Sultan, Allaah will help him because he (the person) has helped in righteousness and goodness.

Opinion of the Muslim scholars:

At-Tahaawi said in Al-Aqeedah at-Tahawiyyah: “We do not agree with revolution against our rulers or those who have authority over us, even if they transgressed and oppressed; neither do we invoke against them, nor do we disobey them. We see that their obedience follows the obedience to Allaah and it is obligatory as long as they do not order with a sinful matter, and we invoke Allaah for their reformation and well-being.”

Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (Rahimahullaah) said: “Verily, the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) prescribed for his Ummaah forbiddance of the Munkar (evil) in order to attain the Maruf (good) which Allaah and His Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) love. However, if forbidding the Munkar will result in more evil and a matter which is more detested to Allaah and His Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam), in this case it is not recommended to forbid the Munkar.” An example for such Munkar is revolution against the ruler and those who are in authority. This matter is the bases for every evil and Fitnah (trial, affliction, etc.) till the end of the life. The Companions (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma) asked permission from the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) to fight against the rulers (leaders) who postpone the Salaat from its stated time. They said: ‘Shall we fight them?’ He (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “No, as long as they offer the Salaat.” [Muslim]

And he (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: “If a person notices in his ruler what he dislikes, he should show patience.” [Agreed upon]

Az-Zubair ibn ‘Adi narrated: We went to Anas ibn Maalik (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) and complained about how the people were suffering at the hands of Al-Hajjaaj. Anas ibn Maalik (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) said, ‘Be patient till you meet your Lord, for no time will come upon you but the time following it will be worse than it. I heard that from your Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam)’.

Shaikh Ibn Baaz (Rahimahullaah) was asked the following question: ‘Is it of the Manhaj (way or methodology) of the Salaf (the Righteous Predecessors) to criticize the rulers in the sermons on the pulpits? What is the Manhaj of the Salaf in advising the rulers?’

He said: “It is not from the Manhaj of the Salaf to defame the rulers and mention their faults publicly on the pulpit, because this leads to chaos and disobedience. The way followed by the Salaf is by giving advice secretly between themselves and the ruler, writing to him or communicating with him through the Scholars who are in touch with him in order to guide him to good. The forbiddance of evil is done without mentioning the doer who commits it. One should forbid adultery, drinking wine, usury, but without mentioning who does it. It is enough to warn against the evil without mentioning that so-and-so is doing it, whether he is a ruler or not.

When the Fitnah occurred at the time of ‘Uthman (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu), some people told Usamah ibn Zaid (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu): “Won’t you go to ‘Uthman?” Usamah said: “Do you think that I should talk to him only when you can hear me? By Allaah I have talked to him privately without starting a commotion. In which I don’t like to be the first to start.” [Muslim]

When they opened the gate of evil at the time of ‘Uthman and denied ‘Uthman (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) publicly regarding some actions he had taken during his caliphate, Fitnah (affliction, trials, etc), killing, and mischief happened. We are witnessing those impacts even today.

A Fitnah happened between ‘Ali and Mu’awiyah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhuma), which resulted in ‘Uthman (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) being hated and ultimately killed. ‘Ali (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) and many other companions were also killed because of that, and it all started because of people openly objecting and publicly defaming the ruler, till the people hated their ruler and killed him.” [Fatwa Shaikh ibn Baaz (Rahimahullaah)]

Ruling concerning the demonstrations:

Shaikh Ibn Baaz (Rahimahullaah) said: “Demonstrations are one of the means to Fitnah and evil and they cause hatred and transgression against others without a just cause. The legal means comprises writing to the ruler verbally, giving advice verbally, calling to good in legal ways, and so forth. This has been explained by the scholars and the Companions of the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam), and is done without defaming the ruler publicly or on the pulpits saying that he did such and such or committed such and such sin.”

Shaikh Naasir ud-Deen al-Albaanee (Rahimahullaah) was asked: “Some of the youth differentiate between the Aqeedah of the Salaf and the Manhaj of the Salaf so you see some of them upon the Aqeedah of the Salaf yet they allow themselves to work with some of the methodologies that exist today, even though there maybe what opposes the Manhaj of the Salaf within them in terms of practice. So is there a binding link between the Aqeedah and Manhaj of the Salaf in the practical implementation of the Salafi manhaj.

He replied: “That which I believe and worship Allaah with is that there are both generalities (in similarity) and specific (aspects) between the Salafi manhaj and Aqeedah. Aqeedah is more specific than Manhaj as all of you know. Aqeedah has a link with what is called – in the view of many of the Jurists – the “knowledge of Tawheed“, and this is the chief and fundamental aspect of Islaam. However, Manhaj is more vast than Aqeedah or Tawheed. As for those who claim that the differentiation that has come in this question (between Aqeedah and manhaj), then they desire by this to make it permissible for themselves to adopt ways and means in their Daw’ah to Islaam which the Salaf us-Salih were not upon. To say this in a different way, they consider that they have the liberty to adopt whatever ways and means they think will help them to convey (and actualise) Islaam, and you are aware of the examples of this type or these types of means. For example, open demonstrations and rallies in order to force the rulers to turn their attention to what the society complains about and similar matters. So we say that what has come in the Book and the Sunnah and what the Salaf us-Salih were upon with respect to objectives, goals and ways and means are sufficient for the Ummah. However, the reason which leads some of the people to permit themselves to adopt these ways and means, in fact it is correct for me to say that they permit themselves to blindly-follow the disbelievers in the ways that they have adopted in order to actualise what they call either democracy or social justice and other such words which have no reality to them. So they – I mean these Muslims – permit themselves to blindly follow the disbelievers in these ways and means. We say, our Lord, the Mighty and Majestic has made removed us from having any need, by our Shari’ah, of this separation which has been explained (i.e. between Aqeedah and manhaj) and that we should be needy of the disbelievers and that we should take from their ways and means, which might be good for them, (but) only because they have no Shari’ah by which they guide themselves. It is for this reason that we say that Manhaj is more vast than Aqeedah and Tawheed, hence it is necessary to adhere to what the Salaf us-Salih were upon with respect to both these affairs; the one that is vast (Manhaj) first and foremost and the one that is more narrow (Tawheed), meaning Aqeedah.

Shaikh al-Albaani (Rahimahullaah) said: “It is not permissible to accuse the sinner with Kufr for mere sins or his considering a sin lawful, except in case it is revealed clearly what is established in his heart; namely that he does not believe in the illegality of what Allaah and His Messenger have forbidden. If we know that he has committed such opposition, then we will pass judgment upon him, that he is an apostate disbeliever. And if we do not know, then we should not accuse him of disbelief; otherwise we may be condemned to the threat of the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wasallam), “Whoever says to his brother, O Kafir, one of them will certainly deserve the title. If the addressee is so as he has asserted, the disbelief of the man is confirmed, but if it’s untrue, then it will revert to him.” [Agreed upon]

 

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