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The Aqidah of Ahlus Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah Regarding Obeying Muslim Rulers – Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah al-A’zami (d.1441/2020)

 

Translated & Annotated
Abu Khuzaimah Ansari

 

 

Allah said,

Oh, you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way].”[1]

 

at-Ta’a i.e., obedience means total obedience to Allah and his Messenger ﷺ and complete submission of every command. The Ulil Amr are the rulers who the people are agreed upon as their leader or ruler.

Abdullah b. Dinar said,

When Ibn Umar RadhiAllahu Anhuma witnessed people agree on the leadership of Abdul Malik he wrote, I hear and obey Abdullah b. Abdul Malik Amir al-Mu’minin according to the Sunnah of Allah and the Sunnah of his Messenger to the best of my ability and my sons have also done the same.[2]

Obedience to them [rulers] entails hearing and obeying things that are liked and disliked.

Abu Hurayah RadhiAllahu Anhu narrates from Allah’s Messenger ﷺ who said,

Whoever obeyed me obeyed Allah and whoever disobeys me has truly disobeyed Allah and whoever obeys the Amir (ruler) has verily obeyed me and whoever disobeyed the Amir (ruler) has truly disobeyed me.[3]

And another hadith narrated from him i.e., Abu Hurayrah RadhiAllahu Anhu mentions,

It is obligatory upon you to listen and obey the ruler in hardship and ease, in pleasure and displeasure, and even when another person is given preference [unduly] over you.[4]

The words of the hadith, ‘Atharati Alayka’ means to single something out which you had a right over. This hadith encourages and obliges us to hear and obey the ruler even If the leader is oppressive. The right to obey him needs to be fulfilled without rebelling against him or to replace him.

On the authority of Abdullah b. Amr RadhiAllahu Anhu from the Prophet ﷺ who said,

A Muslim must listen and obey (the ruler) whether he likes it or dislikes, if he does not order sinning as there is no hearing or obeying if he orders you to sin.[5]

The words of the hadith, ‘Fima Ahabba wa Kariha – whether he likes it or dislikes it.’ meaning whether he agrees or disagrees with it.

If the leader orders you or applies a ruling when there is a difference of opinion amongst the scholars, then it is impermissible to openly criticise him. If someone wishes to advise him, it should be done privately, and this is not for everyone. This is the duty of the well-known scholars, and it is not necessary that he accepts every advice. It is possible what he ordered might be to help his country.

It is obligatory to obey the rulers in other matters they command and prohibit, and it is impermissible and unlawful to rebel against them.

The Imam of Ahlus-Sunnah waʾl Jama’ah, Abu Muhammad al-Barbahari (d.329H) said,

Whoever rebels against a Muslim ruler is a Khariji, has caused dissent within the Muslims and contradicted the narrations and dies a death from the days of ignorance (Jahiliyyah).

He also said,

It is impermissible to fight the ruler or to rebel against him, even if he oppressive.

He also said,

There is no fighting against the ruler according to the Sunnah because there is destruction turmoil in the religion and worldly affairs.[6]

Allah said,

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.”[7]

The Rope of Allah according to Ahlus Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah includes and incorporates the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ just as it includes and incorporates sticking to the Jama’ah and its leader.

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah RadhiAllahu Anhu who reported the Prophet ﷺ said,

Verily Allah likes three things for you, and He disapproves three things for you. He is pleased with you that you worship Him and not associate anything with him, that you hold fast the Rope of Allah and not be divided, and He dislikes for in idle talk (gossip – It was said, and he said), asking to many questions and wasting of wealth.[8]

On the authority of Zayd b. Thabit RadhiAllahu Anhu from Allah’s Messenger ﷺ who said,

There are three things the heart of a Muslim does not fetter from, sincerely performing actions for Allah, advising Muslim rulers and sticking to the Jama’ah of the Muslims since their supplications include others.[9]   

Ibn Abbas RadhiAllahu Anhuma transmits Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said,

Whoever notices something he dislikes from his ruler, he should be patient, for whoever becomes separates a hand-span from the Jama’ah dies the death pre-lslamic period of Ignorance.[10]

Muhammad b. al-Munkadir said,

When Yazid b. Mu’awiyyah was given the pledge of allegiance it was mentioned to Ibn Umar and he said, ‘We are content if there is good in it and we will have patience if there is harm in it’.[11]

There are numerous reports that corroborate this meaning, and they also encourage to abandon evil which leads to separation from the Jama’ah.

On the authority of Hudhaifah b. al-Yaman, the people used to ask Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) about the good but I used to ask him about the evil lest I should be overtaken by them. So, I said, ‘Oh Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! We were living in ignorance and in an (extremely) worst atmosphere, then Allah brought to us this good (i.e., Islam); will there be any evil after this good?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Will there be any good after that evil?’ He replied, ‘Yes, but it will be tainted (not pure.)’ I asked, ‘What will be its taint?’ He replied, ‘(There will be) some people who will guide others not according to my tradition? You will approve of some of their deeds and disapprove of some others’ I asked, ‘Will there be any evil after that good?’ He replied, ‘Yes, (there will be) some people calling at the gates of the (Hell) Fire, and whoever will respond to their call, will be thrown by them into the (Hell) Fire.’ I said, ‘O Allah s Apostle! Will you describe them to us?’ He said, ‘They will be from our own people and will speak our language.’ I said, ‘What do you order me to do if such a state should take place in my life?’ He said, ‘Stick to the group of Muslims and their Imam (ruler).’ I said, ‘If there is neither a group of Muslims nor an Imam (ruler)?’ He said, ‘Then turn away from all those sects even if you were to bite (eat) the roots of a tree till death overtakes you while you are in that state.[12]

Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said,

Trials and tribulations do not occur except when Allah’s commands are abandoned as He orders with the truth and patience. Trials and tribulations occur when either the truth or patience is abandoned.[13]

From the great principles of the religion is cooperation through uniting the hearts. Allah said,

And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the clear proofs had come to them. It is they for whom there is an awful torment.[14]

And Allah said,

“…So, fear Allah and adjust all matters of difference among you…”[15]

There are other textual examples in the Quran which command sticking to the Jama’ah, prohibit separation and differing. Those worthy of this principle are Ahlus Sunnah and whoever leaves this principle are the people of separation and division.[16]  

Imam Tahawi said while mentioning the beliefs of Ahlus Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah,

We do not rebel against our Imams or those in charge of our affairs even if they are oppressive, nor do we wish evil on them, nor do we withdraw from following them. We hold that obedience to them is obedience to Allah, the Glorified, and therefore obligatory as long as they do not order sin. We pray for their right guidance and ask for pardon for their wrongs.[17]

Imam al-Barbahari said,

If you see a man supplicating against the ruler, know that he is a person of innovation. If you see a person supplicating for the guidance of a ruler, then know he is a person of Sunnah In-sha-Allah.

Fudayl b. Iyad said,

If I knew my supplication would be accepted, I would supplicate for the rectification of the ruler because a rectified ruler is rectification of the people and the nation.[18]

Al-Barbahari said,

We are ordered to supplicate for their (i.e., the rulers) rectification and not to supplicate against them even if they are tyrannical and oppressive, since their tyranny and oppression reflect only on themselves, but their rectitude is good on themselves and the Muslims.[19]

At-Tahawi said,

We follow the Sunnah and the Jama’ah, we stay away from deviation, differing and divisions.[20]

Al-Jama’ah

Jama’ah refers to the community of Muslims from the Companions, the Tabi’in (Successors) and those who followed them until the day of Judgement. Obeying them leads to guidance and opposing them is clear misguidance.  This leads and emphasises obeying the Muslim ruler, not rebelling against him, sticking to the body of the Muslims, staying away from misguided sects and the hypocrites who speak and appear like us but indeed they are more dangerous than the open enemy. Therefore, it is upon every Muslim in general and the specifically for every student of knowledge to acquire beneficial knowledge from the Quran and Sunnah and the statements of the pious predecessors to defend the authentic Aqidah, the pure religion, and the appointed rulers.

Umar b. al-Khattab RadhiAllahu Anhu said,

There is no religion without the Jama’ah and there is no Jama’ah except with the ruler and there is no ruler except with obedience.[21]  

As for commanding good and forbidding evil, the aim and objective is as Shaykh ul-Islam [Ibn Taymiyyah] mentioned,

If trying to achieve righteousness through completing good deeds, commanding good and forbidding evil results in more harm instead of good, then it is impermissible.[22]

When advising the ruler, it is necessary to so with wisdom and good conduct for him to accept.

On the authority of Iyadh b. Ghanam RadhiAllahu Anhu from Allah’s Messenger ﷺ who said,

Whoever intends to advise the ruler, should not do this openly but rather take him by his hand and advise him privately. It is good if he accepts, and if not, you have fulfilled your duty.[23]

Some scholars are of the view if the ruler stops a scholar from issuing a verdict, the scholars does not have the right to issue it. Despite this, if he does issue a fatwa, he will incur sin. This is because legal verdicts are intended to rectify the hearts. For example, it is necessary for the ruler to scrutinize the heart doctor compared to the doctor of the body since he is more important for rectifying the heart and this example also applies to teachers (and scholars).

The Prophet ﷺ said,

Leave me as I leave you, for the people who were before you were ruined because of their questions and their differences over their prophets. So, if I forbid something, then keep away from it and if I order you with something, then do as much as you can. Agreed upon.[24]

The honourable Shaykh Abdul Aziz b. Baz said,

It is not from the methodology of the Salaf to spread the sins of the ruler, mentioning them from the pulpits as this leads to turmoil and it prevents people from obeying them in righteousness. This leads to harmful matters and has no benefit. However, the way adhered by the Salaf was to advise the ruler, writing to them, or involving scholars who had connection with them, for them to change them in righteousness.[25]

As for abusing and cursing rulers and dishonouring them is not from the Manhaj of the Salaf. It is narrated by Anas b. Malik RadhiAllahu Anhu who said,

The major Companions of the Prophet ﷺ would prohibit us [from abusing and cursing the rulers] and said, do not abuse them, betray them, and have hatred for them, fear Allah and have patience as indeed the last affair is near.[26]    

The first person who started the practise of abusing the rulers and dishonouring them was Abdullah b. Saba al-Yahudi the Yemeni. He portrayed Islam for himself and then travelled to Muslim lands like Hijaz, Egypt, Sham, Kufah and Basrah and incited people against Uthman that he seized Khilafah from Ali and looted wealth without right. He repeated the mantra and claim among people in the various lands that he was enjoining the obligation of commanding good and forbidding evil. This resulted in discoursing the reports of the fitnah and turmoil surrounding the murder of Amir al-Mu’minin Uthman b. Affan RadhiAllahu Anhu and this remains the case today in people discussing it. The knife with which (Ibn Saba) stabbed the Muslim Ummah could not be removed!

Some modern writers cannot understand the intricacies of these events and so they do not cease to speak ill of Muslim rulers in general and Amir al-Mu’minin Uthman b. Affan RadhiAllahu Anhu specifically because of the hypocrite Yahudi.  

This is the Aqidah of Ahlus Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah in the obligation of hearing and obeying Muslim rulers, not to rebel against them especially when the ruler and his appointed people call to adhering to the Quran and Sunnah and the authentic Aqidah which was adopted by the best people of this Ummah [i.e., Salaf us-Salihin]. When they command and order to establish the prayer and Islamic punishment, establish justice amongst the people, maintain safety and peace in the country, fight corruption and innovations, then it is obligatory on everyone under their rule to aid and obey them, to supplicate for their steadfastness and give them success and long lives.

NOTES

From at-Tammasuk Bis-Sunnah Fi’l Aqa’id wa’l Ahkam (p.16-23)

[1] Surah an-Nisa:59

[2] Sahih al-Bukhari (no.7203)

[3] Agreed upon, al-Bukhari (no.2957), Muslim (no.1835)

[4] Sahih Muslim (no.1836)

[5] al-Bukhari (no.7144), Muslim (no.1839)

[6] [tr.] Sharh al-Sunnah (no.33-34)

[7] Surah Aal-Imran:103

[8] Transmitted by Muslim (no.1515) from Zuhayr b. Harb from Jarir from Suhayl from his father from Abu Hurayrah and he does not mention the third thing. Imam Ahmad (no.8334) transmits through his chain of transmission from Suhayl with the words, ‘and advice the Muslim rulers.’

[9] Transmitted by Imam Ahmad (no.21590) with an authentic chain

[10] Agreed Upon: al-Bukhari (no.7054), Muslim (no.1849)

[11] at-Tabaqat al-Kubra (4/182), Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah (no.31216)

[12] al-Bukhari (no.7084) with his wording, Muslim (no.1847)

[13] al-Istiqamah (1/39)

[14] Surah Aal-Imran:105

[15] Surah al-Anfal:1

[16] Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah (28/51)

[17] [tr.] Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah (no.72)

[18] Siyar A’lam al-Nubala (8/434). This statement has also been attributed to Imam Ahmad

[19] Sharh al-Sunnah (no.117)

[20] [tr.] Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah (no.73)

[21] Sunan ad-Darimi (no.251)

[22] [tr.] al-Istiqāmah (1/330)

[23] Transmitted by al-Imam Ahmad (no.15333) and others through a Hasan route of transmission collectively. For further details refer to al-Jam’i al-Kamil, The Book of Governance, The Chapter of Advising the Ruler with Gentleness, Wisdom and Good Conduct. 

[24] al-Bukhari (no.7288) Muslim (no.1337)

[25] [tr.] Majmu’a al-Fatawa (8/210)

[26] as-Sunnah of Ibn Abi Asim (no.1015)

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