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The Evil of Backbiting Muslim Rulers Publicly and Reasons why it is Impermissible – Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Junayd

Introduced and Translated
Abu Khuzaimah Ansari

ʿAudhu Billāhi min ash-Shayṭān al-Rajīm Bismillāh al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm Alḥamdullilāhi Rabbil ʿAlamīn, Waṣalatu Wassalām ʿAla Rasūlillahil Karīm, Wa ʿAla Alihī Wa Aṣḥābīhi Wa Man Tabiāhum Bi-Eḥsan Ilaʾ Yaum al-Dīn; Wa Baʿd

All Praise belongs and is directed to the Rabb of everything that exists, Praise and Salutations be upon His Final beloved Messenger, his revered family and his noble Companions and upon those who follow them in good until the end of times, To proceed,

Introduction

This is a small treatise in which Shaikh Abdul Qadir al-Junayd explains and elucidates the harm and evil of backbiting Muslim rulers. He also discusses the weakness of the reports transmitted from the Salaf which are used by some claimants of Salafiyyah. This is important since some claimants of Salafiyyah are advocating the permissibility of backbiting rulers publicly on account of these reports from the Salaf which is an aberrant view. They hide behind these reports to express a legitimate difference of opinion from the Salaf.

When there is inherent desire to please the nafs to publicly ridicule and rebuke Muslim rulers on account of the shortcomings of the Ummah, this is nothing but weakness. The same people divert attention from evil corruptive sins of the heart and body resort to this; failing to address their accountability as an Ummah. This is the way of the cowards.

Since the spread of emotional outbreaks by the practitioners of evil, ruler or non-ruler, the same claimants of Salafiyyah abandon the Quran and Sunnah which detail how to deal with these affairs. To such an extreme that a brother said Salafis were duped in this issue based on these reports. Unbeknown to most, these reports from the Salaf are severely weak and have no support from the vast majority of the Salaf.

The Salaf do not support this view and the detractors have failed to prove this. They resort to cherry picking odd aberrant reports to support their redundant view. Shaykh Abdul Qadir has shown the clear weakness of these reports and refuted those who encourage backbiting Muslim rulers.

Presenting and screening themselves behind a singular, lone, odd, aberrant and contradictory statement from one Salaf is rudimentary and certainly insufficient to formulate legal points of Manhaj. This is further problematic when they clearly oppose the plethora of reports and statements from them which well documented in the early works of Aqidah and Manhaj.

Many people and claimants of Salafiyyah have been spreading these statements without recourse to research or relying on Sunni scholars for understanding. Merely quoting statements without context and the mere thought of the existence of a report is hardly thrilling. Nonetheless, this treatise will dampen the mood! Some brothers have been sharing scans while others continuously repeat these statements from websites, e.g., http://abu0hamza.blogspot.com/2016/06/2882.html?m=1

Lastly, as a summary, the view of the Salaf in this matter is very clear and it was comprehensively expressed by Imam Abu Bakr al-Isma’ili (d.371H) when he said, “Know, May Allah have mercy on us and you, indeed the Madhab of Ahlul Hadith wa Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jama’ah is….” (Kitab I’tiqad Ahlus Sunnah p.35)

And then he said about the rulers, “To supplicate for their rectification and that they turn towards being just.” (Kitab I’tiqad Ahlus Sunnah p.55 no.58. (KSA: Maktabah Dar ul-Minhaj, 1431H. 2nd Edn. Ed. Jamal Azzun). This opposes backbiting rulers openly since its deception and treachery.

The Manhaj of the Salaf on this issue can also be summarised with the view and statement of Imams Malik and Sufyan ath-Thawri when they said, “It is better to be under the rule of an oppressive ruler for 70 years than not have a ruler for even an hour.” (Tartib al-Madarik wa Taqrib al-Masalik (2/493), ad-Dibaj al-Madhab Fi Ma’rifah A’yan Ulama al-Madhab (1/125)

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah echoes this by mentioning 60 years, wherein he said, “The wise people said 60 years with an unjust ruler is better than a night without a ruler.” (Majmu’a al-Fatawa (30/136)

This shows the Salaf understood how to deal with oppressive rulers and would not want a believer to backbite them for 70 years! This explains it is better to have patience with an oppressive ruler then not have one and the ensuing harm.

I have presented a simple translation of the Shaykh’s treatise and added detailed explanatory notes when needed. I did not reference the reports and ahadith in the introduction since the Shaykh clarifies he penned this elsewhere in a lengthier treatise. The intention is to render this into English at some stage, In-Sha-Allah.

The reader might encounter different numbers for reports in Ibn Abi Dunya’s book as-Samt and al-Ghibah wan-Namimah. This is because authors have used two different editions in their books. The publication of Dar ul-Gharb edited by Najm Abdur Rahman Khalaf and Dar ul-Kutub al-Arabi edited by Abu Ishaq al-Huwayni. These two have been used by numerous authors hence the numbering issue. Shaykh Abdul Qadir used the Dar al-Kutub al-Arabi edition and so are the scans.

I have presented scans where necessary and at other times I have referenced books with their publishers, so the avid reader can refer to them for further research. Some of the scans presented were originally shared on social media by the advocators of backbiting the oppressive ruler, and so I have presented themin this treatise for them to know this is a direct response to them.

Shaykh Abdul Qadir’s words are in black bold typography and my additional notes are in blue, marked with [AK] at the beginning and END] when my notes are complete for each relevant section.

Abu Khuzaimah Ansari

Birmingham, UK. 1445/2023

_________________________________________________________________

Shaykh Abul Qadir al-Junayd begins his small treatise by saying,

All praise belongs to Allah and salutations on his Messenger Mustafa Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam

To proceed,

It has been transmitted from some Imams, they did not consider it backbiting to speak against the oppressive Muslim ruler, Therefore, some students of knowledge in our time, may Allah correct them, use this as evidence for the permissibility of rebuking the ruler openly by backbiting them.

I say,

This line of argument is defective due to the following reasons.

The First – 1st Reason

The first thing to note; these reports which have been transmitted from these Imams are not authentic. These reports will be mentioned in due course, along with who transmitted them with clarifying their defects which indicate their weakness.

The Second – 2nd Reason

Even if one statement from them was established to be authentic, their statements are not evidence according to the agreement of the scholars. Rather their statements in and of themselves require evidence as numerous people of knowledge have said. Evidence or proof is the statement of Allah, his Messenger Sallalalhu Alayhi Wasallam, the statement of the Companions and the ijma of the scholars.

The Third – 3rd Reason

Backbiting a fellow Muslim is haram whether it’s the ruler or those being ruled over, based on the texts of the Quran, Prophetic Sunnah and the ijma of the scholars. The ruling of it being haram does not leave this status except by other evidence from the Shari’ah. There is no evidence in the Shari’ah that specifies the ruler.

So, there are no ayahs of the Quran, there are no clear authentic Prophetic hadith, nor are there any clear authentic reports from the Companions nor is there any ijma. Rather backbiting the ruler is more harmful and worse in terms of its severity on the general Ummah and the various Muslim lands. The likes of Abu Bakr al-Isma’ili ash-Shafi’i, Ibn Abi Zamanin al-Maliki, Ibn Salah ash-Shafi’i and Ibn Taymiyyah all said speaking against the ruler was backbiting. It is also permitted based on ijma as quoted by Ibn Taymiyyah to backbite the wicked sinner who publicises his evil sins. This is also supported by numerous texts of the Shari’ah.  

The Fourth – 4th Reason

Indeed, the statement of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam is established and clear in its meaning which states, “Whoever has advice for the ruler, he should not do it publicly, rather, he should take him by his hand and advise him privately. If he accepts it, he accepts, and if he does not, he would have fulfilled his duty.”

This hadith prohibits and denounces backbiting the ruler.

This point is further confirmed and clarified based on the reason this hadith was transmitted, its background and the understanding of the Companions, May Allah be pleased with them all, in how commanding the good and forbidding the evil encompasses advising. This also includes guidance to whoever errs in this affair of the rulers. The hadith mentions,

It is reported that Iyadh bin Ghanam lashed the governor of Dara when it was conquered, so Hisham bin Hakim spoke harshly with Iyadh until he (Iyadh) was angry. Then, a few nights later, Hisham bin Hakim came to him to excuse himself and said, “Did you not hear the Prophet say, “The worst punishment on Yawm ul-Qiyamah will be for the one who is worse in punishing people?” Iyadh bin Ghanam said, “Oh Hisham bin Hakim, we know what you know and saw what you saw, and we accompanied who you accompanied. Did you not hear Allah’s Messenger Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam say, “Whoever wants to advise the ruler, he should not do so publicly. Rather, he should take him by his hand and advise him (privately). If he accepts it (that is good). If not, he has fulfilled his obligation.” You, Oh Hisham, you are reckless, when you are reckless with the ruler of Allah, do not fear the ruler of Allah will kill you, since you will be someone killed by the ruler of Allah?”

The statement of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam, “…He should not do it publicly, rather, he should take him by his hand and advise him privately…” indicate a prohibition and a command. The foundational principle is that a command denotes an obligation (an obligatory act) and a prohibition denotes something which is unlawful.

The transmission of this hadith has been outlined in the lengthier treatise and a discussion related to its authenticity.

The Fifth – 5th Reason

The Companions RadhiAllahu Anhum differed and disagreed with this view (of backbiting the ruler) and what they deduced from the texts. Their views take precedence over the views of others from amongst them. In fact, the statement of one (Companion) is considered evidence according to the view of Ahlus Sunnah if no one opposes it (i.e. another Companion). What about then if they all were agreed on one view? Rather, they complied and agreed with the Prophetic texts and their statements and actions are explanatory confirmations of this matter.

Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah said in an-Nuniyyah (p.226),

“Knowledge is what Allah said, His Messenger said,

his Companions said, as they were the first to know,

Any knowledge attributed to any other than them is haughty,

It is between the Messenger and the opinion of so and so.”

  1. It is authentically transmitted from Sa’id ibn Jubayr who said, “I asked Ibn Abbas, “Shall I command my ruler with good?” Ibn Abbas said, “If you fear he will kill you, then no. If you must do so, then do it (privately) between you and him and do not backbite your ruler.”

Ibn Abbas RadhiAllahu Anhuma prohibited him from rebuking the ruler publicly through backbiting since backbiting is unlawful.

  1. It is authentically transmitted from Tawus who said, “I mentioned the rulers in front of Ibn Abbas and a man became insolently brazen (with his statements) and no one was more insolent than him in the house. Ibn Abbas heard him and said, “Oh Hazhan do not make yourself a fitnah for the oppressors.” He then became small and humbled to the extent that no one was seen so small and humbled in the populus than him.”

So, Ibn Abbas RadhiAllahu Anhuma considered speaking of the shortcomings of the rulers to be a source of tribulation and aiding the oppressive people in their evil and corruption. This statement is conveying the warning against publicly rebuking the ruler by backbiting him.

This report has been referenced in the longer treatise.

  1. It is established (authentically) from Sa’id bin Jumhan that he said, “I met Abdullah bin Abi Awfa RadhiAllahu Anhu and he was a sight to behold. I greeted him with salam and he said to me, “who are you?” I replied, “I am Sa’id bin Jumhan.” He asked me, “What did your father do?” I replied, “He killed the Azariqah.” He said, “May the curse of Allah be upon the Azariqah, may the curse of Allah be upon the Azariqah. Allah’s Messenger Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam said they (Khawarij) are the dogs of hellfire. I said, “Al-Azariqah (a sect of the Khawarij) alone or all the Khawarij?” He said, “Rather all the Khawarij.” I said to him, “But the ruler oppresses the people and does this, and he does that to them (i.e. their evil). So, then he grabbed me by my hand and pinched it very hard and said, “Oh Son of Jumhan, stick with the great majority (of scholars), stick with the great majority (of scholars). If the ruler listens to you then advise him in his home (in private), inform him of what you know. If he accepts (that’s good) and if not then leave him, for you are not more knowledgeable than him.”

So, Abdullah bin Abi Awfa RadhiAllahu Anhu rebuked Ibn Jumhan’s speech when he mentioned the evil of the ruler concerning his affair of governance by backbiting him. He said to advise the ruler privately if he listens to you.

This report has been referenced in the longer treatise and with a discussion whether it is Sahih or Hasan (authentic or good).

  1. It is transmitted by al-Bukhari (no.3267) and Muslim (no.2989) and it is his wording on the authority of Usamah bin Zayd RadhiAllahu Anhu when it was said to him, Why don’t you visit Uthman and talk to him? Thereupon he said, “Do you think that I have not talked to him that you also hear? By Allah. I have talked to him (about things) concerning me and him and I did not like to divulge those things about which I had to take the first step.”

This report establishes the Companions of the Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam did not rebuke their rulers or leaders publicly if many people were around them. This was their way to do it behind closed doors and not publicly which was not their norm RadhiAllahu Anhum. Furthermore, Usamah RadhiAllahu Anhu did not want to be the first to open the door to fitnah by rebuking the ruler publicly.

  1. It is reported that Iyadh bin Ghanam lashed the governor of Dara when it was conquered, so Hisham bin Hakim spoke harshly with Iyadh until he (Iyadh) was angry. Then, a few nights later, Hisham bin Hakim came to him to excuse himself and said, “Did you not hear the Prophet say, “The worst punishment on Yawm ul-Qiyamah will be for the one who is worst in punishing people?” Iyadh bin Ghanam said, “Oh Hisham bin Hakim, we know what you know and saw what you saw, and we accompanied who you accompanied. Did you not hear the Allah’s Messenger Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam say, “Whoever wants to advise the ruler, he should not do so publicly. Rather, he should take him by his hand and advise him (privately). If he accepts it (that is good). If not, he has fulfilled his obligation.” You, Oh Hisham, you are reckless, when you are reckless with the ruler of Allah, do not fear the ruler of Allah will kill you, since you will be someone killed by the ruler of Allah?”

This hadith and incident has been referenced in the lengthier treatise wherein I have mentioned its authenticity whether it is Sahih or Hasan.

The point of deduction is, when Iyadh bin Ghanam RadhiAllahu Anhu knew someone wanted to publicly and openly rebuke the ruler by the way of recklessness, he said, You, Oh Hisham, are reckless. When you are reckless with the ruler of Allah.”

  1. Abu Dawud at-Tayalisi said in his Musnad (no.928), From Humayd bin Mihran from Sa’d bin Aws from Ziyad bin Kusaib who said, “Ibn Amir mounted the minbar while wearing a fine garment. Abu Bilal said, “Look at your leader wearing clothes of the wicked! Abu Bakrah who was (sitting) under the minbar said, “I heard Allah’s Messenger Sallalalhu Alayhi Wasallam saying, “Whoever insults Allah’s leader then Allah disgraces him.”

At-Tirmidhi (no.2224) transmitted it through his chain of transmission (Abu Dawud at-Tayalisi’s) with the wording, I was with Abu Bakrah under the Minbar of Ibn Amir while he was giving a Khutbah wearing a fine garment. Abu Bilal said, “Look at our Amir wearing clothes of the wicked!’ So, Abu Bakrah said, Be quiet! I heard Allah’s Messenger saying, “Whoever insults Allah’s ruler on the earth, Allah disgraces him.”

Imam at-Tirmidhi said, “This hadith is Hasan Gharib.” Allamah al-Albani graded it Hasan according to his last view. Hafiz al-Bazzar said in his Musnad (no.3670),

“This hadith has been transmitted from Allah’s Messenger Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam with similar words, and I do not know anyone to have transmitted this from Allah’s Messenger Sallallahu alayhi Wasallam with this wording except Abu Bakrah.”

I say, Sa’d bin Aws al-Adawi is in the chain. As-Saji said concerning him “Truthful.” Ibn Hibban and Ibn Khalfun mentioned him in ath-Thiqat. Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani said, “Truthful but had errors.” Adh-Dhahabi said, “He was declared weak by Ibn Ma’in while others said he was thiqah and Ibn Hibban mentioned him in his ath-Thiqat.” Al-Albani was inclined towards his tawthiq.

As for Humayd bin Mihran he is thiqah.

The point of deduction from this report which establishes proof is that Abu Bakrah ath-Thaqafi RadiAllahu Anhu rebuked the man’s speech in front of the worshippers regarding the representative of the ruler and silenced him. He informed him this type of rebuking is insulting the ruler which results in Allah disgracing the one who does it.

The Sixth – 6th Reason

On the authority of Anas bin Malik RadhiAllahu Anhu who said, “Our elders from the Companions of Allah’s Messenger Salallahu alayhi Wasallam forbade us (warned us from) “Do not revile your rulers, do not deceive them, do not have hatred for them, have taqwa of Allah and have patience for indeed the affair is near.”

Transmitted by Ibn Abi Asim in as-Sunnah (no.1015) and al-Bayhaqi in Shu’bal Iman (no.7523) and others. Allamah al-Albani said, “the chain is good – jayyid.”

The point of deduction is due to the prohibition of reviling the rulers in every affair, in cheating them while being ordered to have patience due to the corruption that would result in the Din, this world and for the worshippers. This is even though he might be correct in his cursing (i.e. the reason) and permissible by the way of punishment in the same way as long as the cursing does not entail words or cursing that are haram or transgress boundaries.

So, backbiting the ruler, rebuking him publicly by backbiting and mentioning his faults openly is prohibited even more so. The corruption of backbiting is worse than being abusive because its corruptive effects encompass the Din, this world and the ummah as a whole and it spreads. He does this to portray he is concerned for the religion and the Ummah. This is then accepted by the people and spread far and wide while misguiding many people. This is in opposition to abuse as this affects the abuser and he is vilified by the general public.

Backbiting the ruler and spreading his faults is not from the affair of advising him. The opposite to advising the ruler is deception and betrayal. We have been commanded to advise and prohibited from deceiving or betraying.

The Seventh – 7th Reason

The Shari’ah came to expel evil and corruption from the Ummah. Ayahs of the Quran, texts from the Prophetic Sunnah both general and specific all elaborate this.

Allowing the ruler to be backbitten especially when he is oppressive and publicly rebuking him through backbiting is from the main reasons that bring evil and corruption in the ummah. This approach makes backbiting continuous and increase in its severity. This reason and affairs lead to rebelling against the just and oppressive ruler and the spread of the Madhab of the Khawarij.

It is transmitted by al-Bukhari (no,3267) and Muslim (no.2989) and it is his wording on the authority of Usamah bin Zayd RadhiAllahu Anhu when it was said to him, Why don’t you visit Uthman and talk to him? Thereupon he said: Do you think that I have not talked to him but that I have make you hear? By Allah. I have talked to him (about things) concerning me and him and I did not like to divulge those things about which I had to take the first step.”

The wording in al-Bukhari is, Somebody said to Usamah, “Will you go to so-and-so and talk to him?” He said, “Do you think that I have not talked to him but that I have make you hear.  I talk (advise) to him privately without opening the door (of trials), for neither do I want to be the first to open it (i.e. rebellion),”

The jurist Siraj ud-Din Ibn Mulqaain ash-Shafi’i said in his book, at-Tawdih Li-Sharh al-Jam’i as-Sahih (19/180),

“His saying [I talk to him privately] meaning speaking out by rebuking the rulers openly would be from the affairs of opposing the rulers of the Muslims, it would cause splitting of the Muslim ranks and disrupt and separate the body of the Muslims. Just as the affair was when Uthman was confronted with public rebuking.

Al-Imam Abdul Aziz ibn Baz said in Majmu’a al-Fatawa (8/210-211)

“…When the ignorant Khawarij opened the door to evil in the time of Uthman RadhiAllahu Anhu and they openly rebuked and criticised Uthman, it was a great fitnah, killing and corruption, the effect of which has still not subsided in people today. To the extent that the fitnah encompassed in what occurred between Ali and Mu’awiyyah RadhiAllahu Anhuma. They killed Uthman and Ali RadhiAllahu Anhuma due to this reason [i.e., openly criticising and rebuking the rulers]. In fact, the same reason led to the killing of many Companions and others which was to openly rebuke and criticise rulers, to mention their sins openly. To the extent that many people had hatred for the rulers and killed them.”

It is authentically transmitted from Abdullah bin Ukim that he said, “I will never aid the killing of any Khaliph after Uthman.” It was said to him, “Were you involved in spilling his blood?” he replied, “I consider mentioning his faults the same as spilling his blood.”

(Transmitted by Ibn Sa’d in at-Tabaqat al-Kubra (3/80, 6/115), Ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musannaf (no.32706 and no.32043) al-Bukhari in at-Tarikh al-Kabir (1/31 no.45), ad-Dawlabi in al-Kunna wal-Asma’ (no.476) and others.

And Abdullah bin Ukim was a Mukhadram, meaning he encountered and was alive during the time of Allah’s Messenger Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam but he did not hear or meet him.

The Eighth – 8th Reason

Permitting backbiting the ruler especially if he is oppressive and rebuking him publicly by backbiting, is slander and defamation in the Shari’ah. It is alleging there are contradictions in the Shari’ah. So how does one prevent the causes of evil and corruption in the Ummah, the prevention of which is supported by numerous texts (of Islam), both general and specific when at the same time the main reason which leads to evil, and corruption is being allowed or permitted?

The explanatory meaning above is evidence that you cannot find in the Shari’ah what they want to make permissible.

So, besides these affairs, May Allah reward you, the reports you have encountered with the following meaning, we will investigate them,

“It is not backbiting when speaking about three people, the innovator, a wicked sinner who sins publicly and the oppressive ruler.”

(Athar al-Waridah Fi Jawaz Ghibah al-Hakim al-Ja’ir p.1-10)

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