Rebellion Against Rulers
The scholar Ibn Nujaym said, “it is not permitted for there to be more than one state leader (Imām) in a time period. There may be many judges, even in one state, but the leader is one." Al-Bahjūri said, “It is an obligation to obey the leader, even if he is not fair or trustworthy or even if he committed sins or mistakes." Abū Ħanifa's school says that the head of the state, the Imām, cannot be expelled for being a corrupt person (fāsiq).
Al-Bahjūrī said, “… you have to obey the Ruler even if he is oppressive.”
This means that a group or individual are not permitted to declare war against the ruler of a nation, especially by means of terrorizing the people through planting bombs, and suicide attacks which kill innocents and incite mayhem.
And in his explanation of Saħīħ Muslim al-Bahjūrī said, “…it is forbidden to come against the ruler,”
Amin Ahsan Islahi
While commenting on the underlying reasons which form the basis of state authority for combative Jihād, Amīn Aħsān Išlāħī writes:
The first reason [for this condition] is that Allah Almighty does not like the dissolution and disintegration of even an evil system until a strong probability exists that those who are out to disintegrate the system will provide people with an alternative and a righteous system. Anarchy and disorder are unnatural conditions. In fact, they are so contrary to human nature that even an unjust system is preferable to them....this confidence [that a group will be able to harmonize a disintegrated system and integrate it into a united whole] can be reposed in such a group only as has actually formed a political government and has such control and discipline within the confines of its authority that the group can be termed as al-Jama‘ah [the State]. Until a group attains this position, it may strive [by religiously allowable means] to become al-Jama‘ah – and that endeavor would be its Jihād for that time – but it does not have the right to wage an ‘armed’ Jihād.
The second reason is that the import of power which a group engaged in war acquires over the life and property of human beings is so great that the sanction to wield this power cannot be given to a group the control of whose leader over his followers is based merely on his spiritual and religious influence on them [rather than being based on legal authority]. When the control of a leader is based merely on his spiritual and religious influence, there is not sufficient guarantee that the leader will be able to stop his followers from fasād fi’l-ard (creating disorder in the society). Therefore, a religious leader does not have the right to allow his followers to take out their swords (that is to wage an armed struggle) merely on the basis of his spiritual influence over them, for once the sword is unsheathed there is great danger that it will not care for right and wrong and that those who drew it will end up doing all [the wrong which] they had sought to end. Such radical groups as desire revolution and the object of whom is nothing more than disruption of the existing system and deposition of the ruling party to seize power for themselves play such games – and they can, for in their eyes disruption of a system is no calamity, nor is it cruelty or any kind an evil. Everything is right to them [as long as it serves their purpose].
يَكُونُ بَعْدِي أَئِمَّةٌ لاَ يَهْتَدُونَ بِهُدَايَ، وَلاَ يَسْتَنُّونَ بِسُنَّتِي، وَسَيَقُومُ فِيهِمْ رِجَالٌ قُلُوبُهُمْ قُلُوبُ الشَّيَاطِينِ فِي جُثْمَانِ إنْسٍ".
قَالَ: قُلْتُ: كَيْفَ أَصْنَعُ؟ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ إِنْ أَدْرَكْتُ ذَلِكَ؟ قَالَ: “تَسْمَعُ وَتُطِيعُ لِلأَمِيرِ، وَإِنْ ضُرِبَ ظَهْرُكَ، وَأُخِذَ مَالُكَ، فَاسْمَعْ وَأَطعْ
Hudhayfa bin al-Yaman narrated a hadith in which he said:
The Prophet said, “there will be after me leaders who do not follow my guidance and do not follow my Sunnah, and there will be among them men whose hearts are like those of Satan in the body of a human being.” And I asked the Prophet , “What I should do at that time if I reach it?” He said, “listen and obey the ruler, even if he lashed your back and took your money, listen and obey."
أفلا نقاتلهم؟ قال: لا، ما صلوا “ ومن حديث عوف بن مالك رفعه في حديث في هذا المعنى “ قلنا يا رسول الله أفلا ننابذهم عند ذلك؟ قال: لا، ما أقاموا الصلاة “ وفي رواية له “ بالسيف “ وزاد “ وإذا رأيتم من ولاتكم شيئا تكرهونه فاكرهوا عمله ولا تنزعوا يدا من طاعة
In another narration, Awf bin Mālik ¦ said, “O Prophet of Allah, do you recommend that we fight them?” He said, “No, don't fight them as long as they do not prevent you from your prayers. And if you see from them something that you dislike, dislike their acts, do not dislike them. And do not take your hand out from obedience to them.”
مَنْ كَرِهَ مِنْ أَمِيرِهِ شَيْئاً فَلْيَصْبِرْ عَلَيْهِ، فَإِنَّهُ لَيْسَ أَحَدٌ مِنَ النَّاسِ خَرَجَ مِنَ السُّلْطَانِ شِبْراً، فَمَاتَ عَلَيْهِ، إِلاَّ مَاتَ مِيتَةً جَاهِلِيَّةً
It is narrated from 'Abdullāh ibn al-'Abbās ¦, that the Prophet said:
If someone dislikes his ruler, he must be patient, because if he comes against the ruler in a rebellious or destructive manner by only a handp and dies, he dies in a state of pre-Islamic ignorance (jāhilīyyah) and sin.
Other hadiths with similar purport are:
سَتَكُونُ عَلَيْكُمْ أَئِمَةٌ تَعْرِفُونَ مِنْهُمْ وَتُنْكِرُونَ، فَمَنْ أَنْكَرَ قال أبُو دَاوُدَ قالَ هِشَامٌ بِلِسَانِهِ فَقَدْ بَرِيءَ، وَمَنْ كَرِهَ بِقَلْبِهِ فقَدْ سَلِمَ وَلكِنْ مَنْ رَضِيَ وَتَابَعَ، يَا رَسُول الله أَفَلاَ نَقْتُلُهُمْ؟ قال أبُو دَاوُدَ: أَفَلاَ نُقَاتِلُهُمْ؟ قالَ: لاَ مَا صَلّوْا"
The Prophet said, “There will be upon you leaders who you will recognize and disapprove of; whoever rejects them is free, whoever hates them is safe as opposed to those who are pleased and obey them,” they said, “should we not fight them.” He said, “No, as long as they pray.”
وعن عوف بن مالك رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنهُ قال سمعت رَسُول اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيهِ وَسَلَّم يقول: <خيار أئمتكم الذين تحبونهم ويحبونكم، وتصلون عليهم ويصلون عليكم. وشرار أئمتكم الذين تبغضونهم ويبغضونكم، وتلعنونهم ويلعنونكم!> قال: قلنا يا رَسُول اللَّهِ أفلا ننابذهم؟ قال: <لا ما أقاموا فيكم الصلاة، لا، ما أقاموا فيكم الصلاة...
The Prophet said, “The best of your leaders are those you love and they love you, you pray for them and they pray for you. The worst of your leaders are those who anger you and you anger them and you curse them and they curse you.” We replied, “O Messenger of Allah should we not remove them at that,” He said, “No, as long as they establish the prayer amongst you...”
These source texts are clear evidence that whoever lives under a particular government must obey the ruler and live peacefully. They are prohibited from taking up arms against him. Uprising or violence by any group against the ruler is completely rejected in Islam, and was prohibited by the Prophet and will be a cause of death on the way of ignorance (jāhilīyyah). Thus Islam considers rebellion against the ruler a great iniquity. These hadith affirm that one must be patient with one's ruler, even if he commits oppression. These hadith refer to the leader of a nation, not the leader of a small group. Therefore groups that take up violent struggle against their regimes are prohibited in Islam and are by default illegal and blameworthy.
In fact the true path to correction of the mistakes of a ruler is according to the hadith “a most excellent Jihād is when one speaks a word of truth in the presence of a tyrannical ruler." Note here the hadith does not mention fighting the ruler, but rather praises the one who corrects the ruler by speech. Armed and violent opposition to a state regime can never be recognized as Jihād in the way of Allah, despite the claims of many groups. Unfortunately we see today countless individuals and groups who label their rulers and their governments apostates or unbelievers, thereby giving themselves the excuse to declare “Jihād" against them, asserting that this is because they do not rule by what was revealed to the Prophet . Even worse, they go further by terrorizing and killing government officers, members of the armed forces and public servants, simply because they are easy targets. These groups use a “militant Islamic" ideology to justify such felonious action, declaring the ruler, the government, and its officers to be criminals standing in the way of “true Islam", who must be eliminated. Thus, those who are innocent of any crime, but who are earning a living and raising their families, such as officers and officials of ministries and departments, county and city officials and police, become targets of these extremist ideologues. Such groups do not hesitate to kill them in surprise attacks, terrorizing the entire nation by blasting here and there and harming the innocent.
If the ruler commits wrong, it is not permitted to label him an apostate, nor to indoctrinate people to use militancy to oppose him. In the time of the Prophet after the conquest of Makkah, a Companion named Ħātib ibn Abī Balta, assisted some of the enemy by supporting them extensively and passing them secret information. It may be that no one today supports a tyrannical ruler as Ħātib supported the unbelievers at that time.
قال: يا رسول الله لا تعجل علي، إني كنت أمرأ ملصقا في قريش، ولم أكن من أنفسها، وكان من معك من المهاجرين لهم قرابات بمكة، يحمون بها أهليهم وأموالهم، فأحببت إذ فاتني ذلك من النسب فيهم، أن أتخذ عندهم يدا يحمون بها قرابتي، وما فعلت كفرا ولا ارتدادا، ولا رضا بالكفر بعد الإسلام، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: (لقد صدقكم)
When questioned as to his motives, Ħātib replied:
O Prophet of Allah! Don't hasten to give your judgment about me. I was a man closely connected with the Quraish, but I did not belong to this tribe, while the other emigrants with you, had their relatives in Mecca who would protect their dependents and property. So, I wanted to compensate for my lacking blood relation to them by doing them a favor so that they might protect my dependents. I did this neither because of disbelief nor apostasy nor out of preferring disbelief (kufr) to Islam.
The Prophet of Allah said, “Ħātib has told you the truth.”
We see here that the Prophet though fully aware of Ħātib's actions, never considered him to be outside the fold of Islam, nor did he inflict any punishment on him. Regarding Ħātib and his support of the unbelievers Allah revealed the following verse:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا عَدُوِّي وَعَدُوَّكُمْ أَوْلِيَاء تُلْقُونَ إِلَيْهِم بِالْمَوَدَّةِ وَقَدْ كَفَرُوا بِمَا جَاءكُم مِّنَ الْحَقِّ يُخْرِجُونَ الرَّسُولَ وَإِيَّاكُمْ أَن تُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ رَبِّكُمْ
O you who believe! Do not take My enemy and your enemy for friends: would you offer them love while they deny what has come to you of the truth, driving out the Messenger and yourselves because you believe in Allah, your Lord?
Though the verse reprimands Ħātib showing him in the wrong, nonetheless Allah did not take him out of the state of faith yet continued to address him with the honorable title “O you who believe,” despite his assisting the enemies of Islam.
This constitutes proof that even if someone assists a regime that does not support Islam, one cannot harm that person as the Prophet did not inflict any punishment on Ħātib. One wonders then how today so many groups freely label those working for the government as renegades and apostates, and issue fierce edicts to kill them? Their work with the government might be for their livelihood, or for building a bridge of trust for the Islamic community to ensure a better future relationship or a better understanding of Islam. Such actions are baseless in Islam and are founded on an extremist ideology, far removed from the middle path which always constitutes this blessed religion of Allah.