Criteria for revolt against a Muslim Ruler
To Revolt or Not to Revolt
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While the nation and its political parties were debating talks with Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and their obvious revolt against a state of Pakistan, in comes an individual right in the midst of the RED ZONE of Islamabad demanding for implementation of the Islamic Shariah.
The world had already witnessed a few ‘Arab Springs’ over the years only to see one of them being overthrown. This very incident occurred a day after the world witnessed the most brutal massacres of humans (mostly Pro-Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood’s President, supporters peacefully demonstrating against the fall of democracy brought about by the Egyptian army (coup) with the help of foreign forces. There were also calls for another ‘Tehrir Square’ and cries of ‘revolt’ among young members of PTI
The common terminology used in all these incidents was ‘Revolt’, whether it be a one-man revolt (Islamabad) or a party’s revolt against an army (Egypt), a guerilla gang party’s revolt (TTP) against a state or a popular revolt as seen in the Arab springs. And now the astonishing ISIS!
Scholars have described in detail the criteria for revolt against a Muslim ruler according to the Holy Quran, Sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and various Islamic scholars. In the light of their opinions, we may discuss their views as follows:
1. Rebelling against oppressive or impious rulers is prohibited
2. Rebelling against oppressive or impious rulers is permissible
3. Discussion and Conclusion
A. Opinion Against a revolt
Basis of this opinion
1. The texts that mention the order to obey and not to violate one’s pledge. In fact, they explicitly state that one must be patient in the face of the injustice of the rulers. These texts include the following:
a) Allah says,
“O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you” (al-Nisaa 59).
As long as those in authority are within the description of having faith, it is not allowed to rebel against them.
b) Hazrat Ubaadah ibn al-Saamit (RA) said,
“We made the oath of allegiance to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to listen and obey when we are either energetic or exhausted, in our difficult times and in our easy times, and even if others are given preference over us. And we would not fight against the ruler unless we see a clear disbelief for which you have a proof from Allah.”
The Scholar Al-Kirmaani stated,
“In this hadith [there is evidence] that the ruler is not removed due to impiety, as in removing him there will be civil war, spilling of blood and disunity. The evil and harm of removing him is greater than what occurs if he remains.”
About this hadith, Sheikh ibn Taimiyyah said,
“He has ordered them to obey and forbade them from removing the people from their positions and he has ordered them to stand for the truth.”
This is the case if the matter has not reached the state of clear, unambiguous kufr for which there is evidence and proof against the ruler.
c) Hazrat Auf ibn Maalik (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“The best of your rulers are those whom you love and they love you. You pray over them and they pray over you. The worst of your rulers are those whom you hate and they hate you. You curse them and they curse you.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), shall we fight and oppose them over that?”
He replied, “No, not as long as they establish the prayer among you. No, not as long as they establish the prayer among you. If someone is appointed over a person and he sees some act of disobedience to Allah from him, he should dislike what he does of disobedience to Allah but he should not remove his hand from obedience.”
This hadith provides a clear indication that justice is to dislike what those rulers do of sins while, at the same time, not removing one’s hand from obedience as long as they establish the prayer in the Nation.
d) Hazrat Umm Salmah (RA) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“Leaders will be appointed over you. You will recognize some of what they do and reject other aspects. The one who dislikes [that situation] will be innocent [of sin]. The one who objects to it will be safe [with respect to his religion]. But the one who is pleased and follows [will have his sin upon him].” They said, “O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), shall we not fight them?” He said, “No, not as long as they pray.”
Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah said,
“This clarifies that the leaders, who are the rulers and those in charge of the affairs, are to be disliked and rebuked whenever they bring an act of disobedience to Allah. However, one does not remove his hand from obedience to them. Instead, one obeys them for the sake of Allah. [It also shows] that some of them are good and some of them are evil.”
Sheikh AI-Nawawi noted,
“This contains evidence that it is not allowed to rebel against the caliphs simply due to oppression or impiety, as long as they do not change any of the foundations of Islam.”
e) Hazrat Ibn Abbaas (RA) narrated that Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“For whoever sees something from his leader that he does not like, let him be patient. The one who separates a handspan from the community and then dies, dies not except a death of the Days of Ignorance.”
Another narration states,
“Whoever dislikes something from his ruler should remain patient for whoever leaves [the obedience to] the ruler the amount of a handspan and dies [in that state] dies a death of the Days of Ignorance.”
Sheikh Al-Aini (Al-Hanafi) noted,
‘Whoever leaves from the ruler,’ means leaves his obedience. The words, ‘should remain patient,’ mean that he should be patient concerning the thing he dislikes and not forsake his obedience, as such protects the blood [from being spilled] and quells the tribulations. [Such is the case] unless the ruler commits kufr and manifests what is opposing the call of Islam. There is no obedience for him by the created [that is, the people in such a case].”
He also stated,
“This indicates that the ruler is not to be removed due to impiety or wrongdoing. It is not allowed to remove him from his rule for that.
This hadith indicates that it is not allowed to have an armed rebellion against the leaders. Whoever leaves obeying them and tries to remove the oath of allegiance to them and dies while in that state will die a death of the Days of Ignorance.
There are numerous other hadith which give the same meaning.
2. [A second set of proofs] Those hadith which indicate that it is forbidden for the Muslims to fight each other and that warn against civil wars and tribulations that usually occur when a group of Muslims rebels against the impious or oppressive rulers who are still Muslims. These hadith include the following:
a. Hazrat Abdullah ibn Masood (RA) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“Abusing a Muslim is wickedness( al-fusooq) and fighting him is kufr.”
b. Hazrat Al-Ahnaf ibn Qaiss said,
“I went out to help this man meaning Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Taalib (RA)-and Hazrat Abu Bakrah met up with me. He said, ‘Where do you want to go?’ I said, ‘To help this man.’ He said, ‘Go back, for I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say,
“If two Muslims engage each other with their swords, the killer and the killed will be in the Hell-fire.” I said, “O Messenger of Allah, that is for the killer but what is the case with the killed?” He replied, “He was anxious to kill his fellow [Muslim].
c. Hazrat Jareer ibn Abdullah (RA) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“Do not return after me to be disbelievers, striking the necks of one another.”
d. Hazrat Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“There will be trials and tribulations wherein the one sitting is better than the one standing. The one standing will be better than the one walking. The one walking will be better than the one running. Whoever will expose himself to these afflictions, they will destroy him. So whoever can find a place or protection or refuge from them should take shelter in it.”
These hadith and others with similar meaning prove that it is forbidden for Muslims to fight among themselves. Armed rebellion against impious rulers is a form of fighting among the Muslims.
This is a type of affliction and trial, as the meaning of affliction in these hadith is, “The differences that result in seeking the kingdom to the point that one cannot tell the one who has the right from the one who is in the wrong.”
3.[A third set of proofs] is what is recorded of the Prophet’s statements as to what will be done by some rulers while at the same time his not ordering the people to rebel. These hadith include:
a. Hazrat Amr ibn Yahya ibn Saeed (RA) said:
My grandfather narrated to me saying, “I was sitting with Hazrat Abu Hurairah (RA) in the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah and Marwaan was with us. Abu Hurairah said, ‘I heard the truthful, the trustworthy say,
“The destruction of my Nation will be at the hands of young men from the Quraish.’”
Hazrat Marwaan then said,
‘The curse of Allah be upon the young men.’ Hazrat Abu Hurairah said, ‘If I willed to say the tribe of so and so and the tribe of so and so, I could do so.’” I then went with my father to the Clan of Marwaan after they gained control of al Shaam. When he saw that they were young, inexperienced men, he said to us, “Perhaps these are from among them.” We said, “You know best.”
Sheikh Ibn Battaal said,
“This hadith also contains proof for what was stated earlier that one should not revolt against the ruler even if he were unjust. This is so because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed Abu Hurairah of their names and the names of their fathers but he did not order him to revolt against them.
At the same time, though, he informed him that the destruction of the Nation would be at their hands. This implies that rebellion is even greater in destruction and takes them closer to being completely rooted out than what occurs when they are obeyed. Hence, he chose the lesser of the two evils and the easier of the two matters.”
b. Hazrat Hudhaifah ibn al-Yamaan (RA) said:
“The people used to ask the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) about the good things while I would ask him about evil out of fear that it may reach me. I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), we were in ignorance and evil and Allah came with this good. 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 contain some smoke [or fume, that is, it will be polluted and not completely pure].’ I said, ‘What will be its smoke?’
He said, ‘A people who will guide but not by my guidance, You will recognize some things from them [as correct] and you will reject others.’ I said, ‘Will there be any evil after that good?’ He replied, ‘Yes, [there will be] callers upon the gates of Hell, Whoever responds to them will be flung into it.’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), describe them to us.’ He said, ‘They are of our skin and they speak our language.’ I said, ‘What do you order me to do if I should encounter that?’ He said, ‘Stick to the community of the Muslims and their Imam [leader].’ I said, ‘Suppose there is no such community or Imam?’ He said, ‘Withdraw from all of those sects, even if you have to bite on the roots of trees until death comes upon you while you are in that state.’
Sheikh Ibn Battaal said,
“This contains evidence for a number of the jurists concerning the obligation to adhere to the community of the Muslims and to avoid rebelling against unjust rulers. This is so because he described the last group as, ‘callers upon the gates of Hell,’ and he did not say about them, ’You will recognize some things from them [as correct) and you will reject others,’ as he said about the first group. They are not of that nature except that they are upon other than truth. Given all of that, he still ordered him to adhere to the community.”
c. Hazrat Abdullah ibn Masood (RA) said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to us,
‘After me, you will see selfishness and some matters that you will disapprove of.’ They said, ‘What do you order us to do [at that time], O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)?’ He said, ’Fulfill their rights and ask Allah for your rights.’
Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah noted,
“He mentioned to them their wrongdoing, yet he ordered them to have patience, give them their rights and, for the wronged, to seek his rights from Allah. He did not permit the wronged to rebel against him with an armed rebellion in such a case, wherein rebellion would be an affliction.”
d. Additional evidence is that a historical survey will render the conclusion that the rebels do not achieve their goals. In fact, they get nothing from their rebellion except evil.
Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah noted,
“Very rarely is it the case that the one who revolts against the ruler with power finds anything except a greater evil than any good brought about. This was the case with those who revolted against Yazeed in Madinah. Allah did not order any deed that does not result in either good for the religion or good for this world.
Even if the people involved are from the devout and pious servants of Allah and from the people of Paradise, they cannot be more virtuous than Ali, Aishah, Talhah, al-Zubair and others but these people were not praised for their fighting although they have a greater place with Allah and a purer intention than others.”
Imam Abu aI-Hasan al-Ashari lists twenty-five members of the Prophet’s descendants who revolted and none of them ever achieved their goal. If the rebellion ends in evil-even if the revolutionary intends ordering good and eradicating evil-it is not permissible as the Lawgiver did not command anything except what has benefit and good to it.
e. A tyrant ruler is not evil in every aspect.
Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah noted,
“The oppressive king is used by Allah to repel a harm greater than his own wrongdoing. It is said, ‘Sixty years under an oppressive leader is better than one night without a leader.’ And if He decrees to increase his oppression, that is something harmful in the religion and it is like an affliction that acts as expiation for their sins. They are also rewarded for it and they return to Allah, seeking forgiveness and repenting to Him.
The same is true when the enemy overtakes them… For that reason, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered the fighting against those who fight for a distorted religion from the heretics, such as the Khawaarij, while he ordered patience with respect to the unjust rulers and he prohibited fighting them and revolting against them.”
In fact, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“Verily, Allah supports this religion [even with] a wicked man.”
As long as the matter is like this, it is not allowed to revolt against a ruler simply due to his impiety. His impiety returns to himself while, at the same time, through him benefit is achieved that is greater and more important.
4. Other sayings of the Prophet
a. Sheikh ‘Umar Ibn Yazeed said: I heard al-Hasan al-Basree during the days of Yazeed Ibnul-Mahlab, and there came to him a group of people. So he commanded them to stay in their houses and to close their doors. Then he said: ‘‘By Allah! If the people had patience when they were being tested by their unjust ruler, it will not be long before Allaah will make a way out for them. However, they always rush for their swords, so they are left to their swords. By Allah! Not even for a single say did they bring about any good.’
b. Imaam Aboo Bark al-Aajurree (d.360H) – rahimahullaah – said: ‘‘It is not permissible for the one who sees the uprising of a khaarijee (who has revolted against the leader, whether he is just or oppressive) – so this person has revolted and gathered a group behind him, has pulled out his sword and has made lawful the killing of Muslims – it is not fitting for the one who sees this, that he becomes deceived by this person’s recitation of the Qur‘aan, the length of his standing in Prayer, nor his constant fasting, nor his good and excellent words in knowledge when it is clear to him that this person’s way and methodology is that of the Khawaarij.’’
c. Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said : “Whosoever wishes to advise the ruler concerning a matter, then let him not do it openly. Rather, he should take him by the hand and take him into seclusion. So if he accepts his advice, then he has achieved his objective, and if he does not accept from him, then he has still conveyed that which was a duty upon him.”
d. Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullaah) said: “Verily I supplicate for the ruler, for his correctness, success and support – night and day – and I see this as being obligatory upon me.’’
e. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said to the Ansaar, “Have patience until you meet me at the Pool,”
f. A group of Muslims came to Imam al Hasan al Basree seeking a verdict to rebel against al Hajjaaj. So they said, “O Abu Sa’eed! What do you say about fighting this oppressor who has unlawfully spilt blood and unlawfully taken wealth and did this and that?”
So Sheikh al Hasan said, “I hold that he should not be fought. If this is the punishment from Allah, then you will not be able to remove it with your swords. If this is a trial from Allah, then be patient until Allah’s Judgement comes, and He is the best of Judges.”
So they left Al Hasan, disagreed with him and rebelled against al Hajjaaj – so al Hajjaaj killed them all.
g. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Listen and obey, even if the ruler seizes you and beats your back.” Related by Muslim
So it is obligatory to obey the ruler of the Muslims in obedience to Allaah, but if he commands disobedience (to Allah), then he is not to be obeyed in this command, meaning: in the command of disobedience. However, he is still to be obeyed in other than that, from that which does not involve sin. As for dealing with the disbelieving (kafir) ruler, then this differs depending upon the various situations.
So if the Muslims have the power and capability to fight him, and to remove him from rule, and a Muslim ruler is present, then that is obligatory upon them, and this is from Jihaad in the Path of Allah. As for when they are not capable of opposing him, then it is not permissible for them to instigate anything by oppression and disbelief, because this will result in harm and affliction upon the Muslims.
B. Opinions For a Revolt and their refutation
Basis for this opinion:
1. Allah says in the Quran,
“If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, make peace between them. But if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah” (al-Hujuraat 9).
The wording of this verse requires going out and fighting against the group that has transgressed the bounds while the tyrannical ruler and whoever is with him have transgressed the bounds vis-a-vis the other parties.
This verse does not indicate that whenever transgression exists it is obligatory to counter it by fighting. Accepting this principle, Sheikh ibn Taimiyyah wrote:
“The mere existence of transgression from the ruler or a party does not necessarily require fighting. In fact, a principle that is indicated by the texts is that the people are ordered to be patient with, and not fight, the injustice, oppression, and transgression of an unjust, wrongdoing ruler. Such is what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered in more than one hadith. He did not permit repelling the transgression by fighting in all cases. In fact, if such would lead to trials and afflictions, it is then prohibited to repel the transgression and, instead, one is ordered to have patience.”
2. Allah also says,
“My Promise does not extend to the wrongdoers” (al-Baqarah 124).
The argument here is that the position of the Imam (ruler) is part of the pact or promise of Allah. It is not permissible for that to be obtained by a wrongdoer. In fact, it is obligatory to rebel against him and make him leave his wrongdoing.
This verse contains no proof that it is permissible to revolt against the rulers. Its indication is that there will be none from the descendants of Abraham who will be Imams and guides while they are in fact wrongdoers.
3. Allah says,
“Help one another in righteousness and piety, but help not one another in sin and rancor” (al-Maaidah 2)
The argument here is that by not revolting against the tyrant, one is actually helping him in his sin and rancor. Furthermore, rebelling against him is a part of helping the rebels in righteousness and piety.
The most that this verse could be used to prove is that it is forbidden to help in a sin with the Imam or anyone else. However, the claim that it implies an obligation to assist in rebelling against the rulers, taking that as an act of righteousness, is not correct.
4. They also invoke the general texts concerning ordering good and eradicating evil. These texts include the following:
a. Allah says,
“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: they are the ones to attain felicity” (ali-Imraan 104)
b. Allah also says,
“Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus, the son of Mary, because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses. Nor did they forbid one another the iniquities which they committed: evil indeed were the deeds which they did” (al-Maaidah 78-79).
c. Hazrat Qais ibn Abi Haazim (RA) narrated that Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) said, after praising and extolling Allah, “O people, you read this verse but you misinterpret it:
‘O you who believe! Guard your own souls: if you follow (right) guidance, no hurt can come to you from those who stray (al-Maaidah 105).‘ Verily, I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say,
‘If the people see a wrongdoer and they do not take him by his hands, soon Allah will inflict them all with a punishment from Him.”
d. Hazrat Abu Saeed al-Khudri (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“Whoever of you sees an evil must then change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then [he must change it] with his heart. And that is the slightest [effect of] faith.”
As for the texts related to ordering good and eradicating evil, those evidences are general, being particularized by the hadith used as evidence by the proponents of the first opinion. Al Shaukaani stated,
“Those who argue that it is obligatory to rebel against unjust rulers, remove them by force and oppose them by fighting use the texts of the Quran and Sunnah giving the general meaning of the obligation to order good and eradicate evil. There is no doubt or question that the hadith that… we mentioned are more specific than those general, unrestricted proofs. And they aremutawaatir (definitive) in their meaning. The one who is familiar with the Sunnah is aware of that.”
5. They also cite some texts that indicate that one should remove an oppressor and keep him from his acts. Ibn Masood narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“There is no prophet that was sent to a nation before me except that he had from his nation helpers and companions. They would follow his way and implement his orders.
Then came afterwards generations that would say what they did not do and do what they did not say. Whoever struggled against them with his hand is a believer. Whoever struggled against them with his tongue is a believer. And whoever struggled against them with his heart is a believer. Beyond that there is no faith, even equivalent to the amount of a mustard seed.
Sheikh Ibn Rajab stated,
“This indicates that one should make a physical jihad against the rulers.
The texts indicating that one should remove a wrongdoer are not particular related to what is being claimed here. This is because removing a wrongdoer is different from revolting against him. If it is possible to remove him without any civil war or affliction and to replace him with someone better than he is, it is obligatory to do so.
However, if that requires the spilling of blood, it is forbidden based on the previously cited evidence. Abu Amr ibn al-Salaah  said about the hadith that they quote as evidence,
6. Other evidence that they cite is what is recorded concerning no obedience in a matter involving disobedience to Allah. For example, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“Upon the person is hearing and obeying concerning what he likes and what he dislikes, unless he is ordered to do an act of disobedience [to Allah]. If he is ordered to do an act of disobedience, there is no hearing or obeying.”
The texts indicating that there is to be no obedience concerning a sinful matter also do not contain any relevant evidence on this point. They just indicate that obedience is forbidden concerning a sin, such that when one is ordered to commit a sin, he does not obey. However, removing him from his position is not allowed.
Obedience to the ruler is not just with respect to the just ruler; it is also true for the unjust ruler. This is indicated in a number of hadith. For example, Abdullah ibn Masood narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“After me, you will see selfishness and some matters that you will disapprove of.” They said, “What do you order us to do [at that time), O Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)?” He said, “Fulfill their rights and ask Allah for your rights.”
7. Their proofs also include what is related concerning the dangers of misguiding rulers.
For example, Hazrat Thaubaan (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“I fear for my Nation from the misguiding rulers.”
As for the evidence they presented concerning the dangers of misleading rulers, there is no difference of opinion on that issue. However, that danger does not justify rebelling against them.
8. Their evidence also includes the fact that the scholars are agreed that any group which refuses the laws of Islam is to be fought.
Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,
“Every group that refuses to abide by any law of the definitely established, manifest Islamic Shareeah must be fought until the religion is completely for Allah. This is by the agreement of the scholars.”
One contemporary wrote a treatise on this topic based on the issue of making jihad and fighting against those governments that rule by man-made laws and not by the Islamic Shareeah.
There is no disagreement about the evidence they present saying that the scholars all agree that the group that refuses to apply the laws of Islam is to be fought. However, this command is directed to the ruler himself, such as what Abu Bakr did when he fought those who refused to pay the zakat. When the scholars discuss this issue, they discuss it in the light of the responsibilities and roles of the ruler himself.
Taking into consideration the goals of the Shariah forms more evidence showing that it is impermissible to rebel against impious or oppressing rulers. Allah sent the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to achieve and complete welfare while eliminating and reducing harm. And one should repel two evils by adhering to the lesser of two evils.
Even though ordering good and eradicating evil is one of the greatest obligations and recommended deeds, it must be the case that its good outweighs any resulting evil. Any time the evil of any matter and its removal is greater than its benefit, then the act is not something that Allah has ordered. Evidence for this view is found in the Prophet’s accepting of Abdullah ibn Ubayy and others like him of the leaders of hypocrisy and wickedness due to the supporters that they had.
Had the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) removed his evil by punishing him, that would have necessarily led to the removal of a benefit, which was greater and more important. It would have led to the anger of his people and the arousal of their patriotism towards their own.
Furthermore, it would have driven people away once they heard that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was killing his own companions. A study of the historical incidents of rebellion against unjust rulers demonstrates that its evil is greater than its benefit.
Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,
“Perhaps, no group is known to have revolted against a ruler except that in the rebellion more evil was the result than the evil they sought to remove.”
Imam Ibn al-Azraq said in explaining why rebellion against an unjust ruler is not justified,
“Second: The proof that it is obligatory to repel the greater evil, and there is no doubt that the evil of disobeying him is given preference over the evil of supporting him in matters of obedience, is what they say concerning making jihad with him. Furthermore, it is also said that disobeying the rulers destroys the pillars of the nation.”
Sheikh Ibn Abi al-Izz al-Hanafi stated,
“As for adhering to obedience to them even if they are unjust, it is because the evil result of rebelling against obeying them is many times greater than what occurs due to their injustice. Indeed, by having patience in the face of their injustice, one expiates sins and multiplies the rewards.”
Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah said,
“For that reason it is forbidden to rebel with the sword against the one in power for the purpose of ordering good and eradicating evil. This is because the resultant forbidden acts and abandoning of what is obligatory is greater than what results by their acts of vices and sins… If the evil of the forbidden act is removed by eradicating it and there is an overriding benefit to eradicating it, then it is something good.
However, if its evil simply becomes more and greater and there is no reciprocal greater good, then it is not sanctioned to remove it unless there is a responding additional benefit. If it simply leads to greater harm, it is not legally sanctioned. Such would be the case if the one ordering the good is someone who is not patient and when he is punished for his actions, he becomes so fearful and worried that he commits a sin due to this act, lessening thereby his faith and religion.”
“What the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ordered concerning being patient with the injustice of rulers and not fighting them or rebelling against them is the best for the affairs of the humans in both this life and the Hereafter. Whoever goes against that command, either intentionally or mistakenly, will not achieve by his act any good. Indeed, he will achieve evil.”
It is sufficient to realize that rebelling against unjust rulers ruins the safety of the society. It, thereby, “exchanges security for fear, spilling of blood, letting loose the hands of the fools; it opens the door for an attack on the Muslims and it spreads evil on the earth.”
The majority of the Ahlas-Sunnah wal-Jamaah are of the view that it is forbidden to make an armed rebellion against oppressive or unjust rulers, as long as their wrong does not reach the level of kufr. This was the opinion of a number of the Companions, including Hazrat Saad ibn Abi Waqqaas, Hazrat Usaamah ibn Zaid, Hazrat Abdullah ibn Umar, and many others (RA). This is also the view of the vast majority of the Ahli-hadith (“followers of hadith”)
It should be known that Islam calls for justice and abhors oppression and injustice, particularly if done against the people for whom one is responsible. Therefore, the ruler is enjoined to fulfill his duties and establish justice among people. The first among the seven categories to whom Allah will give shade on the Day of Judgment, where will be no shade but His, is a just ruler.
On the contrary, a Muslim ruler who fails to fulfill his obligations and even oppresses Muslims is doomed to an awful destiny in the Hereafter.
However, in removing the oppression and evil of an unjust ruler, Muslims should be keen not to give way to greater evil and corruption. Therefore, the issue of overthrowing an oppressive ruler should be decided after a thorough study and calculations of the advantages and disadvantages in order not to lead to a greater evil, which should be avoided according to Shari`ah.
Elaborating on this issue, we’d like to cite for you the Fatwa issued by Dr. Ahmad Sa`eed Hawwa, professor of Islamic Jurisprudence at Jordan University, who states the following:
“ The issue of rebelling against an oppressive ruler is to be decided after an accurate study of Shari`ah priorities. Muslim scholars in the past stated that this can be allowed if there is preponderance of probability that the oppressive ruler can be overthrown without inflicting greater harm.
This is based on a well-established rule in Islam: “Fending off smaller harm must not result in creating a greater harm.” Likewise there is a rule: “Resort should be to the lesser of the two evils.” Only if these conditions are met and these rules and cautions are taken into consideration, then it is obligatory to embark upon overthrowing an oppressive ruler or agent; otherwise Muslims should bear patiently, doing their best to lessen the effects of his oppression and evil.”
It should be known that Islam calls for justice and abhors oppression and injustice, particularly if done against the people for whom one is responsible. Therefore, the ruler is enjoined to fulfill his duties and establish justice among people. The first among the seven categories to whom Allah will give shade on the Day of Judgment, where will be no shade but His, is a just ruler. On the contrary, a Muslim ruler who fails to fulfill his obligations and even oppresses Muslims is doomed to an awful destiny in the Hereafter.
The example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Makkah:
The Prophet stayed in Makkah for thirteen years and the government there was a disbelieving government. Despite this, whoever accepted Islam from his Companions did not fight against the disbelievers. Rather, they were prohibited from fighting the disbelievers for this extremely long period of time, except after the Prophet migrated and a state was established and a community arose making them capable of fighting the disbelievers, this is the methodology of Islam.
So when the Muslims are under a Kafir government, and they are not capable of removing it, then they must hold firmly onto Islam and their Aqeedah. However, they should not endanger themselves by endeavouring to oppose the disbelievers, because that will only result in the destruction and annihilation of the da’wah (call). As for when they have power making them capable of Jihad, then they should perform jihad in the Path of Allah upon the known Shariah fundamentals.
Power is known, so if you can carry out an action, and the Muslims start to become capable of establishing jihaad in the Path of Allaah, then jihaad has been legislated for them against the disbelievers. As for when their power is estimated, and not fully certain, then it is not permissible to endanger the Muslims, nor to urge them towards danger; thus taking them towards and end that is not praiseworthy. And the seerah (biographical account) of the Prophet in Makkah and al-Madinah is an excellent witness to this.
The Great example in History-Imam Hussain (RA)
It is permissible for a Khalifah to appoint a successor without the approval of those in power, as Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) appointed Hazrat Umar (RA) as his successor without the backing and presence of the prominent figures of the community. The logical reason behind this is that appointing someone a successor to the throne is not appointing his a Khalifa, or else, there will be two Khalifas, thus there is no need for the influential people to be present. Yes, after the demise of the Khalifah, their presence and approval is necessary.
Khilafah (leadership) is not established merely with the appointment of the Khalifa, rather (after his demise) it requires the approval of the Muslim Ummah
In view of the above, the majority of the Ummah’s scholars are of the view that if a Khalifah or ruler appoints his successor without the approval of those in power, then this is permissible, but it will only serve as a suggestion. After his demise, the nation’s influential and powerful people have a right to accept his leadership or reject it.
Keeping this in mind, the leadership of Yazid was also subject to the same criterion other leaderships are. His leadership could not be established after the demise of Hazrat Mu’awiya (RA) until it was approved by the major personalities of the nation.
Sayyiduna Hussain (RA) from the outset did not approve of Yazid being designated a leader. This was his personal opinion that was based on purely religious grounds and there was nothing wrong in holding this view.
After the demise of Sayyiduna Mu’awiya (RA), Sayyiduna Husain (RA) saw that the major personalities of Hijaz including Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) had not yet approved of Yazid’s leadership. Furthermore, he received heaps of letters from Iraq calling for him, which made it clear that the people of Iraq had also not accepted Yazid as their leader. The letters clearly stated that they had not given their allegiance to anyone. (See: Tarikh al-Tabari, 4/262 & al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya, 8/151).
In such circumstances, Sayyiduna Husain’s (RA) stand with regards to Yazid’s leadership was that the pledge of allegiance by the people of Syria cannot be forced upon the rest of the Muslims. Therefore, his leadership was as yet not established.
In Sayyiduna Husain’s view, Yazid was a tyrant ruler who desired to overcome the Muslims, but was not yet able to do so. In such a circumstance, he considered his religious duty to prevent a tyrant ruler prevailing over the Muslim Ummah.
For this reason, Sayyiduna Hussain (RA) sent Muslim ibn Aqeel (Allah be pleased with him) to Kufa in order to investigate the truth about Yazid’s rule. His journey was not of an uprising nature, rather to discover the truth.
Had Sayyiduna Husain (Allah be pleased with him) thought that Yazid had imposed his rule and established his power all over the Muslim lands, the case would have been different. He would certainly have accepted his leadership without choice and would not have opposed it. But he thought that this was a tyrant ruler that had no authority as of yet, and can be stopped before he establishes his authority.
This is the reason why when he came close to Kufa and discovered from Hazrat Muslim bin Aqeel (RA) that the inhabitants of Kufa have betrayed him and succumbed to Yazid’s rule, he realized that he no longed fulfilled the basic criteria for a successful revolt.
And he wisely suggested three things:
“Accept any of the three options, either leave me so that I may return to the place from where I have come, or let me go to Yazid for direct talks or at least let me go to any border”
Umar Ibne Sa’ad accepted his last option. But Ibne Ziyad wrote that unless he pledge allegiance to us, we will not leave him. Imam Husain (a.s.) replied “This shall never be.”
(Tarikhe Tabari, Section IV, Ch. 10, pg. 215).
However, Ubaid Allah ibn Ziyad was not ready to listen to Sayyiduna Husain and ordered him to come to him unconditionally. Sayyiduna Husain (Allah be pleased with him) was in no way obliged to obey his command, thus had no option but to fight him. This was the beginning of the unfortunate incident of Karbala. (See, for details, Imam Tabari’s Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Muluk & Imam Ibn Kathir’s al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya).
When al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was martyred on the day of ‘Ashura’, he was martyred by the sinful, wrongdoing group.
Allah honoured al-Husayn with martyrdom, as He honoured other members of his family, and raised his status, as He honoured Hamzah, Ja’far, his father ‘Ali and others (RA). Al-Husain (RA) and his brother al-Hasan (RA) are the leaders of the youth of Paradise.
Given that it is sanctioned to revolt against a disbelieving ruler and given the stronger opinion that it is forbidden to revolt against unjust [Muslim) rulers, it is necessary to point out some other issues. These may be summarized as follows:
The First Issue:
When one says that the scholars agree that it is sanctioned to revolt against a ruler who has entered into kufr, it is important to note that the Shareeah conditions that were mentioned in the earlier discussion must be fulfilled. [For example,) one cannot revolt against a ruler if he rules according to some law other than what is in the Shareeah unless that type of ruling is such that is truly kufr, as was clarified earlier.
In the practice and lives of the scholars there are examples that indicate this principle. Imam Ahmad along with a large number of the ahl al-Sunnah said that the Jahamites and those who said that the Quran was created had fallen into kufr. However, at the same time, he lived under the rule of the Abbasid caliphs who called people to the heresy of believing in the created nature of the Quran and they punished scholars with beating, death and imprisonment due to this call.
Even given all of that, they never revolted against them nor did they say it is obligatory to rebel against them. On the contrary, they believed in their rule and their being of faith and they would pray for them-all along refuting the falsehood that they believed in, which was a greater kufr even though they may not have realized it was kufr.
The Second Issue:
If the ruler [changes and] displays a clear kufr wherein the proof is established against him, it is obligatory to revolt against him. However, that revolt is not upon “the individuals of the Nation in the outskirts of the country making a revolution. If they did that, they would be eradicated and destroyed. And that would just be a cause for greater trials and flaring up of a civil war.
However, if a man who has followers and a party agrees and he stands hoping to order good and eradicate evil, and he is supported by a sufficient number of Muslims to be able to defend him, he may proceed in that action abiding by the conditions that were mentioned earlier, taking into consideration the best interests and looking out for the proper results, weighing what he is repelling with what he is raising, according to what can be expected.”
Therefore, it is obligatory that the revolt against the disbelieving ruler be led by the “people who tie and untie” (that is, the religious, political and social leaders of society). Revolting against the ruler is not an emotional stance or a temporary flare-up to the point that the masses take control. It is a very serious matter. So it must rest in the hands of the “leaders of society.” They must all gather and agree together. For if “the people of truth come together, the people of falsehood will not be able to oppose them.”
One Maliki scholar said,
“Everyone who is a wrongdoing oppressor cannot be a prophet, caliph, ruler, mufti and Imam for prayers, and what he narrates from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is unacceptable and his testimony is not accepted in legal ruling show ever, he is not removed until the ‘people who tie and untie’ (the leaders in society) remove him.”
Therefore, the one being addressed in the [previously mentioned] hadith, “Unless you see a clear kufr,” and, “No, not as long as they establish the prayer among you,” is actually the Muslim Ummah (Nation) as a whole as represented by “the people who tie and untie.” The small number of individuals from the nation who live in societies in which the real meaning of Islam is missing and in which the difference between faith and kufr is missing-in addition to the fact that they are limited in numbers and ability-are requested to support the propagation of the faith to improve the Nation and call it to what is good, while all along speaking out openly for the truth, ordering good and eradicating evi1,
In fact, those who say it is permissible to revolt against impious rulers do not say that individuals among the people may rebel. They differ as to the exact amount that the revolutionaries must reach for it to be permissible for them to rebel.
Another said that if the people of truth are at least half the number of the transgressors, they must fight against them. This is based on Allah’s words,
“For the present, Allah has lightened your (task), for He knows that there is a weak Spot in you. But (even so), if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred. And if a thousand, they will vanquish two thousand, with the leave of Allah: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere” (al-Anfaal 66)
In the Course of his presentation of the views of those who permit such a rebellion, ibn Hazm noted, “If they are a number such that, due to their small quantity and weakness, they cannot hope for a victory, they are then from those who are allowed to abandon the changing [of evil) with one’s hand.”
The truth is-and Allah knows best-that it is not allowed to revolt against the impious and oppressors, As for revolting against the disbelievers, it is like any other obligation that is dropped given an inability to perform it or a small number that cannot accomplish it.
“So fear Allah as much as you can” (al-Taghaabun 16).
Allah also says,
” On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear” (al-Baqarah 286).
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade the Muslim from humiliating himself.
Hazrat Hudhaifah ibn al-Yamaan (RA) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“A Muslim must not humiliate himself.” It was said, “How does he humiliate himself?” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied, “By exposing himself to an affliction that he is not able to bear.’
Those who revolt to fight against the disbelievers while they are small in number are simply presenting themselves to a trial and affliction that they cannot bear,
The Third Issue:
The statement that it is forbidden to rebel against unjust rulers does not mean that one is passive in the face of falsehood and wrong, Openly declaring the law and making its word supreme is an obligation upon humans, even if the matter results in his being killed.
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
“The best jihad is a statement of justice in the presence of an unjust ruler.”
The prohibition of rebelling does not mean there is to be no ordering of good and eradicating of evil. It may be possible for a person to order and eradicate in legal manners without causing any commotion or affliction.
“Many people see a contradiction in the Shareeah on that point. They think that ordering [good] and eradicating [evil] can only exist with affliction. Either they are all completely ordered or they are all completely forbidden. However, such is not the case. Instead, one orders and prohibits while having patience in the face of any affliction. As Allah says,
‘Enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong; and bear with patient constancy whatever befalls you’ [Luqmaan 17].
And Hazrat Ubaadah (RA) said,
‘We made the oath of allegiance to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to listen and obey when we are either energetic or exhausted, in our difficult times and in our easy times, and even if others are given preference over us. We would not try to contend for power from its people. And we would stand or speak the truth wherever we may be, not fearing for the sake of Allah the reproach of any reproacher.’ He ordered them to obey and forbade them from contending with the people for the rule; and he also ordered them to stand for the truth.”
Hence, when it comes to ordering good and eradicating evil, two groups of people commit mistakes:
(1) One group abandons the ordering of good and eradicating of evil based on their explanation of the verse,
“0 you who believe! Guard your own souls: if you follow (right) guidance, no hurt can come to you from those who stray” (al-Maaidah 105).
In refutation of them is the speech of Abu Bakr wherein he said,
“O people, you read this verse but you misinterpret it. Verily, I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say,
‘If the people see a wrongdoer and they do not take him by his hands, soon Allah will inflict them all with a punishment from Him.”
(2) A second group wants to order good and eradicate evil, either by their speech or their hand, unconditionally without recourse to understanding, patience, calmness and reflection as to what is proper and what is not proper, what is within reach and what is not. They then order good and eradicate evil thinking that they are obeying Allah and His Messenger in that while, in reality, they are transgressing Allah’s limits.
It is obligatory upon people to order good and eradicate evil while having knowledge, gentleness and patience. Knowledge must come before the ordering and forbidding. Gentleness must accompany the act.
And patience must come afterwards. For this reason, one of the early scholars stated,
“No one should order good or eradicate evil unless he is knowledgeable of what he is ordering and knowledgeable of what he is eradicating, gentle with respect to his ordering and gentle with respect to his forbidding, calm with respect to his ordering and calm with respect to his forbidding.”
Patience is the fuel that prepares the Nation, with men who are reformed, to spread the religion to the corners of the earth. It is not a type of fleeing. Instead, it is a deed of reforming, propagating, disseminating of the good and building of a society; and if that society is sound, its leaders will be rightly guided. The reformation of the Nation is the path of reformation of the leaders. Allah puts wrongdoers in authority over similar wrongdoers. Allah has said,
“Thus do We make the wrongdoers supporters and helpers to each other, because of what they earn” (al-Anaam 129).
Sheikh Ibn Taimiyyah said,
“The authority going to the kings and their deputies from among the governors and judges is not due to any shortcoming in themselves. On the contrary, it is due to a shortcoming in both the ruling class and the citizenry… As Allah has said, ‘Thus do We make the wrongdoers supporters and helpers to each other.’
Sayings of the Prophet Against the Khawariji-(Kharijis are a group of people who go around ascribing purity of faith to themselves, declaring those who came before them and those who disagree with their evil ways as “innovators” and “disbelievers,” and go so far as to allow shedding of blood of those who would not think as they do and often resort to revolt, bloodshed, civil war and anarchy)
“There would arise in this nation a people and you would hold insignificant your prayers as compared with their prayers. And they would recite the Qur’an which would not go beyond their throats and would swerve through the Deen (as blank) just as an (swift) arrow passes through the prey. The archer looks at his arrow, at its iron head and glances at its end (which he held) in the tip of his fingers to see whether it had any stain of blood.”
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2322]
Narrated Hazrat Yusair bin ‘Amr (RA):
I asked Hazrat Sahl bin Hunaif, (RA) “Did you hear the Prophet (PBUH) saying anything about Al-Khawarij?” He said, “I heard him saying while pointing his hand towards Iraq. “There will appear in it (i.e. Iraq) some people who will recite the Quran but it will not go beyond their throats, and they will go out from (leave) Islam as an arrow darts through the game’s body.’
[Sahih Bukhari: Volume 9, Book 84, Number 68]
Example of Iranian Revolution
Dr. Israr Ahmad Marhoom gives the example of Ahli-Tasheeah uprising at the time against the government of Shah of Iran with a bloody revolution sacrificed for the establishment of Islamic govt according to Fiqh Ja’fariyah. He says Sunnis have yet overthrown any king to establish an Islamic government
Conditions for a Islamic Revolt
1. There must be clear signs of Kufr and other conditions (mentioned above) in the present leader and/or leadership
2. Most of the people revolting must be practicing Muslims with sound knowledge of Islam and important matters involving Islamic laws and their implementation
3. The people revolting should preferably have good unblemished character
4. They must have a leader and or a leadership
5. They must be sufficient in quantity to carry out a successful revolution
6. There must be 90-100% chance of success, and that the outcome of the revolution will be better than the situation before it
7. The revolt must be organized and people must be united under one chain of command.
8. Minimum amount of bloodshed with absolutely NO CHANCE of civil war/anarchy breaking out afterwards
9. In other wards a relatively PEACEFUL revolution is the only option, otherwise NO to revolution, but just patience!
This is a compilation of verses of Holy Quran, sayings of the Prophet (PBUH), sayings of historic Islamic scholars, opinions from scholars of today with my own opinions
And Allah knows best.
6 thoughts on “Criteria for revolt against a Muslim Ruler”
Isn’t it HT has opted the similar methodology from Quran & Sunnah & Scholar opinions. They are strictly against any armed violence & aggression with the current muslim rulers but with no compromise in exposing their wrongdoings & non-Shariah policies at the same time. On the other hand they are also creating the momentum and public opinion among masses for Khilafah state through their speeches, conferences, literature & dawah programs. And finally they try to engage with the people of power (ahle-nussrah) for their support in peaceful revolution.
On the similar ground, Tanzeem Islami also seems to have adopted the similar methodology from Quran & Sunnah & Scholar opinions. No any armed struggle. Culture the dawah carrier with in depth study of Quran, give them the pristine concepts of Islamic shariah, create awareness in masses and to have enough solid-die-hard members on board that can create a huge public pressure on the ruler who are not ruling according to the Islam and make them surrender to accept the change. However if the ruling party decide to fight than to stand firm against their brutalities & be patient on your Islamic reformation demands.
Both of these parties seems to be on right track (relative to all others).