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islam related issues, jihad/terror, responses

Correcting the Government or the Authorities (Part 2)

Facing Fasiq (Islamically Corrupt) Muslim Leaders and Government

Islam is a religion of da’wah (propagation). Islam demands its ummah to enjoin good and forbid evil without fear and favour. In fact, Islam makes the duty of islah (correction or counsel) towards leaders and the government as one of the preferred jihad. Prophet Muhammad said, “The most preferred jihad is (to present) the truth to leaders who have deviated.”(Narrated by At-Turmuzi & Ibn Majah)

However, Islam demands that reformation be done with wisdom, good advice and gracious debate. Islam commands Muslims to have patience in effecting change.

Prophet Muhammad said, “Anyone who sees something that he hates in his leader, should be patient.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

Many Sunni scholars rule that armed rebellion against corrupt authority is haram (impermissible).

An-Nawawi said:

“As for rebelling against them and fighting them, this is forbidden according to the consensus of the Muslims [ulama], even if they were impious, oppressors.” (An-Nawawi, Syarh Sahih Muslim, Dar Ihya’ At-Turats Al-`Arabi, Beirut, 1392H, vol 12, p. 229.)

Al-Kirmani said:

“The fuqaha (jurists) all agree that the Imam (leader) who has taken over power must be obeyed as long as he establishes the congregational prayers and the jihad. [This is so] unless he commits a clear kufr [infidelity] in which it is obligatory to do so. Indeed, [in that case] it is obligatory to struggle against him by those who have the ability to do so.” (Al-Kirmani, Syarh Sahih Al-Bukhari, Dar Ihya’ At-Turats Al-`Arabi, Beirut, 1401H, vol 10, p. 169.)

Al`Aini said:

“It is not mubah (permissible) to remove him (a ruler) from his rule of that (fasiq and wickedness).” (Abdul Rahman b.Mu`alla Al-Luwaihiq, Religious Extremism In the Life Of Contemporary Muslims, p. 454.)

Ibn Taimiyah said:

“He [the Prophet] 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 clarifies that the leaders, who are the rulers and those in charge of affairs, are to be disliked and rebuked whenever they bring an cat of disobedience to them. 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.” (Ibn Taimiyah, Minhaj As-Sunnah An-Nabawiyah, Jami`ah Muhammad bin Sa`ud Al-Islamiah, Riyadh, 1406, vol. 1, pg 117.)

Ibn Abi Al-`Iz said:

“It is obligatory to obey the authorities although they have deviated, because disobedience will cause much more damage than that caused by their deviation. To be patient with their deviation will eliminate sin and multiply rewards.” (Ibn Abi Al-`Iz, Syarh Al-Aqidah At-Tahawiyah, Al-Maktab Al-Islami, Beirut, 1984,p. 381.)

Although some ulama say that leaders who commit kufr acts may be opposed if there is clear evidence, they obviously do not encourage any form of armed resistance, as it often causes bloodshed, damage and a much bigger detriment.

Al-Kirmani said:

“… a 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.” (Al-Kirmani, Syarh Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 10, p. 169.)

Ibn Battal said:

“The jusrists all agree that it is obligatory to obey and make jihad with the ruler who has taken controlhim. Obeying him is better than rebelling against him. [This option] prevents the spilling of blood and repels catastrophe… There is no exception to that unless the ruler falls into blatant kufr [infidelity].” (Ibn Hajar, Fath Al-Bari’, Cairo, 1380H, vol. 7, pg 13.)

Ibn Taimiyah said:

“The opinion of the Ahl Sunnah settled on the view that fighting must be avoided during civil wars due to the authentic hadith confirmed from the Prophet. They [the Sunni] then began to mention their creeds. They ordered patience in the face of the injustice of thero rulers and [they ordered] avoiding fighting against them. [This was their conclusion] although a number of people of knowledge and had fought in civil wars.” (Ibn Taimiyah, Minhaj As-Sunnah An-Nabawiyah, vol. 4, pg 529-530.)

On the viewpoint of the Salaf allowing war against oppressive leaders, Ibn Hajar said;

“They used to believe in using the sword; that is, they believed in armed rebellion against unjust rulers. That was an old opinion among the early scholars. However, the issue settled upon abandoning that as it was seen that such an act leads to something even greater [in harm]. The events of Al-Harrah and Ibn Al-Ashath and others are indeed lessons for whoever reflects.” (Ibn Hajar, Tahzib At-Tahzib, Dairah Al-Ma`arif An-Nizamiah, Haiderabad, 1325H, vol. 2, pg 288.)

Asy-Syaukani said;

“…..It is not allowed to fight against the rulers with the sword, as long as they are establishing prayers.” (Asy-Syaukani, Nail Al-Authar, Matba`ah Mustafa Al-Babi, Cairo, vol. 7, p. 197.)

The opinion of the ulama as above is also based on the prohibition for the Muslim ummah to wage war against each other.

Prophet Muhammad said:

“To revile a Muslim is fasiq and to wage war against him is kufur.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

“When two Muslims meet with their swords, the one who kills and the one killed will be in Hell.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

“Do not return to kufr after my time, (by) smiting each other’s necks.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

The scholars adopted this stand after witnessing various incidents of armed resistance and opposition against the authorities, as in the Siffin War between Ali, the fourth Caliph, and Mu`awiyah, the founder of Umayyad dynasty, Hussein’s challenge against the power of Ummayd’s ruler, the Battle of Al-Harrah and Abdullah b. Az-Zubair’s revolt against the Umayyad.

Such is the stand of the past Muslim scholars about opposing an Islamic authority. This does not mean they were passively accepting disobedience to God. On the contrary, the strived for reformation gradually through peaceful means and good counsel. Their commitment to that, even to the authorities, is recorded in many incidents in history, as in the case of Imam Ahmad b Hanbal.

Undeniably, several Muslim scholars consider armed opposition is mubah (permissible) or even obligatory in certain situations. However, the opinions of the majority of the scholars is stronger.

The above discussion pertains to the attitude towards an Islamic authority. What should then be the attitude towards a non-Islamic authority for minority Muslims in non-Islamic country? I will discuss the issue in the future posting.

About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at


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