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Obedience To Tyrannical
Muslim Rulers & Is
Obedience Only For The
Khalifah & Not Rulers Of
Different Muslim
Countries

By Abdul Kareem Ibn


Ozzie
A revolt is when ever the people under a just ruler or a tyrannical
leaders rule decide they will no longer obey him in anything he
commands (good or bad) while at the same time they try to remove
him from power.

A revolt is not just with the sword and fighting the ruler. A revolt can
take many forms such as nationwide protests and demonstrations,
sit-ins, military coups and secret assignations etc.

A revolt against a tyrannical Muslim ruler or a just Muslim ruler is


haram, because revolting against the leader goes against the Islamic
principal of hearing and obeying the rulers. As a revolt involves
people under the tyrannical or just rulers rule deciding they will no
longer hear and obey the ruler in all that he commands, while at the
same time trying to remove the ruler from power.

However many Muslims think a revolt against a just Muslim ruler is


haram, but a revolt against a tyrannical Muslim ruler is halal. But in
reality revolting against a just Muslim ruler is haram and revolting
against a tyrannical (sinful, unjust, corrupt) Muslim ruler is also
haram.

There are numerous hadeeth which command the Muslims to obey


the ruler.

The Messenger of Allah said, "Hear and obey (the ruler),


for they will bear responsibility for that entrusted to them,
and you for that entrusted to you". Recorded by Muslim

The Messenger of Allah said, "You must hear and obey (the
ruler) both in your hardship and your ease and with
regard to what pleases you and what you dislike and even
if you do not get your due". Recorded by Muslim
The Messenger of Allah said, "Hear and obey even if a,
Abyssinian slave with a head like a raisin is appointed
over you". Recorded by Bukhari

Therefore it is haram to revolt against a Muslim leader as the prophet


Mohammed has commanded this ummah to hear and obey the rulers
and revolts involve Muslims deciding they will no longer hear and
obey the ruler in all that he commands.

But some Muslims claim we only have to hear and obey the just
Muslim rulers, therefore revolting against tyrannical Muslim rulers is
halal. However there are hadeeths that indicate even if a tyrannical
(sinful) Muslim ruler was in power the Muslims still have to hear and
obey him, so they can not revolt against him.

The Prophet said, “Whosoever sees something from his


leader of sin, then let him hate whatever occurs from sin.
And let him not remove his hand from obedience, since
whoever removes his hand from disobedience and splits off
from the Jamaah (united body), then he dies the death of
Jaahiliyyah (pre-Islamic times of ignorance).’’ Recorded
by Bukhari and Muslim

The Prophet said “Listen and obey, even if the ruler seizes
you and beats your back.” Recorded by Muslim

However this obedience is only in halal matters if the tyrannical ruler


commands haram matters then he should not be obeyed in this.

Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet said, "A Muslim man
must hear and obey both in respect of what he likes and
dislikes, unless he is commanded to do a wrong action. If
he is commanded to do a wrong action, he should not hear
or obey". Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim
The Prophet said, ‘‘The person must obey in whatever he
loves, and in whatever he hates, in ease and in hardship, in
willingness and un-willingness; except if he is commanded
to disobey Allah. So if he is commanded to disobey Allah,
then he should not listen, not should he obey.’’ Recorded
by Bukhari

But not obeying what the tyrannical ruler commands of haram


matters does not mean Muslims can revolt against him. As he still has
to be listened to and obeyed in what he commands from the halal
matters. In fact the Sunnah of the prophet commands the Muslims to
be patient with ruler’s things they dislike from the rulers (such as
oppression, unfairness, abuse of his authority, commanding haram
etc). This is the opposite of revolting as this shows inpatient towards
the things the Muslims dislike in there rulers.

Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah said,


"Anyone who dislikes something from his leader should be
patient. Anyone who abandons obedience to the leader for
even a short time dies the death of the Jaahiliyyah (pre-
Islam)". Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim

From the above it is clear that ruler is to be obeyed even if he is a


major sinner and a tyrant. If he orders a good deed then he must be
obeyed in that order. But if he orders a forbidden deed he is not to be
obeyed in it. However he is not to be revolted against because of his
sins and commanding evil, the Muslims must with hold from revolts
and patients with his wrong doings inshallah.

Side Point: Clarification regarding two major


misconceptions about the above hadeeth (hadeeth that
command obedience to the rulers)

The first misconception is that some people think these hadeeth only
apply to a legitimately selected ruler. By the term legitimately selected
ruler they mean a ruler who the people selected or a ruler who a
group of representatives who represent the people of that land
selected or the least liked and accepted is someone who the previous
ruler selected.

But as for the ruler who sized power by force some Muslims believe
he is not a legitimately selected ruler so these hadeeth which
command obedience to the rulers do not apply to this type of ruler.

The Muslim ruler who sizes control of another Muslim country or


countries by force has committed a sin whether he is a good or sinful
ruler. According to the scholars understanding of the shariah text the
Muslim ruler who sizes control of another Muslim country or
countries by force he is regarded as a legitimate ruler. As he is a
legitimate ruler then these hadeeth do apply to him. So he must be
obeyed in all that he commands which is not in contradiction to the
shariah and disobeyed in what he commands that contradicts the
shariah like any other Muslim ruler.

Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab said, "The imams from each
(of the four) madhab are unanimous (agreed upon) that whoever
overtakes a country or countries (seizes power) is entitled to assume
the same rulership as the imam (ruler) in all affairs. Were it not so,
the affairs of this worldly life would not be upright…” Ad-Durar As-
Saniyyah 7/239.

Another common misconception that a lot of Muslims of today have


is they think all the hadeeth that command obedience to the rulers
are restricted to the Khalifah only. So they think because none of the
Muslim rulers of today are the Khalifah, then these hadeeth are not
applicable to the rulers of today so revolting, fighting, rioting and
demonstrating against them is okay even if the ruler commands them
to stop. However this is not true and all the hadeeth that command
obedience to the rulers are not only restricted to the Khalifah, they
apply to a Khalif or rulers of individually countries (like the rulers of
today as there is no Khalif in these times).

Shaykh As-San'aani said in his explanation of the hadeeth of Abu


Hurairah, raised to the Prophet (who is reported to have said), “One
who defected from obedience (to the Amir (ruler)) and
separated from the main body of the Muslims, if he died in
that state he would die the death of one belonging to the
days of Jaahiliyyah (i.e. would not die as a Muslim).
Saheeh Muslim, Book 20, # 4555, English Translation.

That the "obedience" is the obedience to the Khalifah upon whom


there is agreement and it seems that what is intended is the khalifah
(ruler) of any region from the regions, since people were not on
agreement on a single khalifah over the entire Islamic lands since the
Abbasid Rule. Rather each region became independent under a ruler
running its affairs. And if we carry the hadeeth to apply only to one
khalifah upon whom the Muslims are unanimous (agreed upon) then
it’s (the hadeeths) benefit would be diminished. And that the saying
(in the hadeeth) "and separated from the main body of the Muslims,"
means: separated from the Jamaah who agreed upon an imam (any
ruler of a particular region not specifically a overall khalifah of all the
Muslim regions), under whom their body and affairs are organized,
their word is united, and their protection from their enemy is
achieved.

So it becomes clear that negating the validity of governorship on


separate Muslim states leads to evil in the sense that its sets the stage
for rebellion against the rulers, and this is forbidden in Islam even if
the ruler is an oppressor as this contradicts the creed of Ahlus
Sunnah. And Allah Knows Best.”

Also Imam Ash-Shawkaani said, "In Principle, all Muslims should


have one imam (a ruler: a Khalifah). However after the spread of
Islam and the expansion of its territories and their remoteness, it is
known that in each region there became a ruler or imam and so with
the rest of the regions, none of them having authority to command
and forbid in the other regions...So the presence of various (multiple)
imams and rulers is of no harm, and it is binding to obey each one of
them after giving him the bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) in the region in
which his commands and prohibitions are executed therein. Similarly
is the case of the one (ruler) in charge of another region. And it is not
obligatory upon the people of the other regions to obey him, nor to be
under his governorship due to the remoteness of the regions..." Then
he said: "You should know this, since it is fitting to the shariah
foundations, and in full agreement to what is indicated by the
evidences. And turn down what is being said in opposition to this,
since the difference between the condition of the early Islamic
wilaayah (administrative governship) and its state nowadays is
clearer than the sun during the day." Imam Ash-Shawkaani in As-
Sayelul Jarraar, 4/512.

In addition Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab said, "The imams


from each madhab are unanimous (agreed upon) that whoever
overtakes a country or countries (seizes power) is entitled to assume
the same rulership as the imam (ruler) in all affairs. Were it not so,
the affairs of this worldly life would not be upright. And for a long
time, since before the time of imam Ahmad and until our time
(referring to his era), people were not in agreement upon one imam
(ruler: Khalifah), and they (the Muslim scholars and the general
Muslims) have no account of a scholar stating that the validity (of the
applicability) of any of the rulings (of shariah i.e. prescribed
punishments, jihad, collection of zakat etc) is conditional upon the
presence of the greater imam (Khalifah)." Ad-Durar As-Saniyyah
7/239.