Illegitimacy of Current Rulers
Backdrop of Middle East Uprising
The ummah (Islamic nation) around the world is rising and seeking to reclaim the authority from rulers of the Middle East. In country after country we are seeing the people lose their fear of the regimes that have been suppressing, repressing, torturing and imprisoning them and standing in the way of their political aspirations. Some of these rulers have fallen, and others are living precariously; and the momentum is for change.
Fatwah legitimising Rulers
Although the Ummah is seeking to change its rulers certain Ulama have given fataawa legitimising the rule and authority of the rulers of their respective countries. One prominent example is the fatwah of the ‘Council of Senior Scholars’ in Saudi Arabia which gave the fatwa that even protests and demonstrations are not permitted as Saudi Arabia is legitimate Islamic state, below is some key sections of the fatwa:
‘Protection of the community is of the greatest principles of Islām. It is from the great issues that Allāh commanded in His Holy Book, and condemned whoever abandoned it. Allāh Almighty says: “And hold fast, all together, by the rope which God (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves…” (Āli-‘Imrān: 103) This is the principle of protection of the community, which the Prophet commanded upon all citizens, common and elites alike, as he (saw) said: “Allāh’s hand is with communion” (narrated by Tirmidhī). He (saw) also said: “Whoever held back the hand from obedience, will meet Allāh on the Day of Resurrection without any justification for himself; and whoever died without the pledge of allegiance on his neck, had died a death of ignorance” (narrated by Muslim). He (saw) again said: “He who wanted to separate the affairs of this nation when they are unified, you should kill him with the sword, whosoever he is”(narrated by Muslim).’ Source: http://islamopediaonline.org/fatwa/fatwa-council-senior-scholars-kingdom-saudi-arabia-warning-against-mass-demonstrations
Another pertinent example in light of recent events is the response of certain Ulama in relation to the uprisings in Syria. It has been argued that to protest is a cause of fitna and civil war leading to bloodshed and therefore Muslims should not oppose the regime but work with the regime to bring about reforms. Sayyid Ramadan Buti for example described the situation in Syria in light of the following hadith: he describes events in Syria under the label of ‘al-haraj’. This is a term found in a Hadith narrated Abu Huraira that the Prophet said, “Time will pass rapidly, good deeds will decrease, miserliness will be thrown (in the hearts of the people) afflictions will appear and there will be much ‘Al-Harj.” They said, “O God’s Apostle! What is “Al-Harj?” He said, “Killing! Killing!” He described the situation as one of fitna and civil war and those demonstrating were rebelling against the legitimate rulers of Syria. He has criticized those demonstrating of being ignorant of salah while praising the Ba’thi ‘Alawi rulers of the Syrian regime.
View of Classical scholars about Rebelling against Rulers
The scholars have differed on whether it is permitted to rebel against rulers who are oppressive (zalim) or transgressors (fasiq). Many have said that it is not permitted to rebel against a fasiq or zalim based on a number of hadiths, here are two examples: it is narrated that the Porphet (saw) said:: “Anyone who dislikes something from his amir should be patient. Anyone who abandons obedience to the amir for even a short time dies the death of the Jahiliyya (ignorance).” [Agreed upon] “You have to listen to and obey the Ameer, even if he hit your back and took your property, listen and obey.” [Muslim] As-Shawkani said: “Those who viewed the obligation of rebelling against the oppressive rulers, challenging them with the sword and struggling against them with fighting, have used as evidence some general imports from the Book and the Sunnah, concerning the obligation of enjoining the ma’roof and forbidding the munkar. There is no doubt that the ahadith we mentioned in Al-Musannaf in this subject are absolutely more specific than those general imports; besides these ahadith are mutawatir in meaning as understood by those who have knowledge in the Sunnah.”
Many of those who said one cannot rebel due to the rulers zulm or fisq qualified it by saying it is allowed as long as widespread bloodshed can be prevented. Here are a few quotes:
Imam al-Ijee: ‘The Ummah has the right to remove the ruler for a reason that obliges it and if it leads to civil war then the least of the two evils should be followed.’ Al-Mawaqif p.100
Ibn ‘Abideen: If an just ruler is appointed and then he becomes oppressive and a fasiq then he should not be removed but he derseves to be removed if it does not entail civil war.’
Al-Shawkani: ‘…..the scholars in general take the view that oppressive rulers should be removed if possible without civil war or oppression or it is obligatory to be patient.’ Nayl al-Awtar vol 7, p108
However, this does not mean their absolute obedience to the rulers. The hadiths quoted above are talking of not rebelling against the rulers due to their misappropriation of the people’s rights and not about obeying the rulers in the matters which are a clear violation of the Shariah. Rather, when the ruler commands a clear munkar the Muslim must disobey that command and cannot say he was following orders. Also this does not refer to the rulers who are coming kufr buwaah (explicit kufr) by abandoning the Shariah and substituting it with secular laws which clearly and unequivocally contradict the definite rules of Islam. Nor does this include those states whose basis is not Islam but secularism or socialism etc. Therefore, to use these hadiths which oblige Muslims to obey oppressive rulers as long as they implement Islam for rulers today who rule by what Allah has not revealed is a clear misapplication of the texts for the current reality. Although the writer of this article does not take the view that rebellion is the way for change in our countries, this does not mean current rulers are legitimate and nor does it mean we should not account the rulers by any permitted style at our disposal and ask the people of power to remove them and appoint just rulers in their place.
What is a legitimate authority in Sharī’ah?
A state becomes Islamic when its rules and policies derive from the Islamic ‘Aqīdah (creed) i.e. when their basis is the Qur’ān and Sunnah; meaning the sovereignty lies with the Sharī’ah. That is why obedience to the rulers is restricted and not unqualified. Allāh (swt) says:
“O you who believe! Obey Allāh, Obey His Messenger and those in authority from amongst you; and if you differ, then refer it to Allāh and His Messenger, if you believe in Allāh and the Last Day.” [Al-Nisā: 59]
This noble verse in Surah al-Nisā comes after verse 58, which focused on the rulers when they were enjoined to rule by justice – which is nothing other than what Allāh (SWT) has revealed (i.e. the Qur’ān and the Sunnah). In this verse, the focus is on the Muslims under the authority of the rulers, and their responsibility. In this respect the message of this ayah is addressed to the Ummah at large and we can learn from it the following matters:
The āyah (verse) begins with the imperative (command) form verb atī’ū (‘obey’): the subject of obedience (i.e. those who obey) is in plural form, meaning ‘ALL those who believe in Islām’; and the object of obedience (i.e. the one who is obeyed) is Allāh (swt). The verse then repeats the command atī’ū (obey) and this time the object of obedience is the Messenger (saw). The repetition of the word ‘obey’ and the order indicates the two basic reference points that Muslims have: the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Therefore anything in contravention of Qur’ān and Sunnah must be disobeyed, and anything from the Qur’ān and Sunnah must be obeyed. This is the principle upon which Muslims are told to live by and this is the principle on which Muslims are instructed to view their rulers. Here the word for rulers, or those in authority, is ūlul- amr (literal translation: ‘the people of Command’). It is not restricted to the Khalīfah, but also includes the wāli’s (governors), wazīrs (ministers) and all those who have authority, especially since the word has been used in the plural form (ūlul-amr and not the singular waliyul-amr).
It is significant that the āyah does not repeat the verb atī’ū when it comes to the Rulers, as it did in respect to Allāh and His Messenger; this is an additional indication alongside the clear verses and hadīth that state that rulers must obey Allāh and His Messenger in their ruling and exercise of authority. For example the Messenger (saw) said: ‘There is no obedience (when this results) in disobedience of the Creator.’ [Sahīh Bukhārī] Here the mantūq (directly apparent meaning) is an absolute prohibition of following an order that goes against the order of Allāh (swt) – whosoever makes that order. This hadīth came specifically in the context of authority and ruling. Its mafhūm (implied meaning) indicates that just as the person cannot obey a ruler who commanded disobedience to Allāh (swt); so in the same way, a ruler or amīr cannot order, enact laws or rule by anything that is in violation of what Allāh (swt) has ordered.
Consider for example the following hadīth: It has been reported that ‘Alī (ra) said, “The Messenger of Allāh sent a troop under the command of a man from Al-Ansār. When they left, he became angry with them for some reason, and said to them, `Has not the Messenger of Allāh commanded you to obey me?’ They said, `Yes.’ He said, `Collect some wood,’ and then he started a fire with the wood, saying, `I command you to enter the fire.’ The people almost entered the fire, but a young man among them said, `You ran away from the Fire to Allāh’s Messenger. Therefore, do not rush until you go back to Allāh’s Messenger, and if he commands you to enter it, then enter it.’ When they went back to Allāh’s Messenger, they told him what had happened, and the Messenger said, ‘Had you entered it, you would never have departed from it. Obedience is only in righteousness.’” (Reported by Bukhārī volume 9, book 91, number 363). Here the Messenger (saw) stated that obedience is only in the ‘ma’rūf’ (good) and not in the ‘munkar’ (evil). So the one in authority cannot command anything but ma’rūf, and people cannot obey anything but ma’rūf. What is ma’rūf is what Islām has defined as good, and munkar is what Islām has defined as evil. It is not left to the discretion of man to decide these matters.
The verse also obliges the obedience to the command of the Messenger (saw) and links that to the rulers. As long as the rulers or those in authority obey the Messenger (saw) then there is the obedience to him, otherwise there is no obedience. It is ludicrous after saying that there is no obedience in the disobedience to the Creator, that there can be obedience in the disobedience to the Messenger (saw) as the āyah obliges obedience to Allāh and His Messenger. That is why the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace, said in a ḥadīth reported by Abū Hurayrah, ‘Whoever obeys me has obeyed Allāh and whoever disobeys me has disobeyed Allāh. Whoever obeys the amīr has obeyed me and whoever disobeys the amīr has disobeyed me’ [Agreed upon]. As for the statement ‘whoever obeys the amīr has obeyed me and whoever disobeys the amīr has disobeyed me’ in the above hadīth or the following one: ‘Anyone who dislikes something from his amīr should be patient. Anyone who abandons obedience to the amīr for even a short time dies the death of the Jāhiliyyah (ignorance)’ [Agreed upon]: This does not mean absolute obedience to the rulers. These ahādīth are about not rebelling against the rulers due to their misappropriation of the people’s rights, but not about obeying the rulers in the matters which are a clear violation of the Sharī’ah. Rather, when the ruler commands a clear munkar, the Muslim must disobey that command and cannot say he was following orders.
The verse then concludes that if there is a dispute over a matter, between the Muslims and their rulers, then the final arbiter must be Allāh and His Messenger (saw). It states: “if you differ, then refer it to Allāh and His Messenger, if you believe in Allāh and the Last Day.” Just as the young man in the above hadīth disputed with his amīr when he commanded them to enter the fire, and referred the matter to the Messenger; we are also obliged to refer to the Islamic reference point i.e. the Qur’ān and Sunnah when there is a dispute. The last words of the āyah enjoin on the believers the importance of referring to Allāh and His Messenger in ruling, by drawing attention to the fact that not to do so is a negation of imān; hence it says: ‘…if you believe in Allāh and the Last Day.”
This is how the Sahābah (ra) understood this matter and nothing shows this more clearly than the speech of Abū Bakr al-Siddīq when he assumed the post of Khalīfah: “Help me if I am in the right; set me right if I am in the wrong. The weak among you shall be strong with me until Allāh willing, his rights have been vindicated. The strong among you shall be weak with me until, if Allāh wills, I have taken what is due from him. Obey me as long as I obey Allāh and His Prophet; when I disobey Him and his Prophet, obey me not.”
The conclusion therefore is that a ruler becomes legitimate only when he basis his rule on the Kitāb and Sunnah, ie sovereignty is for the Sharī’ah, and it is for this reason that obedience becomes obligatory. We are not asked by the ahādīth to give ‘our backs and property’ for no reason, i.e. if a ruler oppresses people, but rules by Islām, we are still obliged to obey such rulers, and not obey them in a sin; while at the same time accounting and advising them to stop their injustice.
This is in relation to the requirement of the basis of the state to be Islam by referring only to the Kitaab and Sunnah. As for the rules implemented these also need to be scrutinized as it is not enough for state to declare in its constitution that it refers only to the Qur’ann and Sunnah. It is a requirement for a state to be legitimate that it refers to the Qur’an and Sunnah for all its rules, for example Bukhari narrats on the authority of Junada b. abi Umayyah who said: We went to ‘Ubadah b. as-Samit when he was sick and we said: May Allah (swt) guide you. Inform us of a Hadith from the Messenger of Allah (saw) so Allah may benefit you from it. He said, the Messenger of Allah (saw) called upon us and we gave him the Bai’ah, and he said, of that which he had taken from us, that we should give him the pledge to listen and obey, in what we like and dislike, in our hardship and ease, and that we should not dispute the authority of its people unless we saw open Kufr (kufr buwah) upon which we had a proof (burhan) from Allah.’
This hadith states that Muslims should not oppose the rulers unless they see an explicit kufr. The explicit kufr is the rule by what Allah has not revealed. The hadith states in the nakira (indefinite form), this means any act of kufr and this includes ruling by non Islamic rules. However, the only condition to this is that it must be definite and explicit and not a matter that is open to dispute in Shariah. So based on this hadith if the rules and laws in a state explicitly contradict the Shariah, this can also indicate that the basis of that state is not Islamic and hence that state would not be legitimate.
Saudi Arabia and Syrian Regime
However, when we apply the above discussion and look to the case of the Saudi regime, we find that the basis of its rule is not the Sharī’ah, as indicated by its persistent and constant explicit contravention of the Sharī’ah; here are a few examples:
- Saudi is not only a member of this nationalistic organisation, but it is one of the founders. Article 8 of the Arab League Constitution states, “Every participating member of the League must respect the established ruling system of the other participating states in the League, it should consider it as a right of these states and obligate it self not to do any action that is aimed at changing their systems.”
- It is well known that Saudi is a member of the UN. According to article 92 of the UN constitution, the International court of Justice (ICJ) is the main Judicial branch of the UN. The ICJ performs its duties based on a system that is part of the UN constitution and must be respected and approved by every member state. Article 94 states “Every member of the UN is to submit to the ICJ in any case in which he is a part.”
- The Arab Monetary Fund, based in Abu Dhabi, is a huge Riba institution that was established by an agreement on 4/7/76 in Morocco. Saudi is the biggest share holder in it; it receives, as every one else in the Fund, Riba of an average of 3.2% on its shares.
- Saudi and IMF (International Monetary Fund)
It is worth mentioning that Saudi has the 6th largest share and power of rate. It had 3.5% of the total shares which enabled it to occupy a permanent seat in the executive board. IMF give international loans based on interest, they also restructure economies based on capitalist non Islamic principles.
- 5. The ruling system of Saudi is a monarchy and not Khilafah.
- The system of the Saudi Arab citizenship decided by the ministers Council resolution #4 on 25th January 1974 and approved by the king in his speech in High Council #8/5/8604 on 22nd February 1974 to put it in effect.
- The law of reviving the dead land used to be according to Islam, where if a person works a piece of land that becomes his. This was the case until an edict was issued declaring the nullification of this Islamic law starting from 1987 onwards.
- The Saudi royal family claims ownership over the natural resources including the Oil fields. Islam prohibits the private ownership of natural resources such as oil
In addition to the laws instituted by Saudi Arabia the royal family have also undertaken political policies that contradict Islam including:
- Backing of the sanctions in Iraq after the first gulf war
- Allowing American and western troops to enter Saudi to attack the Muslims of Iraq
- Giving clear skies to Israeli airplanes to attack Iran, ‘The Times June 12, 2010 Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear sites’
- Saudi sends troops into Bahrain to help support the monarchy and crush the opposition
- Saudi giving asylum to tyrants including former Tunisian president Benali who banned the hijab amongst other non Islamic rules he implemented. They also gave asylum to Nawaz Sharif, Idi Amin and recently helped treat Abdullah Saleh president of Yemen who ordered the shooting of unarmed peaceful protestors.
The flagrant and persistent violation of Sharī’ah by the Saudi regime, even after having been accounted by the ‘ulamā and the da’wah carriers means that the above constitute explicit kufr (kufr buwāh). Consequently, their rule is not legitimate and they need to be removed by the people of power (nusrah) and a just ruler appointed in their place.
If we now look to the case of Syria and look to its constitution then the issue is even clearer, we find that the constitution defines Syria as is a secular socialist state where recognition of Islam is only as the majority religion. This means from its very basis the Syrian regime is illegitimate without even requiring us to look to the rules it implements. The Syrian regime never claimed to be Islamic and yet we have scholars justifying their rule and criticizing those who have come out opposing these illegitimate regimes.
We have seen from the above discussion the legitimacy of a ruler is determined by the basis of the state in question. If the basis of the state is Islam then it is an Islamic state, if the basis is other than Islam or a mixture of Islam and non Islam then that is not an Islamic state and the rulers in that state are not legitimate. Whether the basis of a state is Islamic or not can be determined in two ways:
a) study of its constitution where the basis of the state is stated. If it is socialist, secularist, capitalist etc then it is not an Islamic state. It must state that its laws and rules all derive from the Qur’an and Sunnah
b) scrutiny of the laws and rules it implements. If the laws and rules implemented contradict the Shariah in an explicit manner and after it being drawn to the attention of the rulers the rulers persist in implementing such rules, then that is indicative of the incorrect basis of that state and such a state cannot be Islamic or legitimate.
If we apply the above principles we find that not a single country exists in the Muslim lands that can be classed as legitimate as they all either make non Islam is their basis and/or implement rules which explicitly contradict the shariah. Give this reality it then becomes the obligation of Muslims to seek the Islamic method to remove such rulers and appoint a just Muslim ruler who will rule by the Kitaab and Sunnah
Ustadh Kamal Abu Zahra