Friday Sermon: Islam Protests and Rebellion

By Babatunde Jose

The Prophet said, “Any man who Allah has given the authority of ruling some people and he does not look after them in honest manner, will never feel even the smell of Paradise.” Sahih al-Bukhari; Book of Judgments (Ahkam)

There is nothing novel about the recent protest in Nigeria nor the burning and looting that followed; nothing new. This is the way society has been wired: When legitimate avenues of redress of societal ills are closed or people are emasculated, they resort to spontaneous protests, rebellion, or outright uprising and finally revolution. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. – John F. Kennedy.

Notable historical revolutions would include: The French Revolution which began in May 1789 when the Ancien Régime was abolished in favor of a constitutional monarchy. Its replacement in September 1792 by the First French Republic led to the execution of Louis XVI in January 1793, and an extended period of political turmoil. This culminated in the appointment of Napoleon as First Consul in November 1799, which is generally taken as its end point. Many of its principles are now considered fundamental aspects of modern Liberal democracy.

The Russian Revolution was a period of political and social insurgency across the territory of the Russian Empire, commencing with the abolition of the monarchy in 1917 and concluding in 1923 with the Bolshevik establishment of the Soviet Union at the end of the Civil War.

The Reformation was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in particular to papal authority; it was a revolt against Papal theocracy, ecclesiastical privileges and the hereditary paganism of the Mediterranean races. The Reformation was the start of Protestantism and the split of Protestantism from the Roman Catholic Church.
No doubt revolts and rebellions have shaped history and led to the breakup and demise of empires. It is therefore not unprecedented, the events of the past weeks and we should not express surprise when they reoccur.

One area of concern has been the notion that Islam forbids protest and rebellion against rulers. However, Allah would never in His infinite knowledge and power encourage nor acquiesce to oppression; hence we find it totally abhorrent when Islamic scholars posit the claim that Islam forbids protest and rebellion against corrupt leaders. Such claims are not only tendentious, vexatious, unethical, and unsupported by the Holy Book; based on false premises which make their proponents guilty of the age-old fallacy of illicit syllogism and illicit deductions.

The presence of so many hadiths (traditions) in Shi’a and some Sunni books which forbid obeying a corrupt and perverted ruler points to the fact that the other set of hadiths, which contradict these hadiths and the Holy Qur’an and support following a corrupt leader and forbid rising up against him, are all fabrications.

These hadiths were forged by the of Umayyad and ‘Abbasid dynasties for the sake of justifying their perverted and oppressive conducts.

One of the issues about which the Sunnis and the Imamate Shi’as differ is obedience to a corrupt ruler or submission to a tyrannical government.

For most Sunnis, the caliph cannot be dismissed and removed from office, even if he is corrupt and perverted. The only thing Muslims can do is to advise him to change his corrupt ways.

In contrast, the Imamate Shi’as not only regard obeying a tyrannical and corrupt ruler not to be permitted but consider it to be forbidden (haram) by Islamic law to submit to such a leader. In certain circumstances, it is even obligatory (wajib) to revolt against a tyrannical ruler.

It is regrettable that some scholars chose to record these hadiths in their books, unfortunately, as a result, some jurists have issued religious edicts (fatwas) based on these fabricated hadiths that have caused great harm to the Muslim ummah.

What can be inferred from the reasons put forward by those who oppose revolting against a corrupt and perverted caliph is that preserving political and social structures of the Caliphate is binding and incumbent on followers. However, this is not true as it tends to perpetuate oppression and tyranny.

The only political system that must be preserved is a government whose leader is just and acts according to Allah’s orders as prescribed in the Quran. However, if the political system rules ‘in the name of Islam’ but its leaders are corrupt and perverted, then conserving such a structure is not supported.

There are many edicts or fatwas issued by Sunnis about obeying corrupt and oppressive rulers, among them are the following:

1. That the sultan and caliph cannot be dismissed from office, even though he is corrupt…” Nuwi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, vol. 12, p. 229.

2. Qadi Abu Bakr Baqilani writes, ‘it is not permitted to revolt against him’. The Muslims can only go so far as to advise and warn him about the negative consequences of his actions. It is of course not binding upon the people to obey him when he invites them to participate in his sinful actions, but they cannot dismiss him from office.
There are several narrations which assert that it is incumbent to obey an imam and caliph, even though he might be an oppressor or even if he forcibly usurps and seizes people’s property. Because the Prophet (S) has said, ‘Listen to and obey your ruler, even if he is a slave with a flat nose or an Ethiopian.” Baqilani, Al-Tamhid.

However, some Sunni scholars have opposed this point of view, and instead believe that a corrupt ruler should not be obeyed. Some of those who have opposed obeying the corrupt ruler are Mawardi in his book “Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah,p17; ‘ Abd al-Qahir Baghdadi in his book “Usul al-Din” p278; Ibn Hazm Zahiri in his book “Al-Fisal fi al-Millal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal” ; vol. 4, p. 175 and Jurjani in his book “Sharh al-Mawaqif”, vol. 8, p. 353

Other opposing views is held by the Mu‘tazilites, the Khawarij, the Zaydis, and a number of sects. They even say that it is incumbent to revolt against an oppressive ruler. They have resorted to the following Qur’anic verses to buttress their claim,
“… and help one another in goodness and piety…” Surat al-Ma’idah 5:2.

“… but if one of them acts wrongfully towards the other, fight that which acts wrongfully until it returns to Allah’s command…” Surat al-Hujurat 49:9.

“… My covenant does not include the unjust.” Surat al-Baqarah 2:124.

It can be understood from Qur’anic verses that the Imamate and caliphate are not bestowed upon or granted to oppressive and corrupt people, and that if the ruler is a corrupt man, it is not at all permissible to obey him. The following parts of the Quran will suffice to buttress our point: Surat al-Baqarah 2:124; Surat Yunus 10:35; Surat Hud 11:113; Surat al-Ma’idah 5:4; Surat al-Qalam 68:8; Surat al-Qalam 68:10; Surat al-Ahzab 33:48; Surat al-Shu‘ara’ 26:151,152; Surat Insan (or Jathiyah) 76:24; Surat al-Kahf 18:28.

We must realize that every hadith must be compared with the Holy Qur’an; if it is contradictory to the verses of the Holy Qur’an, it cannot be considered authentic because all Muslims believe the Holy Qur’an to be the final word on the matter.

Finally, there is obvious contradiction and disagreement between hadiths which prohibit following a corrupt ruler and those which say that it is incumbent to follow the Muslim ruler whether he is corrupt or not. In accordance with the law of incongruity, the final judge is Allah’s Book, the Holy Quran: And the Quran will always be in support of revolting against a system that has failed the people in all materials particular: They were voted in thinking they would bring the desired change to our country, but they reneged on their promises. Oblivious about the state of the Nation and its peoples; they do not care about the state of our hospitals, electricity, schools, and general welfare since all these they provide for themselves at the expense of the commonwealth, upon all these, they loot the treasury. Even the Holy Prophet proclaimed: “Any man who Allah has given the authority of ruling some people and he does not look after them in honest manner, will never feel even the smell of Paradise.”

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend


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