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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Islamic State 13: Conditions and Boundaries of Obedience to the Authorities

In Islam obedience to God necessarily implies obedience to the Messenger. One cannot be obedient to God while disobeying the Messenger. Similarly the obedience to the Messenger implies obedience to his successors and representatives, in effect the rulers of the Islamic State. One who believes that he can be obedient to God without acknowledging and obeying the Messenger is utterly ignorant of Islamic teachings. None other than the Messenger explains to us the will of God which is to be implemented in our lives. It is only he who divulges and implements the will of God in this world. This hinges the duty to obey God on obeying the Messenger. Serving God is not meaningful in defiance of the commands of the Messenger. Similarly, in order to successfully obey the Messenger one has to obey his successors and representatives, for, after the Messenger, it is only they who are responsible to implement the will of God and promulgate his sharī‘ah and commandments on the earth. The rulers are thus obliged to strengthen the Islamic society and run it according to the will of God. The right of the Messenger to be obeyed cannot be fulfilled without obeying the rulers of the Islamic Sate. The interrelation of God, his Messenger and the rulers is so natural and crucial that it cannot be severed in any circumstances. The chain binding the Islamic political system comprises these three entities. If we disregard any of these components the rest would fall. The whole structure of the Islamic system will be decomposed. The following verses of Sūrah al-Nisā reveal the interrelation of these three entities and stress the importance of obeying all three of them:

Believers, obey God, the Messenger and the rulers among you. (Q 3:59)

The same reality has been expressed by the Prophet in the following words:

Abū Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet of God said: “Whoever obeys me obeys God and whoever obeys the ruler obeys me. Whoever disobeys me disobeys God and whoever disobeys the ruler disobeys me. (Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah, No: 32529)

The word imām in this narrative refers to the successors and representatives of the Prophet who, along with his administrators etc, form the party termed ’ul al-amr (the authorities) by the Qur’ān. This is the tool through which the Islamic state achieves all its goals and ends including matters of interpreting the divine commands, performing ijtihād in the process of formation of the law, implementing the laws in the land and maintaining justice and law and order in the country.


The Islamic political system in the Muslims’ land established by the group of people equipped with the deep and unparalleled bond with the Messenger of God is called the Khilāfah al-Rāshidah (the pious caliphate) or Khilāfah‘alā minhāj al-Sunnah (Caliphate designed after the example of the Prophet ). Such a group of the rulers has been awarded rights which no other Muslim is entitled with. We will discuss a few of such specificities and privileges of this kinds of rulers which will in turn make us see what extraordinary traits does a real Islamic government is marked with in relation to other worldly irreligious political systems and what is the difference between obeying such a rule and the ordinary state authorities.
First and foremost thing in this regard is that to remain loyal to and to obey this group of rulers is a necessary requirement of one’s expression of loyalty to Islam itself. In presence of this party none enjoys the right to separate from it and then claim to have observed the directives of Islam the way they should be discharged. The Prophet of God says:

The one who separates himself from the collectivity an inch indeed takes off chain of Islam from his neck. (Abū Dāwūd, No: 4758)

Second important point is that following such a party of rulers is necessary not only for being eligible for the rights of citizenship in the Islamic State but also for the eternal success on the Last Day. If someone separates from the collective system of the Muslims and dies in this state all his religious deeds are discounted and he dies a death of ignorance.

Whoever finds something detestable with his rulers he should observe patience. For whoever detaches himself from the state system an inch and dies in this state indeed dies a death of ignorance. (Bukhārī, No: 6645)

Another narrative says:

The one who passes away free of allegiance to the rulers dies a death of ignorance. (Muslim, No: 1851)

Another narrative tells us that for successful entry into the Paradise one has to have offered prayer, paid zakāh and obeyed the rulers.

Offer you five obligatory prayers, observe the fast of your month, pay the zakāh on your assets and obey your rulers, you will enter Paradise of your Lord. (Tirmidhī, No: 616)

Third important point is that the obedience to the rulers is not to be rendered merely externally. Unlike other common worldly states, where the citizens are obliged to render the orders of the rulers and follow them practically without being convinced of the commands given them, the Islamic teachings oblige the believers to have full conviction in what their rulers command them. Here the inner affiliation, sincerity of heart and purity of intention is a necessary element of obedience. This is evident form the ḥadīth narratives which count wishing well for the rulers a necessary condition of Islam. Another ḥadīthsays that God will not talk to those, among others, who pledge allegiance to the rulers in order to secure some personal benefits and do not follow them with true intent.

(God will not talk to) a man who enters into a pledge of allegiance to the ruler only in order to secure some worldly gains; if granted with them he fulfils the pledge and if not he goes back on his vows. (Muslim, No: 108)

‘Umar once reminded people of the obligations arising out of pledges in the following words:

And help me against the shortcomings of my personality through exhorting me on the right and forbidding me the evil and through wishing well for me concerning the obligation of managing your affairs God has entrusted me.[1]

Fourth important point is that some of the important worship rituals can only be properly discharged under the supervision and leadership of the rulers. Jihādcan only be waged under a ruler. Zakāh has to be paid to the Bayt al-māl under the state authority. Ḥajj, ‘Īd and Friday Congregations are also led by the rulers. If a group of people wages war on enemies of the Almighty and the religion without permission from the ruler their offensive will not be acceptable to God. It is considered creating disorder in the land, a crime, regardless of the great benefits it yields or is expected to yield. A saying of the Prophet clarifies this issue:

Wars are two kinds. Whoever fights in order to please God, obeys the rulers, spends his pure wealth, treats his fellow (soldiers) well and avoids creating nuisance will have his sleep and rest while on Jihād rewarded. On the contrary the one who fights for showing off, in order to show pride and earn fame, disobeys the rulers and creates nuisance in the land will not get any benefit. (Abū Dāwūd, No: 2515)

Another prophetic saying follows:

The ruler is a shield. (Muslims) wage war under his protection. (Muslim, No: 1841)

Fifth point worthy of note in this regard is that in the issues which have not been clearly judged by the Qur’ān and the Ḥadīth, in other words, which are to be decided by independent reasoning (ijtihād), the view of the imām(rulers) would be followed. In such cases the Muslims have generally accepted the opinions of the Council of shūrā. However, sometimes the council does not reach at a unanimous decision and becomes divided. In this case the ruler has the authority to adopt any of the various views held by the members of the assembly. Thus the mere choice of the khalīfah binds a view for all. It will become the law of the land even if it is against the viewpoint of the renowned scholars and jurists of the time. Now no individual including the jurists and the member of the assembly may disobey his directives. The jurists and scholars may believe in the veracity of their opinion intellectually but practically the directive adopted by the state will prevail.
Sixth conspicuous characteristic of the rightly guided caliphate is that in Islam the decision of the caliph in the political and collective affairs are considered a legal precedent for the coming generations. Just as the believers follow the example of the prophetic conduct in all the religious affairs they consider the precedent set by the rightly guided caliphate as a guide for them in the political and collective affairs. The word and practice of the Messenger is the first binding precedence. Following it earns the Muslims the countenance of God and ignoring it earns them his wrath. After the Messenger, it is the precedent set by the rightly guided caliphs which is considered as binding. The Prophet has expressed this reality in many of his sayings. To keep the discussion brief we will only refer to one of such prophetic sayings:

Those among you who will survive me will see many a differences. Your are required to follow my Sunnahand the Sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs. Hold fast to it, grasping it in your teeth. Beware, never draw even near innovations. Every innovation is a bid‘ah[2] and every bid‘ah is aberration. (Abū Dāwūd, No: 4607)


The above mentioned status of the Islamic rulers is not unqualified and the duty to obey them is not unbound. There are very strict conditions attached to it. The citizens are required to follow the rulers only when the below mentioned conditions are fulfilled. When a government fulfils the conditions, the citizens are obliged to religiously obey the authorities and to remain loyal to the state. When the government fails to fulfil one or more of these conditions, the citizens will have to see the circumstances and nature of the government before deciding if to obey it or not. Thus different approaches are required with regards to different types of deviant governments and circumstances involved. Now we discuss these conditions and try to see what approach is required of the believers when the government does not fulfil these conditions.


We will first put the ḥadīth narratives in a proper order which spell out the conditions to be fulfilled by the government in order to lawfully deserve obedience. We have left out our comments on these traditions so that the reader is exposed to a brief but concrete list of the available prophetic guidance in this regard. The reader will then have the fundamental guidance in this regard before his eyes. We will start with a mention of the narratives which say that the rulers will only be obeyed when they promote and establish the word of God, institutionalize the congregational Prayer under their supervision and implement the directives of Islam in the land they rule.

Listen and obey even if a negro slave whose head is like a raison is appointed over you. (Bukhārī, No: 661)

Soon there will be rulers who, you will find, will have some virtues and vices. Whoever treated the vice as vice will have his excuse with God, whoever objected to it will be safe. However, the one who remained satisfied with and followed (such vices, will be ruined). The companions asked: "Are not we obliged to fight such rulers?” The Prophet said: “No, until they persist in prayer.” (Muslim, No: 1854)

Cousin of ‘Awf b. Mālik Ashja‘ī narrates: I heard ‘Awf b. Mālik Ashja‘ī say that he heard the Prophet say: “The best of your rulers are the ones whom you love and who love you, who pray for you and you pray for them. The worst of your rulers are those you hate and who hate you, whom you curse and who curse you.” [The narrator says]: They asked: “O Messenger of God, should we fight such rulers in these circumstances?” The Messenger of God replied: “No, never fight them as long as they establish regular prayer among you. If someone happens to be under a ruler who defies God then he should detest whatever he does disobeying God. However, he may never stop obeying him.” (Muslim, No: 1855)

‘Ubādah b. Ṣāmit narrates: The Messenger of God called us and we took the oath of allegiance to him. The vows we made were: to hearken to and obey the Prophet in all circumstances, ease and straits, and comfort and adversity even when we are wronged; not to dispute with the one invested with authority over us unless he commits act of open disbelief, regarding which we have clear proof from the word of God to [that it is disbelief]. (Muslim, No: 1709)

The word kufr bawwāḥ in the last ḥadīth does not stand for their open and admitted rebellion against the Almighty Allah and his Messenger and their clear disregard for the sharī‘ah of God. For such an act can only be expected of a Muslim even if practically and intellectually departs from Islam. The meaning of kufr bawwāḥ should be determined from the parallel narratives mentioned above. Seen in the light of the above mentioned three aḥādīth the rulers can be said to have committed kufr bawwāh when they start consulting for guidance sources other than the Almighty Allah and his Messenger, deciding the governmental affairs disregarding the prophetic guidance about what is good and what is evil, abandon their duty to institutionalize the Prayer, the sole distinguisher between a believer and a disbeliever, not offering it themselves nor implementing this in their rule. For these are the only ends to achieve which the Islamic Sate is established. The following verse clearly determines the basic obligation of the state authority and sets out the fundamental duties of the rulers in the Islamic state.

Those, who, when we establish them in the land, establish the prayer, pay the zakāh, enjoin good and forbid evil. (Q 22:41)

Now we take up some other narratives which clarify that the rulers should be obeyed as long as they command ma‘rūf. When they demand from the subjects to do munkar, they will not be obeyed. Ma‘rūf in this context refers to what is recommended by the sharī‘ah and munkar stands for what prohibited in the divine law. The sharī‘ah has also specified the process through which one can distinguish ma‘rūf from munkar. The Almighty has commanded us to take the Qur’ān and the Sunnah as the only criterion for judging ma‘rūf from munkar. There is no other source in this regard to turn to. Imām Shawkānī writes in his book Nayl al-awṭār:

By ma‘rūf is meant what is desirable in the sharī‘ah not in intellect and custom.[3]

It is incumbent upon a Muslim to listen to and obey (the ruler in all circumstances), whether he is commanded what he likes or dislikes. However, when he is commanded something involving sin he should neither listen to it nor obey [the authorities].” (Muslim, No: 1839)

‘Abd Allāh narrated that the Prophet said: “To listen to and to obey (the rulers) is the duty of every Muslim whether he likes what he is commanded or detests it, as long as he is not commanded to do a sinful act. When he is required to do a sinful act then he may not listen to (the rulers) or obey (them). (Bukhārī, No: 6725)

‘Alī narrates that once the Prophet sent a battery of soldiers on some military expedition and appointed an Anṣārī (one of the Madinan helpers) over them. He commanded the soldiers to obey their commander. People disobeyed him in some issue. (It enraged him). He commanded them to gather wood. People collected wood. Then he commanded them to light a fire. People then put the wood on fire. Then the commander asked them whether the Prophet had commanded them to obey him. All chorused that he had, indeed. Then he commanded them to jump into the fire. The people were confounded, gazing at each other. They exclaimed: “We have escaped nothing but the fire when we clung to the Prophet. (How can now we jump into it?) They remained in this state of uncertainly for a while till he recomposed his temper and the fire was out. The soldiers narrated the whole incident to the Prophet when they returned back. The Prophet explained to them that if they had jumped into the fire they would never have been able to get out of it. He further explained that the rulers may not be obeyed when what they command involves disobeying God. The duty to obey them pertains only to ma‘rūf. (Muslim, No: 1840)

It has been narrated on the authority of ‘Ubādah : “You will find rulers after me who will present as ma‘rūfwhat you think is munkar. They will present as munkar that which you believe to be ma‘rūf. (So beware) none has to be followed except in ma‘rūf.” (Mu‘jam al-Awsaṭ, No: 2894)

It has been narrated by ‘Ubādah that the Prophet said: “Soon you will be ruled by rulers who will command you ma‘rūfwhile they themselves will commit munkar. You are not obliged to follow these.” (Muṣannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah, No: 37721)[4]

Many other aḥādīth tell us that when the companions would enter into a pledge of allegiance with the caliphs and the rulers they would declare that they would only obey the rulers as long as their commands did not meant defiance to the rulings of God and his Messenger. ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Umar wrote a letter to one of the caliphs of his time which says:

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate the Merciful. ‘Abd al-Mālik, Chief of the Believers! Peace be upon you! I express my thanks to God, besides whom there is no god. I vow to listen to and to obey your commands to the best of my extent as long as you followed the path of God and the Messenger. (Muwaṭṭā, No: 1776)

The above quoted aḥādīth sufficiently prove that the duty to obey the rulers in the Islamic political system is greatly stressed. Equally important are the conditions attached to this duty which the rulers have to fulfil in order to rightfully deserve the right to rule. We see that at the one hand, the right of the ruler to be obeyed is so emphasized that the man who disobeys him in the slightest form will have his religion and worldly benefits in jeopardy and on the other, the ruler too is obliged to establish the rule of the word of God, follow the Sunnah of the Prophet, enjoin good, forbid evil and make sure that the Islamic religious and worship rituals are observed by the subjects. If the ruler is not able to accomplish these duties the subjects are no more obliged to obey to his commands that religiously. The obligation to show obedience to the rulers will change in proportion the rulers deviate from religious directives.


There could be three types of deviation from the pure Islamic political order. We will explain the teachings of Islam pertaining to the religious requirement of listening to and following the commands of the rulers and remaining loyal to the authorities in all three forms of rule.


The first stage of deviation from the prophetic model can be seen even in a state where the constitution is based on the teachings of Islam. For example, the judicial affairs are run in accordance to the Islamic teachings, penal code too is based on the sharī‘ah, Islamic principles direct the regulations of business and trade, social and civilizational aspects of the country reflect Islamic colour and the allowable and the unallowable is defined and determined by the sharī‘ah. However, the head of the state and his associates do not observe trustworthiness and God-consciousness, the basic traits of the caliphs following the prophetic model of rule. This fundamental flaw in the moral and religious character of the rulers makes them commit that which is against the spirit of the Islamic sharī‘ah even if their actions cannot be termed open deviation from the law of God. Some symptoms of this form of deviation in the state are the following: Many spheres of life are afflicted with extravagance and show off. People start to take the obligations lightly. Pride and arrogance reflect from people’s talk and behaviour. In this stage of deviation, all the unwarranted acts are committed in such a way that their being at variance with the spirit of the religion is clear to all those having sound understanding. Yet, however, these deviations cannot be conclusively declared ḥarām. Those at the realm of authority suffer from greed bordering with hoarding yet ostensibly they continue giving in charity. The true spirit of the Prayer is lost for people offer Prayer after its proper time is past yet it is offered anyway. Many dark ways to satisfy the base desires of the flesh are opened but not with great effrontery. The outer countenance of the sharī‘ah is apparently respected by the culprits. They achieve their un-Islamic purposes by inventing legal stratagem. Since the overall colour of the society is Islamic it remains impossible for the rulers to openly commit evils. Having lost the fear of God, they can be expected to commit what is forbidden by the sharī‘ah but still they are hindered from doing so by public pressure. They do not take initiative in such offences before creating a possible explanation for their hideous crime by manoeuvring the loops in the law.
Such a government lies a long way off from the true model of the prophetic rule in its nature and spirit. Thus it deprives itself of the distinctive characteristics of the prophetic model of rule. The decisions reached by the caliphs in such a government will not be considered a legal precedent for the coming generations. Their ijtihād will no more be a light of guidance for posterity. Their consensus (ijmā‘) will not be regarded valid. It is not necessary for the people to obey their commands with true heart. On the contrary, it would be the demand of the faith to be reluctant from obeying them. It would then be the responsibility of every believer who fears God that he admonishes such rulers in person. However, none will be lawful to deny them the right to be obeyed. Neither will it be lawful to rebel against them and openly disobey them. Despite their unwarranted behaviour they will be obeyed. The congregational Prayers will be offered under their leadership. Zakāhwill only be given to them. Ḥajj will be performed under their headship. Jihād will not be launched but under their command. Whoever will raise arms against them will be actually creating nuisance in the land (fasād fī al-arḍ). They can be easily corrected by the pressure of the public opinion.
The Prophet of God said:

The Messenger of God said: “You will find rulers after me who will prefer themselves over others. You will find them doing evil things against the sharī‘ah.” People asked: “What do you guide us to do in such a state of affair?” The Prophet responded: “Fulfil their rights but seek your rights form God.” (Bukhārī, No: 6644)

This ḥadīthrefers to such a deviation from the prophetic model of governance in which the rulers commit injustices and involve in illegal activities. The question the companions asked implied that whether they could raise arms against the rulers who commit such transgressions. The Prophet explained that it is not allowable to fight such rulers. The subjects are obliged to obey them in spite of their evil deeds. All the rights of the rulers must be fulfilled. The rights of the public which such rulers fail to fulfil are to be left to God. The subjects should, in such a state of affairs, seek God’s help. This has been further explained in another ḥadīth found in the Ṣaḥīḥ of Bukhārī.

Ḥudhaifah b. al-Yamān narrates that he said to the Prophet : “O Allah’s Apostle! We were living in ignorance enshrouded in evil, and then Allah brought to us this good (i.e., Islam). Will any evil follow this good?” He said: “Yes.” I said: “Will that evil be followed by any good?” He replied: “Yes, but it will be tainted with crookedness.” I asked: “What will be the nature of this crookedness?” He replied: “There will be people who will guide others not according to my tradition. They will mix good acts with evil.” (Bukhārī, No: 3411)


Another form of deviation from the prophetic model of governance is obtained when generally the collective affairs are run and founded in the Islamic teachings and most of the related secondary issues are decided and performed in the name of Islam. Yet, however, unislamic ways and principles too are considered necessary for the existence and stability of the political system. Apparently every act is declared to be done for the uplifting of Islam. However, in fact, it is not done for the promotion of the truth and seeking pleasure of God but for the personal and national interests. The society and the civilization is declared to be founded on the teachings of Islam but practically every social matter is run on the model of ignorance. The moral values of Islam are praised verbally yet the jāhilī tradition of the time is consistently followed and practically encouraged. The religious rites and rituals are no doubt in vogue not because they are the obligations imposed upon by God but because they are the customs which have become the identity of the civilization and with which the public is emotionally attached. It is feared that disregarding these rites may result in displeasing the public.
In such a model of government Islam is but a national creed. It is not considered a way of life. It is the jāhilī traditions of the time which enjoys the status of a guide to the desirable way of life. Therefore, in such a system the prints of the jāhilī tradition are prominent, overshadowing that of Islam. In this aspect, this type of government is completely different from the one depicted above. That form of government attaches prominence to the Islamic teachings but some elements of evil are mixed in it. Contrarily in this form of government, power and sovereignty belongs to the evil yet in the bottlefuls of the wine of jāhiliyyah are mixed some drops from the zamzam of Islam. In the first form of deviant government, departure from the Islamic ideals is covered with the help of crooked interpretations and legal stratagems while in the second form, this deviation is observed openly. The deviant rulers proclaim Islam and claim to be working for the betterment of the Muslims only ostensibly.
Keeping the above kind of difference between these two forms of government deviant from the Islamic model, it would not be possible for us to declare this latter form as Islamic nor can we include it among the governments of the disbelievers. In his book Manṣab-i Imāmah, Mawlānā Shah Ismā‘īl Shahīd has not included it in Islamic form nor in the unislamic one. He labelled it as the strayed (ḍāllah) form of government. We will reproduce some of the related discussion from his book. While elaborating on the fact that in “the strayed government” the non-Islamic (jāhilī) laws and customs prevail and not the Islamic principles, the Mawlānā writes:

In this form of deviant state the role of the sharī‘ah, as governing all aspects of observable political system in the state, starts to lose impact. In every aspect of human relations, principles parallel to Islam start to work. Thus a new millahin the place of the millah of Muhammad and a new Sunnah in place of the Sunnah of the Messenger emerge. The laws governing the political setup go clearly against the divine laws. The new court etiquette are introduced with defy the sharī‘ah of God.

Many a thing, which were previously prohibited by the sharī‘ah of God, are now binding in all the state departments. On the contrary, things prohibited in Islam, for example using the titles and formal addresses like “shah jahān” (ruler of the universe), “khudāwandi jahān” (owner of the universe), “jahān panah” (shelter of the universe), “ḥuḍūr-i aqdas” (the most sacred entity), “arsh-i ‘āshiyāni” (canopy over the abode), “bandah-i khāṣ” (your special servant), “parastār-i bā ikhtiṣaṣ” (your idolizer), making the courtiers stand before the king with humility, enjoying dance and drink parties, wearing silk garments during ‘īd and other festivals, using utensils of gold and silver, celebrating the festivals of the disbelievers including nawrowz,[5]dīwālī[6]and holī,[7] and thousands of things prohibited in Islam are taken to be a compulsory norms.
Contrarily, things most desirable and compulsory in the Islamic system like, for example, responding to the greetings, attending the congregational Prayers, following appropriate social dealings, treating the weak with kindness, shaking hands with every Muslim, responding to the invitation of all, influential and the lowly, readily interacting with the fellow Muslims, performing the ḥajj, serving the saints of God continuously, attending the congregations for collectively remembering God, giving ear to the requests of the needy etc become a taboo and objectionable acts in the eyes of the law.[8]
Imposing taxes besides zakāh, posting intolerant, strict and cruel tax collectors at each river bank, desert highway and city door in order to extract money from the travellers and the like acts which are not tolerable to the divine law become harmonious to the this political system.
Many crimes punishable in the sharī‘ahof God by a definite punishment are now punished differently. In the divine law, for example, punishment for the crime of theft is to amputate the hand whereas the new system punishes this crime by sentencing to death or by jailing. The divine law requires that the brothers of a king are equal heir to the estate of the [deceased] father yet the national constitution deprives them of this right. [Only one person ascends to the throne and devours all the wealth of the deceased king]. According to the sharī‘ah, all the Muslims equally share the treasure of bayt al-māl but the national law considers it the wealth of the despot.
To put it short, the law of the land includes innumerable laws which are in contrast to the sharī‘ah. It is based on diverse rules and myriad principles. It is the duty of the state officials and the responsible to teach and learn these principles. A father from the elite class appoints certain trained professionals usually termed atālīqto teach all these things to their children. They consider this knowledge a great intellectual and cultural asset to be proud of. The well-wishers of the state and the government, well versed in writing and blessed with power of speech, engage themselves in writing books and magazines in this discipline. They strengthen the reliability of this discipline of the monarchal system with arguments and precedents. A very clear example of this is the renowned booklet written to prove the legality of wearing silk garments. Another example is the famous debate on the issue of legality of prostrating before the kings. Aā’īn-e akbarī is a very detailed book on this issue.

During the course of discussion, the Mawlānā compares the role of Islamic customs and etiquette with the innovated system and gives his understanding on the Islamic view on the issue.

In reality these rulers and kings are evil disbelievers. They lie among the party of the companions of Hell. However, they do not openly declare their disbelief and keep professing faith. They continue guarding their apparent attachment with the faith by following some of the Islamic customs, for example, marrying their girls according to the Islamic customs, celebrating the ‘īd al-fiṭr and ‘īd al-aḍḥā with grandeur, coffining their dead and burying them, offering funeral prayers, and burying their dead in the Muslim graveyards etc. They do not openly abandon the sharī‘ah. At the same time they impose and implement their self-devised monarchal code on themselves and their subordinates. Therefore we see them mixing their self-devised code of conduct with the sharī‘ah. They would say, for example, that though the sharī‘ahis the principle source of guidance for them, yet it must be complimented by rationality in political affairs. By this rationality they mean the code and law of the like of Changez Khān.[9]
Thus this ostensive adherence to the laws of Islam, which they declare with their tongues, conceals their adherence to the disbelief. Though the hidden disbelief, like this, is sufficient to render one subject to accountability on the Last Day yet their ostensible adherence to Islam deserves that they are treated as Muslims in this world both in religious and worldly matters. For practical purposes, therefore, they should be considered Muslims.
They may be liable to be thrown in the pits of Hell on the Last Day along the disbelievers and the evil people to suffer eternal retribution of the omnipotent God. They may also possibly be receivers of divine mercy and admitted to the Heaven after initial punishment or even without that. We cannot ascertain their fate. What we have to do is to consign this issue to the Almighty, knower of the unseen. We should thus treat them as Muslims in this world.
The Mawlānā goes on to elaborate on his view over the question of legality of following such rulers and rebelling against them.
Though the strayed ruler is the chief of the recalcitrant and the leader of the innovators, his rule is deadly venom for the religion and his leadership is unfounded according to the Book of God and the Sunnah of the Prophet, yet, considering the fact that various Islamic directives can only be fulfilled under a ruler, declaring him a kāfir is not a clear solution. Therefore, rebellion against his rule and abandoning obedience to him is a disputed issue. A God-fearing believer is therefore obliged not to take such a step. He, however, should not condemn those who do rebel against such a ruler. In other words he himself should avoid from rebellion but if someone else opposes such a strayed ruler he may not be condemned.
However, when there is no possible way for the restoration of just caliphate on the prophetic model except destroying his rule then waging war against him and uprooting the rule of waywardness and misguidance would be greatly beneficial for the millah and failing to do so would greatly harm the general public as well as the people of status and influence.[10]
This explanation offered by the learned scholar helps us understand that such rulers are to be considered Muslim in their individual capacity. Their rule, however, is not Islamic. The only thing that hinders us from rebelling against their rule is the ensuing anarchy and disorder. It is, therefore, necessary to confine one’s action to taking hands off from helping the system. It is, however, incumbent upon the Muslims to peacefully endeavour to topple such a rule. If circumstances develop which are favourable for the establishment of the true Islamic rule then it would be desirable and beneficial for the well being of the ummah to take an initiative and uproot the rule of the evil.


Still a third form of deviant khilāfah rule is exemplified by a state in which the Muslims rule. There are, however, no traces of Islamic elements in the political setup. If any Islamic elements are found in the system they are accommodated only because of their national importance. Every such element draws its value from its status as part of the national tradition. It is not valued for its Islamic origin. The rulers and the ruling party claim to be Muslims. But they introduce a political setup which is either based on such principles as are completely at variance with the sharī‘ah and every governmental norm violates the Islamic teachings. The jāhilī tradition and values are highly appreciated while the Islamic norms are deprecated. Every aspect of Islamic ideology of life is openly ridiculed. Islamic norms of life and Islamic expression of civilization are abolished as outdated mores and a hindrance to progress. All the forces of the state are used for the propagation of purely un-Islamic and irreligious social norms. Those desirous of progress of Islam and adoption of Islamic way of life are wiped from the scene through political measures and administrative schemes. Those opposing Islam are projected and hailed as national leaders. Those desirous of flowering of Islam are declared enemies of national progress and freedom, a threat to the national security. On the contrary, those who audaciously poke fun at the theoretical and practical manifestation of the sharī‘ah laws are projected as heroes. It would be better to quote the exact words of Mawlānā Shah Ismā‘īl that depict the salient features of the form of government under discussion. He writes:

It should remain clear that by our term salṭanat-i kufr (rule of the disbelief) we do not mean the rule of the non-Muslims. We, on the contrary, refer to the rule of a party which professes to be Muslim yet openly commits that which amount to kufr. Such a group of people violates and opposes the sharī‘ah laws to the extent that they can validly be considered to have become disbeliever and apostates. To further explain this point I say that some people are naturally heretic and transgressors. Though apparently they enter the folds of Islam by professing it as their faith yet they do not believe in God, his Messenger, the religion, faith and the Afterlife. To them, the real gain and loss is only the worldly and material gain and loss. They believe that achieving grandeur, status, wealth and assets are real objectives to be targeted. They think that the one who wholly pursues this target is truly a genius. According to them those who withdraw from such activities are plainly ignorant and stupid. Anything that is not helpful in achieving the lowly worldly gains is useless and any effort which does not earn fame and fortune is a vain toil. Therefore, they even count the Prophets of God and the pious guides to the path of virtue and truth among the clever pursuers of fame and grandeur. To them the followers of these noble personalities are but stupid people, who, conned by eloquence of these personalities, have been led to believe in empty promises. Such people, in their word and deeds, consider the religion nothing beyond stupidity. To them following the religious directions regarding customs and social etiquette is nothing but an expression of the ignorance of the naïve adherents of the religion. Toil of worship is sheer naivety in their eyes and perseverance and reliance on God is weakness and impotence.
When such a band gains political authority and establishes its rule in a country, they believe that their self devised code, perceived to be the symbol of national flourish, perfectly corresponds to the dictates of reason and reflects great wisdom. In their eyes, the sharī‘ah of God becomes useless to them and recedes to the status of irrational customs. Thus they are necessarily led to reprobate the sharī‘ah and make it look insignificant in the eyes of the subjects and government servants. They try to uproot it through various manoeuvres and find ways to transgress it. This they achieve by preferring their self devised court laws while deciding upon every matter and vilipend the sharī‘ah of God. They also devote all their loquacity to highlight the use and importance of their law code and creatively find faults with the divine law by inventing confusions regarding it.
In short, each and every act of disbelief they commit expresses criticism on the sharī‘ah of the Lord and mocks the Sunnah of the Prophet. They embellish their speech with the waywardness of the poets. They use the sayings and opinions of such scholars who pursue fame and endeavour to establish their views on the basis of conjectures of philosophers and waywardnesses of heretics.[11]

The last part of the above quoted statement of Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd merits serious consideration. Those who have cut off from God and his Messenger sugar-coating their views to make them seem worthy. The ignorant folk very easily fall prey to their schemes.
While continuing the discussion, Shāh Ismā‘īl explains the legal status of such rulers. He guides the Muslims how to deal with such evil rulers if they have been unfortunate to live under ones. He writes:

Thus, such rulers are to be counted among the disbelieving transgressors and heretic apostates. To wage war against them is a major directive of Islam. We owe the Messenger of God the right to protect him. This right of his can only be fulfilled by disgracing such rulers. The rule of such rulers does not fall within the category of Islamic State. To obey them is forbidden on the basis of very clear and conclusive textual proof. ‘Ubādah b. Ṣāmit narrates that the companions entered into a pledge with the Prophet. They vowed they would not dispute with their rulers till the time the latter openly commit acts which can be considered an expression of disbelief on the basis of clear and conclusive evidence in the religion of God.

Shāh Ismā‘īl Shahīd continues the discussion in the following words:

Rule of such apostates is the rule of the disbelievers. Therefore, the Muslims are obliged to wage jihādagainst them and put an end to their rule through armed struggle. If they cannot do so they must migrate from such a country to a true Islamic State.


The above discussion may invite two questions.
First, it has been said that the Islamic rule continues to be considered Islamic even if run by the profligate. One is not allowed to put any opposition to such rulers and stop obeying them until the rulers commit clear kufr(unbelief). Ascribing to these propositions would necessarily result in a catastrophic end. People will keep waiting for manifestation of obvious form of kufr from the rulers before they can take any practical step to stop them from indulging in evil activities. Meanwhile the amount and severity of the evil spread by the rulers will continue to grow to the level that eventually it will not be possible to correct and reform the system.
The second question in this regard can be put as follows. Are Muslims allowed to directly act and stop such rulers from evil activities and oppose them practically right after they are noticed committing open and clear acts of kufr? Is the mere fact that the rulers have committed such kufr requires that the believers either fight them or leave the country?






In such a state of affairs, the obligation to obey the rulers, no doubt, becomes hard for the religiously trained souls. They find the obligation to obey such rulers a political need rather than a religious ideal. This is, however, a fact that Islam does not allow the believers to take up arms against the rulers and stop obeying them unless and until the latter openly indulge in matters which are conclusively and clearly known as amounting to kufr. Many prophetic narratives leading to this conclusion have been quoted above. Still, in order to explain this all important issue further, we wish to produce some more aḥādīthso that it becomes clear that the religious stance in this regard is definitely what we have maintained. Even the companions of the Prophet have been obeying to the strayed caliphs. Who enjoys better understanding of the religion than the companions ? They were indeed as conscious regarding the dictates of the religion as one could be. They never staked their religious self for any political or non-political expediency.

 ‘Abd al-Karīm al-Bakā’ narrates: “I saw ten companions of the Prophet praying under the leadership of the sinful rulers.”[12]

Abū Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said: “You are obliged to fight in the way of Allah under any ruler, pious or sinful. You are also obliged to offer Prayer behind any Muslim, pious or sinful, even the one committing the cardinal sins.[13]

Imām Bukhārī has recorded a ḥadīth reported on the authority of ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Umar that he would offer Prayers led by Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf. Imām Mālik recorded a ḥadīth in al-Muwaṭṭā that ‘Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad caliph, had strictly ordered Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf to take guidance from ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Umar in performing the ḥajj rituals. Ḥajjāj followed this caliphal command. He would not take any step in performance of the ḥajjrituals without consulting ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Umar. However, it was Ḥajjāj who led people in performing the ḥajj rituals and not ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Umar. Though the latter had profound knowledge and taqwā, yet he was compelled to perform ḥajj rituals as well as congregational Prayers in the headship of Ḥajjāj. This was because, as per the directives of the sharī‘ah, he could not defy the authority of the rulers as long as they established Prayer and avoided committing kufr openly.[14]
Imām Muslim recorded a ḥadīth which tells us that once the caliph Marwān led people in the Eid congregation. He addressed the sermon before the congregation fearing that people would not listen to his address and leave the mosque whereas according to the sharī‘ah the sermon follows the congregation in the Eid Prayer. This was a clear instance of innovation in the religion. Some people stopped him at the spot but he did as he wished. The companion, Abū Sa‘īd Khudrī was present. He too offered the Prayer behind the ruler even after noticing that the latter transgressed against the sharī‘ah of God by introducing an innovation. This was because the directive of Islam to hold fast to the collectivity and political system is very crucial. The act Marwān committed was not enough excuse to forego praying under the leadership of an innovator in defiance of the rulers. This consideration stopped this great companion of the Prophet from refusing to pray behind Marwān.
Many prophetic aḥādīth show that the Messenger of God foretold his companions that a time would come when the rulers would delay the obligatory Prayers and kill its spirit. He stressed that even then the subjects must obey the rulers and offer the Prayers behind them. This prophetic wisdom stresses the importance of the collective system and political setup. At other occasions the Prophet advised his companions to offer Prayers at home in the prescribed time and then attend the mosques to pray behind the rulers, considering it optional Prayer. He forbade them to tell the rulers that they had already offered the Prayer.
We therefore, do not find any reason to doubt the religious stance applicable to circumstances explained above. But this does not mean that the believers are not free to criticize the rulers on this behaviour. They are not obliged to keep their eyes shut to the worsening state of affairs and let the system erode. The Islamic system of political order and directives to obey the rulers do not forbid the believers from pointing out the errors and waywardness of the rulers. They may not remain silent when the religious directives are manifestly disgraced. We reiterate that no doubt the Islamic system of government does not allow any believer to show disloyalty to the state and stop obeying the rulers until and unless the rulers commit kufr openly, yet they are rightful, but obliged to take two necessary steps in order to correct the state of affairs. The believers are obliged to religiously fulfil both of these requirements of the sharī‘ah; failing to discharge these amounts to showing dishonesty to God as well as the ruler. These two are:
1. No believer is allowed to obey a command from the rulers with ready heart which defies the command of God and his Messenger. We have already mentioned the prophetic sayings which lead to this conclusion. However, it would not be out of place to repeat some of them to refresh our memory of them.

To listen to (the rulers) and to obey (them) is the duty of every Muslim whether he likes what he is commanded or detests it, as long as he is not commanded to do some sinful act. When he is commanded to do a sinful act then he may not listen to or obey (them). (Bukhārī, No: 6725)

Another ḥadīth says:

Obligation to follow (the rulers) is only applicable in ma‘rūf (things which are in harmony with the sharī‘ah directives). (Bukhārī, No: 4025)

Still another ḥadīth found in both Bukhārī and Muslim reads:

(The rulers) may not be obeyed when their command involves disobeying God. This obligation (to follow them) only pertains to ma‘rūf. (Bukhārī: 6830)

2. A believer is obliged to point out moral and collective evils committed by the public or the state officials even in the face of opposition. He should explain to the offenders that such evils are against the sharī‘ah and contrary to proper religious behaviour. He is expected to show perseverance like a staunch believer even in the face of any hardships resulting from his criticism on such rampant evils both from the public and the rulers. The Prophet said:

The most excellent jihādis that of a person who speaks out truth before a king deviant from the right course. (Ibn Mājah, No: 4012)

Islam does not consider it an optional act of virtue. This is rather a duty imposed on every believer. If a believer, sees his countrymen or the rulers committing acts in defiance of truth, virtue, the Book of God and the Sunnah of the Prophet and then keeps silence over it, he is liable to be held accountable for this crime along with the actual culprits no matter how virtuous and practicing believer personally he is. He will share the same fate with the criminals on the Last Day and also in this world if the Almighty decides to hasten the punishment of the criminals. This principle has been explained in the holy Qur’an:

Avoid the trial which will not specifically fall on those among you who have wronged. [It will rather embrace those too who have been silently observing the crime committed]. Keep in mind that God is strict in retribution. (Q 8:28)

This teaching is found in the previous scriptures as well. God thus addressed Ezekiel in the following words:

If I pronounce sentence of death on a wicked man and you do not warn him to give up his wicked ways and so save his life, the guilt is his; because of his wickedness he shall die, but I will hold you answerable for his death. But if you have warned him and he still continues in his wicked and evil ways, he shall die because of his wickedness, but you will have saved yourself. (Ezekiel, 3:18-9)

The Prophet explained this fact in various ways. We will refer to some of the pertinent prophetic sayings in this regard.
Once the Prophet, using a parable, explained that when, in a society, a particular evil is rampant and those who know that it is evil do not try to stop the offenders the resulting misfortune does not spare any. It befalls all, the sinners as well as those who remained chaste.

Nu‘mān b. Bashīr narrated: The Prophet said: The example of the person abiding by God’s commands and restrictions and of those who violate them is like that of those who drew lots for their seats in a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part, and the others in the lower. When the latter needed water, they had to go up to bring water (and that troubled the others), so they said: “Let us make a hole in our share of the ship (and get water) saving those who are above us from trouble.” So, if the people in the upper part left the others do what they suggested, all the people onboard the ship would be destroyed, but if they prevented them, both parties would be safe. (Bukhārī, No: 2361, 2540)

Narrated Tāriq b. Shihāb: It was Marwān who first delivered the sermon before Eid Prayer first. A man stood up and said: “Prayer should precede the sermon.” He (Marwān) replied: “I have done so because people have greatly changed their behaviour. (They are no more conscious over listening to the sermon of the imām after the Prayer)”. At this Abū Sa‘īd remarked: This man (the critic) has discharged the duty laid on him. I have heard the Messenger of Allah say: “He who sees something abominable should correct it by hand. Failing that he should do it with his tongue, and failing that he should (abhor it) from his heart, and that is the least of faith.” (Muslim, No: 49)

‘Abd Allāh b. Mas‘ūd narrated: The Prophet of God said: Among the people of all the earlier nations among whom the Almighty raised a Prophet, there were companions and supporters (of the Prophets) who followed the Sunnah of their Prophets and adhered to their commands. Later on there came a people who professed things which they failed to do themselves and did things that were not commanded by the Almighty. Whoever fights with such a people with his hand is a believer. Whoever opposes such people with tongue is a believer too. Whoever fights them with his heart (by abhorring their practices) is a believer. Beyond this there are no traces of belief (i.e. those who fail to even discharge this duty would not have least amount of faith). (Muslim, No: 50)

‘Ubādah b. Walīd narrates from his father who narrates from his grandfather who reported that they pledged to the Prophet that they would listen to and obey him in all circumstances, ease and discomfort, happiness and sorrow and that they would not oppose the rulers and would adhere to the truth wherever they would be, without fearing taunting of those who taunt. (Muwaṭṭā, No: 960)

Umm-i Salamah narrates: The Messenger of God said: “Soon there will be rulers who, you will see, will have some virtues and vices. Whoever treated the vice as vice, will have his excuse (with God). Whoever objected to it will be safe. However, the one who remained satisfied and followed (such vices, will be ruined).” The companions asked: “Are not we obliged to fight such rulers?” the Prophet said: “No, until they persist in the Prayer. (Muslim, No: 1854)

The way the companions and their successors consciously performed this duty can be learned from the following narrative:

Ḥasan narrated: Mu‘āwiyah appointed ‘Ubayd Allāh b. Ziyād as governor in our territory. Now this man was then immature and carefree young man. He heedlessly indulged in bloodshed. ‘Abd Allāh b. Ma‘qil al-Muznī was there among us. Having seen the transgressions and oppression of the governor, he went to him one day and warned him thus: “Hold yourself from the oppressiveness you have adopted.” He responded to al-Muznī: “What concerns you in these matters?” When he (‘Abd Allāh b. Ma‘qil al-Muznī) got back to us in the mosque we asked him, “Why did you say this to the poor mindless person in front of public?” He replied: “I had some (relevant) knowledge from God and his Messenger. I did not want to depart from this world without communicating it to this man.” Soon afterwards he fell ill and died of the illness. ‘Ubayd Allāh b. Ziyād visited him when he was ill. (Al-Aḥād wa al-Mathānī, No: 1092)


The teachings of the above mentioned quotes from the Qur’ān, aḥādīth and āthārcan be summarized in the following two points:
1. Every person in the Islamic society is obliged to keep alive to the fact that Islam does not allow us showing obedience to any human authority, the creation of God, when his commands involve defiance of the Creator. He must also make others aware of this.
2. If some people spread evil in the society, those who knowingly shut their eyes to the evil, keep silence over it and let it grow will also be held accountable. They are indeed expected to exhaust all possible measures to curb the evil.
That both of these proposed steps are based on the sharī‘ah best illustrates their importance and fruitfulness. In other words, Islam has not considered criticizing the evil one merely a right of the citizens. It has in fact made it a duty of the citizens of the Islamic state. This means that even in the face of state oppression, the citizens have to discharge these duties if they are to please God. God cannot be pleased while disregarding this duty. These are not our rights so that, if these are denied us, we may remain patient and let the rulers usurp them expecting God to look at us with compassion and reward. These are the rights of God which have to be fulfilled. The required perseverance in this case relates to facing the hardships in discharging these duties in spite of all hardships and oppression from the rulers. We are obliged to first perform these duties and then hope God’s grace and mercy in recompense to whatever difficulties we forebear in fulfilling these rights of the Lord.
The above mentioned points do not allow us hold that since rebellion can only be opted when the rulers commit some express kufr, God has indeed preferred political over the religious ideals and has thus not left the believers with a way to correct the undesirable state of affairs. Obviously, when the majority of the people will be conscious over such evils and will be ready to discharge their duty of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil then there remains no chance for the rulers to indulge in evil or support or protect it. Even if an evil or distortion finds its way among the rulers this state of affairs does not last long. There remains no chance that the situation would go to the extent that armed rebellion is the only measure possible. In case, God forbid, the distortion assumes worst form merely because the citizens are no longer inclined to discharge their duty of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, then that is a very desperate state which depicts the whole society is afflicted. In such a situation taking up arms would not produce desired results. It would be impossible to establish the true Islamic system before reforming the entire population. This necessitates that the working rulers are let to continue in whatever form they can rule the country as long as they uphold Islam, though ostensibly.
In some cases, people claim, a very handful number of people may be forcing the majority to keep silence when they (the majority) want correction. We, however, believe that such a situation, though theoretically possible, may not practically happen. A great majority out to reform itself cannot be hindered by a handful mischief makers. The majority will never have to take up arms.


Our response to the second question is that according to the sharī‘ah, one may not take up arms as soon as he or she sees that the government has openly committed an act which is a clear example of unbelief. The allowance to abandon the duty of obeying to the rulers and taking up arms against them is conditional. The sharī‘ah only says that the citizens are no longer obliged to obey the rulers after they notice that the rulers have indulged in such offences. Thus even the open and clear act of unbelief on the part of the rulers does not require the believers to abandon the system or to fight the rulers. They are only allowed to stop obeying them and take any of the lines of action provided by the sharī‘ah strictly considering the circumstances. Now the question remains what possible lines of actions the sharī‘ah has recommended. We say that according to the sharī‘ah the believers coming under the rule of the unbelief may adopt any of the following three options.
1. The rulers who openly rebel against the law of God are to be ousted by force. The state system may be re-established on the principles of Islam. This line of action may only be adopted when the pious forces are well organized, they have enough power to successfully achieve the targets, the majority population of the country is backing them, or at least they are expected to join after the practical revolt is initiated, and that the rule of the evil can be uprooted to be replaced by the pious caliphate without blood shed. In such situation it would not only be desirable for the party of the believers to organize themselves and rise against the evil rulers rather it is their religious obligation.
2. Second possible step for them would be to migrate from such a country. However, this option hinges upon certain circumstances. It may only be adopted when the believers are reduced to a contemptible minority. They are clear that they are not strong enough to harm the rulers in case they decide to confront the system. They are weak and clash with the rulers is expected to bring havoc on them. There is also a dār al salām to welcome them where they can live their lives according to Islam. In such situations it would be better to migrate to the dār-al salām. It is not lawful for a believer to remain content with living in unfavourable circumstances, under a despotic rule, hostile to Islam while they have a safe heaven in some other Muslim country. One may not live in circumstances which are not liable to be changed by him rather he is the potential target. One has to consider not only about his own faith but also of his family and children. If someone decides to stick to the dār-al ḥarab in spite of his ability to move into dār-al salām and lets his faith and practices polluted by the forces of the unbelief he is a culprit in the eyes of God. The Almighty will question him on the Last Day to explain why he has been content on living under the rule of the unbelief not caring about his faith:

As for those whom the angels will cause to die while they are trying themselves, (the angels) will say to them: “What have you been doing?” They will say: “We were weak in the earth.” They (the angels) will then say: “Was not Allah’s earth spacious, so that you could have migrated therein?” So these it is whose refuge is Hell - and it is an evil resort. (Q 4: 97)

3. The third possible approach for such a believer is to remain where he lives. He is expected to exhaust all his powers in calling people to the truth the way the Prophets and Messengers of God do in trying to change the dār-al kufr to dār-al salām through effective preaching and propagation. The believers should thus exert all their efforts to change the dār al-kufr they are living in to the dār-al salām. This approach is open to those only as do not find enough power to change the system to the Islamic one and they do not find any dār-al salām to migrate to. They see that the religious plight of the people of all the countries is the same. In this case migration would be useless unless the situation in one’s country is so crucial that mere attributing to the religion of Islam and faith is but inviting death and destruction, and it is not possible for the believer to discharge the most basic religious commandments in the present abode. In the present times territorial nationalism has made it almost impossible for any to find refuge in another country. Therefore, in stead of wandering in other countries it would be better to stay in one’s homeland and try to collect the scattered believing individuals around him and construct a community of the believer which can later assume the form of a healthy Islamic system. Such an effort may not prove successful practically. However, a true effort itself is a virtue greatly acknowledged in Islam. It is only the internal desire and sincere efforts which earn one the real reward. A task pursued with full efforts and true intent can never be considered a failure in Islam.


The above discussion may create a doubt in the minds of the readers. One may think that if the issue of showing obedience to the Islamic government carries so much importance that the one who fails to do so can be rendered non-Muslim, and none has the right to rebel against the rulers until and unless the latter commit an open act of unbelief, them how can be the step of Imām Ḥ̣usayn against Yazīd be explained, especially, when the latter never committed such open kufr; what he did could only be called fisq (sinfulness). Neither did Amīr Yazīd commit a clear kufr nor did Imām Ḥusayn and other companions declare that his rule was the rule of the unbelief.
This question cannot be properly explained in the light of the historical narratives regarding the event, all of which suffer from drastic mutual contradictions. Only a very erudite historian can analyze the entire matter and reach to a conclusion. We, however, consider two acts attributed to Imām Ḥusayn which are agreed upon by the Sunnī as well as Shī‘ī scholars. These two facts, we believe, sufficiently remove the doubt.
When Ḥusayn left Makkah for Kūfah all the companions of the Prophet opposed him. The companions of the Prophet are never expected to show expedient leniency with regards to the religious matters. There among them were the companions whose faith, piety and knowledge is recognized by the entire ummah with consensus. This makes their opposition to the step Ḥusayn intended very meaningful. If we see the decision of Ḥusayn a product of his ijtihādthen his ijtihād was obviously in contrast to what the other companions concluded.
The second point is that regardless of the view and aims of Ḥusayn before he left for Kūfah, one thing is certain that he reached at a different conclusion afterwards, having studied the other issues and assessed the circumstances. his understanding and his view can be ascertained by the following three points he presented before the commander of the Umayyad army, ‘Umar b. Sa‘d. He asked the commander to let him take any of the three steps he had chosen for himself, the one considered the most appropriate by the commander. These points included:
a. Ḥusayn should be let to go back where he had come.
b. He is allowed to go to the Turkish borders and join the armies in Jihād for which he intended to spend his life.
c. He is taken over to Yazīd who could then decide his fate. Ḥusayn would surrender himself before the ruler.
The viewpoint of Ḥusayn is exactly in line with the Islamic teachings enshrined in the Book of God and the Sunnah of the Prophet. This explains away the possible doubt regarding his action. As regards the question of what engendered the causality of Karbala that is beyond the scope of this study. It is the task of the historian to critically analyze all the historical data and form an opinion.



[1] Ibid., 1: 94.
[2] By bid‘ah is meant, in Islamic terminology, innovations which are at variance with the Islamic norms and which do not fit in the anatomy of the religion. What differentiates between a bid‘ah and a ruling reached at through independent reasoning (ijtihād) is that a mujtahid reaches a conclusion regarding an unprecedented matter by studying principle guidance of Islam, known precedents, considering the overall tendency of the religious teachings in a matter. Such a conclusion would then match the structure of the religious teachings and befit it. As regards the innovator, he forges an entirely novel thing which does not correspond to the teachings of Islam.
[3] Shawkānī, Nayl al-Awṭār, 7: 230.
[4] The forth and the fifth narratives relate to the circumstances in which the rulers do not consider the Islamic teachings as the criterion to judge good form evil and start following exactly the opposite of the Islamic teachings. Things considered disallowable in Islam become desirable in their eyes and the things which are desirable and virtuous in Islam are rejected as irrational and uncivilized.
[5] Iranian new day or New Year. It is a celebration of spring Equinox celebrated by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. What we have today as Nōrōz with its uniquely Iranian characteristics has been celebrated for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the traditions of Zoroastrian belief system. (translator)
[6] Dīwālī is celebrated for three consecutive days at the end of Hindu month of Ashwayuja. It usually occurs in October/November. (translator)
[7] Holī is a spring festival. It is celebrated in the month of Phalguna, as the lunar month is locally known in India. It is the month of March that corresponds with this time of celebration. Though originated in the northern part of India, Holī has assumed a national flavour over the ages. Despite being a Hindu festival, it is now regarded as a secular event. For, the entire nation takes the day off, as people, irrespective of race, culture and ethnic background, enjoy the spirit of Holī. Cities and suburbs, towns and villages all come alive to catch the frenzy of March madness with a range of colours. (translator)
[8]This prohibition is purely legal. These things go against the norm and accepted social behaviour violation of which is a severer crime than legal prohibition.
[9] The celebrated scholar actually alludes to the origin of the then rulers in India, the Monarchs of Taymūrī descent.
[10] Shah Ismā‘īl, Manṣab-I Imāmah (Urdu translation by Ḥakīm Muhammad Husayn ‘Alavī), (Lahore, Pakistan: Haji Hanif and Sons, 2008), 167-73.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Shawkānī, Nayl al-Awṭār, 3:163.
[13] Ibid., 3:162-3.
[14] One must keep in mind that the question under discussion relates to the “first form of deviation” in which the state system is established on Islamic principles. Islam rules all the spheres of collective life including national law, judicial system, culture and civilization, and political and social order. The caliphs and the authorities all follow the directives of the sharī‘ah. They, however, stick to the sharī‘ahmerely in their actions. Their hearts and minds are repulsive to the spirit of Islam.