Imam Dhahabi* on Tyrants and Oppressors

The Sixteenth Major Sin
The Leader who Misleads his Following, The Tyrant and Oppressor

Allah Most High says:

“The dispute [lit. ‘way against’] is only with those who oppress people and wrongfully commit aggression in the land: these will have a painful torment” (42:42)

“Do not suppose that Allah is unmindful of what the unjust do. He only gives them respite until a Day when the eyes will stare (in terror) as they come hurrying on in fear, their heads upraised, their gaze not returning to them, and their hearts blank” (14:42-43)

“And those who do wrong will come to know by what a (great) reversal they will be overturned” (26:227)

“They did not forbid each other the evil that they did, and how wicked was what they would do” (5:79)

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

“Whoever deceives is not from us” (Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him))

“Oppression will be darkness on the Day of Resurrection” (Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmidhi on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)))

“All of you are trustees, and each is responsible for those entrusted to his care” (Bukhari & Muslim on the authority of  Ibn ‘Umar (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)))

“Any superior who misrules his followers shall go to hell” (Tabarani)

“If Allah makes someone responsible over a people and he does not deal with them with sincerity, Allah will prohibit him the Garden” [related with slightly different wording in Bukhari]

“On the day of Resurrection, every Judge who gives Judgements among the people will be held, an angel seizing him by the back of his head. If it is said, ‘Throw him!’ he will be thrown into Hell, and he will sink into it for forty years” (Musnad Ahmad)

“Woe to the princes, woe to the officials, woe to the guardians! On the Day of Resurrection, people will wish that their forelocks were tied to the (constellation) Pleiades, that they were swinging between Heaven and earth, and that they had never exercised any rule” (Musnad Ahmad)

“On the Day of Resurrection, a time will come for the Judge of a court when he will wish that he had not Judged between two people, even concerning (so much as) a piece of fruit”

“There is not a leader of ten people who will not be brought forth, on the Day of Resurrection, without his hands being bound to his neck, and either his justice will free him or his injustice destroy him”

In one of his supplications [du‘as], the Messenger of  Allah (ﷺ) said: “O Allah, if anyone who is in charge of anything in this Ummah (community of Muslims) is kind to them, may You be kind to him, if anyone is compassionate to them, may You be compassionate to him!” (Muslim and al-Nisa’i on the authority of ‘A’isha (raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her)))

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:

“If Allah appoints someone as a manager of Muslims’ affairs and he removes their needs, their miseries, and their poverty, Allah will remove his need, his misery, and his poverty” (Abu Daud and Tirmidhi)

“There will come corrupt, tyrannous rulers: whoever confirms their lies and assists them in their oppression is not  of me, nor I of him, and shall not meet me at my watering place in paradise” (Al-Hakim)

“On the Day of Resurrection, the most severely punished among the people will be a tyrannical ruler.”

“O people, command what is honourable (ma‘ruf) and forbid what is dishonourable (munkar), before a time comes when you will call upon Allah and He will not respond, and when you ask Allah’s forgiveness and He will not forgive you. When the Jewish rabbis and the Christian priests stopped commanding what is honourable and forbidding what is dishonourable, Allah cursed them by the tongues of their prophets and unleashed troubles among them”

“One who introduces something new into this affair of ours which is not from it, is rejected [that is to say, the sin of it is upon him]”

“He who shows no mercy will not be shown any” (Bukhari)

“Allah will shade a just ruler under His own shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His” (Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurayra (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)))

“The just will be on platforms of light – those who set things aright by their judgement among their people and do not deviate from justice”

When the Prophet (ﷺ) sent Mu‘adh (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)) to Yemen, He said: “Be careful of their most valuable possessions (when collecting Zakat), and beware of the cry of the oppressed. Truly, there is no veil between him and Allah” (Bukhari)

And He (ﷺ) said:

“There are three (kinds of) people to whom Allah will not speak on the Day of Resurrection” and he mentioned among them a king who is a liar.

“You’ll be anxious to lead, and this will be a source of remorse to you on the Day of Judgement” (Bukhari)

“By Allah, I will not appoint to a post anyone who asks for it or who is eager to get it” (Bukhari)

“O Ka‘b bin ‘Ajrah, may Allah protect you from the rule of the foolish – such rulers as will come after my time, those who are not guided by my guidance and do not follow my Sunnah”

“Whoever has sought authority among the Muslims and attained it, if his justice dominated his oppression, the Garden is for him. But if his oppression dominated his justice, the Fire is for him” (Abu Daud)

‘Umar said to Abu Dharr (رضي الله عنهما): “Tell us a tradition  which you hear from Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ).” Abu Dharr then said: “I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) say: ‘On the Day of Resurrection, the ruler will be brought and left on a bridge across Hell. The bridge will shake so violently with him that nothing on it will remain on its place. If he was obedient to Allah, in his actions, he will cross over it, while if he was disobedient to Allah, in his actions, the bridge will break and he will be thrown into Hell, sinking in it for fifty years.’ ”

‘Umar then said: “Therefore, who would desire such a position, Abu Dharr?” Abu Dharr replied: “The one who would have his nose chopped off for Allah’s sake, being dragged to it by force” [that is to say, forced by the people to accept the position].

‘Amar bin Muhajir (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)) said: “ ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)) told me: ‘If you see me deviating from justice, put your hand on my collar and say, “ ‘Umar what are you doing?’ ”.

[Imam Dhahabi’s Kitab al-Kaba’ir, English translation The Major Sins by Mohammed Moinuddin  Siddiqui, Dar el Fiker, Beirut, 1993, pp. 77-80]

*Imam Dhahabi (673 H/1274 CE to 748 H/1348 CE)  is Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Uthman ibn Qaymaz, Abu ‘Abdullah Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi, the great Shafi‘i hadith master (hafiz) and historian of Islam. Of Turcoman origin, he first studied in Damascus and then travelled to Cairo and other cities in pursuit of Sacred Knowledge. He authored nearly a hundred works, some of them of considerable size. In addition to his mastery of hadith, he was also an Imam in canonical Koranic readings (qira’at) and textual criticism. [excerpted from Reliance of the Traveller by Shaykh Nuh Keller, p. 1045].

The Caliphate in Durr al-Mukhtār*

Book of Prayer, Section on Imāmah

It (the Imāmah) is either minor or major. The major (type) (i.e. the caliphate) is the right of general administration over the people. Its realization is in kalām (scholastic theology) and establishing it is the most important of obligations, hence they (the Sahabah) gave it priority over the burial [1] of the Possessor of Miracles (ﷺ).

*The Durr al-Mukhtār [‘The Chosen Pearl’] is one of the central late texts of the Hanafi school. Its author, ‘Ala’ al-Dīn al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him), was the Grand Mufti of Damascus during the 11th Islamic century, and his works, particularly the Durr, profoundly influenced all texts that came after it, and became the central reference for legal details and rulings (Shaykh Faraz Rabbani).

Al-Durr al-Mukhtār, the commentary on Tanwīr al-Absār, has flown through the lands, and circled the cities, and become more manifest than the sun at midday, until people have busied themselves with it, and it has become their recourse. It is most deserving of being sought, and of the school (madhhab) being on it… for it contains more well-verified rulings, and sound details than many a longer work…” [Ibn ‘Abidīn, Radd al-Muhtār, 1: 2] (ibid)

[1] Ibn Kathīr said, “What is famously related from the majority of scholars is that the Prophet (ﷺ) died on Monday and was buried on Tuesday night.” (al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah (5/237) and Ṣaḥīḥ al-Sīrah al-Nabawīyyah, p.728)

Ibn Khaldun on the Defeated Mentality

“The vanquished always want to imitate the victor in his distinctive characteristics, his dress, his occupation, and all his other conditions and customs. The reason for this is that the soul always sees perfection in the person who is superior to it and to whom it is subservient. It considers him perfect, either because it is impressed by the respect it has for him, or because it erroneously assumes that its own subservience to him is not due to the nature of defeat but to the perfection of the victor.”

[Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah, quoted in S. Sayyid, Recalling the Caliphate: Decolonization and World Order, Hurst & Company, London, 2014, p. 1]