Sahabi: Allah has sent us forward to liberate men from following men


During the famous battle of Qadisiyyah, the Persian general Rustam sent word to the Muslim commander Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) to send an envoy for negotiations. The latter chose his fellow Sahabi Rib‘i bin ‘Amir raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) as the envoy.

When Rib‘i arrived at Rustam’s court, he was asked by the general through the interpreter: “What is your purpose in waging war against us?”

Rib‘i bin ‘Amir replied:

“Allah has sent us forward so that we may liberate, whomsoever He wills, from following men [and lead them] to the obedience of Allah, and pull them out of their narrow world into the broader one, and from under the suppression of [various] religions into the justice of Islam…”

[Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, Cairo, Sa‘adah Press, vol. 7, p. 39. Cited by Siddiqi, M N, ‘Tawḥīd: The Concept and the Process’ In Islamic Perspectives, Islamic Foundation, Leicester, 1979, pp. 20-21]

Qadi ‘Iyad on the Sahabah, the Shari‘ah and Madinah and the Return of Ruling by Islam


Qadi ‘Iyad* says in Tartīb al Madārik:

“The Prophet’s Companions supported him in firmly establishing his Shari‘ah during his lifetime and after his death. They succeeded him in protecting it and keeping it in good custody”.

“In numerous revealed texts Allah has indicated explicitly how He granted them excellence above others, commanding that they also be taken as examples to be emulated. And he gave severe warning against following paths other than theirs. He brought them to make their home in Madinah, the homeland of His Revelation, the ultimate refuge of His deen and the place where His Shari‘ah was instituted and established, the land to which His angels came down, the place of the hijra of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, the place in which His book was revealed, the land where the legacy of all His messengers was brought together to live forever, the place where all good was joined together. The cave of iman and wisdom, the golden mine of the Shari‘ah and Sunna, the radiant lamp of guidance by the light of which the regions of the East and West were illuminated. The unending fountainhead of knowledge from which all rivers, valleys and tributaries draw their water.”

“Allah then caused the Companions to be succeeded in each generation by followers of thorough truthfulness and justice.”

And later on in the book, Qadi ‘Iyad mentions this narration:

“From Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, “The one upon whom we ask blessings and peace, said, ‘The Hour shall not take place until Iman returns to take refuge in Madinah just like the snake returning to take refuge in her hole.’ ”Abu Musab al-Zuhri** said regarding this hadith, ‘By Allah! It shall not return and take refuge but among its true followers and its people who establish it completely and properly and who institute in their lives its various precepts and laws, and who have knowledge of its proper interpretation, establishing firmly its rulings by which it judges.’ ”

*Qadi ‘Iyad is ‘Iyad ibn Musa ibn ‘Iyad ibn ‘Imran, Abu al-Fadl al-Yahsubi, born in Sabta (present-day Ceuta, on the Strait of Gibraltar) in 476 H (1083 CE). The Imam of western Muslimdom in hadith and Arabic lexicology, he was a gifted Maliki scholar and author who wrote a number of books in the sciences of hadith, Maliki jurisprudence, and history, though he is best remembered for his two-volume al-Shifa bi ta‘rif huquq al-Mustafa [The cure, in outlining the attributes of the Chosen One], universally acknowledged as among the finest works ever written on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). He was appointed as the judge of Sabta, then Granada, and finally Marrakesh, where he died in 544 H (1149 CE) [Excerpted from Reliance of the Traveller, by Shaykh Nuh Keller, p. 1089]

**He is the learned Scholar and trustworthy hadith Master of Madinah, Abu Musab Ahmad ibn Abi Bakr ibn al-Harith al-Zuhri (152 242 H). He was one of those who narrated the Muwaṭṭa directly from Imam Malik [cf. The Four Imams and their Schools, Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Muslim Academic Trust, 2007, p. 145]

[Qadi ‘Iyad, ترتيب المدارك وتقريب المسالك لمعرفة أعلام مذهب مالك (Tartīb al madārik wa taqrīb al masālik li ma‘rifat a‘lām madhhab Mālik), quoted in Root Islamic Education, Shaykh Abdalqadir al-Murabit, Madinah Press, Second Edition, London, 1993, pp. 36-37, 53-54]

Ibn Hajar on Obeying and Disobeying those in Authority

kuranThe following is from the translated meaning of the Qur’an (4:59):

“O Believers, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you are [in truth] believers in Allah and the Last Day.” [Rendered by Shaykh Gibril Haddad]

The above verse is cited by Imam Bukhārī in his Ṣaḥīḥ as the heading of the first chapter of Kitāb al-Aḥkām (Book of Judgments). Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī says in his commentary of this section of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī:

‘The subtlety of repeating the verb for the Prophet – upon him blessings and peace – in Obey Allah and obey the Messenger but not for and those in command among you – although the one being obeyed in reality is Allah – is that the sources by which one determines one’s legal responsibility are the Qur’ān and the Sunna. It is as if Allah Most High were saying: “Obey Allah in whatever He textually stipulates for you in the Qur’ān and obey the Messenger in whatever he elucidates from the Qur’ān for you and textually stipulates in the Sunna,” or “Obey Allah in all He commands you in the revelation instituted for worship-through-recitation, and obey the Messenger in all he commands you in the revelation that is other than the Qur’ān.” Al-Ṭībī said (d. 743/1342): “He repeated the verb and obey the Messenger as a sign that the Prophet – upon him blessings and peace – is obeyed independently, but he did not repeat it for and those of you who are in authority as a sign that some of them do not have to be obeyed. Then He expounded this by saying and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, as if saying: if they do not act according to right, then do not obey them, and refer to whatever you differed about to the judgment of Allah and His Messenger.” ’

[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), translated in Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’ān (IEQ) by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Sherwood Park and Seattle, Centre for Islamic Sciences, vol. 1 p. 279. For brief biographical details of Ibn Ḥajar, see the previous post on this blog entitled Ibn Hajar on Arab Rulers]


Post Script

The meaning of those in authority among you is elaborated by al-Bayḍāwī (d. 684/1286) in his tafsīr (commentary) of 4:59: “it comprises caliphs, judges, and military commanders … as long as they stand for truth” [see IEQ, p. 278].

Also, Ibn Kathīr cites the following in his tafsīr of the verse in question:

“Umm al-Ḥusayn said that she heard the Messenger of Allah giving a speech during the Farewell Ḥajj, in which he said:

‘Even if a slave was appointed over you, and he rules you with Allah’s Book, then listen to him and obey him.’ [related in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim].” (Ibn Kathīr, vol. 2, p. 497)


Imam Ghazali’s ‘Definite Proof’ that Appointing a Caliph is Obligatory


Despite the fact that Imam Ghazali’s al-Iqtiṣād fi al-I‘tiqād is a book on beliefs (‘aqīda), he includes a whole chapter on the imamate (caliphate) in this work. At the beginning of this chapter, he includes a discussion of what he describes as ‘definite legal proof’ (al-burhān al-qaṭ‘ī al-shar‘ī) that appointing an imam is an obligation. In this discussion, he also says that ‘religion (dīn) and sultan are twins’:

“We should not think that this obligation derives from the intellect. We have explained that obligations derive from the revelation, except when ‘obligatory’ is interpreted to designate an act, such that there is benefit in performing it or harm in refraining from it. According to this interpretation, it cannot be denied that appointing an imam is obligatory, since it leads to benefit and prevents harm in this worldly life. However, we present a conclusive legal demonstration [البرهان القطعى الشرعى] that it is obligatory. We will not rely solely on the consensus [ijmā‘] of the Muslim community; rather we bring attention to the basis of this consensus.

Hence we say:

Well ordered religious affairs are decidedly a purpose of the man with the revelation [Muhammad] (ﷺ). This is an unquestionable premise about which no dispute is imaginable. We add to it another premise, which is that well-ordered religious affairs can only be achieved through an imam who is obeyed. The correctness of the proposition that the appointment of an imam is obligatory follows from these two premises.

If it is said that the last premise, which is that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only through an imam, is not conceded, then we say: “Its demonstration is that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only by well-ordered worldly affairs and well-ordered worldly affairs can be achieved only by an imam who is obeyed.” These are two premises: which one is the subject of dispute?

It might be said: “Why do you say that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only through well-ordered worldly affairs? On the contrary, it can be achieved only by destruction of worldly affairs, for religious affairs and worldly affairs are opposites, and hence to be occupied with making one of them flourish is the ruin of the other.”

We say:

This is the argument of someone who does not understand what we intend here by ‘worldly affairs’. For it is an ambiguous term that may be used to designate luxury and pleasure and being excessive beyond what is needed and necessary, or it may be used to designate all that is required prior to one’s death. One of the designations is opposed to religion and the other is its very condition. It is this way that the one who does not distinguish between the meaning of ambiguous terms errs.

We thus say:

Well-ordered religious affairs are achieved through knowledge and worship. These cannot be achieve without the health of the body, the maintenance of life, the fulfillment of needs – such as those for clothing, shelter and food – and security from the onset of calamities. How true this is: “When a man wakes up safe among his family, with a healthy body, and in possession of his daily sustenance, it is as if the whole world is made available to him.”[1] A man does not achieve security in his life, body, wealth, home, and sustenance under all circumstances but [only] under some. Religious affairs cannot flourish unless security is achieved in these important and necessary matters. Otherwise, if one spends all his time being occupied with protecting himself against the swords of oppressors, and with winning his sustenance from exploiters, when would he find time for working and seeking knowledge, which are his means for achieving happiness in the hereafter? Therefore well-ordered worldly affairs – I mean the fulfillment of needs – are a condition for well-ordered religious affairs.

As for the second premise, which is that worldly affairs and security in life and wealth can be maintained only through an imam who is obeyed, it is confirmed by observing the periods of social upheavals when the sultans and imams die. If these periods are prolonged and not quickly terminated by the appointment of another sultan who is obeyed, the killing would continue and the sword would dominate, famine would spread, livestock would diminish, and industry would collapse; and whoever wins would plunder; and no one who manages to stay alive would have time to worship or seek knowledge; and the majority would die under the shadows of the swords. For this reason it has been said that religion [dīn] and sultan are twins, and also that religion is a foundation and the sultan is a guard: that which has no foundation collapses and that which has no guard is lost.

In sum, no rational person doubts that if mankind, given their different classes, diverse desires, and disparate opinions, are left to their own devices without decrees that they obey and that unify their factions, they would all end in ruin. This is an epidemic that has no remedy other than a strong sultan who is obeyed and who unifies their disparate opinions. This shows that a sultan is necessary for achieving well-ordered worldly affairs, and well-ordered worldly affairs are necessary for achieving well-ordered religious affairs, and well-ordered religious affairs are necessary for achieving happiness in the hereafter, which is decidedly the purpose of all the prophets. Therefore, the obligation of appointing an imam is among the essential requirements of the law – a requirement that by no means can be ignored.”

Later on in the chapter, Imam Ghazali argues that necessity dictates that in some circumstances a caliph who does not fulfill all the conditions (as was the case in his time) should still be recognized and obeyed, because of the dire consequences of not having an imam:

“I wish I knew how someone who does not accept this [principle] could judge that the imamate in our time is invalid insofar as its conditions are not fulfilled, while he is unable to replace the imam with someone who seeks it, for even he cannot find someone who fulfills its conditions. Which of his states is better; to say that the judges are dismissed, appointments are invalid, marriages are annulled, all the decrees of the governors everywhere in the world are unenforceable, and all of mankind are [on the verge of] engaging in what is unlawful [ḥarām]; or to say that, based on the current state and necessity, the imamate is valid and the decrees and appointments are enforceable?”

[1] This is a ḥadīth. It is reported by Ibn Maja, Sunan, XXXVII.9, No. 414; and Tirmidhi, al-Jāmi‘ al-Ṣaḥīḥ, XXXVII.34, No. 2347

[Al-Ghazali’s Moderation in Belief: Al-Iqtiṣād fi al-I‘tiqād, translated by A M Yaqub, Unviersity of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2013, pp. 229-231 and 234 (some words in square brackets have been added)]