Ibn Battah* on Obeying and Disobeying the Ruler

As I have stated elsewhere (see here, here, here and here), the classical scholars considered the Caliphate and ruling of such vital importance that they included this topic within their ‘aqīdah (creed) works. The Lebanese academic, Yusuf Ibish, states “there is hardly a book on uṣūl [beliefs] that does not contain, a long or short, discussion of it [the Imamate]” [Yusuf Ibish, The Political Doctrine of Al-Baqillani, Beirut, 1966, pp. 24-25].

The book entitled Al-Ibānah al-Ṣughra [“The Smaller Clarification”] by Ibn Battah (died 387 H/997 CE), is no exception to this. An English translation has recently been published by Dar al-Hady al-Auwal in association with Al-Aqeedah. Relevant extracts pertaining to the Caliphate are detailed below.

Obedience to the Legitimate Caliph

Ibn Battah emphasizes the need to obey the Shari‘ah applying Imam (Caliph) of the Muslims, even if he is unjust. The passages below are of particular importance in this regard:

وقد أجمع العلماء من أهل الفقه والعلم والنساك والعباد والزهاد من أول هذه الأمة إلى وقتنا هذا:

 “And the scholars from the people of jurisprudence, austerity, worship and asceticism, since the beginning of this Ummah until this time of ours agree upon:”

أن صلاة الجمعة والعيدين، ومنى وعرفا والغزو والجهاد والهدي مع كل أمير بر أو فاجر، وإعطائهم

الخراج والأعشار جائز. والصلاة في المساجد العظام التي بنوها والمشي على القناطر والجسور التي

عقدوها، والبيع والشراء وسائر التتارة والصناعة والزراعة كلها في كل عصر، ومع كل أمير جائزة على

جكم الكتاب والسنة، لا يضر المحتاج لدينة والمتمسك بسنة نبيه -صلى الله عليه وسلم- ظلم ظالم،

ولا جور جائر إذا كان ما يأتيه هو على جكم الكتاب والسنة. كما أنه لو باع أو اشرعى في زمن

الإمام العادل بيعا يخالف الكتاب والسنة لم ينفعه عدل الإمام والمحاكمة إلى قضائهم، ورفع الحدود

والقصاص وانتزاع الحقوق من أيدي الظلمة لأمرائهم وشرطهم والسمع والطاعة عمن ولوه وإن كان

عبدا حبشيا إلا في معصية الله -عز وجل- فليس لمتلوق فيها طاعة .

 “That the Jumu‘ah and two ‘Īd prayers, Minā, ‘Arafāt, the battles, Hajj and the sacrifice (is performed): with every leader; righteous or wicked. And giving them the kharāj (taxes), the zakāh and the a‘shār (tenths) is allowed.

And praying in the large mosques which they have built, walking upon the passages and bridges which they built, selling and buying, other forms of trade, agriculture and producing, all of these things in every time, and with every leader are allowed according to the judgment of the Book and the Sunnah.

The one who is watchful in his dīn and he adheres firmly to the Sunnah of his Prophet he is not harmed by the injustice of the unjust or the oppression of the oppressors, if that what comes to him (through all of these professions) is according to the judgment of the Book and the Sunnah. Just as if he would sell and buy in the time of a just leader in a trade that opposed the Book and the Sunnah, then the justice of the leader would not benefit him.

And seeking judgment with their judges, referring to them for the punishments, the qisās and the removal of the (people’s) rights from the hands of the oppressors through their leaders and police.

And listening and obeying those whom they have appointed – even if it is an Ethiopian slave – except in the disobedience of Allah ‘azza wa jalla. For there is no obedience to a created being in that (i.e. disobeying Allah).” [Cf. pp. 183-186 of the English translation]

And Ibn Battah also emphasizes the prohibition of raising arms against the (Shari‘ah applying) Muslim Caliph, and that one should exercise patience in the face of injustice instead:

ولا تخرج بالسيف على الأئمة وإن ظلموا

“And do not rebel against the Imams with the sword, even if they are unjust.” [Cf. p. 182]

The following is added as a footnote to this by the translator:

[Imam Ahmad said in “Usūl As-Sunnah” the riwāyah of ‘Abdūs: “And whoever rebels against a leader among the leaders of the Muslim, while the people have united behind him and they have acknowledged the Khilāfah for him – no matter in what way, either being pleased with him or by force – then this rebel has divided the unity of the Muslims, and he has opposed the narrations from the Messenger of Allah . So if the one who rebels against him (i.e. the leader) dies, then he dies the death of jāhiliyyah. And it is not allowed for anyone among the people to fight against the leader, nor to rebel against him. So whoever does this, then he is an innovator who is not upon the Sunnah and the (straight) path.” Narrated by Al-Khallāl (317)]

Also:

وقال عمر بن الخطاب -رضي الله عنه-: إن ظلمك فاصبر، وإن جرمك فاصبر .

“And ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattāb (May Allah be Pleased with him) said: ‘If he is unjust towards you, then have patience. And if he withholds from you, then have patience.’” [Ibid.]

And:

وقال النبي -صلى الله عليه وسلم- لأبي ذر: اصبر وإن كان عبدا حبشيا.

“The Prophet said to Abū Dharr: ‘Have patience, even if he (i.e. the Caliph) is an Ethiopian slave.’” [p.183]

Also:

وقال عمر بن الخطاب -رضي الله تعالى عنه- لسويد بن غفلة: إنك لعلك أن تُخ لَّ ف بعدي، فأطع

الأمير وإن كان عبدًا مُجدَّعًا، إن ظلمك فاصبر، وإن جرمك فاصبر، وإن أ رادك على أمر ينقض دينك

فقل: دمي دون ديني

“And ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattāb (May Allah be Pleased with him) said to Suwayd ibn Ghafalah: ‘You will perhaps live after me, so obey the leader even if he is a mujaddi‘ [i.e. with his nose, ear or lip cut off (translator’s footnote)] slave. If he is unjust towards you, then be patient. And if he withholds from you, then be patient. And if he wants you to do something that breaches your dīn, then say: ‘My blood and not my dīn.’’” [p. 90]

Advising the Rulers

As Ibn Battah notes, it is vital to advise both the ruler and the masses:

ثم من بعد ذلك اعتقاد الديانة بالنصيحة للأئمة وسائر الأمة في الدين والدنيا، ومحبة الخير لسائر

المسلمين، تحب لهم ما تحب لنفسك، وتكره لهم ما تكره لنفسك .

“Then after that:

Believing that it is from the dīn to give naṣīhah (advice that invites to the good and forbids the evil) to the leaders and the rest of the Ummah in both dīn and dunyā. And loving what is good for all Muslims, and you love for them what you love for yourself, and you hate for them what you hate for yourself.” [p. 186]

Disobeying the Ruler in some Circumstances

If the ruler orders us to contravene Islam (or does not implement Islam at all, like the illegitimate leaders of today), then there is no obedience to him. Ibn Battah writes:

وقال محمد بن علي : لا تطيعوا رؤساء الدنيا فينتسخ الدين من قلوبكم .

“And Muhammad ibn ‘Alī said: ‘Do not obey the leaders of dunyā so that Allah will erase the dīn from your hearts.’” [p. 87]

And:

وقال الحسن: سيأتي أمراء يدْعون الناس إلى مخالفة السنة ، فتطيعهم الرعية خوفًا على ذهاب نياهم،

فعندها سلبهم الله الإيمان ، وأوربهم الفقر، ونزع منهم الصبر ، ولم يأجرهم عليه .

“Al-Hasan said: ‘There will come leaders who invite the people to the opposition of the Sunnah. So the subjects will follow them out of fear for the disappearance of their dunyā. At this point Allah will take īmān away from them, let them inherit poverty, take patience away from them and He will not reward them for it.’” [Ibid.]

Also:

وقال الشعبي: إذا أطاع الناس سلطانهم فيما يبتدع لهم، أخرج الله من قلوبهم الإيمان، وأسكنها الرعب.

“And Ash-Sha‘bī said: ‘If the people obey their rulers in what he innovates for them, then Allah will take out the īmān from their hearts, and place fear therein.’” [Ibid.]

And:

وقال يونس بن عبيد: إذا خالف السلطان السنة، وقالت الرعية: قد أُمرنا بطاعته، أسكن الله قلوبهم

الشك، وأوربهم التطاعن .

“Yūnus ibn ‘Ubayd said: ‘If the ruler opposes the Sunnah and the subjects say: ‘We have been commanded to obey him.’ Then Allah will place doubt in their hearts and let them fight each other. ’”[Ibid.]

For more on the subject of obeying and disobeying, please see here.

*‘Ubaydullāh ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Hamdān ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Īsā ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Sa’d ibn ‘Utbah ibn Farqad, Abū ‘Abdillāh Ibn Battah al-‘Ukbarī (an ascription to ‘Ukbara, a small town north of Baghdad).

He was born in the year 304 H.

He was taught knowledge and hadīth from a young age by his father, who was a scholar. He allowed Ibn Battah to travel to Baghdad to gain more knowledge when he was only ten years old. He then travelled well into adult age seeking ‘ilm to Makkah, Ath-Thughur, Basra and other cities before returning to his home town.

Al-Qādī Abū Hāmid Ahmad ibn Muhammad Ad-Daylawī said: “When Abū ‘Abdillāh Ibn Battah returned from travelling he stayed in his house for forty years. So he was not seen even one day in the marketplace. And he was not seen eating, except on the day of Al-Adhā and Al-Fitr. He would command the good a lot, and no information about an evil would reach him, except that he would change it.”

As-Sam’ānī said: “He was from the scholars of the Hanābilah. He wrote many beneficial works.”

Ibn Kathīr said: “He has many books which are filled with the different aspects of knowledge.”

Al-‘Utayqī said: “He was a righteous shaykh, whose invitation was answered.”

Al-Dhahabī said: “Ibn Battah, the Imām, the example, the worshipper, the scholar, the narrator of hadīth and the shaykh of ‘Irāq.”

He also said: “Ibn Battah was from the major scholars who has zuhd (asceticism), fiqh, Sunnah and following.”

He passed away in the year 387 H, aged 83, Rahimahullah.

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