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]

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)]

‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq’s Secular Heresy and the Orthodox Response

“In 1925, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq (1888-1966), brother of Mustafa, published a work on Islam and the bases of political authority. Like his brother, he had studied at the Azhar and had then come to Europe, but to Oxford and not Paris…The immediate problem with which ‘Abd al-Raziq is concerned is that of the caliphate. In 1922, after the revolution of Mustafa Kemal, the Turkish National Assembly had abolished the sultanate and set up a shadow-caliphate with spiritual powers only; in 1924 they abolished that as well.” [Hourani, Albert, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983, p. 183]

‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq wrote:

“The truth is that the Muslim religion is innocent of this institution of the caliphate such as it is commonly understood by Muslims. It is innocent of all the apparel of seduction and intimidation, and the pomp of force and power with which they surrounded the institution of the caliphate. This institution has nothing in common with religious functions, no more than the judiciary and the other essential functions and machinery of power and state. All these functions are purely political; they have nothing to do with religion. Religion neither admits nor denies them. It neither orders nor forbids them. It simply leaves them to our free choice so that we will have recourse to rational judgement in their regard and base our judgement on the experience of nations and the rules of politics” [‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq, al-Islam wa usul al-hukm (Islam and the Bases of Power), translated in Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives, edited by Donohue, John J. and Esposito, John L., New York, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 36]

Continuing with the excerpts from Albert Hourani’s book:

“ ‘Abd al-Raziq’s book aroused a violent storm, and the consequences for him were serious. It was refuted and denounced by Muslim thinkers of another complexion, and formally condemned by a council of the leading ‘ulama’ of the Azhar. In their judgment they refuted, by quotations from the Quran and hadith, seven propositions contained, or so they claimed, in ‘Abd al-Raziq’s work; and they pronounced the author unfit to hold any public function…”

“Once critic of the book, Rashid Rida, declared it was the latest attempt of the enemies of Islam to weaken and divide it from within, and another, Muhammad Bakhit, maintained that what non-Muslims said of Islam should never be accepted, and above all what they said about the caliphate, ‘the fearful ghost which, if the bravest man in Europe saw it even in his sleep, would cause him to rise in fear and panic’. [72] ‘Abd al-Raziq, he asserted, had accepted the historical thesis of Sir Thomas Arnold in preference to the whole consensus of Islamic thought; and he set himself, in great detail and at enormous length, to refute the author’s interpretation of Muslim history and cast doubt on his knowledge and understanding of the sources. He produced much evidence to refute the idea that there was no organized government in the Prophet’s [] time, and that the Prophet [] never taught his people about political organization [73], and to prove that there was as nearly a complete ijma’ on the necessity of some sort of imamate as there was on any question of doctrine.” [74]

“There was a still graver charge against the book, made by the  ‘ulama’ in their judgment and elaborated by Shaykh Bakhit. By implication, ‘Abd al-Raziq’s thesis attacked the whole system of Islamic doctrine in one of its two bases: the theory of prophecy. Muslim theologians had always taught that, while some prophets were sent into the world to reveal a Book only, that is to say, reveal a truth about God and the world, others were sent also to reveal a law, a system of morality derived from the Book, and to execute it; and that, while Jesus was a prophet of the first type, Muhammad [] was one of the second. [75] To execute the law was an essential part of his mission; [76] but this implies that he had political power, and that from the start the Islamic community was a political community. Moreover, since the Book and the law were not given for one generation only but for all time, there must always be someone who exercises political power in the umma:

[Shaykh Bakhit writes:] ‘The Islamic religion is based on the pursuit of domination and power and strength and might, and the refusal of any law which is contrary to its shari‘a and its divine law, and the rejection of any authority the wielder of which is not charged with the execution of its edicts.’ [77]

“If the Prophet was not a political leader, and if the umma was not a political umma, then either there was no Prophet and no umma, or else the conception of them – that is to say, the very essence of Islam – would have to be changed … The careful method of reasoning by analogy, with Quran  and hadith as its premises, the consensus which was both the product and the guardian of the process: all this had been rejected by ‘Abd al-Raziq, and in its place he had put the reason, fantasy and passion of the individual mind:

‘He has relied … on intellectual sophistry, suppositions and poetical proofs, although these matters which he denies, and of which he denies the proofs, are matters of jurisprudence and law, into which one cannot plunge with the intellect alone, and in regard to which tthere is no alternative but to rely on the Quran, the Sunna, the ijma’, or reasoning by analogy.’ [78]

“…The danger, in Bakhit’s view, was not theoretical only. In the last analysis, what ‘Abd al-Raziq was saying was that there was no such thing as the Shari‘a. But if there was no Shari‘a, no law standing above the government, then there was no political society in the true sense, and the umma would dissolve into anarchy. Men need a regulator and governor who will keep them within their due limits, prevent oppression and do justice, and to manage their worldly affairs by their own reason and knowledge, their interests and desires, for that would simply mean the domination of the strong over the weak and the end of individual security.” [80]

[Hourani, Albert, op. cit., pp. 188-191]

(72) Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti‘i, Haqiqat Islam wa usul al-hukm, p. 43

(73) Ibid., pp. 113ff., 298ff

(74) Ibid., p.33

(75) Ibid., p.293

(76) Ibid., p. 238

(77) Ibid., p. 294

(78) Ibid., p. 3

(80) Ibid., p. 352abdelraziq

Post Script: the following is from Ibn Kathir’s tafsir of the Qur’an, volume 3, p. 202:

“Do they then seek the judgement of (the days of) ignorance? And who is better in judgement than Allah for a people who have firm faith?” [Translated Meaning of Al-Qur’an 5:50]

Allah criticizes those who ignore His commandments which include every type of righteous good thing and prohibit every type of evil, but they refer instead to opinions, desires and customs that people themselves invented, all of which have no basis in His religion. During the time of Jahiliyyah, the people used to abide by the misguidance and ignorance that they invented by sheer opinion and lusts. The Tatar (Mongols) abided by the law that they inherited from their king Genghis Khan who wrote Al-Yasiq for them. This book contains some rulings that were derived from various religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Many of these rulings were derived from his own opinion and desires. Later on, these rulings became the followed law among his children, preferring them to the Law of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Therefore, whoever does this, he is a disbeliever who deserves to be fought against, until he reverts to Allah’s and His Messenger’s decisions, so that no law, minor or major, is referred to except by His Law. Allah said:

“Do they then seek the judgement of (the days of) ignorance?”

Meaning, they desire and want this and ignore Allah’s Judgement.

“And who is better in judgement than Allah for a people who have firm faith?”

Who is more just in decision than Allah for those who comprehend Allah’s Law, believe in Him, who are certain that Allah is the best among those who give decisions and that He is more merciful with His creation than the mother with her own child? Allah has perfect knowledge of everything, is able to do all things, and He is just in all matters.

[End of quote from Ibn Kathir’s commentary of the Qur’an]