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)