Ibn Hajar on the Sin of Living without a Caliph (Imam)

final caliph

The following is a hadith related by Bukhārī:

Abu Rajā’ related from Ibn ‘Abbās that the Prophet ﷺ said: “If someone dislikes what his Amir does, he should be patient. Anyone who separates himself from the Sultan even a hand’s breadth will die the death of al-jāhilīyyah.”*
(Kitāb al-Fitan, Chapter 2)

Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī explains the meaning of the phrase مات ميتة جاهلية:
“To die as those who died in the pre-Islamic period of Ignorance (al-jāhilīyyah) means the state of death: to die in a state of misguidance with no Imam [Caliph] to obey, as the inhabitants of that era had no such kind of ruling. The hadith doesn’t mean that the Muslim will die as a kāfir but as a disobeying Muslim. This Hadith has possible definitions: To resemble between the state of death between the disobeying Muslim and the Jāhil, even if the Muslim was not in reality a Jāhil; or, to frighten and reprimand, and this meaning is not the apparent one… Ibn Baṭṭāl said: this hadith is an argument to not disobey the Sultan even if he is wronged. The scholars agreed unanimously on the obligation of obeying the empowered Sultan and (engaging in) jihad under his commandment. As well the scholars consider that obeying the Sultan is better than disobeying him as this act prevents bloodshed and mitigates the masses.”
[Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) commentary on hadith #7053]

*cf.: “Whosoever dies without a bay‘ah (pledge of allegiance to a caliph) on his neck dies the death of al-jāhilīyyah.” [Hadith in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Nafi]

And

“Whosoever dies without an Imam dies the death of al-jāhilīyyah.
[Musnad Abu Dawud 259, Sahih Ibn Hibban 10/434, Mu’jam Al-Kabir, Tabarani 19/388, Musnad Ahmad 61/5, Sharh Al-Maqasid 4/239, al-Haythami in Majma’ az-Zawa’id 5/228]