In your discussion of Khaleefah you have clearly illustrated the attitude of perseverance in response to a corrupt rule. The main reason behind the injunctions of the Prophet in this regard, it seems, is because any law is better than anarchy. This begs the question of what if a revolution is supported by the majority of people and a new rule can replace the old with very little bloodshed. Would it not find preference in the spirit of the Qur’an and the Sunnah?
According to the Qur’an, the collective affairs of the Muslims should be decided through the principle of consultation between them. The Qur’an (Al-Shura 42:38) clearly states:
وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ
And their affairs are based on their mutual consultation.
Some of the important corollaries of the above stated directive are as under:
All the collective affairs of the Muslims – whether it be the appointment or the removal of the rulers, the promulgation of any laws or the official interpretation and application of the directives of the Shari’ah relating to the collectivity of the Muslims – should be decided through consultation between the Muslims;
If there exists a difference of opinion in any collective matter, then the opinion of the majority would prevail. This actually means that no individual or group can be given a veto power in deciding about the collective affairs of the Muslims. This is precisely what the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said in the words: فإذا رأيتم اختلافا فعليكم بالسواد الأعظم (When you see a difference of opinion [concerning collective matters], you must adhere to [the opinion of] the majority group)1
No Muslim can be deprived of his right of expressing his opinion in the collective affairs and neither should he be forced or coerced into giving any opinion;
In view of these obvious corollaries of the verse, it is quite clear that the approved government, according to this directive is the one, which enjoys the support of the majority of the Muslim citizens. Furthermore, it is also obvious from the foregoing explanation that if a government has lost the support of the majority of its Muslim citizens – while the system of government is based on the principle of consultation and the rule of the majority – then, obviously, the government would be removed through the same principle of consultation. Under such circumstances, no revolutionary movement would be required. The government shall be removed and a new government appointed, while remaining within the framework of the law of the land, merely through consultation (election).
However, if the political system of a Muslim state, contrary to the referred directive of the Qur’an, is not based on the principle of consultation (majority rule), which implies that it is a despotic and a tyrannical government, even then the Qur’an has directed the Muslims to remain obedient to it. The Qur’an (Al-Nisa 4:59) says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّـهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ ۖ
Believers, obey Allah, obey His messengers and those in charge of affairs from among you.
This verse has clearly directed the Muslims to obey those, who – from among them – are made in charge of their collective affairs. There are, however two exceptions, to this directive of apparently unconditional obedience toward the rulers:
The first exception – which is inherent – in the stated directive is that if the ruler directs a Muslim to do something, which entails disobedience toward any of the directives of God, then a Muslim must not obey his ruler in that particular case. Clarifying this exception, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:
لا طاعة لمخلو قي معصنة (مسند أحمد بن حنبل، رقم ١٩٧٣٥)
No one deserves obedience in a matter, which entails disobedience toward God. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, No. 19735)
The second exception to the directive of stated directive is that as long as the rulers do not openly forsake Islam, they should be obeyed. The words ‘from among you’ in the referred verse – “and those in charge of affairs from among you” – indicate that as long as the rulers fulfill the condition of being ‘from among Muslims’, God has directed the Muslims to remain obedient to them. Thus, as a corollary, if the rulers forsake Islam and thereby do not remain ‘from among Muslims’, it would no longer remain obligatory upon Muslims to obey them. This is precisely what the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said in the following words:
وأن لا ننازع الأمر أهله إلا أن تروا كفرا بواحا عندكم من الله فيه برهان (بخاري، كتاب الفتن، رقم ٦٥٣٢)
And that we shall not try to snatch away the powers from those who are in charge, except in a case where you see an open and clear rejection [of Islam] on their part; a rejection against which you have clear evidence from God.
Thus, organizing and promoting a political revolution (mutiny) against a despotic and tyrannical ruler would be against the directives of the Shari’ah, except in the case where the ruler clearly and openly forsakes Islam.
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, we may derive that according to the directives of the Shari’ah, organizing and promoting a political revolution against the rulers is absolutely forbidden, except in a situation where:
A change in the rulers cannot be brought about through the principle of consultation (or elections based on majority votes); in other words, where the rule is despotic and tyrannical; and
The ruler is guilty of openly and clearly forsaking Islam; and
The person striving for the change enjoys clear and undoubted majority of the citizens of the state in question.
The first and the third condition is based on Al-Shooraa 42: 38, while the second condition is based on Al-Nisa 4:59 (and the referred saying ascribed to the Prophet).
It should, however, remain clear that even after the fulfillment of the three stated conditions, it is only allowed to organize and promote a movement of political change; under no circumstances does the Shari’ah make it obligatory upon the Muslims to organize, promote or even take part in such a movement of political change.
Finally, in case any movement of political change and revolution entails a chance of an armed conflict with the present rulers of a Muslim state then a fourth condition would be added to the aforementioned three conditions. This fourth condition is that of independent rule, which is an essential condition, in the Shari’ah, for Qitaal (i.e. armed conflict). Thus, in such conditions, the person organizing the said movement should already possess authority and rule in a piece of land, before he can lawfully involve himself in an armed conflict against an established rule.
I hope the above would clarify my understanding of the directives of the Shari’ah in this respect.
December 26, 2000
- Ibn Maajah, Kitaab al-Fitan, No. 3940. [↩]