Correcting The Rulers – According to the Sunnah and Manhajus Salaf
Source: Imaam Muhammad bin Saleh al-Uthaymeen
Fataawaaa Lil-Aaamireen bil-Ma’roof wan-Naaheen anil-Munkar, and also in Liqaa al-Baab al-Maftooh, 62/39.
Question: Esteemed Shaykh, there is one who says, “To make rejection of the rulers openly is from the manhaj of the Salaf”, and then he uses as evidence the hadeeth of Abu Saeed al-Khudree, in his rejection of Marwaan bin al-Hakam, when he gave the khutbah before prayer, on the day of Eed, and also by his (alaihis salaatu was salaam) saying, “There will be leaders (Umaraa), and so you will see both good in them and bad in them. So whoever hated (that which was bad), then he will be freed (of blame), and whoever rejected (the bad), then he will be safe”. And also by the hadeeth, “The chief of the martyrs is the one who stands in front of a tyrannical leader and then commands and forbids him, and so he (the ruler) kills him”. So is this speech correct? And how can we combine between these authentic narrations and between his (alaihis salaatu was salaam) saying, “Whoever wishes to give advice to the one in authority, then let him not make it open…”?
Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen replied: “This is an important question, but the answer to it is more important in reality, and there is not doubt that showing rejection to evil is obligatory upon everyone who is able to do it, due to the saying of Allaah, the Blessed and Exalted, “Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islâm), enjoining Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful. (Aali Imran 3:104) ”, and the “laam” in His saying, “wal-takun”, is the “laam” of command. And the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) said, “You shall certainly command with good and forbid the evil, and you shall take the hand of the oppressor and you shall make him return to the truth, otherwise Allaah will strike some of you with the hearts of others, then He will curse you, as He cursed them”. Meaning, as He cursed Banee Israa’eel, about whom Allaah said, “Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of Dawûd (David) and ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed (Allâh and the Messengers) and were ever transgressing beyond bounds. They used not to forbid one another from the Munkar (wrong, evildoing, sins, polytheism, disbelief, etc.) which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do.” (Al-Maa’idah 5:78-79)
However, it is obligatory that we know that the Sharee’ah commands in the likes of these affairs have a place, and it is vital that wisdom is adopted. So when we see that rejection (of the evil) openly will put an end to the evil, and that goodness will arise on account of it, then we reject it openly. And when we see that open rejection does not end the evil, and that goodness does not arise on account of it, rather the hatred of the rulers for those who desire goodness and who reject the evil only increases, then the goodness is that we show rejection to this evil in private. And in this manner, are the evidences combined. Hence, the evidences that indicate that rejection is to be shown openly, then it is only in that in which we anticipate some benefit, which is the bringing about of good and ending what is evil. And the evidences that indicate that rejection is to be shown secretly, in private, then that is when open rejection will only lead to an increase in evil, and goodness is not attained by it. So it is obligatory that we advise the rulers, exactly as has come in the text which the questioner has mentioned [“Whoever wishes to give advice to the one in authority, then let him not make it open…”].
And we say that the texts do not falsify each other and nor do they contradict each other. Hence, the rejection is made openly, when there is benefit, and the benefit is that the evil actually ends and that goodness replaces it, and it is done privately, when open rejection does not serve a good purpose, meaning the evil will not stop by it, and nor will goodness replace it. And we know that the rulers cannot ever please all of the people, until even the Imaam of a mosque, he is not able to please all of those who pray behind him. And so some of them will say that he makes the prayer too long, and others will say that he shortens it too much, and others prefer making the prayer earlier, and others prefer for it to be delayed slightly. So this is in reference to the Imaam of a mosque, so how then will it be for the rulers, whose authority is much greater than his (i.e. the Imaam of a mosque).
So when he makes his rejection open against the rulers, then those who hate the unity of the Muslims will actually use him [i.e. to reach their goals]. Hence, is obligatory upon the youth that they look at the texts from all angles, and that they do not give precedence to anything until they look at its results, for the Prophet (alaihis salaatu was salaam) said, “Whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, let him speak good or remain silent”. Hence, make this the scales of balance for yourself in all of your statements, and likewise in all of your actions, and Allaah is the one who gives success.”
Question: O Noble Shaykh, do your previous words concerning the rejection against the rulers mean that it is not permissible to openly reject the evils that are present in the society?
Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen replied: “No. But we are talking about rejection against the rulers, and not about the common evils that are present. So for example, we have common evils amongst us, such as usury, gambling, and insurance (policies) that are found amongst us, then the majority of them amount to gambling. And it is strange that the people have adopted them with acceptance, and you will not find anyone show rejection against them, alongside the fact that Allaah has placed them with intoxicants, and al-Ansaab (idols, statues around which animal sacrifices are made), and al-Azlaam (arrows for seeking luck or a decision). However, the people do not show rejection towards the likes of these things nowadays. Hence, you will not find anyone show rejection towards the likes of these dealings, so you get insurance on your car, or your house, you submit your wealth, and then you do not know whether you will lose most of it, or only a part of it, and this is gambling. So I say, that showing rejection to the common evils present is required and there is no harm in that.
However, our words are concerning rejection against the ruler. Such as when a person stands in a mosque and says, “the state (i.e. government) is unjust”, and “the state did such and such”, and then he speaks about the rulers in this manner, openly, despite the fact that the ones about whom he is speaking are not even present in that gathering. And there is a great difference between the ameer or the haakim about which you desire to speak out against is actually in front of you and between him being absent.
Since, all of the rejections that have been reported from the Salaf, all of them took place in front of the ameer or the haakim himself. Hence, the difference is that when he is present he is able to defend himself, and explain his viewpoint, and he could actually be right and we (the ones who criticise) could actually be wrong. Hence, if you are eager for goodness, then go to him, and face him, and advise him in that which is between you and him.
Question: What is the correct methodology for advising, particularly with regard to advising the rulers? Is it by publicising their evil actions from the mimbars or by advising them in private? I would like to know what the correct methodology is concerning this matter.
Shaykh Saleh al-Fawzan al-Fawzan replied: Infallibility is not for anyone except Allaah’s Messenger saul’lal’laahu’alaihi’wa’sallam. Rulers are humans and they make errors. So no doubt they have errors and mistakes, as they are not infallible. But, do not make their errors a reason for you to publicise them and remove yourself from obeying them, even if they be oppressive and unjust, and even if they be sinful, so long as they do not commit clear kufr. This is what the Prophet saul’lal’laahu’alaihi’wasallam commanded us with. And if they have sins and commit oppression and injustice, then indeed having patience while obeying them keeps the unity, maintains the unification of the Muslims and protects the lands of the Muslims. Furthermore, there are great evils that result from in opposing them and seceding from them, which are greater than the evils that (may) come from them. So there will occur greater evil than that which comes from them in the first place, so long as this evil (on their part) is less than kufr and polytheism.
We are not saying that one should remain silent at the errors that come out from the rulers. No, rather they should be corrected. But they must be corrected in a pure way, by advising them privately and writing to them in private. By writing to them, we don’t mean that which is written down, passed through the hands of a group of individuals and then spread amongst people. This is not permissible. Rather a confidential letter should be written, in which there is advice and handed over to the ruler or read to him orally.
As for a letter that is written, then photocopied, then distributed to the people, then this act is not permissible because it is publicising (his errors) and it is just like speaking against him from the mimbar. In fact it is worse, because it is possible for a person to forget a speech, but as for a written letter, it remains and passes through hands. So this is not from the truth.
The Prophet saul’lal’laahu’alaihi’wasallam said:
“The Religion is sincerity (advice). The Religion is sincerity (advice). The Religion is sincerity (advice).” We said: “To who, O Messenger of Allaah?” He saul’lal’laahu’alahi’wasallam said: “To Allaah, His Book, His Messenger, the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk.” [Muslim (55)] And in the hadeeth, it states: “Verily Allaah is pleased with three things for you and He is displeased with three things for you. He is pleased that you (1) worship Him and not associate anything (in worship) with Him; and that (2) you hold tight onto the Rope of Allaah, all of you together, and not be divided; and that (3) you mutually advice he whom Allaah gives authority of your affairs.” [Ahmed (2/367), Malik in Al-Muwatta (2/756)]
The people most fitting and qualified to advice the rulers are the Scholar, the members of legal and consultative decisions, and those responsible for making decisions and problems-solving. Allaah says:
“And when there comes to them some matter concerning (public) security or fear, they propagate it (to the people). But if only they would have referred it to the Messenger and those in authority amongst them, the proper investigators would have understood it from them (directly). And had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allaah upon you, you would have followed the Devil, except for a few (from you).” [Soorah an-Nisa:83]
So not everybody is fit to do this. And disseminating and publicising their errors is not from advising at all. Rather, it is from spreading evil and wickedness amongst those who believe. And it is not from the methodology of the Salaf as-Salih, even if the intention of the one who does it may be good and pure, such as for the sake of forbidding an evil, according to his view. However, what he did is greater evil than that which he is forbidding. Therefore, forbidding an evil may be evil in itself if it is done in a way other than what Allaah and His Messenger have legislated. This is since this person has not followed the legislated way of the Prophet, which he described when he said: “Whoever amongst you sees an evil, then let him change it with his hand. But if he is not able to, then with his tongue. And if he is not able to, then with his heart, and this is the weakest of Faith.” [Muslim (49)]
So Allaah’s Messenger saul’lal’laahu’alaihi wasallam divided people into three categories: Amongst them is he who is able to terminate the evil with his hand, and he is the one in authority, such as the ruler and those entrusted with authority, such as committees, governors and leaders. The second type is the Scholar who because he has no authority, forbids (evil) by explaining and advising with wisdom and fair admonition, and by advising those in authority in a wise manner. The third category consists of those who have no knowledge or authority. They should forbid the evil with their hearts, by hating it and by hating and withdrawing away from those who do it.
Source: Beneficial Answers to Questions on innovated Methodologies p50-55
Allaah says: “O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger and those who are in authority amongst you”. [An-Nisaa (4):59]
Hudhaifah (radhi’Allaahu’anhu) reports that the Messenger of Allaah (saul’lallaahu’alaihi wasallam) said: “There will come leaders who will not follow my guidance and will not follow my Sunnah. There will be amongst them men who will have the hearts of devils in the bodies of humans” He (Hudhaifah) asked: “What shall I do O Messenger of Allaah if I reach that? He replied: “You should hear and obey the ruler even if he flogs your back and takes your wealth, then still hear and obey”. [Muslim]
From Musnad of Imaam Ahmad (3/404) from the narration of Iyyad bin ghanam that the Messenger of Allaah saul’lal’laahu’alaihi wasallam said:
“Whoever has some advice for the leader, then let him not speak it out in public. Rather, let him take his hand and sit in privacy with him. So if he accepts it, then he accepts it, and if he doesn’t, then he has performed what is required of him and what is for him.”
Imam Ahmad on Rebelling against Rulers
Abul-Hârith Ahmad b. Muhammad Al-Sâ`igh, the close and respected friend of Imâm Ahmad, reports:
I asked Abû ‘Abdillâh (Imâm Ahmad) about something that had occurred in Baghdâd, and [because of which] some people were considering revolting [against the ruler]. I said, “O Abû ‘Abdillâh, what do you say about taking part in the revolt with these people?” He decried it and started saying, “Subhânallâh! The blood [of the people], the blood [of the people]! I do not believe in this and I do not tell others to do it. For us to suffer our situation in patience is better than the fitnah (tribulation) in which blood is spilt, property is taken, and the prohibited are violated (e.g. the honor of women). Do you not know what happened to the people (in the days of the previous fitnah)?” I said, “And the people today, Abû ‘Abdillâh, are they not in fitnah [because of the ruler]?” He replied, “If so, it is a limited fitnah, but if the sword is raised, the fitnah will engulf everything and there will be no way to escape. To suffer patiently this [current difficulty], where Allâh keeps your religion safe for you is better for you.” I saw him decry revolting against the leaders, and say, “[Do not spill the people’s] blood. I do not believe in this and I do not command it.” Abû Bakr Al-Khallâl, Al-Sunnah article 89.
Upon the understanding & methodology of the early Muslims