Going Against Unjust Muslim Rulers

Going Against Unjust Muslim Rulers


I have a question regarding the following Hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari. Could you please elaborate on what is considered OPEN Kufr? For example, in our countries the leaders have allowed usury and are implementing secular laws against the ayaat of the Qur’an, also we see our leaders allowing the use of Muslim lands and air space by the U.S. to kill Iraqis – is this “Open Kufr”?

Narrated Junada bin Abi Umaiya: We entered upon ‘Ubada bin As-Samit while he was sick. We said, “May Allah make you healthy. Will you tell us a Hadith you heard from the Prophet and by which Allah may make you benefit?” He said, “The Prophet called us and we gave him the Pledge of allegiance for Islam, and among the conditions on which he took the Pledge from us, was that we were to listen and obey (the orders) both at the time when we were active and at the time when we were tired, and at our difficult time and at our ease and to be obedient to the ruler and give him his right even if he did not give us our right, and not to fight against him UNLESS WE NOTICED HIM HAVING OPEN KUFR for which we would have a proof with us from Allah.”


In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

The great Hadith expert (hafidh), Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him) states in his monumental commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari, Fath al-Bari in the explanation of this very Hadith:

“The meaning of “open Kufr” is “clear and apparent” and the meaning of “having a proof from Allah” is a clear text of the Qur’an or an authentic Hadith both of which are unambiguous and not subject to speculation (ta’wil). Therefore, it is not permissible to go against the leader as long as his action is open to interpretation.

Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) said:

“The meaning of kufr here is “sin”, meaning one should not object to the actions of the rulers unless they carry out clear and open transgression, and which is contrary to the general principles of Islam.”

Others have said:

“The ruler’s leadership should not be challenged unless he commits Kufr or a grave sin, in which case, it should be condemned without using any violence. Also, this ruling is when one is capable of doing so.”

Ibn Teen narrates from al-Dawudi:

‘The scholars have stated that if one is able to remove a transgressing leader/ruler, without causing any Fitnah and oppression, then he should be removed, otherwise it is necessary to be patient.” ( See: Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, Vol.13, P.11/12).
From the above excerpt of Imam Ibn Hajr, it becomes clear that there are certain conditions and guidelines in order to challenge a transgressing authority. The ‘kufr’ mentioned in the Hadith must be something which is absolute and crystal clear. If it is open to interpretation, then to challenge authority would not be permissible. Also, one must ensure there is no fear of fitnah, and that one is able to do so.

If one is unable to challenge the ruler in the above manner, then it would be necessary to be patient.

Muslims living in the west will also be obliged to abide by the laws of the country as long as it is not in contradiction to the Shariah.

Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “It is necessary upon a Muslim to listen to and obey the ruler in things he likes and dislikes, as long as he is not ordered to carry out a sin. If he is commanded to commit a sin, then there is no adherence and obedience.” (Sunan Tirmidhi)

Therefore, it is necessary on us that we abide by the laws of the country we live in, regardless of the nature of the law, as long as it does not contradict the Shariah.

For example, the law says that one must stop the car when the traffic light is red, or the speed limit on a highway is 70 mph, etc… Now, this law is also binding on us from an Islamic perspective. The one who violates this will be sinful according to Shariah also.

However, if the law demands something which is against Shariah, then it will be necessary to abstain from doing it. The Hadith says:

“There is no obedience of any creation wherein there is disobedience to the Creator.” (Musnad Ahmad)

In order to gain your just right, all means possible may be exercised, as long as no harm is caused to other people. If all the Muslims refuse to adhere to a particular unjust & unIslamic law, the government will be forced to make concessions for them.

We see many communities (Sikhs for example) that they manage to evade laws that go against their religion. If they can do it, there is no reason why Muslims can’t.

However, one must ensure that this is done with wisdom, precaution and gentleness. We don’t want our actions to be a cause of giving non-Muslims an excuse to attack Islam and Muslims.

And Allah Knows Best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

Question #: 5724
Published: 09/03/2004

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