Is it permissible to rebel against an oppressive administration?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The scholars of the Ahl as-Sunnah unanimously agree on the necessity of electing heads of state from among those who are just, who have power and who are competent at administrative, political and military affairs. Obedience to the heads of state who are elected in this way is wajib according to the opinions of the all scholars.

However, the scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah also consider it necessary to obey the heads of state who have come to power by force and oppression, regardless of whether they are worthy or not,

It is because rebellion against the authority of the state leads to great mischief and evil. It is well known that it is extremely difficult to close the door to the disintegration, turmoil and anarchy that arise from rebellion. Sometimes this chaos can even cost the lives of nations and states.

Our Prophet (pbuh) attached great importance to the peace and tranquility, unity and solidarity of the believers, and advised his ummah not to rebel against the oppression and pressure that may come from the heads of state so as not to disturb the public order.

The following hadith reported from Hudhayfa sheds light on this issue:

“After me, there will be rulers who do not follow my right path and do not act in accordance with my Sunnah.”

“What should I do if I reach them, o Messenger of Allah?” I asked. He answered as follows:

“Listen and obey. Even if your back is beaten and your property is taken away, still listen and obey.” (Taj, III/44-45)

NOT REBELLING DOES NOT MEAN CONSENTING TO OPPRESSION

The advice of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to his ummah to respond to injustice and harm from rulers with patience is not aimed at calling them to submit to oppression; on the contrary, it is aimed at avoiding greater oppression and harm that could undermine the integrity of the state and nation through rebellion.

It is known that the Quran strictly forbids not only oppression, but also even the slightest inclination and consent to oppression. In this respect, it is absurd to think that the order of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) to obey oppressive rulers means consenting to oppression. Nor should this order be considered as an obstacle to working for the elimination of oppression. There may be opportunities, favorable conditions and legitimate ways to eliminate oppression even in obedience. However, if, despite all efforts, no legitimate remedy can be found in obedience to eliminate oppression, sacrificing one’s personal and private rights for the welfare of the general public and for the benefit of the common good is a mature behavior expected of a considerate and reasonable Muslim.

HARMS OF REBELLION

According to another narration reported from Ibn Abbas (ra), the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Whoever sees that something the emir has done is bad, let him be patient (and not act in rebellion). Whoever deviates one cubit from obedience to the sultan will die with the death of Jahiliyya.” (Bukhari, Kitabul-Fitan)

Hadith Professor Kamil Miras explains this hadith as follows:

“Our Prophet (pbuh), who was supported by divine revelation, saw and knew through the light of prophethood, i.e., the revelation of Allah Almighty, that some of the rulers, who bore the responsibility of the public, would act illegally. In the face of this situation, he advised Muslims to act with patience and calmness and to avoid rebellion. And he said, ‘Whoever becomes impatient and deliberately leaves the sultan, who bears the responsibility of the people, that is, the head of the state representing the national authority, and the Islamic Ummah, will die with the death of Jahiliyya.’ It means, ‘He will die as a rebellious member of an ignorant nation without a head and without social order.’ Otherwise, it does not mean that he will die as an unbeliever.”

Since the preservation of the integrity of the homeland, the protection of honor and chastity, the safety of property and life are all based on the existence and continuation of the state, the Prophet (pbuh) advised obedience insistently. He strongly prohibited Muslims from all kinds of rebellion and mischief, divisions and separatism.

Many nations that did not comprehend the wisdom and benefit of obedience lost the blessing of the state, one of the greatest gifts of God Almighty; and they could not maintain their unity, integrity and independence. There are many examples of it in history.

IF THE HEAD OF STATE COMMANDS DISOBEDIENCE TO ALLAH...

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

“Do not obey a servant related to something that includes rebellion against (disobedience to) Allah. Obedience is in question only in good things.”

The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in another hadith:

“Emirs will be appointed over you, and you will find them doing good as well as bad deeds. The one who hates their bad deeds is absolved from blame. The one who disapproves of their bad deeds is (also) safe (so far as Divine wrath is concerned). However, the one who approves of their bad deeds and imitates them (is doomed).” (Sahih Muslim).

All mujtahids, mujaddids and other Islamic scholars consider disobedience and rebellion to be completely separate. They never obeyed anyone when it was contrary to Allah’s command. However, they never attempted or encouraged rebellion. On the contrary, they did not spare their efforts and endeavors to prevent the believers from rebellion and hence set an example for all Muslims in this regard.

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