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RIGHTS OF LEADERS AND IMAAM AHMAD'S LAGACY





By
Ibn Abdillah As-sudaisiy Al-Iloori

If we submit ourselves to righteous scholars, with time, those scholars would be able to flush ignorance from our heads and put knowledge in them by Allah's Will. But when we are lazy towards seeking knowledge and sitting with scholars and students of knowledge حفظهم الله, we deprive ourselves a lot of benefits in this world and the hereafter. Apart from that, anyone who decides to be talking on religious affairs without adequate knowledge, his misguidance would increase and a lot of ignorant people who rely on him for religious verdicts and admonitions would be misled. 

Imam Ahmad رحمه الله was one of the prominent scholars of Islam who stood his ground on the principle of not criticizing leaders openly or addressing their faults in public. He condemned rebellion against the constituted authority. This principle is based on the injunctions of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in several hadiths. Imam Ahmad رحمه الله mentioned this golden principle in the note he dictated to his students, "Usul us Sunnah". Scholars who explain this aspect of the book stress the need for us to always give leaders their due regard even if they are corrupt and unjust. Imam Ahmad رحمه الله said in the book:

ومن خرج على الإمام من أئمة المسلمين- كان الناس عليهم اجتمعوا عليه وأقروا له بالخلافة, بأي وجه كان بالرضا أو بالغلبة_ فقد شق هذا الخروج عصا المسلمون وخالف الآثر عن رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وسلم) فإن مات الخارج عليه مات ميتة جاهلية

"Anyone who rebels against any of the leader of the Muslims, and the people had agreed to his leadership and confirms his being a leader in any form of it, whether by affirmation of his leadership with pleasure or by him overpowering them, the person who has rebelled has broken the staff of the Muslims and has acted against the narrations that has been reported from the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم. If the rebel dies on it, he dies in the manner people died in the time of ignorance" [pg 66, Sharh Usul us Sunnah]

Sheikh Rabee' حفظه الله explained this matter clearly in his sharh. The book Sharh us Sunnah of Imam al Barbahaaree رحمه الله was influenced by 'Usul us Sunnah' of Imam Ahmad and he said something similar to what the Imam said. Sheikh Saalih Ibn Fawzaan حفظه الله did the sharh of 'Sharh us Sunnah' and he explained this matter in a detailed manner. And our beloved brother and teacher, Abu Naasir Ibrahim Abdulrauf حفظه الله also explained this matter clearly to our understanding in his series of lectures on the book 'Usul Sunnah'. The lenght and breadth of their explanations is that: if anyone becomes a leader of Muslims by any means (whether legitimate or illegitimate), he enjoys all the rights and privileges of a leader under the shari'ah. 

Today, in Nigeria, people argue and ask questions on whether our leaders who rule by democracy or military decree, as the case may be also deserve the rights and privileges of a leader of the Muslims. Abu Naasir حفظه الله said: based on the case of al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf رحمه الله, if someone who kills thousands of people to become a leader is accepted by Muslims as their leader under the shari'ah, why would a democratic leader be denied the right under the shari'ah? A leader who killed people to rise to the position of authority would be accountable to Allah. That is not for us to decide. That judgment is for Allah. If He likes, He would punish for his sins, and if He likes, He can forgive on the Day of Judgment. Our own is to give allegiance to whomever emerges the leader of the people in a given community that includes the Muslims. 

The leader of the Muslims is someone who Muslims have agreed that he is their leader, whether they are pleased with him being their leader or not. As Muslims with considerable understanding of the shari'ah, we do not like democracy because it is a system that contradicts the shari'ah in many different ways. For instance, in Nigeria, the democratic constitution makes it very hard for us to implement the Islamic criminal justice. That is a great democratic impediment to shari'ah. But the fact that we are not pleased with the system of government doesn't remove the fact that the President of Nigeria and the State Governors are our leaders because majority of Muslims have given allegiance to them already. So, anyone who fails to give allegiance to them is a rebel. We are to listen to them and obey them in so far as they do not order us to go against the injunctions of Allah. 

We do not love democracy as a system of government, but we have no choice than to remain patient and endure till the help of Allah comes. In some other climes, those who rule them are monarchs and almost all the Muslims in that society have submitted to their leadership. Other Muslims in that society must submit to the monarch whether they like monarchy as a system of government or not. Muslims must also follow, obey and refrain from rebelling against it whether the leader is just not not. 

This was the same thing Ustadh Abdulkabir Al-Asfar explained  to us in one of his Facebook posts recently. It was narrated that Allah's Apostle صلىالله عليه وسلم said: "You will see after me, selfishness (on the part of other people) and other matters that you will disapprove of." They asked, "What do you order us to do, O Allah's Apostle? (under such circumstances)?" He said, "Pay their rights to them (to the rulers) and ask your right from Allah." [Saheeh Bukhari]

Usaid bin Hudair رضي الله عنه also narrated that a man came to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and said, "O Allah's Apostle! You appointed such-and-such person and you did not appoint me?" The Prophet said, 

"After me you will see rulers not giving you your right (but you should give them their right) and be patient till you meet me." [Saheeh Bukhari]

Therefore, Muslims must respect leaders and obey them in matters that do not tamper with rights of Allah. This is the position of the Ahlu Sunnah wal Jamaa'ah that we should stand on. We must avoid use of emotions in matters that are already settled by past scholars whose generations are not too far from that of the best three generations of Muslims. Imam Ahmad also said: 

ولا يحل قتال السلطان, ولا الخروج عليه لأحد من الناس فمن فعل ذالك فهو مبتدع على غير السنة والطريق

"And it is not permissible to fight the leader (or authority), and he shouldn't be rebelled against by anyone among the people, then, whoever does this, he is an innovator who is upon what is not sunnah and the (true) path" [pg 66, Sharh Usul us Sunnah]

This makes us understand the gravity of rebelling against leaders in whatever form. Ibn 'Abbas رضي الله عنه narrated a hadith, reported in Saheeh Bukhari that the Prophet said, 

"Whoever notices something which he dislikes done by his ruler, then he should be patient, for whoever becomes separate from the company of the Muslims even for a span and then dies, he will die as those who died in the Pre-lslamic period of Ignorance (as rebellious sinners). (Fateh-Al-Bari page 112, Vol. 16) 

Sheikh Rabee' حفظه الله said, the act of rebelling against leaders or making inflammatory public statements against them is against concrete texts from the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. The Sheikh said even if the leader of a nation where Muslims reside is a Kaafir, he is not to be rebelled against except we have the power and strength (army) to fight him, and there is maslahah (benefit) in doing so, and there is no imminent danger in doing it. We need to understand all these important points so that we don't go about misleading the people. In a straight forward hadith, Az-Zubair bin 'Adi رضي الله عنه narrated that they went to Anas bin Malik رضي الله عنه and complained about the wrong they were facing at the hand of Al-Hajjaj. Anas bin Malik رضي الله عنه said,

"Be patient till you meet your Lord, for no time will come upon you but the time following it will be worse than it. I heard that from the Prophet." [Saheeh Bukhari]

The exception to the general of obeying leaders in their commandments is when they order us to do what is against the wish of Allah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم. Even in this situation, we are only to refuse to do what they order us to do against the wish of Allah. Our not obeying them in this area should not lead to revolting against them, it should not lead to rebelling against them and it should not lead to criticizing them in public to incite the people against them. Imam Ahmad رحمه الله practised this principle when he was instructed to say that the Qur'an is a creature of Allah and not His words, he refused to say it because the Qur'an is not created by Allah, it is indeed the words of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. This is a fundamental issue of 'aqeedah and Imam Ahmad decided not to compromise it. 

On this matter alone, Imam Ahmad رحمه الله was imprisoned and punished severely for several years. Yet he stood his ground. He knew the dangerous implication of following the instructions of the leaders in this matter. He could have just said what he was asked to say by the tongue, while it was still firm in his heart that the Qur'an is not created, but words of Allah. But he knew he was a role model for coming generations and if he didn't stand on his point, some people might later apply the principle wrongly.

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