The Ibadi perspective: Rebellion and Oppression A Middle Way

And DO NOT OBEY the order of the transgressors, Who cause corruption in the land and do not amend their ways” (Qur’an 26:151-152)

 

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in the result.” (Qur’an 4:59). 

In this clear verse, we find that in matters of disagreement between those in authority and those under authority, we need to refer back to Allah and the Messenger. Had it been that those in authority were infallible or divinely appointed then, Allah wouldn’t have given any scope to disagree with them.

The fact that there is disagreement proves that “those in authority aka the Ulil Amr”, are neither an absolute nor an infallible authority.

Before we get into this article let it be said that in truth good governance and a stable society are indeed a blessing from Allah (swt). Many of us have the leisure time to read a post like this in relative comfort and safety. The worse thing anyone could want for their government or any other government is chaos and ruin.

 

We should also reflect that there are indeed a very few key components that make for a stable society, regardless of the social-political worldview of that government. Those components are being able to drink clean water and afford food. Being able to afford comfortable housing, and in many places being able to have access to electricity. Another component is the ability of the government (in whatever form it takes) to be able to implement law and order.

If you were to remove three of these five factors, let us say, water, electricity, and the ability to access food for as much as a few days, many countries would quickly descend into chaos.

Therefore indeed a stable government and stable governance is a blessing from Allah (swt).

According to Maslow’s pyramid of hierarchical needs the very basic needs of any human being or group of human beings are psychological and safety needs. To be honest many governments of the world fail to address these very basic needs. Some of them through no fault of their own, such as a devastating natural disaster, and some of them through social engineering and social-economic systems that benefit the few and leave the masses to want.

 

The second aspect of this pyramid is the feeling of belonging and the feeling of self-esteem. Now usually nation-states try and invoke feelings of belongings by nationalism. The feeling of self-esteem presents itself through merit through the education system, feats of valor in military service, and/or sports. However, even then most feelings of self-esteem and prestige come from the privileged group continuing to hold on to their privilege and in usually in today’s market economy where materialistic nihilism is the new spirituality by making oneself feel superior to the next guy.

 

You have a better this. You have more of that. You have greater access to….and so forth. These all give false feelings of accomplishment.

In the last part of Maslow’s pyramid, the feeling of self-actualization is never reached or even encouraged in any government that I am aware of. Often for some people reaching that state of self-actualization and a sense of true freedom and/or awakening means going against the status quo.

So indeed having a stable government is a blessing from Allah (swt). That being said having a government that oppresses itself people, does not allow legal representation, has kangaroo court systems, sends death squads, inquisitors, police, and other people to crush those who have different ideas and world views is not a blessing from Allah (swt).

 

“So stand firm in your devotion to the faith, inclining to truth, [according to] the innate nature Allah has instilled in [all] people. There is no changing Allah’s creation. This is the correct religion, but most people do not know it..” (Qur’an 30:30)

The innate nature (fit’rata)

When your Lord told the angels, “I will place a steward on earth,” they said, “Will you put someone there who will corrupt it and shed blood, while we glorify, praise, and sanctify You?” He said, “I know things you do not know.” (Qur’an 2:30)

 

The English definition of violence is as follows:

behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

strength of emotion or of a destructive natural force.

So we speak of a violent storm or we say that the volcano had a violent eruption.

 

Tariq Ramadan (May Allah have mercy on him) held a debate with Christopher Hitchens on the topic: “Is Islam a Religion of Peace” Which to be honest was a horrible proposition for Tariq Ramadan to debate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMraxhd9Z9Q

@19:50 marks you can see Tariq Ramadan express his reservations about the title for the debate. However, as Christopher Hitchens rightly pointed out he knew the proposition beforehand.

The better title would have been. “Is Islam a Religion of Violence.” Christopher Hitchens could have argued that it is evident whereas Tariq Ramadan could have made his point that Islam deals in war and peace and thus it deals with peace and violence.

@20:50 Tariq Ramadan made the point that Islam deals with humans and has such you deal with violence and you deal with peace.

 

ISLAM REGULATES THE REALITY OF VIOLENCE.

“So stand firm in your devotion to the faith, inclining to truth, [according to] the innate nature Allah has instilled in [all] people. There is no changing Allah’s creation. This is the correct religion, but most people do not know it..” (Qur’an 30:30)

Keep in mind the English definition of violence is as follows:

behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

There is not a creature on this earth even among plants and corals that do not act violently in some way shape or form or have not been given the means to defend themselves from aggression.

Vegans and vegetarians do violence to plants. Insects, fish, and all manner of plants, flora, fauna, and creatures do violence to each other in this world.

Even if we were to witness a Jain in meditation one may not see the battlefield of violence inside the devotee’s body as different types of bacteria unleash violence on other types of bacteria.

I do not think there is a man reading this that if someone was to go into his home and try and rape his mother, daughter, sister, wife, or anyone else that he would put his life on the line to defend that person.

This is natural. Even among animals that try to flee a situation if given no other opportunity, they will stand their ground and fight.

“So stand firm in your devotion to the faith, inclining to truth, [according to] the innate nature Allah has instilled in [all] people. There is no changing Allah’s creation. This is the correct religion, but most people do not know it..” (Qur’an 30:30)

Now let us do some thinking for a moment. Let us look at some passages from the Qur’an.

“And if he [Muhammed] had made up about Us some [false] sayings
We would have seized him by the right hand; Then We would have cut from him the aorta valve.” (Qur’an 69:44-46)

“Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them;[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah.” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” (Qur’an 22:39-40)

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” (Qur’an 2:190)

 

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they are impaled…” (Qur’an 5:33)


A prophet may not take captives until he has thoroughly decimated [the enemy] in the land. You desire the transitory gains of this world, while Allah desires [for you] [the reward of] the Hereafter and Allah is all-mighty, all-wise.” (Qur’an 8:67)

So if you come upon such people in war, make a harsh example of them to deter those coming after them so that hopefully they will pay heed.” (Qur’an 8:57)

 

 

TURN THE OTHER CHEEK?

The closest verse to pacifism or turning of the other cheek that one will find is the following:

And We ordained therein for them: Life for a life, eye for an eye, nose for a nose, ear for an ear, tooth for a tooth, and wounds equal for equal. But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it shall be for him, an expiation. And whosoever does not judge by that which Allah has revealed, such are the wrong-doers.” (Qur’an 5:45)

So in this verse, a person can forgive a wrong that is done to them; however, they are not required to do so.

These verses are only a handful of many many more than can be quoted. This is to ask us all to reflect. Islam a religion that regulates violence. We are commanded to sacrifice animals on certain occasions. Those of us who are magistrates (judges) are commanded to enact the penalties of the Islam penal code on those who transgress the limits. The Blessed Prophet (saw) is threatened with extreme violence if he even were to think of pretending to write something on authority from Allah (swt). Allah (swt) commands Muslims to fight those who fight them, and that some times Allah (swt) uses some people as a means of checks and balance upon the Earth.

HOWEVER…..

When it comes to the leader Islam demands complete and total obedience?

Something seems very off about this.

 

POSITIVE PROOFS THAT WE CAN REBEL AGAINST AN UNJUST LEADER.

First, it should be understood that if there is a dispute among parties that they refer the matter back to the book of Allah (swt). Second, the administration or government deserves admonishment first and foremost. No one group or individual has the right to take any matters into their own hands. 

 

“Do you not see those who have been given a portion of the Book being invited to let Allah’s Book be the judge between them? But then a group of them turn away.” (Qur’an 3:23)

So the first point of reference is to the Qur’an.

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” (Qur’an 2:190)

If two groups of believers should fight each other, then try to reconcile them. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight the oppressing group until it complies with Allah’s command. Once it has complied, make peace between them with justice and be equitable. Allah loves those who are equitable. “ (Qur’an 49:9)

Understanding the first proof:

These two verses together absolutely debunk the idea that Muslims cannot rebel against a leader. It is not reasonable to think that if two groups of believers were fighting each other (with intent to kill) that the leader would not be opposed (if not among one of the two warring factions). Notice that it uses the word ‘believers’ when discussing those who would be fighting (with intent to kill). Also says until it complies with Allah’s command (amri-l-lahi). Notice it does not say until it complies with the uli-l-amri (those that are given authority over you).

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in the result. (Qur’an 4:59). 

Understanding the second proof.

In this clear verse, we find that in matters of disagreement between those in authority and those under authority, we need to refer back to Allah and the Messenger. Had it been that, those in authority were infallible or divinely appointed, or to be given absolute obedience then, Allah (swt) wouldn’t have given any scope to disagree with them.

The fact that there is disagreement proves that “those in authority aka the Uli-l-amri”, are neither an absolute nor an infallible authority, nor are Muslims to submit to their seat of power in all things.

In fact, often those who argue that we should obey the ruler no matter what will use this verse to deceive the masses! They will quote, “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.” However, they do not quote the full verse! Why is that? Because it is proof against them!

 

“People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide; be mindful of Allah, in whose name you make requests of one another. Beware of severing the ties of kinship: Allah is always watching over you. (Qur’an 4:1)


“O you who believe,
do not take your fathers nor brothers as allies if they prefer rejection to belief. And whoever of you takes them as such, then these are wicked.” (Qur’an 9:23) 

 

Understanding the proof.

The proof here is from inference. There can be no greater bonds than that of family, kith and kin. Yet even these blood ties are to be forsaken when our family turns to evil. If this is the case of blood ties how much more to an unjust, impious, or evil ruler?

 

“For that cause, We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it will be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoever saves the life of one, it will be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came to them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterward lo! many of them continued to commit excess on the Earth.” (Qur’an 5: 32)

Understanding the proof.

No commentary, no tafsir that I have ever come across said that the verse above applies to everyone except the Khalif/Sultan/Leader, etc. If there is bring forth the evidence.

If you saved the life of the Khalif/Sultan/Leader it will be as if you saved the life of the whole mankind.

If you took the life of the Khalif/Sultan/Leader unjustly it will be as if you saved the life of the whole of mankind.

Now there are two caveats here the verse tells us.

You can take a life if someone has taken a life unjustly. You can take a life if someone is spreading fasadin (corruption). Who better to spread corruption on the Earth than a corrupt Khalif/Sultan/Leader who is in a position of authority, influence, and power.

The killing of one person from a practical perspective outweighs the millions of lives that can be lost due to a leader who continues to kill and oppress.

 

And that was ‘Aad, who rejected the signs of their Lord and disobeyed His messengers and followed the order of every obstinate tyrant. and they were [therefore] followed in this world with a curse and [as well] on the Day of Resurrection. Unquestionably, ‘Aad denied their Lord; then away with ‘Aad, the people of Hud.” (Qur’an 11:59-60)

Understanding the proof.

Allah (swt) contrary to the hadiths that “Ahl Sunnah” will quote, did not find following the orders of every obstinate tyrant to be something meritorious and praiseworthy but rather something blameworthy and shameful, even to the point of being cursed in this life as well as the life to come! May Allah (swt) protect us from it!

 

And those who, when tyranny strikes them, they defend themselves, Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, whoever pardons and makes reconciliation – his reward is [due] from Allah. Indeed, He does not love the unjust. And whoever avenges himself after having been wronged – those have not upon them any cause [for blame].  The cause is only against the ones who wrong the people and tyrannize upon the earth without right. Those will have a painful punishment. And whoever is patient and forgives – indeed, that is of the matters requiring determination.” (Qur’an 42:39-43)

Understanding the proof.

While this verse has in two places that discuss forgiveness when retaliation is due, it also has two places that mention retribution for injustice and avenging oneself if wronged that this person is not to be blamed.

Now of course this verse is not encouraging vigilante justice or taking matters into one’s own hands. However, this verse is general and it equally applies to anyone in authority. No one understands that this verse excuses an officer, a judge, an imam, or in-person in a position above others, including the Khalif/Sultan/Leader.

Interestingly the word used for tyranny l-baghyu is also used for injustice, rebellion, discord. So it is not that masses who are the only one’s who rebel, but rulers, who do rebellion against Allah (swt) and against their sacred trust and duty towards people.

Now you will note that for us we rely heavily upon the revelation of Allah (swt) for our position and our proofs. Whereas those who differ with us rely heavily upon the oral traditions for their positions and their proofs.

 

PROOF FROM THE ORAL TRADITIONS, COMPANIONS, AND HISTORY OF EARLY MUSLIMS.

 

#1) It should be known clear as day that we follow the Manhaj of the Blessed Prophet (saw) who is reported to have said…

On the authority of Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree (r.a) who said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (swt) say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”

Understanding the proof:

Note that the very first recourse was to change the situation with the hands ……not to abide it with patience, not to run and hide like a coward but to change it with your hands…..first….not last…

Lastly, notice that it says clear as day that hating it with your heart (is the weakest of faith).

 

#2) Also, keep in mind that those who say and claim it is a sin to go against the ruler the well-known exchange between Umar Ibn Al Khattab (r.a) and a companion.

One day Khaleefah Umar bin al-Khattab stood up and delivered a speech in which he said: “O people, whoever among you sees any crookedness in me, let him straighten it.” A man stood up and said: “By Allah if we see any crookedness in you we will straighten it with our swords.” Umar said: “Praise be to Allah Who has put in this ummah people who will straighten the crookedness of Umar with their swords.”

Source: (Dr Muhammad as-Sallabi, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, His Life and Times,’ vol. 1, p. 213)

This is well known.

Umar (r.a) was humble and pious and just. The people had the right to say such statements because people like him and Abu Bakr (r.a) were immense people and great leaders.

However, when the “Ahl Sunnah” started to be ruled by dynasties and oppressors and people who were less than these great men, they made such excuses for them.

Verily, tyrannical rulers will come after me and whoever affirms their lies and supports their oppression has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him, and he will not drink with me at the fountain in Paradise. Whoever does not affirm their lies and does not support their oppression is part of me and I am part of him, and he will drink with me at the fountain in Paradise.” Source: (Sunan An-Nasa’i 4207)

Understanding the proof.

One of the objectives of the Prophets is to establish justice in the land. It is contrary to the teachings of mercy and justice that people should support and affirm the lies of the oppressors.

Attempts to distort what the Blessed Messenger (saw) gave us concerning oppression and rulers.

#3) Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “You should listen to and obey, your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin.”

Source: (Al Bukhari 7142 Book 93, Hadith 6 Vol 9 Book 89 Hadith 256)

https://sunnah.com/bukhari/93/6

“If an Ethiopian slave with a cut off nose and ear were appointed as your ruler, you would have to listen to and obey his orders as long as he rules in accordance with the Book of Allah.Source: (Sunan Ibn Majah 2861)

Understanding the proof.

This hadith puts to bed the idea that “Ahl Sunnah” have first that the ruler can only come from the Quresh. However, notice that this hadith comes to us with a very interesting addition. That we are to under no circumstances to rebel against a leader/ruler/khalif/sultan of any racial/ethnic background as long as that person rules in accordance with the Book of Allah (swt).

 

Narrated ‘Abdullah:

The Prophet said, “A Muslim has to listen to and obey (the order of his ruler) whether he likes it or not, as long as his orders involve not one in disobedience (to Allah), but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed one should not listen to it or obey it. Source: (Al Bukhari Volume 9, Book 89, Number 258 & Hadith No. 203, Vol. 4)

Understanding the proof.

The hadith before this one mentions that we are to obey the ruler as long as they rule in accordance with the Book of Allah (swt). The hadith quoted above states that we are to obey the ruler as long as they do not impose upon those they rule over disobedience to Allah (swt).

So we can see that allegiance to a ruler is conditional upon two points.

a) That this ruler actually rules in accordance with the book of Allah (swt).

b) That this ruler does not impose upon the Muslim disobedience to Allah (swt).

 

#4)

Narrated ‘Ali:

The Prophet sent an army unit (for some campaign) and appointed a man from the Ansar as its commander and ordered them (the soldiers) to obey him. (During the campaign) he became angry with them and said, “Didn’t the Prophet order you to obey me?” They said, “Yes.” He said, “I order you to collect wood and make a fire and then throw yourselves into it.” So they collected wood and made a fire, but when they were about to throw themselves into it, they started looking at each other, and some of them said, “We followed the Prophet to escape from the fire. How should we enter it now?” So while they were in that state, the fire extinguished and their commander’s anger abated. The event was mentioned to the Prophet and he said, “If they had entered it (the fire) they would never have come out of it, for obedience is required only in what is good.” Source: (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 89, Number 259 & hadith No. 629. Vol. 5)

 

Understanding the proof.

This hadith has shown that thankfully the companions were not dimwitted. These people had the intelligence to understand that throwing themselves into fire even though the commander commanded them to do so, that this was something ridiculous. Also again the hadith states that the Blessed Messenger (saw) said, ‘obedience is required only in what is good.’

 

#5) “There is no obedience to the created in the disobedience of the Creator.”

Source: (Ahmad Al-Musnad Vol 1. p. 366, tradition no. 1065, p 372-373, tradition no, 1095, Al-Nasai Al Kubra Vol. 8 p 71 traditions 8667-8668, Mariful Qur’an pg 481 Volume 5)

 

Understanding the proof.

This can be used on many occasions. We are exhorted to obey our parents but they asked us to worship other than Allah (swt) we can refuse them. If a husband asked his wife to do something immoral she can refuse. If the wife asks the husband to do something immoral he can refuse. If a government or any authority asks us to do anything that is in disobedience to Allah (swt) we do not have to obey them.

 

Understanding the Ibadi Position

 

The Ibadis do not encourage revolts against their Imams to avoid bloodshed. It is justifiable only as a last resort and in extreme circumstances, The history of the Ibadhi Imamate in Oman speaks for itself as the following list shows: 

Source: (Shaykh Soud H. Al-Ma’awaly in his book: Ibadhism the Cinderella Story Of Islam)

So there you have it. Yet some so-called Islamic scholars and historians have the impudence to say that Ibadhis are Khawarij who are terrorists and shedders of blood.

Now compare/contrast this with the first four Caliphs and the Umayyads:

 

The Only one killed by a so-called Khawarij is Ali bin Abi Talib (r.a) and this was done in retaliation for Ali’s slaughter of 3000 innocent Muslims at Narhawan.

 

Now compare/contrast this with the Abbasids:

 

 

 

 

Now let me also mention to you (the reader) that the position of the Ibadi school (Ahl Istiqamah) is as follows:

  1. We are absolutely to obey the just and good rulers in our society.
  2. To go against the just and good rulers in our society is a major sin.
  3. To go against an unjust and corrupt ruler who is spreading fitna and fasad is meritorious, praiseworthy, and obligatory.

Now there is a caveat to point 3.

A) If going against the unjust and corrupt ruler will actually meet with little chance of success and cause more bloodshed and chaos than if one had not, it is a sin to go against the rulers. One must abide by their cruelty and oppression with great patience. 

B) If going against the unjust and corrupt ruler will actually meet with a great chance of success and it will cause less bloodshed, suffering, and chaos than as mentioned it is obligatory and meritorious to do so.

That is our position (the position of the Ibadi).

Now a few points to make about some of our brothers from “Ahl Sunnah” and those that take an opposite stance.

  1. The Majority sect does not have a consensus on the issue no matter what they claim. In fact, they even say that one can go against a ruler if they commit a clear act of disbelief. Shaykh Muhammed Al Yaqoubi (may Allah continue to benefit us by him) asked for the overthrowing of Assad in Syria. Or the Madhkali Salafi Muslims who are active in the overthrow of the government of Libya. 
  2. Their claim of ‘ijma’ of course excludes us (Ibadi), Zaidi, and 12er Shia. Because in their fanaticism they consider us as heretics.
  3. Name a single scholar in the history of “Ahl Sunnah” that was against the rebellion of an unjust ruler or tyrant that was A) Not on the government payroll or patronized by the government & B) Not admired and patronized by the elites.
  4. The fact that the “Ahl Sunnah” will claim that going against the ruler will result in more bloodshed and death and yet they will not even entertain the idea that replacing an obstinate tyrant by force would actually result in less bloodshed and death in the end.
  5. Their inconsistency in saying that those who rebel against the sultan/khalif have left Islam but their recognition that if such a rebellion is successful that the new leadership (taken by force) is now legitimate!
  6. Their inconsistency regarding the companions. Which we will discuss now.

 

 

We hold fast to the following:

“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in the result.” (Qur’an 4:59). 

That’s it. If we are all Muslims than we can certainly turn to the book of Allah (swt) to settle our disputes.

In conclusion:

We should all do our best to be loyal, productive citizens of whatever state that we live in. We should abide by its rules and dictates. If we are not happy where we live there is nothing wrong with us immigrating to a place we feel may be more suitable for us.

However, if our lives and our property begin to be taken unjustly and we have no recourse to legal representation or no recourse for justice there are certain situations where it is in the best interest of the people to rise up against oppression and bring about better governance for themselves. Hopefully any government agencies or people in the employ of government agencies reading this post as inciting violence or sedition in any way shape or form. Government’s all over the world are intelligent enough to know that if they oppress people there will be repercussions to their actions. May Allah (swt) guide all governments in making just decisions. 

Allah (swt) knows best and the help of Allah (swt) is sought.

I dedicate this particular article to the struggle of the Palestinian people, the people of Syria, the people of Iraq, Kashmir, Yemen, the Muslims of Myanmar, the Muslims of Western China.

I dedicate this particular article to all people suffering from oppression and injustice all over the world. If Muslims are oppressing Non-Muslims than may Allah (swt) soften the heart of those Muslims and if not may Allah (swt) give victory to any Non-Muslim suffering from oppression from Muslims.

May this world be filled with peace and justice. Amin.

And DO NOT OBEY the order of the transgressors, Who cause corruption in the land and do not amend their ways” (Qur’an 26:151-152)

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