All praise be to Allah. I praise Him and I bear witness that there is no god but Allah alone who has no partner. There is no deity but He and no lord except He. I bear witness that our master Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger whom was chosen and selected. He commanded people to gather and cooperate for piety and to fear Allah. May Allah send His Peace and Blessings upon his family, Companions, and those who call as he did and follow his guidance.
Dear Muslim brother, in this lesson we shall discuss another great right which Islam paid great attention to and many texts from the Qur'an and the Sunnah were revealed about it to explain its ambiguity and show its importance. Therefore, we shall shed lights on it and discuss it with more details.
Allah created people and made some of them associated with others in terms of living. Of His Wisdom (Glory be to Him) that human beings need someone to control and manage their affairs, and there conditions shall not be right except with regulating their affairs which are undertaken by their Imam and ruler. When the area of the community increases, the responsibilities under the ruler's jurisdiction increase. So, if there is no leader to the community to undertake its affairs and a ruler who is heard and obeyed, the community shall differ and scatter into fighting groups, parties, sects, and disagreement and discord shall prevail. Thus, the communities were before Islam, weak, different, and diversified then Islam came to regulate princedom carefully, and turned it from ethnics and customs to a religion. Islam gave the ruler rights to be fulfilled by the subjects and gave rights for the subjects to be fulfilled by a ruler with high precision and details that were not known in the history of humanity. Humanity has not been happy as it was under the different eras of Islam during which the affairs between a ruler and his subjects were regulated.
Dear Muslim brother, a ruler is the imam or the caliph. Guardianship is given to the one who has the highest jurisdiction or the person who has a jurisdiction given to him by the imam, no matter how small that jurisdiction is. The first imam is the caliph, a minister is a guardian, and each responsible person is a guardian, and so on; even travelers if they assign someone to lead them, he shall be a responsible guardian as was reported.
Al Bukhari and Muslim reported on the authority of Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) that he said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying: "All of you are guardians and responsible for your wards and the things under your care. The Imam (i.e. ruler) is the guardian of his subjects and is responsible for them and a man is the guardian of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband's house and is responsible for it. A servant is the guardian of his master's belongings and is responsible for them." So, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made every person responsible for his subjects.
The greatest of these responsibilities is the responsibility of the Imam, the ruler, and one who is deputized to fulfill some of his responsibilities. Because of the seriousness of this responsibility, Islam assigned rights to the Imam, which a Muslim must recognize and the nation has to fulfill so that its affairs could be good.
The first of these rights —I mean the rights of the Imam— is to listen and obey him. The meaning here is to listen to his commands and fulfill them and keep away from things that he has forbidden as long as these commands cope with the Shari`ah.
This right is the greatest of all because texts from the Quran and the Sunnah stressed that right on Muslims and the whole nation has unanimously agreed to it. Allah (may He be Exalted) says: "O you who believe! Obey Allâh and obey the Messenger (Muhammad peace be upon him), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. And if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allâh and His Messenger (peace be upon him) if you believe in Allâh and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination." Al Bukhari (may Allah show mercy to him) reported on the authority of Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) that he narrated: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "You should listen to and obey, your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin." Imam Muslim (may Allah show mercy to him) reported on the authority of Abu Zhar (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: "My friend (the Prophet) bade me to hear and obey (the ruler) even if he is a slave having his feet and arms cut off." Imam Ahmad, the compilers of the Sunan (Hadith compilations classified by jurisprudential themes) and others reported the famous Hadith of Al `Irbad ibn Sariyah (may Allah be pleased with him) in which he outlined that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) delivered a sermon to them that caused their hearts shaken and their eyes filled with tears. They said: O Messenger of Allah, it seems like the commend of a person who is about to die, so advise us. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "I advise you to fear Allah and to listen and obey even if your ruler is an Abyssinian slave .."
Dear Muslim brother, this obedience should be applied in all conditions: in hardship and easiness, when a person is active and when he is inactive, when a person likes the matter or not, and regardless the status of the ruler as long as he does not command with a sin. Imam Muslim (may Allah show mercy to him) and others reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "You have to listen and obey in adversity and prosperity, in pleasure and displeasure whether you are willing or unwilling, or when someone is given undue preference to you.'' Al Bukhari and Muslim reported on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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."
The obedience of a ruler is part of obeying Allah (may He be Exalted), whereas disobeying him is part of disobeying Allah (may He be Exalted). Al Bukhari, Muslim, and others reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever obeys me, obeys Allah, and whosoever disobeys me disobeys Allah. Whosoever obeys the commander (appointed by me) obeys me, and whosoever disobeys the commander disobeys me."
Imam Ahmad, Abu Ya`la, and others reported —with an authentic chain of transmission— on the authority of Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was among a group of his Companions, then the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) faced them saying and said: "Do not you know that I am the Messenger of Allah to you? They said: Yes. We bear witness that you are the Messenger of Allah. He said: "Do not you know that whoever obeys me has obeyed Allah and obeying me is part of Allah's Obedience?" They said: Yes. We bear witness that whoever obeys you has obeyed Allah and obeying you is part of Allah's Obedience. He said: "Part of obeying Allah is to obey me and part of my obedience is to obey your emirs. So, obey your emirs even if they to perform Salah while sitting down, perform Salah as they did."
Imam Ahmad, Abu Ya`la, and others reported —with an authentic chain of transmission— on the authority of Al Harith Al Ash`ary (may Allah be pleased with him) in a long Hadith that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "And I command you with five things which Allah command me with, which are: adhere to the Muslim group, listening and obedience, and migration and Jihad in the way of Allah because the one who separates from the Muslim group even a hand span has taken off the bond of Islam [has forsaken the pillars of Islam] from his neck, yet he comes back..."
Dear honorable Muslim brother, know that compliance and obedience to the ruler from the established pillars of the `Aqidah (creed) of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah (those adhering to the Sunnah and the Muslim main body). Al Lalika'y (may Allah show mercy to him) reported several sayings from the Pious Predecessors (may Allah show mercy to them all) which stress this matter. He mentioned from `Abdullah ibn Al Mubarak (may Allah show mercy to him) his saying: "Perform the two `Eid Salah, `Arafah, and congregational Salah behind rulers whether they are pious or sinful."
He reported from `Ali ibn Al Madiny (may Allah show mercy to him) his saying: (The sin of those who do not listen and obey their Imams and Muslim rulers whether pious or sinful…) until he said: (it is not permissible for a person who believes in Allah and in the Last Day to spend the night without having an Imam whether pious or sinful, for he is the Emir of the believers).
He reported from Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah show mercy to him) his saying: (The fundamentals of Sunnah according to us are: Sticking to the method of Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and following their steps and listening and obeying the Muslim imams and the Commander of the Faithful believer, whether pious or sinful).
Imam Ahmad (may Allah show mercy to him) said: (You should listen and obey, and do not break Bay`ah (pledge of allegiance); and whoever has done that, he is a Mubtadi` (one who introduces innovations in religion), discordant, and goes against the Muslim group).
Ibn Abu Hatim (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) said: (I asked my father and Abu Zar`ah about the doctrine of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah regarding the fundamentals of the Islamic Religion and they said: We have seen scholars of all countries: Hijaz (the Saudi Arabia), Iraq, Egypt, the Levant (the region covering Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine), and Yemen and their doctrine was: Faith consists of words and actions, listening and obedience to the Muslim rulers, not breaking an obedience, following the doctrine of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah, and avoidance of irregularity, disagreement, and disparity).
Imam At-Tahawy (may Allah show mercy to him) said: (We do not break our pledge of obedience to the Muslim rulers and we consider their obedience is part of Allah's Obedience which is an obligatory act so long as they do not command with a sin). At-Taimy said: (A chapter on the doctrine of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah: The obedience of Muslim rulers is obligatory and one of the most stressed Sunnah that was mentioned in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him)).
The Shaykh of Islam, Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah show mercy to him) said: The obedience of Allah and His Messenger is obligatory on every person and the obedience of Muslim rulers is obligatory because Allah has commanded people with obeying them. So, whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger by obeying the Muslim rulers their reward will be with Allah. And whoever do not obey them except for the reward or bounty they give them there will be no place for them in the Hereafter).
Dear Muslim, this is part of the Pious Predecessors' sayings regarding this issue, and their sayings are crystal-clear and do not leave a room for a wonderer or a questioner. They explain that listening and obedience for an Imam is not one of the subordinate matters according to the view of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah but one of the main fundamentals of their `Aqidah.
I invoke Allah (may He be Exalted) to grant you and me understanding of religion, following the footsteps of His Prophet (peace be upon him), and following the Pious Predecessors of this nation. We invoke Him to gather us with the prophets, the truthful, the martyrs, and the righteous people. And how excellent these Companions are! I also invoke Him to reform our Muslim rulers, guide them to the best way, grant them success in all walks of life, for He is All-Hearing, All-Responding and He is the One whose aid is to be implored. We shall continue our talks in the next lesson with Allah's Willing.