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Obedience to Authority

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, ever Merciful.

[4:59] O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you. And if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is best and most commendable in the end.

Obedience is essentially to Allah, and obedience to the Messenger s.a. is secondary, due to the requirement to obey Allah, as a Messenger is a sort of human representative of Allah on earth. However, obedience to the Messenger s.a. is not unconditional. 

[60:12] "O Prophet! when believing women come to thee, taking the oath of allegiance at thy hands that they will not associate anything with Allah, and that they will not steal, and will not commit adultery, nor kill their children, nor bring forth a scandalous charge which they themselves have deliberately forged, nor disobey thee in what is right, then accept their allegiance and ask Allah to forgive them. Verily, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful."  [24:53] And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths that, if thou command them, they will surely go forth. Say, ‘Swear not; (what is required is actual) obedience in what is right. Surely, Allah is well aware of what you do.’

The Promised Messiah a.s. made abstention from (all forms of) shirrk the first condition of bai'at: 

1. "That he/she shall abstain from shirrk (association of any partner with Allah) right up to the day of his/her death."

As humans are prone to error, it is a form of shirrk to require unconditional obedience to anyone other than Allah s.w.t. There are several verses on obedience to Allah, and (then) on (conditional) obedience to His Messengers s.a./a.s., as can be seen in the links below: 



So, those who emphasise obedience to other than Allah and (then to) His Messengers s.a./a.s., and that unconditionally, are in error, for it leads to shirrk. The Promised Messiah a.s. included the mention of the need for conditional obedience to himself in the ten conditions of bai'at: 

"10. That he/she shall enter into a bond of brotherhood with this humble servant of God, pledging obedience to me in everything good, for the sake of Allah, and remain faithful to it till the day of his/her death; that he/she shall exert such a high devotion in the observance of this bond as is not to be found in any other worldly relationship and connections demanding devoted dutifulness." 

If one rejects what the Promised Messiah a.s. has stated, then one would be required to present valid reasons, such as his writing not being according to study of the Qur'an on that issue, which can happen, as he was a human being too, who wrote over 90 books, so a small percentage of errors due to human fallibility or being under the influence of inherited sunni views and writings, or an error due to forgetfulness, is to be expected and acceptable. Otherwise, to reject a statement of the Promised Messiah a.s. which is in line with the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a., such as something he said which was 'uttered with the spirit of God', i.e. divine revelation, can be a form of kufr i.e. disbelief. The promise of true Khilafat itself being conditional on true uncorrupted faith and sincere righteous deeds [24:55], how can obedience to one who may or may not be a rightly guided or truthful Khalifa, be unconditional? 

We are also categorically instructed:  [26:151-152] ‘And obey not the bidding of those who exceed the bounds, ‘Who create disorder in the earth, and reform it not.’

As Allah does not like disorder, we are also to obey those who are in authority over us, such as rulers. However, if a ruler is the source of disorder, then it would lead to disorder to obey his bidding, which would defeat the purpose of instructing obedience to rulers: 

[2:205] "And when he is in authority, he runs about in the land to create disorder in it and destroys the tilth and the progeny of man; and Allah loves not disorder."

For example, would it be lawful to obey and assist a Nazi-type religious or secular authority in wrongdoing? We are clearly commanded: 

[5:2] "... And co-operate with one another in righteousness and piety; but co-operate not with one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah; surely, Allah is severe in punishment." Obedience to those in secular, state or other authority is conditional on their obedience to Allah (and then to His Messenger s.a.), as stated in the following hadith: 

"`Ali r.a. is reported to have said that the Prophet s.a. said: There is no obedience to a human being if it involves disobedience to the Creator. Obedience is only in Ma`ruf (i.e. that which is judged as good, beneficial, & according to Qur'an & Sunnah)." [Bukhari & Muslim]. 

This principle would apply to anyone in any form of authority. 

There are some who like to quote ahadith inculcating unconditional obedience to rulers and others in authority, but these ahadith contradict the conditional obedience to those in authority clearly stipulated in the Qur'an, and therefore have to be dismissed, without which one would be guilty of rejecting the Word of Allah, which is tantamount to kufr i.e. disbelief. Why then would children have to their obey or help parents in wrongdoing, and why would a wife have to obey or help her husband in wrongdoing? Yet obedience to parents and to the husband are emphasised so much in muslim circles that one wonders why the Quran doesn't emphasise it. In fact, Allah doesn't instruct obedience to parents or the husband in even a single verse of the Holy Qur'an, the ultimate source of right guidance for mankind. This appears to be because the relationship with near ones is based primarily on love and affection. One's family members are to be dealt with on the principle of love apparent in the words 'itaa-i-thil qurbaa' [16:90] rather than them being in the category of 'ulil amri minkum' [4:59].  Unfortunately, mirza masroor sahib gives orders to jama'at members, such as in the clip below (48:25 - 49:05 mins): 


The lady asking the question says she is 'passionate about law', and is apparently seeking a way out of not having to obey her fathers orders, but mirza masroor sahib orders her to discard her own wishes, and follow her father's orders, which tally with his own. Her amazement or shock at his response is shown by her expression 'hehn?' If mirza masroor sahib is being guided by God 24/7, then one would expect it to be in her best interests, but mirza masroor sahib has already admitted that neither God nor angels speak to him, so he simply made her comply with his own and her fathers orders. She recovered quickly in public, but I won't be surprised if she had a crisis of faith inwardly, and felt trapped in the waqfe-nau scheme.

She had appealed to someone who seemed to her to be 'higher authority' above her father, and probably thought he would understand her concerns, but in actual fact, there is no religious requirement to obey either of them in this regard. She can seek their advice if she wishes to, and they can advise her as regards what they think is in her best interests, giving their reasons why, but she has to make her own choices, preferably through 'istikhaara', as it is her own future, not theirs. Serving the faith is supposed to be voluntary, out of a personal desire to do so for the sake of Allah, not a trap, or enslavement under the misguided spiritually blind authority of autocratic 'big men'. There is no compulsion in matters of religion [2:256] anyway, so a need for doctors in the man-made waqfe-nau scheme is neither here nor there. 

Whilst the Prophet s.a. did not express any anger when all his Comapnions r.a. delayed obeying his instruction after the signing of the treaty of hudaibiyyah, when some ahmadis did not immediately obey mirza masroor sahib on his instructions regarding facebook around 2012, his anger became apparent in a subsequent sermon, in which he roared that he had issued the order (though he was going beyond what has been declared as haraam in Islam), i.e. why don't you comply?

Abu Bakr's r.a. First Address: 

After giving praise and thanks to Allah s.w.t., Abu Bakr r.a. addressed the Muslims gathered at the Prophet’s s.a. mosque and said:

"I have been given the authority over you, and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God will; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God will. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger (Muhammad, pbuh). But if I disobey God and His Messenger, ye owe me no obedience. Arise for your prayer, God have mercy upon you."

An Incident Relating To Umar r.a.:

It is reported that Umar r.a., the second khalifa of Islam, one day delivered a sermon against the practice of settling large sums for the Mahr (dower-money). A woman who stood up and objected, saying: Oh Chief of the Believers, how dare you oppose the Qur’anic dictate that even a heap of gold may be settled on the wife as dowry? [4:20] Umar did not resent this, but on the contrary showed appreciation for this woman’s courage of her conviction and right to freedom of speech. He exclaimed: “The woman is right and Umar is wrong.” [Muṣannaf ‘Abd al-Razzāq 10420]

This is an example of where an objection was raised because an instruction from someone in authority, who is believed to be a rightly guided Caliph by a large number of Muslims, was contrary to the teachings of the Noble Qur'an, and he was humble enough to acknowledge his error and accept correction from a fellow human being. It is worth noting that examination results do not appear to show any significant difference in mental aptitude between men and women, at least to my knowledge, nor does the Qur'an state that men are superior in intellect compared to women. Men may in general be physically taller and stronger than women, but I am not aware of any established correlation between intelligence and physical stature or strength. 

This is something to ponder over for those who would promote having 'blind faith' in questionable hadith reports compiled some 2 centuries or so after the time of the Prophet s.a. Whilst this report about Umar r.a. and a woman who set him right may itself be questioned by some, it does not appear to conflict with the message of the Qur'an, such as the verse [4:59] quoted above, rather it shows that it is a matter of monotheistic faith that the Word of Allah should over-rule everyone and everything.  The Best Jihad:  There are two relevant ahadith in this regard:  عَنْ طَارِقِ بْنِ شِهَابٍ أَنَّ رَجُلًا سَأَلَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَيُّ الْجِهَادِ أَفْضَلُ قَالَ كَلِمَةُ حَقٍّ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ

i.e. Tariq ibn Shihab r.a. reported that a man asked the Messenger of Allah s.a. “What is the best jihad?” 

The Prophet s.a. said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler.” [Musnad Aḥmad, 18449]

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri r.a. reported that the Messenger of Allah s.a. said:

إِنَّ مِنْ أَعْظَمِ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةَ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ

Verily, among the greatest Jihad is a word of justice in front of a tyrannical ruler. [Sunan al-Tirmidhi 2174]

These two ahadith are in accordance with the instruction of the Holy Qur'an to enjoin good and forbid evil in the following verses, hence there appears to be no valid reason to reject them:  [3:104] "And let there always be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin virtue and forbid evil. And it is they who shall prosper." [3:110] "You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin good and forbid evil and believe in Allah. And if the People of the Book had believed, it would have, surely, been better for them. Some of them are believers, but most of them are transgressors."  However, when dealing with authorities, some of whom may be oppressive, it is best advised to act on the advice given to Musa and Haroon a.s.: 

[20:44-46] ““Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has transgressed all bounds. But speak to him a gentle speech that he might possibly heed or fear. They replied, ‘Our Lord, we fear lest he commit some excess against us, or exceed all bounds in transgression.’ He said, “Fear not; for I am with you both. I hear and I see." 

Not everyone is in the position of Musa a.s. and/or Haroon a.s., so the general advice to people would be to act wisely and remain cautious so as not to invite unnecessary oppression and worsen the disorder and corruption in society. However, it would be responsible to do something to prevent wrongdoing, if not personally against oneself, then for the benefit of a large number of helpless persons, as per the following ahadith:

Anas ibn Malik r.a. reported that the Messenger s.a. of Allah s.w.t  said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, we help the oppressed, but how do we help an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By seizing his hand.”

In another narration, the Prophet s.a. is reported to have said, “By restraining him or preventing him from committing injustice, for that is how you support him.” [Bukhari 2312, Muslim 2584] 

These ahadith also find support in the following verse, which may be understood in a metaphorical sense of fighting against wrongdoing with the proper use of one's speech:  [4:75] "And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and for the rescue of the weak men, women and children - who say, `Our Lord, take us out of this town whose people are oppressors, and give us a friend from Thyself and give us from Thyself a helper.'"

Another hadith lends support to the need to intervene urgently and wisely in some situations: 

An-Nu’man ibn Bashir r.a. reported that the Noble Prophet s.a. said, “The parable of those who respect the limits of Allah and those who violate them is that of people who board a ship after casting lots, some of them residing in its upper deck and others in its lower deck. When those in the lower deck want water, they pass by the upper deck and say: If we tear a hole in the bottom of the ship, we will not harm those above us. If those in the upper deck let them do what they want, then they will all be destroyed together. If they restrain them, then they will all be saved together.” [Bukhari, 2361] 

Another relevant verse is one which advises courtesy and a degree of 'secrecy' when there is a risk of being overwhelmed and exterminated by persecution: 

[18:19] "And so We raised them up that they might question one another. One of them said, ‘How long have you tarried?’ They said, ‘We have tarried a day or part of a day.’ (Others) said, ‘Your Lord knows best (the time) you have tarried. Now send one of you with these silver coins of yours to the city; and let him see which of its (inhabitants) has the purest food, and let him bring you provisions thereof. And let him be courteous and let him not inform anyone about you. For, if they should come to know of you, they would stone you or make you return to their religion and then will you never prosper.’"

The Prophet s.a. engaged in silent secretive dawati-ilallaah or tabligh in Mecca for the first three years, until the new converts to monotheism had gained sufficient ta'leem and tarbiyyat to become public. Thus one should be wary not to invite unnecessary persecution of helpless believers from the authorities, and if and when there is actual persecution, one has the choice to adopt the favoured way of steadfastness under persecution as adopted by Syeddina Bilal r.a., or if one cannot withstand the torture, one can hope for forgiveness from Allah, as happened in the case of Ammar bin Yassir r.a., who had uttered some words of disbelief on pain of death, as per the slight permission given within the following verse: 

[16:106] "Whoso disbelieves in Allah after he has believed - save him who is forced to make a declaration of disbelief while his heart finds peace in faith - but such as open their breast to disbelief, on them is Allah's wrath; and for them is decreed a severe punishment." Questioning: 

As the honourable Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan r.a. [From 1954 to 1961, he served as a member of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He again represented Pakistan at the UN in 1961-64 and served as president of the UN General Assembly in 1962-63. Returning to the International Court of Justice in 1964, he served as the court’s president from 1970 to 1973] stated in one of his books: "Difference, or, let us say, the right to differ, lies at the root of (progress in) all knowledge.

Source: "Islam and Human Rights": 


We read in the Qur'an, the recommended prayer: [20:114] ‘O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.’, and we are strongly urged to use our reason [10:100]. So, one should not hesitate to ask valid questions, and raise valid objections that naturally arise if one isn't quite sure of the logic in something, or if something appears to be wrong and against the stated principles, from those who might know better. 

Keep in mind that Ibrahim a.s. asked Allah a question [2:259], and [18:83] gives an answer to a question that was asked about Dhul Qarnain, as does [17:85] about the ruh (soul, spirit or revelation), and [2:219] about wine and games of chance.

Is it not reported that Umar r.a. asked a valid question that arose when the Prophet s.a. and his Companions r.a. were not able to perform the circumambulation (tawaaf) around the Ka'aba as they were expecting in accordance with the interpretation of a dream seen and given by the Prophet s.a., and had to return to Madinah without the circumambulation due to an error in interpretation? Did not the disheartened Companions r.a. delay in acting on the command of the Prophet s.a. to sacrifice their animals, and only did so after the Prophet s.a. sacrificed his own animal to set an example for them to follow, acting on the wise advise of his noble wife Umm Salama r.a., another report of the valued suggestion of women in true Islam? It is reported as follows: 

Umar, unable to contain himself for the distress taking full grasp of his heart, went to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and said: “Aren’t you the true Messenger of Allâh?” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) replied calmly, “Why not?” ‘Umar again spoke and asked: “Aren’t we on the path of righteousness and our enemies in the wrong?” Without showing any resentment, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) replied that it was so. On getting this reply he further urged: “Then we should not suffer any humiliation in the matter of Faith.” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) was unruffled and with perfect confidence said: “I am the true Messenger of Allâh, I never disobey Him, He shall help me.” “Did you not tell us,” rejoined ‘Umar, “that we shall perform pilgrimage?” “But I have never told you,” replied the Prophet (Peace be upon him), “that we shall do so this very year.” ‘Umar was silenced. But his mind was disturbed. He went to Abu Bakr and expressed his feelings before him. Abu Bakr who had never been in doubt as regards the Prophet’s truthfulness and veracity confirmed what the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had told him." [Ar Raheeq al Makhtum, p. 307]  Type of Government: 

Some muslims claim that the Qur'an supports democracy, whilst others insist that democracy is unIslamic. It depends on whether democracy results in giving rise to a just government which deals kindly with the people, as well with the peoples of other nations, then it may be termed 'Islamic'. 

[4:58] Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between people (or various types), you judge with justice. And surely excellent is that with which Allah admonishes you! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.

My current understanding is that the verse supports what may be termed as 'meritocracy', and the emphasis is one justice for all people (including minorities and marginalised groups) when one is in authority. If someone is incapable of upholding justice for all people, 'big' or 'small', of whatever gender, tribe, race etc. in one's own nation, as well as in ones' relations with neighbouring nations around the globe, it is wrong to elect or select such a person for a position of authority over people due to ones' own biases. 

The Qur'an doesn't specify the process of arriving at a suitable choice. If democracy always results in the election of a person who has merit as well as implements justice, then I would favour democracy over other processes. But cast a glance at the democratically elected leaders in the world, and consider whether the more prominent one/s have merit and a (proper) sense of justice or not. Besides, 'democratically elected governments' are also known to act unjustly in the world, creating disorder and causing bloodshed in other nations, as happened in the Iraq War of 2003, and not long ago, refused to support a party that came to power through the democratic process, the basis for it apparently being that the said party was not considered to be capable of implementing justice. Whether this was right or wrong may be debated by some, but it does show that justice for all is considered to be of prime importance in matters of government, a value or principle higher than 'democracy' itself, even in the eyes of those who actively favour and promote democracy. 

[42:38] "And those who hearken to their Lord, and observe Prayer, and whose affairs are decided by mutual consultation, and who spend out of what We have provided for them." 

No human being, including Prophets, Rightly-Guided Khalifas, or Reformers of the past or future, is all knowing, as indicated by the last statement in [33:40]. Nor do I consider that Allah Himself guides a Prophet in all matters. So, how can it be that other leaders do not need to consult others? 

(This article is under development)

[19:76] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance. [20:47] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.

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