Compiled by WordForPeace.com Edit Desk
Maulana Muhammad Ammar Khan Nasir, Al-Shariah Academy, Gujranwala
In fact, taking up weapons against the rulers is strongly prohibited in ahadith (traditions) of the Prophet (PBUH). It demonstrates a fundamental tendency of the Islamic law towards securing life and property of people and maintaining peace among them at all costs. That is why Islam commands its followers to bear with transgressing rulers instead of fighting against them because the latter course could bring more harm and trouble.
In other words, Shariah prioritizes for Muslims to choose ‘lesser of the misfortunes’, i.e. sinful and transgressing rulers. That means that Shariah’s original, principled intention and preference is opposed to khurooj (rebellion). If we keep this principle ordained in Shariah before us—i.e. securing life and property of people and maintaining peace among them at all costs—it would be easy for us to respond clearly to other questions of this debate.
This principle also tells us that even if some exceptional and unavoidable ‘need’ necessitates khurooj (rebellion), it should not be extended beyond the scope of that particular need. Following this principle would also require attaching such restrictions or conditions with the exceptionally justified khurooj that ensures protection of society and the people against violence, trial and discord. For example, the people resorting to khurooj (rebellion) should have the required strength to achieve the desired results. Similarly, if the purpose of khurooj is generally linked to people such as changing the regime or enforcing an alternative system of government, the leadership of the revolting group should first gain people’s trust.
There is a general rule in Islam that only those classes or individuals have the right to rule who are trusted by the people. Therefore, if a group rises against the government with this claim that it wants to change the system of government, it should first meet the condition of gaining people’s confidence for that purpose and then resort to khurooj.
One thing should be made very clear in this regard, and it should be explained to the people thoroughly, that it is not an absolute legal ruling of Islam to practice Shariah or establish the Islamic system as a whole in every situation and at every cost. Some basic considerations such as personal capacity and means, ground realities, and practical adjustments are linked to practicing or implementing of Shariah both at the individual and collective levels. An individual is liable to practice Shariah to the extent allowed by his circumstances, personal capacity and means. The same principle applies to society. The references to legal rulings about practicing Shariah at the individual level are known to all, so I will not go into those details.
On the collective level too, I do not find any decree by a jurist or Islamic scholar that the Muslims living in non-Islamic societies, some of which might even be called darul harb (abode of war) jurisprudentially, should migrate from those societies because it is not possible for them to act upon Shariah fully while residing there. About such situations, the jurists have opined that if acting upon the basic Islamic obligations such as prayers and fasting is made difficult for Muslims living in non-Islamic countries, then it is obligatory for them to migrate, but otherwise they should live there and continue practicing the basic religious obligations. As the circumstances in those societies are not favorable to practice Shariah fully, those Muslims are not required to do so.
In my opinion, this principle of practicing Shariah to the extent of capacity and means and favorability of circumstances should also be applied to those societies and states that we consider Islamic or Muslim. Indeed the overall circumstances and realities in Muslim or Islamic states are also incredibly adverse to implementing or practicing Shariah, such as presence of widespread ideological and sectarian conflicts, distortion of deeds and practices, and deterioration of morals and ethics. The claim that Shariah should be fully enforced in such circumstances without eradicating all the adverse factors and constraints needs a complete review and should be debated at length.
The last thing that I want to discuss is the question of takfeer. One aspect of this question is that legal prohibition and denunciation of issuing decrees branding anyone as a disbeliever on the basis of such a person’s word or action is not really disbelief but a difference of understanding or of secondary or interpretational nature. That is unambiguously and explicitly agreed upon by all legal schools of thought in Islam. Similarly, if a person has said a word of alleged or probable disbelief, the well-known principle set by Islamic jurists should be followed, which emphasizes prioritizing the least probability of belief over the most probability of disbelief. Another and a more delicate aspect of this debate is related to the status of those Muslim individuals or groups who say something, or have adopted that as an ideology, which is essentially disbelief in academic and jurisprudential discourses of Islam. This is really a delicate aspect of takfeer and more important than the one I just mentioned.
I would like to present the viewpoint of Imam Ibn Taymiyya in this regard, which he has narrated in Minhajul Sunnah and his other books and decrees. He says that if a person or group professes the faith in Allah and in the Prophet (PBUH) and regards the Prophet (PBUH) as the source of righteous guidance but is also convinced on something of disbelief, it is a matter of conflict between his two relations, or attributes of faith; on the one hand that person or group relates to the Prophet (PBUH) and on the other adopts some belief or ideology that is contradictory to the creed of the Prophet (PBUH). Which of these two relations should be given more weight in establishing the status of that person or group as a believer or disbeliever? Imam Taymiyya believes that the character and spirit of Islam and Islamic jurisprudence demand that the first relation should be given priority, i.e. profession of faith in Allah and the Prophet (PBUH). Ibn Taymiyya further argues that after Allah sent his last Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), into this world, human beings could be reckoned either inside or out of the sphere of Islam. Therefore, it is better to consider those people in the sphere of Islam instead of the sphere of kufr who link themselves with the Prophet (PBUH) and have faith in Islam on the whole, despite some deviations in their beliefs or deeds. That means, we should not declare those individuals or groups disbelievers who profess their faith in Allah and the Prophet (PBUH), or recite the kalima.