Imam Al-Nawawi's Riyad-us-Saliheen
Chapter 80
Obligation of Obedience to the Ruler in what is Lawful and Prohibition of Obeying them in what is Unlawful

Allah, the Exalted, says:

"O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority.'' (4:59)

663. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "It is obligatory upon a Muslim to listen (to the ruler) and obey whether he likes it or not, except when he is ordered to do a sinful thing; in such case, there is no obligation to listen or to obey.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith crystallizes the parameters of the Muslim subjects' obedience to their Muslim rulers. The honour of the latter is bound up with their surrender to the Command of Allah and His Messenger (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam). Otherwise, apart from the torment in the Hereafter, they will also be subjected to humiliation in this world.

664. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Whenever we took a pledge of allegiance to Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) to hear and obey, he (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) would say to us, "As far as you are capable of.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  Obedience to a Muslim ruler calls for two conditions: First, his command must not infringe upon the canonical sanctity; second, it ought not to outweigh people's limitations. In case, he fails to meet these two prerequisites, his obedience will also become non-obligatory. This Hadith conveys a warning to rulers that they must not put people to a hardship unbearable to them.

665. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "One who withdraws his hand from obedience (to the Amir) will find no argument (in his defense) when he stands before Allah on the Day of Resurrection; and one who dies without having sworn allegiance will die the death of one belonging to the Days of Ignorance.''

  Another narration is: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who dies having defected from obedience (to the Amir) and discards his association with the main body of the (Muslim) community, dies the death of one belonging to the Days of Jahiliyyah.''

Commentary:  The Hadith makes it clear that it is binding upon Muslims to show obedience to the just Muslim ruler and to join forces with the Muslim Community to give allegiance to him as long as he does not call to a sin.

666. Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Hear and obey even if an Abyssinian slave whose head is like a raisin is placed in authority over you.''

Commentary:  Nobody pays respect to a slave, with a black complexion and small head at that. But the Hadith brings such a man in focus to emphasize that obedience to a ruler is inescapable. The only condition is that his governance should be confined to the Shari`ah framework without reference to his geographical, tribal and ethnic background.

667. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "It is obligatory upon you to listen and obey the orders of the ruler in prosperity and adversity, whether you are willing or unwilling, or when someone is given undue preference to you.''

Commentary:  Obedience to a ruler is indispensable in view of the collective interests of a community. A believer has, therefore, been enjoined to obey the ruler in all circumstances rising above his personal interests, preferences and psychological urges. The ruler, however, must not be obeyed if he breaks the Shari`ah rules.

668. `Abdullah bin `Amr (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: We accompanied Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) on a journey. We halted at a place to take a rest. Some of us began to set right their tents, others began to graze their animals while others were engaged in competing with one another in archery when an announcer of Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) announced that people should gather for Salat. We gathered around the Messenger of Allah and he ((sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam)) addressed us, saying, "Every Prophet before me was under obligation to guide his followers to what he knew was good for them and to warn the evil thing which he knew. As for this Ummah, it will have sound state and in its early stage of existence; but the last phase of its existence, will be faced with trials and with things you do not recognize. There will be tremendous trials, one after the other, and to each the believer will say, `That is it'. Whenever a trial arrives the believer will say: `This is going to bring about my destruction.' When this passes, another calamity will approach and he will say: `This surely is going to be my end.' Whosoever wishes to be removed from the Fire (Hell) and admitted to Jannah should die with faith in Allah and the Last Day; and he should treat others as he wishes to be treated. He who swears allegiance to an Imam, he should give him the pledge in ratification and the sincerity of his heart. He should obey him to the best of his capacity. If another man comes forward as a claimant (when one has already been installed), behead the second.''

Commentary: Here `its early stage' means the period of the Companions, of the Successors (of the Companions), and of the Followers (of the Successors). In another Hadith, it has been called as the best era. In comparison with all the succeeding periods, this period is surpassingly good, peaceful and blessed. Later would emerge, it was prophesized, mischief after mischief, each being worse than the preceding one. Today, everybody sees the truth of this prophecy like the light of day. By predicting the emergence of mischief, Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) wanted to warn his followers that they should keep themselves aloof from them. To them he further explained in advance the precautionary measures, that is, to keep faith in Allah, to remain firm-footed in the belief in the Hereafter and to deal with people fairly, attempting to be polite to them at the same time.

Besides, prophecy has been made about the abundance of the power-hungry people with a remedial note. In the first instance believers are supposed to swear allegiance to the caliph, and by extending their cooperation to him they should kill another claimant to the caliphate because it is only in this way that the unity of the Muslim Ummah can be maintained, free of chaos and discord. Yet, unfortunately, the power-orientated groups have found a plaything in the shape of democracy, turning peace and unity into a legend of the past. What a pity that despite all that they seek stability and progress! Is it the miracle of time or the quirk of the vested interests that has reversed the whole scheme of things? There is little hope of the improvement of the Muslim world's affairs. Indeed, it faces an ironical situation.

669. Wa'il bin Hujr (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Salamah bin Yazid Al-Ju`f (May Allah be pleased with him) asked Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam): "O Prophet of Allah! Tell us, what you command us to do if there arises over us rulers who demand of us what is due to them and refuse us what is due to us.'' Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) turned away from him, but he repeated the same question. Thereupon Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Listen to them and obey them. They are responsible for their obligations and you are accountable for yours.''

Commentary: This Hadith means that both the ruler and the ruled have their own respective obligations. If any of the two sides fails to play its due role, it will bear the brunt of its deficiency on the Final Day. Yet, people are debarred from disobeying a ruler who neglects to do what is required of him. Negligence is not rectifiable by negligence as it will make matters worse. To endure the high-handedness of a ruler in view of the overall national interest, is therefore, preferable to revolting against him. True, one cannot take the law into one's own hands, yet there always remains room for improvement and positive criticism. To make use of it within limits and to make efforts for the enforcement of the canonical discipline will not be deemed as an uprising. Indeed, this will be deemed, to some extent, binding on everybody.

670. `Abdullah bin Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "There will be discrimination after my death and there will be other matters that you will disapprove.'' He was asked: "O Messenger of Allah! What do you command us to do when we are encountered with such happenings?'' He answered, "Give what is due from you and supplicate to Allah for your rights.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  There are two aspects of this Hadith. On the one hand, people are advised to put up patiently with the transgressive behaviour of rulers as well as their nepotism or monopolization of all the national resources. On the other hand, rulers are warned to ward off a capricious conduct of life, lest they should face the Wrath of Allah.

671. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "Whosoever obeys me, obeys Allah; and he who disobeys me, disobeys Allah; and whosoever obeys the Amir (leader), in fact, obeys me; and he who disobeys the Amir, in fact, disobeys me.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary:  This Hadith informs us that it is imperative that we obey the leader of the Muslim community so long as he does not call to a sin, because doing so is in fact obedience to Allah (SWT).

672. Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "If a person notices in his ruler what he dislikes, he should show patience because he who departs from the (Muslim) community a cubit, dies like those who died in the Days of Ignorance.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadith urges us to bear patiently when a ruler makes a mistake so long as he does not call to a sin. It also warns us against disobedience to the ruler as this will cause mischief at the cost of the unity and common interests of the Muslim community.

673. Abu Bakrah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) saying, "He who insults the rulers Allah will insult him.''

Commentary:  To affront and degrade the ruler means to disobey him and to by-pass his orders. This impairs his power, honour and dignity. Believers have been told to obey and support rulers for the sake of national interest and welfare, understanding that they desist from committing an overt disbelief and maintain congregation Salat and other duties of religion. The political system of Islam is totally incompatible with western democracy. The concept of government party and the opposition is alien to Islam. All belong to one Ummah with only one goal and pursue the same aims and objects of Islamic guidelines!