The Sharing Group Discussion on the Right to Rebel against a Tyrant or Dictator

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone shared a statement, on The Sharing Group, by Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri, on the 11th September, 2015: “The statements of the scholarly community regarding rulers are clear.  One cannot revolt against a Muslim ruler unless the ruler exhibits a clear, unambiguous act or statement of disbelief.  A ruler cannot be obeyed if it entails disobeying the Commands of Allah.  In such a situation the ruler has the right of being given counsel.  No ruler has absolute loyalty or absolute enmity.  Now is a time we need to heal wounds as rulers and ruled, caller and called, politically and socially.”

Brother Hajj Ahmad: This is nothing but plain common sense, Brother Abdulkareem.  Why does it need to be said by Muslim leaders?  Are we so dumbed down that we need to be told the obvious?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Common sense is surprisingly uncommon even among the ‘wise’.  The default position for many western Muslims has been if a government is not implementing shari’ah and obstructing those that do, then that is an act of unbelief.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: An intellectually inferior position that results from a long history of Islamic intellectual inferiority.

Brother Jak Kilby: And then when a ruler has been consistently oppressing his people for years, are we supposed to be teddy bears and just accept it all?  And then be told to be ‘good boys and girls’ by scholars who are accepting pay from such people?  I question this.  It does not mean I would throw a bomb.  But, question.  And then again, I am rather tired of this nice sounding advice which gets trotted out such as “the ruler has the right of being given counsel”.  I am afraid that is exceedingly naive considering those rulers in the Muslim world today, and often regarding yesterday as well.

Brother Abdullah Munawar: From a practical point of view, how does a common person advise the ruler?  They are not easily accessible.

Brother Jak Kilby: Exactly, Brother Abdullah.  I think the view of scholars who say this refers to similar, our scholars, speaking and advising such people.  Unfortunately, I do not think they do, or if so they do gain any effect any more than any ordinary person would.  Most Arab rulers only want their arses licked.  In Britain, when Blair was prime minister he was quite obviously an emperor with no clothes, and was never going to listen to anyone to told him about his nudity.

Sister Leah Aliyyah Cornish-Ward: I am with you, Brother Jak.  This kind of stand-down is just like Christians saying ‘render unto Caesar’ but ignoring the revolutionary message of Jesus (a.s.).

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: It is clear that the solution to consistent oppression is not revolts or other attempts to remove government.  The state as understood in this age is something, by nature, oppressive.  Merely changing the figures within the apparatus of state goes nowhere.  Grassroot ancient institutions such as tribes and extended family systems based on subsistence within the locality they were based have nearly all been eradicated or eroded.  Cultivation of community and cooperation as opposed to the rush to integration into the industrialised system will go a long way to establishment of justice.  Empowering through acquisition of skills long practised and specialised to particular localities rather than adherence to global scale projects will wean masses away from the need to have leaders with great lofty utopian projects.

Brother Jak Kilby, if the middle classes could take a leaf from your book and construct their own homes in rural settings and reinvigorate desolate lands through per culture and alternative energies and utilise rural people then the pressure of urbanisation will be eased which is predominately the issue in these countries.  But so many instead form political agitations with further pipe dreams.

Brother Jak Kilby: Well, you touched on something there, Brother Abdulkareem, that is simply attempting to try to get on and live something a bit different. In part that is living a dream, but a lot it is setting an example that something else, an alternative is possible.  One other thing I should mention here which I used to think and talk about a lot in the past, but not for some time, is how we criticise the rulers, and yet we are not in their position and do not know for a reality whether we'd do the same as them, or better than them if in their shoes.  It is easy to imagine we would, but then do we know the reality of it. And, who on earth would want to be a ruler?  Then, considering the Muslim world, and considering Muslims, who in their right mind would want to rule them?  Perhaps Saddam was the ideal in the modern age.  He always said that the west did not understand that Arabs need a ‘strong hand’.  Touching on something else, The Zenki's and Ayoubi's were heroes for the Sunni world, from the time of the jihad against the Crusaders, and the Syrian rulers compliant with the Crusaders, and from the Fatimids.  Did they ‘rebel’ against the Fatimids for example, or were they overthrowing corruption, on the road to a clearer enemy of the western Christians.  I accept them as heroes.  Some in the status quo of ‘the west’ have never forgiven them and still seek revenge.  Our Shi’ah brethren have different views concerning Sulthan Swalah ad-Din (r.a.).

Brother Colin Turner: “One night of anarchy is worse than forty years of tyranny”.  Look around: this narration is being played out all over the shop.

Brother Abdullah Munawar: When anarchy is as a result of tyranny, I understand that the tyrant is responsible for both the anarchy and tyranny.

Brother Jak Kilby: But that does not mean you have to accept the tyrant or oppressor.  And while the so-called Arab Spring' was pretty much a set-up some alternatives might be far worse than anarchy.  Take, for example, the CIA planned ‘next’ leadership of the Palestinian Authority, Muhammad Dahlan, who they trained, was an obvious Saddam style plant, who came to head the Palestinian Authorities ‘Security’ Police and is famous for having invented even worse tortures than ever before, first hand.  It was said that if they ever got hold of any Palestinian, which they frequently did, he would wish for ever it had been the Israeli’s torturing him.  How sick is that?  And when Hamas won the Palestinian elections, Dahlan was sent in to scupper the result, which is what led to the Palestinian on Palestinian war and the split governments of Gaza and the West Bank we still have today.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Sulthan Swalah ad-Din (r.a.) was not a revolutionary; he was a smart maneuverer in the Fatimid court.  He was able to obtain an army and carry out a coup.  This, in a sense, is a different realm from what is used to day.  Revolt in the modern world has a philosophical notion of nihilism and or Hegelism, that it is necessary to prepare the masses for anarchy in order to create an ungovernable situation in which the old order collapses.  There have been struggle for leadership within the courts and castle and there is something inevitable about it, but not necessarily evil, but not good either.  Sometimes, a leader has to be toppled.  What is wrong is when the mob is set about to inflict so much damage without leadership.  Much of the anarchy around Tahrir square was the farcical idea of leaderless movements.  That consciousness in people becomes elevated and spontaneous; the consciousness directs the revolution.  Syria got caught up in this and then spurred on by the assumed promise of western intervention, prepared to cross the abyss.  So, if one has a leader, then obey unless ordered to haram.

Brother Jak Kilby: I also would not call Sulthan Swalah ad-Din (r.a.) a revolutionary.  Things unfolded for him.  But, nevertheless, he toppled a leadership structure, and one which ruled more than just a nation.  Tahrir was inspirational.  I have friends who were there and they emphasised that to this day.  It was a popular movement.  Why should we denounce that when it was a result of years of rule of a tyrant?  Leaderless?  Then leaders would emerge.  Have you not ever wanted to kill a despicable leader?  What if you had the opportunity?  Might not Allah (s.w.t.) Question you on why you did not if reason stayed your hand?  How do you feel?  Why might it be that Sisi is not considered a tyrant who overthrew a legitimate ruler, a rebel as well as a mass murderer.  And in the pay of foreign powers too boot!  Can the voice of quietism silence human feelings?

Sister Zakeena Seethi: Can one revolt against a non-Muslim ruler, if the afore said conditions are not met?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: No.  Unless he stops you from practising your religion.

Brother Mingda Sun: I am not sure any of the conditions of that ahadits apply anymore.  Tyranny today is not the same as tyranny of 1,400 years ago and we do not have Islamic nations anywhere.

Sister Leah Aliyyah Cornish-Ward: I think you have to have a Muslim caliph for this to be true.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: What good has come from Tahrir Square?

Brother Jak Kilby: Hope.  Hope for change for the better.  And hope is part of iman.

Sister Leah Aliyyah Cornish-Ward: Tahrir Square was not a revolt against a caliph in a Muslim country.  It was a revolt against a crony capitalist dictator who ran a country that is majority Muslim.  The revolution was seriously hijacked by non-profits and foreign NGOs.  At present, what we see in the world is a global phenomenon where states have been replaced by arbitrary borders serving only as regulatory lines on a game-board for transnational companies.  There is not an Islamic state in sight.  Therefore, leaders who indulge in oppression are fair game.

Sister Sabine: How was the revolution hijacked by foreign NGOs?

Sister Leah Aliyyah Cornish-Ward: This revolution was played on both sides by foundations.  This is the understanding I have about what went down in Egypt.  First, there was the fomentation, to allow the Ikhwan to come in, then there was the agitation to foment anger at the Ikhwan so that Sisi could be installed.  It was a Soros and Ford foundation game, not unlike what happened in the colour revolutions in eastern Europe.

Sister Sabine: I was there before, during, and after the revolution and while I agree that there were and are many foreign influences, I disagree that foreign NGOs hijacked it.

Sister Leah Aliyyah Cornish-Ward: Okay.  Then it would be the first revolution since World War II not to have had the hands of the US all over it.  What do you think went down?

Sister Sabine: I think you misunderstood me.  Again – I am not saying they were not involved.  But I disagree that foreign NGOs hijacked it.  “Foreign NGOs” does not equal “US”.  There are many foreign NGOs here in Egypt who do good work and have no political motivation.  They were being used as scapegoats by the Egyptian government during and after the revolution, just like foreigners in general are often being used as scapegoats here.  It happens often that expatriates who just happen to live here are being accused of being spies, of wanting to bring down the country and so forth.

Sister Leah Aliyyah Cornish-Ward: I have no doubt that the NGOs at their basic levels are doing proper work, but they do cloak information gathering activity, sphere of influence building etc.  As for the justice system in Egypt, you do not have to convince me that innocent people get caught up in it.

Further, I am assuming I will get a bit of flak for this, but I cannot help thinking that most of the ‘ulama are attached to institutions of higher learning from where they derive their livelihood.  They, like scholars in any other discipline, are influenced either directly or indirectly by whatever agenda is dominating the thoughts and theories of the day.  At present, the fad is for collectivism.  This requires the ascendancy of governance and accumulation of power into a centralised position.  It is exceedingly dangerous for any scholars to swim against this with alternative ideas because their livelihoods are pulled from them if they do.

Brother Hajj Ahmad: Brother Jak, unfortunately, I believe this is false hope.  Iman presupposes a universe of inner conditions that lead to outer actions characterised by justice and exemplary behaviour that proves the iman.  As an ummah, we have demonstrated over and over that true iman is not the common denominator of the Muslims in our time.  Tahrir Square has brought nothing but a more powerful tyrant than Egypt has ever had in modern times.  He will remain as Egypt’s leader until he dies, and then he will bequeath his legacy to a son or someone of his choosing.  Mubarak paled in comparison to Sisi.  That is not to say he cannot bring positive change to Egypt over time, but it is to say that he kowtows to Israel and the US, like his predecessor did and will do anything to retain power.  As for Libya and Iraq, was it worth it?  Up until now, based on the results, one must say no.  Will this change?  Only Allah (s.w.t.) Knows that. I am afraid we have truly begun the descent to an end-times conclusion.

Everything I see in the world points to that: environment, economics, political control by corporations and banks, moral and ethical decay, and so forth.  There is no turning back.  There may be short term upturn, but the long term trend is a deep trough.  There is no hope left for a quantum shift which is what we need.  Nothing else will suffice, and this shift must be global.  This does not deny iman; it simply affirms knowledge and wisdom as more important pillars of faith in terms of the outward world.  Inwardly, and concerning akhirah, we are certainly hopeful for a good end for ourselves and others; but as for the life of this world, the movement is distinctly toward the coming of the Mahdi (a.s.).  I remember a hadits from long ago that said there will come a time when things will be so bad that the only option is to take to the hills like a wolf.  We are right at the edge of that time.

Brother Mustafa Elfrink: Tahrir Square brought an inept bumbler like Muhammad Morsi to power, who was easily deposed, after spending a year blowing off people trying to help him, and get the hoped new Egyptian government off the ground.  Now the Ikhwanis have the gall to blame their misfortunes on the Shi’ah, Iran, Resistance Axis, and such like, for something that was largely their own doing, because they decided to foolishly pander to takfiri interests, instead of making real moves to rectify their society such as sack or force the old military brass into exile, institute development programs with the help of other Muslim countries, instead of the World Bank and IMF, and formulate and implement a new and original political doctrine.  But no, they did not do that.  And the Salafiyyah of Saudi Arabia still considers them to be deviants and innovators, despite all that.

Brother Jak Kilby: I do not recognise anything you have mentioned there, Brother Mustafa, regarding Morsi's government or what you claim they blame.  And I know plenty of their supporters.  I do believe Morsi was the sacrificial lamb, brought from prison into a democratic process way before the process would have happened, and then prepared for the slaughter, via Israel and Saudi Arabia.  And that is who the Ikhwanis I know point the finger at, not Iran.  Surely, it is no surprise that Sisi was involved in Intelligence, had training in America, and was probably recruited by the CIA – that is me making that assumption based on what I have known of officers from the military of Muslim nations having such training - and then was Egyptian military attaché in Riyadh before, where no doubt his contacts for the coup would have been set up.

Brother Hajj Ahmad, I do believe fully that hope is a feature of iman.  Contrast that to despair which would surely be an aspect of disbelief.  You might believe it to be false hope.  And yet, on another thread some time ago you seemed excited that Britain's Labour Party might elect the populist Jeremy Corbyn as leader, which they just have.  The elation over this amongst his supporters is also a feature of hope.  Hope for change, hope for better.  It might be a false hope but then is it not akin to living your life as if you were going to live forever, for the sake of your family, whereas you enact your worship as if you are going to die at any moment, the reality we tend to avoid.

Brother Mohamed Meeranudeen: Would the overthrow of Suharto in Indonesia also be considered leaderless?

Brother Colin Turner: No good has come from any of the revolutions and coups of the past thirty years, from Iran way back in 1979 down to the various Arab ‘springs’ of the past five years.  Iran under the Shah was much better for Islam than Iran under the ayatollahs; Iraq under Saddam was vastly preferable to Iraq today; Ghaddafi’s Libya was preferable to Libya without Ghaddafi, and the list goes on and on.  Why are we not learning these lessons?

Brother Dawud: I think Mark Twain also spoke wisdom when he said, “Loyalty to the nation always, loyalty to the government when it deserves.”

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: In Islam, revolution and rebellion against the ruler is always considered a last resort.  It is only to be done when there is absolutely no alternative.  This is a consensus of all the scholars and is strongly supported by the ahadits and the sunnah.  As demonstrated by the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, it is even preferable to sign unequal treaties for the sake of peace than prolong a conflict.  There is no denying that the Muslim world is infested with corrupt rulers and tyrants, but we must also remember that Allah (s.w.t.) Said:

... Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls).  But when (once) Allah willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him any to protect. (Surah ar-Ra’ad:11)

If that spiritual reality is not addressed, then every succeeding leader will be the same or worse.  And that is what we are seeing here.

Brother Mingda Sun: Spiritual awakening combined with political uprising.  Off the top of your head are there any examples in history?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Spiritual awakening does not lead to political uprising.

Brother Mingda Sun: How does it lead to better leadership then?  You really have that much faith in elections and democracy?  Me, I am still not sure.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I did not mention anything about elections or democracy.

Brother Mingda Sun: Fair enough.  But aside from uprisings, how else are leaders chosen in modern times?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Fix ourselves and the world around us will be fixed.

Brother Mingda Sun: How does that differ from the prosperity gospel?  Does belief in God really cause the lion to lay down next to the lamb, dictators to become benevolent, and such like?  I would like to think so but examples are hard to come by.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother, you are still enamoured with this conception that you have a say in things.  And that is why you are only thinking of changing the world.  If you can understand that the inner reality is the microcosm of the macrocosm, then what I have said makes perfect sense.  I mentioned Hudaybiyyah, and you should look it up.  Because what happened then perfectly illustrates the world as we know it.

Allah (s.w.t.) is Malik al-Mulk. He Alone Decrees, and not us.  And if we are pleased with Him, then He is Pleased with us.  And there is every success in the Pleasure of Allah (s.w.t.).  It was His Pleasure at the believers that He Promised a Great Victory, Surah al-Fath, and that ended with al-Fath al-Makkah.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Verily We have Granted thee a Manifest Victory: That Allah may Forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; Fulfill His Favour to thee; and Guide thee on the Straight Way; and that Allah may Help thee with Powerful Help.  It is He Who Sent Down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers, that they may add faith to their faith ― for to Allah Belong the forces of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom; ― (Surah al-Fath:1-4)

At Hunayn, Allah (s.w.t.) Said that the numbers of the Muslims elated them, but it was proven to be worthless.  And then He Sent aid, and the Muslims were victorious.  At Badr, the Muslims were few, but they sought Refuge in the Refuge of Those in Fear, Aman al-Kha’ifin, and He Granted them victory.  At Uhud, they forgot Divine Decree for but a moment, and it cost them.  How heedless are the Muslims now?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: We have to have a balance between changing our selves and changing society.  Too much concentration on self rectification to the neglect of working to improve society lead to social stagnation which lead to moral degradation and only wanting to change the external factors such as leaders leads to individual moral decline.

But even when facing oppression, there are plenty of ways to deal with oppression other than shows of collective concentrated defiance.  If the oppression is clear and there is a clear plan and preparation, a coup or revolution is more than likely to succeed.  Then, overthrowing a tyrant leader is valid.  But when there is just a hope that things will get better and a sense that something has to be done simply because oppression cannot be tolerated, then the likelihood of things getting worse than they were before is great.  Disobeying a leader is not the same as disobeying Allah (s.w.t.) or His Rasul (s.a.w.) in that defiance itself is harmful and sinful.  One could disobey a tyrant or dictator for a good reason but the harms that are incurred outweigh the benefits.

Sister Shahbano Aliani: I think one of the problems in debates such as these is that people who have not taken on inner work deliberately, do not quite understand what it entails and go by theories or speculation or assumption.  Inner work does not exclude working correctly in the outward.  In fact, Islam is one of the few traditions that has a non-monastic spiritual path.  You do not have to leave the world to work on yourself.  This is a false dichotomy.  A spiritual aspirant, one who is working on changing her or his own self, may appear to disengage for some time from the world. but this is generally a temporary state of affairs.  By and large, the Islamic inner tradition can be very practical and makes the outer the gymnasium for honing the inner skill.  In other words, it removes the false distinction between inner work and outer work.  The mundane and the sacred. every act, every engagement, everything can be an act of worship, purification and inner transformation.  It is not just about chanting dzikr and wearing fancy hats and capes.  It is our intention in every moment, it is service in every moment.  The only difference is that someone on an inner path will work as much if not more on their own selves as they do on the outside.  While someone only concerned with the outward will not necessarily work on themselves in a deliberate fashion.


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