The Pillars of Tyranny in Islamic Political Jurisprudence

The pillars of tyranny in Islamic political jurisprudence

Political tyranny is a thing rejected by laws, regulations, minds and common sense. No one, except prophets, has any value makes him better than others to govern them and seizes their affairs without their consent as this is injustice and tyranny are prohibited in all laws. But the heritage of Islamic political jurisprudence contributed inadvertently to establish the pillars of tyranny throughout Islamic history, by its report of some jurisprudential rulings, which tyranny political systems used them a lot and made them one of the major issues that may converge on the boundaries of the sacred and touch the boundaries of belief. I will mention these jurisprudential issues in points.

Ruler’s immunity

Political jurisprudence books in the Islamic heritage grant the ruler immunity from legal and societal accountability for an assumed integrity, that by declaring, hinting or sometimes keeping silent in the exhibition of the statement. The supposed integrity due to their mention of the conditions of the caliph, in the first books of the legal policy, which including Islam, justice, ijtihad and so on.

It turns a blind eye to the deviant practices by king’s reign, starting from the era of inheritance of judgment which began in the Umayyad state, such as exaggerating in veneration ruler and create an aura of prestige and pomp over him, that are support on the other side, by exaggerations of poets, writers’ obedience, and praise and beggars’ humiliating.

If caliph or imam’ description is mentioned in the books of Islamic political jurisprudence, which called the legitimate policy, the mind brings out that glorious image, which is distinct from the rest of citizens.

This image emerged through the scholars of the Sultan and the court who focused on the legal texts, monuments and fatwas that warn people against disobeying the rulers, revolting against them, and objecting to their injustice. On the other hand, it urges people to be patient about this, as if there are only these texts and rulings in Islam. However, texts that warn rulers from being injustice, neglecting the people, nepotism, and so on, are neglected.

Meanwhile the personality of the ruler and the limits of his powers and rights in the Islamic political jurisprudence in the era of the rightly caliphate are far from the previous image.

In their speeches, the caliphs asserted that they were natural persons, who had no advantage over others in guardianship and had no preference over anyone of people. Rather, their first teacher, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), had previously alerted them to this moral political value when he said to the very afraid man who had come to him; “take it easy, I am not a king, I am really a son of a Quraysh woman, her food was kadeed [1].

Al-Kadeed: Chopped, salted and dried meat stored for long periods in the sun or open air.

The Caliph, Abu Bakr, was asking from the Companions a salary, instead of his trade in the market, in order to devote himself to his work as a Caliph for the Muslims. The Companions would give him a sum of money from Bayt al-mal (the treasury) to buy his needs.

Caliph Omar was walking in the streets of the city, looking for the poor and downtrodden, talking with people in markets and roads, listening to their complaints, fulfilling their needs, and being closely to them.

Where is the inflated ruler personality, which entourages, literatures, and scares everyone who asks a question about the legitimacy of a decision or demanding a right from the state?

Hence, the rulers’ hands extended to the public money. Muslims’ money became a private for the ruler to spend it as he pleases, according to his supposed integrity, orientation and diligence, without Muslims having a role in participation or accountability.

If the ruler is good, he should spend the money of Muslims on aspects of goodness, develop science and society, and expand the Islamic state.  If he is corrupt, he will spend it on poets, praise, singers, dancer women, hunting trips and private gifts. If it is between goodness and corruptness, it is ok, but no Muslim have no right to ask the ruler how do you get this?

One might say; these mentioned models are no longer appropriate for our time, because they are specific to a previous historical era, in which the state was a simple primitive.

This is a fallacy. We are talking here about the ruler’s personality, the limits of his authority, and the nature of his job. These issues are exist in ancient and modern times. Even, the change that occurred on what have been mentioned above, because of ruler’s deviation of correct position, began in the past, since the environment was not very different from the environment in which the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Omar have ruled.

This immunity also enabled ruler to authoritarian abuse by gathering legislative, judicial, and executive powers of the state in his hand, with the complete absence of any supervising body.

Hence, the history and biography books filled with rulers’ destruction of their political opponents, in ways that are the most powerful images of political tyranny, such as ruler or one of his governors drag an opponent from his head in the mosque, on Eid and slaughtering him on the pulpit without trial. Ruler here is the legislator, judge and executer.[2]

The Crown Prince

Almost all those who wrote, from the predecessors, on issues of Islamic political jurisprudence unanimously agree on the legitimacy of the crown prince[3], because the tyrannical regime in their eras was deciding with sword, starting from era of Yazid bin Muawiya.

Some of the Companions were objecting to Yazid’s crown prince, but that case was carried out by force.

One of Muawiyah’s loyalists summarized the Umayyad opinion of caliphate in simple sentences. Where Muawiyah having people opinion in the crowned his son, Yazid. Yazid bin Al-Muqana said,” This is the Commander of the Faithful, and he referring to Muawiyah, if he died, then this, referring to his son, Yazid, and whoever refuses, then we use this, referring to his sword. Then Muawiyah said, sit dawn! you are the master of preachers.[4]

Then, authors went on in Islamic political jurisprudence looking for a legitimate basis for the legitimacy of the crown prince of Yazid. They found similarity in the act of caliph Abu baker, may God be pleased with him, when he recommended with Omar to succeed him in the leadership.

Some may protest that naming the crown prince when ruler is present is a measure that cuts the matter of sedition, closes the door of chaos, and prejudices everything that threatens security and safety after the death of the ruler. This is an argument with good faith and dangerous incomes. Its danger is what we see today from the exploitation of tyrannical regimes for this excuse when the ruler decided to put one of his brothers or children as crown prince, even if there is someone who is more suitable and more efficient.

So, the scholars ijtihad at in Islamic political jurisprudence of the legislation of the crown prince became one of the pillars of tyranny and a pillar of monarchical regimes in which the king put a road map for his people where he names who will by the ruler after him.  Or he may go beyond that to name a Deputy Crown Prince or he may issue a constitutional decision stating that the ruling does not come out of his brothers or children.

In line with justice and the principles of freedom consistent with the spirit of Sharia, the caliphate of Omar was not abstract, but it was by public’s consent after the proposal of Abu Bakr.  If they were not satisfied, Abu Bakr proposal would have no effect, and therefore, Abu Bakr was asking them, would you be satisfied with who I recommend him to succeed me? [5]

I see that the difference in the mechanism of choosing the ruler among the silence of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) before his death, the Abu Bakr recommendation of Omar, and the Omar recommendation of six companions, are all indications that the choice of the ruler is entrusted to the nation’s satisfaction in every era. If the people accept what Abu Bakr have recommended in that era, then they may not be satisfied with the recommendation of the ruler in other times.

Moreover, the Holy Qur’an, which is the general constitution for all the provisions of Islam, spoke in detail about issues less important than the issue of leading nation, yet it never spoke about it.  As if, it leaves it to the nation’s diligence and choice in a way that suits conditions in every era, as prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did.

Powerful decision-makers meaning

Among the issues that appear in most of the Islamic political jurisprudence’s books is the issue of powerful decision-makers, who are responsible of choosing ruler.

The problem of this issue is ambiguity and confusion surrounding it, which turned it into a legislative document and a pillar of political tyranny and kidnapping of ruler.

The Concept of powerful decision-makers is not controlled, neither in fact, nor even in the books of Islamic politics.[6]

Some believe that powerful decision-makers are the diligent scholars, which are scholars of Sharia only. Some add military leaders, tribes’ leaders, then the merchants, literates, virtue, wisdom’s people, and so on.

Hence, any political system that tyrannizes or intends to tyrannize can conclude any one he wants in the powerful decision-makers, and get out of whom he wants, since the matter is available for it. Of course, he will enter whoever supports his rule and gets out who opposes his rule, according to his own interest. Thus, it takes this jurisprudential issue as a pillar of tyranny.

In addition to this inconsistency in defining the concept of powerful decision-makers, the inconsistency also occurred in the matter of the fewest number of the powerful decision-makers in which they hold the pledge of allegiance, so that some of them such as Imam Al-Juwayni brought him to one person![7]

How about if this person is the brother or son of the ruler?

The unfortunate reality is the powerful decision-makers instead of guide the ruler by choosing him has become the selected ones. Therefore, he gathered around him his loyalists form the nobles, elders and merchants. Even those who were not nobles, they become so by his proximity to the ruler.

The consultation is non-mandatory

God Almighty commanded his prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), in the Holy Quran to consult with his companions. The Almighty said, “… and consult them in the affairs.”[8] Even he is an infallible and God reveal him.

Then we find some people in the field of topics of legal policy of the legacy of Islamic political jurisprudence reduces the importance of the consultation by saying the consultation is something additional and not binding. This help the ruler to take decision in his own even if this decision is wrong, taking what those people said as a pillar of political tyranny.

Even those who said that the consultation is a must, did not mention a practical mechanism to ensure the application of this important value and monitor its implementation, but they left the matter dependent on choosing the mechanism authority by which the consultation is applied.

Even those who emphasized the necessity of the consultation did not mention a practical mechanism to ensure its application and monitor its implementation, but rather they left it to the ruler to choose the mechanism to implement the consultation.

The legitimacy of the overpowering ruler

The scholars who examined the issues of Islamic political jurisprudence found themselves in front of tyranny regimes seizing the power by force. Therefore, they find it necessary to forbid people from disobeying in order to prevent bloodshed to satisfy with less damage than severe one, and this is basically a realistic and illegitimate political rule.

This deficiency came as a result of the authors and jurists being stopped at this emergency ruling, until it became as if it was the original. And that the right of the nation to choose who governs it has been lost by prescription, and Muslims have no alternative but excepting and surrounding to the overpowering ruler as he is  Caliph Omar Al-Faruq.

It was necessary for Islamic jurisprudence and legal policy to clarify the matter with all its circumstances. Preventing revolution on tyrant ruler is not because once he has overcome that made him the legal ruler he must be obeyed by nation as God in Holy Quran said, “O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad PBYH) and those of you who are in authority”[9]. Rather the reason of preventing revolution on tyrant ruler is to put the circumstantial interest. The interest here is metaphorical, not real, as it is not an interest, but it is evil.

As if it is said to people, “Do not revolt; obey the ruler, not because by stopping so, you achieve an interest but because you are forced to do less evil than a bigger one. By doing so, you help nation to depose that tyrant ruler and crowned the better one.

Moreover, the saying of the legitimacy of the overpowering ruler is something opposed the principles of justice, which all laws came to establish its pillars by sending messengers and prophets to tyrannical rulers who call them to believe in God and to be just and call people to obey God, not obey the tyrant ruler.

The role of jurists in establishing the pillars of tyranny

Some may think that the distinguished Salafi scholars who worked hard in Islamic political jurisprudence wanted these results, that is, their efforts and research should be pillars of political tyranny. But it is necessary to be fair and absolve them of this charge, where what history and biographical books said about them, that only few stay alive of those who have faced the rule. That proves their steadfastness, which led some of them to be tortured and imprisoned, such as; Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik bin Anas, Imam Al-Shafi’i, Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, Sufyan Al-Thawri, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Al-Qayyim, Al-Ezz Ibn Abd al-Salam, Ibn Hazm, Ibn al-Jawzi, and many others.

Since the field here is ijtihad in the legitimate policy, it was more worthy of those who wrote in this section to pay attention to the pillars of tyranny that could be taken by their sayings and their jurisprudence. Then supporting the reality jurisprudence instead of the jurisprudence of abstract opinion.


[1] Ibn Majah, Al-Sunan, hadith No. 3312. Al-Albani, Al-Silsilah Al-Saheeh, hadith No. 1876.

[2] There is a story similar to that of Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Qusri, the governor of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham bin Abdul Malik, on Iraq. He said in the speech of the feast, O people sacrifice, may Allah accept your victims, for me I will sacrifice with Al-Jaad bin Dirham, and then he came down from the pulpit and dragged him from his head and slaughtered him. See: Al-Bukhari Creating acts of servants, p. 29.

[3] See: Al-Mawardi, Rulings of the Sultan: p. 30. Judge Abu Yala Rulings of the Sultan” p. 23. Ibn Jama’a, Editing of Rulings: P.56.

[4] Ibn Al-Atheer, Al-Kamel in the history, V 3, p 101.

[5] Al-Tabari, History of Messengers and Kings, V3, p 428.

[6] See: Al-Mawardi, Rulings of the Sultan: p. 17. Al-Juwaini, “Gyath Alomam Book,” p. 21. Ibn Jama’a, Editing of Rulings: P.52.

[7] Al-Juwayni, Gyath Al-Omam, p 67.

[8]  Surat Al- Omran verse No 159.

[9] Surrat Annissa, verse No 59.

Abdullah Al-Salem
Abdullah Al-Salem
Blogger critic poet from Qatar

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