Friday, June 24, 2011

The Islamic Ruling on Protests and Demonstrations

The Saudi Attempt to Silence the Word of Truth

The ummah (Islamic nation) around the world is rising and seeking to reclaim the authority that was stolen from her by the tyrant rulers of the Middle East. In country after country we are seeing the people lose their fear of the regimes that have been suppressing, repressing, torturing and imprisoning them and standing in the way of their political aspirations. Now some of these rulers have fallen, and others are living precariously; the momentum is for change and the ummah will not now turn back.

This struggle that the ummah is engaged in is the highest struggle: political struggle sanctioned by the Messenger (saw) when he said:

‘The best struggle (jihād) is the word of truth spoken to a tyrant ruler.’ (Al-Nasā’ī)

Yet, we find some ‘ulamā (clerics) sponsored by the Saudi regime giving a most unfortunate regressive fatwā (religious edict) that protests and demonstrations in that land are harām (prohibited). In this article, Allāh willing, we want to scrutinise this fatwā, since Muslims are commanded not to be like the Ahl al-Kitāb (The People of the Book) who took their priests and rabbis as Lords (instead of Allāh), accepting their judgments blindly without question. The reasons given by government scholars and others range in gravity, from the serious charge of rebellion, to the downright ludicrous – demonstrations will hold up traffic! Indeed it is embarrassing to read the justifications given by the ‘Ulamā of the Saudi government’s ‘Council of Senior Scholars’ and those who follow them; thus legitimising the Saud regime, which is a haven for the other illegitimate tyrants in the region – such as Mubarak, Ben Ali and now Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudi fatwā is premised on one principal reason: that protests and demonstrations constitute rebellion against the legitimate rulers of Saudi Arabia. Here are some relevant quotes:

Protection of the community is of the greatest principles of Islām. It is from the great issues that Allāh commanded in His Holy Book, and condemned whoever abandoned it. Allāh Almighty says: “And hold fast, all together, by the rope which God (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves…” (Āli-‘Imrān: 103) This is the principle of protection of the community, which the Prophet commanded upon all citizens, common and elites alike, as he (saw) said: “Allāh’s hand is with communion” (narrated by Tirmidhī). He (saw) also said: “Whoever held back the hand from obedience, will meet Allāh on the Day of Resurrection without any justification for himself; and whoever died without the pledge of allegiance on his neck, had died a death of ignorance” (narrated by Muslim). He (saw) again said: “He who wanted to separate the affairs of this nation when they are unified, you should kill him with the sword, whosoever he is”(narrated by Muslim).’ Source:

It is claimed that Saudi Arabia is based on the Qur’ān and Sunnah, and that anything said against the rulers is division and rebellion against the legitimate authority. We wish to make the following points about this:

The fatwā assumes that the Saudi regime rules by Islām and as such, they are legitimate rulers. The reality of the matter is that the Saudi Regime is far from being a legitimate Islamic authority.

The fatwā also incorrectly associates all protests with the issue of rebellion (i.e. seeking to overthrow a Muslim ruler, usually through violence); such a linkage is neither definitive, nor causative: Many demonstrations occur that are a) not violent, and b) for causes other than the overthrow of a regime – eg seeking the rights of the people, the support of oppressed Muslims, a just rule of law, and the lawful use of the ummah’s wealth etc. However, the reality of the matter is that the regimes in the Middle East are not legitimate as they do not make Qur’an and the Sunnah the basis of their rule (this will be addressed fully in a separate article insha Allāh), and therefore seeking the change of regimes (isqat an nizam) via protests and demonstrations in the current context is perfectly valid in the Shari’ah.

Also it is important to note that accounting the rulers is an important obligation in Islām, independent to the issue of legitimacy i.e. whether legitimate or illegitimate, the ummah has the right and the duty to hold their leaders to task; this article will inshā Allāh explain that public protests and demonstrations (that hold to the guidelines laid down by the Sharī’ah) are a permitted form of accounting.

What is a legitimate authority in Sharī’ah?

A state becomes Islamic when its rules and policies derive from the Islamic ‘Aqīdah (creed) i.e. when their basis is the Qur’ān and Sunnah; meaning the sovereignty lies with the Sharī’ah. That is why obedience to the rulers is restricted and not unqualified. Allāh (swt) says:

“O you who believe! Obey Allāh, Obey His Messenger and those in authority from amongst you; and if you differ, then refer it to Allāh and His Messenger, if you believe in Allāh and the Last Day.” [Al-Nisā: 59]

This noble verse in Surah al-Nisā comes after verse 58, which focused on the rulers when they were enjoined to rule by justice – which is nothing other than what Allāh (SWT) has revealed (i.e. the Qur’ān and the Sunnah). In this verse, the focus is on the Muslims under the authority of the rulers, and their responsibility. In this respect the message of this ayah is addressed to the Ummah at large and we can learn from it the following matters:

The āyah (verse) begins with the imperative (command) form verb atī’ū (‘obey’): the subject of obedience (i.e. those who obey) is in plural form, meaning ‘ALL those who believe in Islām’; and the object of obedience (i.e. the one who is obeyed) is Allāh (swt). The verse then repeats the command atī’ū (obey) and this time the object of obedience is the Messenger (saw). The repetition of the word ‘obey’ and the order indicates the two basic reference points that Muslims have: the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Therefore anything in contravention of Qur’ān and Sunnah must be disobeyed, and anything from the Qur’ān and Sunnah must be obeyed. This is the principle upon which Muslims are told to live by and this is the principle on which Muslims are instructed to view their rulers. Here the word for rulers, or those in authority, is ūlul- amr (literal translation: ‘the people of Command’). It is not restricted to the Khalīfah, but also includes the wāli’s (governors), wazīrs (ministers) and all those who have authority, especially since the word has been used in the plural form (ūlul-amr and not the singular waliyul-amr).

It is significant that the āyah does not repeat the verb atī’ū when it comes to the Rulers, as it did in respect to Allāh and His Messenger; this is an additional indication alongside the clear verses and hadīth that state that rulers must obey Allāh and His Messenger in their ruling and exercise of authority. For example the Messenger (saw) said: ‘There is no obedience (when this results) in disobedience of the Creator.’ [Sahīh Bukhārī] Here the mantūq (directly apparent meaning) is an absolute prohibition of following an order that goes against the order of Allāh (swt) – whosoever makes that order. This hadīth came specifically in the context of authority and ruling. Its mafhūm (implied meaning) indicates that just as the person cannot obey a ruler who commanded disobedience to Allāh (swt); so in the same way, a ruler or amīr cannot order, enact laws or rule by anything that is in violation of what Allāh (swt) has ordered.

Consider for example the following hadīth: It has been reported that ‘Alī (ra) said, “The Messenger of Allāh sent a troop under the command of a man from Al-Ansār. When they left, he became angry with them for some reason, and said to them, `Has not the Messenger of Allāh commanded you to obey me?’ They said, `Yes.’ He said, `Collect some wood,’ and then he started a fire with the wood, saying, `I command you to enter the fire.’ The people almost entered the fire, but a young man among them said, `You ran away from the Fire to Allāh’s Messenger. Therefore, do not rush until you go back to Allāh’s Messenger, and if he commands you to enter it, then enter it.’ When they went back to Allāh’s Messenger, they told him what had happened, and the Messenger said, ‘Had you entered it, you would never have departed from it. Obedience is only in righteousness.’” (Reported by Bukhārī volume 9, book 91, number 363). Here the Messenger (saw) stated that obedience is only in the ‘ma’rūf’ (good) and not in the ‘munkar’ (evil). So the one in authority cannot command anything but ma’rūf, and people cannot obey anything but ma’rūf. What is ma’rūf is what Islām has defined as good, and munkar is what Islām has defined as evil. It is not left to the discretion of man to decide these matters.

The verse also obliges the obedience to the command of the Messenger (saw) and links that to the rulers. As long as the rulers or those in authority obey the Messenger (saw) then there is the obedience to him, otherwise there is no obedience. It is ludicrous after saying that there is no obedience in the disobedience to the Creator, that there can be obedience in the disobedience to the Messenger (saw) as the āyah obliges obedience to Allāh and His Messenger. That is why the Messenger of Allāh, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace, said in a ḥadīth reported by Abū Hurayrah,Whoever obeys me has obeyed Allāh and whoever disobeys me has disobeyed Allāh. Whoever obeys the amīr has obeyed me and whoever disobeys the amīr has disobeyed me’ [Agreed upon]. As for the statement ‘whoever obeys the amīr has obeyed me and whoever disobeys the amīr has disobeyed me’ in the above hadīth or the following one: ‘Anyone who dislikes something from his amīr should be patient. Anyone who abandons obedience to the amīr for even a short time dies the death of the Jāhiliyyah (ignorance)’ [Agreed upon]: This does not mean absolute obedience to the rulers. These ahādīth are about not rebelling against the rulers due to their misappropriation of the people’s rights, but not about obeying the rulers in the matters which are a clear violation of the Sharī’ah. Rather, when the ruler commands a clear munkar, the Muslim must disobey that command and cannot say he was following orders.

The verse then concludes that if there is a dispute over a matter, between the Muslims and their rulers, then the final arbiter must be Allāh and His Messenger (saw). It states: “if you differ, then refer it to Allāh and His Messenger, if you believe in Allāh and the Last Day.” Just as the young man in the above hadīth disputed with his amīr when he commanded them to enter the fire, and referred the matter to the Messenger; we are also obliged to refer to the Islamic reference point i.e. the Qur’ān and Sunnah when there is a dispute. The last words of the āyah enjoin on the believers the importance of referring to Allāh and His Messenger in ruling, by drawing attention to the fact that not to do so is a negation of imān; hence it says: ‘…if you believe in Allāh and the Last Day.”

This is how the Sahābah (ra) understood this matter and nothing shows this more clearly than the speech of Abū Bakr al-Siddīq when he assumed the post of Khalīfah: “Help me if I am in the right; set me right if I am in the wrong. The weak among you shall be strong with me until Allāh willing, his rights have been vindicated. The strong among you shall be weak with me until, if Allāh wills, I have taken what is due from him. Obey me as long as I obey Allāh and His Prophet; when I disobey Him and his Prophet, obey me not.

The conclusion therefore is that a ruler becomes legitimate only when he bases his rule on the Kitāb and Sunnah, ie sovereignty is for the Sharī’ah, and it is for this reason that obedience becomes obligatory. We are not asked by the ahādīth to give ‘our backs and property’ for no reason, i.e. if a ruler oppresses people, but rules by Islām, we are still obliged to obey such rulers, and not obey them in a sin; while at the same time accounting and advising them to stop their injustice. (The obligation to obey and not rebel against a ruler who commits oppression whilst accounting him will be clarified in detail in a separate article inshā Allāh.)

However, when we look to the case of the Saudi regime, we find that the basis of its rule is not the Sharī’ah, as indicated by its persistent and constant explicit contravention of the Sharī’ah; here are a few examples:
  • Permission of usury (ribā) and banks trading in usury, which is category prohibited in Islām
  • Submission to man-made international law as members of the UN and other international bodies, whose charters and rules are not in accordance with Islām
The flagrant and persistent violation of Sharī’ah by the Saudi regime, even after having been accounted by the ‘ulamā and the da’wah carriers means that the above constitute explicit kufr (kufr buwāh). Consequently, their rule is not legitimate and they need to be removed by the people of power (nusrah) and a just ruler appointed in their place.

So to claim that demonstrations against the Saudi rulers is prohibited, is misplaced as the Saudi regime does not enjoy any legitimacy whatsoever from the Sharī’ah perspective. Holding on to the rope of Allāh, and unity of the Jamā’ah arises only when Muslims gather under the leadership of a ruler who rules by the book of Allāh and Sunnah of the Messenger, not under the leadership of those who betray the interests of the Ummah and are only interested in being the khādims (servants) of America. A more detailed discussion on the issue of ‘Sharī’ah rules regarding legitimacy of Rulers’ will occur in a separate article inshā Allāh

Again, it is important not to confuse the issue of legitimacy, with the issue of accounting the rulers, since that is an independent obligation in Islām. Suffice to say, as the following section will show; if public accounting was permitted in the time of our Prophet (saw) and the Khulafā Rāshidah (the rightly-guided Caliphs), who represent the pinnacle of legitimacy and just Islamic leadership, then by greater reasoning (min bāb al-awlā) such accounting is needed in the time oppressive and corrupt rulers, whether they are legitimate or illegitimate.

Evidences for permissibility of demonstrations and protests

As for the proofs (adillah) for the permissibility of demonstration, there are both general and specific:
A demonstration or protest is a public display of opinion, and it is usually carried out by a group, though an individual can demonstrate or protest. So the manāt (reality) of protests and demonstrations is the public display of opinions.  The general evidences which allow people to meet and express opinions would permit people to demonstrate their opinions, as long as the opinions expressed are permitted by Islām. As such protests and demonstrations are merely a permissible style, which takes its hukm (ruling) dependent on the reasons and aims of the demonstrations; thus these must be assessed before a hukm can be given for how can a style be labelled harām without consideration of its aims and purpose? For example, if Muslims come out on a demonstration calling for the legalisation of ribā, such a demonstration would not be halāl (permissible), as it calls for something that is harām. However, if people come out to account the rulers for their oppression, and neglecting the people’s legitimate rights (given by Islām); then such a demand – whether via a letter, meeting or demonstration – is ḥalāl, because it is regarding a matter that is not only permitted, but obliged by the Sharī’ah.

Another form of general evidences are the ‘umūmāt (generality) and unrestricted (mutlaq) import of the multitude of āyāt and aḥādīth that enjoin Muslims to speak the Ḥaqq (truth), enjoin the good and forbid the evil. For example:

Hudhayfah reported that the Prophet, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace, said, By the One in whose hand is my soul, you shall command the right and forbid the wrong, or else Allāh may send His punishment on you; then you will call on Him and He will not answer you. [Muslim]

Or consider the following ayah:

“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islām), enjoining Al-Ma`rūf (good) and forbidding Al-Munkar (evil); and it is they who are the successful.”
(Āli ‘Imrān: 104)

This ayah even includes the permissibility of collective action to forbid a munkar as it is a group that is commanded to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. This means if a group can forbid a munkar as a group and then there is no restriction on collectively accounting the rulers ie forbidding the munkar in the form of a demonstration. Thus these examples, due to the umūmāt (generality) and unrestricted form (mutlaq) of their meaning, allow the option of any style (for accounting) that the Sharī’ah has not expressly forbidden.

To elaborate further, consider the following hadīth:

The best struggle (jihād) is the word of truth spoken to a tyrant ruler.’ (Al-Nasā’ī).

This hadīth encouraging political struggle does not specify the manner in which the truth should be spoken to the tyrant ruler, which means any style that has not been prohibited by another text is permitted. So whether by a letter, distribution of leaflets, publication of a book, article in a newspaper or speaking directly to the ruler, these are all permissible means of fulfilling the obligation. This is similar to the hadīth of the Messenger (saw) when he said: Convey from me, even if it be one verse. (Bukhārī) This hadīth enjoins on us to convey Islamic knowledge or carry da’wah to others, but nowhere in the language of this hadīth did the Prophet (saw) restrict it to any particular style or means. Therefore, it is permissible to impart knowledge via one to one teaching, group lessons or even via the internet. These are all permissible style as the command ballighū (convey) is unrestricted (mutlaq): so whatever action will realise this is permitted, as long as there is no specific nass (text) to the contrary.

The above hadīth for example says ‘the best struggle (jihād)’: this fits a reality where the accounting is done publicly, since that is truly a struggle, whereas it is easier to account privately. It is when the ruler is accounted in front of everyone that he is likely to kill or imprison the person accounting him. This is also the import (mafhūm) of the following hadīth:

“The master of martyrs is Hamzah, and a man who stood up to a tyrant ruler to advise him and was killed” (Reported by al-kim and declared sound (sahīh) by al-Albānī in his Sahīh al-Targhīb no. 2308)

The fact that ruler was accounted publicly is the most likely reason for the accounting-person being killed; and therefore such evidences can also be considered as specific evidences in their own right by their implicit meaning (mafhum).

This same indication, of public accounting, is actually found in the hadīth that some refer to prove accounting should only be in private. The hadīth in question reported by Ahmad in his Musnad states:
Whoever wishes to advise the ruler then let him not mention it in public; rather let him take the ruler by his hand. So if he listens then that is that, and if not, then he has fulfilled that which was upon him.’ This hadīth, assuming it is authentic, does not indicate a nahī (prohibition) of accounting publically. One might argue that there is a karāhah (disliked, but not prohibited) or ibāhah (permissibility) here, but not that it is harām (categorical prohibition); i.e. that public accounting is discouraged or that it is permitted, but not a prohibition; since the indications of the aforementioned texts and many others (that we have not quoted here) are that public accounting is permissible; and there is no qarīnah (indication) in this hadīth to make the request (not to do something) decisive. So what is the nature of the request (talab) in this Hadīth?  The context of this narration is that ‘Iyād b. Ghanam quoted the above hadīth to Hishām b. Hākim, who had accounted a leader publicly, and said to him: “You are bold and show audacity against the ruler; do you not fear that the ruler will kill you?” This shows that ‘Iyād b. Ghanam did not himself consider it harām to account publically, but was mentioning it to Hishām b. Hākim to inform him that due to fear of death, it is permitted to account in private as a rukhsah (dispensation).  Another possible interpretation is that initially it is better to advise privately, though not to do so is permitted, especially when the rulers have persisted in their ruling by other than what Allāh has revealed. However, in case of tyrannical rule, as the aforementioned two ahādīth mention the tyrant ruler, the norm or preference is the public accounting as that is what is required to stop the ruler’s injustice and oppression. In any case, whichever understanding is adopted, the permissibility remains of accounting the ruler in public, as per the other sounder ahādīth, and it is the best reconciliation of the various ahādīth on accounting the rulers.

In respect of practice, this was the example of the Sahābah and Salaf al-Sālih who accounted the rulers in public. It is reported that a person told ‘Umar b. Khattāb (ra) to “fear Allāh” publicly, and ‘Umar responded by saying: ‘There is no goodness in you if you do not say it, and there is no goodness in us if we do not hear it.’ (Manāqib amīr al-muminīn by Ibn al-Jawzī. P.155)

As for the Salaf al-Sālih, look at the example of Hasan al-Basrī: he was present in Basrah when al-Hajjāj, a tyrant wālī, built his grand palace and called all the people to witness it. Hasan knew that this was a great opportunity to remind the people about the place of wealth and status in this life. He said: ‘We looked at what the filthiest of filth built, and we found that Fir’awn built greater than what he built and higher than what he built, then Allāh destroyed Fir’awn and what he built. Hajjāj should know that the inhabitants of the sky hate him and the people of the earth only deceive him!’ It was said to Hasan ‘Be careful, O Abū Sa’īd!’ Hasan replied ‘Allāh has taken a covenant from the people of knowledge to explain it to the people and not to be silent!’ In this example the Hasan al-Basrī openly exposed the excesses of the ruler. (Suwār min hayāt al-tabi’īn, ‘Abdur Rahmān Ra’fat Basha p.101-102)

Furthermore, it should not be said that the advice should be private or otherwise it is ghībah (backbiting). This is because the ahādīth have come in an unrestricted form, and in fact the indications of the ahādīth of accounting are that the accounting is to be done in public; and as for ghībah, there is no ghībah for the one who does open fisq (transgression). Imām Nawawī in his Riyād al-Sālihīn, under the chapter of ‘Types of Ghībah which are Permissible’ listed six types, which in his view are allowed as exceptions (to the normal prohibition of back-biting); of these, three are relevant:

a)      Complaining (tazallum) to the ruler or judge
b)      Seeking help to change an evil (munkar)
c)      Mentioning the one who openly commits a sin (fisq) or innovation (bid’ah).

Indeed, under any of the above three categories there would be a dispensation to backbite against the ruler’s oppression, evil actions or open sins. Some like Hasan al-Basrī did not consider accounting rulers as ghībah in origin, as it is reported that he said: There is no backbiting with regard to the fāsiq (sinner who openly professes his evil).’ (al-Lalikā’ī, 1/140,p. 279).

This was the same practice for Ahmad b. Hanbal when he accounted the Abbasid Khalīfah al-Ma’mūn, and Ibn Taymiyyah with Sultān al-Nāsir the Mamlūk sultan; so how can it be claimed today that it is harām to account the rulers publicly. It is not befitting for the Saudi scholars who claim to follow such scholars that they should give a fatwā, effectively stopping a means to accounting the rulers and speaking the word of truth. This is not blocking the means (sadd al-dharī’ah) to evil, but blocking the means to hold the rulers to account and speaking the haqq.

As for the specific evidences for protests and demonstration and they are numerous. Some relate to the public display of opinion individually and others indicate the collective display of opinion in public and we shall examples for both:

Abū Sa’īd al-Khudrī reported that the Prophet, may Allāh bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Beware of sitting in the roadways.’ They said, ‘Messenger of Allāh, we must have places where we can sit and talk together.’ He (saw) said, ‘If you must sit there, then give the roadway its rights.’ They asked,What are the rights of the roadway, Messenger of Allāh?” He said,Lowering the eye, refraining from causing annoyance, returning the greeting, commanding the right and forbidding the wrong. [Agreed upon] This hadīth clearly shows that public accounting on the ‘roadway’ is not only permitted, but a right of the Muslim presence in the public sphere.

It has been reported by Al-Bukhārī on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās (may Allāh be pleased with him) that he said: “When the following verses were revealed:  “And warn your tribe [O Muhammad (saw)] of near kindred.” [26:214] The Messenger of Allāh (saw) ascended Mount Al-Safā and started to call: “O Banī Fahr! O Banī ‘Adī!” Many people gathered, and those who could not sent somebody to report to them. Abū Lahab was also present. The Prophet (saw) said: “You see: if I were to tell you that there were some horsemen in the valley planning to raid you, would you believe me?” They said: “Yes, we have never experienced any lie from you.” He said: “I am a Warner to you before a severe torment.” Abū Lahab promptly replied: “Perish you all the day! Have you summoned us for such a thing?” Muslim has the following version reported on authority of Abū Hurayrah (ra) — He said: “When the following verses were revealed: “And warn your tribe [O Muhammad (saw)] of near kindred.” [26:214] The Messenger of Allāh (saw) called all the people of Quraysh; so they gathered and he gave them a general warning. Then he made a particular reference to certain tribes, and said: “O Quraysh, rescue yourselves from the Fire; O people of Banī Ka’b, rescue yourselves from the Fire; O Fātimah, daughter of Muhammad, rescue yourself from the Fire, for I have no power to protect you from Allāh in anything except that I would sustain relationship with you.”

Here Allāh’s Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him), after receiving the command to carry the da’wah to his tribesmen, went out on top of Mount Safā and called out to the Quraysh to heed his warning. This was a public display of opinion by the Prophet (saw), and what is permitted for the individual is permitted for the group (as long as there is no specific nass that restricts the action to the Messenger alone).
Not only did the Prophet (saws) publically proclaim the Call, so did his companions even when they had an option not to do so. It is narrated by al-Bukhārī in a long hadīth about the conversion of Abū Dharr (ra) that the Prophet (saw) said to him:  ‘O Abū Dharr! Keep your conversion as a secret and return to your town; and when you hear of our victory, return to us.’ I said, ‘By Him Who has sent you with the Truth, I will announce my conversion to Islam publicly amongst them (i.e. the infidels),’ Abū Dharr went to the mosque, where some people from the Quraysh were present, and said, ‘O folk of Quraysh! I testify that Lā ilāha illallāh (none has the right to be worshipped but Allāh), and I (also) testify that Muuammad is His (Allāh’s) slave and His Messenger.’ (Hearing that) the Qurayshi men said, ‘Get at this Sabi’ (i.e. Muslim)!’ They got up and beat me nearly to death. Al-‘Abbās saw me and threw himself over me to protect me. He then faced them and said, ‘Woe to you! You want to kill a man from the tribe of Ghifār, although your trade and your communications are through the territory of Ghifār?’ They therefore left me. The next morning I returned (to the mosque) and said the same as I have said on the previous day, and again Al-‘Abbās found me and threw himself over me to protect me and told them the same as he had said the day before…’

As for the specific evidences which show the collective public display of opinion they are the following:
Ibn Kathīr, in his Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah (vol.1 p.439) reported through ‘Āishah (ra) who said: ‘When the companions of the Prophet (saw) gathered and they numbered thirty eight men, Abū Bakr urged the Prophet (saw) to go public with the call. The Prophet (saw) said: ‘O Abu Bakr, we are yet few (in number).‘ This narration shows that the Prophet (saw) was waiting to have a sufficient number so that he can go out publicly with his companions, though as we know the call was public from the beginning. The difference was that the public call was now also to be made by his (saw) group of companions.

This is further supported by the verse in surah al-Hijr where Allāh (swt):
‘Proclaim (fasda’ [noun: sad’]) that which you have been commanded.” (15:94)

This ayah commands the public proclamation of the call. It is interesting that Imām Nawawī places this ayah under the chapter on ‘Commanding the good and forbidding the evil’ in his Riyād al-Sālihīn indicting that he considers it of the same category. The lexical meaning of sad’ in the above verse is to ‘proclaim or call publically’. This is what the grammarians, exegetes and biographers of the Prophet’s Sīrah have stated it to be its meaning:

According to the grammarian Muhammad ibn Abī Bakr ibn ‘Abdul-Qādir al-Razi: the ṣad’ of a matter means ‘speak about it publically’ (Mukhtār al-Sihah p.358) The grammarian Al-Jawharī stated that: ‘sada’tu bil-haqq (I proclaimed the truth) means I spoke about it publically.’ (al-Sihah vol.3 p.124) Al-Zamakhsharī (the scholar of linguistic exegesis) stated that the ayah: ‘Proclaim (fasda’)…’ means ‘proclaim or show publically.’ (al-Kashshāf – at above ayah reference). Ibn Qayyim stated: ‘And he (saw) called to Allāh secretly for three years, then the verse was revealed: “Proclaim that which you have been commanded….,”; then he (saw) declared the Call publicly and was faced with hostility from his people, and the oppression on him and the Muslims intensified until Allāh (swt) permitted the two migrations (hijras).’ (Zād al-Ma’ād vol.1 p.86) Ibn Kathīr in his tafsīr said: ‘Abū ‘Ubaydah from ‘Abdullāh b. Mas’ūd said: The Prophet (saw) was operating secretly until the verse was revealed: ‘Proclaim the truth’ and so he, with his companions, went out publically…’ (vol.2 p.559) Al-Shawkāni, in respect to the above āyah, said: ‘al-Farrā` said (it means): ‘Display your religion publically.’’ (Fath al-Qadīr, vol.3 p.143-144)

Suhayb b. Sinān stated: ‘When ‘Umar converted to Islām, we displayed and called to Islām openly, and we assembled and circumambulated around the Sacred House. We even dared retaliate against some of the injustices done to harm us.’ [Tarīkh ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb by Ibn al-Jawzī, p.11] In this context we have the public demonstration of the Muslims, organised by ‘Umar b. Al-Khattāb, for which he was praised by the Messenger (saw), as reported in ‘The Sealed Nectar’:  “With respect to the Muslims in Makkah, ‘Umar’s (ra) conversion had a different tremendous impact. Mujāhid, on the authority of Ibn al-‘Abbās (ra), related that he had asked ‘Umar b. Al-Khattāb why he had been given the epithet of Al-Fārūq (He who distinguishes truth from falsehood); he replied: After I had embraced Islam, I asked the Prophet (saw): ‘Aren’t we on the right path, here and in the Hereafter?’ The Prophet (saw) answered: ‘Of course you are! I swear by Allāh in Whose Hand my soul is; that you are right in this world and in the hereafter.’ I therefore asked the Prophet, ‘Why had we then to conduct clandestine activism. I swear by Allāh, who has sent you with the Truth; that we will leave our concealment and proclaim our noble cause publicly.’ We then went out in two groups, Hamzah leading one and I the other. We headed for the Mosque in broad daylight. When the polytheists of Quraysh saw us, their faces went pale, and they got incredibly depressed and resentful. On that very occasion, the Prophet attached to me the epithet of Al-Fārūq.” (Al-Rahīq al-Makhtūm p113 1st ed. English trans.)
The meaning of this narration (i.e. of public da’wah and display of opinion) has a number of shawāhid (literally: witnesses) that corroborate the fact that the companions went out publically to proclaim their call.

For example:

‘Uthmān b. al-Arqam narrated: ‘I was the son of the seventh Muslim; my father was the seventh person to embrace Islām (in Makkah). His house was on mount Safā and it was the house in which the Prophet used to reside. In it he called the people and many embraced Islam there. On Monday night the Prophet made the du’ā: ‘O Allāh, strengthen Islām with the most beloved to you of the two; ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb or ‘Umar b. Hishām.’ ‘Umar came the next morning and embraced Islām in dar al-Arqam (the house of Arqam). Then they went out, making takbīr and made tawāf around the Sacred House publicly. The house of al-Arqam at that time used to be called dar al-Islam (the house of Islam).’ (Reported by al-Hākim in his Mustadrak vol.2 p.502) In another narration via ‘Uthmān b. ‘Abdullāh b. al-Arqam, it is stated that the Prophet (saw) took shelter in his home until ‘there were forty Muslims and the last of these who embraced Islām was ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb and when they were forty in number they went out to the mushrikīn.’ [Al-Hākim stated the isnād (chain of transmission) is sound (sahīh), vol.3 p.504 of al-Mustadrak]

In fact it is concurrently narrated (tawātur) that the Prophet (saw) and his companions publicly called the Quraysh to Islām and that they were met with torture and oppression. Regarding the Prophet’s call, Ibn Taymiyyah states: It is known by tawātur (concurrent narrations) that he (i.e. the Prophet) invited the Quraysh specifically, and the Arabs in general (to Islām) and that in the beginning most of them rejected him and oppressed the companions…’ (Sharh ‘Aqīdah al-Isfahāniyyah, p145) Since the public da’wah is a definite (qat’ī) matter that has been concurrently transmitted, it is no longer necessary to concern ourselves with the question of authenticity of individual narrations that simply confirm the public da’wah and display of opinion as the matter has been indisputably established.  

Therefore, demonstrations and protests to account the rulers and expose their betrayal of the ummah’s interest are permissible by the general and specific evidences regarding this subject. The caveat to this permissibility is conditional that no other rules of the Sharī’ah are violated, such as destruction of public or private property, non Islamic slogans or free-mixing etc.


Dear brothers and sisters, if a person were to steal our property will we sit back and watch as bystanders? Rather, we will at least protest or attempt to reclaim our property. So why is it that some choose to remain silent, or ask others to remain silent when the tyrant rulers have stolen something far more precious, which is the authority (sultān) of the Ummah to implement Islām. This authority has been stolen, usurped and abused by the tyrant rulers and we are obliged to reclaim that authority by accounting these rulers and working to re-establish the Khalīfah who WILL rule by what Allāh has revealed. Only the Islamic political struggle will change the lot of this Ummah, steer her destiny towards honour and tranquillity, and release her from the clutches of the zālimīn (oppressors). Let us continue to heed the words of Muhammad al-Mustafā (saw), which came in the form of warning, when he (saw) said:

‘Nay, by Allāh, you either enjoin good and forbid evil and catch hold of the hand of the oppressor and persuade him to act justly and stick to the truth, or Allāh will involve the hearts of some of you with the hearts of others, and will curse you as He had cursed them’
[Abū Dawūd and Al-Tirmidhī].

Kamāl Abū Zahrā


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