Many people quote this narration, which is found in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, upon the authority of Ḥudhayfah that he said the Prophet peace be upon him said:
‘You will listen to the Amir and carry out his orders; even if your back is flogged and your wealth is snatched, you should listen and obey.’
Is this correct? Many use it as evidence to justify passive acceptance before the present rulers.
The narration is not Ṣaḥīḥ (authentic beyond reasonable doubt). The channel is broken and it is mursal. Utilising inauthentic traditions to justify acquiescence to the status quo of unjust, corrupt tyrannical rulers is not acceptable. It is not from the tradition of Islam, nor is it acceptable to repeat this as a justification or a prop to political authorities who are not founded upon the Deen of Islam, nor do they rule by it. In fact, many openly ally with the enemies of Islam.
In general, as we have previously detailed, by its very nature, the mursal ḥadith is considered ḍaef (weak) unless supported through other alternate or attesting lines of reporting. The point is well known among the scholarly authorities; indeed, Imām Muslim outlines this lucidly in the introduction to his Ṣaḥīḥ [Vol. 1, ch. 6, p. 31]:
‘Thus, they permit themselves to narrate ḥadith’s from one another in this way (with) Irsāl (looseness) without having heard them directly. All authoritative scholars agree, as I do, that a mursal report is not valid as evidence. Because of all this I find myself in need of ascertaining that each narrator heard the ḥadith from the one he quotes.’
A lengthier explanation is outlined by Ibn Ḥazm in al-Nubdtha al-Kāfiyah fi-Uṣul al-Ahkām al-Deen – ‘The Sufficient Summary on the Rules Derived from the Sources of Deen,’ [p. 34]:
Consequently, this is how we affirm that every ḥadith which only reaches us as mursal or that it is narrated by the majhul, whose veracity is not known by the people of knowledge or whose matter of being majruḥ (discredited) is agreed upon, (or) upon the jarḥ (discreditation) or thābit (resoluteness), it is a report which is bāṭil (invalid, rejected) that the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings be upon him never said and there is no ruling with that. (This is) because it is impossible that the Sharī’ah be established with truth except by way of Allah the Almighty guaranteeing to preserve the dhikr (Qur’an and Sunnah) which He has sent-down, revealed unto His Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, and He the Almighty has made all the Deen evident to us.
The full narrative is found in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, in the book of government:
وحدثني محمد بن سهل بن عسكر التميمي حدثنا يحيى بن حسان ح وحدثنا عبد الله بن عبد الرحمن الدارمي أخبرنا يحيى وهو ابن حسان حدثنا معاوية يعني ابن سلام حدثنا زيد بن سلام عن أبي سلام قال قال حذيفة بن اليمان قلت يا رسول الله إنا كنا بشر فجاء الله بخير فنحن فيه فهل من وراء هذا الخير شر قال نعم قلت هل وراء ذلك الشر خير قال نعم قلت فهل وراء ذلك الخير شر قال نعم قلت كيف قال يكون بعدي أئمة لا يهتدون بهداى ولا يستنون بسنتي وسيقوم فيهم رجال قلوبهم قلوب الشياطين في جثمان إنس قال قلت كيف أصنع يا رسول الله إن أدركت ذلك قال تسمع وتطيع للأمير وإن ضرب ظهرك وأخذ مالك فاسمع وأطع
Muḥammad ibn Sahl ibn ‘Askar al-Taymi narrated to us Yaḥya ibn Ḥassān narrated to us ḥawala, Abdullah ibn Abdar-Raḥman al-Dārimi narrated to us Yaḥya, he is Ibn Ḥassān reported to us Mu’āwiya, that is to say Ibn Salām narrated to us Zayd ibn Salām narrated to us from Abu Salām he said, Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān said: Messenger of Allah, no doubt, we had an evil time and Allah brought us a good time through which we are now living. Will there be a bad time after this good time? He (the Prophet) said: Yes. I said: Will there be a good time after this bad time? He said: Yes. I said: Will there be a bad time after good time? He said: Yes. I said: How? Whereupon he said: There will be leaders who will not be led by my guidance and who will not adopt my ways. There will be among them men who will have the hearts of devils in the bodies of human beings. I said: What should I do. Messenger of Allah, if I (happen) to live in that time? He replied: You will listen to the Amir and carry out his orders; even if your back is flogged and your wealth is snatched, you should listen and obey.
Similar is also recorded in al-Sunan al-Kubra by al-Bayhaqy [Vol. 8, no. 16617, pp. 271/272]. The isnād though is not Ṣaḥīḥ because there is a break in the line of reporting between Abu Salām and Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān, may Allah be pleased with him. Abu Salām’s name is Mamṭur al-Aswad al-Ḥabashi al-‘Araj al-Dimishqi. He was a narrator from Shām (Syria). He is not regarded by the authorities as being ḍaef (weak) or matruk (discarded), but he is known to have a lot of irsāl. In Kitāb al-Ilzāmāt wa-l’Tatabbu’ [no. 53, pp. 181/182] – ‘The Book of Suggested Additions and Revisions,’ Imām al-Dāraquṭni [d. 385AH/995CE] explains this point and the problem with this narration:
وأخرج مسلم حديث معاوية بن سلام عن زيد عن أبي سلام قال قال حذيفة كنا بشر فجاءنا الله بخير. وهذا عندي مرسل أبو سلام لم يسمع من حذيفة ولا من نظرائه الذين نزلوا العراق لأن حذيفة توفي بعد قتل عثمان رضي الله عنه بليال وقد قال فيه قال حذيفة فهذا يدل على إرسال
Muslim narrated the ḥadith of Mu’āwiya ibn Salām from Zayd from Abu Salām, he said, ‘Ḥudhayfah said: We had an evil time and Allah brought us a good time.’ This, I have as being mursal, (as) Abu Salām did not hear (traditions) from Ḥudhayfah, nor from his contemporaries who had settled in Iraq. (This is) because Ḥudhayfah died a night after the killing of Uthmān may Allah be pleased with him. Indeed, he (Abu Salām) says in it (the channel) ‘Ḥudhayfah said,’ this being the indication that it is irsāl.
In al-Ṭā’ah Ulil-‘Amr: Ḥududihā wa Qayudihā [p. 313] – ‘Obedience to those in authority, its limits and boundaries,’ Professor Muḥammad ibn Abdullah al-Mas’ari comments that that Abu Abu Salām is generally accepted as being thiqa (trustworthy) as a narrator, but he does have a great deal of irsāl that has reported from the narrators of Shām (Syria). He heard from some of the ḍaef narrators in which he narrated from and mixing this up, reporting from some of them by way of meaning. These points are well known. It is established among the scholarly authorities that Abu Salām did not narrate from Ḥudhayfah, may Allah be pleased with him. Ḥudhayfah is clearly absent from the list of people who Abu Salām is known to have narrated from, that much is evident from the assessment that al-Mizzi records in Tahzeeb al-Kamāl fi’ Asmā’ al-Rijāl [Vol. 28, pp. 184/186, no. 6057]. However, it is also well known that he has a great deal of irsāl particularly from the Companions such as Thawbān, Abu Dharr and Ḥudhayfah, may Allah be pleased with them, a matter confirmed by al-Ḥāfiz in Tahzeeb [Vol. 10, p. 262, no. 516, also in Taqreeb p. 646, no. 6879], and by al-Dhahabi in Siyar ‘Alām al-Nubulā’ [Vol. 4, p. 517, no. 639]. Ibn Sa’d records in al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubra, [Vol. 6, p. 15], that Ḥudhayfah lived in Kufa and Madā’in (Iraq), passing away in the latter in 36 AH [656 CE].
In al-Ṭā’ah Ulil’Amr: Ḥududihā wa Qayudihā [pp. 31/32] Professor Muḥammad ibn Abdullah al-Mas’ari comments as follows:
But this ḥadith is bāṭil, it is not Ṣaḥīḥ and there is inqiṭā’ (a break in the channel) between Abu Salām Mamṭur al-‘Araj and Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān may Allah be pleased with him. With regards to the matn (reported textual wording), it is munkar as it is contradiction to the text of ḥadith that are authentically established, such as what al-Bukhāri and others have recorded…the Ṣaḥīḥ naṣṣ (authentic textual evidence) is outlined in the following ḥadith:
Muḥammad ibn al-Muthanna narrated to us al-Waleed ibn Muslim narrated to us Ibn Jābir narrated to us Busr ibn ‘Ubaydallah al-Ḥaḍrami narrated to me that he heard Abu Idris al-Khawlāni who heard Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān saying: The people used to ask the Messenger of Allah about the good but I used to ask him about the evil lest I should be overtaken by them. So I said: O Messenger of Allah, we were living in ignorance and in an (extremely) worst atmosphere, then Allah brought to us this good, will there be any evil after this good? He said: Yes. I said: Will there be any good after that evil? He replied: Yes, but it will be tainted (not pure). I asked – What will be its taint? He replied: (There will be) some people who will guide others not according to my tradition? You will approve of some of their deeds and disapprove of some others. I asked: Will there be any evil after that good? He replied: Yes, (there will be) some people calling at the gates of the (hell) fire, and whoever will respond to their call, will be thrown by them into the fire. I said: O Messenger of Allah, will you describe them to us? He said: They will be from our own people and will speak our language. I said: What do you order me to do if such a state should take place in my life? He said: Stick to the group of Muslims and their Imām. I said: If there is neither a group of Muslims nor an Imām? He said: Then turn away from all those sects even if you were to bite (eat) the roots of a tree till death overtakes you while you are in that state.
Nowhere in the authentic narrations is the wording: ‘even if your back is flogged and your wealth is snatched, you should listen and obey’ to be found. Besides, is it genuinely conceivable that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would order obedience to those he has already a sentence earlier described as having the hearts of devils? That does not fit with the corpus of evidence from the revelation that has reached us. In fact, in other Ṣaḥīḥ ḥadith this acquiescence to political tyranny is not found. Rather, the opposite is required, as Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān, may Allah be pleased with him has narrated, which is recorded in the Musnad of Imām Aḥmad [Vol. 5, no. 23308]:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي ثنا إسماعيل عن يونس عن حميد بن هلال أو عن غيره عن ربعي بن حراش عن حذيفة عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال إنها ستكون أمراء يكذبون ويظلمون فمن صدقهم بكذبهم وأعانهم على ظلمهم فليس منا ولست منهم ولا يرد على الحوض ومن لم يصدقهم بكذبهم ولم يعنهم على ظلمهم فهو مني وأنا منه وسيرد علي الحوض
تعليق شعيب الأرنؤوط إسناده صحيح على شرط الشيخين
Abdullah narrated to us my father narrated to me Ismā’il narrated to us from Ḥumayd ibn Hilāl or from other than him, from Rabi’ ibn Ḥirāsh from Ḥudhayfah from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, he said: There will be Umarā’ (rulers) who are liars and oppressors, whoever believes their lies and supports them in their oppression is not from us and I am not from them, and they will not partake (with me) to the Ḥawḍ (cistern).
Shu’ayb al-Arnā’uṭ comments: Its isnād is Ṣaḥīḥ upon the conditions of the two-Shaykhs [sic. Bukhāri and Muslim]
Also, as cited by al-Bukhāri in his Ṣaḥīḥ:
حدثنا محمد بن كثير أخبرنا سفيان عن الأعمش عن زيد بن وهب عن ابن مسعود عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال ستكون أثرة وأمور تنكرونها قالوا يا رسول الله فما تأمرنا قال تؤدون الحق الذي عليكم، وتسألون الله الذي لكم
Muḥammad ibn Kathir narrated to us Sufyān reported to us from al-‘Amash from Zayd ibn Wahb from Ibn Mas’ud, from the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, he said: Soon others will be preferred to you, and there will be things which you will not like. They (the Companions) replied: O Messenger of Allah, what do you order us to do (in this case)? He said: (I order you) to give the rights that are incumbent upon you and to ask your rights from Allah.
Some have tried to argue that there is an additional reporting line for the ḥadith that is recorded in Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ by al-Ṭabarāni [Vol. 2, no. 2893, pp. 164/165]:
حدثنا إبراهيم بن هاشم البغوي قال حدثنا محمد بن عباد المكي قال حدثنا أبو سعيد مولى بني هاشم عن عمر بن راشد اليمامي عن يحيى بن أبي كثير عن زيد بن سلام عن أبيه عن جده عن حذيفة قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم
Ibrāhim ibn Hishām al-Baghawi narrated to us he said Muḥammad ibn ‘Abbād al-Makki narrated to us he said Abu Sa’eed, mawla Bani Hāshim narrated to us from Umar ibn Rāshid al-Yamāmi from Yaḥya ibn Abi Kathir from Zayd ibn Salām from his father from his grandfather from Ḥudhayfah, he said the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings be upon him said.
Strictly speaking this doesn’t bolster or attest to the validity of the ḥadith as it still is narrated via Zayd ibn Salām narrating from his father, Abu Salām from Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān, may Allah be pleased with him. Moreover, the additional problem contained in the isnād is that the grandfather is mentioned (Abu Salām’s father), unlike in the isnād of Muslim and Bayhaqy and his veracity and status is unknown.
Those seeking to utilise this tradition, often weaponised, tend to do so from a place of sycophancy. Although they may claim to be the ‘vanguard of knowledge,’ the ‘saved sect’, with all others they declare as being misguided, even damned to hell, their understanding is naïve, fleeting, and at best superficial. Within the text of the Qur’ān obedience to those in authority is not couched in open-ended unequivocal terms. As the verse at 4: 59 reads, that is reserved only for Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him. Those wielding political authority must conform in obedience to what the revelation prescribes. It is a well-established dictum from the precepts of the Islamic texts that there is no obedience to the creation if that entails disobedience to the Creator. If one witnesses a munkar (evil), the command is established to change it, depending upon capability, not to acquiesce let alone actively justify it.