A revolt is when ever the people under a just ruler or a tyrannical rulers rule decide they will no longer obey him in anything he commands (good or bad) while at the same time they try to remove him from power.
A revolt is not just with the sword and fighting the ruler. A revolt can take many forms such as nationwide protests and demonstrations, sit-ins, military coups and secret assignations etc.
A revolt against a tyrannical Muslim ruler or a just Muslim ruler is haram, because revolting against the leader goes against the Islamic principal of hearing and obeying the rulers. As a revolt involves people under the tyrannical or just rulers rule deciding they will no longer hear and obey the ruler in all that he commands, while at the same time trying to remove the ruler from power.
However many Muslims think a revolt against a just Muslim ruler is haram, but a revolt against a tyrannical Muslim ruler is halal. But in reality revolting against a just Muslim ruler is haram and revolting against a tyrannical (sinful, unjust, corrupt) Muslim ruler is also haram.
There are numerous hadeeth which command the Muslims to obey the ruler.
The Messenger of Allah said, “Hear and obey (the ruler), for they will bear responsibility for that entrusted to them, and you for that entrusted to you”. Recorded by Muslim
The Messenger of Allah said, “You must hear and obey (the ruler) both in your hardship and your ease and with regard to what pleases you and what you dislike and even if you do not get your due”. Recorded by Muslim
The Messenger of Allah said, “Hear and obey even if a, Abyssinian slave with a head like a raisin is appointed over you”. Recorded by Bukhari
Therefore it is haram to revolt against a Muslim leader as the prophet Mohammed has commanded this ummah to hear and obey the rulers and revolts involve Muslims deciding they will no longer hear and obey the ruler in all that he commands.
But some Muslims claim we only have to hear and obey the just Muslim rulers, therefore revolting against tyrannical Muslim rulers is halal. However there are hadeeths that indicate even if a tyrannical (sinful) Muslim ruler was in power the Muslims still have to hear and obey him, so they can not revolt against him.
The Prophet said, “Whosoever sees something from his leader of sin, then let him hate whatever occurs from sin. And let him not remove his hand from obedience, since whoever removes his hand from disobedience and splits off from the Jamaah (united body), then he dies the death of Jaahiliyyah (pre-Islamic times of ignorance).’’ Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim
The Prophet said “Listen and obey, even if the ruler seizes you and beats your back.” Recorded by Muslim
However this obedience is only in halal matters if the tyrannical ruler commands haram matters then he should not be obeyed in this.
Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet said, “A Muslim man must hear and obey both in respect of what he likes and dislikes, unless he is commanded to do a wrong action. If he is commanded to do a wrong action, he should not hear or obey“. Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim
The Prophet said, ‘‘The person must obey in whatever he loves, and in whatever he hates, in ease and in hardship, in willingness and un-willingness; except if he is commanded to disobey Allah. So if he is commanded to disobey Allah, then he should not listen, not should he obey.’’ Recorded by Bukhari
But not obeying what the tyrannical ruler commands of haram matters does not mean Muslims can revolt against him. As he still has to be listened to and obeyed in what he commands from the halal matters. In fact the Sunnah of the prophet commands the Muslims to be patient with ruler’s things they dislike from the rulers (such as oppression, unfairness, abuse of his authority, commanding haram etc). This is the opposite of revolting as this shows inpatient towards the things the Muslims dislike in there rulers.
Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Anyone who dislikes something from his leader should be patient. Anyone who abandons obedience to the leader for even a short time dies the death of the Jaahiliyyah (pre-Islam)”. Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim
From the above it is clear that ruler is to be obeyed even if he is a major sinner and a tyrant. If he orders a good deed then he must be obeyed in that order. But if he orders a forbidden deed he is not to be obeyed in it. However he is not to be revolted against because of his sins and commanding evil, the Muslims must with hold from revolts and patients with his wrong doings inshallah.
Side Point: Clarification regarding two major misconceptions about the above hadeeth (hadeeth that command obedience to the rulers)
The first misconception is that some people think these hadeeth only apply to a legitimately selected ruler. By the term legitimately selected ruler they mean a ruler who the people selected or a ruler who a group of representatives who represent the people of that land selected or the least liked and accepted is someone who the previous ruler selected.
But as for the ruler who sized power by force some Muslims believe he is not a legitimately selected ruler so these hadeeth which command obedience to the rulers do not apply to this type of ruler.
The Muslim ruler who sizes control of another Muslim country or countries by force has committed a sin whether he is a good or sinful ruler. According to the scholars understanding of the shariah text the Muslim ruler who sizes control of another Muslim country or countries by force he is regarded as a legitimate ruler. As he is a legitimate ruler then these hadeeth do apply to him. So he must be obeyed in all that he commands which is not in contradiction to the shariah and disobeyed in what he commands that contradicts the shariah like any other Muslim ruler.
Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab said, “The imams from each (of the four) madhab are unanimous (agreed upon) that whoever overtakes a country or countries (seizes power) is entitled to assume the same rulership as the imam (ruler) in all affairs. Were it not so, the affairs of this worldly life would not be upright…” Ad-Durar As-Saniyyah 7/239.
Another common misconception that a lot of Muslims of today have is they think all the hadeeth that command obedience to the rulers are restricted to the Khalifah only. So they think because none of the Muslim rulers of today are the Khalifah, then these hadeeth are not applicable to the rulers of today so revolting, fighting, rioting and demonstrating against them is okay even if the ruler commands them to stop. However this is not true and all the hadeeth that command obedience to the rulers are not only restricted to the Khalifah, they apply to a Khalif or rulers of individually countries (like the rulers of today as there is no Khalif in these times).
Shaykh As-San’aani said in his explanation of the hadeeth of Abu Hurairah, raised to the Prophet (who is reported to have said), “One who defected from obedience (to the Amir (ruler)) and separated from the main body of the Muslims, if he died in that state he would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jaahiliyyah (i.e. would not die as a Muslim). Saheeh Muslim, Book 20, # 4555, English Translation.
That the “obedience” is the obedience to the Khalifah upon whom there is agreement and it seems that what is intended is the khalifah (ruler) of any region from the regions, since people were not on agreement on a single khalifah over the entire Islamic lands since the Abbasid Rule. Rather each region became independent under a ruler running its affairs. And if we carry the hadeeth to apply only to one khalifah upon whom the Muslims are unanimous (agreed upon) then it’s (the hadeeths) benefit would be diminished. And that the saying (in the hadeeth) “and separated from the main body of the Muslims,” means: separated from the Jamaah who agreed upon an imam (any ruler of a particular region not specifically a overall khalifah of all the Muslim regions), under whom their body and affairs are organized, their word is united, and their protection from their enemy is achieved.
So it becomes clear that negating the validity of governorship on separate Muslim states leads to evil in the sense that its sets the stage for rebellion against the rulers, and this is forbidden in Islam even if the ruler is an oppressor as this contradicts the creed of Ahlus Sunnah. And Allah Knows Best.”
Also Imam Ash-Shawkaani said, “In Principle, all Muslims should have one imam (a ruler: a Khalifah). However after the spread of Islam and the expansion of its territories and their remoteness, it is known that in each region there became a ruler or imam and so with the rest of the regions, none of them having authority to command and forbid in the other regions…So the presence of various (multiple) imams and rulers is of no harm, and it is binding to obey each one of them after giving him the bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) in the region in which his commands and prohibitions are executed therein. Similarly is the case of the one (ruler) in charge of another region. And it is not obligatory upon the people of the other regions to obey him, nor to be under his governorship due to the remoteness of the regions…” Then he said: “You should know this, since it is fitting to the shariah foundations, and in full agreement to what is indicated by the evidences. And turn down what is being said in opposition to this, since the difference between the condition of the early Islamic wilaayah (administrative governship) and its state nowadays is clearer than the sun during the day.” Imam Ash-Shawkaani in As-Sayelul Jarraar, 4/512.
In addition Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab said, “The imams from each madhab are unanimous (agreed upon) that whoever overtakes a country or countries (seizes power) is entitled to assume the same rulership as the imam (ruler) in all affairs. Were it not so, the affairs of this worldly life would not be upright. And for a long time, since before the time of imam Ahmad and until our time (referring to his era), people were not in agreement upon one imam (ruler: Khalifah), and they (the Muslim scholars and the general Muslims) have no account of a scholar stating that the validity (of the applicability) of any of the rulings (of shariah i.e. prescribed punishments, jihad, collection of zakat etc) is conditional upon the presence of the greater imam (Khalifah).” Ad-Durar As-Saniyyah 7/239.