In light of the recent events in Syria (14-02-12) Bashar al Asad, being a kafir as he is part of the Awlawi sect which Ibn Taymiyyah [Majmoo` al-Fatawa 35/145] said about the Alawi sect “Al-Nusayriyyah (the other name for the Alawis)”, and other groups from among the Qaraamitah and Baatiniyyah, are greater disbelievers than the Jews and Christians…” also Shaykh Luhaydaan and Shaykh Usamah Ibn Ataayah al Utaybee made takfir of him in these two different fatwas (reasons for takfir given fatwa https://ahlusunnahwaljamaah.com/2012/02/17/shaykh-luhaydaan-the-demonstrations-in-syria-libya-yemen/ & https://ahlusunnahwaljamaah.com/2012/02/14/takfeer-alawi-assad/) and the Syrians revolting against him.
Also the events in Libya with Gaddafi the kaifr (Shaykh Usamah Ibn Ataayah al Utaybee made takfir of him in this fatwa, reasons given in the fatwa, https://ahlusunnahwaljamaah.com/2012/02/17/the-atrocities-aftermath-of-muammar-al-gadaafi-by-shaykh-usamah-ibn-ataayah-al-utaybee/) this article has been put together to clarify the islamic rulings in regard to revolting against a ruler who is the head of a Muslim country but is a disbeliever.
First of all before the actual reason for putting together this article is discussed the view of Ahlus Sunnah (the Salafis) and takfir of the Muslim rulers of this era must be clarified. Ahlus Sunnah do not hold that other Muslim rulers are kafirs only the takfiris and those influenced by their dawah hold this view in these times. However some of the scholars of Ahlus Sunnah do assert that the ruler of Iran is a kafir due to him being an extreme shia.
Also what must be clarified is Ahlus Sunnah’s general position on revolts against Muslim rulers. Ahlus Sunnah hold that in general it is haraam to revolt against the leader of a Muslim country wether they are good or bad, fair or unjust as long as they are Muslim.
Shaykh Al Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said in Minhaaj Al Sunnah (3/390) “and the well known in the Mathhaab of Ahlu Sunnah (that they believe that it’s not allowed to revolt against the leaders and fighting them with the sword, even if they transgress.”
Imam Al Tahhawi said in his famous book Aqeedah At Tahhawiyyah “and we (Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah) don’t believe in revolting against our leaders and rulers even if they transgress…”. This ruling of Ahlu Sunnah is based on the numerous hadeeth which command the Muslims to hear and obey the ruler of the Muslim state wether he is a caliph (ruler of all the Muslim states), governor (appoint by caliph to oversee a certain area of the Muslim state), or ruler of a particular state (like today)
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 haraam to revolt against a 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. However some claim these hadeeth only refer to a good ruler but what they may not know is 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 unwillingness; 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
The Main Article
Revolting against a ruler who is the head of a Muslim country but is a disbeliever, refers to one of two situations which both have the same ruling. The first is a person takes over ruler-ship of a Muslim country but is a kafir (disbeliever) and the second situation is a person comes to power and is a Muslim but then later becomes a kafir (this could be due to any number of reasons) but is still the ruler of that Muslim country.
In general Ahlus Sunnah affirm that it is halaal to revolt against these type of rulers but with conditions.
Shaykh Usamah Ibn Ataayah al Utaybee said, “As for to rebel against him (referring to Bashar al Asad the kafir leader of Syria, but can refer to an kafir ruler who rules a Muslim country) then this rests with their capiablites. So if the capability is available, and the banner has been declared which is raised by Muslim ruler. The one that raises it is general, Mujahid Muslim, and he has the force, order and the power.
So then it is allowed to rebel against this ruler. As for if there is no capability…Or they don’t have no banner and they have no imam to rely on (i.e. the imam is the one leading the revolt who if victorious will become the ruler). Then it is not allowed to rebel. Because the consequence of rebelling is destruction and evil.”
Shaykh Bin Baz “…rebelling against those in authority results in great corruption and evil. The exception is when the Muslims see clear Kufr, for which there is proof from Allah. In this case, there is nothing wrong in rebelling against these rulers to depose them, if they have the power to do so. However, if this is beyond their ability, they should not rebel. Also, if rebelling would result in worse evil, they should not do so to preserve the public interest.
The agreed upon Sharia (Islamic legal) rule states: (It is not permissible to remove an evil by a greater evil. Rather, it is obligatory to ward off evil by what removes or mitigates it). Warding off evil by means of a greater evil is not permitted, according to Ijma’ (consensus) of Muslims. If this group, which wants to remove this ruler, who is openly committing Kufr, has the ability to do so and they can bring a good righteous leader in his place, without this resulting in great corruption for the Muslims or a worse evil than the already existing, that is permissible. On the other hand, if rebellion would result in greater corruption, chaos, oppression, and the assassination of those who do not deserve to be assassinated, and other forms of major corruption, it is not permitted. It is obligatory, in this case, to be patient, and to hear and obey in what is Ma’ruf, offer sincere advice to the authorities, supplicate for them that they may be guided to the good, and to strive to reduce evil and increase good. This is the correct way that must be followed, because this is in the general interest of the Muslims and because it will reduce evil, increase good, keep the peace, and protect the Muslims from a greater evil.” Ibn Baz Fatwas vol. 8 pg. 203-204
Shaykh Bin Baz said, “..It is not permissible to rebel against the ruler, except under two conditions: 1- Blatant Kufr for which they (those who want to rebel) have a proof from Allaah. 2- The power to depose the ruler without an evil worse than that of the ruler resulting. In the absence of these conditions, it is not permissible.” Modified from Ibn Baz Fatwas vol. 8 pg. 206-207
Shaykh Bin Baz “Even when seeing the ruler committing absolute Kufr, subjects should advise this ruler to desist. It is not permissible to rebel against him if revolution leads to greater harm because evil cannot be removed by what is more evil as stated by scholars, may Allah have mercy on them, such as Shaykh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and the noted scholar Ibn Al-Qayyim.” Ibn Baz Fatwas vol. 28 pg. 252-253
Shaykh Bin Baz “…it is not permissible for individuals and masses who do mischief in the land but not reformation to rebel against the ruler (even if he is a kafir) as this harms people and does not avail them.” Ibn Baz Fatwas vol. 28 pg. 271
Shaykh Uthaymeen said, “Even if we were to assume the extreme – that a leader is a disbeliever – does this then mean we can incite the people to oppose him, even if it causes revolt, chaos, and killing? This is definitely wrong. The kind of rectification and improvement desired will never come by this approach. Rather, the only thing it will bring is great corruption”
The Shaykh Uthaymeen also clarified the conditions for revolt against the disbelieving ruler who is in charge of a Muslim country. He said “1)It is a condition to have seen it (i.e. to see the ruler do his major kufr which made him a kafir. Seeing his kufr means a Muslim does not have to follow a persons lies and rumors about the rulers kufr). 2)The disbelief (kufr) is a condition (so it the ruler must have done kufr not just major sin, thus you can not revolt). 3)That it is clear and explicit is a condition (so the rulers kufr can not be misunderstood or misinterpreted to be major sin). 4)That we have proof of if from Allah (thus we can back our reason for calling the ruler a kafir with proof from the Quran and sunnah). 5)They (the revolters) must have the ability to overthrow the ruler.” Summarised from, Liqa al Bab al-Maftuh
Shaykh Ahmad An-Najmee “…it is not permissible to rebel against the Imam (leader) as long as he establishes the prayer unless the one who wanted to rebel found open Kufr for which he would have a proof with him from Allaah. Then it is likewise not befitting to rebel unless the Muslims had the strength that gave them the ability to fight with the leader. This is the aqeedah of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah.” Irshaad As Saaree ila tawdeeh Sharh us Sunnah lil Barbahaari
Shaykh Dr. Falaah ibn Ismaeel said. “…the revolting against the disbelieving ruler has conditions…(from them are) that we are safe from the harms (of revolting) and that no harm is done as a result of revolting against him, and we have the ability, power and the possibility (to do so)…”
It is haraam to revolt against the Muslim just or unjust ruler if this leas to more evil, this is what the scholars of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jammah have ijmah on (scholarly consensus).
Imam an-Nawawi said in Sharh Saheeh Muslim vol. 12, p. 229 “And as for revolt – meaning against the rulers – and fighting them, then it is haraam by unanimous agreement (ijmaa’) of the Muslims, even if they are sinful oppressors. And the hadeeth are abundantly overwhelming with the meaning that I have mentioned. And Ahl us-Sunnah are united that the ruler is not to be removed, on account of his sinfulness. As for the angle that has been mentioned in some of the books of fiqh of some of our associates, that he is to be removed, and which is quoted from the Mu’tazilah, then this is an error on behalf of the one who says it and is in opposition to the Ijmaa’. And the Scholars have said, that the reason for the absence of his removal and the forbiddence of revolting against him, is due to what arises from that of tribulations, and shedding of blood, and also corruption that is evident. Hence, the harm from his removal is greater than from him remaining in place.”
An important point to note is that all Muslims must understand that before there was an ijmah on it being haraam to revolt against the unjust ruler the scholars use to be spilt into two groups those who believed it was halaal and those who held it was haraam. So in the past this is why there have been some instances of a person who is righteous and upright from the salaf revolting against the unjust tyrant Muslim ruler. However after these revolts and others by some deviated groups and individuals the scholars soon all came to understand that these revolts resulted in more harm and greater evil. Thus eventually all the scholars agree that it is haraam to revolted against the unjust ruler due to the evil that will occur.
Imam an-Nawawi said (in relation to my above point) in Sharh Saheeh Muslim vol. 12, p. 229 “Originally, there was a difference of opinion on this issue and then the consensus (ijmah) was reached that it is forbidden to rebel against them (the Muslim rulers).”
However they held if a unjust ruler can be removed with out more evil being the result then he should be removed.
Ibn Teen narrates from Al-Dawudi in Ibn Hajar’s Fath al-Bari, Vol.13, P.11/12, “The scholars have stated that if one is able to remove a transgressing ruler, without causing any Fitnah and oppression, then he should be removed, or else it is necessary to be patient (if he can not be removed due to this leading to more evil).”
On the other hand it is halaal to revolt against the kafir ruler who is the ruler of a Muslim country providing the following conditions are meet:
1. The ruler is a kafir whose kufr must have been witnessed (as his takfir can not be based on rumors or lies), is clear and explicit. His kufr must also be proven by the Quran and Sunnah.
2. The revolters have the power and ability to over come the ruler
3. The revolters have a leader for there revolt (who will become the ruler after the revolt to avoid fighting over leadership after the ruler is removed) and a banner under which they fight (the banner is not freedom or democracy but should be tawheed, as having a Muslim ruler means the country has a chance of being based upon tawheed, which is the greatest cause of gaining Allah’s success).
4. The revolt must not lead to greater evil.
If even one of these conditions are not present then the revolters should not revolt as in this case their revolt would be haraam.