“He, the Lofty and Sublime said in three places in Surah al-Maiidah:
And whosoever does not judge by what Allâh has revealed, such are the Kâfirûn (5:44)
And whosoever does not judge by that which Allâh has revealed, such are the Zâlimûn (5:45)
And whosoever does not judge by what Allâh has revealed (then) such (people) are the Fâsiqûn (5:47)
So the one who reflects on these great verses and looks at them in light of what the language of the Arabs and the language of the Quran necessitate and require, he will find that they are general in their application to two entities.
The first: that they are general for all of the Muslims, regardless of whether they are rulers or those who are ruled over. So these verses include the overall ruler, the qadi (judge), the teacher, the owner of a house, the wife and so on.
The evidence of this generality is taken from the verse itself and also from the narrations that have been reported from the Salaf may Allah be pleased with them all in explanation of this verse. For the statement of the saying of Allah, the Sublime and the Most High:
“And whoever ”
gives evidence to the generality (i.e. includes everybody). And this particle “man” is one of the words which indicates generality in the view of the People of Knowledge, since it is one of the nouns of condition (ism ush-shart) and so therefore it refers to all of those being addressed.
And whoever restricts it to the ruler only then he has fallen into a very big error.
As for the generality of its application to the second entity, then that is its application to all of the rules and laws of Allah, the Most High and Sublime. Therefore, every ruling, whether it is small or large, is for Allah and is included in this verse, due to its generality.
Taking interest for example, or drinking alcohol, or eating with the left hand, and letting the lower garment hang below the ankles, or having intercourse with ones wife during her menses, the laws of Allah have come for all of these matters and all of the laws of Allah regardless of whatever they may be, whether those that we have just mentioned as examples or those that have not been mentioned, come under this verse.
And the evidence for the generality here is the saying of Allah:
And whoever does not judge by WHATEVER Allah has revealed
The word ma again has the meaning of generality in view of the People of Knowledge. Therefore the statement of Allah, “ by whatever Allah has revealed ” includes all of the laws and rules of Allah, the Sublime and Almighty, regardless of whether it is his ruling concerning adultery, or for the one who drinks with his left hand.
And the Salaf, when they understood the meaning of this verse, in the manner described above, since it is from the language of Arabs with which they actually spoke and in which the Book of Allah was revealed, when they understood this from the verse, they said concerning the statement of Allah in the verse, “ then they are the disbelievers”:
“Kufr less than kufr, that which does not eject a person from the religion”.
This then is the asl (foundational pillar) concerning ruling by other than what Allah has revealed. And it is reported with an authentic chain of narration which has no defect in the view of the People of Knowledge, from Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, that he said,
“It is kufr in the [particular] rule itself and is not kufr in Allah, His Angels, Books or Messengers.”
This narration has been reported by at-Tabari from Ibn Sari who said, “Waki ibn al-Jarrah” narrated to us, “my father narrated to me from Sufyan from Amr bin Rashid from Ibn Tawus from his father from Ibn Abbas..” and this isnad reaches perfect authenticity.
And at-Tabari also reported that a man said concerning this verse, “So whoever does that has he disbelieved?” so Ibn Abbaas replied to him, “When he does that it is kufr only in that action of his, and he is not like the one who disbelieves in Allah and the Last Day.”
And in the Mustadrak of al-Hakim from Ibn Abbas also that he said, “Verily it is not the kufr which you tend to, it is not the kufr which ejects a person from the religion, “and whoever does not rule by whatever Allah has revealed” then this is kufr less than kufr.”
So these are authentic and very explicit narrations from the explainer of the Quran and the erudite scholar of the ummah, Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him.
And what has come from Ibn Abbaas has also come from others besides him, from the Salaf of this Ummah and from its scholars. To give examples, what has been reported by at-Tabari in his tafsir, that a group of the Ibadiah sat with Abu Mijliz and they said to him, Allah says, “whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, they are the disbelievers, they are the oppressors, they are the rebellious” Abu Mijliz replied, “Certainly they do what they do and they know that it is a sin. And this verse was revealed concerning the Jews and the Christians.” They replied, By Allah you do not know what we know but you only fear them.” He replied, You have more reason to do that than we do, as for us we do not know what you know but you know it.”
The chain of narration is authentic also and its meaning that those Ibadis, who were one of the groups of the Khawarij, came to Abu Mijlaz and sought to use this verse to do to takfir of the rulers of that time and he replied to them with a reply of the People of Knowledge, the reply of Ahl us-Sunnah, he said, “those rulers whom you do takfir of on account of his verse do what they do of sins and evils such as oppression, tyranny etc. they do these things and they know that they are sinful. So they do not make lawful their actions which they have fallen into from amongst those things that are in opposition to the rule of Allah, the Sublime the Most High.
So their affair is just like the affair of all the other Muslims, those who commit sins but without declaring them to be lawful for themselves.
So those Ibadis said to him, “you know that what we say is the truth, but you fear them,” meaning wish to compromise with them and their actions etc.
And this is one of the mechanisms of the People of Desires that comes at the end of the narration, and this is that when the people of knowledge argue against them and refute their falsehood, they resort to the likes of these machinations, so they said to this scholar, you compromise, that you fear them etc. They said this when he replied to them whilst depending upon the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) .
However, the one who is firmly grounded in his knowledge is never shaken by these kind of ploys, but it only makes him firm upon what is evident to him that it is the truth from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and he does not pay attention to the mischief of the troublemakers and those who cause agitation and sedition in the land.
When what has been stated by the Companions and the Salaf, may Allah be pleased with them and have mercy upon them concerning this verse has become clear and evident, then it is not permissible for a Muslim who believes in Allah and the Last day that he should adopt a saying that they never said and for which there is no proof, neither from the Book nor from the Sunnah.
For they, may Allah shower mercy upon them, are more knowledgeable than us about the Book of Allah the Lofty and Sublime and are more knowledgeable than us of the intent behind the [statements] in the Book of Allah the Lofty and Sublime.
And the one who uses the verses in Surah al-Maidah in order to perform takfir of the rulers of the Muslims, those who have fallen into things that oppose the Shariah such as working with interest and other similar things, then the one who uses these verses in order to perform takfir of them, then there is no doubt that he has adopted a root of the roots of the Khawarij and may Allah protect us and you from that.
And the Salaf, may Allah have mercy upon them, also agree that the Khawarij used to use these verses and others similar to them, in order to show the disbelief of the rulers on account of what occurred from them of sins, disobedience, ruling out of their desires and other such things.
Al-Ajurree reports from Said bin Jubair that he said, “Of that which the Harooris follow from the mutashabih, is the saying of Allah, the Sublime and Lofty, “and whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed they are the disbelievers ” and they read along with this verse “.. then those who disbelieve in their Lord turn away (yadiloon)”. So when they see a ruler who has ruled by other than the truth, they say He has disbelieved. And whoever disbelieves has turned away from his Lord and whoever turns away from his Lord has committed shirk, therefore those leaders are Mushriks, and so they revolt and so they do what you can see because they make taweel of this verse.”
Therefore using this verse in order to perform takfir of the rulers is not a new thing, it is a very ancient thing, which emerged at the time of the Khawarij and their appearance.
Shaikh ul-Islam in Minhaj us-Sunnah said about some of the verses of Allah and amongst them, ” By your Lord they cannot be real believers until they make you judge in what disputes occur amongst them .” he said, “And this verse is amongst those that the khawarij use in order to perform takfir of wullat ul-amr (those in authority over the Muslims), those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed and then they claim/think that this belief of theirs is the rule of Allah itself.”
And he mentioned this in the fifth volume on page 131.
The Salaf from all parts and time of the ummah know that the one who uses such verse to perform takfir of the rulers, then he is amongst the Khawarij. Every other group besides the Khawarij knows that the one who uses these verses to perform takfir of one rulers of the Muslims on account of the sins and disobedience he commits, then they know that he is one of the Khawarij.
And for this reason, Ibn al-Jawzee included at the beginning of al-Muntazam (and this is also mentioned by others aswell such as al-Khatib al-Baghdadi) that a man from the Khawarij entered upon Mamun. Mamun said, on account of what do you declare us to be disbelievers? He replied, due to a verse from the Book of Allah. Mamun said, What is it? He replied, “The saying of Allah, and whoever does not judge by what Allaah has revealed ” . So Mamun said, to him what is your proof that this is a verse from the book of Allah? The Khariji replied, “the concensus of the Muslims upon this issue” (meaning that it is a verse from the Book of Allah). So Mamun replied, “Then just as you are pleased with their concensus about the revelation of this verse, then be pleased with their tawil (explanation) of this verse.”
Then Mamun and the rulers besides him, are those who put the Muslims to trial on account of desires and innovations or with fisq (open sinfulness) or tyranny, as occurred from Yazid and others, yet none of the Salaf judged them to be disbelievers and did not take them outside the fold of Islam.
Mamun, entered into the fold of Islam a great innovation, but the scholars up until the time of Ahmad, did not speak of his kufr (i.e. that he was a kafir) and this is because he came with this innovation without declaring it to be lawful.
And this issue of istihlal, is necessary, i.e. it must be present when performing takfir of the one who rules by other than what Allah has revealed. The Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaah, it is not possible in any situation for them to use this verse as evidence for the takfeer of the rulers of the Muslims, and this because if they had done this, then it would have been binding upon them to perform takfir of everyone who commits a major sin.
This is because the one who rules by other than what Allah has revealed has ruled by other than what Allah has revealed, and the one who eats with his left hand, on purpose, then he has ruled by other than what Allah has revealed, and the one who has intercourse with a woman who is menstruating, then he has ruled by other than what Allah has revealed, and likewise for everyone who commits such sins, so can it be said that he has disbelieved on account of that? The Ahl us-Sunnah do not say this, may Allah have mercy upon them. But the Khawarij say this.
And the various narrations from the Salaf concerning the tafsir of this verse are very many and I will suffice here with a quote from Imam ash-Shanqiti may Allah have mercy upon him, from his tafsir Adwa al-Bayan, in explanation of this verse, (vol 2 p.120), he says, “The verse is general in this regard, Ibn Masud and al-Hasan said, “This is general for everyone who does not judge by what Allah has revealed from among the Muslims, the Jews, and the Disbelievers, while he holds belief in (the correctness of his action) and declares it to be permissible (mutaqidan dhalik wa mustahillan lahu). And as for the one who did that whilst believing that he is committing something that is forbidden, then he is from the rebellious amongst the Muslims, and his affair is with Allah, if He wills He will punish him and if He wills and He will forgive him. And similar to this is the saying of Allah, “But no by your Lord .. complete the verse. Disputes amongst them.” End of his words!
And the People of Knowledge from Ahl us-Sunnah may Allah have mercy upon them, give an illustration of a situation (of many situations) in which ruling by other than what Allah has revealed is major kufr, which ejects from the religion. So the basis in this matter is that it is kufr less than kufr, except that in a certain situation it makes the person guilty of it fall into the greater kufr and removes him from the confines of Islam.
Before mentioning this situation, I say that the ruling of major kufr is not restricted to this issue of ruling by other than what Allah has revealed alone. It is general for all issues.
The specific situation I am talking about is when a person rules by other than what Allah has revealed, declaring his action to be lawful (istihlaal), or doing it out of deliberate opposition (juhood).
And this is when a person deliberately opposes and rejects the punishment for adultery or who falls into adultery whilst declaring it permissible for himself (in terms of belief) to do that, (mustahillan lahu) or making it permissible for others. So he says that it is halal and it is not haram.
And also for example, he says likewise for usury and drinking alcohol or for everything that it is known in the religion by necessity or for everything that has been established in the Shariah in the most clearest of ways and about which there is no doubt (that it is from the Shariah) or misconception. [So all of this is major disbelief which ejects from the religion].
And Ibn Jarir may Allah have mercy upon him has explained in his tafsir this meaning. He said, “And likewise is the saying regarding everyone who does not judge by what Allah has revealed, deliberately opposing it (jahidan bihi), then he is a disbeliever in Allah, as Ibn Abbas has said and this is because his opposition to the rule of Allah, after having the knowledge that He revealed it in his Book, is equal to the one who opposed the Prophethood of our Prophet after his knowledge that he is the Prophet.”
And Shaikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah says as occurs in al-Fatawa (vol 3/267-268), “And when a person declares to be lawful something that is haram and is unanimously agreed upon that it is haram, or who declared to be haram something that is unanimously agreed to be halal, or who replaced the legislation (baddal ash-Shar), which is unanimously agreed upon, he is a disbeliever, apostate by the unanimous agreement of the jurists. And it is with regards to the likes of this, that the following was revealed, according to one of two opinions, “And whoever does not rule by what Allah has revealed then they are the disbelievers”, meaning that he declares it to be permissible to rule by other than what Allah has revealed (huwal mustahillu lilhukm bighairi maa anzalallaahu).” End of his words.
And there are many other parts where he writes about istihlal and juhood and other such things.
And I will make clear the previous words through the words of Ibn al-Qayyim may Allah have mercy upon him, in Madarij us-Salikin, he says in the first volume, page 163, said, “And it is correct that ruling by other than what Allah has revealed, can be both types of kufr, the minor and the major, so if he considers it to be obligatory to rule by what Allah has revealed in this instance and did not do it out of disobedience whilst acknowledging that he is deserving of punishment, then this is minor disbelief, and if he believed that it is not obligatory upon him and that he has a choice in the matter whilst having certainty that it is the ruling of Allah, then this is major disbelief. And if was ignorant of the matter and erred, then he is an errant one and his ruling is that of those who err.”
And the narrations of the Salaf in this regard are very many, but we shall restrict ourselves to what has been mentioned.
Therefore do not be affected, O Sunni by what you hear of the application of the word al-Murjiah to the one who speaks with all of the above, for that is the saying of the Ahl us-Sunnah may Allah have mercy upon them, absolutely, [without exception].
So they say that ruling by other than what Allah has revealed can be both types of kufr, the minor disbelief and the major disbelief and this depends on the state and condition of the ruler. So if he rules by other than what Allah has revealed and acknowledges that he is sinful, that he is in error and he seeks forgiveness from Allah. And as for the one who resists and opposes the obligation to judge by what Allah has revealed and other such things then he has fallen into the major disbelief, may Allah protect us and you from this.
So this is just a small sample to illustrate the position of Ahl us-Sunnah, may Allah have mercy upon them in this issue.
What remains are some of the doubts that arise concerning this issue and we will deal with them next…”
Ref: A lecture by Shaykh Abdul Salam Burjis – on the understanding of the verses in
Surah Maidah related to ruling by other than what Allah has revealed.
Posted by Abdul Kareem Ibn Ozzie