4. The Splendid Position of the Ahlus Sunnah regarding the Fitnah

3. The jurisprudential outcome: The Rulings regarding the Rebels
December 11, 2020
December 11, 2020

BACK Return to Table of contents


4. The Splendid Position of the Ahlus Sunnah regarding the Fitnah


Apart from the innovative and deviant sects, which were from the remnants of the Fitnah, the general Muslims and most of the jurists, scholars, and bearers of the Sunnah represented the majority, or the congregation, or the Ahlus Sunnah, as they came to be known in subsequent times.

In Sahih ahadith mention appears of this Ummah splintering into various sects and groups. They also state that Allah will preserve his Din by bringing about a group that will attain salvation and will be helped. This group will uphold the injunctions of Allah amidst all these disputes and these vicissitudes. It will hold onto the path of Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam in its belief, its conduct, and in all its matters. Rasul Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said:


وإن بني إسرائيل تفرقت على ثنتين وسبعين ملة وتفترق أمتي على ثلاث وسبعين ملة كلهم في النار إلا ملة واحدة قالوا ومن هي يا رسول الله قال ما أنا عليه وأصحابي

“And the Banu Isra’il splintered into seventy-two sects and my Ummah will splinter in seventy-three sects. Each of them will be in Hell-fire besides one group.”

They asked, “Which group will that be?”

He said, “The group that will be upon the path me and my Sahabah are on.”[1]


Likewise, he has also said:

لا تزال طائفة من امتى على الحق  لايضرهم من خالفهم حتى يأتي أمر الله

A group of my Ummah will constantly remain upon the truth. Those who oppose them will not harm them till the decree of Allah comes.[2]


In light of the theoretical and practical characteristics of the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah we will find the following matters: their belief is harmonious with that upon which Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam and the Sahabah radiya Llahu `anhum were in all aspects, in belief, like in the names of Allah and his attributes, in having belief in pre-destiny and all the other fundamental aspects thereof. They rely, in jurisprudence and the deduction of rulings, upon the revealed revelation or those evidences which are endorsed by the revelation: like Ijma’ (consensus of the Ummah), Qiyas (analyses and deduction), or taking into account the Maslahah Rajihah (overwhelming interest) which does not clash with the Shar’i texts. They are also very passionate about practicing the Shari’ah and carrying out its injunctions and refraining from its prohibitions; for the sound recognition which the Ahlus Sunnah are so keen on acquiring is not only the theological recognition, but it is also the living recognition of the heart, the actions of the heart, as a result of which fear, hope, and submission before the order of Allah come about.

The Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah always remain distant from extremism in everything and they give preference to moderation in opinion and in practice. They also strictly hold on to what their predecessors from the Sahabah radiya Llahu `anhum understood from the verses of the Qur’an and the hadith of Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam.

So, when the disputes and battles which transpired between the Sahabah radiya Llahu `anhum are mentioned their position is the following:


ونحب أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، ولا نفرط في حب أحد منهم ، ولا نتبرأ من أحد منهم . ونبغض من يبغضهم ، وبغير الخير يذكرهم . ولا نذكرهم إلا بخير . وحبهم دين وإيمان وإحسان ، وبغضهم كفر ونفاق وطغيان ونثبت الخلافة بعد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أولا لأبي بكر الصديق رضي الله عنه ، تفضيلا له وتقديما على جميع الأمة، ثم لعمر بن الخطاب، ثم لعثمان بن عفان، ثم لعلي بن أبي طالب، وهم الخلفاء الراشدون والأئمة المهديون الذين قضوا بالحق وبه يعدلون. ونحب العشرة الذين سماهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وبشرهم بالجنة، وشهد لهم بالجنة،  وهم أبو بكر وعمر وعثمان وعلي وطلحة والزبير وسعد وسعيد وعبد الرحمن بن عوف وأبو عبيدة بن الجراح ومن أحسن القول في أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم  وأزواجه وذريته فقد برئ من النفاق.

We love the Sahabah of Rasul Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam and we do not exceed limits in loving any of them, just as we do not disassociate from any of them. We despise those who despise them and mention them without goodness. And we do not mention them but with goodness. Loving them is Din, part of Iman and Ihsan (perfection of Din), and hating them is disbelief, hypocrisy and transgression. We establish Caliphate after Rasul Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam for Abu Bakr radiya Llahu `anhu giving him preference and putting him forward before the rest of the Ummah, thereafter for ‘Umar ibn al Khattab, thereafter for ‘Uthman, and thereafter for ‘Ali radiya Llahu `anhum. They are the Rightly Guided Khalifahs and the guided leaders, who decided according to the truth and acted justly according to it. And we love the ten Sahabah radiya Llahu `anhum whom Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam named and gave glad tidings of Jannat to. They are: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, Talhah, al Zubair, Sa’d, Sa’id ibn Zaid, ‘Abdur Rahman ibn ‘Awf, and Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu `anhum. And whoever makes good mention of the Sahabah of Rasul Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam, his wives, and his progeny, is free from hypocrisy.[3]


Regarding the attributes of Allah are mentioned they say:

أمروها كما جاءت بلا كيف

Pass (transitive) them as they have come without modality.[4]


They affirm for Allah subhanahu wa ta `ala all his attributes as they befit his majesty and his grandeur. They describe him with that with which he has described himself in the Qur’an and with which Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam has described him. They do so without distorting these attributes, rendering them useless, and without assigning modality to them, similarity, and anthropomorphism.[5]

Similarly, when a ruler is oppressive or transgressive, they do not rebel against him but after a few requisites are met. One such requisite is: assurance regarding the non-occurrence of a Fitnah and the realisation of what is best for the Muslims. Also, most of them do not consider leading an insurrection to be permissible only unless there is explicit disbelief which they are able to substantiate by way of evidence from Allah. Hence, they say:


ولا نرى الخروج على أئمتنا وولاة أمورنا وإن جاروا و ظلموا ولا ننزع يدا من طاعتهم ونرى طاعتهم من طاعة الله عز وجل فريضة ما لم يأمروا بمعصية وندعو لهم بالصلاح والمعافاة ونتبع السنة والجماعة ونجتنب الشذوذ والخلاف والفرقة.ونحب أهل العدل والأمانة ونبغض أهل الجور والخيانة

We do not consider it permissible to rebel against our rulers and those in charge of our affairs even if they are oppressive. We will not withdraw our hand from complying with them and we consider obeying them to be obeying Allah and see that as an obligation, as long as they do not order evil. We supplicate for their piety and wellbeing. We follow the Sunnah and the congregation and we avoid anomaly, disputing and disunity. We love the people of justice and trustworthiness, and hate the people of oppression and treachery.[6]


It is crucial to note that this does not necessitate that the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah and their thinkers did not hold views regarding political issues, nor does it entail that they always stepped aside from any political activity. For they have always responded to the call of truth and have expressed their views where they were required to. They actively participated in every pivotal matter and many a times individuals amongst them issued Fatwas regarding matters like pledging to a Khalifah, the oppression of the rulers and governors, the rebellion of the subjects, the renouncing of the pledge, enjoining good and forbidding evil, and many other matters which pertain to politics.

The matter once had reached an extent that some of them had even joined the insurrection which was initiated against al Hajjaj. Hence, Sa’id ibn Jubayr, al Sha’bi, and other scholars had joined the insurrection of Ibn al Ash’ath against al Hajjaj and they fought alongside him in the Battle of Dayr al Jamajim.[7] But this type of participation in rebellions was not the general trend of the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah. For the overwhelming view according to most of them was shunning rebellion and combatting the ruler with the sword due to the Fitan (tribulations), calamities, and losses that it induced in lives and in belongings. Hence, they would opt for the lesser of the two evils and would go with the lighter of the two harms, applying thereby the famous jurisprudential principle: when two harms come together then embark on the lighter of the two.

Likewise, in the books of Sihah, Sunan, and Masanid, the scholars of hadith and the jurists have established chapters dedicated to Fitan. Whoever thoroughly understands them in a correct manner will achieve thereby a very great key to understanding the reality of the present and to understand the history of Islam and its interpretation. Al Bukhari has narrated the following in his Sahih from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu `anhuma from Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam:


من كره من أميره شيئا فليصبر فإنه من خرج من السلطان شبرا مات ميتة جاهلية

Whoever dislikes something of his ruler should exercise patience, for whoever will leave the authority even to the extent of a hand span will die a death of ignorance.[8]


And he has also narrated the following hadith of ‘Ubadah ibn al Samit radiya Llahu `anhu:


دعانا النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فبايعناه فقال فيما أخذ علينا أن بايعنا على السمع والطاعة في منشطنا ومكرهنا وعسرنا ويسرنا وأثرة علينا وأن لا ننازع الأمر أهله إلا أن تروا كفرا بواحا عندكم من الله فيه برهان

Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam called us and so we pledged allegiance to him. Amongst the pledges he took from us were that we pledge to him to listen and obey, in activeness and in dislike, in ease and in difficulty, and when preference was given to others over us. We pledged that we will not dispute for the matter with its holders unless you see open disbelief for which you have evidence from Allah.[9]


Whereas in other places Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said:


إذا رأيت أمتي تهاب أن تقول للظالم يا ظالم فقد تودع منهم

When you see my Ummah fearful of saying to an oppressor, “O oppressor,” then (know that) they have been forsaken.[10]

And he has also said:

أفضل الجهاد كلمة حق عند سلطان جائر

The best Jihad is to say a word of truth before a tyrant ruler.[11]


So, what do you think the Muslims will understand from these conflicting Prophetic directives? There is no doubt that the jurists and scholars understood thereby that all circumstances and conditions should be studied with the eye of deliberation. Therefore, if there is assurance of Fitnah not occurring and no loss being sustained in belongings and in lives, and the people of integrity feel that they will have the upper hand if they revolt against the tyrant ruler, then there is no problem in repelling his oppression and tyranny, diffusing the strength of the tyrant, and enjoining good and forbidding evil in order to actualise the best for the Muslims. And if the Muslims feel that their insurrection will cause a Fitnah, and will lead to the violation of wealth and integrity, and the emergence of disunity and bickering, then it will be more prudent not to rebel and not to instigate a Fitnah.

In this there is a lesson for the Muslims that they should understand, deeply deliberate over the teachings of Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam, and utilise wisdom and acumen. This is because the primary objective is to build unity and unite the ranks, even if that be to the detriment of some rights, and even if it be by way of overlooking some offences.

When weighing the pros and cons the, the unity of the Ummah will be placed beyond all other considerations. This explains why the scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah have considered the rulership of an inferior valid even in the presence of his superior.[12] In fact they have even validated the rulership of a dictator if rebelling against him will shatter the ranks of the Muslims and will destroy their unity. They have also approbated the rulership of a Fasiq when revolting against him would lead to a harm greater than the harm of his Fisq. And Ibn Taymiyyah has actually given preference to the rulership of a strong imposter over the rulership of a weak pious person; because the interest of the Muslims will be realised in the first case and not in the second; for the Fisq of the first is restricted to himself and his strength is to the advantage of the Muslims, whereas the piety of the second is confined to himself and his weakness is to the detriment of the Muslims.[13]

In this there is a great chapter of jurisprudence, for the jurists have placed outstanding principles in this regard. For example: ‘Acting in the matters of the masses in contingent upon interest’, ‘Specific harm will be borne in order to repel general harm’, ‘Repelling evils takes precedence over attracting benefits’, ‘When two evils clash, the greater of them in harm will be taken into consideration’, ‘The lesser of the two evils will be chosen’, among many other principles on which many rulings are based.

Moving on, the Ahlus Sunnah believe, contrary to the Khawarij that the perpetrators of major sins will go to Hell-fire, but they will not be doomed to it for eternity if they die believing in the Oneness of Allah. Rather they will be under the will of Allah, if He wishes He can forgive them:


إِنَّ اللهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ

Allah will not forgive association with him, and will forgive less than that for whoever he wants.


And if He wishes He can punish them out of his justice. Thereafter they will be taken out therefrom owing to His mercy and the intercession of his obedient bondsmen, and thereafter he will enter them into Jannat, as has occurred in a Sahih hadith.[14]

Furthermore, they do not oppose the congregation of the Muslims and do not excommunicate anyone from the people of the Qiblah because of a sin, as long as he does not deem it permissible. They do not say that no sin is harmful with the presence of iman for the one who commits it, as is the view of the Murji’ah. Yes, they are hopeful for a good doer and fearful regarding an evil doer.[15]

Also, it would be plausible to aver that the specific tendency of the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah is that knowledge and practice are more fruitful and beneficial then mere debating and argumentation. And that is why they emphasise that the reality of Shar’i iman is confession and practice, and that it increases and decreases; increases with acts of obedience and decreases with sins.

Hence, the ideological and jurisprudential legacy of the Ahlus Sunnah has till the present day remained an ideal example of moderation in understanding events, weighing matters with the balance of Islam, and staying distant from the deviations of the extremist of the various sects in all contentious issues.

In conclusion, the final verdict is that the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah were the ones who deduced a sound academic balance from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of his Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam by way of which all ideas, information and deeds could be weighed and distinction could be made between the correct and the incorrect of them. Allah subhanahu wa ta `ala says:

وَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ وَلا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ

And remain on a right course as you are commanded and do not follow their inclinations.[16]

And Allah subhanahu wa ta `ala says:

اللهُ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ وَالْمِيزَانَ

It is Allah who has sent down the book in truth, and also the balance.[17]


So they are the people of this balance which they inherited from the Prophets `alayhim al Salam, for they did not tread the path of deviance or ignorance in debunking any ideology or belief. They merely studied, analysed, and passed rulings based on a very detailed academic balance in everything that confronted them, be it beliefs, philosophies or schools. They, by virtue of that, were the spearheaders and initiators of such academic thought which became the means of gushing forth springs of human recognition in a way that was unprecedented in the history of humanity. This is something to which even the disbelievers have attested. A Western researcher, professor Bairen, who delivered a sermon in an international conference regarding the sciences of history which was held in Oslo, the Norwegian capital (on the 14th to the 16th of August 1928) states that the emergence of Islam was the end of the ancient centuries and the beginning of the renaissance of humanity in the medieval centuries; because the interaction of the West with Islam is the differentiating factor between these two phases of history, the ancient and the medieval. It was only then that Europe developed a new civilisation and a new life, because of which it is necessary to consider this occurrence the beginning of the medieval era.[18]

They were the ones who shunned Hellenistic philosophy, not like how an ignoramus shuns something the value of which he does not know, but rather like a research scholar who knows well its fallacies from its realities. In this manner they freed the mind from its shackles and allowed it to make a path for itself in various spheres of research and knowledge. In doing so they truly represented the mind in what they learnt from the Book of Allah, i.e. they learnt a methodology of deep and sound reasoning which guarded the minds against slipping into the slopes of conjecture and deviance.


NEXT⇒ Conclusion

[1] Sunan al Tirmidhi, 4/134, chapter of Iman, subchapter regarding the splintering of the Ummah. Al Tirmidhi has said, “This is a hadith which is Hassan Gharib.” Al Albani has also deemed it Sahih in his Sahih Sunan al Tirmidhi, 2/334, Hadith: 2129.

[2] Sahih al Bukhari, 8/146, chapter regarding holding onto the Sunnah, subchapter regarding the hadith of Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam, “A group of my Ummah will constantly remain victorious upon the truth.”; Sahih Muslim, 1/193, chapter of Iman, subchapter regarding the descending of ‘Isa `alayh al Salam.

[3] Al Tahawi: al ’Aqidah al Tahawiyyah, p. 23-24.

[4] Al Walid ibn Muslim has narrated this from the Imams: Malik, al Layth, al Thawri, and al Awza’i. See: al Dhahabi: Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, 8/162.

[5] See: Ibn Taymiyyah: al ’Aqidah al Wasitiyyah; Ibn Qudamah: Lum’ah al I’tiqad al Hadi ila Sabil al Rashad, etc.

[6] Al ’Aqidah al Tahawiyyah, p. 20.

[7] Al Tabari: Tarikh al Rusul, 6/346.

[8] Sahih al Bukhari, 8/87, chapter of Fitan, sub-chapter regarding the hadith of Nabi salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam, “After me you will witness matters which you will condemn.”

[9] Sahih al Bukhari, 8/88, chapter of Fitan.

[10] Musnad Ahmed, 2/163, 190; Mustadrak Hakim, 4/96. The hadith is weak and there is a break in its transmission, it has been deemed weak by al Albani in al Da’ifah, 3/421, Hadith: 1264.

[11] Sunan al Tirmidhi, 3/318, chapter of Fitan; Sunan Abi Dawood, 4/124, chapter of Malahim (wars that will ensue before the end of time); Sunan Ibn Majah, 2/1320, chapter of Fitan. Al Albani has deemed the narration Sahih in his Sahih Sunan Abi Dawood, 3/820, Hadith: 3650.

[12] Ibn Hazm: al Fisal fi al Milal wa al Nihal, 4/163.

[13] Ibn Taymiyyah: al Siyasah al Shar’iyyah, p. 21.

[14] Sahih al Bukhari, 7/203, 205, chapter regarding Riqaq (hadith that soften the heart).

[15] Sharh al ’Aqidah al Tahawiyyah, p. 15, 1.

[16] Surah al Shura: 15.

[17] Ibid, 17.

[18] Muhammad Fathi ‘Uthman: Adwa’ ‘ala al Tarikh al Islami, p. 293.

Back to top