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Hadith Section > A Manual of Hadith > Chapter 31: The State (Hadith -- The Traditions)

Chapter 31:
The State (Hadith -- The Traditions):


(Note: The superscript-numbers [e.g., intention2] that appear in the text [in pink] refer to the numbers of the explanatory footnotes that appear at the end of each Hadith [Tradition].)

1 Ibn `Umar reported,
I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, say:

"Every one of you is a ruler and every one of you shall be questioned about those under his rule; the king is a ruler and he shall be questioned about his subjects; and the man is a ruler in his family and he shall be questioned about those under his care; and the woman is a ruler in the house of her husband, and she shall be questioned about those under her care; and the servant is a ruler so far as the property of his master is concerned, and he shall be questioned about that which is entrusted to him."1 (B. 11 : 11.)

1 The Arabic word ra` (from ra`y, pasturing cattle) means a keeper, guarder, ruler or governor. Imam means a leader, and the king is also called an imam. The king or ruler is here placed in the same category as a servant. Just as a servant is entrusted with certain property for which he is responsible to the master, the king or the ruler is entrusted with the care of the people and the guarding of their rights; and for the proper discharge of his duties, he is responsible in the first place to God Who is the real Master, and then to the people in relation to whom he occupies the position of a servant. Hereditary kingship is therefore foreign to the Islamic conception of the State.

2 Anas reported,
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, said:

"Hear and obey though a Negro whose head is like a raisin is appointed (to rule over you)." 2 (B. 10 : 54.)

2 Thus even a Negro, if he is fit for the job, may be placed in authority over people of a white race; considerations of race and colour carry no weight in Islam. According to another version, the words are a Negro slave (M. 17), so that even a slave may be entrusted with command.

3 Ibn `Umar reported,
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, said:

"To hear and obey (the authorities) is binding, so long as one is not commanded to disobey (God); when one is commanded to disobey (God), he shall not hear or obey."3 (B. 56 : 108.)

3 Law is above all, even above the king or supreme authority; an order against the Holy Qur'an and authoritative hadith cannot therefore be accepted.

4 Abu Hurairah reported,
He heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, say:

He who obeys me obeys Allah, and he who disobeys me disobeys Allah; and he who obeys the amir obeys me, and he who disobeys the amir disobeys me; and the imam is an armour for protection4 -- the battle is fought for his defence and through him protection is sought. So if he commands the doing of duty to Allah and does justice, he has a reward for it; and if he does otherwise,5 he shall suffer the evil consequences of it." (B. 56 : 109.)

4 Amir literally means one who holds command, and the word is applied to any person who is entrusted with any kind of authority over others. The highest ruling authority in Islam was called Amir al-Mu'minin (Commander of the Faithful). The amir or the imam is here called junnah, or an armour for protection, because without the institution of imarah, or subjection to authority a people cannot protect themselves either from an enemy or from one another's injustice.

5 The maxim that the king can do no wrong is not known to Islam. As h. 6 shows, however, constituted authority is not to be opposed simply because a person thinks that justice has not been done to him.

5 `Ali said,
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, said:

"Obedience is due only in that which is good."6 (B. 64 : 61.)

6 These are the concluding words of the hadith, according to which the amir appointed over a small force required those under him to enter fire, but they refused to obey him. The Holy Prophet approved of their action, and added the words quoted here. According to another hadith (B. 64 : 60), when Khalid, who was appointed commander of a small force, ordered certain prisoners of war to be put to death, Ibn `Umar and others refused to kill as the order was against the clear teachings of the Holy Qur'an; and the Holy Prophet approved of their action. So an order should be disobeyed when it is against the clear precepts of the Law.

6 Ibn `Abbas said,
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, said:

"He who dislikes an order of his amir should withhold himself from opposition, for he who rebels against the king by a span dies the death of jahiliyyah." (B. 93 : 2.)

7 Abu Sa`id said,
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, said:

"The most excellent jihad is the uttering of truth in the presence of an unjust ruler." (Tr-Msh. 17.)

8 `Ubadah ibn Samit said,
The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, invited us so we swore allegiance to him; and among the conditions which he laid down on us to follow was this that he had a promise from us to hear and obey, whether we liked or disliked (an order), and whether we were in adversity or ease, even if our rights were not granted; and that we should not dispute the authority of those entrusted with it, (adding)

"Unless you see (an act of) open disbelief in which you have a clear argument from Allah."7 (B. 93 : 2.)

7 Kufr, as already shown (H. ii : 13) means disbelief as well as an act of disbelief, or an evil deed, Kufr bawah thus includes both open disbelief and evil deeds which are manifest to an ordinary eye. In such a case, the authority of the ruler may be contested, and he may even be deposed. It was on this ground that Imam Husain contested the authority of Yazid, and fought against his rule.

9 `A'ishah reported,
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, died . . . . . and the Ansar gathered together around Sa`d ibn `Ubadah in the porch of Bani Sa`idah and said, There shall be an amir from among us and an amir from among you (the Quraish). Thereupon Abu Bakr and `Umar and Abu `Ubaidah went to them, and `Umar intended to speak, but Abu Bakr asked him to remain silent . . . . . Then Abu Bakr spoke, and he spoke as the most eloquent of all people, and he said in his speech, We (the Quraish) are the amirs and you (the Ansar) are the wazirs. Thereupon Hubab ibn al-Mundhir said, No! By Allah! We will not accept this; there shall be an amir from among us and an amir from among you. But Abu Bakr repeated, No! We are amirs and you are the wazirs; they (the Quraish) are the most exalted of all Arabs in position and the noblest of them as regards family : so swear allegiance to `Umar or Abu `Ubaidah. `Umar said, Rather we swear allegiance to thee, for thou art our chief and the best of us and the most beloved of us to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him. So Umar took his hand and swore allegiance to him, and the people swore allegiance to him."
8 (B. 62 : 6.)

8 Conclusive evidence is afforded by this hadith that the Islamic State was a democracy in which the head was chosen by the people themselves. Abu Bakr was admittedly the best among the companions and the fittest man to be the head of the State and to control its affairs, as this hadith and the one that follows show. The Ansar were at first under the impression that there could be two amirs or two heads of the State, but they were ultimately convinced that this position was untenable, and there was an agreement on the point that the State must have a single head, with ministers and counsellors to help him. Wazir (from wizr, burden) meant an aider or helper, and hence a king's minister. `Umar's election as the head of the State after Abu Bakr was made in a different way. Before his death Abu Bakr consulted the leading men of the Muslim community, and nominated as his successor `Umar, who during his own caliphate had acted as his right-hand man, and who was admittedly the most outstanding personality in Islam after Abu Bakr. `Umar, on his death-bed, adopted yet a third course by appointing an elective council. There were then six eminent men, every one of whom was fit to hold the reins of government, and `Umar decided that these six should choose one from among themselves as the amir, and the mantle fell upon `Uthman. There were some differences when `Uthman died, but the majority favoured `Ali who was the fourth head of the Islamic State after the Holy Prophet. In all four cases, election was the basic principle in appointing the head of the State, though different methods were adopted to avoid dissensions.

10 Anas reported,
He heard the second sermon of `Umar when he ascended the pulpit, and this was the day next to that which the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, died; . . . . he said . . . .

But if Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, is died, Allah has given you the light9 by which you may be guided -- (with it) Allah guided Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be on him; and Abu Bakr is the companion of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, the second of the two; he is the fittest of the Muslims to control your affairs; so get up and swear allegiance to him.

Some of them had sworn allegiance to him before this in the porch of Bani Sa`idah and the masses swore allegiance to him while he was on the pulpit. (B. 94 : 51.)

9 By Light is meant the Holy Qur'an, the basis of the Islamic Law, to which even the head of the State was subject. Abu Bakr is called the "Second of the two" because during the Flight he was in the cave with the Holy Prophet.

11 `A'ishah said,
When Abu Bakr was chosen as successor (to the Prophet), he said, My people know that the profession I followed was by no means lacking in supporting my family; and now I am occupied with the affairs of the Muslims, and so the family of Abu Bakr will eat out of this (public) treasury, and he (Abu Bakr) will do work for the Muslims.
10 (B. 34 : 15.)

10 The head of the State was thus paid a fixed salary from the public treasury, like all other public servants.

12 Ma`qil said,
I heard the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, say

"There is not a man whom Allah grants to rule people, then he does not manage their affairs for (their) good but he will not smell the sweet odour of paradise."11 (B. 94 : 8.)

11 Officers of government are thus required to manage the affairs of the public for the good of the public.

13 Abu Burdah said,
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be on him, sent Abu Musa and Mu`adh ibn Jabal to Yaman, and he appointed each one of them to govern a part of Yaman, and he said, Yaman was divided into two parts; then he said :

"Be gentle (to the people) and be not hard (on them), and make (them) rejoice and do not incite (them) to aversion." (B. 64 : 62.)

14 It is reported about `Umar that when he appointed his governors, he laid down upon them certain conditions:

You shall not ride a horse that is not of Arabian breed; you shall not eat bread made of fine flour; you shall not wear fine clothes; and you shall not shut your doors against the needs of the people. If you do any of these things, punishment shall descend on you. 

Then he went forth with them to bid them farewell.12 (Msh. 17 : 1.)

12 A governor was thus required to lead the life of an ordinary Muslim citizen. That there is a direction not to ride any but a horse of Arabian breed shows that governors were required to be good horsemen as well. The ruling authorities were further required to be easily accessible to the public. The Holy Prophet himself set an example in this respect as he had no door-keepers even after he became ruler of Arabia (B. 23 : 31).

15 Hasan said,
Allah has given orders to the rulers that they shall not follow their low desires, and shall not fear people, and shall not take a small price for Allah's injunctions.
13 (B. 94 : 16.)

13 Selflessness was thus the first requisite of those who were entrusted with rule.

16 `Amr ibn Maimun said,
I saw `Umar at Madinah a few days before he was wounded. He stopped to talk with Hudhaifah ibn al-Yaman and `Uthman ibn al-Hunaif. He said, How have you acted (in `Iraq)? Do you apprehend that you may have placed a burden on the land which it cannot bear? They said, We have placed on it a burden which it can easily bear.
14 Then `Umar said, If Allah keep me alive, I would certainly leave the widows of the people of `Iraq so (well-provided for) that they shall not need the help of any one after me.15 ............................ And he said, To him who succeeds me, 

I enjoin as regards the early Muhajirs that he shall respect their rights and protect their honour; and 

I enjoin him to be kind to the Ansar . . . . receiving with approbation (the deeds of) those from among them who do good and pardoning those from among them who do evil; and 

I enjoin him to do good to the dwellers of the towns, for they are the support of Islam and the collectors of tribute and the terror of the enemy, and that nothing shall be taken from them save what they can spare, (and that too) with their assent; and 

I enjoin him to be good to the dwellers of the desert, for they are the original stock of the Arabs and the auxiliaries of Islam, so that only the less valuable of their cattle shall be taken (as zakat), and these shall be returned to the poor among them;16

I enjoin him as regards those under the protection of Allah and the protection of His Messenger,17 peace and blessings of Allah be on him, that the covenant made with them shall be fulfilled, and that battles shall be fought for their defence, and that they shall be burdened only with what they can bear. (B. 62 : 8.)

14 Hudhaifah and `Uthman were appointed by `Umar to assess land revenue. The total amounted to a very large sum, and therefore `Umar's apprehension that the people might have been taxed too heavily. He was assured that assessment was according to the capacity of the land.

15 `Umar apparently was thinking of making the State responsible for the maintenance of widows. He had already introduced old-age pensions and made arrangements for the grant of allowances to the weak and the disabled.

16 The conditions under which the urban and the rural populations lived were different, and `Umar was therefore anxious that the Muslim State should have regard for the welfare of both. People were to be taxed with their assent, which shows that the State worked on purely democratic principles.

17 The non-Muslims living in a Muslim state were known as ahl al-dhimmah or dhimmis, dhimmah meaning a covenant. Here they are spoken of as being under the protection of Allah and the protection of Allah's Messenger, and the sacredness of their right is thus enhanced. They enjoyed freedom to the same extent as the Muslim subjects of a Muslim state, and had the additional advantage of being free from military service on payment of a small tax, which was by all means a smaller burden than zakat which Muslims were required to pay in addition to their liability to military service, being required to fight in the defence of Islam as well as non-Muslims.


Hadith Section > A Manual of Hadith > Chapter 31: The State (Hadith -- The Traditions)


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