Say, ‘O Allah! Possessor of the Kingdom! You give the Kingdom to whom You will, and You take the Kingdom from whom You will.’1
Say, ‘I seek refuge with Allah, the Lord of Mankind, the King of Mankind, the God of Mankind….’2
To Allah belongs the domain of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and to Him will all return.3
The decision (hukm) is only for Allah. He declares the truth, and He is the best of judges.4
Surely, His is the judgment, and He is the swiftest in taking account.5
And in whatsoever you differ, the decision thereof is with Allah. He is the ruling judge.6
Say, ‘Indeed, the command (’amr) belongs entirely to Allah.’7
Surely, His is the creation and the command. Blessed be Allah, the Lord of Mankind.8
But the decision of all things is certainly with Allah.9
It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any opinion in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in plain error.10
Verily, your guardian (wali) is Allah, His Messenger, and the believers—those who perform the prayers and give zakat (alms) while bowing down (ruku).11
Commentators unanimously agree that this particular verse refers to Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib who gave his ring to a beggar while in the state of bowing (ruku) in the course of his prayer.
The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allah and His Messenger to judge between them, is that they say, ‘We hear and we obey,’ and such are the prosperous ones.12
We sent no messenger but to be obeyed by Allah’s leave.13
By your Lord, they can have no faith until they make you (Prophet Muhammad) a judge in all disputes between them and find in themselves no resistance against your decision and accept it with full submission.14
Say (Prophet Muhammad) to mankind, ‘If you really love Allah, then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive you your sins, and Allah is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.’15
Say (Prophet Muhammad), ‘Follow that which has been sent down to you from your Lord, and follow not any guardian other than that.’16
And your Lord creates whatsoever He wills and chooses. No choice have they in any matter. Glorified be Allah, and Exalted above all that they associate as partners with Him.17
And Allah judges with truth, while those whom they invoke besides Him cannot judge anything. Certainly Allah is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.18
These examples from the Noble Qur’an show the characteristics of government which are only for Allah, the Exalted. The commonly repeated phrase “a la lahu al-’amr wal-hukm” (is not the command and the judgment His?) also illustrates this point.
The most important characteristics of the leadership of Allah are the guardianship and the command, and He bestows this virtue on whomever He wills. The nature of the khilafah gives the khalifah the privilege to be a guardian over the people and obliges them to obey him. Since the absolute obedience and surrender is only for Allah, then only Allah the Almighty has the right to transfer this power and authority to whomever He wills.Allah says:
“O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those vested with authority over you (’ul ul-’amr minkum). And if you quarrel about something, refer it to Allah and the Messenger.”19
But if a person assumes leadership and becomes a caliph or imam by power and intimidation then he will not necessarily be entitled to be a legitimate Muslim leader. Logic dictates that the imam or caliph who succeeds the prophet should be appointed by Allah. Since Allah puts their obedience at the same level as obedience to Him and His Messenger, therefore not anyone is entitled to become the caliph of the prophet.
Islamic history shows that some corrupt people assumed even the office of leadership and the khilafah during the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties—then could this verse of obedience still apply to them? Would the believing Muslims have to follow these leaders blindly? Would Allah tell the Muslims to follow a corrupt leader and an oppressor?
In some of the hadith books, justification is found for such rulers to rule and a command for the Muslims to listen to them. Imam Bukhari narrates from the Prophet, “After me, there will be rulers (wilat), and you will find good ones and corrupt ones. You Muslims have to listen to both of them. Whoever breaks the unity of the whole (the jama΄ah) will be considered outside of the religion of Islam.”20 Such a hadith is not compatible with the Noble Qur’an, which says:
“And incline not towards those who do wrong (dhalamu) lest the Fire touch you and you have no protector other than Allah, nor will you be helped.”21
The Noble Qur’an clearly emphasizes that those who believe should neither support nor incline towards an oppressor at all. There is no way to justify paying allegiance to or endorsing an oppressor to be the caliph or leader of the Muslim nation (ummah); doing so, would be in gross violation of the Qur’anic injunctions. Verse 4:59 not only commands the faithful to obey the ’Ul ul-’amr or their legitimate guardians (who are the infallible imams) but it also rectifies their infallibility since no corrupt or wrongdoing person could be entitled by Allah to assume this trust.