"Oh you who believe, obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the last day; that is best and most suitable for final determination.” (4:59)
The above Ayah is dealing with one of the most important Islamic issues, i.e. the issue of divine leadership. In principle, leadership is the secret key for both the progress and declination of human nations. A weak and incompetent leader will mislead his nation to annihilation and destruction, whereas a strong and competent leader will lead his nation to prosperity and development.
A true leadership will pave the way for the talents to flourish, whereas a false leadership will demolish the talents. The way people believe usually depends on the belief of their leaders. An Arabic expression says that ‘people believe what their leaders believe’. Pious leaders will lead people naturally to piety whereas corrupted leaders will corrupt the community.
By the way, the Ayah under consideration is firstly commanding the believers to obey Allah, for He is the source of all types of obedience, hence the leadership must come from Him, the Mighty. On the second step he orders the believers to follow and obey His Messenger, the Prophet (s.a.w.w.) who is infallible and doesn’t act according to his personal desires.
On the third and the last step, He orders the believers to obey those charged with authority, those from among the Muslim community who safeguard Islam and both the material aspect of a Muslim’s life as well as his/her spiritual life.
This is a very controversial question, to the extent that the answer of the question has divided the entire Islamic Ummah into two main branches, i.e. Sunni & Shiite. The absolute majority of the Sunni scholars and interpreters of the Quran hold that ‘Olel-Amr’ are the rulers and the statesmen at any time. As a result, Muslims are duty-bound to obey them as their Olel-Amr, whatever their government is; just or unjust, even a barbaric regime such as the Ba’th party in Iraq.
Despite this common opinion of the Sunni scholars, there are a few contemporary thinkers and intellectuals among Sunni scholars who have rejected this traditional approach and asserted that ‘we are duty bound to obey them on the condition that they do not breach the Islamic rules and laws’. Seyyed Qotb in his commentary; Adhelal, and M. Abdo in Al-Menar are the examples of this new approach.
The justification of the traditional approach is that the Ayah under discussion is commanding us to absolutely obey Allah, His Messenger, and Olel-Amr. The reason being, that disobedience to any of the above authorities may disturb the peace and tranquility of the Ummah.
Another justification which is the major one, is the narration of numerous Hadiths which are claimed to be quoted from the Prophet stating that rulers are to be obeyed irrespective of their conduct and qualifications. Such fabricated Hadiths are on a large scale the products of (FHF Pty. Ltd.) the Factory of Hadith Fabrication established during the reign of Moa’wia. The intention of such fabrications, of course, was nothing but the justification of their false leadership to mislead the Islamic Ummah.
The following are some examples of such fabrications:
1. When Othman the third Caliph saw Muslims protesting against him due to his abundant corruption, stated in an official letter to his governor Mu’awiyyah that “In blasphemy are indeed people in Madina, for they disobeyed their leader (meaning himself) and breached their allegiance, so send me the fighters of Damascus to help me.”
2. Muslim in his Authority quotes from Hodayfah that the Prophet is quoted to have said: “There will be rulers after me that they may not follow my path and tradition. Among them are some whose hearts are devilish hearts in human bodies.” Hodayfah then questioned the Prophet as to what he should do? The Prophet replied: “Listen to and follow your Amir, even though he is whipping you and seizing your property”.1
3. Muslim again from the authority of Ibn-Abbas has quoted from what the Prophet is supposed to have said: “Whoever observes something repulsive from his Amir, he should be patient, for whoever goes away one step or one span from the majority he will die the death of Jahiliah.”2
4. Muslim has quoted from Ziad Ibn Olaqah from the Prophet to have said: “There will be disasters, so whoever divides the affair of the Ummah into pieces whilst it is united, kill him by sword whoever the person is”.3 (Mind you that Ziad Ibn Olaqah was one of the enemies of Ahlul-Bait) Based on such fabricated Ahadith a Sunni scholar named Abubakr Ibn Arabi has asserted in his book Al-Awasim that: (Imam) Husayn was killed by the sword of his grandfather (meaning his Hadith), for he had rebelled against his Imam (Yazid!).
5. Muslim, on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Omar is quoted from the Prophet to have said: “Whoever disobeys his government, he will meet Allah in the hereafter whilst he has no proofs for what he has done, and whoever dies without having the allegiance of a government he has died a Jaheliah death (non-Muslim)”.4 Abdullah Ibn Omar has quoted this Hadith after the massacre of Madina which took place three years after Ashoora.
Nawawy the most distinguished commentator of Muslim says in the explanation of the above-mentioned Hadiths: “All the Sunni scholars being jurists, narrators and theologians have unanimously agreed that the Caliph will not be discharged due to his corruption and misconduct and ignoring the interest of the public. So, no-one is allowed to rise up against him. The most people are allowed to do is to give him a few words of advice and frighten him from the punishment of Allah, for Hadith tells us to do so.”
Sunni scholars throughout Islamic history went astray and misled their followers as well, since they relied on the fabrications of Mu’awiyyah’s factory. They pray behind whoever leads the prayer, they promise their loyalty to their rulers whoever they are. Shiites on the other hand are also accused of being rebels and revolutionaries, and not peaceful people.
Millions of crimes in the history of Islam are justified by such false doctrine. In the massacre of Madina hundreds of innocent Muslims were killed 700 of whom were those who knew the Quran by heart, 1000 girls were raped and their properties were usurped for three days by the army of Yazid, all under the justification of Obeying the Caliph.
It was for the sake of obeying the caliph that in Karbala the noble family of the Prophet was banned from having some water for drinking, the basic blessing of Allah which is open to all creatures! It was under the justification of obeying the caliph that noble gentlemen from the family of the Prophet were killed and mutilated and their pure bodies crushed under the hooves of horses in Karbala!
It was with the excuse of obeying the caliph that the most noble family of the Prophet, among whom were all innocent children and ladies, was taken into captivity of war and demonstrated as being on sale!
Ka’b Ibn Jaber who had fought against Imam Husayn in Karbala was saying in his supplications after the tragedy of Karbala: “O Allah, we only showed our loyalty to our leader (Yazid), so do not judge us equally with those who breached their loyalty to their caliph” (meaning Imam Husayn who revolted against Yazid).
Shemer Ibn Dhel-Joshan the final killer of Imam Husayn, who happened to be a knowledgeable person, was seeking the forgiveness of Allah after Ashoora. Some people were surprised asking him how Allah would forgive the killer of Imam Husayn?! His answer was: Had I not killed Imam Husayn I would have been worse than these mutes, for I only obeyed my Amir” 5
After all, the criminals of Ashoora committed the most vicious crime under the justification of obeying the caliph. On the day of Ashoora when all the soldiers of Imam Husayn were killed, the Imam came to the tents of the ladies. He asked for his last soldier, to say his last proof against the followers of the so-called caliph. According to the oldest documents, as well as a Visiting (Ziarat) narrated by Imam Zaman (a.j.) the name of the infant was Abdullah.
The Imam took the baby to the army of Yazid showing them his dried lips. Now let us see the degree of their obedience to their caliph, the level of loyalty to the leader of criminals. I wonder how much a human can be corrupted? How can someone who has got even a little bit of common sense justify murdering cruelly a six months old baby for the sake of obeying the caliph? Who is this diabolical caliph for whose sake no blood whatsoever is respected?!
Imam Husayn raised his shining baby showing him to the devilish army. The head of the sweetheart of the Imam was drooped down due to his intensive thirst. To show his dried lips to those criminals, the Imam had to raise the head of his baby...
The scene is so painful I can hardly describe it... I wish I could have died for you, my sweetheart!... I haven’t seen your lovely face and yet my hands are shaking, stopping me from uttering the description of your murder. You! my flowering bud who never bloomed, for what crime were you killed?!
Then, as soon as Imam Husayn raised the little face of his six month old infant and the beauty of his shining neck was shown, Omar Ibn Sa’d ordered Harmaleh Ibn Kahel to shoot the illuminated neck. Immediately after, the baby became silent. He stopped crying forever. Not because he was satisfied by water, but because of the arrow which pierced his fragile neck.