Three groups of people have caused immense damage to the Ummah in the history of Islam: the munafiqun, the Khawarij, and court scholars. The first group loosely translated as hypocrites, but more accurately as dual-loyalists, had emerged at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) in Madinah. ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy ibn Sallul is known as the chief of munafiqs in history. He and 300 of his followers had broken away from the ranks of Muslims just prior to the Battle of Uhud. Throughout his life, he opposed and tried to undermine the Prophet’s mission. Allah (swt) has condemned the munafiqs in very harsh terms in the noble Qur’an (9:73) and Surah al-Munafiqun, in particular.
The Khawarij appeared at the time of Imam ‘Ali’s khilafah following the Battle of Siffin when the Islamic army was on the verge of defeating Mu‘awiyah’s rebellion. The Khawarij broke away from Imam ‘Ali and ultimately caused his death. A member of this gang stabbed Imam ‘Ali as he was heading to the masjid for Fajr prayers resulting in his martyrdom, plunging the Ummah into turmoil, and leading to the imposition of hereditary kingship.
The third group — the court ‘ulama’ (or “scholars for dollars” in contemporary parlance) — appeared when the khilafah was subverted into hereditary kingship. The committed ‘ulama’ (scholars) opposed these tyrants but were imprisoned and mercilessly tortured. In their place, the tyrannical rulers found pliant “scholars” whom they lavished with gifts, money, and titles to the do the king’s bidding. It was such court ‘ulama’ that distorted the message of the Qur’an and the prophetic Sunnah to lend legitimacy to illegitimate rulers. This has caused great damage to Islam and the Ummah.
These dirham/riyal/dollar scholars have continued their nefarious activities in the service of Ωulm and nifaq. To justify the kings’ illegitimate rule, they use a “hadith” quoted in the sunan of Muslim whose text has the Prophet (pbuh) saying something like,
“The best among your rulers are those whom you love and they love you in turn, those who pray [make supplication] for you and you pray for them. The worst of your rulers are those whom you hate and they hate you in turn, and you curse them and they curse you.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Shall we confront them with swords?” The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “No, as long as they establish prayers among you. If you see from your rulers what you hate, hate the action they do but do not rebel against them.”
There are other versions of this hadith in al-Bukhari as well but the gist is clear.
Before discussing this hadith, let us outline a general principle of Islam. A Muslim ruler assumes office through ba‘yah (willing consent of the people, 48:18) and rules in all matters according to shura (mutual consultation among the committed Muslims, 42:38). Rulers who impose themselves through the sword have no legitimacy and must be opposed with full force.
Second, when the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned that they “establish prayers” committed scholars clearly understood this to mean that they implement the laws of Islam, or that Salah, in and of itself, ought to be a social and transformational activity in the lives of the Muslim community, that is, it “withholds [the Muslims] from moral deviation and social deviation” (29:45). The expression to “establish prayer” in this context is a linguistic device just like “freeing the neck of a person” (4:92). The latter is indicative of freeing a slave from bondage. The Qur’an is very clear, “And whoever does not judge according to what Allah has revealed, then it is they, they who are the kafirs [deniers of Allah’s power presence and authority]” (5:44).
There is also the Qur’anic command of enforcing the common good and prohibiting the munkar (social deviation, 3:104). A prophetic hadith is equally emphatic. Failing to do so would incur Allah’s condemnation of the Muslims.
Consider the case of the illegitimate rulers in the Muslim world today. Almost all of them were planted by the British colonialists and remain in power through the support of the imperialists and Zionists. They serve the interests of the enemies of Allah (swt) against the Muslims. The Muslim masses have not given them consent to rule.
In order to camouflage their illegitimacy, these rulers need the pronouncements of celebrity “scholars” to claim legitimacy. This was most recently demonstrated at a conference in Abu Dhabi at which people like the American convert Hamza Yusuf, his teacher Abdullah ibn Bayyah, and the South African hate preacher, Maulana Bham resorted to distorting the prophetic hadith to pacify people’s anger against rulers who are doing the bidding of imperialists and Zionists. These rulers are directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Yemenis and the starvation of 22 million people in Yemen, including one million children.
Hamza Yusuf (his real name is Mark Hanson, born in Walla Walla, Washington state) insisted the UAE is a “tolerant society” since it even has a “ministry of tolerance”! He also said the country is committed to a civil society. Wonderful. He must have gotten a huge amount of bakhshish for making such a statement.
As Muslims negotiate their way through a maze of conflicting information, they should keep in mind the advice offered by Imam al-Ghazzali in his masterpiece, Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, “Do not seek advice from scholars who stand as supplicants in the court of the ruler. Instead, seek out scholars at whose door the ruler stands in awe!”