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Offline Reader Questions

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Who are 'Ulil Amr' These Days?
« on: April 17, 2012, 08:21:53 AM »
Salam Brother!
Apologising in advance for a somewhat lengthy email, I wonder if you have expressed your opinion about by what the terms Ulil Amr means in this day and age. Following was recently sent to me by one who is a big believer in secondary sources:
Allah says obey those in authority amongst you "ULIL AMR"

Chapter 4 Surah Nisaa verse 59: O you who believe, obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those entrusted with authority amongst you. Then if there arises any dispute about anything, refer the dispute to Allah and the Messenger, if you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day. That would be the best way and most suitable for final determination.

The Arabic word 'ati' means obey.. In the above aayah, Allah commands the believers to obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those entrusted with authority (olil-amr) amongst you. The above verse is extremely clear whereby

Allah says:
'Ati-Allah' meaning 'obey Allah'
'wa ati-ar Rasool' meaning 'obey the Messenger'
'wa olil-amr minkum' meaning 'and those entrusted with authority amongst you.'

Allah does not say 'wa ati olil amr minkum'. The command 'ati' (obey) is not placed independently before the 'olil-amr'. And anyone who knows even basic Arabic grammar will confirm with you that because the word 'ati' (obey) is not placed before 'olil-amr' (those entrusted with authority), then it becomes a 'mashroot' (condition), that you have to obey those entrusted with authority amongst you, ONLY IF THEY OBEY ALLAH AND THE MESSENGER!

Then Allah states in the same aayah, that if there arises a dispute about anything, refer the dispute back to Allah (the Quran) and the Messenger (His Sunnah or Way).... If you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day.

The commandment is extremely clear ... Obey Allah, obey the Messenger, and those entrusted in authority amongst you, (only if they obey Allah and the Messenger.) But if there arises any disputes, then refer the dispute back to Allah (The Quran) and the Messenger (His Sunnah).

Thus, we are commanded to obey the people who have authority amongst us, as long as they obey Allah and the Messenger (saws). But if for any reason, these people who have authority amongst us, go against anything from the Quran and Sunnah, we are not to obey them in that thing at all. Allah and the Messenger have a bigger right in Islam that we obey their commandments. And anyone who thinks that someone else has more authority than Allah and His Messenger (saws), he obviously leaves the fold of Islam!


If we go back to the time this verse was revealed, it made perfect sense. The Islamic state was expanding and people were being asked to deal with their issues in a certain matter. These days how do we select "Ulil Amr" in presence of sectarian Islam and conflicting claims?Also, In this day and age, how do we revert back to "Allah and His Messenger?". For our times, could it not mean those who are appointed to run the affairs of the society/state like admiminstrations, police, governers, etc. [as long as they follow the Qur'an and matching Sunnah?"
Some suggest that "Allah and His Messenger" mean a Central Authority of an Islamic state continued after the Nabi through Khilafat:

Ulil Amr in islamic System - An exposition of Dr. Tanveer Hussain.

The Last Messenger of Allah established a system of life in which He used to rule or judge people according to the Book revealed to him [5:48-49, 4:105, 6:114]. And this was not new only to him. In fact, all the previous Messengers of Allah also established systems of life during their time whereby they ruled or judged according to the Books revealed to them [5:44-47, 2:213]. Indeed, any one who does not rule or judge according to Allah's Revelation is Kaafir [5:44], Zalim [5:45] and Fasiq [5:47], according to the Qur'an. The principle of ruling or judging by the Book is the foundation of an Islamic System. No system can be called Islamic unless all the judgments and rulings therein are according to the Book, Al-Qur'an, the last of the Revealed Books that is the Watcher over all the old Scriptures and guards the Truth in them [5:48].
Al-Hukm or the Judgment or the Rule or the Command belongs to none but Allah alone [6:57, 6:62, 12:40, 12:67, 28:70, 28:80, 40:12, 42:10]. He does not take anyone as partner in His Hukm [18:26]. He is Khair-ul-Hakimeen [7:87, 10:109, 12:80] and Ahkam-ul-Hakimeen [11:45, 95:8]. In an Islamic System, all the so-called rulers or judges are obligated to rule and judge as per Allah's Rule and Judgment. Sunnah or the Way of the Prophet [s.a.] is not part of Al-Hukm, since Allah does not take any partners in His Hukm [18:26]. However, in Sunnah of the Prophet [s.a.], guidance may be sought for ways to implement Al-Hukm, or for by-laws based upon Al-Hukm. But the ways to implement or enforce Al-Hukm as well as by-laws based upon it, are not as unchangeable as is Al-Hukm itself. The ways and by-laws may be altered according to the suitability of time and circumstances but Al-Hukm itself cannot be changed in any circumstances.

The obedience to Allah [Aatee-u-Allah] is the basis of an Islamic System. But Allah is Invisible. He comprehends all vision but no vision comprehends Him [6:103, 7:143]. He does not come face to face with people to give them His Laws and Commands. All of His Commands for the people are in the Book revealed by Him. Obedience to Allah means conformity to His Laws or abidance by His Commands which are in His Revealed Book, Al-Qur'an. His Commands or Laws do not change like the whim of a despot or caprice of a king. No one can change His Laws. Even, He Himself does not change His Laws, although He is all powerful to do so [10:64, 30:30, 33:62, 35:43, 48:23, 6:34, 6:115, 18:27].
Allah's Laws and Commands, in the Qur'an, cannot implement or enforce themselves upon people, on their own. Moreover, each individual may interpret these Laws and Commands in his own way and abide by them according to his own right. So, there is a need for one Central Authority and his obedience [Aatee-ur-Rasool]. The first Central Authority was Muhammad [a.s.], the Messenger of Allah. Hence, obedience to the Messenger was also necessary, which was, in effect the obedience to Allah by abidance by His Book as interpreted and enforced by the Central Authority [4:80].
Muhammad [a.s.] was mortal and could not live forever [3:144]. But this did not mean the end of the Islamic System. The Central Authority, after his death, would transfer from him to his Khalifa, the Successor. Moreover, as the expanse of the Islamic System will increase, it would become impossible for the single human Authority to be present at all places at all times to make judgments, rulings or implement or enforce the Law. There would become a need for sub-authorities or subordinates, hence, the obedience to Ol-il-Amr.
Unless there is one single Islamic Central Authority, the dream of implementing Islam as a System, as an alternative to secular democracy or other systems, can never be realized. Without a Central Authority, Islam may exist, as it is today, like a downgraded ritualistic religion, in which every individual or sect may keep on living on the vacuous wish of pleasing Allah or rendering Him worship in its own way and in its own right but it can never become a truly Islamic System of life to bring forth its promised benefits. And that means the transfer of sovereignty from individual states, as they exist today, to the Central Authority which itself would work under the Ultimate Sovereignty of Allah, i.e. His Book. Moreover, this also means the end of the authority of the Ullema or the Muftis of today and the Imams of the past. The interpretation of the Laws and the formulation of by-laws will be done by the Central Authority alone, within the bounds of the Qur'an. There will be no sects, no religious or political parties, not even an opposition party or Hizb-e-Ikhtilaf within the Islamic System.
All the affairs shall be decided by mutual consultation, in the light of the Qur'an. If there is any disagreement among the representatives on any matter, the judgment thereof will be referred to Allah [42:10] i.e. His Book. This referral will be through the sub-authorities or the central authority for the final verdict [4:59], which will make the judgment according to Allah's Book [5:48].
Derived from two ancient Greek words demos (the people) and kratos (strength), Democracy is a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them. Then, the numerical majority of the elected representatives can make laws, rules or decisions binding on the whole group. While making laws and rules, these elected representatives do not have any objective standards, unprejudiced touchstones, absolute criteria or bounds of any permanent values to take into account. The difference between such a system and the Islamic System is that the law-making in the latter is based upon the objective standards and the absolute criteria given in the Qur'an and do not go against the Permanent Values enshrined therein.
Before anyone becomes a believer in such a system, He has full choice whether he wants to become a believer or not [18:29]. There is no compulsion whatsoever upon him to become a member of the Muslim community [2:256]. But once he becomes a member of the Muslim community, he is obligated to abide by its Laws. The authority would make sure that he does so. He cannot be left with that he abides by some laws that he likes and violates others that he dislikes. No community, no nation and no country would allow that.
In simple words every society or state has some rules or laws for the safety, security and preservation of its individual members as well as the society or the state as a whole. The submission or conformity to these laws and the safety, security and preservation that is expected thereby is called Islam (, the word Islam being used as a common noun. Literally, the word 'Islam' means submission as well as safety, security, soundness, unimpairedness, intactness or well-being). When the rules and laws are those or based upon those given by Allah, then the submission or conformity to these laws and rules, and the safety, security and preservation that results thereby, is called Al-Islam.
Why Al-Islam?
Since the laws and rules given by the All-Wise and the All-Knowing Allah are free from any subjectivity, bias or limitations of time and space, the submission or conformity to only these can guarantee a perpetual safety, security, preservation and well-being of all human beings living in a society and the world at large. On the other hand, since the laws made by human beings suffer from the eternal drawbacks of subjectivity or bias and temporal or spatial limitations of individual knowledge and wisdom, they can never guarantee an incessant or everlasting safety, security, preservation or well-being of all.
Thanks Brother.

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Who are 'Ulil Amr' These Days?
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2012, 08:27:33 AM »
Salamun Alaikum,

'Uli al amri' are simply those that have been charged with authority or have the responsibility to maintain the affairs of a society. In the context of revelation, this referred to those authorities entrusted at the time of the Prophet and in a wider sense after the death of the Prophet, it would refer to those that were chosen to govern by mutual consultation. The latter sentiment with regards mutual consultation is engrained in the Quran where by example, even the Prophet was asked to settle his societal affairs by consultation.

"It was by the mercy of God that you (Muhammad) were lenient with them, for if you had been rude and harsh of heart they would have dispersed from round about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult (Arabic: watamiru) among yourselves. And when you have decided, then put thy trust in God. Indeed! God loves those who put their trust (in Him)"

During his ministry, the prophet retained ultimate command over his community before God. Therefore, believers were asked to obey the messenger and his final authority which amounted to obeying God. So any disputes that resulted would have been escalated back to the Prophet.

The Prophet applied a 'timeless' Divine revelation, to 'time specific' circumstances and what resulted was a 'time specific' Sunnah. As those circumstances would not be present in ever changing societal landscapes and different cultures, it would be nonsensical to assert that the classical rulings would remain immutable. Only the timeless Divine guidance (i.e. Quran) remains immutable and must continue to remain the bedrock for judgment.

To assert the 'Sunnah' of the Prophet is binding on us today despite different circumstances is akin to asserting that the Prophet is also alive today with the 7th century circumstances of the environment he lived in.

Therefore, the premise and intended immutable application of the following bracketed statement (His Sunnah) is false.

"...But if there arises any disputes, then refer the dispute back to Allah (The Quran) and the Messenger (His Sunnah). Thus, we are commanded to obey the people who have authority amongst us, as long as they obey Allah and the Messenger (saws). But if for any reason, these people who have authority amongst us, go against anything from the Quran and Sunnah, we are not to obey them in that thing at all..."

The paragraph takes no account of the context of the verse and assumes that all conditions are present today including the existence of the Prophet and his specific circumstances.

Today, we are required to fulfil our obligations whether they are personal or societal and we must respect the decision of those that are in authority. If we disagree, we must use due process to voice our concerns. Ultimately it is by God and His Book that believers should judge. If we cannot practice our religious beliefs in the society we live in under those that have authority over us, then we should be prepared to migrate. Migration particularly becomes obligatory if we are subjected to oppression on account of our religion (4:97).

In the main, I concur with the sentiments of the article you have shared entitled "Ulil Amr in Islamic System - An exposition of Dr. Tanveer Hussain". There isn't much else I can add on the term 'uli al amri' and its application today other than my sentiments above.

I hope that helps, God willing.

'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell