In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, ever Merciful.
There is much emphasis in the Pakistani, and some other cultures, on respect for and obedience to parents, husbands, elders, teachers, leaders etc. However, to what extent is this so in Islamic teachings? My study has shown that this is not the case in the teachings of Al-Islam. For instance, I am yet to see any command from Allah s.w.t. in the Qur’an to wives to obey their husbands, or an order to children to obey their parents. In this article, I examine what Allah s.w.t. and His Noble Messenger s.a. have taught us in this regards.
Allah the exalted states:
[4:60] O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you. And if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is best and most commendable in the end.
Obedience in Islam is essentially to Allah s.w.t., and obedience to the Messenger s.a. is due to the requirement to obey Allah s.w.t., and is not unconditional, as we will see in the following verse:
[60:13] “O Prophet! when believing women come to thee, taking the oath of allegiance at thy hands that they will not associate anything with Allah, and that they will not steal, and will not commit adultery, nor kill their children, nor bring forth a scandalous charge which they themselves have deliberately forged, nor disobey thee in what is right, then accept their allegiance and ask Allah to forgive them. Verily, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.”
[24:54] And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths that, if thou command them, they will surely go forth. Say, ‘Swear not; (what is required is actual) obedience in what is right. Surely, Allah is well aware of what you do.’
The Promised Messiah a.s. made abstention from (all forms of) shirrk the first condition of bai’at:
“That he/she shall abstain from shirrk (association of any partner with Allah) right up to the day of his/her death.”
As humans are prone to errors of various types, it is a form of shirrk to require unconditional obedience to anyone other than Allah s.w.t. There are several verses on obedience to Allah, and (then) on (conditional) obedience to His Messengers s.a./a.s., as can be seen in the links below:
So, those who emphasise obedience to other than Allah and (then to) His Messengers a.s., and that, unconditionally, are in error, for it leads to shirrk. The Promised Messiah a.s. included the mention of the need for conditional obedience to himself in the ten conditions of bai’at:
“10. That he/she shall enter into a bond of brotherhood with this humble servant of God, pledging obedience to me in everything good, for the sake of Allah, and remain faithful to it till the day of his/her death; that he/she shall exert such a high devotion in the observance of this bond as is not to be found in any other worldly relationship and connections demanding devoted dutifulness.”
If one rejects what the Promised Messiah a.s. has stated, then one would be required to present valid reasons, such as that his writing is not according to the Qur’an on that particular issue, which can happen, as he was a human being too, who wrote over 90 books, so a small percentage of errors due to human fallibility, or being under the influence of inherited sunni views, writings, interpretations, poems, or an error due to forgetfulness, is to be expected and not contrary to his status as a Prophet of Allah.
Otherwise, to reject a statement of the Promised Messiah a.s. which is in line with the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a., such as something he said which was ‘uttered with the spirit of God’, i.e. under the direction of divine revelation, can become a form of kufr i.e. disbelief. The promise of True Khilafat is itself conditional on uncorrupted faith and sincere righteous deeds [24:56], so how can obedience to one who may or may not be a Rightly Guided or True Khalifa, be unconditional?
We are also categorically instructed: [26:152-153] ‘And obey not the bidding of those who exceed the bounds, ‘Who create disorder in the earth, and reform it not.’
As Allah does not like disorder, we are also to obey those who are in authority over us, such as rulers. However, if a ruler is the source of disorder, then it would lead to disorder to obey his bidding, which would defeat the purpose of instructing obedience to rulers:
[2:206] “And when he is in authority, he runs about in the land to create disorder in it and destroys the tilth and the progeny of man; and Allah loves not disorder.”
For example, would it be lawful to obey and assist a Nazi-like religious or secular authority in wrongdoing? We are clearly commanded:
[5:3] “… And co-operate with one another in righteousness and piety; but co-operate not with one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah; surely, Allah is severe in punishment.”
Obedience to those in secular, state, or other authority is conditional on their obedience to Allah (and then to His Messenger s.a.), as stated in the following hadith:
“`Ali r.a. is reported to have said that the Prophet s.a. said: There is no obedience to a human being if it involves disobedience to the Creator. Obedience is only in Ma`ruf (i.e. that which is judged as right, good, appropriate, beneficial, & according to the Qur’an & Sunnah).” [Bukhari & Muslim].
This principle would apply to anyone in any form of authority.
There are some who like to quote ahadith inculcating unconditional obedience to rulers and others in authority, but these ahadith contradict the conditional obedience to those in authority which is clearly stipulated in the Noble Qur’an, and therefore have to be dismissed, without which one would be guilty of rejecting the Word of Allah, which is tantamount to kufr i.e. disbelief. Why then would children have to their obey or help parents in wrongdoing, and why would a wife have to obey or help her husband in wrongdoing? Yet obedience to parents and to the husband are emphasised so much in muslim circles and cultures, that one begins to wonder why they emphasise it so much in the name of Islam, yet the Noble Quran doesn’t state so.
In fact, Allah doesn’t instruct obedience to parents or the husband in even a single verse of the Holy Qur’an, the ultimate source of right guidance for mankind. This appears to be because the relationship with near ones is based primarily on love and affection. One’s family members are to be dealt with on the principle of love, which is apparent in the words ‘itaa-i-thil qurbaa‘ [16:91] rather than them being in the category of ‘ulil amri minkum‘ [4:60].
Abu Bakr’s r.a. First Address:
After giving praise and thanks to Allah s.w.t., Abu Bakr r.a. addressed the Muslims gathered at the Prophet’s s.a. mosque and said:
“I have been given the authority over you, and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God will; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God will. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger (Muhammad, pbuh). But if I disobey God and His Messenger, ye owe me no obedience. Arise for your prayer, God have mercy upon you.”
An Incident Related To Umar r.a.:
It is reported that Umar r.a., the second khalifa of Islam, one day delivered a sermon against the practice of settling large sums for the Mahr (dower-money). A woman who stood up and objected, saying: Oh Chief of the Believers, how dare you oppose the Qur’anic dictate that even a heap of gold may be settled on the wife as dowry? [4:20] Umar did not resent this, but on the contrary showed appreciation for this woman’s courage of her conviction and right to freedom of speech. He exclaimed: “The woman is right and Umar is wrong.” [Muṣannaf ‘Abd al-Razzāq 10420]
This is an example of where an objection was raised because an instruction from someone in authority, who is believed to be a rightly guided Caliph by a large number of Muslims, was contrary to the teachings of the Noble Qur’an, and he was humble enough to acknowledge his error and accept correction from a fellow human being, and a woman for that matter, for they are looked down upon by many men. It is worth noting that examination results do not appear to show any significant difference in mental aptitude between men and women, at least to my knowledge, nor does the Qur’an state that men are superior in intellect compared to women. Men may in general be physically stronger than women, but I am not aware of any established correlation between intelligence and physical strength.
This is something to ponder over for those who would promote having ‘blind faith’ in questionable hadith reports compiled some 2 centuries or so after the time of the Prophet s.a. Whilst this report about Umar r.a. and a woman who set him right may itself be questioned by some, it does not appear to conflict with the message of the Qur’an, such as the verse [4:60] quoted above, rather it shows that it is a matter of monotheistic faith that the Word of Allah should over-rule everyone and everything.
The Best Jihad: There are two relevant ahadith in this regard:
عَنْ طَارِقِ بْنِ شِهَابٍ أَنَّ رَجُلًا سَأَلَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَيُّ الْجِهَادِ أَفْضَلُ
قَالَ كَلِمَةُ حَقٍّ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ
i.e. Tariq ibn Shihab r.a. reported that a man asked the Messenger of Allah s.a. “What is the best jihad?” The Prophet s.a. said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler.” [Musnad Aḥmad, 18449]
Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri r.a. reported that the Messenger of Allah s.a. said:
إِنَّ مِنْ أَعْظَمِ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةَ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ
Verily, among the greatest Jihad is a word of justice in front of a tyrannical ruler. [Sunan al-Tirmidhi 2174]
These two ahadith are in accordance with the instruction of the Holy Qur’an to enjoin good and forbid evil in the following verses, hence there appears to be no valid reason to reject them:
[3:105] “And let there always be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin virtue and forbid evil. And it is they who shall prosper.”
[3:111] “You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin good and forbid evil and believe in Allah. And if the People of the Book had believed, it would have, surely, been better for them. Some of them are believers, but most of them are transgressors.”
However, when dealing with authorities, some of whom may be oppressive, it is best advised to act on the advice given to Musa and Haroon a.s.:
[20:44-46] ““Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has transgressed all bounds. But speak to him a gentle speech that he might possibly heed or fear. They replied, ‘Our Lord, we fear lest he commit some excess against us, or exceed all bounds in transgression.’ He said, “Fear not; for I am with you both. I hear and I see.”
Not everyone is in the position of Musa a.s. and/or Haroon a.s., so the general advice to people would be to act wisely and remain cautious so as not to invite unnecessary oppression and worsen the disorder and corruption in society. However, it would be responsible to do something to prevent wrongdoing, if not personally against oneself, then for the benefit of a large number of helpless persons, as per the following ahadith:
Anas ibn Malik r.a. reported that the Messenger s.a. of Allah s.w.t said,
“Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, we help the oppressed, but how do we help an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By seizing his hand.”
In another narration, the Prophet s.a. is reported to have said:
“By restraining him or preventing him from committing injustice, for that is how you support him.” [Bukhari 2312, Muslim 2584]
Another hadith lends support to the need to intervene urgently and wisely in some situations.
An-Nu’man ibn Bashir r.a. reported that the Noble Prophet s.a. said:
“The parable of those who respect the limits of Allah and those who violate them is that of people who board a ship after casting lots, some of them residing in its upper deck and others in its lower deck. When those in the lower deck want water, they pass by the upper deck and say: If we tear a hole in the bottom of the ship, we will not harm those above us. If those in the upper deck let them do what they want, then they will all be destroyed together. If they restrain them, then they will all be saved together.” [Bukhari, 2361]
Another relevant verse is one which advises courtesy and a degree of ‘secrecy’ when there is a risk of being overwhelmed and exterminated by persecution:
[18:20] “And so We raised them up that they might question one another. One of them said, ‘How long have you tarried?’ They said, ‘We have tarried a day or part of a day.’ (Others) said, ‘Your Lord knows best (the time) you have tarried. Now send one of you with these silver coins of yours to the city; and let him see which of its (inhabitants) has the purest food, and let him bring you provisions thereof. And let him be courteous and let him not inform anyone about you. For, if they should come to know of you, they would stone you or make you return to their religion and then will you never prosper.’”
The Prophet s.a. engaged in silent or secretive da’wat-i-ilallaah or tabligh in Mecca for the first three years, until the new converts to monotheism had gained sufficient ta’leem and tarbiyyat for tabligh to become public. Thus, one should be wary not to invite unnecessary persecution of helpless believers from thise in authority, and if and when there is actual persecution, one has the choice to adopt the favoured way of steadfastness under persecution as adopted by Syeddina Bilal r.a.
As the honourable Hadhrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrullah Khan r.a stated in one of his books:
“Difference, or, let us say, the right to differ, lies at the root of (progress in) all knowledge.” [Islam and Human Rights]:
Thus, we should not hesitate to ask valid question when and where appropriate, such as the issue about discrepancies in the numbers of bai’ats and total membership reported by the caliphs iv and v, and the nizam under both of them.
Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II r.a. states:
“The Holy Quran classifies Shirrk (or association of other gods with God) into four kinds:
First, a belief in a plurality of gods.
Second, a belief that any other being shares, in a greater or lesser degree, in God’s attributes, irrespective of the fact whether such being is or is not called a deity. For instance, a belief that a particular
person can create living things or can bring the dead to life amounts to Shirk, although the person to whom such attributes are ascribed be a human being. For here, there is a difference only in name, and the essence of Divinity has been ascribed to another.
Third, to look upon a being other than God as worthy of worship although that being is not considered a god, nor is believed to share in the attributes of God; as, for instance, parents were worshipped in some tribes in ancient days.
Fourth, to regard a human being as infallible. For instance, a belief that a particular saint or holy person is wholly free from the natural weaknesses of man and must therefore, be implicitly obeyed in all matters, however objectionable his orders may be, and practically to prefer his commands to those of God, although as a matter of belief that person is not regarded as God.
The Holy Quran indicates these four kinds of Shirrk in the following verse:
[Q. 3:65] “O, people of the Book, let us agree in this one matter, which both of us accept, that we worship none but Allah, Who has no partner, and that we associate with Him none in His attributes and that we prefer to Him nobody from among His ser vants. If they refuse, say, bear witness ye people that we submit ourselves to God in this manner.”
What a complete refutation of all kinds of Shirrk is contained in this one brief verse! In view of what is laid down in this verse when a Muslim says he believes in one God, he means that he worships none but God, that he does not ascribe to any other being any of the
attributes of God, that he considers Him free from all earthly relationships, that he believes that God is above assuming human form, that he believes that God is not subject to death or hunger or thirst, that he bows to none except God, that his hopes are centred in no other being, that he addresses his prayers to none but Him, and that although he venerates the Prophets of God, he does not
regard them as anything more than human. This is what Islam teaches him and to which he holds throughout his life.”
[Ahmadiyyat or the True Islam, pp 59-61]
[19:76] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance.
[20:47] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.