Muslim Rulers and Ties with Non-Muslim Governments

Bismillaahir-Rahmaanir-Raheem

There are some Muslims who are prone to declaring many of the Muslim rulers as disbelievers because of alleged alliances between them and some kaafir nations. An apt example is the supposed alliance, tie and treaty between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, or with the United Kingdom. Many of those who rush to make such judgements often jettison the principles of the Shariah while doing so.

Firstly, if the alliances between them is in the form of the Muslim governments aiding the Kuffaar governments against a fellow Muslim country (or a Muslim individual), no doubt that it is superficially unbelief on part of that government yet the declaration of kufr against it cannot be expressly made without recourse to the principles of Shariah.

If the supposed aid is borne out of mundane reasons, then the Muslim government can be excused. The proof for that was the Prophet’s non excommunication of Haatib bn Abee Bal’ta’ah from Islam as was recorded in the hadith of Bukhaaree (no 3007, 3081, etc.) and Muslim (hadith no 6351 and 6352), and other records. In the incident, Haatib bn Abee Bal’ta’ah (may Allaah be pleased with him) had written the Quraysh in Makkah informing them of the impending attack from the Prophet (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) and the Muslims of Madeenah.

Revelation had come to the Prophet (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) about the letter in transit; he then sent Alee bn Abee Taalib, Az-Zubayr bn Al-Awwam and Al-Miqdaad bn al-Aswad (may Allaah be pleased with all) after the bearer of the letter who happened to be a woman who was on a return journey from Makkah. When accosted, the woman had denied being in the possession of any letter until the emissaries from the Prophet (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) threatened that if she failed to bring it wherever it was, she would be searched thoroughly even if it would mean getting her stripped. Being an Arab woman who knew the implication of that, she brought the letter out from the root of her hair!

When the letter got to the Prophet (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam), he queried Haatib why he did that. Haatib came up with an explanation that went down mundane reasons. He said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah, do not be hasty in passing judgement against me. I was a person living amidst the Quraysh even though I was not one of them. There are amongst the Muhaajiroon those who have relatives in Makkah protecting their families and wealth, so I loved that if I had not got a family to do same for me amongst them then I should try to seek a hand from them to protect my family. I did not do that out of disbelief or to forsake Islam, or out of pleasure with unbelief after Islam.’

The Prophet (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) was satisfied with his explanation. And that remains a stare decisis in the issue in question. He said: ‘He has told you (the Muslims) the truth.’ That, in fact, indicated that the Revelation confirmed that Haatib was truthful in his explanation.

The single reason the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) did not excommunicate from Islam Haatib was the fact that he did what he did out of worldly reason.

Ibn Katheer said: ‘The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) accepted the excuse of Haatib because he only did what he did in order to make use of the Quraysh due to what they had of wealth and children.’ [Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.4 p.410]

A point to also note here is that, the Prophet (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) first asked Haatib the reason behind his action. He asked him that day: ‘What made you do this, Haatib?’ That sets the principle that whoever wants to make judgement in matters like this has to ask why?

If because of worldly reasons, as indicated in the incident of Haatib, the doer has an excuse from being excommunicated from the Deen. But if he had done it in order to aid their religion then that is Kufr. Hope that is noted.

It should however be noted that aiding the Kuffaar because of worldly reasons is a great sin in the sight of Allaah. The Prophet (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) exonerated Haatib from that because of the virtue of Badr Battle which he took part. On the Day of Resurrection, the Prophet (sallallaahu alahyi wa sallam) shall intercede for those guilty of one major sin or the other (so far it is not Shirk or Major Kufr). It is only the khawaarij and the Mu’tazilah that believe otherwise. No doubt, those are heretics.

The main issue has been the permissibility or otherwise of Muslim governments forming alliances with Kuffaar governments.

If the alliance with them is borne out of attainment of necessities (of life or otherwise) there is nothing against it. It is not prohibited to cooperate with the non-Muslims in what is right, or in what brings benefits to Islam and the Muslims. Arm deals are good examples here so also are car deals.

So also there is no unbelief in mutual respect, honour, exchange of greetings, etc, with the non-Muslims. Some of the acts may be commendable or reprehensible as the case may be, but that they reach the level of unbelief is questionable.

There is no disbelief in being ordinarily good and just to them so far they are not enemies of the state. Mere eating or drinking with non-Muslims is not act of disbelief, contrary to the thought of some. So also are trading with them, donating blood to their sick, allowing them to enter masjid when necessary save the Holy Sanctuary of Makkah.

The principle therefore is:

There must be a clear-cut act of kufr from the Muslim government before you can declare it a kaafir. So far the alleged act is equivocal then no way.

Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said: ‘Excommunication cannot be from equivocal matters.’ [AS-Saarim al-Maslool vol.3 p.964]

Reference: Ash-Shaykh Bandar bn Naayif’s Wa Jaadil’hum bil-Latee Hiya Ahsan

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