Chapter Eleven: Obeying the Ul’il Amr


We read in Holy Quran:

“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority (Ulul-Amr) from among you (min kum).” (Qur’an 4:59).

This verse deems obedience to the Ul’il Amr obligatory

All societies maintain law and order via the imposition of rules, with someone at the helm overseeing the process to ensure the maintaining of a healthy society. It is common sense for this to be obtained it is incumbent on us to obey those in authrity whether that is from the Head of State down to an officer issuing orders on the ground. The Sunni Ulema have according deemed obedience to the Ul’il Amr to be obligatory on the Ummah.

Mawardi writes:

“It is the law however, which has delegated the affairs to those who wield authority over them in matters of the Deen, Allah, May He be exalted, has said:
“O you who believe, obey Allah, his Rasul and those in authority amongst you”
Thus he has imposed on us obedience to those in authority that is those who have command over us”

Al-Ahkam al Sultaniyyah, Chapter 1 pages 10-11 (Ta-Ha publishers, London)

Ibn Khaldun comments on the verse as follows:

“It has been established that the institution (of the imamate) is necessary by general consensus (it must be added that the institution of imamate) is a community duty and is left to the discretion of all competent Muslims. It is their obligation to see to it that (the imamate) is set up, and everybody has to obey (the imam) in accordance with the verse of the Qur’an, “obey Allah and Obey the Messenger and the people in authority among you””
Muqaddimah page 392.

The Sunni scholars of Tafseer in their commentaries of this verse have said that the term Ul’il Amr is of general application, not specific. The Mufassireen have stated that the terminology incorporates various scenarios subject to the Shari’ah and incorporates various aspects of leadership. Since we are discussing the topic of Imamate we will analyse three key positions that the Sunni commentators have incorporated as Ul’il Amr:

  1. Those in army authority positions.
  2. Political Leaders, this incorporates the Head of State down to officers implementing rules and regulation at a ground level
  3. The Ulema – Scholars of Deen.

The following Sunni scholars have added reference to these categories of Ul’il Amr in their commentaries of Surah Nisa verse 59.

  1. Tafseer Mu’allim al Tanzeel Volume 1 pages 444-445 by Imam Abi Muhammad Hussain bin Masud al Baghawi al Shaafi [Multan]
  2. Tafseer Dur al Manthur Volume 2 pages 314-315 by Al Hafidh Jalaluddeen Suyuti [Beirut]
  3. Tafseer al Kabeer Volume 4 page 113 by Allamah Fakhradeen Razi [Multan]
  4. Tafseer Qurtubi Volume 5 pages 168-169 [Makka]
  5. Tafseer Mazhari (Urdu translation) Volume 3 pages 96-98 by Qadhi Thana’ullah Panee Patee
  6. Tafseer Kashaf Volume 1 pages 535-537

It is logical that all three types of Ul’il Amr are required to ensure the smooth running of a stable health Islamic society. Political Leaders are there to administer the running of the Government. The army leadership provide a protectorate role, preventing anarchy within the state through law enforcement and defending it from attack. The religious clergy are present to provide a religious steer there to ensure that the running of the country is done so in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah.

First Problematic issue – Is obedience to the political leadership and army leadership unconditional?

  1. Those in army authority positions.
  2. The Head of State, this incorporates the Leader down to officers implementing rules and regulations at a ground level

The verse deems obedience to the Ul’il Amr to be unconditional applying this to these two categories of personnel, is their obedience absolute or conditional?

The scholars of tafseer have held obedience to these individuals to be conditional, since such people can make mistakes, hence their obedience is restricted to them adhering to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and ensuring that all directives given are in accordance with these legal provisions. What better evidence of this limited obedience can there be than the frank admission of Abu Bakr who said at the time of his inaugural speech:

“Now then: O people, I have been put in charge of you, although I am not the best of you. Help me if I do well; rectify me if I do wrong”.
Tarikh Tabari, English translation Volume 9 page 201

He himself acknowledged that obedience to his authority was not unconditional, it was limited there existed in the Ummah others better than him, and he was himself looking to others to help him. Whilst commenting on the Abu Bakr’s speech the modernist Sunni thinker Abdelwahab El Affendi makes an observation which points albeit unintentionally to Abu Bakr’s position as an Imam e Juzwi (partial Imam):

“In the time of the Prophet there was no question of guiding the leader, or watching out for his errors in order to correct them. God took care of that, while the community had only to follow the divine guidance. Now this guidance had to be mediated by human agents who were supposed to determine what conformed to the dictates of true faith and what did not? Who are these human agents? Presumably it was not the khalifa himself, for he was the one asking for guidance”
Who needs an Islamic State, by Abdelwahab El-Affendi, page 24

The first speech is very important as we know in modern times when a party comes to power it sets out its agenda in its inaugural speech, it’s thinking, it’s values, the speech will reflect the leadership. This speech was an acknowledgement of his incapability’s and as such points to his acknowledgement as an Imam with limited capabilities. How can Abu Bakr be deemed the Ul’il Amr whose obedience is unconditional when he was seeking to rely on others for assistance when he deviated? The duty in the Qur’an is to obey those in authority, and yet the supposed Ul’il Amr Abu Bakr is looking to others to guide him!

Second problematic issue – Is obedience to irreligious leaders unconditional?

The late grand Mufti of Pakistan Maulana Muhammad Shafi writes about to following the Wali al Amr:

“One group of Tafseer scholars, that includes Abu Hurrayra says Wali al Umar refers to principles and power, one who runs the State”
Tafsir Maarif al Qur’an Volume 2 page 450

If the Ul’il Amr refers to any political leader at the helm of the State then it becomes incumbent to follow evil, tyrannical, corrupt rulers, those who have deviated from the Qur’an and Sunnah. Is it really believable that a debaucher like Yazeed be recognised as the Ulil al Amr? Did Allah (swt) give instructions to be with the one who slew the grandson of the Prophet in Kerbala (as), who with his blessing pillaged Madina slaughter the last remnants of the Sahaba and mass raping their women folk, [Please read our article on  Yazeed (la`een)]. Does the Book that orders obedience to the Wali al Amr refer to the Khalifa Walled bin Yazeed who to quote Jalaluddin Suyuti:

“Waleed was a definite Faajir, Fasiq and a drunkard. He has had crossed all the limits, his dream was to drink alcohol whilst sitting on the roof of the Kaaba…Waleed’s brother Sulayman bin Yazeed said ‘By Allah! Waleed was a die hard alcoholic, and a Fasiq’… Dhahabi said Waleed being a kafir and Zindeeq is not correct but he was a drunkard and homosexual… Ibn Fadl wrote in Masalik that Waleed bin Yazeed was a sheer oppressor, deviant, jealous, unrestrained, Firown of his time, most flawed one of his time, one who would lead his people to hell on the Day of Judgement, one who inflicted hardships to his people, who resulted in astray, one who rasied Quran on spear, a Fasiq, Faajir and was joyful at his sins”.
Tareekh al Khulafa page 249-250 (Nafees Academy Karachi).

Some of the Sunni interpreatations of the 12 Khalifa Hadith have counted Waleed as the 12th. In the traditions we see that Rasulullah (s) had made it clear that Islam will not end until the passing of the 12th Caliph does this refer to Waleed? Was Waleed the Ul’il Amr whose obedience is on par with obeying Allah (swt) and his Messenger (s)? Would the unconditional obedience incorporate the incestuous Harron Rasheed, or Mamun the drunkard, or Mutawakkil a drunkard with 4000 slave girls [Tareekh ul Khulafa page 332] Are these the Ul’ il Amr? Can we deem present day Muslim leaders as the Ul’il Amr? In some Muslim countries the Head of State is a woman, can they be deemed the Ul’il Amr? If the Ahl’ul Sunnah have no problem with this concept then why don’t they embrace it wholeheartedly? When it comes to accepting the Head of State as Ul’il Amr we witness utter confusion of the Ahl’ul Sunnah over the meaning and identification the Wali al Amr, first we had the four Khalifa who ran the state (via varying degrees), then came the reign of the Umayyads and Abbasids their bad characters caused disaffection amongst the people. If all leaders at that time were accepted as Ul’il Amr’s then it would incorporate evil, sinful Leaders such as these,

Third problematic issue – How do you resolve a dispute between the categories of Ul’il Amr?

Whilst these two categories (political leadership and army leadership) should work in co-ordination with one another through an atmosphere of mutual respect an understanding of their separate roles and responsibilities, what should happen in the eventuality of a dispute arising between the two groups? The answer is provided for us in the second portion of Surah Nisa verses 059:

YUSUFALI: … If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.

Since we can’t physically refer to Allah (swt) and his Prophet (s) and this verse is applicable for all generations, we will need to turn to the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of his Messenger for an answer. In the absence of the physical presence of the Prophet (s) when it comes to resolving the dispute via the Qur’an and Sunnah then that responsibility will fall on to the shoulders of the third category of Ul’il Amr the Fuquha (scholars of Deen). In theory this third group should be able to resolve the impasse between the first two groups by ruling in accordance with the dictates of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Sadly, when we put theory in to practice in Muslim countries such as Pakistan we see that the Ulema are themselves participants in politics and divided across political affiliation, they also have different understanding / interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunnah (that includes Hadith that contradict one another). Indeed the greatest amount of division that has occurred is in relation to this catergory of Ul’il Amr, beautifully identified by Waheedudeen Zaman Khan who writes:

“It is the same state of affairs for today’s Muslims is that they do not have an Imam, who they will all agree on obeying. In accepting him every Sect has appointed their own Maulana / Spiritual Guide, they don’t listen to anyone else”
Tayseer al Bari Sharh Sahih al Bukhari Volume 9 page 149

In Lughaat ul Hadith page 92, letter Jeem [Meer Muhammad Kutb Khana, Karachi] Maulana Waheed uz Zaman states:

“In this day and age the Muslims are experiencing the same situation they don’t have an Islamic Imam they can unite behind and accept his word; every Sect follows their own Imam they do not listen to anyone else….In this day and age Muslims do not have a true Imam of the Shari’ah, each follows his own whims and desires. The state of the Ulema is such that they have no other interest other than issuing Takfeer against one another. Rather than aim for unity amongst Muslims they create division. In this present time it is better remain on the sidelines, and separate oneself from these Sects ”
Lughaat ul Hadith Volume 1, Kitab Jeem page 96

Fourth problematic issue – Can power really be shared by two Wali al Amr’s at one time?

Renowned grand Mufti Muhammad Shafi (Late) father of Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani states:

“Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Hasan Basri and the Tafseer scholars, have said that Wali al Amr refers to the scholars of Fiqh, they are the representatives of the Prophet, and the administeration of the Deen is in their hands…One group of Tafseer scholars, that includes Abu Hurrayra says Wali al Amar refers to principles and power, one who runs the State”
Tafsir Maarif al Qur’an Volume 2 page 450

He then cites the third option…

….Tafseer Ibn Katheer and Tafseer Mazhari state it refers to both Ulema and Leader, since power is administered by both”.
Tafsir Maarif al Qur’an Volume 2 page 452

Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi said it referred to both but is this logical? History is replete with examples of difference between the scholars and the State Leader, in fact the Sunni’s cannot agree on the Wali al Amr at one particular time, we cite the comments Muhammad Ameen Minhaas who is writing on the failure of Islamic parties:

“The first portion of Surah Nisa refers the Wali al Amr that has not been acted on for centuries even though the Qur’an is applicable to all times, Islam does not allow you to ignore it, although it is happening, . Today’s Ummah needs to recognise the concept of the Wali al Amr, and should accordingly obey him”
Pyaam Magazine Edition 199 [Islamabad]

Identifying the true Ul’il Amr

When it comes to the Sunni position on Ul’il Amr we are left in a confused state amplified by the existence of three categories of Ul’il Amr and the potential conflicts that we have cited. Allah (swt) would never allow for the Ummah of Muhammad (s) to be left in such a quagmire of confusion, and would ensure that existence of the Ul’il Amr would be known to all. When Allah (swt) tells us to obey the Ul’il Amr, we believe that he would be that person whose level of excellence would encompass all the categories that the Sunni Ulema had cited. No such demarcation of Ul’il Amr was made when Allah (swt) appointed Talut over the people:

002.247 [YUSUFALI]:
Their Prophet said to them: “Allah hath appointed Talut as king over you.” They said: “How can he exercise authority over us when we are better fitted than he to exercise authority, and he is not even gifted, with wealth in abundance?” He said: “Allah hath Chosen him above you, and hath gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess: Allah Granteth His authority to whom He pleaseth. Allah careth for all, and He knoweth all things.”

Allah (swt) appointed Talut over the people, and he encompassed to excellence of leadership knowledge and physical strength, they were placed in one man to lead the Ummah.

The Ul’il Amr would be a statesman, military commander and scholar rolled into one. The Sunni Ulema have conscientiously sought to split categories of Ul’il Amr because they took as their leaders individuals who did not excel in all three categories. If the appointment of the Ul’il Amr was based on these three categories alone, we would still see that none was more deserving of the station of Ul’il Amr than Imam ‘Ali (as), because he excelled in each of these categories.

“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority (Ulil-Amr) from among you (min kum).” (Qur’an 4:59)
Category of Ul’il Amr specified by the Sunni Ulema Allah (swt)’s comments on this category Excellences of Imam ‘Ali (as) Weaknesses amongst the previous khalifas
Those in army authority positions. “Is he who fights equal to he who stays at home?”. (4:95) Gibrael (as) stated at Uhud, ‘There is no brave young man but Ali, and there is no sword but Dhulfiqar’
History of al-Tabari Volume 7 pages 120-121
Abu Jafar (al Tabari) says: The army had fled and abandoned the Messenger of God, some of them getting as far as al-Munaqqa near al-A’was. ‘’Uthman bin Affan, together with Uqbah b. Uthman and Sa’d bin Uthman, two men of the Ansar fled as far as Jal’ab, a mountain in the neighbourhood of Medina near al-A’was. They stayed there for three days, and then came back to the Messenger of God. They claimed that he said to them, ‘On that day you were scattered far and wide”. History of Tabari Volume 7 pages 126-127
Political Leaders “The Prophet is Awla to the believers than their own selves” (Surah Ahzab: 33:6) Rasulullah (s) said “Do I have more authority over you than you have over yourselves? To which the people said ‘Yes’. He then said Of whomsoever I am Mawla Ali is his Mawla” Musnad, by Ahmad bin Hanbal Vol 3 p116 Sader Printing 1969 Abu Bakr: “Now then: O people, I have been put in charge of you, although I am not the best of you. Help me if I do well; rectify me if I do wrong” History of Tabari: English translation Volume 9 p 201
The Ulema – Scholars of Deen. “Are those who have knowledge and those who do not ‘Alike?” (Surah Zumar 39:0) The Prophet (s) said ‘I am the City of Knowledge and ‘Ali is its Gate Sharh Mishkaath Volume 4 page 666, Sawaqih al Muhriqa page 418, taken from Tabrani and Hakim Umar: Umar Ibn al Khattab said: ‘Ali is the best judge among our people.
Umar used to invoke the protection of Allah upon an intricate question if Abu Hasan was not there.
Tabaqat Ibn Saad, Vol 2, Page 438

Whilst we have just evidenced Imam ‘Ali (as)’s right to succeed Rasulullah (s) as Ul’il Amr on the basis of the categories devised by Sunni Ulema, we will now prove it by analyzing the verse Allah (swt) provides a clear point of referral for the believers when He (swt) says ‘refer back to the Prophet’…so how can this be achieved?

We should also take into account Surah Al Ahzab, verse 36:

“It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path”

This verse is applicable all times, Allah (swt) states that a resolution exists to resolve all matters, and the Book of Allah (swt) exists to resolve all issues, this is the final authority and no one is permitted to go outside of a decision made by Allah (swt) and his Prophet (s).

“But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.” The words used here ‘Thanaza” -dispute will have significance later Surah Nisa verse 65

These verses evidence that fact that a solution for all matters can be located within the Qur’an and Sunnah. In this connection let us ponder over the comments of Imam Fakhradeen Razi who said as follows in his discussion of this verse that forms part of his critique against the Shia beliefs in Ulil Amr:

The type of obedience that Allah (swt) has ordered is unconditional obedience, it must relate to that individual who is ma’sum, if he was non ma’sum and could mistakes, then Allah (swt) would be telling us to follow such a person and adhere to him Allah (swt) told us to follow the Ul il Amr unconditionally, he MUST be Ma’sum, a fact that is testified to by this verse”.
Tafseer Kabeer, Volume 4 page 112

Razi then seeks to undo this Shia argument by stating that in the absence of an infallible personality, ijmaa of the Ummah takes precedence. Whilst Razi attested that an infallible Imam does not exist, we have the word of our Prophet (s) who had made reference to such people. Ponder over this Hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari which asserts that there are people other than Prophets who are Ma’soom (infallible/protected). We read in Sahih al Bukhari Volume 9, Book 89, Number 306:

Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri:
The Prophet said, “Allah never sends a prophet or gives the Caliphate to a Caliph but that he (the prophet or the Caliph) has two groups of advisors: A group advising him to do good and exhorts him to do it, and the other group advising him to do evil and exhorts him to do it. But the protected person (against such evil advisors) is the one protected by Allah.’ ”

The word used in the above Hadith for “the protected person” is “Masoom”.The tradition clearly shows that these people are the prophets and their successors (Caliphs). The tradition also illuminates the fact that Allah bestows the position of Caliphate to the Caliph which implies that the infallible Caliph is the one who is assigned by Allah, not by people which corroborates Shia Aqeedah.
Now that we know that Masum leaders exist in the Ummah, we can relate their leadership to this Hadith in Sahih al Muslim, Kitab al Imara Book 020, Number 4518:

It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Holy prophet (may peace be upon him) said: Whoso obeys me obeys God, and whoso disobeys me disobeys God. Whoso obeys the commander (appointed by me) obeys me, and whoso disobeys the commander disobeys me. The same tradition transmitted by different persons omits the portion: And whose disobeys the commander disobeys me.

The Prophet (s) did not place any condition in this Hadith when it came to obeying the Leader. The words of the Prophet (s) make reference to absolute obedience, but why not? Why have the Sunni Ulema placed the condition that the leader must rule in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah? Why did Abu Bakr state that his leadership was restricted to this nature? The position of the Sunni clergy is at variance to the Hadith of the Prophet (s) who deemed obedience to the leader to be unconditional and was on par with obeying Allah (swt) and his Prophet (s). The Prophet (s) would never instruct us to unconditionally obey a Leader who himself fell in and out of religious guidance, so who is the Ameer (Commander) whose obedience is unconditional and is on par with obeying Allah (swt) and his Prophet (s)? Alhamdolillah the answer was provided by the Prophet (s) himself who said:

“Whoever obeys ‘Ali, obeys me, whoever obeys me, obeys Allah, whoever disobeys ‘Ali disobeys me, whoever disobeys me, disobeys Allah”

  1. Kanz ul Ummal, Page 614, Hadith numbers 32974 & 32977
  2. Mustadrak al Hakim, Vol. 3, Page 128
  3. Riyadh ul Nadira, Vol. 3, Page 110

Maula ‘Ali (as) is the absolute Imam, that individual whose obedience is unconditional, which is why Rasulullah (s) compared his obedience to be on par with obeying Allah (swt) and his Prophet (s). Maula ‘Ali (as) was that individual that never erred away from the Qur’an and Sunnah and was always praised by Allah (swt), little wonder Imam Suyuti recorded that Ibn Abbas narrated:

“Allah did not reveal an Ayah beginning O you who believe..’ but that Ali is its Amir and its eminence. Allah reproached the companions of Muhammad in more than one place but he never mentioned ‘Ali but with approval”.
History of the Khalifas who took the right way, page 179 English translation of Tarikh ul Khulafa by al Hafidh Jalaluddeen as Suyuti, rendered into English by Abdassamad Clarke

It is also interesting to note that Allamah Dr. Tahir ul Qadri in his book ‘Zibeh-e-Azeem’ pages 68-69 after citing the above Hadeeth from Mustadrak al Hakim, provides this commentary:

“The Prophet (s) stated that disobeying ‘Ali was on par with disobeying him, this was said to remove any doubts that the station of al Mustafa (s)’s Wilayah was administered (and continued) through Ali (ra), and obedience to Ali is on par with Rasulullah (s), that is obedience to the Creator. Obedience to Allah (swt) is therefore attained by obeying Ali”
Zibeh-e-Azeem, pages 68-69

We accordingly deem Imam ‘Ali (as) the infallible Imam appointed by the Prophet (s) to lead the Ummah, his closeness and perfection can be reflected through the below traditions (and other similar ones):

  • Me and ‘Ali were created from one Nur
  • ‘Ali is from me and I am from ‘Ali

Maula ‘Ali was from the Ahl’ul bayt (as), that included the Prophet (s), Hasan, Hussain (as) and Fatima. It was honour of this household that Allah (swt) revealed the verse of purification, and Suyuti in his commentary of this verse after narrating the descent upon these individuals in Tafseer Durre Manthur Volume 5 page 377-378:

‘Me and my Ahl’ul bayt are free from sins’
Tafseer Durre Manthur Volume 5 page 377-378

We also find the following narration on the same page:

“Ibn Jareer and Abi Hatim – Qathada – The Prophet ‘The Ahl’ul bayt are those that have been purified from all bad things and have been incorporated into his mercy”.

Dhahak Ibn Mudhaham – The Prophet (s) ‘We are the Ahl’ul bayt, We are linked to that family that is purified. We are linked to the tree of Prophethood. We are the resting place of Prophethood, where the Angles visit. We are the house of mercy and the pearls from where knowledge departs”.

These are those individuals that Allah (swt) has purified. We accordingly deem these individuals to be the pure infallible Imams.

It is about these individuals that the Prophet Muhammad (s) said:

‘Im leaving amongst you two things, the Qur’an and my Itrat Ahl’ul bayt, they won’t separate from one another until they meet me at the pool”.

When the Prophet (s) said his Itrat will never be separated from the Qur’an until the Day of Judgement, then obedience to the Imams from this lineage is compulsory. We shall now strengthen our argument further by citing three Hadith narrated by Ibrahim bin Muhammad al-Juwayni al-Shaf`ii al-Sufi. Al-Juwayni reports from Abdullah ibn Abbas (r) from the Prophet (s) who said:

“I am the chief of the Prophets and Ali ibn Abi Talib is the chief of successors, and after me my successors shall be twelve, the first of them being Ali ibn Abi Talib and the last of them being Al Mahdi.”

“Certainly my Caliphs and my legatees and the Proofs of Allah upon his creatures after me are twelve. The first of them is my brother and the last of them is my (grand) son.” He was asked: “O Messenger of Allah, who is your brother?” He said, “Ali ibn Abi Talib” Then they asked, “And who is your son?” The Holy Prophet (s) replied, “Al Mahdi, the one who will fill the earth with justice and equity like it would be brimming with injustice and tyranny. And by the One Who has raised me as a warner and a give of good tidings, even if a day remains for the life of this world, the Almighty Allah will prolong this day to an extent till he sends my son Mahdi, then he will make Ruhullah ‘Isa ibn Maryam (a) to descend and pray behind him (Mahdi). And the earth will be illuminated by his radiance. And his power will reach to the east and the west.”

“I and Ali and Hasan and Hussain and nine of the descendants of Hussain are the purified ones and the inerrant.”
Fara’id al-Simtayn, Mu’assassat al-Mahmudi li-Taba’ah, Beirut 1978, page 160.

Whilst the Nawasib will reject the notion of Ibn Abbas believing in the doctrine of divine Imamate his narration in Fara’id al-Simtayn affirms that he was fully aware of this belief. Not only that he also inferred his belief in the divine Imamah during his discussion with Umar ibn al Khattab after the appointment of Abu Bakr, for in his response to Umar’s suggestion that the correct approach had been taken to ensure that Prophethood and Caliphate not remain in one family his riposte was:

“As for you saying, Commander of the Faithful, that Quraysh have made their choice for themselves and that they were right and have been granted success, if Quraysh had made the same choice for themselves as God did for them, then right would be theirs, unrejected and unenvied…
The History of Tabari, Volume 14, English translation, by G. Rex Smith, p137-138

We, the Shi’a Imamiyyah Ithna ‘Ashariyyah believe in these individuals as the Twelve rightful successors of the Prophet (s) the Ul’il Amr referred to in Surah Nisa verse 59. These are the 12 Khalifas that the Prophet (s) made reference to, who would aid the Deen. The Prophet (s) said that the world would not end until the passing of the 12, and we know from Hadith that the world will not end until the coming of Imam Mahdi (as) who will also be from the Ahl’ul bayt (as). It is these individuals whose obedience is unconditional, and we have evidenced this fact from the books of Ahl’ul Sunnah.

These twelve Ul’il Amr Imams are those who in their lifetimes were the most superior in knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah, they were practical demonstration of the Seerah of the Prophet (s), they first three had direct contact with the Prophet (s) and hence were the true recipients of his teachings, whilst they were not at the forefront of State politics and people recognised their immense stature and knowledge.

The consequence of deeming the Ul’il Amr to be a man made process

The belief that the people have the right to appoint the Imam / Khalifa to lead their affairs is flawed when we look at what this means at a practical level. One appointed by the people is the khalifa of the people, such a person can be divided into divided two categories:

The first type is that which exists in the west

  • He is elected to power that gives him the mandate to rule.
  • His position is to represent the interests of his people not those of Allah (swt) for people not Allah have put him in to power.
  • His desire is to remain popular in the eyes of his people
  • He will pass laws which he deems necessary to rule, and will often pass laws which he feels are in line with public opinion, which will increase his rating as such he will often depart from established precedent / morals and pass laws to appease public sentiment.
  • He has a party supporting him and selects those in his cabinet who will toe the line.
  • The khalifa of the people will sometimes put in to the cabinet those vying for his position, for he knows a position is the only way they will keep quiet.
  • The khalifa of the people is dependent on party support, and as such will turn a blind eye to any scandals that may emerge against party members for his intention is not to create a rebellion in his own party. As such he will give public support to his ‘colleague’.
  • The khalifa is willing to compromise his own ideals / beliefs for the sake of power, even willing to take on board views he opposes, and negotiating with the opposition for the sake of ensuring his position remains safe.
  • The khalifa will accept ‘a favour for a favour’ compromising his own position to gain the support of influential rich persons, either by giving them positions of power or supporting their particular causes, or adopting a favourable policy towards them.
  • The position enables the khalifa to make substantial financial gain, he can attach himself to large companies, be liable to ‘back handers’, ‘bribes’ etc. as Bernard Shaw once so aptly remarked “Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for the appointment by the corrupt few”.
  • The Khalifa of the people in the West is the Khalifa of Democracy, the Government, of the people, by the people for the people – He is to all extents dependent on the people to come to power and is dependent on the people to remain in power, he is at their ransom, his aim isn’t to keep the people happy but to do whatever it takes to please the electorate and stay in power. The rules of Allah (swt) are not of importance here, people have put the khalifa in power and he must answer their demands, not Allah’s. There is a clear differentiation between Allah’s sovereignty and the Khalifa’s sovereignty. Its very similar to the words allegedly attributed to Hadhrat Isa (as) “pay Caesar what is due to Caesar, and pay God what is due to God (The Gospel of Saint Mathew 22:22).

The second type of khalifa of the people is that common in the 3rd world:

  • He comes to power via military coup or hereditary succession.
  • He will pass laws as he sees fit not caring about public mood after all he is the khalifa and can do what he likes.
  • The khalifa lives a rich extravagant life not caring about the majority after all they are there to be ruled.
  • Bribery and corruption dominates as this is the best means of subjugating the people.
  • The rich prosper while the poor suffer and wilt, its dog eats dog society, anarchy reigns. People are discriminated. But so what after all the Khalifa is the khalifa of the people, he answers no one, why should he is not Khalifatullah. He is sole authority, Allah (swt) does not even come in to the equation.

We have sought to highlight the clear weaknesses of the concept of Khalifa of the people. It is not for me to refer to specific events, just scan through the books of Islamic history yourselves and look at the consequences of believing in rulership by man not Allah (swt) and you will see a history of tyranny, violence, corruption, torture, killing and banishment of critics.

Historically the majority Muslims faced with evil, Fasiq leaders from amongst the Banu Ummayya and Abbasids, so what were the people to do? Were the people to oppose them or remain silent? The answer has been recorded in depth by the Sunni Ulema, for e.g. we read in Ahl’ul Sunah’s books of aqeedah, Sharh Aqaid Nafsee (Urdu translation) page 102:

“If a Fasiq becomes an imam he is a sinner, it is not permissible to rebel against him”. If a Fasiq becomes a King, then he is a sinner. The people must obey him, rebelling against him is haraam”.

“If a woman or Slave, disabled, or non scholar attains position their obedience is obligatory. Other than adherence Islam on Imamate no other conditions such as they be from the family of ‘Ali or Banu Hashim, or superior of that time, or infallibility conditions held by the Shi’a. Imamate is not nullified by his being a Faajir or Fasiq, rather his Imamate remains forever. If the Imam becomes an indulger of sins of a greater or lesser state, or inflicts injustice, it’s not a duty of Muslims to remove him, since this carries the risk of Fitnah and bloodshed, when infallibility is not a condition then his being a sinner is an option. That is why the Salaf after the rightly guided Khalifas, obey Fasiq Imams, praying Juma and Eid prayers with them, so that they could counsel them. Bukhari and Muslim narrate from Ibn Abbas that the messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: One who found in his Amir something which he disliked should hold his patience, for one who separated from the main body of the Muslims even to the extent of a handspan and then he died would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya”
Sharh Aqaid Nafsee (Urdu translation) page 102.

We have set out the Sunni stance on Imamate from their most esteemed works. Our view on the Hadith narrated by Ibn Abbas is that it was coined by the Mullah’s on the payroll of unjust rulers so as to ensure that public remain docile and subservient. Even if we give this a small analysis it becomes clear that if the Head of State appoints a few hundred people, and they appoint an Amir, and he starts to do bad deeds rather than gather a momentum and oppose him, they must observe patience. The reality is that the Ahl’ul Sunnah have developed a thinking relying on Hadith giving bayya is crucial failure to do so will mean you die as a kafir. The fear has led to the creation of a school of thought that is interested in giving bayya, not interested in the character of the Imam. In consequence the station if Imamate is not based on merit / piety whoever occupies the seat of the Prophet (saws) becomes the authority over the people he becomes their Imam, it is not for the Ummah to think about the Imams’ character.


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