A Study of the ahadeeth related to Munaabidtha al-Hukaam (disputing with the Rulers)
There is no need in this brief study to examine the authenticity of the Isnaads and discuss the reliability and trustworthiness of the narrators of the three famous ahadeeth of Umm Salamah “No, as long as they pray”, Auf Ibn Maalik “As long as they establish call for prayer amongst you”, and ‘Ubaaidah bin As-Samit “…unless you see public Kufr for which you have evidence from Allaah” as they have been established beyond doubt in the collections of saheeh ahadeeth, in the books of Sunan as well as the Masanid collections and can be found everywhere amongst them. The whole ummah has taken these ahadeeth as saheeh and no muhadith of any calibre has ever rejected them. What remains is tahreer, which is to find what the most accurate wording of these ahadeeth is and to discuss some necessary conclusions in relation to their meaning.
Ascertaining the most accurate wording of the hadeeth of Umm Salamah “No, as long as they pray”
It is reported in the Sunan of Abu Dawood;
Told us Sulaymaan Abu Dawood, told us Hammad Ibn Zayd, from Hishaam, from Hasan (al Basri), from Adubbat Ibn Muh’sin, from ‘Umm Salamah the wife of the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam, she (r.a) said the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam said “There will be above you Imaams, some things (from them) you will accept and other things you will reject; whoever rejects with his tongue will be innocent, and whoever hates with his heart he will at least have escaped, but whoever follows and accepts!” It was said, “Should we not fight them?” The Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam said, “No, as long as they pray”.
We say this is the most balanced of the various Riwayaat of this narration, both in transmission and in wording.
Some narrators have reversed the wording of the hadeeth in their minds so they say that whoever rejects with the tongue is safe from punishment and whoever hates the munkar with his heart is innocent. However, this is definitely wrong as rejecting with the tongue is a higher level then hating with the heart and being innocent is higher than being safe from the punishment because you could have been guilty, but still escape punishment because Allaah (swt) has forgiven you.
Whilst the one who is innocent has no sin and the issue of being safe from the punishment of Allaah (swt) is not relevant to him whatsoever.
The rejecting with the tongue is at a higher level and must be associated with being innocent and divorced from the sin whilst the hating with the heart should be associated with being safe from the punishment. So, although you didn’t reject the munkar with the tongue at least you hated it with your heart. However, the one who is pleased with the munkar of what the rulers do and follows them, then it separates him from being either safe or innocent. The sahabah around the prophet understood the gravity of the sin and without hesitation asked “Should we not fight them?” and the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam replied, “No, as long as they pray”.
It is amazing that Imam Al-Bayhaqi narrates this hadeeth from the channel of Abu Dawud and you would assume that it would be the same wording but he mixes the hadeeth up and only mentions the part of the hadeeth of hating with the heart. He also states that the one who hates with the heart is innocent whereas the full hadeeth mentions only that he would have escaped punishment. Nevertheless, the dhikr is protected and the full narration is preserved in the books of ahadeeth and is established beyond doubt.
Some narrators do not use the words ‘with his tongue’ or ‘with his heart’ but what we have chosen is what must be understood by necessity because hating is something that happens in the heart. You cannot hate with the tongue. Rejecting or condemning munkar happens with the tongue and is at a higher level because the existence of hating with the heart is a necessary condition to condemn the munkar with the tongue. Otherwise condemning the munkar with the tongue whilst not hating it in your heart would be an act of hypocrisy. True sincere rejection and condemnation of munkar cannot happen with the tongue unless you first hate the munkar in your heart.
It is also not possible that both are in the heart. Otherwise, the hadeeth does not make sense. Why would the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam say condemn with the heart and also hate the munkar in your heart when we know that condemning munkar is better than just hating it in your heart. It would have mentioned just one of them and we know that the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam is the most eloquent and has been given the comprehensiveness in his speech. Whenever Inkar is mentioned alongside KARAHIYYAH then rejection must be with the tongue whilst hatred must be with the heart.
It has been said by some that the two wordings of “with his tongue” and “from the heart” are from Al-Hasan Al-Basri and not from the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam. Some narrators claim that Al-Hasan Al-Basri said ‘’with his heart’ in both of them as a tafseer and that it is not contained in the hadeeth. The one who said this is most likely Qatadah. However, what is most correct and a proof that the two wordings weren’t added by Al-Hasan Al-Basri is that which is found in al-Bayhaqi’s Shu’ab al-Imaan where it is narrated through another channel from Al-Hasan Al-Basri that he said “whoever rejects with his tongue will be innocent, but the time of that happening has gone and whoever hates with his heart his time has come.” So he is saying that his time is so bad that no one is condemning the munkar with their tongues anymore and instead they are only hating it in their hearts. The two statements “but the time of that happening has gone” and “his time has come” are the additional comments of Al-Hasan Al-Basri. From this statement, we can prove that the wordings of “with his tongue” and “from the heart” are in the original hadeeth and the one who claims they are from Al-Hasan Al-Basri is mistaken.
The wording “Should we not fight them?” has been narrated in most of the chains of narrations. In a couple of narrations the wording has been “Should we not kill them?” however they are singular chains of narration which when compared with other chains indicate that the narrator has made a mistake with his narration. In addition, the context of the hadeeth is that it is not discussing establishing a hadd (punishment) for the rulers, but whether they should be removed from power or not. So the sahabah asking, “Should we not fight them?” means should we not fight them to remove them from power not whether they should be killed or not. In one of the Isnaads the phrase narrated is “shouldn’t we fight the evil ones amongst them”“Should we not fight them?” and this has the same meaning as as you would only fight those whose deeds are rejected.
Most of the strong narrations contain the phrase “No, as long as they pray” and in some narrations it says “No, as long as they pray the obligatory prayers” which is a further clarification.
This hadeeth establishes that if they pray regularly then it is a barrier to rebelling against them and this is different from the hadeeth of Auf Ibn Maalik, which talks about establishing salah in the society. So if they do not establish salah in the society, then according to the hadeeth of Auf Ibn Maalik, rebellion against them is permissible and even if they do establish the salah in society, if they themselves do not pray then that it is also permissible to rebel against them according to the hadeeth of Umm Salamah. This shows the importance of salah both at an individual level and at a societal level. We will discuss the meaning of the hadeeth of Auf Ibn Maalik in the next section.
The hadeeth of Umm Salamah is a Saheeh hadeeth narrated through a number of channels in Saheeh Muslim as well as a number of channels in the Musnad Ahmad, some of which are even stronger then the channels in Saheeh Muslim. It is also to be found in the Musnad of Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi (d 201/818) and in the Musnad of Abu Ya’la. Shaikh Husayn Salim Asad who wrote a commentary on the Musnad of Abu Ya’la declared the isnaad to be saheeh and he is one of the best modern commentators on the Musnad of Abu Ya’la and his judgments can be relied upon to be correct. It is also narrated in the Al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer of Imam Tabarani in many channels most of which are saheeh and is also narrated in the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaibah, in the Musnad of ibn Ruhwanah, in the Musnad of Ishaq ibn Rahwaih and in the Tamheed of Ibn Abdul ‘Barr (Volume 24, p 312 onwards) as well as many other works of the imams of Islaam.
In the Al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer of Imam Tabarani there is a witness to some of what has been narrated in the hadeeth of Umm Salamah in a hadeeth from Abdullah ibn Abbas (RA), Imam Tabarani narrates:
Told us Muhammad ibn Uthman ibn Abu Shaybah, From his father (Uthman ibn Abu Shaybah), from Yahya ibn abu Baqir, from Al-Hayyaj ibn Bustam, from Layth, from Tawoos, From ibn Abbas who said the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam said “There will be umara (leaders) over you, who you will know and will reject, whoever rejects and fights them will escape and be saved, whoever abstains from them (but doesn’t fight them) is safe, however whoever mixes with them will perish” however this hadeeth is not strong because Al-Hayyaj ibn Bustam is weak and his son Khalid, narrated very weak hadeeth from him. Also Al-Hayyaj ibn Bustam narrates from Layth ibn abu Sulaym whose memory in later life deteriorated although it was good earlier on in his life and it not clear in this hadeeth when Al-Hayyaj ibn Bustam is taking from him so the isnaad is weak.
The hadeeth of Umm Salamah is definite in its meaning, that it is permissible to fight, including using the sword if necessary, with the intention and purpose of removing the ruler who does not pray. Leaving one obligatory prayer is enough to make him liable to be removed. The Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam prohibited the listener from fighting the ruler on the condition “as long as they pray” and this condition would be violated if they leave any of the obligatory prayers clearly and intentionally.
The wording of the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam “as long as they pray” indicates a continuous action because he did not say, “Unless they leave salah” like in other hadeeths like “What is between imaan and kufr is leaving salah” or “salah is the pillar of the deen, whoever leaves it has committed kufr” All the ahadeeth which talk of leaving the salah, have come as As-salaah (The salah) which means leaving salah permanently, not just leaving one salah. But the hadeeth of Umm Salamah does not talk of leaving the salah permanently, it has a different wording, that of “as long as they pray” meaning that they must continuously offer the obligatory prayers. The moment they leave one salah then it becomes permissible to remove a ruler, even with the sword if necessary.
On a side point, this refutes those who claim that it is only permissible to remove a ruler once he has been declared a kafir, as leaving one salah is not agreed upon by all scholars to be enough to declare a person to be outside the millah of Islaam.
The phrase “as long as they pray” could also have a metaphorical meaning. In Arabic As-salah can mean the individual prayer or it can mean the deen as a whole. The metaphorical meaning would therefore be that as long as they remain committed to the deen in their private affairs and implement Islaam upon the society, showing they are committed to the deen in the public affairs as well, then they cannot be removed.
However, if they commit kufr or apostasy in their personal affairs but they implement Islaam in the public affairs the hadeeth would still apply upon them. In fact the one who has committed apostasy his salah is invalid and he can be considered to have left the salah completely and cannot be called ‘Musalli’ who are referred to in the hadeeth of the Messenger of Allaah saAllaahu alayhi wa salam where he said “I have been prohibited from killing the musallin’ meaning the Mu’min who prays.
If he establishes kufr in the public affairs then it is even worse than if he commits kufr himself as it shows he is not continuously committed to the deen in the public affairs. This is worse in the sense, that his function as a leader is to manage the affairs of the society and not applying the Shari’ah would have wider implications than his individual actions, so a fortiori he should be removed, and this is where the hadeeth of ‘Ubaaidah bin As-Samit applies.
To clarify one final point, from the wording of the hadeeth it can be deduced that fighting the ruler is permissible, the evidences to show whether it is desirable or an obligation come from other ahadeeth not from this hadeeth itself.
 Sunan Abu Dawud, (no.4760)
 al-Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Imaan (Volume 6, p.62)
 Abdullaah Ibn ‘Abbas said that Allaah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “There shall be rulers whom you will recognize from them good and evil. Whoever opposes them is saved. Whoever abandons them is freed. And whoever intermingles with them is destroyed.” (Collected by Ibn Abi Shaibah and at-Tabarani).
 Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 41, Number 4910: Narrated Abu Hurairah: A mukhannath who had dyed his hands and feet with henna was brought to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa salam. He asked: What is the matter with this man? He was told: Ya Rasoolullaah! He affects women’s get-up. So he ordered regarding him and he was banished to an-Naqi’. The people said: Rasoolullaah! should we not kill him? He said: I have been prohibited from killing people who pray. Abu Usamah said: Naqi’ is a region near Medina and not a Baqi (in other words not referring to Jannat al-Baqi cemetery. Indicating they were not punished.