I actually ignored frequent questions and uproars about the Islamic ruling on Protest; this is because I have written a book on the subject matter. Nonetheless, questions about Protest kept coming. So I decided to just take some points from the book and make it an article to that effect.
Some people actually want to know the Islamic ruling as regards Protest; while some only want evidences to convince those who say: “any criticism of the ruler (leader) must not be done in his absence” – claiming it is not Islamic and not among the manners of the Salaf to correct the leaders in public.
And for this sake, with this article, I will be stating fifty (50) points and evidences that prove Protest to be Islamic and among the ways of seeking social justice.
Protest which means a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something. Demonstration is just one among the kinds of Protest; protest may be done by demonstrating or any other means.
The following fifty (50) points should be noted:
1: There is no injunction from the Qur’an and Sunnah dissuading the Muslims from agitating for justice. Islamically, the Muslims have the right to keep agitating till every hidden secret is unraveled.
2: There are examples from the Salaf (early righteous Muslims) whereby criticism of the ruler/leader was done in his absence and in public. An example is Imran’s public criticism of Umar bn Al-Khattab’s decision to stop hajj-at-Tamatu’. See Sahih al-Bukhari hadith 1571 book 25.
3: Abdullah Ibn Umar’s criticism of the Ameer (leader) of Iraq – those who killed Hussein radiya Allahu anhu. See Sahih al-Bukhari hadith 3753 book 62.
4: When Marwan delivered khutbah before Eid prayer, the companions present publicly rebuked him.
5: Ka’ab bn ‘Ujra’s public insult and criticism of Abdul Rahman bn Umm Hakam (who was appointed by Mu’aawiyah to rule over Kufa at that time).
Ka’ab bn ‘Ujra reported that he entered the mosque and saw Abdul Rahman bn Umm Hakam delivering the sermon in a sitting posture. Upon this, he said:
“انْظُرُوا إِلَى هَذَا الْخَبِيثِ يَخْطُبُ قَاعِدًا”
Meaning: “Look at this wretched person; he delivers the sermon while sitting” See Sahih Muslim hadith 864.
6: Umaira bn Ruwaiba’s cursing of Bishr bn Marwan (a governor of Iraq at that time). He saw Bishr bn Marwan on the pulpit raising his hands and said
“قَبَّحَ اللَّهُ هَاتَيْنِ الْيَدَيْنِ”
Meaning: “May Allah disfigure these hands”.
See Sahih Muslim hadith 873.
7: Anas’s public criticism of Hajaj bn Yusuf and Waalid bn Marwan who were leaders then, because they were postponing solaat past its legislated time. Abdullah Ibn Umar also made similar criticism.
See Saheeh Bukhari Book 9 hadith 529. The hadith of الثوري.
8: Abdullah Ibn Abbas’s criticism of Abdullah bn Zubair on more than one occasion.
An example is hadith 2123 in Saheeh Bukhari
حَدَّثَنَا سَلَمَةُ بْنُ شَبِيبٍ ، قَالَ : ثنا عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ ، قَالَ : أنا مَعْمَرٌ ، عَنِ ابْنِ طَاوُسٍ ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ ، قَالَ : عَابَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا عَلَى ابْنِ الزُّبَيْرِ.
9: Abu Hurayrah’s criticism on the ruler (Marwan bn Al-Hakam) when he found painted sculptures in his house.
See 9: Sahih Muslim 2111.
10: Safeena’s (mawlaa Rasool) public criticism of Banu Marwan when they claimed Ali was not a righteous Caliph.
See Saheeh Abu Daawud hadith 4646.
11: Ubaadah bn Saamit’s public criticism of Mu’aawiyah bn Abee Sufyaan. When they went out on an expedition, Mu’aawiyah was the leader of the people, and they gained a lot of spoils of war. And there was one silver utensil in what they took as spoils. Mu’aawiyah ordered a person to sell it for payment to the people (soldiers). And when the news of (this state of affairs) reached ‘Ubaadah bn. Saamit, he stood up and rebuked such Mu’aawiyah’s action saying: “we will definitely narrate what we heard from Allah’s Messenger though it may be unpleasant to Mu’aawiyah and even if it is against his will. I do not mind if I do not remain in his troop in the dark night”.
See Sahih Muslim 1587.
12: Sa’eed bn Zayd’s criticism of the ruler (Mugherah bn Shu’bah) by labeling him as an oppressor.
See Sunan Abi Dawud 4648
13: During the time of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal when he was incarcerated and tortured by Al-Mu’tasim (the caliph), the Muslims protested and agitated at the doorstep of the palace of the Caliph until the Caliph was frightened and was forced to release Imam Ahmad unconditionally.
14: Those who condemn public criticism will use the actions of Hajaj bn Yusuf to undermine the Qur’anic and sunnatic guidance of Islamic social justice entrenched by the Rightly Guided Caliphs; which is a model for Muslims afterward.
15: The dark historical past of the tyranny of later day Kings in Islamic History is not a legitimate reference point for the Ummah.
16: In fact, the sahabah spoke against the excesses and tyranny of Hajaj bn Yusuf, and those who kept quiet only did that for their personal safety because of Hajaj’s tyranny at killing those who oppose him. So the insincere scholars will only select the silence of the others to misinform the Ummah into being perpetually quiet against tyranny.
17: The great Sahabih, Abdullah bn Umar was initially silent but later confronted Hajjaj bn Yusuf publicly in the mosque and a guard of Hajaj bn Yusuf struck Ibn Umar with a spear which later caused his death. This incident was recorded by Ibn Kethir in his book “AlBidaayah wal Nihaayah”.
18: Definitely the silence or quietness of some Salaf due to their personal safety should not be misconstrued into an ideological reality or a religious obligation when the infallible Prophet had said “the best jihad is confronting the tyrant with a word of truth”.
19: So, Muslims in Nigeria who refuse to be quiet do not have to fear for their lives as their safety is not tied to the Saudi regime. Likewise, the Nigeria government does not harm anyone who engages in a peaceful protest.
20: It is a betrayal of Islamic Scholarship to impose quietism as a religious obligation.
21: There is difference between Revolt with arms (الخروج بالسيف) and speaking publicly against the leaders’ error or agitating for once right and justice. The latter abounds in the life of Salaf who publicly oppose the Rulers’ error. Also, when protest has been turned to violent, arms are being introduced, and then it has changed from Protest to Revolt. Do not mix the two together.
22: The famous hadith those who against Protest quote which says the leader should be advised privately, that will apply to the one who has access to the ruler to correct him in private. And not just anyone will have such access. And an individual agitation may not be considered as the general public demand.
23: Not revolting with arms does not mean there should be silence on the leaders’ errors. Imam Muslim succinctly explained this in his Hadith collection under the chapter
ﻭُﺟُﻮﺏِ ﺍﻹِﻧْﻜَﺎﺭِ ﻋَﻠَﻰ ﺍﻷُﻣَﺮَﺍﺀِ ﻓِﻴﻤَﺎ ﻳُﺨَﺎﻟِﻒُ ﺍﻟﺸَّﺮْﻉَ ﻭَﺗَﺮْﻙِ ﻗِﺘَﺎﻟِﻬِﻢْ ﻣَﺎ ﺻَﻠَّﻮْﺍ ﻭَﻧَﺤْﻮِ ﺫَﻟِﻚَ
Meaning: The obligation to denounce the rulers when they contradict the Sharia and to avoid fighting them as long as they pray and so on.
In fact, Imam Muslim said it is obligatory (wajib) to denounce the leaders when they contradict Shari’ah.
24: Sheikh Ibn Taemiyah was notorious for opposing the rulers contradiction of the Shariah, and he was imprisoned several because of that. He was also banned by the ruler from issuing Fatwa. And he refused and insisted on opposing whatever contradicts the Kitab and Sunnah. Ibn Taemiyah was imprisoned on many occasions for different reasons, and not just the only reason they seek to subtly establish. On some occasions, he was imprisoned for instigating the populace against the ruler. And at others, for refusing the rulers orders to stop issuing fatwa.
25: The story of the Christian who abused the Prophet and was being protected by the ruler, Ibn Taemiyah mobilized the students to protest against the rulers decision, and that was the genesis of Ibn Taemiyah writing the book “Sarim Maslul ala shatim Rasuul”. Ibn Kethir and Imam Zahabi gave an account of this incidence.
26: The issue of protest is not a creedal one; but a matter based upon maslahah and mafsadah (advantages and disadvantages). There is no clear cut evidence in the Qur’an and Sunnah against it. So it has nothing to do with aqeedah. And a person cannot be considered mubtadee’ because he engage in or support Protest. In fact, obvious texts preach unifying against tyranny and oppressions.
27: You will sense any book against peaceful protest are those written by modern day stooge of despotic regimes in the Arab world. I challenge anyone to bring a book written by any scholar of old against Protest. Scholars have been protesting peacefully for thousands of years in Islamic history without any objection or book on its prohibition. Just tell those who against protest to mention a book written against protest, and study the author. Or were scholars of old ignorant of the ahadeeth they (stooge scholars) tend to use against protest?!
28: In fact, in the entire Islamic history, every emerging caliphate engaged in even Khuruj bi Saif (Revolts with arms) against its predecessors.
Ummayad engaged in Khuruj against the Rightly Guided Caliphate of Ali; the Abbasid engaged in Khuruj against the Ummayad; Sheikh Muhammad Abdul Wahab engaged in Khuruj against Ottoman; and the founder of modern Saudi State – King Abdul Aziz engaged in Revolt against the Uthmaniyyah Caliphacy.
29: So, the claim of Revolt (Khuruj bi Saif) is not the basis for determining Ahl sunnah;not to talk of ordinary peaceful protest to demand for legimate right. Only that we will regard Revolt as Haram, most especially in a country that has a normal known standard of electing the leaders.
30: Anyone who against Protest cannot be more Sunni than Imam Ahmad bn Hanbal who differentiated between Revolt (Khuruj bi Saif) and changing an evil ways of the Ruler either with speech or action (Protest without arms), and this was vividly explained by Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali in his commentary of Imam Nawawi hadith collection on Hadith No. 34.
31: A very close associate of Imam Ahmad bn Hanbal even engaged in Revolt (Khuruj) against the Ruler of his time. And Imam Ahmad praised and eulogized him as an Imam of Ahlu Sunnah.
32: The associate of Imam Ahmad bn Hanbal is by name Imam Ahmad bn Naasir Al-Khuzaa’iy. A scholar of Hadith who was martyred by the Ruler.
Imam Ahmad alKhuzaa’i had perfected plan of Khuruuj (Revolt) until the information leaked to the ruler (AlWaathiq). The reason for the khuruuj was because of the bad ideology of the Mu’tazillah being spread (on the khalqu of the Qur’an), whereas, the moderate belief holds that the Qur’an wasn’t created, rather, it is the words of Allah.
You can read more of this story in Ibn Kathir and Imam Tobari’s history books.
Imam Khuzaa’i later got martyred by the Caliph (Al Waathiq).
33: Someone may say: “AlKhuzaa’i had ‘means and power’ to face the Caliph then, (as some people laid down the conditions of khuruuj to be availability of means and power).
I say: that is even wrong. The condition of means and power (in Revolt not Protest) is also differed upon. Means and power are irrelevant equation in most wars or conflict situations. Someone may apparently look powerful to confront an enemy, but the enemy may re-strategize to seek alliance with other forces; hence, the one who initially does not appear to have the means may receive help from allied forces.
For instance, King Abdul Aziz did not seem to have the means for his belligerence against the Ottoman, but Britain came to his help.
So the issue of Khuruj when neccessry is purely Masaalih (providential/advantages/benefits) and strategic planning.
34: Even if someone who protests eventually fails, the failure is not a justification for condemnation; as the failure may later win sympathy which may result into victory in future.
35: Sayidinaa Hussain revolted despite his lack of means. Though he was martyred, yet the failure later turned into victory after about 50 years with sympathy which assisted the Abassid to overthrown the Ummayad.
36: The basic rule is that tyranny and oppression is not condoned at all in Islam. And those who stood up to challenge tyranny should not be vilified or accused of being Ahl Bid’ah; rather they should be regarded as martyrs.
History will not forget great heroes and matyrs like Umar Mukhtar of Libya as well as great freedom fighters of Algeria and many others who stood against colonialism to reclaim the honor of Muslims and Islam as well as to liberate their homeland from the oppressors and the usurpers.
37: As for those who claim Protest is haram because there is nothing peaceful in protest, and they sight the case of Syria as an example.
Pitiable, only an ignorant fellow who knows nothing about history and World Politics will utter such statement.
Lack of freedoms and economic woes inflamed public anger against the Syrian Government. And the harsh crackdown on citizens by Assad fuelled resentment of the Syrian government.
Peaceful protests erupted in Syria when after 15 boys were detained and tortured for writing graffiti in support of the Arab Spring. One of the boys, a 13-year-old, was killed after having been brutally tortured.
Severe drought plagued Syria from 2007-2010 causing as many as 1.5 million people to migrate from the countryside into cities, exacerbating poverty and social unrest which precipitated a protest.
The Sunni in the Syrian Army pulled out of the Syrian military to form free Syrian Army since Syria’s security establishment has long been dominated by members of the Alawi sect which al-Assad is a member.
And the Saudi Government provided vast financial aid and weapons to anti-Assad militants, why did she side with forces promoting regime change?
Why do we seek to blame the oppressed for the oppression of the secularist Tyrant? How was that the fault of the Peaceful Protesters?
Allah says in Suratu Qasas:
قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ فَلَنْ أَكُونَ ظَهِيرًا لِّلْمُجْرِمِينَ
Meaning: [He said: “My Lord! For that with which you have favoured me, I will never more be a helper for the Mujrimun (criminals, tyrants, disobedient to Allah, polytheists, sinners, etc.)!”
38: And those who also cite the incident of Libya to prohibit Protest, you need to know that, the rogue warlord of Libya, Haftar is strongly backed by Sheikh Rabiu Madkhali of Saudi and his followers who accentuated the war in Libya. Their militancy in Libya makes the balancing act of those committed to national reconciliation and peace very difficult. And there is a clear video of Sheikh Rabiu Madkhalist where he was saying the Madkhalist should support Haftar.
The Madkhali boys killed Sheikh Nadir Al’Umrani after kidnapping him for almost 7 weeks. Sheikh Nadir al’Umrani who was a prominent scholar of Hadith and the secretary of “Organization for Libyan Islamic scholars” as well as being a member of Fatwa committee of Libya. The Madkhali militant killed the sheikh because of his opposition to the divisive teachings of Sh. Rabiu Madkhali who had been an important ideological figure to the militants.
In fact, Ahmad Safi who is a student of Sh. Raslan of Egypt contributed to the killing of Sheikh Nadir. Sh. Raslan who is a passionate student of Rabiu Madkhali also gave El-Sisi of Egypt Fatwa to kill protesters at Tahrir Square and he called El-Sisi the helper of Sunnah. There are still videos of all these.
Likewise, there is a video of the present Mufti of Libya, Sheikh Sadiq AlGaryanii whereby he was lamenting on the atrocious and murderous activities of the Madkhalist in Libya.
The tyrant leaders kill people for political goals, and you blame that on the Protesters, don’t you have conscience?!
39: If scholars had not protested, the entire Islamic world would just have become Spain which was once an Islamic state.
40: The case of Firdaus Amasa, the case of hijabs in secondary schools, the case of EndSars, the case of BlackLiveMatters and many other cases are victories recorded through peaceful protest.
When the citizens protested, the government should listen, the president or head of the state or country should address the case and all protesters should return to their respective homes waiting for the implementation of the government promises without turning it into a Revolt and Riot.
41: In the case of Nigeria, no sane person should call for RevolutionNow when the legitimate means to select the leader is well known by everyone which is election. If you want to revolt, your vote is your revolt, get your PVC, step out and vote. Your power lies there. And peaceful protesters must not allow one nonentity fighting for his own selfish goal to hijack their peaceful protest by turning it into a Revolt or Riot.
42: As for those who oppose Protest and claim anyone who engages in Protest is a khaarijiy among the Khawarij and no more upon the noble Sunnah of the Prophet, the ignoramus should know the scenario of the Khawarij is entirely different and it is based on their false premise of Takfir (considering Muslims and sinners Kaafir) and not based on justice and equity.
43: There was a protest against the injustice of some governors of Sayidina Uthman, He listened to their greviances and promised to effect a change. The protestors felt relieved and were returning to their abode when some cabals from the Ummayad dynasty frustrated the peace plan which turned the whole scenario bloody.
There were many Salaf scholars who aligned with this perspective. The fact that some have confined themselves to a particular school of thought does not make their school of thought the only valid one. They are quick to claim there was no single Salaf in support of Protest as if they have all the information about each and every Salaf.
44: In fact, the issue of smuggling Khuruuj bil Sayf (Revolt with arms) under Aqeedah started after about 200years later (in the era of the Taabi’oon). And I explained this and titled a chapter of my book on Protest “Theory of Revolt in Islamic Political Jurisprudence”.
45: It is essential to note that, if we do not get the basic system of social justice which is a cardinal principle of Islam, as entrenched in the Qur’an and Sunnah, the Ummah will relapse backward with many scholars distorting or hiding historical facts with impunity to please the despotic rulers.
Or how do we justify a situation whereby some people are re-writing history to praise Hajaj bn Yusuf and vilify Sayd bn Jubayr for speaking against tyranny? They criticized eminent companions like Hussain and Ibn Zubayr, accusing them of lack of knowledge of Fiqh. All because they are looking for justification for despotism!
46: One should know that when the Caliph Uthman said he would see to the protesters grievances, the cabal felt threatened and wrote a letter to the governor of Egypt by forging the signature of the Caliph that the protesters be killed, as Allah willed, this letter was intercepted by the protesters who were leaving Medina already. So they wrongly felt it was the Caliph who wrote the letter.
Consequently, they angrily returned to Medina thinking the letter was authorized by the Caliph and they feared what may become of them when they returned to their respective provinces at the hand of their governors. Unfortunately, the atmosphere became tensed. Until some foolish and unfortunate Bedouin Arabs (you know villagers and their rash attitudes) scaled through the barriers to kill the Caliph Uthman (Radiyallahu Anhu).
47: It is important to note that the protestors’ first coming was legitimate and their move was sanctioned by some great companions. The Caliph himself listened to them attentively.
But the second coming after intercepting the letter was due to a mix up and activities of these cabals which is a separate thesis for analysis for researchers of Islamic History.
48: So, emphasis should be placed on those who perpetrated the hideous and heinous crime of forging the signature of the Caliph who cast a dark shadow of ignominy on the history of Islam. They sought to perpetrate their oppression against the Ummah, using the name of the Caliph for their crime. Without identifying this reality, the scholars of tyranny will continue to give backing to tyranny and legitimacy to oppression.
49: We should also know that, in this age, whatever is not pleasing to some folks simply become a lie!
This history is recorded by Ibn Kethir (despite being of Ummayad) in his AlBidayah walNihayah, and the book of history of Imam Tobari.
Denying this historical fact is like saying Sayyid bn Jubayr was not martyred by Hajaj bn Yusuf. They keep making futile effort to justify tyranny and oppression and claiming silence is golden!
50: The problem with these mindsets of “Protest is Unislamic” and “Silence is golden” is that, it emboldened later tyrants to oppress; justifying their actions with the tyranny of the past, and we still suffer it till today. And it is for that reasons Arab rulers are prone to tyranny without rule of law.
My book on Protest titled “PROTEST IN THE CREED OF SUNNAH” will be launched by December in Shaa Allah.
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