The King has no need for a doctrine of obedience

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A Friday sermon has been condemned and provoked anger with regards to the religious obligation to obey the King and the ban on deviating from it. The sermon included citations from some Sharia scholars and is indicative of a deep knowledge gap, one that we have spoken about repeatedly: on the one hand, there is the core idea that was conveyed to us in the original version a great number of sayings and contending with this is what some of the ‘cool’ preachers try to convince people of in the “Light’ publication. The decisions of the latter result from a difficult vetting process that conforms with the principle of valuable development and overcomes the deep temporal and spatial gap between the original environment of those sayings and today’s context.

This process transfers the sayings to those who live in a world whose nations seek liberation, freedom and respect for their rights. There are texts that contain orders as to what we ought to do and ought not to do, encourage autocracy and present practices that differ on the basis of one’s race, religion and sex.

People were taken aback after hearing Friday’s sermon and how it blatantly stood at odds with democracy, multilateralism and the right of people not only to decide their own fate but also to choose their government. The sermon does not reflect the true opinion of the preachers who stood and recited it, rather it reflects what is ‘religiously correct’, as perceived and interpreted by ‘the world’s scholars’. Those who objected to the sermon only found one piece of evidence to refute what they saw as shocking and this evidence comes from a lesson from the late Sheikh Mohamed Matawali Al-Sharawi, who says that: ‘one should only obey his ruler as long as his ruler obeys Allah and his Prophet’.

 Here we can observe a clear contradiction for this video contains a clip in which the Sheikh announces his position in the case of an unjust ruler, and yet he stands in front of the late Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak praising him and warning against disobeying him. He states: ‘Allah alone grants kingship and one should not support the downfall of the King, for kingship is not requested but given by Allah.’ He then concludes his speech with a sentence intended to diminish the right of the people and to try and gain the approval of the ruler, saying: ‘if it is our fate that you rule us, may Allah help you, and if it was your fate to rule us, may Allah support you’. Moreover, it was Sharawi who offered excessive praise in poetry compositions for King Fuad and then King Farouq in spite of ‘their shortcomings within Sharia’. In doing so, his praise was twofold as in reciting his eulogy for Fuad, he praised not only Fuad but also Farouq:
 ‘O, Farouq, you are Egypt’s hope now, we beg of you, your Majesty, for you bring comfort to Egypt, like the light that brings the night to a close, give yourself time to recover from the loss of your father, O King of the Nile, give yourself time, you are a good, religious omen, please be guided by Allah’.

Neither advocates that are trending today nor politicized sheiks are able to act as the objective and neutral point of reference regarding the content and implications of Sharia rulings since both of these groups will interpret the texts in such a way that is consistent with their own interests and the wishes of those with whom their loyalties already lie. We have already noted, in a different context, the large number of businessmen active within religion facing a real crisis, for they find themselves unable to use their voice and explain the truth of the sayings that deny and denounce democracy, political pluralism, and the requirement of gender equality that democracy imposes, let alone the broader issues of basic rights and freedoms such as freedoms of thought and opinion and expression. At the same time, they feel embarrassed and do not believe the mistruths that they utter, as they try and bend the meanings of the texts and the rulings and take them out of their true contexts to reduce the gap between their interpretations and their true value.

Let us return to the Friday sermon that brought about anticipated controversy, and the part of the Hadith that shocked many and has since been denied and had doubt cast upon it. The Hadith is from Hudifa bin Al-Yamman and Al-Dahabi and was also agreed upon and corrected by Al-Albani.  It was narrated by Muslim in his book, Sahih and it states:
 ‘I said: O, Prophet of God, we were people, and then God brought good into our lives that we now enjoy, but is there evil after that good?
He said yes.
I said: Is there good after that evil?
He said yes.
I said: Is there evil after that good?
He said yes.  
I said: How?
He said: Imams will come after me who do not follow my path and do not follow my Sunnah and among them there will be men who have human bodies yet evil hearts.
I said: What should I do, O Prophet of God, if I am alive at this time?
And he said: Listen to and obey your ruler and even if he whips your back and takes your money, listen to him and obey him’.

Taken all together, the texts and the interpretations surrounding this issue say that disobeying the ruler is criminal and forbidden in Sharia, even if he were ‘unjust, sinful and corrupt’. The only exception would be in the case of ‘overt infidelity’, when the ruler himself deviates from the creed.

The political burden and the moral of the texts vary according to the governmental system and the prevalent culture in the nation. Wahhabi and Salafi scholars do not encounter such struggles in confirming the true meaning of texts and their principles. As in the fatwas issued by organizations of respected scholars in Saudi Arabia, such the late mufti Abd Al-Aziz bin Baz and other scholars such as Salah Al-Fawzan and Ibn Uthmanen, autocracy and eternal endorsement of the ruler similarly relates to the original position Salafi current in Egypt before the modified version from the Light Party that appeared just prior to the military coup in 2013. In this instance, the sheiks in the party helped themselves to a large slice of the cake, yet even if they could only have gotten their hands on the crumbs, they would have chosen this political advancement over preserving that which is sacred. In contrast, the situation is different in the countries that are characterized by democracy, such as Tunisia, where the sheiks of the Revival Movement dismiss these texts for now, in order to avoid the imposition of what would inevitably contradict their ideology of dogmatism, their socialist and liberal systems, and legal avenues.

In Jordan, we have not witnessed a scene that requires even the smallest element of surrealism to complicate what is already complicated. In light of the reform 90 something committee that tried to galvanize its power for its own gain and the ‘issue of sedition’, an issue that is still awaiting its result in court, the worshippers in the mosque on Friday started looking for a link between these events and the sermon on obedience to the ruler - a link that most likely is not even there.

Those who have no knowledge of Hadith that promote the values of democracy, partisan pluralism, and the rotation of power could at the very least keep silent and refrain from evoking texts and stories that promote tyranny and autocracy. At a time when the King is calling for changes in the organization of political life that would meet the ambitions of the people, he has no need for a doctrine of compliance and obedience. Rather he needs to achieve what he is calling for, namely, participation on the basis of dialogue and compromise. 

*Translated by Cerys Stansfield

The original article in Arabic can be seen here


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