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Justice: The Absolute | Principle Guidelines for Scholars in Political Engagement


The closest companion of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his first successor, Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) accepted Islam for one of the most powerful reasons the Prophet was sent with – to establish justice.

قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ: «كُنْتُ جَالِسًا بِفِنَاءِ الْكَعْبَةِ، وَكَانَ زَيْدُ بْنُ عَمْرِو بْنِ نُفَيْلٍ قَاعِدًا، فَمَرَّ بِهِ أُمَيَّةُ بْنُ أَبِي الصَّلْتِ، فَقَالَ: كَيْفَ أَصْبَحْتَ يَا بَاغِيَ الْخَيْرِ؟ قَالَ: بِخَيْرٍ، قَالَ: هَلْ وَجَدْتَ؟ قَالَ: لَا، وَلَمْ آلُ مِنْ طَلَبٍ، فَقَالَ: كُلُّ دِينٍ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِلَّا مَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَالْحَنِيفَةُ بُورُ، أَمَا إِنَّ هَذَا النَّبِيَّ الَّذِي يُنْتَظَرُ مِنَّا أَوْ مِنْكُمْ، أَوْ مِنْ أَهْلِ فِلَسْطِينَ، قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ: وَلَمْ أَكُنْ سَمِعْتُ قَبْلَ ذَلِكَ بِنَبِيٍّ يُنْتَظَرُ، أَوْ يُبْعَثُ، قَالَ: فَخَرَجْتُ أُرِيدُ وَرَقَةَ بْنَ نَوْفَلٍ، وَكَانَ كَثِيرَ النَّظَرِ فِي السَّمَاءِ، كَثِيرَ هَمْهَمَةِ الصَّدْرِ، قَالَ: فَاسْتَوْقَفْتُهُ، ثُمَّ اقْتَصَصْتُ عَلَيْهِ الْحَدِيثَ، فَقَالَ: نَعَمْ يَا ابْنَ أَخِي، أَبَى أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ وَالْعُلَمَاءُ إِلَّا أَنَّ هَذَا النَّبِيَّ الَّذِي يُنْتَظَرُ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ الْعَرَبِ نَسَبًا، وَلِي عِلْمٌ بِالنَّسَبِ، وَقَوْمُكَ أَوْسَطُ الْعَرَبِ نَسَبًا، قَالَ: قُلْتُ: يَا عَمِّ، وَمَا يَقُولُ النَّبِيُّ؟ قُلْتُ: يَقُولُ مَا قِيلَ لَهُ، إِلَّا أَنَّهُ لَا ظُلْمَ وَلَا تَظَالُمَ، فَلَمَّا بُعِثَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ آمَنْتُ وَصَدَقْتُ»

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Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said,
“I was sitting down in the courtyard of the Ka’bah, when I heard Zaid ibn ‘Amr ibn Nufail and Ibn Abi As-Salt engaged in a conversation.

I heard one of them say that the time was drawing near when a Prophet would be sent to mankind. Abu Bakr said “Prior to that time, I had never heard about a Prophet that was about to be sent (to mankind). I went to Waraqah ibn Naufal, a man who would frequently stare at the sky and who would often whisper prayers to himself. When I saw him, I inquired from him and told him about what I had heard.

He said, ‘Yes, O son of my brother. I am a person who is familiar with (revealed) books and (divinely revealed) knowledge. Indeed, this Prophet that is awaited has the noblest lineage among all Arabs. I have some knowledge about genealogy, and I know that your people have the best lineages among all Arabs.

I said, ‘O my uncle, what does a Prophet say?’ He said, ‘He says what is spoken to him (by the angel Jibril). He does not do injustice; he does not help others perpetrate injustice; and he does not tolerate injustice.’ Then when the Messenger of Allah was sent, I believed him and had faith in him.” (Ibn Al Athir, Ibn Asakir, Al Suyuti in Tarikh Al Khulafa)

There has been in recent days many articles and posts by individuals on the topic of scholars and political engagement. What seems to be missing from the discussion is what actually are guidelines for political engagement? What are red lines that can never be excused, what ‘nuances’ cannot be justified, or elaborate explanations given to foundationally wrong stances?

This discussion, of course, needs a long introduction and can span several detailed sciences that requires understanding of roughly all of the supplementary and objective sciences of Islam (alat and ghayat), but this requires as relevant understanding of political-social realities, as well as political-social science.

A scholar, who may be one of the most adept in the sciences of Islam (alat and ghayat), can also completely miss the boat in judgment and cause detriment to the community due to their lack of understanding, wrong estimation, or false judgment on realities: political realities, social, etc.

This is based on a very well-known principle in the science of derivative judicial law (usul):

حكم العالم مبني على الإجتهاد الظني ولا القطعي

The rulings given by a scholar in these matters are Dhanni (interpretative) and not Qat’i (definitive).

They are bound to make wrong judgments of course, and perhaps even on wrong political estimations. Great scholars in history have fallen into such mistakes: they range from justifying seeking positions of leadership, to attacking other Muslim nations, to even justifying the death of family members of a ruling party to preserve rule, establish order, and cull fitnah (insurrection, sedition).

Do Not Commit Oppression

Though an entire book can be written on this (and perhaps someday can be), there is one major principle that is the overarching guideline for scholars in political engagement.

This is the guideline in which God brings about justice and balance. With it, empires were established, and others were debased. Kings & sultans were given strength through it, and others were humiliated. The principle is the ultimate principle in which God’s Divine Laws function:

عَنْ اَلنَّبِيِّ ‏-صَلَّى اَللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ‏-‏- فِيمَا يَرْوِي‏ عَنْ رَبِّهِ‏- قَالَ:

يَا عِبَادِي! إِنِّي حَرَّمْتُ اَلظُّلْمَ عَلَى نَفْسِي, وَجَعَلْتُهُ بَيْنَكُمْ مُحَرَّمًا, فَلَا تَظَّالَمُوا
أَخْرَجَهُ مُسْلِمٌ.‏

The Prophet ﷺ narrated from Allah, the Most High that He has said,

“O my servants! I have made oppression (dhulm) unlawful for myself and I have made it unlawful among you, so do not oppress one another.” Muslim 1537

لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ ۖ وَأَنزَلْنَا الْحَدِيدَ فِيهِ بَأْسٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَلِيَعْلَمَ اللَّهُ مَن يَنصُرُهُ وَرُسُلَهُ بِالْغَيْبِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ

We sent Our messengers with clear signs, the Scripture and the Balance, so that people could uphold justice (qist): We also sent iron, with its mighty strength and many uses for mankind, so that God could mark out those who would help Him and His messengers though they cannot see Him. Truly God is powerful, almighty. Quran 57:25

And our Beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would be asked about what he has come for, and he would say

وَأُمِرْتُ لِأَعْدِلَ بَيْنَكُمُ

“…and I have been commanded to establish justice among you…” Quran 42:15

Establishing Adl , Qist – Justice, & Removing Dhulm – Injustice, Oppression

This is the ultimate guideline in which all of the objectives of Islam revolve around.

عن قتادة أو الحسن أو كليهما قال : الظلم ثلاثة ظلم لا يغفر وظلم لا يترك وظلم يغفر فأما الظلم الذي لا يغفر فالشرك بالله وأما الظلم الذي لا يترك فظلم الناس بعضهم بعضا وأما الظلم الذي يغفر فظلم العبد نفسه فيما بينه وبين ربه

مصنف عبد الرزاق 11/183

AlHasan/Qatadah said

“Dhulm (oppression/injustice) is three
1.  Oppression that is not forgiven
2. Oppression that can never be left
3. Oppression that can be forgiven

The oppression that is not forgiven is associating partners with God.

The oppression that can never be left is of people oppressing others.

The oppression that can be forgiven is a servant oppressing themselves with sins that is between them and their lord.”

Ibn Al Qayyim went so far as to even say,

فإن الله أرسل رسله وأنزل كتبه ليقوم الناس بالقسط وهو العدل الذي به قامت السماوات والأرض فإذا ظهرت أمارات العدل وتبين وجهة بأي طريق كان فثم شرع الله ودينه والله تعالى لم يحصر طرق العدل وأدلته وعلاماته في شيء ونفي غيرها من الطرق التي هي مثلها أو أقوى منها بل بين ما شرعه من الطرق أن مقصودة إقامة العدل وقيام الناس بالقسط فأي طريق استخرج بها العدل والقسط فهي من الدين لا يقال إنها مخالفة له فلا تقول إن السياسة العادلة مخالفة لما نطق به الشرع بل موافقة لما جاء به بل هي جزء من أجزائه ونحن نسميها سياسة تبعا لمصطلحكم وإنما هي شرع حق
بدائع الفوائد 3/153

“Allah sent the message to the messengers and sent the books so that justice can be established for humanity. Due to this justice the heavens and the earth were established. If any sings of justice become clear, in any form, or in any way then that is the law of Allah and His faith. Allah did not limit the paths of justice, its evidences, or signs in anything. Nor did he reject any form of establishing such justice in other than it or stronger than it. Rather the establishment of justice is what is the objective and establishing it among humanity with diligence. Any way that reaches this justice is from the religion. It is never said that it is against it, and you cannot say that it is from just politics that can be against Divine law. Rather it is in accordance with it! It even is a part of it and we can call it politics to fit your terminologies but it surely is part of the divine law and truth.” Badai Al Fawaid 3/153

Siding against oppression and with the oppressed is what the Prophets came with.

Even God subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in more than one place to side with justice even if against your own selves, even if against your own, even if against your own families and kin.
Quran 4:135, 5:42, 10:47.

God even Says that the establishment of a divine just society MUST exist as this is what the Prophets have been sent with, and when it does not exist, and justice ceases to exist then the very REASON humanity was chosen for succeeding this world, and believers chosen to succeed the true faith of God and commissioned to pass the message to the rest of humanity – will have failed their mission and they will be replaced.

يَا دَاوُودُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَاكَ خَلِيفَةً فِي الْأَرْضِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعِ الْهَوَىٰ فَيُضِلَّكَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَضِلُّونَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ بِمَا نَسُوا يَوْمَ الْحِسَابِ

O Dawud (David)! We have made you a successor on Earth. Judge fairly between people. Do not follow your desires, lest they divert you from Allāh’s path: those who wander from His path will have a painful torment because they ignore the Day of Reckoning.’ Quran 38:26

فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَقَدْ أَبْلَغْتُكُم مَّا أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ إِلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَيَسْتَخْلِفُ رَبِّي قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ وَلَا تَضُرُّونَهُ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَفِيظٌ

But if you turn away, then I have conveyed the message with which I was sent to you, and my Lord will replace you with other successors. You cannot do Him any harm: it is my Lord who protects everything.’ Quran 11:57

Ibn Taymiyyah summarizes saying:

إن الله يقيم الدولة العادلة وإن كانت كافرة؛ ولا يقيم الظالمة وإن كانت مسلمة
مجموع الفتاوى 28/ 145-146

Allah will Establish a just country even it disbelieves, and Establish an oppressive country even if it is Muslim.

We will conclude with three statements on how Allah Established this absolute unequivocal principle in political engagement that the companions of the Prophet established the just society with. It is an absolute that cannot be ignored, it is based on this principle that the righteous succession of the Prophet (peace be on him) lasted for thirty years and many Muslim nations were established with, and it is also due to this principle that many of them were debased when they ceased to apply it.

Among the first things our Prophet taught eleven scholars from his companions who he sent to teach a nation whom had just accepted Islam, “The Prophet ﷺ sent Muadh to Yemen and said, “Be afraid, from the supplication of the oppressed as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.”

Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, and Al Hasan stood for this principle and lived by it.

عن أبي بكر الصديق، رضي الله عنه ، قال‏:‏ يا أيها الناس إنكم لتقرءون هذه الآية‏:‏ ‏{‏يا أيها الذين آمنوا عليكم أنفسكم لا يضركم من ضل إذا اهتديتم‏}‏ ‏(‏‏(‏المائدة ‏:‏ 105‏)‏‏)‏ وإني سمعت رسول الله، صلى الله عليه وسلم، يقول‏:‏ “إن الناس إذا رأو الظالم فلم يأخذوا على يديه أوشك أن يعمهم الله بعقاب منه‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه أبو داود، والترمذي، والنسائي بأسانيد صحيحة‏)‏‏)

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

“O you people! You recite this Verse: ‘O you who believe! Take care of your ownselves. If you follow guidance and forbid what is wrong no hurt can come to you from those who are in error.’ (5:105)

But I have heard Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying: “When people see an oppressor but do not prevent him from (doing evil), it is likely that Allah will punish them all.” Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi

Ka’b ibn Ujrah said: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, came to us while we were a group of nine and said,

“Indeed tyrannical rulers will come after me and whoever affirms their lies and supports their oppression has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him, and he will not drink with me at the fountain in Paradise. Whoever does not affirm their lies and does not support their oppression is part of me and I am part of him, and he will drink with me at the fountain in Paradise.”Sunan An-Nasa’i 4207

عَنْ كَعْبِ بْنِ عُجْرَةَ قَالَ خَرَجَ عَلَيْنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَنَحْنُ تِسْعَةٌ فَقَالَ إِنَّهُ سَتَكُونُ بَعْدِي أُمَرَاءُ مَنْ صَدَّقَهُمْ بِكَذِبِهِمْ وَأَعَانَهُمْ عَلَى ظُلْمِهِمْ فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي وَلَسْتُ مِنْهُ وَلَيْسَ بِوَارِدٍ عَلَيَّ الْحَوْضَ وَمَنْ لَمْ يُصَدِّقْهُمْ بِكَذِبِهِمْ وَلَمْ يُعِنْهُمْ عَلَى ظُلْمِهِمْ فَهُوَ مِنِّي وَأَنَا مِنْهُ وَهُوَ وَارِدٌ عَلَيَّ الْحَوْضَ

4207 سنن النسائي كتاب البيعة ذكر الوعيد لمن أعان أميرا على الظلم

المحدث ابن حجر العسقلاني خلاصة حكم المحدث صحيح

Our Prophet peace be on him also said

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُؤَيِّدُ هَذَا الدِّينَ بِالرَّجُلِ الْفَاجِرِ
صحيح مسلم 111
“Indeed Allah aids this faith even by a sinful person.” Muslim 111

But God will never give success, succession, or aid to anyone that aids in any form of oppression.

And Allah Knows Best.


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Hasib Noor is an instructor and researcher that specializes in History, Islamic Heritage & Law, alongside other Islamic disciplines. Founder of Prophetic Legacy & Foundation dedicated to researching and teaching Islamic history, heritage, and archaeological sites. He resides in Madinah.



  1. Saleem

    January 2, 2019 at 5:00 AM


  2. Mustafa

    January 3, 2019 at 10:24 AM

    I think there is a typo in the Ibn Taymiyyah quote, seems it should say Allah will NOT establish an identity oppressive group even if Muslim

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