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Protests: An Islamic Perspective



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A protest — also called a demonstration, remonstration, or remonstrance — is a public expression of objection, disapproval, or dissent towards an idea or action, typically a political one. [1]

The term has been in use since the mid-19th century and has developed a legal reputation for the masses to voice their grievances and put forward the change or changes that they desire to see.

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Given the current heartbreak witnessed daily, and the devastation and oppression being endured by the elderly, babies, and entire families in occupied Gaza and the West Bank, the question about protests in Islam has been asked by Muslims across the world, as the masses of nations, irrespective of religion and -isms, plan mobilisations for the sake of humanity.

Qualified and responsible approach required

I have been inundated with questions and arguments about the situation, from people for and against protests, and I believe it would be beneficial for all of us to understand the matter at hand, to foster understanding of the reasoning behind the views of scholars who are for it, and those who are against it.

Before delving further, it should be noted that in the context of Islamic jurisprudence, the ruling on protests involves a qualified and responsible approach towards the Islamic evidences, especially given the propensity of the laws of Islam to be a means of transformative guidance until the Day of Judgment, given that Muhammad ﷺ is the Final Messenger, and the Qur’ān is the Final Testament.

Consequently, it should also be noted that the ruling on protests in Islam is a delicate ijtihādi matter that juggles various competing considerations. These include acknowledging the evolving socio-political dynamics, both locally and globally.

Accordingly, the concluding opinion on the ruling of protests in Islam is a matter of local jurisdiction. My personal conclusion and opinion, one way or another, is not relevant in a matter that is up to responsible, knowledgeable scholarship in their respective regions to decide based on their own scenarios and competing considerations.

As such, everything mentioned is not shared in order to create unnecessary discord between congregations and their leaders, so please consider this short article a complimentary piece towards the rich efforts of your local jurisdictional scholarship.

Scholars agree on more than they disagree

It is imperative to note that irrespective of scholastic conclusions on the topic of protests, those scholars who opined for and against protests are agreed that from the fundamental objectives of the Sharī’a is the preservation of life and wealth.

Such scholars also agree that out of two necessary harmful choices, one has to choose the lesser of two harms in order to avert the greater one.

In addition, they all agree that the example of the believers as regards to being merciful among themselves, showing love among themselves, and being kind and supportive to each other, is like the example of one body.

If any part of the body is not well, then the whole body becomes activated with sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever, until the ailment disperses and the body settles.

They all agree that the followers of Muhammad ﷺ are the best of all nations because they are advocates for justice and adversaries against oppression, irrespective of the shape and size of the justice or oppression.

They all agree on the mandate of Verse 72 of Surat al-ʾAnfāl, in which Allah (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) instructs us,

وَإِنِ ٱسۡتَنصَرُوكُمۡ فِي ٱلدِّينِ فَعَلَيۡكُمُ ٱلنَّصۡرُ إِلَّا عَلَىٰ قَوۡمِۢ بَيۡنَكُمۡ وَبَيۡنَهُم مِّيثَٰقٞۗ وَٱللَّهُ بِمَا تَعۡمَلُونَ بَصِيرٞ

“And if they seek help of you against persecution, then you must help, except against a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty. And Allah is Seeing of what you do.” [2]

The fulcrum of the difference

The differences in the conclusion of the jurists on this topic occur due the foundational methodology in concluding an Islamic ruling of this nature.

Such differing conclusions are also a result of scholars having to juggle the various ethical considerations (masālih), their respective implementation in real-life scenarios, and the analysis and weighing up of various harms — whether “major” or “minor”, for example.

These differences are only natural from the perspective of Jurisprudence Methodology (Usūl al-Fiqh), and also as Allah (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) has created us all with different personalities and dispositions, we naturally interpret a situation in different ways.

This is partly why large-scale decisions should be made by groups of jurists coming together, mitigating each other’s variations, the pinnacle of which is ijmā’ (unanimous consensus), which is a binding proof of what Allah (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) intended to be said on His behalf on any given matter.

Arguments for and against protests

A view in opposition

Protests are from the ta’abbudi genre of actions, and require evidence in order for them to be a valid practice in Islam.

Ta’abbudi refers to actions that entail the worship of Allah in and of themselves and require sound evidence that do not have to be fathomable in nature. This means that they do not have to contain meanings and directives that we necessarily comprehend.

Examples of ta’abbudi acts would be our five daily prayers (Salat), their specific timings, and their varying units. Another example would be circumambulating the Ka’bah seven times in an anti-clockwise manner.

We do not need to understand why the Fajr prayer consists of two compulsory units, or why we circumambulate the Ka’bah in an anti-clockwise manner instead of clockwise.

Such actions conditionally require specific evidence(s) permitting them, for them to be acceptable actions in Islam, irrespective of our understanding of their underlying reasoning.

Those who are against the permissibility of all protests from Islamic scholarship positions consider protests to be “a means to an end” (الوسائل), and consider the “means” to be ta’abbudi in nature. Therefore, for protests to be allowed in Islam, there is a need for specific authoritative evidence admitting it as a part of Islam, and since we do not have evidence permitting protests, engaging in it would entail innovation within the religion (bid’ah).

A view in support

The scholars of this view partially disagree with the discourse laid out by the scholars of the first view.

They agree that protests are means towards achieving an end, also making it from the genre of actions in Islamic jurisprudence known as الوسائل (“the means to an end”), but they disagree on the point of all “means” being ta’abbudi.

According to the scholars of this group, protests are from the genre of actions that are normative in reality, i.e. a part of our norms and customs, and these types of actions do not require specific authoritative evidences in order for them to be permissible to act upon.

Consequently, since protests are considered to be a legal manner to voice expression of a view or stance to those whom it may concern as per the norms of certain societies, evidence to prove the validity of protests as a valid means from an Islamic perspective would not be a requirement. Rather, protests would be permissible as a default rule from the outset. As such, the only way for protests to be forbidden in Islam would be via evidence invalidating it as a permissible action.

The words of Imam Shāṭibī

In differentiating between the two genres of actions (ta’abbudi and norms) and the impact of Islamic law upon both, Imam Shāṭibī (raḥimahu Allah) said,

“Thus, innovation (bid’ah) is a fabricated methodology in the religion which emulates the Law (Sharī’a) and whose practice intends to exaggerate servitude to Allah.

“This is in accordance with those who do not include customs (‘ādāt) within the meaning of bid’ah, and instead exclusively define it within ritualistic worship (‘ibādāt).” [3]

Given the multilayered process that is required in the field of jurisprudence and in jurisprudential decision-making, especially in contemporary matters, and the ruling on legal and peaceful protests being ijtihādi (a matter of scholastic reasoning), the scholars are accommodating within themselves of each other’s conclusions.

In terms of my personal treatment and leanings on the topic of peaceful and legal protests in countries permitting them as a valid means of expression, I consider them permissible, from the outset, with considerations, the details of which are listed in the following points of consideration:

1 | Protests are not a form of “means” connected to worship

Protests are not a form of “means” connected to worship, but from the genre of actions that are normative and customary.

As such, peaceful and legal protests for the oppressed are not from the ta’abbudi genre of actions. Rather, they are a “means to an end” (الوسائل), with that “end” being the creation of awareness about the existence of unprecedented harm, showing solidarity with the oppressed, and informing those of authority in a legal manner — a manner approved by those of authority — of the view and mood of their constituents.

Accordingly, this would cause this form of protests to be from the genre of actions connected to considerations of public interest — المصالح المرسلة. This refers to an action (non-worship) not having any authentic and authoritative evidences in Islam approving or disproving it, but the action itself, as per the view of a scholar, has a real propensity to achieve an outcome that Sharī’a as a whole seeks to achieve, such as the preservation of life and wealth, for example. [4] [5]

2 | Default rulings of permissibility for actions of this genre

The Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) maxim regarding normative actions states that,

“…the default ruling of permissibility applies, except if proven otherwise with evidence.” [6]

Accordingly, in the absence of evidence stating otherwise, the default ruling of permissibility would remain.

3 | Actions taken as means to achieving specific ends

There is another jurisprudential maxim that calibrates the ruling of any action taken as a means towards achieving an end.

It states that,

الوسائل لها أحكام المقاصد ما لم تكن الوسيلة محرمة

This means, “the ‘means’ carries the same ruling as the objective it aims to achieve, on condition that the ‘means’ is not evidently forbidden.”

The default ruling for norms and customs has already been established as permissible. In terms of this Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) principle, it highlights two further considerations as follows.

First consideration

If the objective of the means is recommended (mustaḥabb), the means towards achieving the objective will also carry the ruling of being recommended, and if the objective of the means is compulsory (wājib), the means towards achieving the objective will also carry the ruling of being compulsory.

An example to help clarify this consideration would be the use of an alarm clock to aid in waking up for the Fajr Prayer. Since praying Fajr is compulsory, in the event of a person not being able to wake up for the Fajr prayer, except through using an alarm clock, then using an alarm clock as a means of waking up for Fajr would be compulsory as well.

Second consideration

The exception to the above consideration will only be if the means is haram in and of itself.

So, for example, practising impermissible khalwah (seclusion) as a means in order to guide someone to Islam (objective), as the fathomable evidences prohibiting certain means teach us a principle that: the ends do not justify the means, from an Islamic perspective.

Accordingly, peaceful and legal protests would be permissible as a default rule, or possibly recommended (mustaḥabb) or even compulsory (wājib) depending on the rule of the objective they seek to attain from an Islamic perspective. However, if protests were illegal in a country, or were carried out violently, then all the scholars agree that it would not be a permissible means in that country.

UK protests for Palestine are aiming to achieve a supported objective (end)

In terms of the topic at hand, it is important to note that protests being arranged for Palestine aim to achieve an objective that is not at odds with the Sharī’a, i.e. the preservation of life, and the lifting of oppression.

In addition, protests in the UK are legal, which accordingly does not bring about legality issues from the perspective of Islamic jurisprudence, as it does not entail going against the laws of the land.

Likewise, since protests are not from the ta’abbudi genre of actions, the condition of validating evidence in Islam for it does not apply.

A question applies,

“What is the evidence prohibiting protests from the outset, if carried out legally in a country with the objective of raising awareness of oppression and aiding the oppressed?”

And on the other hand,

“What if they are vices as prohibited by the Sharī’a that are not an intrinsic part of protests, but are generally accompanying vices of the protest?

“For example, the presence of music, intermingling, and so on?”

In this case, we have three guiding jurisprudential (Fiqh) maxims.

First principle | يغتفر في الوسائل ما لا يغتفر في المقاصد

The maxim states that leniency will be applied to the Islamic ruling of the “means” in a manner that does not apply to the “objective” (ends). [7]

Accordingly, Islamic jurisprudence possesses the scope for the certain vices that accompany a protest to be temporarily overlooked and not be a burdening consideration that would overturn the default ruling of the means, i.e. permissibility, due to it being a separable accompanying issue to the means and not an intrinsic part of it.

Second principle | إذا تعارض مفسدتان رُوعي أعظمُهما ضررًا بارتكاب أخفهما

This principle states that if a person is faced with two harms, then they should adopt the lesser harm in order to avert the greater harm. [8]

This is because the Sharī’a intends to bring about benefit and to make it abundant, and it came to reduce harm and eradicate it.

To this end, if the general preponderant feeling of the scholars of a jurisdiction was that protests are a means of lifting harm or reducing it — and that the harms of not protesting are greater than the harms of protesting — then the concluding advice would be to adopt the lesser harm, i.e. protesting in order to avert the greater harm (continued and/ or increased oppression).

Third principle | درء المفسدة مقدم على جلب المصلحة

If someone individually feels that the accompanying vices of a protest will harm their own faith, due their own unique circumstances, then the application of the “Maxim of Harm” applies to them.

This states that the prevention of a harm takes precedence over the attainment of a benefit.

As such, the prevention of harm — i.e. harm as a result of the protest — will be given more importance than the attainment of the benefit of the protest in their individual case, especially since their absence would not entail the closure of the means towards lifting or reducing of oppression.

Alternatively, a person can find or plan a different means to be an adversary to the harms that protests are trying to avert.

For example, a community in Ireland recently arranged a drive-through protest with cars wrapped in the Palestinian flag in order to protest against the killing of babies and the innocent en masse and, through this, mitigated certain harms they felt were too difficult for them to manage.

Imitating non-Muslims by protesting?

Another query regarding the act of protesting is on whether a person would be involved in imitating the actions of a people of other beliefs.

For example, a recent question received stated,

“Is participating in protests a form of emulating non-Muslims in practices specific to them, since Islam does not have a history of Muslims protesting?”

In response, we may say that whilst it is true that Islam does not have a history of protests upon its current modern formation, the idea of legal peaceful protest does have a historical presence with Muslims since the time of the Sahaba.

This is not surprising and only natural since, as we have concluded, protests are from the normative actions of a people and not from the genre of actions considered worship.

‘A’isha (radiy Allāhu ‘anha) engaged in peaceful protest

In one example, during the time of the Sahaba, hundreds of Companions, and from them the Mother of the Believers, ‘A’isha (radiy Allāhu ‘anha), travelled from Hijaz to Iraq in order to peacefully protest. As explained by the scholars of Islam, they desired for the murderers of Uthmān (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) to be brought to justice, sooner rather than later.

Peaceful Egyptian protest during 4th year after Hijrah

Another example would be the Egyptians’ peaceful protest during the 4th year after Hijrah, when the community gathered to voice their lengthy complaint about their financial plight to the ruler of the time, due to the unaffordability of bread.

That said, even if we do not have a history of manifestations of protesting by the Muslims, the default ruling related to actions that are not from the genre of worship would apply, as discussed earlier.

And in terms of the topic of emulation, its ruling would not necessarily be deterred, as Islamic jurisprudence facilitates leniency for Muslim minorities in externalised manifest norms of their place of stay.

To this end, Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (raḥimahu Allah) said,

“Directly going against their (i.e. non-Muslims) norms is only when the religion is manifest and uppermost…

“When the Muslims were initially weak, opposition [to the norms of the non-Muslims] was not legislated.

“Once the religion was complete, manifest, and uppermost, it was legislated.

“Likewise, today: if the Muslim is in an abode of war, or (living as a minority) in a non-warring abode, he is not commanded to oppose them (non-Muslims) in terms of externalised norms (al-Hādī al-Zāhir) due to the harm/ disadvantage he incurs in doing so.

“It (also) may be legally recommended (mustaḥabb) or even obligatory (wājib) for one to join them (non-Muslims) on occasion in their external norms, if this begets a religious benefit…” [9]


In the end, this is what Allah Almighty has facilitated and made easy for me to share, in light of the many questions asked by the community on this topic during this very difficult time.

However, before signing off, I share a word of caution.

From the negative results of protests is that it distracts us and even pacifies us from completing actions that are highly impactful in terms of achieving the change that one wishes to see.

Because of this, it is very important that the right frame of mind is applied when participating in protests, lest it becomes a means of just “releasing steam” with no real traction following on in terms of facilitating transformative outcomes.

May Allah Almighty lift every ounce of oppression off the face of the Earth and always make us a means for the benefit of the oppressed. Amīn.

And Allah (subḥānahu wa ta’āla) knows best.

Source: Islam21c



[2] al-Qur’ān, 72:8

[3] Kitāb al-I’tisām, 1/37

[4] Majmū‘ al-Fatāwa, 11/342, 343

[5] Qawā‘id Ma‘rifat al-Bida‘, p. 19,20

[6] al-Ashbah wan-Nathāir, Ibn Nujaym (al-Hanafi), p. 60

[7] al-Ashbah wan-Nathāir, al-Suyūti, 1/144

[8] al-Ashbah wan-Nathāir, Ibn Nujaym (al-Hanafi), p. 76

[9] Iqtidā al-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm by Ibn Taymiyyah, p. 459


Related reading:

Freedom Of Speech And Protest In Islam: The Distorted Saudi View

Podcast: Priorities and Protest | On Muslim Activism with Shaykhs Dawud Walid and Omar Suleiman

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Shaykh Sajid Umar, FD.IT, MED,LL.B (Shariah), MJS (Qadha'), LL.D is a qualified Mufti and Judge, as well as an educator, author, researcher. He is a lecturer at Knowledge International University; is the Director of Islamic Development for Mercy Mission World; and lecturer and head of the board of directors of AlKauthar Institute.



  1. equranekareem

    November 16, 2023 at 1:18 AM

    Wallahi, we stand with the people of Palestine
    “Wallahi” is an Arabic term that is often used by Arabic speakers, particularly Muslims, to emphasize the truthfulness of a statement. It is an oath or a way of making a solemn affirmation, similar to saying “I swear by Allah” in English. The term “Wallahi” is derived from the Arabic words “Wallah,” meaning “by Allah,” and “i,” which is a particle for emphasis.
    wallahi meaning

  2. Ramadan

    December 11, 2023 at 5:13 AM

    Nice post , Current situation of Palestine is very crtical Allah will help us to take some postive steps to stops that bad war.

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