Correct methodology for advising the rulers

Question:

What is the correct methodology for advising, particularly with regard to advising rulers? Should it be done by publicizing their evil actions from the mimbars or by advising them in private? I would like to know what the correct methodology is concerning this matter.

Answer:

No one is Infallible except for Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). Rulers are humans and they make errors. So no doubt they have errors and mistakes as they are not infallible. However, you should not make their errors a cause for you to publicize them and stop obeying them, even if they may be oppressive and unjust or sinful, so long as they do not commit clear disbelief. This is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) commanded us with. If they have sins and commit oppression and injustice, then indeed being patient while continuing to obey them keeps the unity, maintains the unification of the Muslims, and protects the lands of the Muslims. Furthermore, the evils that result from opposing them and seceding from them are far greater than the evils that (may) come from them. So there may occur greater evil than that which comes from them in the first place, provided this evil (on their part) is less than disbelief (Kufr) and polytheism (Shirk). We are not saying that one should remain silent about the errors that come from the rulers. No, rather they should be corrected. But they must be corrected in a pure way, which is by advising them in private and writing to them personally. By writing to them, we don’t mean that which is written down, passed through the hands of a group of individuals and then spread amongst people. This is not permissible. Rather, a confidential letter containing one’s advice should be written and handed over to the ruler or read to him orally. As for a letter that is written and then photocopied and distributed to the people, this act is not permissible since it is publicizing (his errors), and it is just like speaking against him from the mimbar. In fact, it is worse because it is possible for a person to forget some speech he hears, but as for a written letter, it remains and passes through hands. So this is not from the truth.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Religion is sincere advice. The Religion is sincere advice. The Religion is sincere advice.” We said: “To who, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk.

And in another hadith, it states: “Verily Allah is pleased with three things for you and He is displeased with three things for you. He is pleased that you (1) worship Him alone and not associate anything (in worship) with Him; that (2) you hold tight onto the Rope of Allah, all of you together, and not be divided; and that (3) you mutually advise he whom Allah has given authority of your affairs.

The people most fitting and qualified to advise the rulers are the scholars, the members of legal and consultative decisions, and those responsible for making decisions and problem-solving. Allah (Exalted be He) says: “And when there comes to them some matter concerning (public) security or fear, they propagate it (to the people). But if only they had referred it to the Messenger and those in authority amongst them, the proper investigators would have understood it from them (directly). And had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah upon you, you would have followed the Devil, except for a few (amongst you).” [Qur’an, An-Nisa: 83] Not everybody is fit to do this.

Disseminating and publicizing their errors does not fall under advising at all. Rather, it falls under spreading evil and wickedness amongst those who believe. It is not from the methodology of the Salaf Al-Salih, even if the one who does it has a good and pure intention, such as for the sake of forbidding an evil according to his view. What he is doing is a greater evil than what he is forbidding, which is why forbidding an evil may be evil itself if done in a way other than what Allaah and His Messenger have legislated. This person has not followed the legislated way of the Prophet, which he described when he said: “Whoever amongst you sees an evil should change it with his hand, but if he is not able to, then with his tongue. And if he is not able to, then with his heart and that is the weakest (form) of Faith.

So Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) divided people into three categories: Amongst them is he who is able to terminate an evil with his hand. This is the one in authority, such as a ruler and those entrusted with some order, such as committees, governors and leaders. The second type is the scholar who because he has no authority, forbids evil by explaining and advising with wisdom and fair admonition, and by advising those in authority in a wise manner. The third category consists of those who have no knowledge or authority. They should forbid evil with their hearts, by hating it and hating and withdrawing away from those who do it.