It is not permissible to rebel against him if revolution leads to greater harm

Question:

Some latter-day sects give Bay’ah (pledge of allegiance) to leaders they choose from among themselves. They claim that it is obligatory to obey them and abide by their commands and not to break their Bay’ah (pledge of allegiance). Meanwhile they are subjects under rulers appointed according to Shari’ah (Islamic law) who has the Bay’ah of the majority of Muslims. Is this permissible, i.e. can one give Bay’ah to more than one leader? To what extent are these Bay’ahs correct?

Answer:

This Bay’ah is batil (null and void). It is not permissible because it leads to dissention, many tribulations, and rebellion against rulers for no lawful reason. It was authentically reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he said: “I enjoin you to fear Allah, and to hear and obey even if it be an Abyssinian bondsman, for those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. You must then follow my sunnah and that of the rightly-guided caliphs. Hold to it and stick fast to it. Avoid novelties, for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is an error.1

It was also authentically reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he said: “It is obligatory for a Muslim to listen and obey (the appointed authority) whether they like it or not, except when they are ordered to do a sinful thing; in such a case, there is no obligation to listen or to obey.2 and “Submission is obligatory only in what is good (and reasonable).3 and “One who has a governor appointed over him and he finds that the governor indulges in an act of disobedience to Allah, he should condemn the governor’s act, in disobedience to Allah, but should not withdraw himself from his obedience.4

There are many Hadiths narrated to this effect. They all prove that it is obligatory to listen and obey rulers in what is lawful and that it is only permissible to rebel against them when they commit absolute Kufr (disbelief) for which the rebellious have proof from Allah. There is no doubt that giving Bay’ah for some people results in dissention and rebellion against the general ruler, which renders this unlawful and must be abandoned. Even when seeing the ruler committing absolute Kufr (disbelief), subjects should advise this ruler to desist. It is not permissible to rebel against him if revolution leads to greater harm because evil cannot be removed by what is more evil as stated by scholars, may Allah have mercy on them, such as the Shaykh of Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and the noted scholar Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah be merciful with both of them). May Allah grant us success.


  1. Related by Al-Tirmidhy, Book on knowledge, Chapter on conforming to Sunnah and shunning innovations in religion, no. 2676; Ibn Majah, Introduction, Chapter on following the practice of the rightly guided Caliphs, no. 42; and Ahmad, Musnad, Section on the Hadiths narrated by Levanters narrators, Chapter on the hadiths narrated by Al-‘Irbad ibn Sariyah on the authority of the Prophet (peace be upon him), no. 16694. 

  2. Related by Muslim, Book on rulership, Chapter on obedience to the ruler is forbidden in matters sinful, but is otherwise obligatory, no. 1839. 

  3. Related by Al-Bukhari, Book on expeditions, Chapter on the expedition of ‘Abdullah ibn Hudhafah Al-Sahmy, no. 4340; and Muslim, Book on rulership, Chapter on obedience to the ruler is forbidden in matters sinful, but is otherwise obligatory, no. 1840, and the wording is Muslim’s. 

  4. Related by Muslim, Book on rulership, Chapter on the best and the worst of your rulers, no. 1855.