the twenty first call: the obligation of obeying allah and the messenger
almighty allah says (what can be translated as): "o you who have believed, obey allah and obey the messenger and those in authority among you. and if you disagree over anything, refer it to allah and the messenger, if you should believe in allah and the last day. that is the best [way] and best in result." (an-nisa': 59)
the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) sent a military expedition on which he authorized a man from al-ansar. when they were marching he was upset with them for something they did. he said to them: have not the messenger of allah ordered you to obey me? they said: yes. he said: collect some firewood. then he lit the firewood. he said to them: i order you to enter the fire (i.e. kill yourselves by the fire.) they refused to do so until they ask the messenger of allah (pbuh). the messenger said to them: "obedience is in goodness." the messenger of allah said: "a muslim has to listen to and obey (the order of his ruler) whether he likes it or not, as long as his orders involve not one in disobedience (to allah), but if an act of disobedience (to allah) is imposed one should not listen to it or obey it."
in this verse almighty allah commands the believers to obey him, follow his book and obey his messenger because he (peace be upon him) clarifies to them what allah has sent. he informs them with the commands and prohibitions of allah (awj). also, allah commands the believers to obey those in authority such as rulers, princes and military leaders whom people turn to for decisions and public interests. if they agree on a matter, they have to be obeyed provided that they are honest rulers. to be obeyed, they have to follow the commands of allah and the authenticated sunnah of the prophet (peace be upon him). they have to be chosen rulers, not forced on the people with the power or authority of someone.
anything that muslims disagree about has to be referred to the book of allah and the sunnah of his messenger (pbuh). who does not refer to the book of allah and the sunnah of his prophet is not a believer in allah and the last day.
who refers to the sharia of allah and the sunnah of his messenger is doing what is good for him, it is the best consequence and return because allah did not legislate to people except the best and most beneficial for them. referring to the sharia (islamic laws) stops disagreements that might lead to quarrels and delusions.
in this short text, allah (swt) clarifies the condition of belief and the outline of islam. at the same time, he clarifies the foundation of the basic system for the muslim community; the rule of power and source of authority. they all begin and end at accepting guidance from allah solely and referring to him for the matters that do not have a text. they are matters that might happen in the lives of people over the generations, i.e. matters which minds, opinions and understandings might disagree about. people should do this to have an established scale for which minds, opinions and understandings can refer to about the matters they disagree about!
"ruling" in the lives of humans is only for allah (awj), whether for the minor, great, big or small matters. allah has decreed his sharai in the qur'an, he sent a messenger to clarify the sharai to people, a messenger that does not speak from his own inclination. accordingly, the sunnah of the prophet (peace be upon him) is also a sharia which is a part of the sharia sent by allah (awj).
allah has to be obeyed, one of the characteristics of his divinity is to decree the sharia and his sharia has to be fulfilled. those who believe have to obey allah first and to obey the messenger as well for his attribute, i.e. the attribute of carrying the message sent by allah. so obeying the messenger is part of obeying allah as he sent the messenger with the sharia (in the qur'an) which is clarified in the sunnah (sayings and traditions of the prophet). so, the sunnah of the messenger and his decisions is part of the sharia that has to be fulfilled. the existence or nonexistence of belief depends on this obedience and fulfillment based on the qur'anic text: "…if you should believe in allah and the last day".
as for obeying those in authority, the text defines them:
"those in authority among you…" which means among the believers, i.e. those who fulfill the criterion of belief and the boundaries of islam clarified in the verse. those boundaries are clarified as the obedience of allah and his messenger and distinction of allah – almighty – with the quality of ruling and the right to legislate for the people first and foremost. we should receive from him alone – for the matters that have a clear text – and refer to him in the matters that minds, understandings and opinions disagree about because there is no direct divine text for them in order to apply the general principals in the qur'anic texts.
the text establishes the obedience of allah as the origin and the obedience of the messenger as well, since the messenger was sent by him. the text makes obeying 'those in authority among you' a succession to obeying allah and obeying his messenger. the text does not repeat the term "obedience" when it mentions "those in authority among you" as it did with the messenger – peace be upon him – to ascertain that obeying them comes from obeying allah and obeying his messenger – after the text decides that they are "among you" based on belief and its condition.
obeying those in authority among you, after all the assertions, has to be according to the known legislated boundaries of allah. it means obeying them in the matters which were not prohibited by a religious text. they are the matters that are not prohibited when they are referred to the principles of the sharia in case of disagreements. the sunnah defines the limits of this obedience with assertiveness and certainty:
in the two sahihs (authenticated collections of ahadith compiled by imam muslim and imam al-bukhari) there are ahadith like:
hadith of al-'amash: "obedience is only in goodness".
hadithof yahya al-qattan: "it is obligatory upon a muslim to listen (to the ruler) and obey whether he likes it or not, except when he is ordered to do a sinful thing; in such case, there is no obligation to listen or to obey."
imam muslim authenticated the hadith of um al-hassin: "if a slave was appointed over you, and he rules you with allah's book, then listen to him and obey him."
thus, islam makes every individual a guardian on the sharia of allah and sunnah of his messenger; he is also a guardian on his faith and religion. he is a guardian on himself and his mind and guardian on the present life and the hereafter. the believer does not let a sheep in the herd make a noise here or there which others might listen to and obey. the method is clear and the boundaries of obedience are clear. the sharia that is obeyed and the sunnah that is followed are not to be diversified or divided, the individual will not get lost in doubts if he follows them.
this is for the matters for which a clear text was revealed, but there are matters that do not have a text such as problems and issues happening over time and development of needs and difference of environments. as for those matters for which they do not have a decisive text or no text at all so minds, opinions and understandings might disagree about them, they are not left haphazardly. they are not left without a scale or a method of sharia. almighty allah has revealed a short text which establishes the method of ijtihad (informed reasoning). it is defined by certain boundaries as allah establishes the "origin" that controls the method of ijtihad as well.
"and if you disagree over anything, refer it to allah and the messenger…"
refer to the texts that apply to the matter inclusively, and if there are no texts that apply to it, then refer to the general comprehensive principals in the method of allah and his sharia. they are not vague or chaotic; they are not unknown so the minds will not be lost in them as some misleading people try to say. in this religion, there are quite clear and basic principles that cover all aspects of the political life. they set a fence for them and the transgression of this fence cannot be concealed or hidden from the sound muslim conscience which is controlled by the scale of this religion.
"if you should believe in allah and the last day"..
obedience is to allah, his messenger and those in authority among you who follow the sharia of allah and the sunnah of muhammad (peace be upon him). the obedience also includes referring to allah and his messenger in case of disagreeing about anything. both aspects are the conditions of belief in allah and the las day. it is also a prerequisite of belief in allah and the last day. there is no belief from the start, if this condition is not fulfilled and certainly no deviation can occur with belief.
after ascertaining this condition by the text, it presents this condition one more time in the form of "advice", encouragement and promotion: "that is the best [way] and best in result."
this is the best for you and the best result you can get. it is the best in the present life and the hereafter. indeed, it is the best result you can have in the present life and the hereafter. so, the issue is not only following the method to gain the satisfaction of allah and the reward of the hereafter which is a huge enormous bounty. it is also to achieve the best in the present life and the best results for the individual and the community in the current life we live in.
this method means: that "the human" is to enjoy the advantages of the method set by allah (awj). allah is the creator, the ever-wise, the all-knowing, the all-seeing and the all-aware. it is a method void of the ignorance and inclination of humans, it is a method that is void of his weakness and lust.
it is a method that does not contain any favoritism to a certain individual, calls, people, race or generation of humans over another generation because allah is the lord of everybody. almighty allah, exalted and sublime be he, does not have the inclination of favoritism to a certain individual, class, people, race or generation.
one of the advantages of this method is that his creator is the creator of humans. he knows the fact of their nature and the real needs of this nature. he knows the curves and paths of the spirits of humans, he knows the methods to address and reform them. so, allah the almighty does not get lost in experiments to find a method that conforms to humans, glory be to allah and exalted be he from that with a great exaltation. he does not make humans pay the price of the cruel experiments by losing their way without evidence. it is enough for humans to try in the field of material creativity as much as they want. it is a broad vast field for the human mind. it is enough for them to try to apply this method and realize the situations of qiyaas (analogy) and ijtihad (informed reasoning) when it comes to the things that minds disagree about.
one of the advantages of this method is that its creator is the creator of the universe in which humans live in. so, allah guarantees to humans a method with rules that comply with the traditions of this universe. so, humans would not have to fight those traditions. instead, they start to know and befriend them and get the best benefit from them. the method leads humans to know all that and protect them too.
another advantage of this method is that at the same time of leading and protecting humans, it also honors and respects them. it makes a space for their minds to work. this space is called ijtihad in understanding the revealed texts. also, there is ijtihad in referring the matter, for which no direct text was revealed, to the main texts or general principals of religion. that means referring to the original scope which is ascertained by "that is the best [way] and best in result."… indeed, true are the words of almighty allah.