Understanding The Prophet's Life
From Issue: 969 [Read full issue]
One of the characteristics of modern democracy is that it considers opposition to form part of the general structure of the state. The opposition has a recognised leader and there is communication with him/her which entails no problems. That is because the person in power is also a human being who has both supporters and critics, and neither is more entitled to respect than the other. The fact is that this view is very close to the teachings of the Rightly-guided khalifate. Ali ibn Abi Talib did not allow those who opposed him to be killed, nor did he muster armies to attack them. He told them, "Hold whatever opinion you like, provided that you do not provoke unrest or shed blood." In other words, this great man viewed opposition as constructive and not destructive. He did not think that opposition to a person was objectionable in itself.
Ali told the Kharijites, "Be with whomever you wish: and the agreement between us and you is that you do not shed blood, waylay people on the roads or wrong anyone. If you do that, then I will fight you." Abdullah ibn Shaddad stated, "By Allah, he did not kill them until they acted as highwaymen and shed blood." As-Sanani said, "That shows that simple disagreement with the ruler does not mean that those who differ with him should be fought. This is the correct way in which to view the noble hadith: 'Whoever abandons obedience and separates himself from the community and then dies, dies the death of ignorance [Bukhari]," that is, like the people of the Jahiliyya without a ruler.'" All that applies when the opposition does not become an armed rebellion. When it becomes that, another ruling comes into play. Abdullah ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Whoever carries weapons against us is not one of us." [Ibn Majah]
"The Sunna of the Prophet" - Muhammad al-Ghazali