Are Street Protests and Demonstrations Legitimate Means of Response to Oppression?
Muslims are oppresse all over the world in places like Palestine, Kashmir, Syria and elsewhere in the Muslim world. We find that the Salafīs never support the call to protest against this oppression, nor do they call for the boycott of produce from these countries. Please can you explain why the Salafīs never stand up for justice against these oppressions?
Al-Hamdu lillāhi Rabbil ‘ālamīn, was-salātu was-salāmu ‘alā ashrafil mursalīn, wa ‘alā ālihī wa sahbihī ajma’īn. Ammā ba’d.
This is a pertinent question for this era and these times because of the fact that it is true that the Muslims are being oppressed in the various parts of the world. Muslims are suffering at the hands of the unbelievers, and at the hands of the enemies of Islām among the Rāfidah, the Khawārij and others.
The person who asked the question states that the Muslims are being oppressed in various places like Palestine, Kashmīr, India and Syria — this is true. The second part of the question states that the Salafīs never support the call to protest. When you say “protest” I assume what you intend is marching in the streets and demonstrating against those in authority. There are several ways that this question can be answered, and I’ll take a few approaches and deal with this important issue, inshā-Allāh.
As for protesting and marching in the streets, then there is no evidence for these activities in the Quran and Sunnah. To demonstrate in the streets has no proof that would validate it.
Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil are acts of worship, and therefore must be carried out according to the Prophetic methodology. The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever amongst you sees an evil, then let him stop it with his hand. If he is not able, then let him speak out against it with his tongue (i.e. with speech). If he is not able, then let him hate it with his heart, and that is the weakest of Īmān.” And in a narration: “There is no Īmān beyond that.”
So, the advocates of public street demonstrations say: “Look, Allāh’s Messenger (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Whomsoever amongst you sees an evil, then let him stop it with his hand. If he is not able, then let him speak out against it with speech…’, so let us go and march, and let us go shout in the streets against the injustice.” But they are wrong in using this hadeeth as a proof to eradicate evil because the Prophet and his Companions did not use demonstrations as a means to achieve that, though it was at their disposal. And the fact he could have commanded them to march in the streets of Makkah but never did, only re-emphasises its forbiddance as a means of rectification whether in Muslim countries or non-Muslim countries ―and those who say it is allowed in the Non-Muslim countries should remember that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) was living in a land of unbelief (Makkah), where he was oppressed alongside the believers yet they never protested.
The deviated groups have taken to marching in the streets claiming “we are forbidding evil” as an act of ‘ibādah (worship) and a type of struggle (Jihād) in Allah’s cause. So now it is upon them to provide us with evidence for this worship that they have innovated?
Where is the text from the ahādīth of Allāh’s Messenger (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) or the Sahābah (radhiyallāhu ‘anhum) that shows they went out marching in the streets against the kuffār and against their oppressors? Where is the proof? Were not the Muslims oppressed in Makkah at the time of the Prophet? So, did they go out marching in the streets when they were oppressed? Did they scream for the downfall of Abū Jahl and Abū Sufyān (who were from the leaders in that time)? Did they call for their downfall waving placards and demonstrating around the Ka’bah? Did the Sahābah and the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ever do that? If they did not carry that out as a form of forbidding evil, then why do you do it?
The Sahābah (radhiyallāhu ‘anhum) suffered oppression under Hajjāj ibn Yūsuf, as did the Tābi’īn. ‘Abdullāh ibn Zubayr, the Sahābī (radhiyallāhu ‘anhumā) was killed by Hajjāj ibn Yūsuf and he was crucified in Makkah and the Ka’bah was demolished — and this was after the time of the four Caliphs. Yet, the Sahābah (radhiyallāhu ‘anhum) never demonstrated in the streets, and they never protested. Why? Because these are not legislated means of rectification — instead these innovated practices lead to greater evil. And if you want to see proof, then look at the Muslim world today, and look where demonstrating against the authorities has led them.
They started their “Arab Spring” which they all celebrated. The Ahl al-Bid’ah among the Takfīrīs, and the groups calling to democracy and liberalism within the Muslim lands, and al-Ikhwān al-Muflisīn in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Look at those countries now!
Look what happened when they demonstrated in Syria, look at Syria today. Where did your demonstrations lead you? It led to half a million deaths, of men, women and children in Syria alone— And to several million refugees camped on the borders of Syria: in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, as well as mass-migration of poor and traumatised people into an unwelcoming and hostile Europe. They are the people who were dispossessed of their homes and displaced, suffering and dying. A generation of children that received no education, a generation that never went to a Masjid to study the Qur’ān, a generation who never had the opportunity to learn the Religion of Allāh or to raise a family in peace and safety. All of this because these revolutionaries, Ikhwanis, liberals and vanguards of democracy and ‘freedom’ unleashed their innovations and heresies upon the unlearned masses.
Shaykh al-Albānī (rahimahullāhu ta’ālā) has a statement concerning demonstrations wherein he states his surprise at these people who want to protest in the streets to establish the Sharī’ah of Allāh, yet they do so by imitating the kuffār ―they demonstrate in the streets just as the kuffār demonstrate in their lands; like the communists and those living in western democracies.
You wish to rectify affairs by imitating the kuffār in their principles, and in their religion, and in their methods? Where is the proof that Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) allowed you to demonstrate? You cannot use general āyāt and general ahādīth because the Sahābah (radhiyallāhu ‘anhum) did not understand them like you understand them ―you have invented your own interpretations of the texts to justify your deviations.
Which of the four well-known Imāms that we spoke about (Abū Hanīfah, Mālik, ash-Shāfi’ī, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal) commanded you to go and demonstrate in the streets? None of them. So where did this idea come from except the kuffār from Europe, from China, from Russia, from the communists and from the Bolsheviks; from Beijing Square when they demonstrated and died in the early nineties; and at the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the demonstrations that you see across Europe and elsewhere.
So, the ignorant and misguided Muslims look to that and say: “We’re going to do that in our lands.” So they borrowed this idea from the kuffār and they said: “We are going to use their method to establish Islām?” And now look at the end result.
Know that Islam and the Muslims will not be aided and rectified except when they traverse the methodology of the Salaf.
You ask: Why do not the Salafīs support protests and demonstrations? You want the Salafīs to support murder, killing and upheaval that results from your protests?!
That is why when the scholar, Shaykh al-Fawzān was asked about it, he said: “Do not demonstrate”. Shaykh Rabī’ al-Madkhali was asked, he said: “Do not demonstrate”. Shaykh ‘Ubayd al-Jābirī was asked, he said: “Do not demonstrate”. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbād was asked, he said: “Do not demonstrate”. Shaykh ‘Abdullāh al-Bukhārī was asked, he said: “Do not demonstrate”. They advised people to stay in their homes. Why? Because this is not from the methodology of the Sahābah.
And before them when Al-Imām Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) was asked in the nineties, he forbade these demonstrations as did Shaikhs Ibn Uthaimeen and Al-Albānī. Those who participate in public protests, sit-ins and marches have opposed the Sunnah in bringing about rectification in society and they have opposed the way of the Salaf. Allāh said in Sūrat an-Nūr, verse 63:
“Let those beware who oppose the command of the Messenger of Allāh that they may be overtaken by a calamity or that they may be punished with severe punishment.”
So this is the result when the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is opposed and contradicted — the result is calamity and tribulation.
The heads of Ahlul-Bid’ah sat in their homes, and in their hideouts throughout the country and they sent out Tweets, Facebook Messages and WhatsApp broadcasts encouraging Egyptians to take to the streets. So they sit in their homes in comfort whilst the butcher, the baker, the nurse and the car mechanic are marching in the streets facing armed police and bullets because they have been told by these innovators that it is a form of Jihad and forbidding evil. Today, it is the children of the teacher, the butcher, the baker, the nurse and the mechanic who are suffering in Syria and elsewhere.
Look at the landscape of countries like Syria and Libya before the demonstrations and look at them today. And look where the demonstrations led them in Tunisia; how they opened the doors for the people of Takfīr and the terrorists. In every place, the only people who benefited from this societal upheaval are the wrongdoers, transgressors, the opposers of the Sunnah and the Truth. This is where your demonstrations led you!
As for boycotting goods, then that is not in your hands. The boycotting of a product from a particular land or a particular people is for the rulers to decide, not for you to decide. If the scholars of a Muslim country advise the Muslim ruler that such-and-such a product must be boycotted, or such-and-such country should not be cooperated with, then the Muslim ruler has the right to do that, if he sees a benefit for the Muslims in that.
Take the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who, since the inception of the state of the Jews, until this day have had no diplomatic ties with them, and virtually no trade links. So this is for the rulers to decide, not for you Muslim ‘social justice warriors’ in London, or Tobago, or Trinidad, or Jamaica, or Washington DC, or New York. You cannot sit in your apartment flat and issue fatāwā that you cannot buy such-and-such products, or you cannot shop in certain supermarkets. Who gave you the right to issue such fatāwā? We mentioned that the right of giving fatāwā is with the ‘ulamā’. And even the ‘ulamā’ cannot pass a ruling upon all of the people for boycotting goods except with the permission of the Muslim ruler.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not forbid trading with the enemy. In fact, there’s a chapter in Sahīh al-Bukhārī, “Buying and selling with the mushrikīn and with the enemies of war”. In this chapter there is found the following hadīth: ‘Abd ar-Rahmān ibn Abī Bakr said: “We were with the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when a tall pagan (mushrik) with long matted and unkempt hair came driving his sheep. So the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Are those sheep for sale or are they gifts?’ The pagan said: ‘They are for sale.’ So the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) bought one from him.”
This understanding is from Bukhārī and he placed this hadīth in his chapter with the heading: “Buying and selling with the mushrikīn and with the enemies of war.”
Ibn Hajr al-Asqalāni (rahimahullāh) in his Fathul-Bāri the explanation of Saheeh al-Bukhārī said (vol. 4, pp. 478-479): Ibn Battāl said: “Having dealings and trading with the Kuffār is permissible except that it is not permitted to sell to the enemies in war, a product which can be used by them against the Muslims.” In it is a permissibility to buy the merchandise of the disbeliever, and an affirmation that he owns what is in his hand. Also that it is allowed to accept a gift from him.
Shaykh al-Fawzān (hafidhahullāh) was asked about what was printed in some of the newspapers, where some of the people of agitation claimed that all US goods should be boycotted on the basis that USA supports Israel. And it was claimed that this verdict was issued by the scholars. And it was mentioned that the one who purchases these goods has committed a major sin on the basis that the purchase of these goods aids the Jews in fighting and killing Muslims. So Shaykh al-Fawzān (hafidhahullāh) answered robustly, asking for proofs that such a verdict was issued by the true scholars. So he said that it is not true that such a fatwa was issued. The scholars have not issued a verdict that the goods of the Americans are to be boycotted — and their goods have not ceased being purchased in the marketplaces of the Muslims. And the purchase of these goods cannot be prevented unless it is a command given by the Muslim ruler of the land. So if the ruler issues such a command, forbidding the purchase of products of certain countries, then it is obligatory to obey the ruler.
As for individuals calling to these boycotts, issuing fatāwā, then that is not permitted for them. Even I have received by WhatsApp, and I am sure many of you have seen these too: “Avoid and boycott all of the following products” and they will list maybe twenty or thirty supermarkets, and high street stores and companies! This is foolishness, ignorance and folly — with what right are they issuing these fatāwā?!
If Muslims are oppressed, then take the advice of Shaykh al-Albānī (rahimahullāh), take the advice of Shaykh Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh), take the advice of Shaykh al-Fawzān (rahimahullāh). If the Muslims are suffering in their lands, then aid them.
If they are being oppressed, do not throw further fuel on the fire. Aid them by sending medical aid, or food and clothing, or by sending them money so they can rebuild their lives and homes. Make du’ā’ for them and educate them. And advise people not to protest and march. Look at what happened in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, ‘Irāq and Yemen. Do not follow their path! If you are thinking about doing that in your country, then fear for your Religion, your family and your children. Do not slaughter your own children with your own hands by causing upheaval in the land. Make du’ā’ for the rulers, rectify your societies, study the Religion of Allāh, rectify your ‘Aqīdah, stop sinning, avoid the major sins, stop fornicating, stop listening to music, stop watching pornography, pray your five daily prayers, study Kitāb at-Tawhīd, learn your belief — and Allāh will give you victory. It is not in your hands, it is in the Hands of Allāh. Work righteous deeds, follow the Sunnah, abandon Bid’ah, leave the innovated groups, follow the path of the Salaf, follow ad-Da’wah as-Salafiyyah!
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “When you partake in interest, and hold on to the tails of cattle, and are satisfied with cultivation and abandon Jihād in the Path of Allāh, then Allah will send down His humiliation on you, and He will not remove it until you return back to your Religion.” So, Allāh’s Messenger said: “…until you return back to your religion.” Return back to your religion and Allāh will give you victory, and Allāh will remove the humiliation. When the Muslims sin, when they partake in sinful acts, when they imitate the kuffār, and they fuel the fitnah by rebelling against the Muslim ruler because he is a tyrant; then they will bring humiliation on themselves.
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) forbade rebelling against the rulers and marching against the rulers, all of this is forbidden. He even forbade you from speaking out against them. The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “If you see something from your ruler that you hate, then do not speak about it publicly.” He is commanding you — so do you want to follow him, or do you want to follow your desires? If you see something from your ruler that you hate, then do not make that public. I did not command it, the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) commanded it in this authentic hadīth.
That is why we say, do not take from Ahl al-Bid’ah, because Ahl al-Bid’ah rely on their ‘aql (intellect), or their hawā (desires), or their emotions, or their love of leadership and authority. So you find some of them saying that this hadīth does not make any sense to them, so they abandon it. They follow their intellects and abandon the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) — and they say: “We cannot follow these texts because our hearts and our anger and our desire for revenge does not allow us follow these hadīths.”
So say to them: Don’t follow the Prophet then! Follow your hawā and abandon the Messenger of Allāh (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), but do not claim that you are working for Islām, and for the benefit of the Muslim Ummah!
Ibn Baz explained that when the fitnah (trial and discord) occurred in the time of ‘Uthmān, some people said to Usāmah bin Zayd , ‘Will you not speak to ‘Uthmān?’ So he said, ‘Do you think that I have not spoken to him, just because you have not heard it from me? Verily I will speak to him concerning what is between him and me, without opening a door which I would not like to be the first to open.’ So when the Khawarij opened it, much evil occurred in the time of ‘Uthmān. They opposed ‘Uthmān openly, thus causing tribulation, fighting and corruption, which has not ceased to affect the people to this day.
What do our detractors mean when they say we do not stand up against oppression!? Those who accuse us and then create tribulation in Muslim societies through street demonstrations, they are the oppressors in truth. They oppress other Muslims, they oppress the rulers, they oppress ahlus-Sunnah and they wrong themselves. Do they really believe that the Salafīs do not stand up for justice because we do not go out marching and shouting in the streets?!
We say to the Muslims, when fitnah strikes, stay in your homes. If you had stayed in your homes in Syria, if you had stayed in your homes in Egypt, if you had stayed in your homes in Tunisia, and in ‘Irāq, and in Yemen and in other places, maybe Allāh (subhānahū wa ta’ālā) would have given you better. You cannot rectify affairs by opposing the Sunnah. Imam Malik stated, “The latter part of this Ummah will not be rectified except by that which rectified its earliest part.” Meaning, look to the way of Allah’s Messenger and his Companions, and in that you will find the solution and salvation from fitan.
Now you Muslims have an opportunity to learn from these recent tribulations. Do not be deceived by those misguided ones who say, “Why don’t hear the Salafīs speak against the rulers? Why don’t the Salafīs march in the streets?” Say to them: If you had followed the Salafīs, you would not be facing the afflictions and tribulations in your countries. Those Khawārij and Rāfidah are rejoicing that the Muslim Ummah is burning and that Muslim nations are falling apart, they are over-joyed!
Many western countries insisted that the discontented people in Muslim countries be allowed to protest on the streets in the name of establishing freedom and democracy. What democracy have they achieved?! Muslims lands are drenched with the blood of their own people.
The methodology of success lies in Tasfiyah (purification of the religion from false beliefs and practices) and Tarbiyah (cultivation of the Muslims upon the religion as it was in the time of Prophethood). When the Muslim Ummah begins to realise that, they will attain Allah’s aid. Shaykh al-Albānī used to say that to the people fifty years ago, when he told the Palestinians to adopt the Manhaj of Tasfiyah and Tarbiyah, not the Manhaj of throwing stones at tanks and terrorism.
Just like when the very early Muslims were being oppressed in Makkah, they worshipped Allah alone, followed their Prophet as they were commanded, held to the correct ‘aqeedah, and Allāh gave them a way out — and Allāh gave them victory after victory after victory. Not because they were throwing stones, not because they were waving placards but because they were worshipping Allāh, performing righteous deeds, calling to good, calling to Tawhīd, inviting people to Islām, cultivating their children upon that, strengthening their Imān — and Allāh opened doors for them — such that within a hundred years after the passing away of the Prophet, the Muslims were walking in the streets of Spain. Imagine, within a hundred years, from the desert they were now walking through Western Europe.
This is Tasfiyah and Tarbiyah that we call the people to ― purification and cultivation. Purification of the religion from falsehood, innovation, shirk, kufr and alien practices. And then to cultivate the present and upcoming generations upon the way of the Sahābah, worshipping Allāh with pious deeds, avoiding sins and uniting our communities upon the truth.
So this is my answer to that question. May Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) guide the Ummah of Muhammad (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
(Based on a transcription by Umm Hidāyah from a question and answer session with Masjid Abdullāh Ibn ‘Abbās, Tobago (Mpubs) in the Caribbean, Ramadān 1439H, June 2018CE)