The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him forewarned us that the era prior to the advent of the Dajjāl would be characterised by years of deception and treachery. This is exemplified by the alliances which are often made with the enemies of Islam, bringing the topic of allegiance to the fore. To provide cover and justify the crimes of modern-day dictatorships, some have bizarrely argued that the allying with the enemies of Islam, arising from the political expediency of the ruler, isn’t essentially problematic because it is not accompanied with ‘loving them.’ Yet the explicit text of the Qur’ān provides rebuttal to such an absurdity. It is not merely a trivial matter, nor simply one relating to acts of political expediency, but rather it is a grave matter: drawing the line between al-‘Imān (faith, belief) and kufr (disbelief).
Nature of allegiance
An explanation of allegiance through the lens of the Islamic texts is a far cry from how allegiance is thought of or even operationalised in the contemporary political era. Despite having cast the notion of a ‘divine right of kings’ to the textbooks of history, Europe, and the West more generally, have placed that notion of a ‘divine right’ within the apparatus of the modern nation state. As ‘Leviathan’ the state is all encompassing, encroaching into every aspect of life, whether that be through the issuance of regulations governing behaviour to mass surveillance instituted under many deceptive guises.
Within lands where the populace is predominately Muslim, the political trajectory since the formal end of colonialism has followed that of the West. Allegiance is primarily from birth-right into the constructed state. The idea of Islam remains, but as a vague notion, either just mentioned as the ‘religion of the majority,’ or something which political elites may at times give lip service to, while keeping public policy firmly in line their overlords upon a non-Islamic basis. Citizenship in Muslim lands rests often upon ethnicity, birth within the territorial state boundaries (or birth outside them to parents descending from that lineage) and the like. It is not singularly constructed upon an Islamic basis, namely with allegiance to Allah, His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) and the community of believers.
Rather than limit the idea of allegiance to only a spiritual notion, as some would actively welcome, the Islamic texts outline specific parameters of what constitutes allegiance and where it ultimately resides. It is not a matter of dispute that true belief will only be obtained when one loves the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, more than anything else. That is well known, often cited routinely at Friday prayers. It is outlined in the famous authentic tradition to be found in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim:
حدثنا محمد بن المثنى وابن بشار قالا حدثنا محمد بن جعفر حدثنا شعبة قال سمعت قتادة يحدث عن أنس بن مالك قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لا يؤمن أحدكم حتى أكون أحب إليه من ولده ووالده والناس أجمعين
Muḥammad ibn al-Muthana and Ibn Bashār narrated to us, they said Muḥammad ibn Ja’far narrated to us Shu’ba narrated to us, he said I heard Qatādah narrate from Anas ibn Mālik, he said the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said:
None of you (truly) believes until I am considered dearer to him than his child, his father and the whole of mankind.
Textually, the nature of allegiance in Islam is very clear: it is allegiance to Allah, His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) and the community of believers. This is set out explicitly in many verses of the Qur’ān, which include the following:
والمؤمنون والمؤمنات بعضهم أولياء بعض يأمرون بالمعروف وينهون عن المنكر ويقيمون الصلاة ويؤتون الزكاة ويطيعون الله ورسوله أولئك سيرحمهم الله إن الله عزيز حكيم
The believers, both men and women, are allies unto one another; they order what is right and forbid what is wrong; they keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; they obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will give His mercy to such people: Allah is almighty and wise.
[Qur’ān 9: 71]
إنما وليكم الله ورسوله والذين آمنوا الذين يقيمون الصلاة ويؤتون الزكاة وهم راكعون
ومن يتول الله ورسوله والذين آمنوا فإن حزب الله هم الغالبون
Your true allies are Allah, His Messenger, and the believers– those who keep up the prayer, pay the prescribed alms, and bow down in worship. Those who turn for protection to Allah, His Messenger, and the believers [are the party of Allah]: The party of Allah is sure to triumph.
[Qur’ān, 5: 55/56]
High treason: allying with the enemy
Explicit censure is set out in the Qur’ānic text concerning allying with the kuffār – the disbelievers, the enemies of Islam. It is not a minor or trivial matter, but one which is grave, as will be seen.
لا يتخذ المؤمنون الكافرين أولياء من دون المؤمنين ومن يفعل ذلك فليس من الله في شيء إلا أن تتقوا منهم تقاة ويحذركم الله نفسه وإلى الله المصير
The believers should not make the disbelievers their allies rather than other believers– anyone who does such a thing will isolate himself completely from Allah – except when you need to protect yourselves from them. Allah warns you to beware of Him: the Final Return is to Allah.
[Qur’ān, 3: 28]
The famous classical musfassir (exegete) Abu Ja’far Muḥammad ibn Jarir al-Ṭabari provides a lucid commentary upon this verse in his Tafsir [Vol. 5, pp. 315/316], noting the unequivocal prohibition, in addition to the trajectory of disavowal should that alliance be made.
Concerning the interpretation of the verse, Abu Ja’far said: And this is a prohibition from Allah the almighty to the believers not to take the unbelievers (al-kuffār) as helpers, supporters and allies. For that reason, there is a break in the word ‘Yattakhidh’ because it is in a position where emphasis is placed on the prohibition…
And the meaning of that is for the believes not to take, ‘la tatakhidhu,’ [لا تتخذوا] the unbelievers as backers and supporters, by supporting them in their Deen and helping them against the Muslims, instead of helping the believers, and by showing them the defects of the Muslims. Whoever does such a thing ‘will isolate himself completely from Allah.’
(What is) meant by that, the one doing so has disavowed (bara’) themselves from Allah; and Allah disavows them, due to this apostasy from the Deen and entry into disbelief (kufr). (Regarding) ‘Except when you need to protect yourselves from them,’ (this means) unless you fall under their authority and fear for yourself. In that case, you would show them loyalty with your tongues and hide enmity, but you do not support them in their disbelief (kufr), and you do not help them against any Muslim with any deed.
In another verse of the same Surah, Allah the exalted further states:
يا أيها الذين آمنوا لا تتخذوا بطانة من دونكم لا يألونكم خبالا ودوا ما عنتم قد بدت البغضاء من أفواههم وما تخفي صدورهم أكبر قد بينا لكم الآيات إن كنتم تعقلون
O you who believe, do not take for your intimates such outsiders as spare no effort to ruin you and want to see you suffer: their hatred is evident from their mouths, but what their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made Our revelations clear for you; will you not use your reason?
[Qur’ān, 3: 118]
Writing in his Tafsir, al-Qurṭubi, [Vol. 4, pp. 59/60, English translation] provides some greater explanation as to the nature of the word ‘intimates’ as it is found in the aforementioned verse. He writes:
The word ‘biṭānah’ (intimates) is a verbal noun used for both singular and plural. The ‘biṭānah’ of a man are his closest companions who have deep knowledge of his affairs. It is derived from ‘baṭn,’ the opposite of outward. ‘Spare no effort to ruin you,’ this means to corrupt you, meaning that they will spare no effort to corrupt you. Even if they do not fight you openly, they will not stop striving to deceive and betray you.
يا أيها الذين آمنوا لا تتخذوا الكافرين أولياء من دون المؤمنين أتريدون أن تجعلوا لله عليكم سلطانا مبينا
O you who believe, do not take the disbelievers as allies and protectors instead of the believers: do you want to offer Allah clear proof against you? [Qur’ān, 4: 144]
The commentary concerning this matter of allegiance doesn’t end there. Another Qur’ānic verse details the judgement for those undertaking the nefarious act of allying with the enemies of Islam.
يا أيها الذين آمنوا لا تتخذوا اليهود والنصارى أولياء بعضهم أولياء بعض ومن يتولهم منكم فإنه منهم إن الله لا يهدي القوم الظالمين
O you who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as allies, they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them – Allah does not guide such wrongdoers.
[Qur’ān, 5: 51]
Classical mufasireen (exegetes) like Imām al-Ṭabari [Tafsir Vol. 8, p.508], were alert to the wording utilised in the verse as well as its consequences.
Abu Ja’far said: That is to say, the almighty mentions by saying: ‘Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them.’ Whoever takes the Jews and the Christians as allies, instead of the believers, the person will then be one of them, i.e. one of the people of their Deen. That is because no one would take anybody as an ally except if he is pleased with him and with his Deen. And if he is pleased with him and with his Deen, he would have shown enmity to anyone who opposes him and shows discontent to him, and his judgement becomes of that judgment.
Commenting upon the same verse, Ibn Kathir says the following in his acclaimed Tafsir [Vol. 3, p. 132]:
Allah forbids his believing servants from having Jews and Christians as allies, because they are the enemies of Islam and its people, may Allah destroy them. Allah then states that they are allies of each other and He gives a warning threat to those who do this ‘anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them.’
‘And you see those in whose hearts there is a disease,’ [5: 52] That is, a disease of doubt, hesitation and hypocrisy, ‘hastening towards them,’ meaning, they rush to offer their allegiance in secret and in public, saying: ‘We fear lest some misfortune or a disaster may befall us.’ They thus offer this excuse for their friendship and allegiance to the disbelievers, saying that they fear that the disbelievers might defeat the Muslims, so they want to be in favour with the Jews and Christians, to use this favour for their benefit in that eventuality.
Ibn Ḥazm is more direct in wording, shrewdly observing the line between al-‘Imān and kufr. In al-Muḥalla [Vol. 12, Issue 2174, p. 33] he observes that the verse confirms that this is an act which makes one exit from the Deen altogether. A matter, in fact belonging to the realm of ijmā’ (consensus) upon which there is no disagreement. It is pity that those loudest in using the term ijmā’ are not more forthcoming upon this particular point. He writes:
It is true the statement of Allah the exalted: ‘Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them.’ Indeed, from the apparent (and obvious meaning of the text), that he (by doing so) is a kāfir (disbeliever) from among the group of kuffār only. And this is a truth that no two Muslims have disagreed about.
Elsewhere in al-Muḥalla [Vol. 12, Issue 2202, p. 125], after citation of the verse – ‘The believers, both men and women, are allies unto one another’ [Qur’ān 9: 71], Ibn Ḥazm furnishes us with a masterful analytical comment:
Abu Muḥammad said: It is authentically established that whoever enters dar al-kufr (domain of disbelief) by his own choice with the intention of fighting his fellow Muslim, the person will be considered as a murtad (apostate) by doing such an act. He will have all the judgements related to that of an apostate, such as execution whenever possible, the permissibility of his wealth to be in the possession of the public treasury and dissolution of his marriage, etc. because the Messenger of Allah is not responsible for the Muslim that did not remain.
As for the one who fled to the land of war due to an injustice that he feared, and did not fight the Muslims, nor helped them, and did not find among the Muslims anyone to protect him, then this does not have to do with him because he is under compulsion.
Admittedly, Ibn Ḥazm is writing from the vantage point of there being in existence a ‘dar al-Islam’ (political domain of Islam). The first portion of the acts being described relate to leaving ‘dar al-Islam’ and defecting to enemy territory, thereby renouncing the bayah’ to that lawfully constituted Islamic authority. That is accompanied with engaging in hostile acts against the Muslims. While ‘dar al-Islam’ is not yet a political reality which we have today, the latter points certainly are: joining, supporting and allying to the enemies of Islam against the Muslims. In modern political parlance, this is aptly termed high treason. Even engagement in acts other than war, if done in support of the kuffār, aided to give them the upper hand or help against the Muslims, would fall within scope here. Spying, would be a notable example of this.
Of all the problems facing the Muslim Ummah, the centrality of the topic of allegiance can at times be overlooked. It is though often brought back into perspective when the common man or woman witnesses the actions of the political elites or their sycophants openly allying with the enemies of Islam, whether that be with a vicious Zionist occupier, or via military alliances like NATO.
Waiting statically for the situation to change for the better though is not going to produce anything of benefit. Nor for that matter, will it obviate any of the blame with the rising tide of evil that engulfs us. A seismic shift in conceptual understanding is required. It is up to us all to be part of that shift, to reiterate the textual evidences, with the intention of standing as witnesses for justice, and perhaps, just provide a small help to take this Ummah out of the dire situation it presently finds itself in.
لا تجد قوما يؤمنون بالله واليوم الآخر يوادون من حاد الله ورسوله ولو كانوا آباءهم أو أبناءهم أو إخوانهم أو عشيرتهم أولئك كتب في قلوبهم الإيمان وأيدهم بروح منه ويدخلهم جنات تجري من تحتها الأنهار خالدين فيها رضي الله عنهم ورضوا عنه أولئك حزب الله ألا إن حزب الله هم المفلحون
You will not find people who truly believe in Allah and the Last Day giving their loyalty to those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even though they may be their fathers, sons, brothers, or other relations: these are the people in whose hearts Allah has inscribed faith, and whom He has strengthened with His spirit. He will let them enter Gardens graced with flowing streams, where they will reside; Allah is well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are on Allah’s side, and Allah’s side will be the one to prosper.
[Qur’ān, 58: 22]