The Misconception That the Muslim Ruler Apostates by Assisting the Disbelievers against the Muslims

This is a misconception oft-repeated by extremists who desire to justify their heinous actions and warrant the crimes they commit, and to pull unintelligent and highly emotional youth into their ranks. They run around saying that the Muslim leaders have apostated by aiding the disbelievers against the Muslims and, therefore, it is mandatory to fight and kill them and all those who stand with them.

Does aiding the disbelievers against the Muslims actually, and unconditionally, remove someone from the fold of Islam or is the issue a bit more complex than that? We shall delve into this matter in the following points:

Firstly, declaring the apostasy of a Muslim is a legal ruling and no one is allowed to make such a ruling except the scholars who are well-grounded in their knowledge. Islamic legal rulings are based upon scriptural evidence, not desires, preferences, or emotions. Anyone desiring to issue a legal ruling must be known by the scholars for his knowledge and they must testify to his knowledge and to the scriptural evidence he brings forth. On the other hand, what right does someone not known to be a person of knowledge, who hasn’t even mastered the basics of Islamic knowledge, have to take on such serious issues?

Secondly, before the ruling of apostasy can be made on a Muslim, he must vocalize the misconceptions he holds, they must be clarified to him in detail, and the proof must be established against him. This is what the scholars refer to as “the presence of prerequisites and the absence of objections.” The rule of “innocent until proven guilty” applies to each Muslim when suspected of apostasy. It is only certainty that makes a person enter the fold of Islam and we cannot judge that they have left the fold of Islam unless we are absolutely certain. On the other hand, applying broad generalizations in specific situations and spreading rumors are not correct methods for determining someone’s apostasy, and certainly are not methods used by the scholars.

Thirdly, the scholars mutually agree that aiding a disbeliever against a Muslim is not something which unconditionally nullifies one’s Islam. The most explicit evidence proving this is none other than the Hadith which the extremists use to prove their case: the Hadith of Haatib (may Allah be pleased with him) which is recorded in the two Sahihs (Bukhari and Muslim). The Hadith proves that Haatib did not apostate because apostasy nullifies one’s good deeds and, had he done so, he would have nullified the good deed he earned by fighting in the Battle of Badr and this good deed would have been to no avail in interceding for him. Allah the Exalted informed that polytheism nullifies prophecy – which is an even greater deed than Haatib’s fighting in Badr – when He said to His Prophet (may His peace and blessings be upon him), “If you join others in worship with Allah, (then) surely, (all) your deeds will be in vain, and you will certainly be among the losers.” (Surah Az-Zumar 39:65) And since Haatib’s deeds were not nullified, this proves that what he did was merely a sin, which can be wiped away with good deeds, and one of his many good deeds was fighting in Badr (may Allah be pleased with him).

Fourthly, those who claim the Muslim leaders have apostated claim so on the basis of them befriending the disbelievers. This matter must be explained in a bit of detail. There is not just one form of befriending the disbelievers; rather, there are many forms and they differ according the way of doing so and the reason for doing so. What the extremists mean by “aiding the disbelievers” is: causing Islam to be defeated; helping the disbelievers overpower the Muslims; and rejoicing at the victory of the false religion of the disbelievers. There is no doubt, and the scholars all agree, that anyone who does these things does, indeed, apostate because his sin is a religious one.

On the other hand, befriending someone for the purpose of some worldly gain is not considered apostasy, as many of the greatest and most intelligent scholars in Islamic history have clarified. Imam Shafi’ee – may Allah have mercy on him – said in his book Al-Umm (4/249), “Leading others to the weak points of a Muslim or aiding a disbeliever by warning him that some Muslims wish to deceive him so that he may beware of them or harm them first is not blatant apostasy.” And Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah – may Allah have mercy on him – said in Majmoo’ Al-Fataawa (7/522-523):

“A man may feel some love for them due to family ties with them or some other reason, and this is a sin which decreases his Iman; he does not, however, apostate due to this. This was the case with Haatib Ibn Abee Balta’ah when he wrote to the polytheists providing them with some information about the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), and it was concerning this that Allah revealed his statement, ‘O you who believe! Take not My enemies and your enemies (i.e. disbelievers and polytheists) as friends, showing affection towards them…’ (Surah Al-Mumtahanah 60:1) This was also similar to the case of Sa’d Ibn Ubaadah when he defended Ibn Ubay in the incident of Al-Ifk [when some hypocrites slandered A’ishah – the beloved wife of the Prophet (may Allah send peace and blessings upon him and be pleased with her) – accusing her of adultery]. He said to Sa’d Ibn Mu’az, ‘I swear by Allah, you have told a lie. You will not and cannot kill him.’ A’ishah said, ‘Before that he was a righteous man but his pride overcame him.’ And it was due to this misconception that Umar called Haatib a hypocrite when he said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, let me strike the neck of that hypocrite.’ He replied, ‘Indeed, he fought in Badr.’ So Umar considered him a hypocrite due to the suspicious action he had taken. Another similar case was when Usaid Ibn Hudair said to Sa’d Ibn Ubaadah, ‘By Allah, you have told a lie and you are nothing other than a hypocrite who argues on behalf of the hypocrites.’ Yet another similar case was when some of the Companions called Maalik Ibn Ad-Dakhsham a hypocrite when they saw him associating with the hypocrites and showing affection toward them.”

Ibn Kathir – may Allah have mercy on him – said in his Tasfeer (4/410):

“Allah’s Messenger – may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him – accepted Haatib’s excuse when he mentioned that he only took this action with Quraysh to get on their good side because he had left behind a lot of wealth and children with them.”

Sheikh Abdul-Latif Ibn Abdur-Rahman Ibn Hassan – may Allah have mercy upon him – said in his work Ar-Rasaa’il wa Al-Masaa’il An-Najdiyyah (3/9-10):

“Haatib was one of those being addressed with the title of Iman, and he was described with it, and he was also one of those being addressed with the general prohibition, although he was the specific reason for the verse’s revelation. The noble verse implies that Haatib’s action was a form of befriending them and that he had shown a strong affinity toward them. Had he done this, he would have strayed far from the [correct] path. However, the statement [of the Prophet – may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him], ‘He has told you the truth; leave him alone,’ is a clear indication that he did not apostate as he had a firm and unwavering belief in Allah and His Messenger. He only took his action for a worldly gain. Had he apostated by doing so, [the Prophet – may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] would not have said, ‘leave him alone.’ And it should not be said that the only thing preventing Haatib’s apostasy was the statement of the Prophet – may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him – to Umar, ‘And what can make you know that perhaps Allah told about the people of Badr saying: ‘Do as you wish as I have forgiven you.’[?]’ This is because, had he apostated, he would have had no good deeds remaining to prevent him from falling into disbelief and all of its implications would have applied to him. Disbelief nullifies all previous good deeds, as Allah the Exalted says, ‘And whosoever disbelieves in Faith, then fruitless is his work.’ [Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:5] Allah also says, ‘But if they had joined in worship others with Allah, all that they used to do would have been of no benefit to them.’ [Surah Al-An’am 6:88] So this should not be assumed because the consensus of the scholars is that disbelief nullifies both one’s good deeds as well as his faith. Regarding Allah’s statement, ‘And if any amongst you takes them as Auliya (friends, protectors, helpers), then surely he is one of them,’ [Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:51] and His statement, ‘You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, making friendship with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger…’ [Surah Al-Mujadilah 58:22] and His statement, ‘O you who believe! Take not as Auliya (protectors and helpers) those who take your religion as a mockery and fun from among those who received the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before you, and nor from among the disbelievers; and fear Allah if you are indeed true believers,’ [Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:57] the Sunnah has clarified that this only refers to total and unconditional befriending. The core meaning of ‘befriending’ mentioned in these verses refers to love, support and companionship. However, there are many other degrees of befriending which are less sinful. And this is something our Predecessors, those well-grounded in knowledge from amongst the Sahaabah and the Taabi’een, have explained concerning this issue and others…”

Through reading the abovementioned quotes, and many others, it becomes clear that there is not just one way of befriending the disbelievers; rather there are many, which depend on the circumstances and the reasons for doing so. The case is not as the extremists claim: that merely befriending them in any way, shape, or form is apostasy and that anyone who does so deserves to be killed.

Fifthly, anyone guilty of the ‘befriending’ which actually is apostasy must have the proof established against him before the punishment of apostasy can ever be carried out on him, and carrying out such punishments is the job of the Muslim leaders. Have those extremists established the proof against the Muslim leaders, assuming that they did actually apostate??!! Or are they themselves leaders to whom the Muslims have pledged allegiance, which gives them the right to carry out the punishments of Islamic Law on those who have transgressed them??!!