Are judgements only for God?

Tahrir and similar groups, like the Khawarij before them, take their slogan ‘no rule but God’s rule’ from the saying of Prophet Yusuf (pbuh) which is narrated in the Quran:

You worship besides Him only names which you have named (forged), you and your fathers – for which Allah has sent down no authority. The judgement/rule (hukm) is for none but Allah. He has commanded that you worship none but Him: that is the straight religion, but most men know not. [12: 40]

When Ibn Abbas – the famous companion, relative of the Prophet (pbuh), and gifted commentator on the Quran – was addressed by the Khawarij with the slogan ‘no rule but God’s rule’, he said:

Indeed, you are correct, there is no rule but God’s rule, and it was God that delegated ruling (hakkama) to people in marital discord, as it was God who delegated ruling to people in disputes. Know that if God had willed he would have ruled, and not left it to people… Therefore God has made the rule of men a protected sunnah.[1]

Imam Ali, the first man to accept Islam, the cousin of the Prophet (pbuh), and the fourth Caliph, explained the same point in eloquent words to the same group:

We did not delegate judgement (tahkim) to men, but delegated it to the Quran. Yet this Quran is only lines between two covers. It does not speak with a tongue but it requires an interpreter and so men speak on its behalf![2]

We can see that those most acquainted with the religion had no such problem of speaking about the rule of people or the rule of men. In fact they faced the opposite problem and were reluctant to use the phrase ‘God’s judgement’ at all.It would be a strange situation if the shallow use of verses by extremists was not critiqued, especially as there are clear examples of a rejection of such views by some of the most prominent companions of the Prophet (pbuh) from the early Islamic period.

We can see that in Islamic history the attitude towards rationality and man’s rule was different to the attitude presented by the extremists today. Imam Abd al-Karim Shahrastani[3] said ‘Those who believe in religious laws do also believe in the rational laws, but the reverse is not true.’[4] The assertion made is that those who follow divine religions, Muslims included, do not (and should not) reject what is rational or intelligent opinion out of hand. Imam al-Izz ibn Abdul Salam[5] elaborated in explaining how the rules of Islam are on the whole rational and seek human interests in this world. The rules of religious rituals, which are extremely few in number, are an exception to this and may defy rationalisation.[6]

Modern day scholars have echoed this and explained that the rational rules implemented in governance are to be followed and are not in conflict with the religion. For example, Sheikh Bin Bayyah[7] in his fatwa about using the courts in western countries[8] to resolve disputes, seek divorce and seek rights in general, explains the rational necessity of following these rules:

This is because when such a Muslim undertakes such a contract of marriage, he does so in a way that is in harmony with the laws (of that country) other than the Islamic rules… this necessitates that he accepts the consequences, a part of which are: this contract cannot be repudiated except by a judge… This is seen, from the perspective of the scholarly majority (jumhur), as being permitted in the Shariah. Namely delegating this to the Judge – be it by implication and not explicitly.

This is because of the fiqh principle which states ‘a well known custom is considered similar to a stipulated condition’ (maruf ‘urfan kal mashrut shartan).

Also, because executing laws, other than Islamic rules, is permitted [to] bring about interests (masalih) and deter harms (mafasid)… as is stated by more than one erudite scholar, including al-Izz ibn Abdul-Salam (of the Shafii school of law), Ibn Taymiyyah (of the Hanbali school), and Shatibi (of the Maliki school).[9]

The principle cited by Sheikh Bin Bayyah, namely ‘a well known custom is considered similar to a stipulated condition,’ is widely accepted among scholars. Ironically, it is also accepted by Tahrir. They have given a similar legal verdict[10] allowing the usage of secular courts to seek their rights – though in principle they reject them as ‘kufr’ along with democracy, human rights, and political participation. Tahrir have even used this point of view by attempting to claim their own political rights through the European Court in Strasbourg.[11]

Irrespective of theoretical disposition, it seems that nobody can argue with the rational necessity of accepting man’s law – not even the extremists. Moreover, we find that the classical Islamic view gives credence to this approach.


[1] As narrated by Imam al-Hakim in his Mustadrak ala Sahihayn vol. 2, p. 150 and cited by Ibn Qayyim and Ibn al-Jawzi and quoted from Sheikh Wahbah Zuhayli in his Athar al-Harb fil-Fiqh al-Islami, p. 763-764, Beirut – Dar el-Fikr, 3rd Edition, 1998.

[2] Cited by Sheikh Wahbah Zuhayli as above on p. 763.

[3] Tāj al-Dīn Abū al-Fath Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Karīm al-Shahrastānī (1086–1153) was an influential Persian historian of religions and heresiographer. His book, Kitab al-Milal wal-Nihal (lit. ‘The Book of Sects and Creeds’) was one of the pioneers in developing a scientific approach to the study of religion. Besides these, he was also a Shafii and Ashari scholar, philosopher and theologian.

[4] Muslim Sects and Divisions – The Section on Muslim Sects in Kitab al-Milal wa’l-Nihal Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Karim Shahrastani (d. 1153) translated by A. K. Kazi and J.G. Flynn Kegan Paul International published in 1984.

[5] Imam al-Izz ibn Abdul Salam (1181–1262) was a legal philosopher and imam in the Shafii madhab. He is often called the ‘Sultan of the Scholars’. He authored many works in jurisprudence, quran commentary, and fiqh but is probably best known for his masterwork on legal principles in Islam, Qawa’id al-ahkam fi masalih al-anam.

[6] al-Qawaid ul-Ahkam fi masalih ul-Anam, p. 13.

[7] Shaykh Abdallah bin Mahfudh ibn Bayyah (b. 1935) is a Mauritanian-born Maliki Islamic scholar and professor. He was born in Mauritania. Currently he teaches at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia.

[8] For an extended discussion of this subject please see

[9] The Ruling of seeking a Divorce from a non-Muslim Judge, pp. 358-9 of Sana’aat ul-Fatawa wa Fiqh ul-Aqaliyaat, Dar ul-Minhaj, Saudi Arabia.

[10] – which refers to the source as Abdul Qadeem Zalloom the former leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir. This was distributed in a booklet as a question and answer from Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK.



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