I’ve listened to The Sunni Traditionalists: Islam, People and Power Boxset podcast on BBC website and here is my thoughts:
First and foremost, it’s important to mention that our Scholars has the right to interpret the Qur’anic text depending on certain conditions they have to stick to. I.e. other verses from the Qur’an that talks about the same subject, the Sunnah of the Prophet – peace be upon him, the first companions opinions, etc. This point doesn’t mean that we have to follow every scholar and consider what he says as absolute.
It’s known that the Muslim communities have to “listen to and obey” their leaders and rulers. Ibn ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported the authentic hadith of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) that he said, “If a person notices in his ruler what he dislikes, he should show patience because he who departs from the (Muslim) community a cubit, dies like those who died in the Days of Ignorance.” But what if the ruler is oppressor? Or doesn’t fear Allah? Or doesn’t give the rights back to its people? Or kills those who talk and act against him?…
To a sound person, learning about this religious ruling without having people’s rights protected by a religious text seems unjust and not rational. “Listen and obey” rule is a general term to be applied in societies where leaders are impartial, just and concious of Allah. And because Islam is a complete religion, you also find the statement of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) after a person asking the Prophet (when he had just put his foot in the stirrup): “What is the highest form of Jihad?” He (pbuh) said, “Speaking the truth in the presence of a tyrant ruler”.
People will listen and obey as soon as their leaders are conscious of Allah, just to them, and applying what Allah the Almighty and Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) ordered. People has the right to speak out and change when they see wrong. This is what Omar (May Allah be pleased with him), the second Khalif, said to the people when he became the ruler. He told them to stop him when they see him doing anything wrong and to remind him of Allah. This has to be Muslims rulers slogan. Our current leader are not Omar and I hope that they can learn something from his biography. Most of our ‘leaders’ today, are unfortunately serving their own agenda and working for their and their groups interests.
To every leader, you will find those scholars who will support him – even if they do things that are not Islamic, and those who will stand against the wrong. This is what Prophet – peace be upon him – stated, “No Caliph is appointed but has two groups of advisors: One group advises him to do good and urges him to adopt it, and the other group advises him to do bad and urges him to adopt it; and the protected is the one whom Allah protects.”