ULIL AMR (THOSE IN AUTHORITY AMONG YOU) MEANS MULLAHS, MUFTIS AND IMAM etc ?
Millions of our Sunni brothers misunderstood the meaning of the Quranic phrase “obey Allah and obey messenger”. They believe “obey Allah” means “obey the Quran”, and “obey messenger” means “obey hadith”. Additionally, they added the Prophet’s name in the Quranic Shahadah and made him a live messenger of Allah. According to the Sunnis “authority among you” means Mullahs, Muftis and Imams.
Millions of our Shia brothers misunderstood the meaning of the Quranic phrase “obey Allah, and obey messenger and authority among you” of the Quranic verse 4:59. They find a special meaning of “Ulil Amr” in verse 4:59 as “Imamat”.
They believe, “obey authority among you” means “obey Imam”. They consider Caliph Ali as their Imam and added his name next to the Prophet’s name in the Quranic Shahadah.
[4:59] O you who believe, you shall obey ALLAH, and you shall obey the messenger, and those in authority among you. If you dispute in any matter, you shall refer it to ALLAH and the messenger, if you do believe in ALLAH and the Last Day. This is better for you, and provides you with the best solution.
Careful study of the Quran gives the correct understanding of “Ulil Amr” in the following verse:
[4:83] When a rumor that affects security comes their way, they spread it. Had they referred it to the messenger, and those in charge (Ulil Amr) among them, those who understand these matters would have informed them. If it were not for ALLAH’s grace towards you, and His mercy, you would have followed the devil, except a few.
‘Ulil Amr’ are simply those that have been charged with authority or have the responsibility to maintain the affairs of a society. In the context of revelation, this referred to those authorities entrusted at the time of the Prophet and in a wider sense after the death of the Prophet, it would refer to those that were chosen to govern by mutual consultation. The latter sentiment with regards mutual consultation is engrained in the Quran where by example, even the Prophet was asked to settle his societal affairs by consultation.
3:159 “It was by the mercy of Allah that you (Muhammad) were lenient with them, for if you had been rude and harsh of heart they would have dispersed from round about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult (Arabic: watamiru) among yourselves. And when you have decided, then put thy trust in Allah. Indeed! Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)”
During his ministry, the prophet retained ultimate command over his community before Allah. Therefore, believers were asked to obey the messenger and his final authority which amounted to obeying Allah. So any disputes that resulted would have been escalated back to the Prophet.
Today, we are required to fulfill our obligations whether they are personal or societal and we must respect the decision of those that are in authority. If we disagree, we must use due process to voice our concerns. Ultimately it is by Allah and His Book that believers should judge. If we cannot practice our religious beliefs in the society we live in under those that have authority over us, then we should be prepared to migrate. Migration particularly becomes obligatory if we are subjected to oppression on account of our religion (4:97).
The Prophet applied a ‘timeless’ Divine revelation, to ‘time specific’ circumstances and what resulted was a ‘time specific’ Sunnah. As those circumstances would not be present in ever changing societal landscapes and different cultures, it would be nonsensical to assert that the classical rulings would remain immutable. Only the timeless Divine guidance (i.e. Quran) remains immutable and must continue to remain the bedrock for judgment.
To assert the ‘Sunnah’ of the Prophet is binding on us today despite different circumstances is akin to asserting that the Prophet is also alive today with the 7th century circumstances of the environment he lived in.
Therefore, the premise and intended immutable application of the following bracketed statement (His Sunnah) is false.
“…But if there arises any disputes, then refer the dispute back to Allah (The Quran) and the Messenger (His Sunnah). Thus, we are commanded to obey the people who have authority amongst us, as long as they obey Allah and the Messenger. But if for any reason, these people who have authority amongst us, go against anything from the Quran and Sunnah, we are not to obey them in that thing at all…”
The paragraph takes no account of the context of the verse and assumes that all conditions are present today including the existence of the Prophet and his specific circumstances.
‘Ulil Amr’ are simply those that have been charged with authority or have the responsibility to maintain the affairs of a society.