By Mufti Rafi Usmani
Can Citizens Take Law Into Their Own Hands When the Authorities Don’t Do Their Job?
Posted by [shaikh] Faraz Rabbani, SunniPath Academy Teacher on March 30th, 2007
This question has come up from a host of recent events, including the attention-grabbing attack on a brothel by female madrassa students in Islamabad.
Mufti Rafi Usmani talked about this in his Friday prayer sermon, lamenting that this is a manifestation of the tribulations (fitan) that we are accosted with in our times. We are seeing that common people are fed up of the inaction, irresponsibility, ineptitude, and corruption of government and law-enforcement agencies; and they are taking matters into their own hands.
He also mentioned that many leading scholars went in person–in previous actions of these female madrassa students, in which they took over a children’s library–advising them that their actions were not Islamic, and that they need to change their course of conduct. However, in their zeal, they refused to listen to the scholars’ advice.
Mufti Rafi Usmani said that that these students–like others–are probably sincere. But sincerity alone is not enough for actions to be acceptable. Rather, for actions to be acceptable, they have to be in accordance to the limits of the Shariah–and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) lived within the limits of the law and urged the believers to live within the limits of the law at all times.
Situations such as this, the shaykh said, are very dangerous, because Islam is a religion of law, and it commands its followers to abide by the and to remain within its limits. When there are problems with the government, its laws, or the enforcement of those laws, then it is a believer’s duty to take all legal means possible to seek to rectify matters. But one cannot take the law into one’s own hand, as this is contrary to the Shariah and a recipe for lawlessness, crime, and vigilantism–and it creates very dangerous precendents. This is a case of one problem being dealt with in ways that create many other problems.
Mufti Rafi Usmani said that this and similar situations that we face in our times remind him of the Prophetic hadith,
“Hasten to good works before tribulations like the layers of darkness of dark nights…” [Reported by Muslim]
He closed with advice to make much supplication with the Prophetic supplication for times of trial: “O Allah, I seek refuge in you from tribulations, both manifest and hidden.” [Reported Ahmad from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him); rigorously authentic]
[Allahumma innee a`udhu bika mina’l fitani ma dhahara minha wa ma batan]
اللهم اني أعوذ بك من الفتن ما ظهر منها وما بطن
And Allah alone gives success.
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