While most Muslim governments in the world are secular and/or tribal-based, the rulers still feel the need to present themselves as being Islamically committed. The veneer of Islamicity is unfortunately provided by court clergy or what in Islamic terminology are referred to as ulama as-Soo.
Why do these rulers need such a veneer? They know that the vast majority of Muslims have a deep attachment to Islam even if they do not practice the deen fully or properly. Thus, the rulers need a retinue of court clergy that try to legitimize their acts irrespective of how illegitimate they may be from the Islamic point of view.
Consider the title of king that so many rulers in the Muslim world have adopted. Is there is any basis for kingship in Islam? There is no evidence in the Qur’an or the Prophetic Sunnah and Seerah to justify such titles. In Islamic history, kingship was forced upon the Ummah when the Khilafah, the system of government established by the rightly-guided successors of the Prophet (pbuh), was subverted. Thus, kingship was a deviation from the established Islamic rule of the khulafah.
It is quite revealing that today many Arabian rulers have their pet clergy, like their pet camel or canine. Some rulers have established centers allegedly promoting ‘peace’ (read that as passivity or docility) and inter-faith dialogue with the enemies of Allah, while others have forced shaykhs at established centers of learning to justify the rulers’ unjust acts or at the very least to keep quiet. Silence in the face of oppression amounts to acquiescence in such evil deeds.
In a well-known hadith, narrated by Khabbab ibn Al-Aratt, who said that he heard the Prophet (pbuh) say: “There will come, after me, rulers who will lie to you, and commit oppression among you. Whosoever believes their lies or helps them in their oppression is not of me and I am not of him and he will not come near my Kauthar (the fountain of life) on the Day of Judgement.’ (Musnad of Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Nasa’i).
There are other narrations that mention oppressive and deceitful rulers who will rule the Muslims. He warned the Ummah to not be overwhelmed by their power or be charmed by their wealth, nor to become their supporters or buy into their lies.
After quoting the above hadith in his master piece, Ahya al-Uloom, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali warns the Muslims of a particular type of clergy. He writes: “Do not seek advice and guidance from clergy that stand as supplicants in the courts of the rulers and kings. Instead, follow the advice of those ulama that shun the rulers.”
It is reasonable to assume that the court clergy serving illegitimate rulers today are aware of the above-quoted Prophetic hadith so why do they not abide by it? Instead, they try to pacify Muslims by telling them not to rebel against the rulers as long as they do not prevent you from performing Salat. The reason for the court clergy’s acquiescence in the un-Islamic and indeed anti-Islamic practices of the rulers is because they have been bribed with hefty sums.
There are also other perks. They are invited to international conferences to which they travel in business class. They are accommodated in executive suites at four-star hotels. The court clergy enter the conference hall as celebrities often followed by a retinue of hangers-on and groupies. The cult of personality has gone to their heads which is totally contrary to the Sunnah and Seerah of the Prophet (pbuh).
Let us also deal with the issue of the rulers not prohibiting Muslims from performing Salat. They have no need to do so because the rulers know that in the huge cathedral-type mosques they have built, Muslims can indulge in as much ritual as they want. The Jumuah Khutbah is handed to Imams from the Ministry of Religious Affairs in which only praise of the ruler is permitted. So, they face no threat from the minbar where anything critical of the ruler may be uttered.
Let us recall the famous episode when Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) was the Khalifah of the Muslims. He was publicly challenged in Masjid al-Nabawi as to why he was wearing a dress made from two pieces of cloth when everyone else was given one. His son Abdullah ibn Umar explained that he had given his share to his father because he was a tall man and one piece of cloth was not sufficient to make his dress.
On another occasion when it was suggested to Umar (ra) to appoint his son as his successor to be the Khalifah, his reply was forthright. “One Ibn al-Khattab is quite enough for this Ummah.” Today, when one Arabian ruler dies, his brother or son takes over. Surely, the court clergy are aware of the categorical rejection of Umar ibn al-Khattab’s nomination of his son as his successor? So, on what grounds do these court clergy continue to serve the illegitimate rulers?
Let us recount another hadith narrated in Bukhari and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:
“On the Day of Resurrection, a group of people will come to me, but they will be driven away from the Kauthar (the fountain of life). I will say, ‘O Lord those are from me!’ The divine reply will be: ‘You have no knowledge of what they committed after you left [the dunya]’.” These are people who sided with corruption and with liars and supported those who oppressed people. And then the Prophet (pbuh) commented: “Do not make me feel ashamed of you on that day” or, “Do not embarrass me on the Day of Judgement”.
We warn the court clergy: Beware of Allah’s retributive justice on the Day of Judgement from which there is no escape. You may enjoy a few perks in this life but that is a poor trade-off for what you will face on the Final Day.