A Hadeeth about what a Muslim should do during Fitnah (Civil strife)
Fatwa No: 38638

Question

Is the Hadeeth where the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (may Allaah exalt his mention), ordered a Muslim to be killed rather than be the killer authentic?
To whom did the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, say that and
on what occasion? What is the meaning of this Hadeeth and what is the lesson to be learnt?
Does this Hadeeth convey a general ruling?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

 

This Hadeeth was narrated on the authority of ‘Abdullaah ibn Khabbaab  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him who narrated it from his father Khabbaab  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him.  In the Hadeeth the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, mentioned that there would be fighting between Muslims and he commanded whoever witnesses it and finds himself obliged either to kill or be killed, to be the one killed rather than the killer.  [Ahmad and others] [Ibn Hajar and Al-Arnaa'oot: Saheeh (Authentic)]

This Hadeeth conveys the command of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to refrain from fighting when inter-fighting breaks out between Muslims.  Ash-Shawkaani  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that this Hadeeth indicates how dangerous Fitnah (and especially civil strife) is, and that it urges Muslims to avoid it and escape from it. It also warns Muslims against doing anything that may stir Fitnah up, because the more one is indulged in it, the graver its evil and influence on him.

However, scholars hold different opinions with regards to the Muslims’ stance on civil strife. The majority of scholars are of the opinion that a Muslim must side with the right. They build their opinion on the general evidence that signifies the obligation of siding with the oppressed and preventing an oppressor from practicing his oppression.  Nonetheless, refraining from being involved in the fight is only when the Muslim cannot distinguish  truth from falsehood.

Ash-Shawkaani  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him also mentioned that this Hadeeth proves the permissibility of leaving a conflict and considered that defending the soul and property in such a case is not obligatory.

Scholars also hold different opinions on this issue, some of them believe that a Muslim must not get involved in a fight between Muslims, even if he is attacked in his house with the aim of him being killed. In such a case it is impermissible for him to defend himself because those who want to kill him believe themselves to be right.  This was the opinion of the Companion Abu Bakrah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him and others.

On the other hand, Ibn ‘Amr and ‘Imraan ibn Al-Husayn  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  them in addition to others, believed that Muslims should not get involved in a fight between Muslims, but if anyone wants to kill him a person must defend himself. An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that the two opinions agree at least on the restraint from being involved in any fight taking place between Muslims.

With regards to the opinions of the righteous predecessors, Al-Qurtubi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that they had different opinions on this. Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqaas, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar, Muhammad ibn Maslamah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  them and others were of the opinion that a Muslim must refrain from fighting. Some of them believed that he must remain in his house, whereas others said that he must leave the land where the civil war is taking place. Moreover, some of them stated that he must refrain from fighting and must not defend himself, whereas others believed that he must defend himself and his family, and he is to be excused if he kills anyone or is killed in this context.

The majority of the Companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the Taabi‘is (their successors) were of the opinion that Muslims must support the right and fight aggressors.  This was also the opinion of An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him who added that this was the opinion of the majority of scholars, who built their stance on the verse where Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allaah.}[Quran 49:9]

An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that this is the sound opinion because if Muslims adopt the other opinion, corruption will be spread and aggressors will have the upper hand.  Then, he reported that some scholars mentioned in detail that if the two fighting parties have no Imaam (a ruler or a leader), then it is impermissible to get involved in the fight. However At-Tabari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that forbidding evil is obligatory on whoever can do it. Therefore, whoever supports the right party is right and vice versa.  Nevertheless, if a person is unable to distinguish between the right and wrong parties, then in this case fighting becomes prohibited.

Some scholars believe that the Hadeeths on this issue are confined to certain people and the ruling, which they convey, applies only to those people. Others believe that this prohibition applies only to the fighting that will take place at the end of time, when it will certainly be over authority. This is supported by a Hadeeth on the authority of Ibn Mas‘ood  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him where Waabisah ibn Ma‘bad  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him asked him when this would happen. He replied that these would be the days of killing when a person would not feel safe, even with his companion.  [Abu Daawood] This opinion, which is held by the majority of scholars, is supported by the verses where Allaah The Almighty Says (what means):

·        {So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you.}[Quran 2:194]   

·        {And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it.}[Quran 42:40]

Additionally, other verses and Hadeeths refer to the obligation of enjoining good and forbidding evil and there are Hadeeths that refer to the obligation of siding with the oppressed against whoever wants to humiliate them in any way. There is a consensus on this and it is counted among the evidence that proves the obligation of forbidding evil.

Finally, this Hadeeth can be applied to all kinds of Fitnah that happen to Muslims at all times.

Allaah Knows best.

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