The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
أَفْضَلُ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةُ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ
“The best Jihad is the word of Justice in front of the oppressive Sultan.”
(Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, ibn Maja)
In 1993, Sheikh Ali al-Qattan was praying at the Prophet’s ﷺ mosque in Medina, when he was surprised to find Hosni Mubarak entering the prayer hall.
“It was a spontaneous incident, I didn’t plan for this,” Sheikh Qattan told Egyptian television talk show “Al Haqiqa” (The Truth) this week.
“After we finished the prayer I turned and I saw the president; it was strange because they had emptied a large section of the prayer hall for him to enter. He had bodyguards around him that were heavily armed; it all looked very hostile and made the atmosphere in the masjid uncomfortable.”
Sheikh Qattan then stood up and walked closer to the former president and told him to “fear Allah” in a display of his anger at how Mubarak was leading the country.
At that time Sheikh Qattan explains “security forces would roam Egypt’s streets and randomly fire at Egyptians.”
After saying his words, Sheikh Qattan said Mubarak “immediately looked uneasy.” “He spun left and right to look around him to call his bodyguards. The guards immediately seized me violently and surrounded Mubarak, pushing him quickly outside of the prayer hall. I then understood that he was probably scared that some sort of violent attack on him would follow.”
The guards then put their hands over my mouth, as if to stop me from saying anything more, but I hadn’t planned to. They took me out of the hall, not even giving him a chance to wear my shoes.“They carried out a body search to look for a bomb or a weapon. When they couldn’t find anything on me, one officer told me: ‘You’ve embarrassed us. You should have told [Mubarak] that in Egypt.'”
To that, Sheikh Qattan responded: “We’re in a mosque; it’s for all of the international Muslim community and it felt right to say such a [religious] comment in a mosque.”
Sheikh Qattan was taken from Medina to a Jeddah province to be interrogated. He recalls being dragged down by a “10-kilogram chain and ball” whilst walking in the airport to the plane.
After he was questioned in Saudi Arabia, a group from Egypt’s National Security came to take him back to Egypt.
“It was as if I was a terrorist. They tied me up with several chains and handcuffs. They even wanted to sedate me, pressuring me to drink the sedative, but I told them I was fasting and would not drink anything,” he said.
The former prison officer at the jail Sheikh Qattan was detained in, Major-General Ibrahim Abd al-Ghaffar, described how Sheikh Qattan was treated during his imprisonment.
“For years he was locked up in solitary confinement and not allowed to have visitors by an order from the interior minister. I decided to take him out of the room he was locked in and every day I would tell him to come to my office, where he could sit with me and drink tea. I knew he was being tyrannized.”
During his television interview, Sheikh Qattan mentioned that in Islamic history, the term “Fear Allah” was said to the Caliphs of Islam. “Caliphs used to urge people to advise them to fear Allah. When they heard it, they would not be infuriated [like Mubarak was], but they would welcome it as advice,” he said.
The Sheikh is correct; the Rightly Guided Caliphs were pleased when the ummah stood up and accounted them.
One day Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab stood up and delivered a speech in which he said: “O people, whoever among you sees any crookedness in me, let him straighten it.” A man stood up and said: “By Allah, if we see any crookedness in you we will straighten it with our swords.” Umar said: “Praise be to Allah Who has put in this ummah people who will straighten the crookedness of Umar with their swords.”
[Dr Muhammad as-Sallabi, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, His life and Times,’ vol. 1, p. 213]
Even after the time of the Rightly Guided Caliphs there were rulers who were pleased with being accounted by the ummah.
The governor of Iraq from 694-714CE was Hajjaj bin Yusuf. He is well known for being a harsh and feared ruler who was severe against the ummah yet similar to Sheikh Qattan there was another Sheikh who wasn’t afraid to account Hajjaj when he saw him doing wrong.
Abu Abdullah bin Katheer narrated that Hajjaj bin Yusuf performed prayer once beside Sa’eed bin Al-Musayyab (famous scholar from the Tabi’een) and Hajjaj was raising his head and going down before the Imam. When the Imam made the Salam, Sa’eed held Hajjaj by his garment while he (Sa’eed) was still doing some Dhikr that he used to say after the prayer and Hajjaj was struggling to free his garment so that he could stand up and go. Sa’eed kept pulling him back to sit down until he finished his Dhikr. When Sa’eed finished he reached for his shoes and raised them as if he wanted to hit him with them and said: “Thief! Treacherous! This is how you perform prayer?! I had wanted to strike your face with these shoes!”
Hajjaj then went away. He was on Hajj and went back to Syria. Later, he was sent to Al-Madinah as its governor. When he arrived there, he went to the mosque aiming for the place of Sa’eed bin Al-Musayyab. The people said: “He only came to Sa’eed to take revenge from him.” So, Hajjaj came and sat in front of Sa’eed and said: “Are you the one who uttered those words?” He struck his own chest confidently and said: “Yes, I am the one!” Hajjaj then said: “May Allah reward you with the best reward that a teacher and educator can get! Ever since I left you, I have not performed prayer without remembering those words of yours.” He then rose up and left.
[Salaahud-Deen Ali Abdul-Mawjood, ‘Biography of Sa’eed bin Al-Musayyab,’ p. 174]
The ummah needs more people like Sheikh Qattan who fear nothing but Allah and are not afraid to account the tyrant ruler even if it leads to torture and imprisonment.