Is Ruling by Laws other than the laws of Allah disbelief (kufr)?  

Question:

Is Ruling by Laws other than the laws of Allah disbelief (kufr)?

I once got in a debate with someone saying such; he provided an ayah saying that “whosoever doesn’t rule by Allah’s law is a disbeliever.” I, however, quoted Ibn Abbas as saying that this isn’t kufr as in the kufr that makes you leave the religion. But, this person tried to discredit Ibn Abbas (even though he admits that Ali commissioned Ibn Abbas to refute the khawarij before attacking them) by saying that he was wrong.

He added that Abdullah Ibn Masud and Umar and Ali said that for a judge to take bribes is kufr. So is taking bribes as a judge kufr? If so, does this mean that whosoever does not rule by God’s law is a kafir?

Answer:
Wa Alaykum al-Salam

Shukran, for your question.

Sadly, a person has discarded the interpretation of Abdullah ibn Abbas with such haste. How can one boldly state that he, ibn Abbas, is wrong after the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) prayed for him, saying, “O Allah, give him understanding in the religion and teach him the interpretation of the Qur’an” (Musnad Ahmad)? Due to this, ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) became known in this ummah as “the interpreter of the Quran.”

Ibn Abbas’s interpretation of the verse, “And he who does not judge according to what Allah has revealed, then they are the disbelievers” (Qur’an, 5:47) was the view adopted by the pious predecessors. He (may Allah be pleased with him) witnessed the revelation of this verse and was thus able to provide a first-hand account of its meaning.

He said: “It is not disbelief which they are heading towards.” In another narration, he said: “[it is] a kind of disbelief which does not remove one from the faith” and “[it is] a disbelief other than absolute disbelief, an oppression other than absolute oppression and an inequity other than absolute iniquity” (Ta’dhim qadr al-Salah). The early scholars never challenged this interpretation of the verse, and it was only much later that some commentators on the Qur’an misinterpreted the verse to suit their political agendas.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of scholars who all hold the view that the disbelief mentioned in verse does not remove one from the fold of Islam:

1. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal
2. Ibn Jarir al-Tabari
3. Ibn Abd al-Barr
3. Imam al-Qurtubi
4. Ibn al-Jawzi
5. Ibn Taymiyyah

Habib Ali al-Jifri has dedicated much of his time to correcting these incorrect understandings that have crept into society and serve as an impetus for killing and acts of terror. He launched the Sanad Network initiative, which contains well-researched articles on these topics, to address these challenges. This verse was discussed in the first issue. See here for more details: http://sanad.network/downloads/sanad-Deviance_Isssue_01_En.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3zl_O4S4Z0dtt1FrjTpSf9NfOiO53XAX6-8AZDNY68SoHNiHgdCz_bilY

And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdurragmaan received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.