What is the significance of Bay’ah or oath of allegiance in Islam? Is it obligatory for all Muslims to take such an oath? Please shed some light.
Answered by Shaykh Kamil Mufti
Here are some basic points to keep in mind regarding bay’ah or oath of
1. A Muslim is required to stick to the principles of Ahl us-Sunna
wal-Jama’ah. These principles are found in the , Sunna, and the
unanimous agreement (ijma’) of the early Muslims. This is what is
meant by the hadith of the Prophet speaking of sects, ‘All of them are
in the Fire except the Jama’ah: what I and my Sahaba are upon.’ It
implies not being alligned to any sect in Islam as that would be
equivalent to breaking off from the Jama’ah.
2. There is no dispute among Muslims that the legitimate imam has to
be given allegiance to. This is based on many hadith like: “Whoever
steps out of obedience and breaks off the Jama’ah and dies, dies the
death of jahiliyya” (Muslim). Breaking off the Jama’ah in this sense
would be considered rebellion, even if the person is from Ahl us-Sunna.
3. There is also no dispute about the legitimacy of Muslims
co-operating with each other in matters of good and obeying those
incharge as long as it doesn’t involve sinfulness given following
conditions are met:
- the agreement is not based on heresy
- it doesn’t oppose the legitimacy of a legitimate Islamic ruler
- it is not made the basis of wala and bara (love and hatred), because
the basis of wala and bara is the and Sunna upon the manhaj of
prophethood and nothing else
4. The bay’a mentioned in the hadith speaks of the general bay’a given
to a legitimate Islamic ruler, “The one who dies and does not have the
yoke of bay’a upon his neck, dies the death of jahiliyya” (Muslim).
This bay’a is incumbent on the general Umma, someone breaking it is
considered a rebel, and at one time it can only be made to one person.
Any contemporary organization or Islamic party which claims that such
bay’a should be given to it is misguided.
5. Without dispute, bay’a made to a leader of some da’wa
organizaation/ party that is considered the basis of wala and bara
(love and hatred), such that the members of that party consider
everyone outside of their party to be non-Muslim or heretics is false.
6. A serious deviation is some people thinking that only those who
have joined their ranks, become the members of their party or
organization are “true” Muslims, and made bay’a with their leader,
only they constitute the Jama’ah.
7. On the other hand, some say that all present day Islamic
organizations and parties are misguided, are tantamount to creating
sects in the Umma, and splitting from the Jama’ah. Such understanding
is also incorrect, as long as these parties meet certain conditions.
These parties should complement each other, fill in the gaps left by
the other, they should not work against each other.
8. Keeping the above in mind, some call the “promise to obey” made by
a member as “bay’a.” You can call it specific bay’a.
That is keeping in mind the differences between this “promise”
(specific bay’a) and the bay’a (general bay’a) that is given to an
- general bay’a is made to someone who meets the criteria for being an
Imam/khalifa by the Ahl ul-Hal wal-’Aqd, his job is to guard the deen
and dunya, and is generally incumbent on the Umma
- the specific bay’a made for da’wa or organizational purposes to
achieve specific goals is limited to what the bay’a/promise is made
for. The goal has to be what Allah and His Messenger has approved in
the deen. This bay’a is not obligatory on everyone, but once someone
makes it, they should try their best to fulfill it.
- if people won’t be able to distinguish between these two types of
bay’a, as is the case these days, when Islamic knowledge is scarce and
scholars are hard to few, it’s best not to call such a ‘promise’ bay’a.
And Allah knows best.