AMJA Warns Against Working in U.S. Law Enforcement, Becoming Pleased with a "System That Does Not Come from Allah"
The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA), a mainstream U.S. Muslim organization, cautioned American Muslims in a 22-page Arabic-language paper in 2008 against working in law enforcement in countries which do not rule by Allah's dictates. One of their main concerns was that such work might cause Muslims to gain love and respect for secular laws:
- ...there are many evils which result from working in law enforcement, the greatest of which is compelling people to obey rulings which do not come from Allah. It could also cause reverence and love for these rulings to enter the heart of the police officer, and perhaps spread to the hearts of his family members and other Muslims who see him at the mosque or even Muslims in general. They could lose conviction of governance by Allah, and become pleased with a legal system that does not come from Allah. [emphasis added]
AMJA provided some allowances for Muslims to work in certain law enforcement professions, fearing that a lack of Muslim representation in this sector could bring negative effects for the Muslim community. They also reasoned that Muslims working as police officers might be able to use their positions to help the Muslim community, such as helping out with traffic near their mosques and protecting their mosques. Still, there was concern that some of these might be required to enforce laws contrary to the shari'a, such as "arrest[ing] a Muslim man whose wife said he 'raped' her."
The AMJA paper specifically forbade Muslims from working for the FBI or in national security positions, due to their alleged arbitrary targeting of certain Muslims for "their political beliefs, charity work, or some of their convictions under the shari'ah"--an apparent reference to counter-terrorism investigations against Muslim suspects.
The paper also made clear that Muslims are to seek justice not in secular courts, but in Islamic courts which are compliant with their shari'ah: "It is not permissible to pursue justice in the man-made (i.e. non-Islamic) judiciary, except where there is an absence of a shari'ah-compliant substitute capable of restoring one's rights and working out one's grievances" (see a translation of another AMJA paper on working in the judiciary here).
Throughout the paper it is made clear that the duty of Muslims is not to uphold and respect the laws of the land in which they reside, but rather to do everything in their power to make the laws of Allah, the shari'ah, supreme:
- [Muslims are] to seek through legal means which exist in the countries in which they reside to make it possible for themselves to seek legal recourse in their shar'iah, and (not only) for personal affairs.
The duty to make Islam supreme comes above all, even preserving one's life:
- We must remember that preserving the religion comes before preserving one’s self, mind, wealth, honor, or offspring. [...] But if saving [the individual's] life destroys Islam, then saving Islam comes first, even if it means the individual is destroyed. This is the case with jihad against the infidels, and the killing of apostates, and so forth.
It is worth stressing once again that AMJA--whose stated purpose is to "clarify the rulings of the shariah which are relevant for those who live in America"--is a mainstream American Muslim organization. Their membership list contains a large number of highly-influential American imams and Muslim leaders, including Muhammad al-Majid of the Adam Center in Virginia; Hussein Hamed Hassan, director of the financial consultancy firm which advises Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and other large American banking institutions; Zulfiqar Ali Shah, former president of Islamic Circle of North America and current executive director of the Fiqh Council of North America; and the author of this paper, Dr. Hatem al-Haj, MD, PhD, a fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics, and founder and president of "Building Blocks of Islam."
A longer list of some of their prominent American members follows:
- Hussein Hamad Hassan (Chairman of the Board at AMJA), Director of Dar al-Sharia Legal and Financial Consultancy (Dubai) (firm which advises Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and others);
- Mohammad AlMajid, Imam of Adam Center (Virginia);
- Mohammad Naeem AlSael, University of Texas, American Open University (AOU) (Virginia);
- Waleed Basyouni, North American Imam Federation (NAIF) (Arizona), Texas Dawah Convention, AlMaghrib Institute (Texas);
- Ahmad Al Soway'ey Shleibak, Professor at AOU;
- Al Sayed Abd Al Halim Muhammad Hussein, President of Al-Eman Islamic Association of New York;
- Hatem AlHaj, Sharia Academy of America (Florida), Albert Lea Medical Center (Minnesota), NAIF, Islamic Jurisprudence Council of Minnesota;
- Abdel Azim AlSiddiq, Professor at Islamic American University (IAU), Imam/Director of Aqsa Islamic Society;
- Deya-ud-Deen Eberle, Lecturer at AOU;
- Ahmad Al Sherbiny Nabhan, Professor at AOU;
- Ahmad Abd Al-Khaliq, Imam of the Islamic Center in New Jersey;
- Gamal Helmy, Chairman of Religious Affairs in the Muslim Association of Virginia (MAV);
- Gamal Zarbozo, Islamic writer and researcher in Denver, Colorado;
- Haitham Abu Ridwan Barazanji, Imam of the Islamic Center in San Pitt, Tampa, FL;
- Ibrahim Dremali, Imam of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Florida;
- Ibrahim Zidan, Imam of Al-Huda Islamic Center (New York);
- Mohammad Faqih, Khateeb and Lecturer in Columbus, Ohio;
- Mostafa Tolbah, Imam of Islamic Center in Detroit, Michigan;
- Muhammad Abo Al Yosr Al Beyanony, Imam of Islamic Center in Raleigh, North Carolina;
- Muhammad Sayed Adly, President of Imams and Duat Association of South and North Carolina, Imam of Masjid Al-*Muslimeen in Columbia, South Carolina;
- Muhammad Muhammad Musa, Imam of Islamic Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan;
- Mukhtar Kartus, Member of Board of Trustees and Daia in Islamic Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan;
- Mustafa Shahin, Lecturer at IAU;
- Mustafa Balkhir, MA student at AOU;
- Mustafa Al-Turk, Chairman of Islamic Organization, Michigan;
- Omar Shahin, President of Executive Committee of NAIF, Lecturer at AOU;
- Sadeq Muhammad Al Hassan, Director of Masjid Annur, Sacramento, California;
- Samy Muhammad Masaud, Imam of Aleman Mosque in New York City;
- Tho Al Fokkar Ali Shah (variant: Zulfiqar Ali Shah), President (Former) of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Executive Director of Fiqh Council of North America, Religious Director of Islamic Society of Milwaukee;
- Yassir Fazaqa, Imam of Islamic Center of Orange County, California;
- Waleed Al-Maneese, Dar-al-Farooq Islamic Center (Minnesota), Vice President of Islamic University of Minnesota, AOU, NAIF;
- Muwaffak Al Ghaylany, Islamic Center in Grand Blank City (Minnesota), Shari`a Academy in America (Florida), NAIF;
- Main Al-Qudah, MAS Katy Center (Texas), AOU, Islamic American University (Minnesota), Al-Yarmook University (Iraq);
- Salah Alsawy, Institute of Arabic and Islamic Sciences (Virginia), AOU, Sharia Academy (Florida), Al-Azhar *University (Egypt), Umm Al Qura University (Saudi Arabia); and
- Muhammad Adam Alsheikh, Al Rahmah Mosque (Maryland), Sudanese courts.
The full translation of the AMJA paper follows (see the original Arabic-language paper here):
Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America
The role of professions and jobs in the West which are intermixed with that which is forbidden: What is permissible and what is forbidden
Title of the study: Working in Law Enforcement in Non-Islamic Countries
Prepared by Dr. Hatim al-Haj Member of the Permanent Fatwa Council of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America Member of the faculty of the Shar’ia Academy
Eighth Resolution: Working in the Judiciary and Everything Else Which Falls Under It Outside the Lands of Islam
Allah sent his Apostle and revealed His book so that the people could be established in equity. Their path to that equity is to settle their differences through His laws, executing them in absolute justice and rejecting all the whims of men which conflict with them. It is not permissible to pursue justice in the man-made (i.e. non-Islamic) judiciary, except where there is an absence of a shari’a-compliant substitute capable of restoring one’s rights and working out one’s grievances. (This is also on the condition that) the individual’s demands before the judiciary are legitimate, and he does not take from its rulings anything except that which agrees with the shar'ia. If it is decreed that he should receive that which he has no right to (per the shari’a), he must not take it, for the ruling of the judge cannot make permissible that which is forbidden, nor make forbidden that which is permissible. The judge discovers (law) but does not create it.
Islamic communities must settle their disputes in righteousness, under the framework of the arbitration of the shar'ia. (They are also) to seek through legal means which exist in the countries in which they reside to make it possible for themselves to seek legal recourse in their shar'ia, and (not only) for personal affairs.
Working as an attorney is legitimate as long as the attorney is convinced of the justice and legitimacy of that which he who granted him power of attorney asks him to do.
In the name of Allah and praise be to Allah. We praise him and seek his aid and forgiveness, and seek refuge in him from the sins of our souls. He who is guided by Allah is not misled, and he who is misled has no guidance for him. I testify that there is no god but Allah. I testify that Muhammad is his slave and messenger. He received his message from Allah, and he fulfilled that message. He declared to us the laws of our religion in all aspects of life, so that the People of the Book envied us for his declaration. May Allah grant peace and blessings to him, his family, his companions, and all those who follow his religion until the day of judgment. Amen.
A third of Muslims in our day live as minorities in non-Islamic countries, while two-thirds--or most of them--live under non-Islamic regimes, even though they live in Muslim countries.
Both of these groups are subject to man-made laws, which don't agree--or some of what is in them doesn't agree--with the Islamic shar'ia.
The stages of working with these laws begins with legislation, which is the work of the members of parliament or congress. Then there's the stage of ruling by their laws, which is the job of judges. Then there's the stage of executing and enforcing these laws, which is the job of the police.
These police execute that which is incumbent upon them, and don't have the freedom of the judge--which is relative freedom--as it was in the early history of Islam. So here the Muslim must ask himself if it is permissible for him to work as a police officer under these regimes or even those non-Islamic countries!
In my study I will specifically deal with the issue of working as a police officer in non-Islamic countries. I will divide the study into an introduction, in which I will mention the current situation for Muslim communities in non-Islamic countries. I will also describe the work of law enforcement in Western countries, especially in the United States. Then I will lay out the pros and cons of participating in this work. Then I will mention the general ruling on referring judgment to law other than the shari’a of Allah. Finally I will present evidence for making it permissible or forbidden, and I will follow this with an assessment and a recommendation.
As stated previously, a third of Muslims live as minority communities in non-Islamic countries, such as India, China, Russia, the countries of Europe and the Americas, and Australia. Some of these are immigrants to these countries, but most of them are native residents or were born there. What is shared by the majority of them is the difficulty in emigrating from their native countries to the land of Islam. While it has been facilitated for a few, it depends largely on the naturalization laws of those particular countries. It is expected of all minority communities to participate in all employment sectors, especially those sectors in which loyalty is important, such as the military, police, judiciary, etc. Thus if a particular community abstains from participating in these sectors—I’ll use law enforcement as an example since that’s the focus of our study—it appears to the people of that country to be a lack of loyalty from the Muslims toward their country. This could result in their rights being encroached upon. Also, the lack of Muslim presence in certain employment sectors makes it so that those who do work in these sectors have less understanding of Islam and its adherents, and thus become more alienated from them. No doubt this will result in negative consequences for Muslims. Likewise, the absence of Muslims from these sectors will lead to them being ignorant of what they do, and less knowledgeable of their missions, as well as the best way to work with them. It could also result in them committing infractions, as individuals or as organizations. On the other hand, the presence of members of the community within this sector could lead to the protection of the community and its members from committing these infractions or errors which would result in negative consequences for them. One of the benefits of participating in law enforcement which is worth mentioning is that it could simplify some things for Muslims, such as traffic near their mosques, protection of the mosques, etc.
Still, there are many evils which result from working in law enforcement, the greatest of which is compelling people to obey rulings which do not come from Allah. It could also cause reverence and love for these rulings to enter the heart of the police officer, and perhaps spread to the hearts of his family members and other Muslims who see him at the mosque or even Muslims in general. They could lose conviction of governance by Allah, and become pleased with a legal system that does not come from Allah. It is one thing to acquiesce to it and take heed to not violate it in order to defend themselves and their societies against harm, and to preserve the reputation of their religion and their people. However, it is another thing to be pleased with it and show reverence for it in opposition to the shari’a of Allah. One of the evils of this job is that the worker could give up many of his convictions of the shari’a, and commit many sins such as mixing with that which is forbidden [i.e. mingling with females]--which happens often in this employment sector--being alone, and other sins. One of the evils present in many sections of law enforcement is spying on people--both Muslims and infidels--which leads to a decrease in loyalty among individuals of the community and adds suspicion between them. This is more so in the work of investigative detectives than with other job categories.
The General Ruling on Ruling by Other Than That Which Allah Revealed
Ruling by other than that which Allah revealed is a great evil. Allah Almighty said: “And this (He commands): Judge thou between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, but beware of them lest they beguile thee from any of that (teaching) which Allah hath sent down to thee. And if they turn away, be assured that for some of their crime it is Allah's purpose to punish them. And truly most men are rebellious” [Qur’an 5:49].
He also said: “O David! We did indeed make thee a vicegerent on earth: so judge thou between men in truth (and justice): Nor follow thou the lusts (of thy heart), for they will mislead thee from the Path of Allah: for those who wander astray from the Path of Allah, is a Penalty Grievous, for that they forget the Day of Account” [Qur’an 38:26].
He also said: “Do they then seek after a judgment of (the days of) ignorance? But who, for a people whose faith is assured, can give better judgment than Allah?” [Qur’an 5:50] and “If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) Unbelievers” [Qur’an 5:44].
Whoever has brought (into the community) the sin of ruling by other than that which Allah revealed vacillates between being pleased with a legal system which is not the shari’a of Allah and substituting it for the shari’a. His action is either a greater infidelity [kufr akbar] which is outside the pale of Islam, or it is done out of ignorance or lust or passion, or due to a misinterpretation or a minor error, with the conviction that the shari’a of Allah is the wisest and best legal system, and that he is compelled to carry it out. Thus his action [to rule by other than that which Allah revealed] is one of the greater sins.
These are the words of scholars on whoever brought in this sin:
Imam Abu-Muhammad ‘Ali Ibn Hazim al-Andalusi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “No two Muslims disagree that whoever rules by a ruling of the Gospel [i.e. Christianity] which was not prescribed by divine revelation in the shari’a of Islam is an infidel and polytheist, and is outside the pale of Islam.”
The Shaykh of Islam Abu-al-’Abbas Ahmad bin ‘Abd-al-Halim bin Taymiyya (may Allah have mercy on him), said: “When a man makes permissible that which is forbidden, or makes forbidden that which is permissible, or substitutes another shari’a (for the shari’a of Allah), all scholars are in agreement that he is an infidel.”
Isma’il bin ‘Umar bin Kathir (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his commentary on the saying of the Almighty “Do they then seek after a judgment of (the days of) ignorance? But who, for a people whose faith is assured, can give better judgment than Allah?”[Qur’an 5:50]: “The Almighty rejects those who depart from His rulings--which include all that is good, and forbid all evil--and turn toward the opinions, fancies, and conventions put in place by men, without relying on the shari’a of Allah, as the people in the days of ignorance used to rule...and as the Tatars ruled, with the rulings taken from their king, Gengis Khan, who put in place al-Yasiq for them...For whoever does this is an infidel who must be fought against until he returns to the rule of Allah and His Apostle and does not rule by anything else, great or small” [ellipses in original].
Ahmad Shakir (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his commentary on the saying of the Almighty “Do they then seek after a judgment of (the days of) ignorance?” [Qur’an 5:50]:
“With this in mind, can it be permissible in the shari’a of Allah for Muslims to govern in their countries by legislation which is adapted from European legislation … changing and substituting it as they will, indifferent to whether it agrees or conflicts with the shari’a of Islam? … Regarding these man-made laws, it is as the clear as the noon-day sun that it is outright infidelity. There is no excuse for anyone who belongs to Islam, whether they work with these laws, are subjected to them, or have consented to them. Every man must warn himself, and every man is accountable for himself. But the scholars must openly declare the truth, undaunted, and tirelessly preach that which they have been commanded to preach” [ellipses in original].
Shaykh Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al al-Shaykh (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It is clearly greater infidelity [kufr akbar] to give cursed law the status of what was revealed by the true spirit to the heart of Muhammad (peace be upon him). (Muslims) have been warned, in the plain Arabic tongue, against ruling among the people by (cursed law), and referring to it to settle disputes, which is contrary to the saying of Allah Almighty: “If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination” [Qur’an 4:59]. Almighty Allah has denied the faith of those who do not refer judgment in their disputes to the Prophet (peace be upon him), even repeating this denial clearly in an oath. The Almighty said: “But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction” [Qur’an 4:65].
Shaykh Muhammad al-Amin al-Shanqiti (may Allah have mercy on him) said on his commentary of the saying of the Almighty, “Verily this Qur'an doth guide to that which is most right (or stable)” [Qur’an 17:9]:
“Verily this Qur’an doth guide to that which is most right (or stable). Its declaration is that following any other law besides that which was brought by the son of Adam, Muhammad bin ‘Abdallah (peace be upon him), in order to follow opposing laws is utter infidelity, and marks departure from the Islamic community and faith. The infidels said to the Prophet (peace be upon him): ‘If a sheep is dead, who killed it? He responded, Allah killed it. They said to him, What is sacrificed by your hands is permissible, but what is sacrificed by the holy hand of Allah, you say that it is forbidden! Are you, then, better than Allah?’ Allah revealed the following concerning them: “Eat not of (meats) on which Allah's name hath not been pronounced: That would be impiety. But the evil ones ever inspire their friends to contend with you if ye were to obey them, ye would indeed be Pagans” [Qur’an 6:121]. The deletion of the words ‘for verily’ from His saying “ye would indeed be Pagans” indicates that there is a deleted oath … If the sentence were an answer only for the condition which came before it, it would have been combined with the ‘for verily’. … For it is an oath from Allah Almighty, by which He swore that whoever follows Satan in making permissible (the eating of dead meats) is a polytheist, and this polytheism is a departure from the Islamic community and faith, by the consensus of all Muslims” [ellipses in original].
Now the last category of those who contradict the shari’a of Allah--after having agreed that it is the most perfect and best, and that it is compulsory upon its followers--includes (those who do so out of) ignorance, lust, bribery, or injustice. These cannot be termed infidels, and their action is not quite a major sin. For Allah has termed sin to be infidelity, and unlike the last (category), neither Allah nor His Apostle have termed this to be infidelity. Ibn ‘Abbas conveyed this in his commentary on the saying of the Almighty, “And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the disbelievers” [Qur’an 5:44], when he said, “It is not the disbelief [kufr] that you are thinking about.”
This is right, for he was talking to them about reality; there was no substituting the shari’a of Allah (intentionally), but rather they ruled by something else to satisfy their desires, extend their influence, and conquer their subjects. Perhaps policemen do not enter into the first category as long as they prefer the shari’a of Allah and the impermissibility of referring to judgment to another law. But policemen in Muslim countries which are not ruled by Islam did not alter the shari’a of Allah and cannot refer people to it. So this is the question: Does taking this job place them in the second category, or is it permissible for them to do so as the lesser of two evils?
Categories of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States of America
To answer the previous question, we must provide a quick presentation of the different types of law enforcement occupations.
Municipal police currently perform the following functions in order to enforce the law:
- Mounted patrols
- Respond to distress calls or serve the citizens
- Direct traffic when there are car accidents
- Investigate forced robberies
- Perform first aid on accident victims
- Many of them are placed in a specific area to communicate with residents to prevent crime
- Identify suspicious behavior, follow and arrest the criminals
- Enforce traffic law
Police officers in colleges, universities, schools, and public transportation vehicles are types of police officers who specialize in enforcing the law in certain locations. Some of them are detectives, and most of them are dressed like police officers.
Some law enforcement officers specialize in :
- Chemical and microscopic analysis
- Training for law enforcement work and the use of weapons
- Identifying fingerprints
- Quick response units (to defuse bombs, for example)
- Units on horseback or bicycles
- Preserving the order/schedule and security of the political leader
State police officers:
The head police officer (the sheriff) is normally elected, and with the help of aides supervises the activities of municipal police.
State police officers engage in the following activities:
- Arrest criminals in all areas of the state
- Highway patrols for (enforcing) the law and keeping the peace
- Assist accident victims
- Municipal and county police may assist them as needed
Detectives, analysts, and investigators do not dress like police officers. They engage in the following activities:
- Gather evidence of crimes
- Some of them specialize in combating certain types of crime
- Pursue criminals and arrest them
Hunting and fishing police:
- Enforce laws related to hunting and fishing on land and in the sea, and drive boats
- Offer assistance to those who need it
- Write up letters of complaint and incident reports
Officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):
These are the detectives and investigators who work for the federal government. Their work includes investigating, following up, and preparing cases criminals and law-breakers for more than a hundred different types of crimes which are termed ‘federal’, or those which concern the entire nation and federal authority rather than state authority. These include national security crimes. They engage in the following:
- Perform investigations and surveillance of suspects
- Eavesdrop on their communications
- Go after work crimes and fraud in large companies
- Pursue violations committed by municipal and state police officers
- Pursue cases of bribery and financial and administrative corruption
- Pursue cases of terrorism and espionage
- Pursue crimes which cross state boundaries
- Drug-smuggling cases
- Bank robberies
- Airplane hijacking
- Violation of civil rights
Police officers who combat narcotics and illegal medicines belong to the DEA, and they specialize combating narcotics both inside and outside of the United States.
Judicial police (Marshalls):
They specialize in protection, security, service, and facilitating the activities of judges and courts, including protecting witnesses and jurors, and transportation of federal criminals.
The police from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives specialize in enforcing laws relative to crimes connected to these items.
Police in the Department of State:
Their work includes preserving the security of diplomats and combating terrorism. They work inside and outside the United States, where they offer support to embassies. Inside the United States they follow up on cases of passport fraud, and also protect the security of people in diplomatic missions.
Homeland Security police:
Beneath them are Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration [ICE], and Special Operations.
Police who protect airplanes (Air Marshalls) do not dress like police officers and ride on various flights in order to preserve security onboard.
Police officers from Secret Service:
They protect the President, Vice President, and candidates for president as well as their families. They also protect important persons from other countries.
The mission of mail police is to protect the mail system.
Police for public parks and forests maintain security, control violations, and care for public parks and forests.
Most of them are placed in state or federal prisons, where they maintain security inside the prisons, and prevent fighting between the prisoners.
Evidence Against Working in Law Enforcement in Non-Islamic Countries
1. We have already mentioned all the evidence for it being forbidden to rule by other than the shari’a of Allah, and that whoever does so, either as ruler or as prosecutor, is an infidel, whether it is greater infidelity or lesser infidelity. Nor is the police officer exonerated from being the executor of the judgments of those rulers, and enforcer of a law which does not come from Allah.
It could be argued that man-made laws are not all the same. Some of them agree with the intent of the shari’a, such as traffic laws which save lives and money. There are also some which do not conflict with the shari’a, such as preserving forests and preventing the killing of certain types of animals, as well as some administrative laws in companies which could fit under the category of those interests which Allah has left open for man. However, it can also be said that some of the laws conflict with the shari’a, and there is no alternative but for the police officer to enforce them, and punish those who violate them.
It could still be argued that for the last category, this does not disqualify every type of police officer. There are some who specialize in combating narcotics, chemical analysis, taking fingerprints, protecting mail or forests, and other areas which do not require them to enforce law which is contrary to the shari’a of Allah. This is so even though all of these professions subject the worker to at least a few offenses.
2- Cooperating with sin and aggression: The police officer could participate in building a case against a Muslim who is oppressed or has been arbitrarily targeted by the authorities for one reason or another. Islamic communities in the West have discussed many examples of these arbitrary cases being brought against their individuals and institutions.
Allah Almighty says: “Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancour: fear Allah: for Allah is strict in punishment” [Qur’an 5:2]. However, those who lead the affairs of the police could be agents and helpers of either the oppressors or the oppressed; they are not equal.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya said:
“He who is appointed to sin and aggression is he who helps the oppressor, while he who helps the oppressed to lighten the oppression from him is an agent of the oppressed, not the oppressor. He does not carry the same status as the one who lends him money or authorizes him to take the money from him to the oppressor. An example of this is a guardian to an orphan and (the orphan’s) endowment. If an oppressor came and asked him for money (from the orphan), and he strove to pay less money--either paid to him or someone else--after exerting all effort to pay, then he was merely doing good, and there is nothing wrong with doing good. Also an agent of a landlord, from among the heralds, writers, or others, who grants them authority to make contracts, seize (property), and pay what is required of them--(the agent) does not give authority to oppressors to take it for them. Likewise if an injustice were committed against the people of a village, school, market, or city, and if a man mediated to pay on their behalf as well as he could, and divided it amongst them to the degree they were able without favoring himself or anyone else, and without taking bribes, but acted as an agent for them to make payment, then he was doing good. However, most of the time when someone performs that kind of work he acts as an agent of oppressors, accepting favors and bribes, to protect whomever they want to protect and take from whomever they want to take. This is one of the greatest evils of those who will be gathered in coffins of fire. They are their agents and are like them, and will likewise be taken and cast into the fire.”
As the Shaykh al-Islam said, most of those who seek these jobs want money and prestige, not to make truth victorious or aid the oppressed.
3- Spying is forbidden in the shari’a when the person is not charged with anything, as Allah said: “O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs” [Qur’an 49:11].
If there is no evidence of wickedness from the person, then he should not be spied on. However, many Muslims in those communities may be spied on because suspicion and distrust have seized those placed in charge of the affairs of these communities. They eavesdrop in mosques, homes, cars, and various communications devices.
4- There is clear evidence from the sunnah on the prohibition of working as a police officer for oppression and evil-doers.
A- The saying of (Muhammad) (peace be upon him) in the hadith of Abi-Hurayra as narrated by Muslim: “The Apostle (peace be upon him) said there are two categories of the people of the Fire which I have not seen. The first have whips like the tails of cattle, with which they beat people. The second are women who are naked despite being dressed. They will be led astray and lead others astray. They have heads like camel humps. They will not enter the Garden, nor will they even experience its scent, even though its scent can be smelled from such a great distance.”
B. Also the hadith (of Muhammad): “Rulers will come unto you, who will work great wickedness, and will delay the prayers from their appointed times. Whoever among you perceives this, must not be corporals, policemen, collectors, or treasurers with them.”
C. Al-Tabrani narrated in al-Saghir and al-Awsat from Abi-Hurayra (may Allah have mercy on him) that the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “In the last days, there will be princes of darkness, evil ministers, treasonous judges, and lying jurists. Whoever among you in that day perceives this, must not be collectors, corporals, or policemen with them.”
However, he who ponders these sayings finds that they warn Muslims against a certain reality in which evil will be widespread in the land of Islam. The evil will be assisted by some people to conquer the others. There is no doubt that ruling by that which Allah did not reveal is evil in and of itself, but the evil which these sayings refer to is not synonymous with disbelief in Allah [kufr], but rather it is different from it. Do you not perceive that the Apostle (peace be upon him) described the Negus as being just? He did not rule by the shari’a of Allah, but the shari’a of his people, which was distorted Christianity. Disbelief in Allah and evil are different in this respect, even though disbelief in Allah is a type of evil, and evil is a branch and fruit of disbelief in Allah.”
Wherefore, Imam Ibn Taymiyya says: “Allah will make the just nation victorious, even if it is an infidel (nation). He will not make the wicked nation victorious, even if it is a believing nation.” Therefore justice and disbelief in Allah can be combined in some aspects, but not all. The observer can see that in the Western countries there is justice among individuals which has no equal in Islamic countries. Perhaps this is denied out of obstinacy, but Muslims should not do this.
The policeman who works in an Islamic nation which has these rulers who advance iniquity, contributes to the deterioration and decline of that Islamic nation with his work. This is not a generalization on the work of policemen in every Islamic country, and in every sector of law enforcement. Meanwhile on the other hand, the one who works (as a policeman) in an infidel nation, Allah through his work might lift some harm from the Muslim community. What you find is that scholars have been influenced (in their thinking) on law enforcement by some grievances which occurred in the Umayyad and ‘Abbasi eras, which alienated many scholars from these jobs.
5- Suffice it to say that among the violations (of the shar'ia) which occur in this sector are those which are present in various employment sectors in the West and are even often present in the Muslim East. These include reckless mingling (among the sexes), being alone, and so forth. But perhaps these are some of the things which distinguish the work of law enforcement from other occupations.
Evidence of Permissibility
Perhaps those who make it permissible to work in law enforcement--except in its rarest forms--do so under the pretext that it is the lesser of two evils, and not under the pretext of ‘unrestricted interests’ [al-maslaha al-mursala] or that which comes above them. Thus we will lay out these rules, after which we will relate the evidence from the Qur’an, Sunnah, and actions of the Salaf regarding entering the work of law enforcement.
The principle of committing the lesser of two evils is one of the great principles of the religion of Islam, which bridges the gap between the ideal and reality. The one who employs this principle is able to favorably deal with every reality in which he lives, and turn every situation into what is most beneficial to the slaves (of Allah), and most pleasing for their righteousness.
Imam Ibn Taymiyya (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The shari’a came so that good may be acquired and perfected, and so that evil may be obstructed and diminished. On this wise, the lesser of two good things is hindered so that the better of the two can be acquired, and the lesser of two evils is committed so that the worse of the two can be avoided.”
Imam al-Shatibi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “That which is forbidden (but necessary) may be committed if it is done for a valid purpose.”
Al-‘Az bin ‘Abd-al-Salam and others who are beyond doubt expressed similar ideas. There is no doubt that this principle is based on evidence from the shari’a, and is according to divine wisdom, for good and evil intertwine and overlap in this world as often as things are purely good or purely evil. Likewise al-Khadir both burned the ship and killed the boy for a valid purpose [see Qur’an 18].
The Messenger of Allah permitted al-Hajjaj bin ‘Alat to speak poorly of him and disparage him so that he could recover his money from the people of Mecca, even though disparaging (the Prophet) (peace be upon him) is disbelief in Allah [kufr]. There are many examples of this in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
We must remember that preserving the religion comes before preserving one’s self, mind, wealth, honor, or offspring. For Allah has legitimized fighting, and even commanded it in certain occasions, which carries with it the possibility of death and squandering of wealth. Al-Shatibi himself, who offered the previous quote, was also the one who said:
“It is legitimate to acquire good for oneself, but the evils which are warded off must be considered in terms of establishing this life in place of the next life, not in terms of the passions of the soul in obtaining its regular benefits, or warding off its regular evils. This is supported by the following::
“First--Allah-willing, that which has been stated will come to pass, that the shari’a came to remove Muslims from the desire to fulfill their own passions, so that they can become slaves of Allah. If this is true, then it does not jive with the assumption that the shari’a has been set in place in accordance with the passions of the soul, to demand its immediate benefits no matter what they are. Our Lord has said: “If the Truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth, and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption!” [Qur’an 23:71].
“Second--The above means that the benefits gained for the Muslim are normally marred by the negative effects that are caused, just as the negative effects are surrounded by some benefits. We also say that life of an individual must be respected and preserved, so that if you had to choose between preserving its life and losing its money, or losing its life and preserving its money, then preserving its life comes first. But if saving its life destroys Islam, then saving Islam comes first, even if it means the individual is destroyed. This is the case with jihad against the infidels, and the killing of apostates, and so forth. Likewise if saving one life would destroy many lives, such as in combat, for example, then saving many lives comes first.”
Ibn Taymiyya gave an example of this with the saying of Allah Almighty: “Remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt” [Qur’an 29:45]. He clarified that forbidding obscenity and vice is good, but remembering Allah is greater, for that is a purpose unto itself, which takes precedence.
Consideration of the Consequences
Researchers among the Islamic scholars must take into account the consequences of actions. A fatwa which does not take consequences into account is deficient, as al-Shatibi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“Considering the consequences of actions is to consider the intent of the shari’a, whether the actions agree with it or oppose it. This is because the mujtahid does not make a ruling on any action, whether to go ahead with it or to refrain from it, until after he has considered the end result of this action. It could be legitimate due to the good that induced it or the evil that prevented it, however the end result might be the opposite of the intent. It could be illegitimate due to the evil which gave rise to it, or the good which pushed it away, but the end result could be opposite of the intent. If the first action were called legitimate, but then the evil it caused ended up being as great or greater than the good, that would prevent it from being called legitimate. On the same wise, if the second were called legitimate, but it ended up driving away as much or more evil than it caused, then it would not be correct to call it illegitimate. This can be a difficult situation for the mujtahid, although it is enjoyable to produce favorable outcomes which are in line with the spirit of the shari’a.”
There is no doubt that these words reside in the glorious light of the shari’a, for did not the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) stop rebuilding the house on the foundations of Abraham so that it would not cause fitna for the Quraysh? Did he not also stop the killing of the hypocrites, who were deserving of it, so that people would not say that Muhammad kills his companions? Under this pretext, Imam Ibn Taymiyya forbade his companions from banning the drinking of wine for the Tatars, for the drinking of wine did not prevent them praying and remembering Allah, but it did prevent them from killing the innocent and stealing their property.
There still remains another question, which is: Does working in law enforcement, with its violations (of the shari’a) and its compelling people to follow another law besides the shari’a of Allah--in some of its occupations--fall under this category?
The answer, according to those who believe it is permissible, is yes, and their evidence for that is as follows:
1- The story of Joseph (peace be upon him) and his working as a minister to Pharaoh, of which Imam Ibn Taymiyya (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“...Political authority--whether it is permissible, recommended, or obligatory--is within the right of the man appointed to this power to change it to be more obligatory or more recommended. For at that time he decides what is best, sometimes obligatory and sometimes recommended. along this vein, Joseph the Faithful took charge of the treasury of the land for the king of Egypt.
But the problem was that he was placing (Joseph) over the treasury of the land, while he and his people were infidels, as the Almighty said: “And Joseph had already come to you before with clear proofs, but you remained in doubt of that which he brought to you, until when he died, you said, 'Never will Allah send a messenger after him.' Thus does Allah leave astray he who is a transgressor and skeptic” [Qur’an 40:34]. It is well-known that even though they were infidels, he had to serve as the tradition and the law for them in taking their money and distributing it to the king’s entourage, family, soldiers, and subjects. That was not in accordance with the Sunnah and the justice of the prophets. Joseph could not do everything he wanted to, and was not believed to be of the religion of Allah, so the people did not respond to him. However, he wrought as much justice and goodness as he could, and the king honored the believers from his house, which would not have happened otherwise. All of this falls under the saying (of Allah): “So fear Allah as much as you are able” [Qur’an 64:16].
However, the inference from the story of Joseph (peace be upon him) is not free from opposition, for some scholars make the condition that the worker must be free to control how he comports himself, even as he works for the oppressor or licentious man. Some of them do not think at all, for it includes aiding the oppressor. They interpret this based on what it says in Surat Yusuf [Qur’an 12] that he was an agent for the king with regards to his money, not his kingship. Some even refer to the saying that Joseph’s Pharaoh was righteous. On this wise, Imam Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“Some scholars have said: In this verse [Qur’an 12:55] it permits a righteous man to work for a wicked man, and an infidel ruler, on the condition that he is granted authority to act without opposition, and he works according to that which he desires. However, if his employment were according to the choice of the wicked ruler and his wicked desires, then that would not be permissible. People say that ‘This was a special situation for Joseph, but today it is not permissible. It would be (permissible) if it were according to the conditions we mentioned. Allah knows best.’
Al-Mawardi said: “In the case where the master is wicked, people have differed on whether it is permissible to rule under him. The following two opinions are present: First, (it is permissible) if he has the right to control his own work within that which he is entrusted. For Joseph ruled under Pharaoh, and his work was determined by his own actions, not by the actions of another. Second, it is not permissible, for it includes rendering aid to oppressors, and endorsing them by assuming their tasks. Those who are of the first opinion respond to this by saying, first: Joseph’s Pharaoh was righteous, and Moses’ Pharaoh was wicked. Second, (Joseph) looked after his possessions, not his actions, for his liability did not extend past his possessions.”
Al-Mawardi said: “What is more correct than either of these two opinions is to separate what is entrusted to the individual into three categories. First, what is permissible for his people to do without any ijtihad, such as giving alms and paying the charity tax. For it is permissible to take responsibility for this work from the oppressive ruler, because the text stipulating its worthiness is clear enough that no ijtihad is necessary. It is permissible for people to do this on their own, without needing to resort to the opinion of any doctrine or school of thought. The second category includes that which is not permissible to do on its own, and which requires the use of ijtihad in its application. An example is the taking of booty, for it is not permissible to take responsibility for this from the oppressive ruler. Therefore this (category) cannot be applied except to (cases) which are deserving of it. The third category includes those tasks which it is permissible for him to delegate to his people. There is an opening here for ijtihad, such as court cases and rulings/judgments, for the contract (to delegate the power) is dissolved. If the authority delegated was merely to execute the ruling between those who consent, or mediate between those who are compelled, then it is permissible. But if it was to compel by force it is not permissible.
Perhaps it will be noted that the comments of this group of scholars on injustice and immorality seem obvious. Our situation, for the most part, is not like that, as it’s been presented. The truth is that what the Shaykh al-Islam said is the closest (to our situation), for Joseph (peace be upon him) was not the absolute arm (of Pharaoh). Doctor ‘Ali Muhammad al-Suwa said:
“The king had an appointed system and law, as evidenced by the saying of the Almighty: ‘He could not have taken his brother within the religion of the king except that Allah willed’ [Qur’an 12:76]. The society was also polytheist, and continued in its polytheism after Joseph, as evidenced by the saying of the Almighty: ‘But you remained in doubt of that which he brought to you’ [Qur’an 40:34]. It is clear that Joseph was not in complete control of the government. He was not even in complete control of the treasury, for the king had personal expenses which Joseph was not permitted to interfere with. The society had a custom and tradition for collecting funds, and spending them on the king’s entourage, family, and subjects. The tradition was not in accordance with the shari’a and the justice of the prophets, nor was Joseph able to do everything he wished, according to what he believed from the religion and justice of Allah.”
Abu-al-’Ala al-Mawdudi (may Allah have mercy on him) agreed with this interpretation, and inferred from it that it was permissible to take upon oneself various positions of political authority in a non-Islamic government. He (may Allah have mercy on him) even went so far as to say that the political authority was a communal obligation in certain circumstances. (He argued that) it was not appropriate to disagree with this interpretation simply because Joseph was under a different shari’a which came before ours. For if the issue was related to faith, disbelief in Allah [kufr], oneness of Allah [tawhid], or polytheism, there is no doubt that the religion of the prophets was one and the same on these issues.
In that respect, Shaykh ‘Abd-al-Rahman ‘Abd-al-Khaliq said:
“There is no evidence in the Qur’an or the Sunnah for saying that it is not permissible under the shari’a to take upon oneself political authority in infidel governments. The Qur’an and the Sunnah in fact say the opposite. For Joseph (peace be upon him), who was a noble prophet, took upon himself the responsibility over the treasury of the land in Egypt, which was a position similar to working in the ministry of finance today. Even though he was under a different shari’a which came before ours, there is nothing in our shari’a which would conflict with his. Yes, the Prophet (Muhammad) (peace be upon him) refused for Muslims to be tax collectors or police officers under unjust imams. But this should not be applied except where there is evidence to justify it. (It must be explained) that he forbade Muslims from being tax collectors to unjustly collect revenue from the people for the ruler. He also forbade police officers from beating the people in order to take their money, for there is no obedience to a creature in disobedience to the Creator.”
2 - The Story of the Negus
It was transmitted from Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) that, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said upon the death of the Negus: ‘A righteous man has died today, now go and pray for your brother Usahma’.”
(The Prophet) (peace be upon him) attested in this story of the righteousness of the Negus and prayed over him, even though he was king of an infidel nation, in which he ruled by other than that which Allah revealed. On this wise Imam Ibn Taymiyya (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“The Negus was not able to rule by the rulings of the Qur’an, for his people would not agree to that. Often a man among the Muslims or the Tatars will become a judge or even an imam, and will have some good and just things that he wants to do, but he is unable to do them, or he is prevented from doing them by someone. Allah does not burden any soul beyond its capacity. ‘Umar bin ‘Abd-al-’Aziz was treated with great hostility for some of the justice and reforms which he put in place. It was said that he was poisoned for that reason. The Negus and others like him are happy in Paradise. If they did not comply with the laws of Islam, it was because they were unable to do so. Instead, they ruled by the judgments they were able to put in place.”
Therefore if it was permissible for the ruler to rule by other than the shari’a in that case in a non-Islamic country in which he was unable to rule by the shari’a, then it is all the more permissible to execute these rulings.
3- The hadith of ‘Abd-al-Rahman bin ‘Awf, in which the Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “I witnessed with my cousins a pact which was so excellent that I would not wish to break it even for a herd of red camels.”
This shows that the Prophet (peace be upon him) under Islam did not want to break a pact which was made in the days of ignorance [i.e. before Islam] because it defended the oppressed. Most of the police work done in non-Muslim countries is to aid the needy, defend those who have been hurt in spirit and body, crack down on organized crime, etc.
From examining the different views and evidences, it appears that on this issue there are two sides and one middle area.
The first side: It appears to me that it is impermissible for one to work for the FBI or for national security with the harm they inflict on Muslims who are arbitrarily targeted by the government because of their political beliefs, charity work, or some of their convictions under the shari’a. The work of these agencies includes spying on these Muslims and others, as well as eavesdropping on their homes, cars, communication devices, and even their mosques, without any clear charges. It is prohibited by the shari’a for Muslims to participate in these activities, which lead to increased suspicion among members of the (Islamic) community as well as the weakening of their ties of faith and loyalty. All of this comes of evil, which is worse than whatever ill effects I see in abstaining from involvement in these activities.
But the other side refers to occupations such as those working with counternarcotics, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the Post Office, national parks, forests, and fisheries, or even in prisons as well. All of this appears to be permissible.
The middle area includes working as municipal, state, and county police. These might have to arrest a Muslim man whose wife said he ‘raped’ her or forced her. These and similar incidents, though rare, do happen.
It is this middle area which requires one, with consideration and precision, to judge between two evils, and toss out the greater evil for what is probably the lesser evil. The Islamic community should leave this task to (scholars) who are firm in the knowledge of (these subjects), and then proceed according to their opinions.Allah knows and judges best.