Question: Is pledging allegiance (bay’ah) obligatory, recommended or just something allowed? And what is its position with respect to the Jamaa’ah (unified body) and to hearing and obeying (the ruler)?
Answer: Bay’ah (pledging allegiance) must be given to the ruler upon the oath that one will hear and obey (him) at the time when he is appointed a Muslim leader, based on the Book and the Sunnah. Those who should give their allegiance are the influential people in authority, such as the scholars and leaders. And everyone else, such as the other subjects, should follow them in that.
The pledge of allegiance of these influential people necessitates their obedience (to the ruler). Therefore, the pledge of allegiance should not be sought from every single individual amongst the citizens, since the Muslims are one united body and are represented by their leaders and scholars
This is what the pious predecessors of this ummah were upon, as was the case with the bay’ah to Abu Bakr, may Allaah be pleased with him, and other Muslim rulers.
The bay’ah (pledge of allegiance) in Islaam is not done in the chaotic and disorganized manner known as “elections”, which non-believing nations and those Arab countries that blindly follow them, are upon. These “elections” are based on bargaining and false claims, and many times those who fall victim to them are innocent souls.
The bay’ah done in the Islamic manner results in unity and harmony, and achieves security and stability, without having to go through chaotic auctions and competitions, burdening the ummah with adversity and hardships, shedding of blood and so on.
 Ash-Shawkaanee, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “From the greatest proofs that show the obligation of appointing leaders and giving oaths of allegiance to them is that which was reported by Ahmad, at-Tirmidhee, Ibn Khuzaimah and Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh from the hadeeth of Al-Haarith Al-Ash’aree رضي الله عنه, with the wording: “Whoever dies without having an Imaam of a group over him, dies the death of one in the Days of Ignorance.” Furthermore, when the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم died, the Companions gave the issue of the Imaamate (leadership) and giving the oath of allegiance to the leader more priority than anything else to the point that they were more preoccupied with that than with preparing the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم for burial.” [as-Sayl-ul-Jarraar: 4/504]
 Imaam ash-Shawkaanee said: “Its manner, i.e. that of the bay’ah, is that a group amongst the influential people of status and position gather together and agree to give the pledge of allegiance (bay’ah) to him…The point is that the bay’ah must be given to him, i.e. the Imaam, by the influential people of status and position, for this is the matter by which obedience to him becomes binding, and allegience to him becomes affirmed, and differing with him becomes forbidden. The evidences and proofs establish and affirm this. Allaah has eliminated for us the burden of having to undertake travel, suffer journeys, and traverse deserts by sanctioning the bay’ah of the influential people of status and position who give allegiance to the Imaam (on our behalf), since by this, his Imaamate will become affirmed and the Muslims will be obligated to obey him. It is not a condition for affirming the Imaamate of someone that everyone who is fit to give the bay’ah gives him allegiance, neither is it a condition for a man’s obedience to the Imaam that he must be from those who personally give bay’ah to him. These two conditions are rejected according to the unanimous agreement of the Muslims, the first and the last of them, the former and latter of them.” [as-Sayl-ul-Jarraar: 4/511 and 513]
Someone might say: Bay’ah should not be given to anyone except for the Imaam that is universal for all of the Muslims, as was the condition during the time of the righteous Khaleefahs. So we respond to this misconception, and with Allaah lies all success, by saying:
Imaam Ash-Shawkaanee, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “Since the Islamic Imaamate is designated to one person and the affairs return back to him and are connected to him, as was the case in the days of the Sahaabah, the Taabi’een, and their followers, then the legal ruling concerning the second leader that comes after allegiance to the first leader has been established is that he must be killed, if he does not repent from causing this rift.
But after Islaam spread and its lands became vast and its borders grew distant from one another, it became well known that in each region or regions, allegiance was given to a leader or a ruler, and the same applied for all the other regions. And some of their commands or prohibitions would not be implemented in the regions of other rulers. So there is no harm in having numerous leaders and rulers. Furthermore, each one of these rulers, after the allegiance has been given to him, must be obeyed by the people of that region in which his commands and prohibitions are implemented. The same thing goes for the ruler in another region.
So if there appears someone who rivals the leader in the region in which his authority has been established and to whom the people have given allegiance to, then the ruling with regards to this person is that he must be killed, if he does not repent. The inhabitants of the other regions are not required to obey him or enter under his authority due to the vast distance between the regions. So be aware of this, for it indeed corresponds to the religious fundamentals and it conforms to what the proofs indicate. And leave off what is said in opposition to it for the difference between what the Islamic rulership required during the first part of Islaam and what it is like now is clearer than the sun above a river. And whoever rejects this is deluded and does not deserve to be spoken to with proofs since he will not comprehend them.”
There is another misconception that goes as such: “There can be no Imaamate without the selection and consent of the subjects, particularly the influential people of status and position. We say: These words do not come except from two individuals: Either he is ignorant of the Sunnah, so the matter should be clarified to him and we should ask Allaah to open his heart or he is an ignoramus that knows the truth yet rejects it. Such a person follows his desires and there is no point in speaking to him. To refute this misconception, we say, seeking Allaah’s assistance:
Everyone of the students of knowledge and common folk should know that the Khilaafah and Imaamate can be achieved in several ways: (1) Either by choosing the person who is most qualified and best positioned for it, as was the case with Abu Bakr as-Sideeq, may Allaah be pleased with him; or by (2) the former leader passing it onto his successor, as was the case when Abu Bakr delegated the authority over to ‘Umar; or by (3) delegating the matter to a specific gorup of well-known individuals to choose someone from amongst them, as was the case when ‘Umar delegated the authority to the Shooraa (Committee) and when ‘Uthmaan was martyred, the people gave their allegiance to ‘Alee; or by (4) victory through battle, as was the case with Banu Umayyah and others, for the Khilaafah of Banu Umayyah occurred in Andalus, while the Khilaafah of the ‘Abbaasee tribe was established in Baghdad. And the Imaams and scholars of the Sunnah were abundant and spread out during this time, amongst whom were Hameed At-Taweel, Shu’bah bin Al-Hajaaj, Ath-Thawree, Hammaad bin Salamah, Isma’eel bin ‘Ayyaash, Ibn Al-Mubaarak, Ibn ‘Uyainah, Yahyaa Al-Qattaan, Al-Layth bin Sa’ad, and others. None of them held the view that the establishment of the Khilaafah in Andalus and giving the oath of allegiance to its Khaleefah was to be annulled. We should also not forget that this belief, that the people must be pleased with and consent to the leader, necessitates that we invalidate the Khilaafah of ‘Alee رضي الله عنه and his son Al-Hasan, who turned down the Khilaafah after the murder of his father, since the entire ummah did not unanimously agree on giving the oath of allegiance to them, so think about it!!
The Imaam of Ahlus-Sunnah, Imaam Ahmad, said: “The foundations of the Sunnah according to us are: Holding fast onto what the Companions of Allaah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم were upon, Following their example…Hearing and obeying the ruler…whether righteous or sinful, from those who assume (the command of) the Khilaafah. So the people gather under him and are pleased with him, as well as he who overpowers (the people) by way of the sword until be becomes the Khaleefah…It is not permissible for anyone to rebuke them or contend with them (in their authority)…Whoever rebels against the Imaam of the Muslims, after the people have gathered under him and agreed to his right of the Khilaafah, by way of any of the means (that the Khilaafah is attained), whether by the people’s consent or through his domination over them, this rebel has sown the seeds of dissension amongst the Muslims and opposed the narrations reported from Allaah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم. If this person who rebels against him (i.e. the leader) dies, he dies the death of one from the Days of Ignorance.” [From the book Usool I’tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah of Al-Laalikaa’ee (1/156-161)]
Shaikh-ul-Islaam Muhammad bin ‘Abdil-Wahhaab, may Allaah have mercy on him, said: “The Imaams of every madh-hab (school of thought) are in unanimous agreement that whoever takes control and overpowers a country or several countries, has achieved the role of leader (Imaam) in all matters. If this were not the case, the world would never be stable since people from ages ago, even before the time of Imaam Ahmad up to this very day of ours, were never united altogether under one Imaam. And they did not know any scholar that said that one of the laws (of Islaam) could not be applied unless there was this one great Imaam (ruler).” [ad-Durar-us-Saniyyah: 7/239]
Source: Benefical Answers to Questions on Innovated Methodologies with Questions answered by Shaikh Saalih bin Fawzaan Al-Fawzaan.
Compiled and Commented by: Jamaal bin Furayhaan Al-Haarithee
Publisher: Al-Ibaanah Book Publishing