Bayah & The Necessity of a Spiritual Guide/Murshid explained through Quran & Ahadith

Whoever dies and did not make an oath of allegiance (to a Muslim leader) has died a death of jahiliyah (ignorance). [ Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Immarah]” 



1.0 Introduction: The meaning of Bay’at

Pledging allegiance, also known as taking bayah or bayt, is a tradition from the times of Beloved Messenger of Allah.

The meaning of Bai’at or pledging allegiance is to totally surrender yourself to a Muslim leader to guide you to Allah Taala. The one to whom you surrender, the one who helps you to walk on the path of Shari’ah and Tariqah is known as a “Murshid” in Arabic (teacher/ guide/sheikh) and the one who follows the guide is called “Mureed” (Disciple)

If a person wants to learn any art form or gain knowledge/science he will seek help from an expert in that field. Knowledge of deen and the AllahSubhanahu wa Ta’alaZaat (Being) is the important knowledge, science and difficult secret in the universe. It can only be achieved with the help of its experts. Only the expert’s can be accepted as Murshids (guides). The aim of this article is to define the need and necessity of a guide. The selection of spiritual guide/qualities/ranks is different discussion and will dealt separately inshallah azzawajal in the forthcoming articles.

Pledging allegiance (Bayah) is a tradition from the times of Beloved Messenger of Allah. The bayah & tajdeed-e-Bayah (renewal of bayah) used to take place in the time of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam), followed by khulfa-e-rashideen, Sahaba radi allahu tala anhu and generations after that until now.

Though the index quote should suffice to understand the necessity of pledging allegiance to a Muslim leader, more references have been cited from Quran and Ahadees for better understanding.

2.0 Quotes from Quran:

The baya’h is established in the Qura’n, the baya’h was given to the Prophet (peace be upon him) not only as part of the belief in Islam and his messenger ship but also as part of his authority and organization of the affairs of the Muslims in the deen and duniya:

Once such example is when the Noble Companions pledged oath to Prophet under the tree (Bayah-Al-Ridwan), before Al Hudaiba treaty. In this incident, each Companion placed their hand in the hand of the Beloved Prophet, and affirmed their faith in the oneness of Allah (tawheed).

This incident is reported in the Holy Qur’an, which states,

1)  “Certainly Allah was pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muhammad], under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquillity upon them and rewarded them with an imminent conquest.” [Surah Al-Fath 48:18]

More evidence from the Quran:

2)  The one who gives baya’ah is making a promise in front of Allah to worship Allah by clinging to the Islamic system.
“Those who swear allegiance to you (O dear Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him), do indeed in fact swear allegiance to Allah; Allah’s Hand* of Power is above their hands; so whoever breaches his oath, has breached his own greater promise; and whoever fulfils the covenant he has with Allah – so very soon Allah will bestow upon him a great reward”. (allah’s hand used as a metaphor to mean Allah’s power). [Surah Al-Fath 48:10]

3) Allah azzawajal says

“O dear Prophet (Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him)! If Muslim women come humbly to you to take oath of allegiance that they will neither ascribe any partner to Allah, nor steal, nor commit adultery, nor kill their children, nor bring the lie that they carry between their hands and feet, nor disobey you in any rightful matter – then accept their allegiance and seek forgiveness from Allah for them; indeed Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Surah Mumtahenah 60:12]

4) It is recorded in Sura Kahf, where Allah had ordered Hazrat Musa (Alaihis Salaam) to seek the company of Hazrat Khizr (Alaihis Salaam) to gain certain hidden knowledge that Allah had bestowed upon Hazrat Khizr (peace and blessings be upon him). [Sura Kahf 18, verses 65-82]

5) Allah azzawajal took the solemn pledge of all Prophets and Messengers to believe in the final Messenger and to support him. Allah says,

“And remember when Allah took a covenant from the Prophets; “If I give you the Book and knowledge and the (promised) Noble Messenger (Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him) comes to you, confirming the Books you possess, you shall positively, definitely believe in him and you shall positively, definitely help him”; He said, “Do you agree, and accept My binding responsibility in this matter?” They all answered, “We agree”; He said, “Then bear witness amongst yourselves, and I Myself am a witness with you.”  [Surah Al mran 3:81]

6) And remember O dear Prophet (Mohammed – peace and blessings be upon him) when We took a covenant from the Prophets – and from you – and from Nooh, and Ibrahim, and Moosa, and Eisa the son of Maryam; and We took a firm covenant from them, So that He may question the truthful regarding their truth; and He has kept prepared a painful punishment for the disbelievers. [ Surah Ahzab 33, verses 7 & 8]

7) O People who Believe! Fear Allah, and seek the means towards Him, and strive in His cause, in the hope of attaining success. [Surah Maidah 5:35]

8)  “… whomever Allah guides – only he is therefore guided; and whomever He sends astray – you will never find for him a friend who guides”. [Surah Kahf 18:17]

(The word ‘Murshid’ has come from this verse 18:17)

9) The general implication of the following ayah also makes the baya’h to the Imaam obligatory because it is the method to enter into the sharia’h system, structure and authority along with the beliefs

“O you who believe! Obey Allah, obey the messenger and those in authority amongst you and if you differ in anything between yourselves then refer it back to Allah and His messenger if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” (Surah Nisa 4:59)

There are many other ayah’s indicating the obligation of the sharia’h authority, unity and the prohibition of disunity in a’qeedah or authority in general however the selected one are quoted. Inshallah the forthcoming sections will shed more light clarifying what is authority and how is it passed on in chain.

10)  “And fulfil the covenant of Allah when you have made the promise, and do not break your oaths after ratifying them, and you have made Allah a Guarantor over you; indeed Allah knows your deeds”. [Surah Nahl 16:91]

11) “…and fulfil the promise; indeed the promise will be asked about.” [Surah bani israel 17:34]

As seen in the above verses the Qur’an is encouraging the people to give their oath and to keep their oath to the Prophet (peace be upon him), who leads them to the presence of Allah, Almighty and Exalted. Initiation of bayah muslims was done in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and continued after his physical departure from our vision.

The Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave bayah to the caliphs of the Prophet (peace be upon him) after his physical passing away from the world. It is narrated through the books of Sirah of the Sahhaba that the Sahaba gave bay’ah to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, the to Umar ibn al-Khattab, then to Uthman ibn Affan, to Ali, to Muawiya, and to all the caliphs who came later, as they had given it to the Prophet (peace be upon him)

3.0 Quotes from Ahadees:
According to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the oath was taken from men, women, as a group, as a group or as individuals, and from children as narrated by Imam Bukhari and Muslim.

The Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave bayah to the caliphs of the Prophet (peace be upon him) after his physical passing away from the world. It is narrated through the books of Sirah of the Sahhaba that the Sahaba gave bay’ah to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, the to Umar ibn al-Khattab, then to Uthman ibn Affan, to Ali, to Muawiya, and to all the caliphs who came later, as they had given it to the Prophet (peace be upon him)

There are several ahadith discussing the incidents of bayah on various occasions such as bayah al ridwan, bayah al aqaba, hijrah, jihad, oath for listening and obeying to muslim leaders/imam, renewal of bayah etc however again only few are selected to limit the article. Those who are interested can easily get more quotes in books and particular volumes referred below.

3.1 Pledge of Allligiance to Prophet (peace be upon him):

a)     Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Razin said, “We passed by az-Zubda and were told, ‘There is Salama ibn al-Akwa’. I went to him and he greeted us. Then he brought out his hands and stated, ‘With these two hands I offered allegiance to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.’ He held out his palm which was as huge as a camel’s foot, and we got up and kissed it.”

Reference: Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari by Imam Bukhari. Greetings Chapter 445 Hadith No 973.

b)     Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: On the day of Al-Hudaibiya, Allah’s Apostle said to us’ “You are the best people on the earth!” We were 1400 then. If I could see now, I would have shown you the place of the Tree (beneath which the pledge of allegiance was given by us),” Salim said, “Our number was 1400.” ‘Abdullah bin Abi Aufa said, “The people (who gave the pledge of allegiance) under the Tree numbered 1300 and the number of Bani Aslam was 1/8 of the Emigrants.”  (Sahi Bukhari, Book 59, Hadith 475)

c)     Narrated Urwa: Hazrathe Aisha the wife of the Prophet, said, “Allah’s Apostle used to examine the believing women who migrated to him in accordance with this Verse: ‘O Prophet! When believing women come to you to take the oath of allegiance to you… Verily! Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.’ (60.12) Hazrathe Aisha said, “And if any of the believing women accepted the condition (assigned in the above-mentioned Verse), Allah’s Apostle would say to her. “I have accepted your pledge of allegiance.” “He would only say that, for, by Allah, his hand never touched, any lady during that pledge of allegiance. He did not receive their pledge except by saying, “I have accepted your pledge of allegiance for that.”  (Sahi Bukhari, Book 60, Hadith 414)

d)     Narrated ‘Ubada bin As-Samit: who took part in the battle of Badr and was a Naqib (a person heading a group of six persons), on the night of Al-‘Aqaba pledge: Allah’s Apostle said while a group of his companions were around him, “Swear allegiance to me for:

1. Not to join anything in worship along with Allah.
2. Not to steal.
3. Not to commit illegal sexual intercourse.
4. Not to kill your children.
5. Not to accuse an innocent person (to spread such an accusation among people).
6. Not to be disobedient (when ordered) to do good deed.”

The Prophet added: “Whoever among you fulfills his pledge will be rewarded by Allah. And whoever indulges in any one of them (except the ascription of partners to Allah) and gets the punishment in this world, that punishment will be expiation for that sin. And if one indulges in any of them, and Allah conceals his sin, it is up to Him to forgive or punish him (in the Hereafter).” ‘Ubada bin As-Samit added: “So we swore allegiance for these.” (Points to Allah’s Apostle)  [Sahi Bukhari, Book 2, Hadith 17]

3.2 Pledge of Allligiance to Caliphs and imams: 

a)     Pledge of Alligiance to Abu Bakr

After physical passing away of prophet, Umar ra said to Abu Bakr, that we elect you, for you are our chief and the best amongst us and the most beloved of all of us to Allah’s Apostle.” Then ‘Umar took Abu Bakr’s hand and gave the pledge of allegiance and the people too gave the pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr.

The detailed hadith is narrated by hazrathe aisha is recorded in Sahi bukhari, Vol 57 hadith 19.

b)     Pledge of Alligiance to caliphs

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The Israelis used to be ruled and guided by prophets: Whenever a prophet died, another would take over his place. ”There will be no prophet after me, but there will be caliphs who will increase in number” people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What do you order us (to do)?” He said, “Obey the one who will be given the pledge of allegiance first. Fulfil their (i.e. the Caliphs) rights, for Allah will ask them about (any shortcoming) in ruling those Allah has put under their guardianship.”

[Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 661]

c)     Pledge of Allegiance (Bay’t) to sahaba:

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Dinar: When the people took the oath of allegiance to ‘Abdul Malik, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar wrote to him: “To Allah’s Slave, ‘Abdul Malik, Chief of the believers, I give the pledge of allegiance that I will listen to and obey Allah’s Slave, ‘Abdul Malik, Chief of the believers, according to Allah’s Laws and the Traditions of His Apostle in whatever is within my ability; and my sons too, give the same pledge.”

(Sahi Bukhari, Book 89, Hadith 312)

d)     Pledge of alligiance (Bay’t) to Imam (Having Authority):

Abu Huraira (may allah be pleased with him) narrated on the authority of Abu Bakr that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Three are the persons with whom Allah would neither speak on the Day of Resurrection, nor would He look towards them, nor would purify them (from sins), and there would be a tormenting chastisement for them:

1) A person who in the waterless desert has more water (than his need) and he refuses to give it to the traveler.

2) A person who sold a commodity to another person in the afternoon and took an oath of Allah that he had bought it at such and such price and he (the buyer) accepted it to be true though it was not a fact,

3) A person who pledged allegiance to the Imam but for the sake of the world (material gains). And if the Imam bestowed on him (something) out of that (worldly riches) he stood by his allegiance and if he did not give him, he did not fulfil the allegiance. (Sahi muslim, Book 1, Hadith 196)

e) Pledge of Alligiance to Imam mehdi:

Umm Salamah relates: she heard the messenger of allah, say: there willl be difference of opinion over the death of the caliph, (i.e difference on who should be appointed as the next caliph. on seeing this) a person from the tribe of Hashim (fearing he may be selected to take the burden of caliphate) will leave for makkah from medina. Some people will come and take him out of his house although he will resist it. Then they take the oath (of caliphate) on his hand between the black stone and station of ibrahim (maqam ibrahim) (on hearing the news of their allegiance) an army will set out towards them from Syria but it will be crushed into the ground as it reaches Bayda (a plain between makkah and medina). after this, the saints of Iraq and the abdal (substitutes) of Syria will call on him. then a (sufyani) person will come from syria, his maternal relatives belonging to the kalb tribe, he will dispatch his army to wage war on him. Allah will defeat them, resulting in them facing a catastophe. This is the battle of kalb. so anyone who(does not take part in the battle of kalb and as a result) does not share in the booty, will be in loss. Then the caliph Mahdi will discover treasures and distribute them generously (among the people). Islam will be fully established on earth. people wil live (in this state of prosperity and comfort) for seven or nine years (that is people will live in peach and comfort until the death of Mahdi)

Ref: Abu Dawud, as sunan, book of mahdi (kitab al mahdi) Hadis nu. 4287

f)     Hadith on obeying the leaders:

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: There is no Prophet after me, and there is no Ummah after you, so you should worship your Lord and say your 5 daily prayers, and fast in your month (Ramadan), obey your leaders and thus enter the Blessed garden of your Lord [Imam Tabarani in Muj’am al Kabir, Volume No. 8, Hadith 7217]

g)      Those who separated from amir would die the death of one belonging to the pre-islamic days.

It has been narrated (through a different chain of transmitters) on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Who defected from obedience (to the Amir) and separated from the main body of the Muslim-then he died in that state-would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahillyya. And he who is killed under the banner of a man who is blind (to the cause for which he is fighting), who gets flared up with family pride and fights for his tribe-is not from my Umma, and whoso from my followers attacks my followers (indiscriminately) killing the righteous and the wicked of them, sparing not (even) those staunch in faith and fulfilling not his obligation towards them who have been given a pledge (of security), is not from me (i. e. is not my follower).  (Sahih Muslim Book 20, Hadith 4557)

h)     “Whoever dies and did not make an oath of allegiance (to a Muslim leader) has died a death of jahiliyah (ignorance)”. (Sahih Muslim, Kitaab al-Imaarah)

4.0   Sayings of pious:

  • In regards to surah maida 5:35, “seek means to approach Allah” Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani states in Ghunyatut Talibeen that a murshid is to be accepted as a link and a mediator between himself and his lord, and also as a method and a means by which to attain him. He further says that the spiritual guides are the road to Allah, the signposts to it, and the gate by which it is entered. For every seeker of Allah a spiritual guide is therefore necessary. – [Hazrat Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani]
  • “Whoever travels without a guide needs two hundred years for a two-day journey” – Moulana Rumi.
  • In regards to Sura Kahf verses 65-82 where Allah had ordered Hazrat Musa (Alaihis Salaam) to seek the company of Hazrat Khizr (Alaihis Salaam) to gain certain hidden knowledge that Allah had bestowed upon Hazrat Khizr (Alaihis Salaam). Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani says “Allah has caused it to be a normal state of affairs on this earth for there to be a murshid (guide) and a mureed (seeker) a follower and one who is followed from the time of Hazrat Adam (Alaihis Salaam) through the era of the various Prophets, Hazrat Noah (Alaihis Salaam), Hazrat Ebrahim (Alaihis Salaam), Hazrat Musa (Alaihis Salaam), Hazrat Isa (Alaihis Salaam) and the Holy Prophet Muhammad . The Sahaba learnt from the Holy Prophet , then the Taba’in learnt from the Sahaba, then the Tabe Taba’in learnt from the Taba’in. In this way, century after century the master and disciple sequence continued without a break through the saints until the present period and will continue till the advent of the final hour. [Ghunyaat-ut-Talibeen – Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani ]
  • “Maulvi hargis na shud Maula e Rum, Ta ghulame Shams Tabrizi na shud”

      Maulana (religious teacher) Rumi could never have become Maulana Rum (Spiritual Guide) without submitting to      Spiritual Guide Shams Tabrez – Moulana Rumi.

  • Imam Abu Hanifa said, emphasizing the importance of sitting at the feet of a spiritual guide and teacher, “If it were not for two years, I would have perished. For two years, I accompanied Imam Jafar al-Sadiq and I acquired the spiritual knowledge that made me a knower in the Way (i.e. Tasawwuf).” [Ad-Durr Al-Mukhthar, Vol. 1, page 43]
  • Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi states in his Masnavi, “Butter cannot be acquired without milk, as recognition of Allah (ilm-e-baatin) cannot be obtained without a spiritual guide or Murshid.
  •  Ghaus-ul Azam (radi Allahu anhu) says: “If a person is unable to differentiate between a true and false Murshid, he should perform 2 Rakaats Nafil for achieving recognition of Allah at Tahajjud time. Then he should ask Allah to inform him of those pious people who will be able to guide him on the Right Path. He should beseech Allah to show him the person who will intoxicate him with Allah’s love and adorn the eyes of his heart with the light of Allah’s closeness and inform him of unseen happenings that he personally witnessed”. (Insha-Allah by doing so, one will receive the answer)(Al-Fath-ur Rabbani, pg.146) (If someone is unable to do this then he should seek the advise of a well versed Sunni Aalim. At times, people take        advice from the ignorant and become Mureeds of Shaitaan. May Allah Taala protect us )
  • Hazrat Ghausul Azam- Hadrat Sheikh Abdul Qaadir Jailani Radi Allahu anhu brings home the necessity of a Murshid in a beautiful metaphor. He says: “The heart is the plantation for the Aakhirah (Hereafter). Sow the seeds of Imaan in your heart. Irrigate, fertilise and mature it with regular good deeds. If there is kindness and energy in the heart it will be fertile and an abundant harvest will result. Should the heart be harsh and contemptuous, the soul becomes infertile and barren and no crop will be able to grow. Learn this art of farming by its farmers/ experts, the Awliya Allah. Do not think your opinion to be sufficient. Our ProphetSalla Allahu ‘alayhi wa Salam says, Seek help in every field from an expert in that field”. (Al-Fath-ur-Rabbani, pg. 202)
  • Hazrat Ghausul AzamRadi Allahu anhusaid: “Arrogance, hypocrisy, egoism, are all arrows of Shaitaan aimed at your hearts. One should formulate a strategy to defend oneself from this attack. The correct strategies are explained and demonstrated by the Mashaaikh (Guides). You should heed to their commands and act on them. They will guide you on the path of AllahSubhanahu wa Ta’ala since they have already travelled on this path. Ask their advise on matters relating to the Nafs (carnal desires), cravings and other weaknesses because they have also suffered their consequences and are well aware of the dangers and harms of evil desires. They have battled these over a long period of time and can confront, control and defeat them”. (Al-Fath-ur-Rabbani, pg. 150)

5.0 Summary & Conclusion:

The Baya’tu Taa’ah [pledge of obedience] is a contract of listening and obeying between the Imaam and the Muslims.

The bayah is an agreement in the Sight of Allah (swt) to follow the Sunnah of the Messenger (saw) in clinging to the jama’h of the Muslims through the system of unity via the acceptance of leader. This agreement takes place between the Imaam and those pledging their obedience to him. The Imaam is promised general obedience including the mentioned articles and in exchange for this, the one fulfilling those conditions will get paradise, as long as they avoid kufr and the major sins, and repent for any lapses, dedicating their lives to the worship of Allah subhanahu tala. The one taking the baya’h is also benefited by all of the worldly and spiritual consequences emanating from the system of unity and the Imaam’s command in accordance with the shari’ah.

The Bayah should not be done as a fashion or for the wordly gain, but disciple should to submit oneself whole heartedly to the true guide to seek closeness to Allah, follow the sunnah and to adhere to his commands in accordance with sharia  
Through the baya’ah the Muslim enters into the system of unity and Islamic authority by which the Quran and Sunnah have explained the structure of the Islamic way of life.

As evident from quran and ahadith pledge of allegiance to imam (true guide/kamil murshid) is obligation on every muslim. At the same time it is necessary to identify the guide whom we select so we will not fall in the wrong hands and the one who has the capacity to lead the followers close to allah azzawajal and increase spiritual state of his followers/disciples.

“(OAllah) Guide us on the Straight Path, The path of those whom You have favoured” [Surah Fatiha 5l6]

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