This hadith is an informative hadith and does not carry any command. However, it is good news to the believers that our current situation of tyranny and oppression will come to an end and a Rightly Guided Khilafah will return.
فقد روى الإمام أحمد عن النعمان بن بشير رضي الله عنه الله، قال: كنا جلوساً في المسجد فجاء أبو ثعلبة الخشني فقال: يا بشير بن سعد أتحفظ حديث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في الأمراء، فقال حذيفة: أنا أحفظ خطبته. فجلس أبو ثعلبة.
فقال حذيفة: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: تكون النبوة فيكم ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون خلافة على منهاج النبوة فتكون ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون ملكًا عاضًا فيكون ما شاء الله أن يكون، ثم يرفعها إذا شاء الله أن يرفعها، ثم تكون ملكًا جبرية فتكون ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون خلافة على منهاج النبوة، ثم سكت. قال حبيب: فلما قام عمر بن عبد العزيز، وكان يزيد بن النعمان بن بشير في صحابته، فكتبت إليه بهذا الحديث أذكره إياه. فقلت له: إني أرجو أن يكون أمير المؤمنين – يعني عمر – بعد الملك العاض والجبرية، فأدخل كتابي على عمر بن عبد العزيز فَسُرَّ به وأعجبه.
It was narrated by Ahmed in his Musnad, from Al-Nu’man b. Bashir, who said: “We were sitting in the mosque of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, and Bashir was a man who did not speak much, so Abu Tha’labah Al-Khashnee came and said: ‘Oh, Bashir bin Sa’ad, have you memorized the words of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ regarding the rulers?’ Huthayfah replied, ‘I have memorized his words’.
So Abu Tha’labah sat down and Huthayfah said, ‘There will be Prophethood for as long as Allah wills it to be, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be Khilafah on the Prophetic method and it will be for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be biting rule (ملكًا عاضًا) for as long as Allah Wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be oppressive rule (ملكًا جبرية) for as long as Allah wills, then he will remove it when He wills, and then there will be Khilafah upon the Prophetic method.’ Then he ﷺ was silent.”
Habib said: “When Umar ibn AbdulAziz became caliph I wrote to him, mentioning this tradition to him and saying, “I hope you will be the commander of the faithful after the biting and the oppressive kingdoms.” It pleased and charmed him, i.e. Umar ibn AbdulAziz.”
Reference: Masnad Ahmed bin Hanbal (Hadith # 18430), As-Saheeha al-Albani (Hadith # 5). It has been declared Hasan by Sh’uaib Arnaoot, and al-Albani classified it as Sahih. The text quoted is the one from Masnad Ahmed.
There are five distinct periods mentioned in the hadith.
- Khilafah on the Prophetic method
- Biting rule (ملكًا عاضًا)
- Oppressive rule (ملكًا جبرية)
- Khilafah on the Prophetic method
The period of Khilafah on the Prophetic method is not disputed and this applies to the first five Rightly Guided Caliphs – Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali and Hassan. This period lasted for 30 years.
With regards to the periods of biting and oppressive rule then there is difference of opinion and three possible explanations have been given by the ulema.
1- Habib, one of the narrators of the hadith above has applied the periods of biting and oppressive rule to the Ummayads prior to Umar bin Abdul-Aziz. He then applies the fifth period of Khilafah on the Prophetic method to Umar bin Abdul-Aziz.
Albani in his book Silsilah as-Saheeha responds to this explanation:
ومن البعيد عندي جعل الحديث على عمر بن عبد العزيز؛ لأن خلافته كانت قريبة العهد بالخلافة الراشدة، ولم يكن بعد ملكان ملك عاض وملك جبري. والله أعلم.
“it is far fetched for me to say that the hadith applies to Umar bin Abdul Aziz because his Khilafah was close to the period of the (first) Khilafah Rashidah and after this first Khilafah Rashidah two periods that is the period of hereditary rule and the period of oppression did not take place. Allah knows best”
2- Abu Luqman in his book 60 Sultaniyya states:
The “biting rule” (ملكًا عاضًا) refers to the misapplication of the taking of the pledge of allegiance, which was taken by force and then subsequently handed down by hereditary rule rather than by consent.
The “oppressive rule” (ملكًا جبرية) is the period of time when the Muslims were ruled by those whose rule was based upon Islam but were oppressive upon the people, as indicated by the Prophet in other narrations that the Muslims should obey their leader even if he whips their backs as long as he does not order them to commit sin.
The last part of the hadith is a glad tiding for the Muslim Ummah, a prophecy that there will again be Khilafah established, with the Will of Allah, based upon the Prophetic methodology.
3- Abu Khaled Hejazi in his article Q&A – Explanation of the Hadith about the 5 Periods of Rule in Musnad Ahmad states:
As for the term aa’ddan (عاضًا) it means biting and here it is used metaphorically to mean that the rulers will hold on to power as if they were biting on to power and this is why the Scholars referred this period to be the inheritance rule, this is the period that started with Mua’wiya (ra) who appointed his son Yazid to power.
This period continued until 1924 when the last remains of the Uthmani Khilafah was dismantled and it was then replaced with the Pseudo-Democratic, Secular Nationalist states which oppressed its masses. These states brought turmoil and killings on its people of a scale which humanity had never seen before and they replaced the Shari’a with the Man-made law and relegated the Law of God to the Masjids and the Courts Of Nikah.
We should remember that even this understanding cannot be considered as a definitely correct understanding but when we compare the realities as described in the hadith, the application which we have described here is in line with the reality.
The sincere observant of history and global politics will appreciate that the hadith talks about our times indeed and that there is no doubt that we are in the period of Mulkan Jabriyy (the Oppressive Rule) and very soon the ummah will re-establish the prophesized Khilafah Rashidah Insha’Allah.
To conclude, whether someone adopts that biting and oppressive rule applies to the previous Khilafah, or that only biting rule applies to the Khilafah and oppressive rule applies to our time today, then this doesn’t change the fact that the Khilafah will return once again insha’Allah i.e. the fifth period of the hadith.