This phrase appears in many hadith relating to giving the pledge of allegiance of a caliph:
حدثنا عبد الله حدثنى أبى ثنا أسود بن عامر انا أبو بكر عن عاصم عن أبى صالح عن معاوية قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم من مات بغير امام مات ميتة جاهلية
Prophet(saw) said: Whoever died without an Imam he dies a death of jahilyyah (pre-islamic times). (Musnad Ahmed Vol. 4 p. 96)
The Prophet (saw) said, “Whoever dies without being bound by the oath of allegiance (bay'ah), dies the death of the time of jahiliyya (pre-islamic times).” (Muslim 1851)
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "Whoever parts from obedience, and splits away from the Jama’ah and dies, then he has died a death of Jahiliyyah. Whoever rebels against my Ummah, killing good and evil people alike, and does not try to avoid killing the believers, and does not pay attention to those who are under a covenant, then he is not of me. Whoever fights for a cause that is not clear, advocating tribalism, getting angry for the sake of tribalism, and he is killed, then he has died a death of Jahiliyyah." (Sunan al-Nasa’i Vol. 5, Book 37, Hadith 4119)
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "One who found in his amir something which he disliked should hold his patience, for the one who separated from the main body of the Muslims even to the extent of a hand span and then he died would die the death of one belonging to the days of jahiliyya (pre-islamic times). (Muslim Vol. 20, No. 4559)
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "The one who defected from obedience and separated from the main body of the Muslim, if he died in that state would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya (pre-islamic times). (Muslim Vol. 20, No. 4555)
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “Whoever removes his hands from the obedience or creates differences in the Jama’ah dies the death of the Jaahiliyyah.” (Ahmad Vol. 9, p. 23)
The oath of allegiance (bay'ah) is obliged upon Muslims or their representatives and influentials (al-hall wa al-aqd).
If this does not happen, those who die will have deaths akin to those dying in the age of jahilliyah. What does this mean?
Imam Ibn Hajr Asqalani(rah) stated:
“To die as those who died in the pre-Islamic period of ignorance(Jahiliyya) means the state of death: to die in a state of misguidance with no ruler to obey, as the inhabitants of that era had no such system of ruling. The hadith doesn’t mean that the Muslim will die as a kafir but as a disobeying Muslim.
This Hadith has possible definitions:
- To resemble between the state of death between the disobeying Muslim and the Jahil, even if the Muslim was not in reality a Jahil; or,
- To frighten and reprimand, and this meaning is not the apparent one.
Ibn Battal said: this hadith is an argument to not disobey the ruler even if he is wronged. The scholars agreed unanimously on the obligation of obeying the empowered ruler and fighting under his commandment. As well as the scholars consider obeying the ruler is better than disobeying him as this act prevents bloodshed and mitigates masses. “ (Fath Al-Bari, commentary of #6530).
So the death of Jahiliyyah means a death similar to those who lived in pre-Islamic times where the deens were sourced in ignorance rather than revelation.
After nearly fourteen centuries of Islamic rule we have returned to such an age.
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