Quran 4:59 says obey those who are in authority over you (ulil amr)

Quran 4:34 says men are incharge of women.

Further a hadith tells men are like a shepherd for his sheep.

All of you are shepherds and every one of you is responsible for his herd. A leader is a shepherd, a man is the shepherd over his family and a woman is the shepherd over her husband’s house and his children. So all of you are shepherds, and every one of you is responsible for his herd (Muslim)

Since it is evident that man has authority over his household, can it be construed that ulil amr mentioned in 4:59 also encompasses husband/father at their capacities?

2 Answers 2


The general principle is that when a Quranic phrase is general, it should be understood in its broadest sense, unless there are compelling reasons to interpret it more narrowly. Without such reasons, we should understand the phrase in its broadest sense. Therefore, put simply, "those in authority" means anyone who has some kind of authority.

This includes all kinds of people in authority, e.g. government leaders, religious leaders (scholars, jurists), and in the context of a family, the husband or the father.

Abu Hayyan, for instance, writes in his Tasfir al-Bahr-al-Muhit, commenting on this verse:

قال أبو حيان في البحر المحيط في تفسير قوله تعالى: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنْكُمْ {النساء : 59}. الظاهر أنه كل من ولي أمر شيء ولاية صحيحة حتى المرأة يجب عليها طاعة زوجها، والعبد مع سيده، والولد مع والديه، واليتيم مع وصيه فيما يرضى الله وله فيه مصلحة.هـ

...It appears that this applies to anyone who has valid authority; so wives must obey their husbands, and slaves must obey their masters, and children must obey their parents, and orphans must obey their guardians, in whatever is pleasing to Allah, and in which they have an interest.

It is important to note that while obedience to Allah and His Messenger ﷺ is unconditional, obedience to ulil-amr (those in authority) is conditional upon their commands not contradicting the commands of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ; which is why the ayah continues:

O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. 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.

If a leader’s command is in direct conflict with Allah's Law, then that command must not be obeyed, as obedience to Allah and His Messenger ﷺ takes precedence.


Firstly, we should not interpret the Quran based on our own preferences or according to how kings would like it to be interpreted. Kings always preferred safe interpretations of the Quran that posed no threat to their power. They often imprisoned or even executed scholars who interpreted the Quran in a politically dangerous manner. On the other hand, they supported interpreters and writers who wrote in their favor. Some of them were even rewarded with gold of the same weight as the book.

The prophet Muhammad a.s. has said:

مَنْ فَسَّرَ الْقُرْآنَ بِرَأْيِهِ فَلْيُتَبَوَأْ مَقْعَدُهُ مِنَ النَّارِ.

“The abode of the one who interprets the Qur’an according to his opinion shall be in the Fire.

Reference: Speculative interpretation

The Quran states that one should not obey their father and mother if they speak against Islam. But this verse commands obedience without any limitations. So it cannot be about a father or husband. Although they have limited authority in specific fields, they have authority nonetheless. But this verse is general and does not include specific terms; it is like obeying Allah. This kind of obedience has the same level of importance as obeying Allah and the Prophet (peace be upon him) and is not merely a matter of limited obedience.

There are innumerable traditional reports related through Shia and Sunni channels that confirm this matter: they can be seen the books of Kafi, Ghaibat Nomani, Kamaluddin, Ghayat al-Maraam, Tafseer Burhan, Biharul Anwar and Manaqib etc. We present herewith some of them from Tafseer Burhanwithout their chains of narrators:

It is narrated from Jabir Ibne Abdullah Ansari that he said:

When the Almighty Allah revealed the following verse on His Prophet:

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the messenger and those possessing authority among you.”

I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! We know Allah and His Messenger. But who are the possessors of authority whose obedience Allah has accompanied with your obedience?’ He (S) explained, “They are my caliphs, O Jabir, and the Imams of the Muslims after me. The first of them is Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as), then Hasan (as) and Husain (as), then Ali Ibn Husain (as), then Muhammad Ibn Ali (as) the one who is famous as al-Baqir in the Old Testament. Soon, you will meet him, O Jabir, so when you face him, convey my salutation to him.

He will be followed by Sadiq, Ja’far Ibn Muhammad, then Moosa Ibn Ja’far, then Ali Ibn Moosa, then Muhammad Ibn Ali, then Ali Ibn Muhammad, then al-Hasan Ibn Ali, then the one who will be my namesake and bear my patronymic, the proof of Allah in His earth and His remainder among His servants, the son of Hasan Ibn Ali. He (aj) is the one at whose hands Allah, High be His remembrance, will open the east of the earth and its west. He (aj) is the one who will be concealed from his Shias and his friends, an occultation in which none will be steadfast on the belief of his Imamate except the one whose heart has been tested by Allah for faith.”

Jabir says that he asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah (S)! Will the Shias benefit from him during the occultation?’ He (S) replied, “Yes, by the One Who sent me with Prophethood! Surely they will benefit with his light and gain from his mastership in his occultation like people derive benefit from the sun when the clouds hide it. O Jabir! This is from the hidden secrets of Allah and the treasures of His knowledge, so hide it except from the ones worthy of it.”1

It is narrated from Abu Baseer that His Eminence, Abu Ja’far Baqir (as) said regarding the statement of Allah, the Mighty and Sublime:

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the messenger and those possessing authority among you.”

Imams from the progeny of Ali and Fatima (as) till the day of Qiyamat.”2

It is narrated from His Eminence, Abu Abdillah Sadiq (as) that he said regarding the statement of the Almighty Allah:

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the messenger and those possessing authority among you.

It is especially mentioned about us…”3

Reference: Ulil Amr are the Holy Imams (as)

  • How do you know fitrah doesnt help in right interpretation of quran Jan 30 at 14:14
  • @Random_User fitrah is useful but has errors and is not infallible and needs to be completed with something infallible. Jan 31 at 12:18
  • Shia reports say imams differed, that means they are not infallible, the reports are regarding a person who married a woman who was previously married. Feb 1 at 1:41
  • @Random_User Impossible. indeed they are fabricated or misunderstanding. please post your case as a new question to can be investigated. Feb 3 at 13:04

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