A History of the Khilafah system
Due to the current situation of the Muslim word, it is natural that the Ummah is looking for a solution to its problems and dedicates its resources in order to alleviate itself from the catastrophes that are confronting it. In its efforts to solve its problems, it is also natural that the Muslims would realise that Islam is the only solution because it is deeply rooted in the minds of Muslims and embodies our history, language, culture, and sentiments. As a result of such a realisation, Muslims would naturally work to bring Islam back into existence.
Today, Muslims are beginning to return to their Islamic roots, and we are exerting a tremendous amount of energy in order to change the situation. In the attempts to re-establish the Islamic ruling system, the Khilafah, those movements have faced many questions and obstacles. Some of these issues centre on whether the Khilafah State implemented Islam alone during its establishment.
The reason behind this questioning
As a consequence of the cultural and political invasion of the West upon the Muslims – which concentrated on attacking and diluting the concepts related to Islamic ruling and authority – many ideas related to Islamic governance-manifested by the Khilafah State- became weak, or completely misunderstood.
[quote_left] There were some who were infatuated with the West, and smitten by their ideas, who denied the Khilafah state ever existed. The western powers ensured that the Muslims, by their own initiative, turn away from such central and mainstream concepts as the Islamic political system [/quote_left]
There were some who were infatuated with the West, and smitten by their ideas, who denied the Khilafah state ever existed. The western powers ensured that the Muslims, by their own initiative, turn away from such central and mainstream concepts as the Islamic political system, to the extent that when the Khilafah’s death certificate was signed in 1924, a scholar and Azhar graduate named Ali Abdul Raziq, plagiarised a French book and immediately issued it claiming that Muhammad (saw) never acted as ruler, imam, judge, or political leader, and that the Khilafah was not a part of Islam at all.
He also claimed that the Muslims should convene and choose any political system to take care of their worldly affairs, but emphasised that Islam is exclusively for the individual and such a political system would not constitute a part of Islam. After issuing the book, Al Azhar issued a fatwa calling for the destruction of his certificate and claiming that he had left the fold of Islam. In spite of Al-Azhar’s response, the book was published immediately after the destruction of the Khilafah, leading one to conclude that the publishing of such a book was precisely timed to coincide with the destruction of the state.
Thereafter Farish A Noor, a Malaysian political scientist and human rights activist said in an article entitled, ‘Restoration of the Muslim Caliphate remains a Pipe-Dream’, “Those Muslims who tried to revive the institution of the Caliphate…. were merely holding on to a fantasy that was a comfortable panacea for the painful realities of their daily lives.”
Another reason for the questioning of the ruling system of Islam is sinister too. There are those who are clambering to keep the current Kufr [Non-Islamic] systems, by passing fatawa which are contradictory to Islam, and which deny the existence of the Khilafah state in history as the Islamic political system, due to the fact that they wish to please their masters from amongst the corrupt rulers.
Furthermore there are those who are defeated by pessimism who constantly see darkness and despair, and are afraid to go out of their houses. There are those who have simply misunderstood the reality of history and the events of the past, and state that Islamic rule lasted for a very short period only.
[quote_right] The West exerted a tremendous effort to alienate the Muslims from Islam, employing several tactics in order to achieve this aim. Among their many manoeuvres, championed by the Orientalists, was in constructing a picture of Islamic history as a grim era full of oppression and tyranny[/quote_right]
The West exerted a tremendous effort to alienate the Muslims from Islam, employing several tactics in order to achieve this aim. Among their many manoeuvres, championed by the Orientalists, was in constructing a picture of Islamic history as a grim era full of oppression and tyranny. As a result, many Muslims use such a scenario to counterattack any movement seeking to re-establish Islam in the realm of life. In order to legitimise their arguments, they present two particular points. They bring the example of the Umayyads and Abbasids and claim that their rule was that of a monarchy; and they cite stories of problems and incidents that occurred in history, exaggerate them in scope, and use them to justify their claim that Islam was not implemented. The following are some of the more common arguments raised against the Khilafah ruling system:
Islam did not give details on a political system
On the contrary, the Khilafah state is well defined, and scholars in the past and present have presented the Khilafah structure in detail. It is beyond the scope of this article, to discuss the details, but the book issued by Hizb ut-Tahrir called “The Ruling System in Islam”, clearly illustrates the details of the system, showing the basis of the Khilafah State, and revealing its pillars in an eloquent manner. All pillars and roles within it are extracted from the first Islamic State that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) established in Medina and the structure adopted by subsequent Khulafah.
The argument that the Khilafah lasted for 30 years
There are some who have misunderstood the divine texts, and claim that the Khilafah only lasted for 30 years. They base their understanding, by taking in an isolated manner an honourable hadith, which was narrated in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, which states that the Prophet (saw) said, “The Khilafah in my Ummah after me will be for thirty years. Then there will be Mulk after that.” Some people translate the word mulk as Kingship.
To deal with this understanding we need to look to the hadith, and what it is addressing, and we need to look to this honourable hadith in context with other hadith. The 30 years that are mentioned is related to the period of the Khulafah Rashidah. So if we look to their period of rule and look to the sum of the first five Khulafah it comes to exactly thirty years: two years and three months for Abu Bakr (ra), ten and a half years for Umar (ra), twelve years for Uthman (ra), four years and nine months for Ali (ra), and six months for al-Hasan (ra). The hadith then mentions that there will be mulk afterwards. The word mulk has many meanings. The famous Arabic dictionaries, like “Al- Muhit” of Fairuz Al-Abadi, clearly illustrate this. The word mulk amongst other things does mean kingship, but also it means the one having charge over all the people, and also the word “hukm” (rule), is synonymous with the word sultan (authority), and mulk (dominion/rule).
Those who refer to this hadith claim the Umayyads and later generations were monarchies because, they claim, even the hadith mentions the word Mulkan, which is derived from Malik, or ruler. Such an argument is built upon a false interpretation because the word Mulk as stated above means “dominion/rule/authority” and the word Malik can either mean “a ruler” in any context or “a ruler within a monarchical system.” Thus, rulership or ruling does not immediately mean kingship or monarchy but can mean ruling in any system. Allah (swt) mentions in the Qur’an the word Mulk, in the context of rule, amongst other ayat:
فَهَزَمُوهُمْ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَقَتَلَ دَاوُودُ جَالُوتَ وَآتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْمُلْكَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَهُ مِمَّا يَشَاءُ ۗ وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُمْ بِبَعْضٍ لَفَسَدَتِ الْأَرْضُ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ
“By Allah’s will they routed them; and Dawud slew Goliath; and Allah gave him dominion [Mulk] and wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed. And were it not for Allah’s repelling some men with others, the earth would certainly be in a state of disorder; but Allah is Gracious to the creatures” [TMQ Al-Baqarah: 251].
Nobody can claim that Dawud (as) was a king because he would have to declare himself sovereign, an impossible act for a Prophet. In this context, Dawud (as) was given the authority to implement the revelation he received from Allah (swt), in the same manner that the Khaleefah has the authority to rule only by Islam.
Also if we look to other hadith, they mention that there will be 12 Imams, which is a Shari’ah term to mean Khulafah, which can indicate that there were 12 Khulafah in the first three generations. As narrated by Jabir ibn Samurah (ra) that Muhammad (saw) said “The Islamic deen will continue until the Hour has been established, or you have been ruled by twelve Khulafah, all of them being from the Quraish” [Sahih Muslim].
In another hadith the Prophet (saw) has indicated that their will be many Khulafah. It has been reported on the authority of Abu Hazim that he said: “I accompanied Abu Hurairah for five years, and heard him informing about the Prophet (saw), he said: ‘The Prophets ruled over the children of Israel, whenever a Prophet died another Prophet succeeded him, but there will be no Prophet after me. There will soon be Khulafah and they will number many.’ They asked; ‘What then do you order us?’ He (saw) said; ‘Fulfil the Bay’ah to them, one after the other and give them their dues for Allah will verily account them about what he entrusted them with’ [Sahih Muslim].
Also the example of the Sahabah, Tabieen, and Tabi-Tabieen, and the great Mujtahideen amongst them, is clear that they recognised the Khulafah after Hasan (ra) and gave bay’ah to them freely, such as Khaleefah Muawiya, Khaleefah Abdullah ibn Zubayr (ra), and Khaleefah Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (ra), and even those much later on such as Khaleefah Abdul Hamid II amongst many others.
The argument that the Khilafah was a tyranny
To legitimise their claims that Islam was not implemented during its history or that Islam cannot be implemented again, some individuals refer to incidents described in history books that portray life under Islamic rule as a dismal existence in which oppression, misery, and persecution were the norm. In reality, these books often follow the footsteps of the Orientalists whose purpose was to attack and undermine Islam from every angle. The contents of such books point to isolated incidents that do not represent the general state of affairs within the Khilafah during its 1400-year tenure.
Moreover, such books contradict common sense. For instance, Khaleefah Haroon al-Rashid is often the target of malicious attacks by Orientalist writers that accuse him of a myriad of crimes – ranging from adultery to alcoholism to theft – as well as to portray him as a tyrannical despot who sponsored mass executions and ruled the people with an iron fist. Yet the same Khaleefah Haroon – spent alternating years performing Hajj and maintaining the armies of jihad, who built a water transport system that the Saudi regime cannot build today with their wealth and resources, and who saw the Islamic civilization rise to its zenith under his reign – was also nicknamed “Al-Rashid” and called the “Sixth Guided Khaleefah.” Many other contradictions and distortions are found in such books that aim only at undermining Islam and presenting a distorted picture.
Yet, even tyranny is not a cause for the invalidation of the Islamic ruling system (although it can never be acceptable and must be changed), as the following noble hadith mentions; “‘The best of your Imams are those whom you love and they love you, and pray for you and you pray for them, and the worst of your Imams are those whom you hate and they hate you, and you curse them and they curse you.’ We asked; ‘O Messenger of Allah! Shall we not then declare war on them?’ He said; ‘No, as long as they establish Salah amongst you’ ” [Muslim from Auf bin Malik]. So the hadith is indicating that the ruler needs to be obeyed, as long as he implements the Shari’ah.
The Islamic Ummah must take the initiative and objectively re-examine its history by scrutinising its sources. No longer can Muslims afford to focus on the episodes from our history and heritage that the Orientalists and colonialists wish for us to dwell upon. Islamic history remains a history full of glimmering achievements and a shining example of civilization that produced a society of unparalleled justice, mercy, and advancement, for thirteen centuries.
The period of the ransacking of the Khilafah in 1258-1261
There are some who claim that there was no Khaleefah for a period of three years and that the Muslims ignored the duty of the Khilafah system. To fully understand this period, we need to examine the wider situation at that time. The reality of the Khilafah was that it was very weak. The capital of the Khilafah was Baghdad but many of the Wilayat (provinces) had become very strong; virtually autonomous. So when the Mongols ransacked Baghdad in 1258, and killed the Khaleefah Mutasim, it shook the entire state as mentioned by Jalaluddin As-Suyuti in his book Tarikh al-Khulafah.
The region of Egypt was controlled by the Wali (governor), who had assumed the title of Sultan. As-Suyuti mentions that;
“In 657 AH the world was without the Khaleefah. The Tartars [Mongols] were descending upon the Ummah. The Sultan [Wali] of Egypt was a boy, Mansur Ali bil Muizz (who was unable to do anything to help the Muslims)…There upon Sultan [Wali] Qotuz, assembled the nobles and the principal men of the Ummah and there present was Shaykh Izzuddin bin Abdus Sallam who was a celebrated orator, and he said, ‘ Since, the enemy has overrun the Wilayah, it is incumbent upon the whole Ummah to oppose them, and it is lawful to take from the people what they can afford of their sustenance on the condition that the bait al mal [State Treasury] be first exhausted…”
Then Qotuz, removed al-Mansur as the Sultan, and Qotuz, was then appointed as Sultan of the Wilayah. He then sent for Sultan Bayburs and met at Ain Jalut, where the Tartars were defeated, and the Muslims were victorious. In Rajab of 659 AH (May 1261) the Khaleefah was proclaimed and given the bay’ah. His name was Al Mustansir Billah Ahmed, he had fled Baghdad in 1258, and when Bayburs became Sultan he set out to visit him, with the Qadis and other officials of the state. The first to give him Bay’ah was Sultan Bayburs, then the Qadi al Qudaa, Tajuddin Aa’zz, then the Shaykh Izzuddin Sallam, and then the rest of the influential people.
The whole narration shows that the structure of the State was intact, apart from the fact that the Khaleefah had been killed and that the Muslims did not have a Khaleefah for 3 years. This was not because of a negligence of a duty, far from it, and it would be wrong to suggest so by the fact that the Muslims concerned for selecting a Khaleefah were under an overwhelming power preventing them from doing so. The period between 1258-1261 is analogous to the case of the Muslims after the murder of Uthman (ra) where the Muslims remained for five days without a Khaleefah before pledging Ali (ra) as Khaleefah.
[quote_left] Only through the implementation of Islam and the power of the Islamic Ideology could the Muslims have profoundly influenced their invaders inspite of the intellectual decline and fragmentation existing within the Ummah at the time. [/quote_left]
Even the Tartars, who ransacked Baghdad and directly occupied the Islamic State, could not escape the influence of Islam. When the Muslims finally expelled them, they accepted Islam, returned to give the Bay’ah to the Khaleefah, and carried the banner of Islam to Russia and the Far East. No other incident in history witnesses that a nation conquered a people, and the conquerors soon carried the culture and ideas of the conquered! Only through the implementation of Islam and the power of the Islamic Ideology could the Muslims have profoundly influenced their invaders inspite of the intellectual decline and fragmentation existing within the Ummah at the time.
The Case Of The Bay’ah [oath of allegiance]
Although the Khilafah remained with a single family during the time of the Umayyads and Abbasids, their ruling was not considered a monarchy for the following reasons:
The sovereignty was never given to the Head of State, and nor did the Head of State ever claim himself to be sovereign, i.e. the source of legislation, as is the case in the monarchical system. Throughout Islamic history, the Muslims always referred to the Hukm Shar’i [Islamic law] as the source of their legislation and not to any particular individual.
The office of the Khilafah was never conferred upon individuals solely on the basis of inheritance. Although the Khilafah remained within a single family for several generations at a time, such an incident does not constitute hereditary ruling because the Bay’ah was always given. In a monarchy, the son of the King or the ruler, by sole virtue of his family relationship, would immediately assume the ruling position afterwards. During the Islamic history, no Khaleefah was ever appointed or designated to his post without the Bay’ah. Those few who did try to assume the position of Khaleefah without a Bay’ah performed an illegitimate seizure of power and were quickly removed.
The controversy over the Bay’ah centres on the incident in which Muawiya (ra) took the Bay’ah for his son, and such an incident is used to justify the claims that monarchical rule followed the generation of the Sahabah. Such a conclusion results from failing to distinguish between misapplying the rules and abandoning them altogether. Muawiya’s case demonstrates a misapplication of the Shari’ah rules in which the Bay’ah was taken in the wrong manner. Furthermore, Muawiya based his understanding on Abu Bakr’s (ra) actions when he nominated Umar (ra) before the termination of his Khilafah. In the same manner, Muawiya selected his son. Although Abu Bakr (ra) asked the opinions of the Muslims as opposed to Muawiya, such an act does not indicate that Muawiya abandoned the Shari’ah because the Bay’ah was not abandoned but he misapplied the Shari’ah rule in this instance.
In spite of the misapplication, the Bay’ah was given consistently throughout the thirteen centuries of Islamic rule. The Shari’ah has laid down two points related to the Bay’ah that need to exist for the Bay’ah to be legitimate. Firstly, the consent of all the Muslims needs to be sought, and secondly it needs to be done without coercion but by free will and consent. Generally, the Bay’ah was given by the Sheikh al Islam or the Ahlul Halli wal Aqd [the influential people] who represented the Muslims as a whole throughout Islamic history. Thus, the argument that the Bay’ah was misapplied on occasion is no basis for claiming the Khaleefah was not legitimately contracted or that Islam was not implemented.
As sovereignty belongs to Allah (swt), the Muslims should always surrender to Allah’s (swt) rulings as found in the Islamic texts when discussing any issue, evaluating any idea or concept, or initiating any action. Regardless of how many justifications or excuses circulate amongst the Ummah, the fact remains that Islam defined a unique political system, provided a detailed and well-defined political structure, established the political system as the practical mechanism to implement and carry Islam, and obliged the Muslims to establish this system. The Orientalists and those who harbour hatred towards Islam have capitalised upon aspects of Islamic history to portray a bleak picture of life under Islamic rule. Some people, even sincere Muslims, have been seduced by the Orientalists and inadvertently justify the claim that Islam is not applicable for modern political life. Such claims are not excuses for the Muslims to claim that Islam has no political system or that it doesn’t work. On the Day of Judgment, Allah (swt) will judge the Muslims for their deeds, not their excuses.
The ruling by Islam constitutes an integral part of the belief in Islam because Allah (swt) mentions in the Qur’an:
“They (the prophets) are those whom we gave the Book, Al-Hukm (the ruling), and the Prophethood. But if they disbelieve therein, then we have entrusted it to a people who are not disbelievers” [TMQ Al-Anam: 89].
Nobody can claim that Muhammad (saw) was not given the ruling because the Ayah clearly indicates that, as a Prophet, Muhammad (saw) received the ruling along with the Book and the Prophethood. To claim that Islam does not have a ruling system would denote a denial of the Ayah in the Qur’an. Also, “they” in the Ayah is addressed to the polytheists among the Quraysh, and the, “people who are not disbelievers”, refers to the Sahabah. In this Ayah, Allah (swt) is stating that those who disbelieve in any of the three aspects, whether it is the Book, the Prophethood, or the ruling, would be similar to the disbelievers among the Quraish who fought and opposed Muhammad (saw). Furthermore, the Sahabah, in order to fulfil the criterion of, “people who are not disbelievers”, would have to believe in the ruling and work for its establishment. Based upon this Ayah, Allah (swt) likens those who oppose the ruling or those who oppose the work for Islam’s establishment to the polytheists among the Quraish. Thus, any attack against the political system of Islam or those who work to establish it is an attack against Islam itself.
Most importantly, the Muslims must understand that, in spite of what history says, Islam is correct: Allah (swt) is still the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe; the Qur’an and the Sunnah remain as guidance for humanity and the system from Allah (swt). Islam will always remain for anyone to accept or reject as he or she desires, and no excuses – whether they come in the guise of, “Islam was not implemented, so what’s the use?” or any other justification – will change Islam in any aspect. Nations, like people, experience falls and shortcomings that add to the growth of the nation in the same manner that an individual’s failures build experience and knowledge that act as stepping stones for future success.
Today, the Islamic Ummah has fourteen centuries of history as a deposit in her ideological account that can be withdrawn and utilised in the challenge to re-establish the Islamic State and attain its rightful status. Allah (swt) mentions the Muslims’ status in the Qur’an:
وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا
“We have made you a just Ummah, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you” [TMQ Al-Baqarah: 143].
كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ
“You are the best Ummah ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin the good, and forbid the evil, and you believe in Allah” [TMQ Ale-Imran: 110].
The Muslims should aspire towards nothing less because Muhammad (saw) indicated that the Khilafah will return based on the path of Prophethood.
Ibn ‘Asakir quoted Yunus Ibn Maysara Ibn Halbas as saying that Rasoolallah (saw) had stated: “This matter (namely the Khilafah) will be after me in Madinah, then in Syria, then in the Jazira, then in Iraq, then in Madina, then in Jerusalem. If it is in Jerusalem, its home country is there, and if any people expel it, it will not return there for ever” [Ibn ‘Asakir, Tahdhib Tarikh Dimashq al-Kabir, Volume 1, p42 (Dar al-Masiyrah, Beirut, 1979)].
Such Ayat and Ahadith should provide a source of confidence in Islam to motivate the Muslims to strive for the supremacy of Allah (swt) deen. The Muslims have a responsibility to mankind to establish Islam so that its light and beauty shines upon the whole world.