In recent weeks politicians and world media have been discussing the potential establishment of a new Caliphate (Khilafah) in Iraq linking this to the “Sunni insurgency” currently taking place there.
Western media unsurprisingly have used various adjectives to conjure up in the minds of their audience a “medieval” state, out of place in the 21st century. On the other hand many Muslims see the Khilafah as an Islamic obligation, longing to see its return and believing it will provide a positive future for the Muslim world. However, with the Muslims having lived for almost a century without the Khilafah, the details of what the Khilafah is have become hazy and uncertain. This confusion has led to various claims to the post of Khaleefah including King Fuad of Egypt in 1926, King Hussain of Jordan in 1924 and even Metin Kaplan in the 80s while living in Germany. Therefore having clarity as to the criteria of the post and the nature of the Khilafah is critical in order to properly assess any future or current claims.
The Role of the Khaleefah
Allah swt states in the Quran:
الَّذِينَ إِنْ مَكَّنَّاهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَمَرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَنَهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَلِلَّهِ عَاقِبَةُ الْأُمُورِ
“(They are) Those who, if We establish in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid wrong: With God rests the end (and decisions) of (all) affairs.” [Al-Hajj: 41]
Referring to these four actions mentioned in the Ayah Dahhak mentioned it is a condition placed by Allah upon whoever He (swt) gives ruling authority (mulk). Imam an-Nasafi further detailed the role of the Khaleefah by stating: ‘The Muslims simply must have an Imam (Khaleefah), who will execute the rules, establish the Hudood (penal system), defend the frontiers, equip the armies, collect Zakah, punish those who rebel (against the state) and those who spy and the highwaymen, establish Jum’ah and the two ‘Eids, settle the dispute among the servants (of Allah), accept the testimony of witnesses in matters of legal rights, give in marriage the young and the poor who have no family, and distribute the booty.’ Aqaa’id Al-Nasafiyyah
Therefore the role of the Khaleefah isn’t a ceremonial head of State, but rather he is contracted through the Bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to implement the Shariah comprehensively in a territory (Dar al-Islam) which he has control over.
Contracting the Khaleefah
The proofs for the Bai’ah are numerous, for example in Al-Bukhari narrated on the authority of Junada b. Abi Umayyah who said: “We went to ‘Ubadah b. as-Samit when he was sick and we said: May Allah guide you. Inform us of a Hadith from the Messenger of Allah (saw) so Allah may benefit you from it. He said, the Messenger of Allah (saw) called upon us and we gave him the Bai’ah, and he said, of that which he had taken from us, that we should give him the pledge to listen and obey, in what we like and dislike, in our hardship and ease, and that we should not dispute the authority of its people unless we saw open Kufr (Kufr buwah) upon which we had a proof (burhan) from Allah.”
The validity of the above contract (Bai’ah) depends on a number of factors.
Firstly, the Khaleefah is contracted to rule by Islam only. Any contract of ruling based on any other source of legislation would render the Bai’ah invalid. In fact if the Khaleefah permanently diverts away from the implementation of Islam then his rule becomes invalidated and his removal obliged upon the Muslims.
Secondly, the Khaleefah himself must fulfil certain conditions such as being a Muslim, male, mature, sane, free, just and capable. Capable implies the mental and physical capability to implement the Shariah amongst the Ummah. Similarly being free implies they are independent and not governed or controlled by any other person or entity. As for other conditions such as of Quraishi decent or mujtahid then these were differed over by the ulema, however the seven listed above are agreed upon.
Thirdly, from the sunnah of the Prophet (saw) and from the sunnah of the Khulafah ar-Rashideen we see the Bai’ah is of two types. Bai’atul-in’iqad (pledge of contractual agreement) and Bai’atul-Taa’ah (pledge of obedience).
As for the Bai’ah of contractual agreement, this is a key necessary component for the validity of the Khaleefah and differentiates him from any person who receives any Bai’ah. During the second pledge of al Aqaba the Prophet (saw) received the pledge from seventy three men and two women of Yathrib who themselves represented the leadership, and therefore opinion, of the rest of the people of Yathrib. In addition when the Prophet (saw) approach the various tribes to obtain nusrah (material support to establish the Islamic state) he first determined whether they were influential tribal leaders who could provide internal and external security for the Islamic State. After ascertaining this he would invite them to Islam and request their Bai’ah to establish the Islamic state. Similarly all of the Khulafah ar-Rashideen first received the Bai’ah from the prominent leadership within society (Bai’atul-in’iqad) before receiving the Bai’atul-Taa’ah (pledge of obedience). For example during the appointment of Abu Bakr (ra) two hundred men gathered from the leaders of the Ansar and the Muhajireen at the building of Banu Sa’adah. They were the ones who first gave the contractual Bai’ah (Bai’atul-in’iqad) which then resulted in the rest of the Muslims giving their Bai’ah of obedience (Bai’atul-Ta’a) at the Mosque of the Prophet (saw).
Therefore those who give the initial Bai’atul-in’iqad represent the leadership in the society, whose opinion reflects the opinion of the rest of society. They are known as the Ahlul Halli Wal Aqd (the people who loosen and tie the knots of leadership). As a result the appointment of a Khaleefah cannot be completed unless he has received the Bai’ah from the Ahlul Halli Wal Aqd. Ibn Hajar (in Fath al-Bari): “Al-Nawawi and others said: they unanimously agreed that the Khilafah is appointed by succession (al-istkhlaf), and its appointment is to be by a the contract of Ahlul Halli wal Aqd for a person, such that there is no succession for other than him,”. Those who represent this strata of society are determined by the rational assessment of where the leadership actually resides in the society. They are those who, if they provide support to a man, give him the physical capability and legitimacy in the eyes of the people to impose law and order, and thus the comprehensive application of the systems of Islam.
In the normal situation where the Khilafah exists, and one Khaleefah is replaced by another, the Ummah has the right to be consulted. Umar bin Al Khattab (ra) stated, “So if anyone gives the Bai’ah to somebody (to become Khaleefah) without consulting the other Muslims, then the one he has selected should not be granted allegiance…” (Bukhari). However in the current situation where the Ummah has been without the Khilafah for over ninety years then the right for consultation of the Ummah has passed, rather if a Bai’ah is given to a Muslim who can establish the sovereignty for the Shariah in a land then the allegiance is due from the rest of the Ummah. This still requires the Ahlul Halli Wal Aqd to give Bai’atul-in’iqad, but this is restricted to a real whole society like Pakistan, Turkey or Egypt. If those of the Ahlul Halli Wal Aqd give Bai’ah from that society then the rest of the Ummah now become obliged to give the Bai’ah too, whether living in Indonesia or Morocco. This assumes that the initial society where the Bai’ah has been obtained from has the necessary requisites to provide internal and external security.
Necessity for Security.
The Khaleefah implements laws upon a people who reside within the Khilafah’s authority. The ability to implement laws necessitates the capability to enforce those laws.
During the leadership of the Prophet (saw) in Medinah he (saw) appointed various people to the position of policemen who would enforce the command of the Prophet (saw) in society. Al-Bukhari narrated from Anas: “That Qays ibn Sa’d used to be in front of the Prophet (saw) in the position of the policeman towards the amir”.
This security in Medinah allowed the Prophet (saw) to receive delegations from various tribes, openly give the Khutba on Jummah, give open lessons on a weekly basis for both men and women, accept disputants, issue verdicts, organise the armies, administer state funds, appoint and hold to account governors and generally be accessible to the citizens of the Islamic state. Similarly the Prophet (saw) appointed muhtasiboon (market judges) who would impose penalties on those who cheated in the market place. He (saw) appointed Sa’id ibn Al-As as a muhtasib in the markets of Makkah after its conquest, as reported in the Tabaqaat of ibn Sa’d and in Al-Istiab of Ibn ‘Abd al- Barr.
This capacity to maintain internal security is necessary for the Khaleefah to practically implement the Shariah and to be known to the people (so that they know who they’ve given Bai’ah to and thus hold him to account.)
In addition the Khilafah must be able to maintain its external security. This means having a known territory that the Khaleefah has direct jurisdiction (imara) over. The Khilafah cannot be occupied by, nor can it be a vessel for, a foreign power. There are numerous evidences for the obligation to maintain security from foreign domination, Allah swt states:
وَلَنْ يَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ سَبِيلًا
“Allah will never allow the non-believers to have a way (sabil) over the believers” [An-Nisaa: 141]
Indeed, the ability to maintain the security for the Khilafah is a pre-requisite condition for its initial establishment. The seerah of Ibn Kathir, Ayoon al-Athar and other sources mention that the Prophet (saw) entered into discussions with Banu Shayban bin Tha’labah to protect his (saw) dawah with the tribal leaders fully aware that this implication would be a support to establish the Prophet (saw) as a leader over them in a state. Abu Bakr (ra) questioned them on their military capacity in order to determine whether they held the capacity to provide security to the future Islamic State: Abu Bakr asked them, “What is your number?”. They said, “We are one thousand in number; and one thousand is not a little figure.” “What about your defense?” asked Abu Bakr. “We always struggle (and defend ourselves), for every nation is bound to keep on struggling.” Then Abu Bakr asked, “What about (the result of) the battle between you and your enemies?” Mafruq said, “When we fight, we are in one of our furies and the battle is enraged. We take care of the horses, used in the battle, more than our children; and prefer weapons over the milk-animals. So far as the victory is concerned, it is from Allah. Sometimes we gain victory, sometimes they gain victory”
After it was determined they where of the Ahlul Halli Wal Aqd the Prophet (saw) presented himself and the message of Islam. Banu Shayban bin Tha’labah offered to provide support against the Arabs but not against the Persians. The Prophet (saw) responded to this conditional support by saying:
“I did not receive a bad response from you, you were truthful, but whoever give the support for the Deen of Allah will protect it from all sides”
The Prophet (saw) therefore didn’t allow an Islamic State to be established that was dependent upon other powers. Nor did he allow it to be established such that its borders were unstable and the land could easily be overcome.
When the Prophet (saw) established the Islamic State through the nusrah (material support) of Bani Khazraj and Bani Aws of Yathrib, the frontiers of the Islamic State were defined, they had the capacity to maintain the integrity of the State and the security to enforce and implement the Shariah.
Therefore, just as the Sunnah has defined, the Khilafah must be predicated on a land whose security are in the hands of the Muslims, who can maintain the Khilafah’s territorial integrity, and have the capacity to implement the Shariah comprehensively.
The Khilafah represents one of the highest obligations in Islam, however the mere claim of Khilafah doesn’t make it so. Rather the Khilafah requires the necessary shar’i conditions to be in place in order for it to be declared a legitimate Khilafah whose Khaleefah is owed Bai’atul-Taa’ah from the Ummah.
These conditions for a legitimate Khaleefah can be summarised as follows:
1. He must receive the Bai’ah.
2. He must be contracted to rule by Islam only.
3. He must fulfill the necessary personal conditions such as; male, free, sane, mature, just, capable and Muslim.
4. He must receive the Bai’ah from the Ahlul Halli Wal Aqd (the influential faction) in a particular locality/society.
5. He must have the ability to enforce internal security in order to implement the Shariah as a whole.
6. The land must have external security in the hands of the Muslims alone, such that the Khilafah has the capacity to maintain its borders.