in category Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

What are the evidences for the caliphate (khilafah)?

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Masters in Education from Nottingham University in the UK. Also studied Masters in Islamic Studies and Islamic Banking & Finance. Political activist with interests in Geopolitics, History and Phil ...
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In a Nutshell: The evidences to prove the obligation and necessity of the caliphate in Islam are overwhelming and have been beyond dispute among classical Muslim jurists for over a millennium.

The caliphate has been defined by the classical scholars as the general leadership of the ummah in accordance with Qur'an and Sunnah.

The evidences appear in all the sources of law in Islam - Qur'an, Sunnah and Ijma al-Sahaba.

1. "So rule between them by that which Allah has revealed and follow not their desires away from the truth." 5:48.

2. "Lo, we reveal to you the scripture with the truth, that you may rule between mankind by that which Allah shows you." 4:105

3. "So rule between them by that which Allah has revealed and follow not their desires, but beware of them lest they seduce you from just some part of that which Allah has revealed to you." 4:49

4. "Whoso judges not by that which Allah has revealed, such are disbelievers (Kafir)." 5:44

5. "Whoso judges not by that which Allah has revealed, such are the wrongdoers (Dhalim)." 5:45

6. "Whoso judges not by that which Allah has revealed, such are the evil livers (Fasiq)." 5:47

7. "But no, by the Lord, they will not believe (in truth) until they make you judge of what is in dispute between them and find in their souls No resistance against Thy decisions, but accept Them with the fullest conviction." 4:65

8. Many other verses ask the Muslims to have a certain economic system, social system, judicial rulings, foreign policies etc.

9. "O Dawud, indeed We have made you a caliph upon the earth, so judge between the people in truth." 38:26

10. "And when your Lord said to the angels: "Verily, I am going to place a khalifah on earth." They said: "Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood - while we glorify You with praises and thanks and sanctify You." He (Allah) said: "I know that which you do not know."" 2:30

1. Muslim narrated from Abu Hazim who said:

"I was with Abu Hurairah for five years and I heard him narrate from the Prophet (saw) that he said: The Prophets used to rule Bani Israel. Whenever a prophet died, another prophet succeeded him, but there will be no prophets after me; instead there will be caliphs and they will number many. They asked: what then do you order us? He said: Fulfil allegiance to them one after the other. Give them their dues. Verily Allah will ask them about what he entrusted them with."

2. Muslim narrated from Abdullah bin Omar who said:

"One who dies without having bound himself by an oath of allegiance (to a khalif) will die the death of one belonging to the days of ignorance (Jahiliyya)."

3. Muslim narrated from Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-As who said the Prophet (saw) said:

"He who swears allegiance to a caliph should give him the pledge of his hand and the sincerity of his heart. He should obey him to the best of his capacity. If another man comes forward (as a claimant to khilafah) disputing his authority, they should behead the latter".

4. Ahmad and Ibn Abi Asim narrated the Prophet (saw) said:

"Whosoever dies and he does not have over him an Imam, he dies the death of jahiliyya."

The hadith informs us those who run the affairs of Muslims are Caliphs. Therefore, this is a command to appoint them. The Hadith also include the prohibition upon Muslims separating themselves from the authority. Furthermore the Prophet ordered the Muslims to obey the Caliphs and to fight those who dispute their authority.

Ibn Hisham, the famous narrator of the sirah of the Prophet (saw) says regarding the establishment of the Islamic State in Medina:

"When the Prophet (saw) was assured and satisfied in Medina and when his brothers from Muhajireen (migrators) were gathered with him in Medina along with his brothers from the Ansar (helpers), Islam was firmly established so the prayer was established, the Zakat and Sawm (fasting) were obligated, the Hudud (punishment) were established, Halal and Haram was obligated and Islam was in power among them."

Ijma al-Sahaba:
The consensus of the Sahaba means: The Sahaba unanimously accept a certain issue as being a divine rule as they understood it from the Prophet (saw).
1. It is reported through tawatur that after the death of the Prophet (saw), the sahaba unanimously prohibited the post of the head of state to be vacant for any time. Abu Bakr (ra) is reported to have said:

"Mohammed has indeed died. This deen needs some one to maintain it."

2. The Sahaba left aside the burial process of the Prophet (saw) and engaged in the process of establishing the Khalif. It is known that the burial of the person is obligatory (Fard) and it is a sin (Haram) for those who are supposed to prepare the burial to engage themselves in anything else until they complete the burial. This action of the companions (sahaba) is therefore an evidence of consensus to support the appointment of Khalif rather than to bury the dead. This could not legitimate, unless the appointment of a Khalif is more of an obligation than the burial of the dead. Although at times they differed about the person to be appointed, they never disagreed that a Khalif should be appointed.

3. Ali ibn abi Taalib (ra) said:

"The people will not be straightened except by an Imam (Khalifah), whether he is good or bad" (Bayhaqi, 14286)

4. Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) said:

"The people in the umma will not suffer even if they were oppressors and sinful if the rulers were guided and were guiding. But the people in the umma will suffer and perish even if they were guided and were guiding if the rulers were oppressors and sinful". (Abu Nu'aim narrated in Hulayat Awliya)

5. Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) said:

"There is no Islam without a community and there is no community without a leadership and there is no authority without hearing and obeying".

Imam al-Qurtubi said in his tafsir of the verse:

"Indeed, man is made upon this earth a Khalifah (2:30) that: "This aya is a source in the selection of an Imam and a Khalifah, he is listened to and he is obeyed, for the word is united through him and the ahkam (laws) of the Khalifah are implemented through him and there is no difference regarding the obligation of that between the umma, nor between the Imams except what is narrated about al-Asam, the Mu'tazzili (a deviant group)..." (Tafsir al-Qurtubi 264/1)

Imam al-Qurturbi also said:

"The khilafah is the pillar upon which other pillars rest".

Imam Nawawi said:

"(The scholars) consented that it is an obligation upon the Muslims to select a Khalifah." (Sharh Sahih Muslim, Vol. 12, p. 205)

Imam al-Ghazali when writing of the potential consequences of losing the khilafah said:

"The judges will be suspended, the wilayaat (provinces) will be nullified, the decrees of those in authority will not be executed and all the people will be on the verge of haram" (al-Iqtisad fil Itiqad, p. 240)

Ibn Taymiyyah (ra) said:

"It is obligatory to know that the office in charge of commanding over the people (ie: the khilafah post) is one of the greatest obligations of the din. In fact, their is no establishment of the din except by it this is the opinion of the salaf, such as al-Fadl ibn Iyaad, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others". (Siyasah Shari'ah - chapter: 'The obligation of adherence to the leadership'.)

Imam abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi said:

"The contract of the Imamah (leadership) for whoever is standing with it, is an obligation by Ijma (consensus)." (al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah, p. 56)

Imam Ahmad said:

"The Fitna (mischief and tribulations) occurs when there is no Imam established over the affairs of the people."

Imam Nasafi a noted scholar of the 6th century Hijri stated:

"The Muslims simply must have an Imam (khalifah), who will execute the rules, establish the hudud (penal system), defend the frontiers, equip the armies, collect zakat, punish those who rebel (against the state) and those who spy and highwaymen, establish jum'uah 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".

Imam Al-Juzayri, an expert on the Fiqh of the four great schools of thought, said:

"The Imams (scholars of the four schools of thought- Shafi'i, Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali)- may Allah have mercy on them agree the Imamah (leadership) is an obligation and the Muslims must appoint an Imam who would implement the deen's rites and give the oppressed justice against the oppressors". (Fiqh ul-Mathahib al-Arba'a [the Fiqh of the four schools of thought], Vol. 5, p. 416)

Imam al-Haythami said:

"It is known that the Sahaba (ra) consented that selecting the Imam after the end of the era of Prophethood was an obligation (wajib). Indeed they made it (more) important than the (other) obligations whilst they were busy with it over the burial of the Prophet (saw)." (Sawaa'iq ul-haraqah, p. 17)

Further details appear here.


The evidences to prove the obligation and necessity of the caliphate in Islam are overwhelming and have been beyond dispute among classical Muslim jurists for over a millennium.

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