in category Politics

What's the difference between dynastic rule and monarchical rule in Islam?

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Monarchical rule as a phenomenon is contested amongst scholars given its diversity through history and across civilisations and cultures. However during the prophet's era, dominant neighbouring civilisations like the Byzantines, Persians and others had monarchical rule that broadly exhibited characteristics of:

  • personal sovereignty,
  • divinely ordained familial rule, and
  • legal ownership/inheritance of power.

A monarchical system is primarily defined by whoever is sovereign - whoever has the ultimate right to legislate laws. Then comes support for the loci of power as the sole prerogative of a given family or dynasty. Finally an institutionalised legal system of rights and duties is required, defining who can inherit power.

In a monarchy, the king or queen is the sovereign, the ultimate source of law in the land, theories like "divine right of kings" arguing God ordained power within given dynasties and legal arrangements in place for features such as primogeniture, rights of the first born.

The Umayyad Khilafah and rule (and later Abbasid and Ottoman rule) had none of these characteristics. The driving ideology of state and governance always was Islam, as seen in the legal system, juristic debate, collective culture, and nasihah literature.

Since the passing away of the Prophet (saw) until the fall of the Khilafah in 1924 Allah (swt) was always recognised as sovereign, the ultimate source of law in the land, no matter how oppressive some individual Khulafah were. The judiciary always judged by Islam across the Muslim world, even territories that became autonomous, and no reports have ever been cited by any other legal system having been applied. No legal system was ever institutionalised in relation to inheritance of power or primogeniture - the Islamic bay'ah being remaining the means of transfer of power from the people to the new khalif.

The misapplication of the bay'ah by Muawiyah when he chose his son to become khalifa after him was exactly that - a misapplication of the bay'ah. It was not an application of the concept of royal bloodline, a legal system allowing for the inheritance of power, nor an application of the idea of the sovereignty of the people.

The meaning of the term Mulk in some ahadith refers to the alternative meaning of the term which is treating power as if they owned it, by retaining it within their family, regardless of the wishes of the ummah, ie a bearing down and control of power - abusing and distorting the bay'ah process. The system however remains a Khilafah - albeit one that has some temporal characteristics whereby this system can also be characterised as dynastic but not monarchical. Dynasties however are permitted under Islam.

Whilst some object to dynastic rule that characterised much of our history, they should note even the khulafah rashidah were all from the Quraysh dynasty, and the Prophet (saw) recommended caliphs be chosen from that dynasty.

"The imams (rulers) are to be from Quraysh." (Ahmad)
"Verily this matter belongs to Quraysh and no one opposes them but Allah will throw him onto his face (in the Fire), so long as they uphold the faith." (Bukhari, 3500)

Dynastic rule is permitted, subject to the ummah freely giving bay'ah to their members - something we saw happen throughout our history.

Monarchic rule however is forbidden. We have never had monarchic rule in our history.

This understanding has been confirmed by jurists and scholars throughout our history who fulfilled the bay'ah and confirmed their rulers as caliphs.

The Maliki jurist Qadi Iyad famously said:

"...it has been mentioned in the latter hadith 'The Khilafah after me will be for thirty years, then there will be a hereditary rule' this contradicts the hadith regarding the twelve Khaleefah for in the thirty years there were only the Khulafah Rashidun and months in which the bay'ah was given to al-Hasan b. al-Ali. The answer to this is: What is meant by 'the Khilafah will be for thirty years' is the Khilafah of the Nubuwwah (Prophethood)…" (As quoted by an-Nawawi in his Sharh Sahih Muslim, 1821)

Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti recounts the history of the Khulafah charting 900 years with the death Mutawakkil Abul Izz in 903 AH and the appointment of his son al-Mustamsik Billah, commenting in his introduction:

"This is a brief history in which I present the biography of the Khulafah, the Amirs of the Believers who looked after the affairs of the Ummah from the time of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq – may Allah be pleased with him! – until this our time…" (Tarikh al-Khulafah - History of the Caliphs)

Notable scholars throughout Islamic history had a relationship with the Khulafah, whether they accounted them, such as Abu Hanifah and al-Mansur, or worked for them such as Qadi Abu Yusuf who was the Qadi al-Qudah (chief judge) under Harun al-Rashid or they participated in the bay'ah of a Khaleefah such as Izz b. Abd as-Salam, who gave bay'ah to Mustansir Billah after the defeat of the Tatars.

Towards the end of the Uthmani Khilafah, Sheikh al-Hind Maulana Mahmood Hassan (the then head of Darul Uloom Deoband) issued a fatwa regarding saving the Uthmani Khilafah from the enemies of Islam:

"The enemies of Islam have left no stone unturned to strike against and harm the honour and prestige of Islam. Iraq, Palestine and Syria that were won over by the Prophet's companions and his followers, after in numerous sacrifices, have once again become targets of greed of the enemy of Islam. The honour of Khilafat is in tatters. Khalifat ul-Muslimin, who used to unite the entire community on this planet; who is the vice-regent of Allah on this earth; used to implement the universal law of Islam; who used to protect the rights and interests of Muslims and used to preserve and ensure the glory of the words of the Creator of this universe be preserved and implemented, has been surrounded by enemies and made redundant." (From the Fatwa of Sheikh ul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hassan, 16th Safar 1339 AH, October 29 1920 CE, appearing on page 78 of English translation of 'The Prisoners of Malta' by Maulana Syed Mohammad Mian)

Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar, a founder of the Khilafat movement noted:

"The ruler of Turkey was the Khaleefah or successor of the Prophet and Amir -ul- Mu'mineen or chief of the believers and the Khilafah is as essentially our religious concern as the Qur'an or the Sunnah of the Prophet." (My Life a Fragment, pg.41)

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