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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:
Throughout Islamic history and beyond, including the contemporary era, most jurists discussed the issue of the caliphate (khilafah) and concluded it to be an obligation without which the Islamic way of life, i.e. Islam, would not be possible.

Introduction

Classical jurists discussed the issue of the caliphate (khilafah) in depth, concluding it as a fundamental obligation. Not only was it an obligation, there was a consensus that it was central to the Islamic way of life ensuring security, protection, welfare and justice for its peoples and those beyond its territories. The famous muhaddith Abdullah ibn Mubarak (ra) (d. 181 AH) poignantly noted:

"Indeed the jama'ah is the rope of Allah, so hold on. How many a darkness does Allah repel by the sultan If not for the Khalifah, paths would not be safe for us to its grip, firm for him who professes Islam in our deen mercy results from him and in our dunya and the weak would be a source of pillage for the strong..." (Hilyat al-Awliya, 8:164)

The contemporary scholars over the past two centuries held similar views - with a minority beginning to argue against the notion following colonisation of the Muslim world. Sayyid Ahmad Khan of India (d. 1898) was one of the first scholars to argue Muslims should be loyal to whichever state they were part of, whether it was Islamic or not, an argument furthered by his colleague Shibli Nomani (d. 1914). Following the destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate in the heartlands of Islam, the Egyptian Ali Abdul Raziq took this argument to its fullest extent, generating considerable debate. More recently, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan of India and Egypt's Al-Ashmawy also furthered similar arguments. The leading jurists of the era in al-Azhar rejected and condemned these arguments to the fullest - read more here.​​​

Eighteenth Century

Shah Waliullah al-Dehlawi (d. 1152 AH) said:

"The collective reason of mankind requires that a Khilafah should be there to look after the interests which cannot be achieved without a Khilafah ... The Sahabah also rushed to establish the Khilafah immediately, after the death of the Prophet and delayed his burial. Moreover there are matters which cannot be accomplished without the Khilafah."
"Know that it is obligatory for there to be in the jama'a of the Muslims a khalifah for interests that simply cannot be fulfilled except with his presence..." (Hujjat Allahi al-Baligha, 2:229)


Nineteenth Century

Imam al-Shawkani (d. 1250 AH) said:

"When the Prophet (saw) passed away, the companions (ra) prioritised the matter of the political leadership (the imamah) and pledging alliance to an imam over everything else, to the extent that they were busy with it (giving it priority) over the funeral preparations of the Prophet (saw)... From the strongest evidences for the obligation of appointing an imam and pledging allegiance to him is what Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi, ibn Khuzayma and ibn Hibban in his sahih extracted of the hadith of al-Harith al-Ash'ari in the wording (that the Prophet (saw) said), "Whosoever dies whilst not having over him an imam of the jama'ah, then indeed his death is the death of jahilliya." (Al-Sayl al-Jarar, p. 936)

Ibrahim al-Bayjuri (d.1276 AH) argued:

"The Sahabah were agreed (on the appointment of an Imam) after he parted this world, they were occupied by this from burying the Prophet . This is because he died on a Monday mid-day and he was left that day until the night of Tuesday and he was buried towards the end of Wednesday night. Abu Bakr had said: Someone must undertake this responsibility, so think about the matter and bring forth your views, may Allah have mercy on you. From every corner of the Prophet's mosque the people said: saddaqta saddaqta (you have spoken the truth, you have spoken the truth.) No one said we do not need an Imam." (Tuhfatul Mureed ala Jawharat at-Tawheed, 2:136)


Twentieth Century

Sheikh Aatif Afandi (d. 1304), amongst the most illustrious scholars of the Uthmani era, stated:

"The bay'ah of the Muslims to a Khaleefah is wajib and it is proven by the ration and text. The Shari'ah evidence for this is that the consensus of the Sahabah and Tabi'een was on this matter. Upon the death of Sayyidina Rasool the Sahabah gathered, before his burial, at Saqifa Bani Sa'idah and made shura and gave bay'ah to Sayyidina as-Siddiq (ra)."

Iraqi scholar Sheikh al-Zahawi the mufti of Baghdad (1314 AH) said:

"The Companions of the Prophet have unanimously agreed upon appointing him to office (ijma'a ala nasabihi) after the passing away of the Prophet to the extent that they considered it to be the most important of obligations (ahamm al-wajibat) giving it precedence even over his burial and people in every generation since have not stopped doing this. Also, many narrations support this [obligation of appointing an Imam] one of them being his saying "Whoever dies and does not have on his neck a pledge of allegiance (bay'ah), he dies a death like in the days of ignorance."' (Al-Fajr as-Sadiq fi-r-Radd ala Munkiri-t-Tawassul wa-l-Khawariq)

Shaykh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri (d.1322 AH), who worked for Sultan Abd al-Hamid II, was the last Shaykh al-Islam of the Uthmani Khilafah said:

"Khilafah i.e. succession to the Messenger of Allah means: obliging the adherence of the rules of the Shari'ah over the Muslims by the one who assumes authority, it by this way one is successor to the Prophet. And the abolition of the Khilafah is abolition of this adherence... This has actually happened in Turkey after the abolition of the Khilafah. So what has succeeded it is a secular government." (Mawqif al-Aql, p. 322)

Sheikh al-Hind Maulana Mahmud Hasan, head of Dar al-Uloom Deoband and direct student of Maulana Qasim Nanautavi, the founding father of the Dar al-Uloom, issued a fatwa to save the Uthmani Khilafah from the European powers:

"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 Khilafah is in tatters. Khaleefa al-Muslimeen, 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, 'The Prisoners of Malta' by Maulana Syed Mohammad Mian, p. 78]

Imam al-Juzayri (d. 1360 AH) said:

"The Imams (of the four madhabs) (ra) all consented that the Imamah is an obligation, and that the Muslims must appoint an imam who would implement the rites of the deen, and give the oppressed justice against the oppressors, and they agreed that it is not permitted that there be over the Muslims, at any one time, two imams, in agreement or discord, and that the imams are from Quraysh and that is permitted for the imam to choose a successor." (al-Fiqh ala al-Mathahib al-Arba'a, 5:416)

Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani (d.1977 AD), graduate of Al-Azhar University, founder of Hizb ut-Tahrir, echoed the classical scholars, saying:

"The appointment of the Khaleefah is an obligation upon the Muslims. They are forbidden from spending more than two nights without giving a Bay'ah to him. If the Muslims did not appoint a Khaleefah within three days they would all be sinful until they had appointed a Khaleefah. The sin would not fall until they had exhausted their efforts to appoint a Khaleefah and continued to endeavour to appoint him. The obligation of appointing a Khaleefah has been confirmed by the Qur'an, Sunnah and the general consensus of the Sahabah.' (The Islamic State, p. 224)

Al-Shanqeeti (d. 1393 AH) said:

"It is well known from Islam by necessity of the Deen that is wajib on the Muslims to appoint an Imam who will unite them and apply the rules of Allah on the earth." (Adwa al-Bayan, 1:22)

Dr. Diaa al-Din Al-Rayes said:

"Consensus as they determined is one of the great origins of the Islamic law, and the strongest consensus or the highest of rank is the consensus of the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, because they are the first row and generation of the Muslims; they accompanied the Prophet and participated with him in his jihad and his work and heard his words; they knew the rules and the essence of Islam and their number was limited and their consensus is known. After the death of the Prophet (saw), they agreed that there must be a successor and met to choose his successor and none of them said that there is no need for Muslims to have an Imam or successor (Khalifah). Thus, they confirmed their consensus on the obligation of the existence of the Khilafah and this is the origin of the consensus on which the Khilafah is based." (al-Islam wa al-Khilafah, p. 348)

"Khilafah is the most important religious position and it is important to all Muslims, and the Islamic law stipulated that the establishment of the Khilafah is a main obligation of the duties of the Deen, but is the greatest obligation because the implementation of all other obligations depends on it." (p. 99)

"The scholars of Islam have unanimously agreed-as mentioned before- that the Khilafah or Imamah is one of the fundamental obligations of the Deen, rather, it is the first or most important obligation because the implementation of other duties and the realization of the general interests of Muslims depend on it. Therefore, they called this position "the great Imamah" contrary to the Imamah of prayer which is called the "Minor Imamah". This is the view of Ahl Al-Sunnah Wa Al-Jama'a; they are the great majority of Muslims and it is the opinion of the senior Mujtahids; the four Imams and scholars such as Al-Mawardi, Al-Juwayni, Al-Ghazali, Al-Razi, Al-Taftazani, Ibn Khaldoon and others who are the imams who Muslims follow in rules of the Deen, and we have known the evidence and proofs which they used on the obligation of the Khilafah." (p. 341)

The Late Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Murabit stated:

"Khalifate is not only fundamental to Islam, it is the necessary foundation of its power." (The Return of the Khalifate)

The Algerian Sheikh Ali Belhadj said:

"The restoration of the Khilafah is of the greatest duties of the Deen: "Khilafah on the method of Prophethood". How can it not be. It is the greatest duty since the scholars of Islam and its famous people decided that the Khilafah is the basic obligation from the duties of this great Deen, but is "the greatest obligation", upon which the establishment of other duties depend. Neglecting the establishment of their obligation is one of the "greatest sins", and the loss, confusion, disputes, and the conflicts between Muslims, as individuals, and between the Islamic people, as countries, are only because the Muslims neglected the establishment of this great duty." (I'adat al-Khilafah)

Sheikh al-Taher Ibn Ashour said:

"The establishment of a public and a private government for Muslims is one of the origins of Islamic legislation. This has been proven by numerous evidences from the Book and the Sunnah that reached the level of Tawatur Ma'nawi which made the Sahaba after the Prophet's death to rush, meet and consult to appoint a successor to the Prophet (saw) in looking after the affairs of the Muslim Ummah. Both the Muhajiroon and the Ansar agreed on the Day of Saqeefah to appoint Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (ra) a successor (Khaleefah) of the Prophet (saw) to the Muslims. Muslims did not differ after that in the obligation of establishing a Khaleefah except the odd insignificant some of the Khawarij and Mu'tazila who violated the agreement, so they were not given attention. And due to the status of the Khilafah in the foundations (Usul) of Shari'ah, the scholars linked it to the foundations (Usul) of the Deen and its issues. One of its sections was on the Imamate (Imamah). The Imam of the Two Holy Mosques [Abu Al-Ma'ali Al-Juwaini] said in Al-Irshad: "Discussion on the Imamate is not from the foundation of belief; but it is more dangerous to commit a mistake in it than being ignorant of one of the foundations of the Deen" (Usul Al-Nitham al-Ijtima'i fil-Islam, pp. 206-207)

Conclusion

Orthodox Muslim scholars agree the khilafah is a central and necessary institution of Islam.

Its impact for over a millennium has been felt and acknowledge by many.

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, recently said in a speech:

“There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.
It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins.
One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.
And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.
Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.
While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.
Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.


References

Abdullah ibn Mubarak, Hilyat al-Awliya
Ali Belhadj, I'adat al-Khilafah
Al-Shanqeeti, Adwa al-Bayan
al-Taher Ibn Ashour, Usul al-Nitham al-Ijtima'i fil-Islam
al-Zahawi, al-Fajr as-Sadiq fi-r-Radd ala Munkiri-t-Tawassul wa-l-Khawariq
Dr. Diaa al-Din Al-Rayes, al-Islam wa al-Khilafah
Ibrahim al-Bayjuri, Tuhfatul Mureed ala Jawharat at-Tawheed
Juzayri, al-Fiqh ala al-Mathahib al-Arba'a
Mustafa al-Sabri, Mawqif al-Aql
Shah Waliullah al-Dehlawi, Hujjat Allahi al-Baligha
Shawkani, al-Sayl al-Jarrar al-Mutadaffiq ala Hada'iq al-Azhar
Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani, Dawla Islamiyya (The Islamic State)


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