The Qur'an confirms Allah as sovereign and there is a consensus amongst Islamic scholarship that Islam places sovereignty in God.The Qur'an describes God as Al-Malik meaning sovereign and Al-Malik-ul-Mulk the eternal possessor of sovereignty as part of his ninety nine names.
Thus the simplest explanation of an Islamic polity led by a khalif would be that God is sovereign and he is the source of all legislation in the form Qur'an and Sunnah. He alone was the law-giver and that believers could neither resort to totally independent legislation, nor could they modify any law laid down by God.
The Khalif and the ummah however are responsible for implementing it. Allah has appointed man as his khalif to serve him:
And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed, I will make upon the earth a khalif." They said, "Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?" Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." (Qur'an 2:30)
The Maliki scholar Imam al-Qurtubi (d. 671 AH) said:
"This ayah is an evidence for the appointment of an imam and khaleefah. He is listened to and obeyed, for the word is united through him, and the ahkam (laws) of the khaleefah are implemented through him, and there is no difference of opinion regarding the obligation of that between the ummah, nor between the scholars, except what is narrated from al-Asamm (lit. the deaf), who was indeed deaf with regards to the shari'a, as were all those held his opinion and who followed it."
"The sahaba all agreed on electing Abu Bakr (ra) after the difference that occurred between the muahjireen and ansar in the courtyard of Bani Sai'da, in which the ansar said, "One ameer from us and one from you." Abu Bakr, Umar and the muhajireen countered this... Had the imamah not been obligatory, neither in Quraysh nor in other than them, this discussion and debate would not have taken place at all, and someone would have said, "It is not obligatory, neither in Quraysh nor anyone else. Your disagreement has no basis or benefit, since the matter is not obligatory." Further, when death neared Abu Bakr (ra), he chose Umar (ra) for the imamah and no one said to him, "This matter was not obligatory upon us or on you." All of this indicates that it [the khilafah] is obligatory and is a pillar from the pillars of the deen by which the strength of the Muslims is realised, and all praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Words." (al-Jami li Ahkam al-Qur'an, 1:264-265)
Ibn Khaldoon (d. 808 AH) confirmed this saying:
"Imamah is wajib and its obligation is known by the consensus of the opinion of the companions of the Sahabah and the Tabi'een … the Imam is no different from any of the Muslims other than the fact that he implements the Ahkam (rules) and protects the Deen." (al-Muqaddimah, Chapter 3, Section 26)
This is supported by the saying of the prophet (saw):
كَانَتْ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ تَسُوسُهُمُ الأَنْبِيَاءُ كُلَّمَا هَلَكَ نَبِيٌّ خَلَفَهُ نَبِيٌّ وَإِنَّهُ لاَ نَبِيَّ بَعْدِي وَسَتَكُونُ خُلَفَاءُ فَتَكْثُرُ " . قَالُوا فَمَا تَأْمُرُنَا قَالَ "فُوا بِبَيْعَةِ الأَوَّلِ فَالأَوَّلِ وَأَعْطُوهُمْ حَقَّهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سَائِلُهُمْ عَمَّا اسْتَرْعَاهُمْ ".
The Israelites were ruled by the Prophets. When one Prophet died, another succeeded him; but after me there is no prophet and there will be caliphs and they will be large in number. His Companions asked: What do you order us to do (in case we come to have more than one Caliph)? He said: The one to whom allegiance is sworn first has a supremacy over the others. Concede to them their due rights (i.e. obey them). God will question them about the subjects whom He had entrusted to them. (Muslim, 33:71)
تَكُونُ النُّبُوَّةُ فِيكُمْ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تَكُونَ ، ثُمَّ يَرْفَعُهَا إِذَا شَاءَ أَنْ يَرْفَعَهَا، ثُمَّ تَكُونُ خِلَافَةٌ عَلَى مِنْهَاجِ النُّبُوَّةِ ، فَتَكُونُ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تَكُونَ، ثُمَّ يَرْفَعُهَا إِذَا شَاءَ أَنْ يَرْفَعَهَا، ثُمَّ تَكُونُ مُلْكًا عَاضًّا، فَيَكُونُ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَكُونَ ، ثُمَّ يَرْفَعُهَا إِذَا شَاءَ الله ُأَنْ يَرْفَعَهَا ، ثُمَّ تَكُونُ مُلْكًا جَبْرِيّاً ، فَتَكُونُ مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ تَكُونَ ، ثُمَّ يَرْفَعُهَا إِذَا شَاءَ أَنْ يَرْفَعَهَا ، ثُمَّ تَكُونُ خِلَافَةٌ عَلَى مِنْهَاجِ النُّبُوَّةِ ، ُثمَّ سَكَتَ.
There will be Prophethood for as long as Allah wills it to be, then He will remove it when He wills. Then there will be Khilafah on the Prophetic method and it will be for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills. Then there will be biting rule for as long as Allah Wills, then He will remove it when He wills. Then there will be oppressive rule for as long as Allah wills, then he will remove it when He wills, and then there will be Khilafah upon the Prophetic method.' Then he (saw) was silent. (Ahmed, 18430)
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
إذا بويع لخليفتين، فاقتلوا الآخر منهما
If the oath of allegiance has been taken for two khalifahs, kill the later of them. (Muslim 1853)
Whilst Abu Bakr (ra) said:
بل أنا خليفة رسول الله، وحسبي ذلك
I am "khalifat rasul Allah" (the successor of the Messenger of Allah), that is enough." (Ibn Taymiyyah, Minhaj al-Sunnah, Vol. 1, p. 509)
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:
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.
As regards to Presidential systems, where parliaments or congresses are sovereign, and legislate on all matters, they hold a similar characteristic and would be rejected.
The Khulafah Rashida, Umayyads, Abbasids and Ottomans 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. 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.
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