in category Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

Is khilafah (caliphate) important in Islam?

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In a Nutshell: To the fuqahah the obligation of the Khilafah is grounded in so many evidences, reasoning and perspectives, it has become established in the deen and is central to it.


There are certain matters that are so overwhelmingly clear in our deen that evidences are not required to be seen.


Because it’s known by necessity in the deen.

Imagine a Muslim asking for the evidences that requires a Muslim to pray five times a day?

Though there’s nothing explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an this is well established amongst the ummah.

Another matter is the re-establishment of the Khilafah.


There were no disputes amongst the classical scholars about the importance and necessity of the Khilafah, which they described as:

  • “The Protection of the Deen” (Imam al-Mawardi);
  • “The Most Important of Obligations“ (Imam al-Haithami);
  • “From the Greatest of Obligations” (Imam Ibn Taymiyyah);
  • “The Crown of Obligations” (Imam Al-Haskafi);
  • “A Pillar from the Pillars of the Deen” (Imam al-Qurtubi);
  • “The General Leadership in Deen” (Imam Ibn Abidin);
  • “The Best kind of State is the Khilafah” (Imam Ibn Khaldun)

The obligation of Khilafah was never disputed by any of the known madhahib or sects (firqat) as mentioned by Ibn Hazm:

“All of Ahlus sunnah agreed, as did all the murji’a, all the shi’a, and all the khawarij upon the obligation of the Imamah” (al-Fasl fi Milal)

It was such a matter that the sahaba (ra) simply knew by heart where, they without hesitation and eagerness sought to appoint a Khalifah before the obligation of the burial of the noble body of the Prophet (saw).

This matter is such a fundamental issue that the scholars discussed it in the books of i’tiqad (belief). The shia’ took it as a matter of aqeedah.

The Ahlus Sunnah understood the vital necessity and absolute obligation upon this so much so that the deen itself is incomplete or unfulfilled without it. Al-Qurtubi (rh), al-Amidi (rh) and al-Shahrastani (rh) mentioned it’s from the “pillar (rukn) of the deen”.

Anyone who studied fiqh would know a pillar (rukn) is differentiated from a shart (condition) where it is integral of the deen, where separating is an impossible matter. Ibn Taymiyyah (rh) said:

“...there is no establishment of the deen or the dunya except by it!” (al-Siyasa al-Shariah)

and even at the weakness and demise of the Khilafah this matter was still clear, where Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad (rh) wrote,

“Without the Khilafah the existence of Islam is not possible” (Masla-e-Khilafat)

Imam Ali al-Qari mentions in his commentary on al-Tabrizi’s Mishkat al-Masabih:

“And from Ibn Umar (ra) that the Prophet [saw] said: “The Sultan (Khaleefah) is the Shade of God” and in another version “the shade of the All-Merciful on the earth” because he protects the people from harm just like the shade protects from the harm of the Sun’s heat. The term ‘shade’ may also denote ‘shelter’ and ‘protection’ as mentioned in al-Nihayah. Al-Tibi said: ‘shade of God’ is a comparison and the statement ‘the oppressed of God’s servants seek his shelter’ is a clear sentence of the sultan (Khaleefah) being compared to the shade, i.e. in the same way the people seek relaxation in the coolness of the shade from the heat of the Sun, likewise they seek redemption in shade of his justice from the heat of oppression.”

So when a Muslim rejects this obligation and says it’s because there’s nothing explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an, then the truth is their understanding of the deen itself is utterly distorted.


In fact, the colonialists, a year after the abolishment of the Khilafah, did their very best to try to completely disassociate the Khilafah from Islam by promoting an Azahari graduate and shariah judge, Ali Abdur Raziq and his book ‘al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm’ to argue there’s nothing in our deen that requires a Khilafah.

The concept and obligation of Khilafah was still present in the Ummah where the other scholars of the Egyptian Higher Council of ullama decisively refuted Raziq, confirmed the necessity of the Khilafah, expelled Raziq, stripped his position as a shari’ah judge and even revoked his alamiyya degree. This is the fate and humiliation of those ‘scholars’ who chose to follow Raziq.


In regards to the Quran on the obligation of the Khilafah, many verses addressing the obligation of Khilafah from various angles. I hope to address some qawa’id (principles) in relation to some of the ayats.

Allah says:

“Rule by whatever Allah has revealed” (Qur’an 5:49)

This is an explicit and a decisive command to rule by Islam. A strange argument was brought forward that this was addressed to ahl al-Kitab and does not apply to Muslims?! This is obviously from a person who lacks usooli principles. If one understands the principle, “The Consideration is in the Generality of the Expression Not in the Specificity of the Cause (of Revelation)” then this strange argument is refuted since in the language the command is general. The verses like these are numerous eg Qur’an 5:48, 4:49, 4:105, 4:65 etc

From another angle is from the verse:

“Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those of you in authority.” (Qur’an 4:59)

For this Ayah to manifest in reality the Khalifah must exist, this is understood using the principle, “Allah does not command obedience to someone that does not exist”. This can be also understood from the verse:

“And Allah will never give the unbelievers any way (of authority) against the believers.” (Qur’an 4: 141)

that there must not exist rule of Kufr over the believers but there must be rule of Islam. Also the verse:

“And those who disbelieved are allies of one another. If you do not do so, there will be fitnah on earth and great corruption” (Qur’an 8:73)

This is commanding the Muslim to unite under the Khalifah and if not then there will be corruption, hence Khalifah’s existence must be present.

Another angle is the verse:

“Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority (Khalifa)” (Qur’an 2:30)

is understood to be the primary responsibility of man that he is to regulate the affairs, to settle disputes, implement the hudood and these cannot be achieved unless a Khalifah is appointed, and the principle that plays here is, “That which an obligation cannot be accomplished without, is an obligation”. This principle can be used in so many versus that requires a Khalifah eg retaliation Qur’an 2:178, dealing with liwat Qur’an 11:82, false accusation of Zina Qur’an 24:4, cutting the hands of thief Qur’an 5:38.


To the fuqahah the obligation of the Khilafah is grounded in so many evidences, reasoning and perspectives, it has become established in the deen and is central to it.

Even Western thinkers like Adam Smith, father of Western economics, noted the importance of khilafah in his time:

“…the empire of the Caliphs seems to have been the first state under which the world enjoyed that degree of tranquility which the cultivation of the sciences requires. It was under the protection of those generous and magnificent princes, that the ancient philosophy and astronomy of the Greeks were restored and established in the East; that tranquility, which their mild, just and religious government diffused over their vast empire, revived the curiosity of mankind, to inquire into the connecting principles of nature.” (Adam Smith, (1869) ‘History of Astronomy’, The Essays of Adam Smith, London, p. 353)

The general Ummah are not expected to know these particular principles, it is sufficient to say that to the fuqahah the obligation of the Khilafah is grounded in so many angles, reasoning and bases where it has become established in the deen and their specific evidences are not required to be presented.

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