Caliphate – Khilafat: Redundant or Relevant?
The civilized communities aspire to live in an environment of peace, justice, security and freedom to prosper. Hence people form geopolitical units, having sovereignty with in defined boundaries, commonly called ‘state’. The state is run through political organization, body politic, or, more narrowly, the institutions of government. The state is distinguished from other social groups by its purpose (establishment of order and security), methods (its laws and their enforcement), territory (its area of jurisdiction), and sovereignty. The states are managed by the governments, established through the political system by which the group of people is administered and regulated. Most governments exercise executive, legislative, and judicial powers and split or combine them in various ways. Some also control the religious affairs of their people; others avoid any involvement with religion. Over the periods a variety of concepts of government were developed, which have been practiced by diverse societies in different times. Islam, encompass all aspects of physical and spiritual life of its followers, where state and religion are not separate entity. Hence Islam laid down the guiding principles to run the affairs of Islamic state, in line with Shari’a (Islamic law). The first four successors to the Prophet (Khalifah, Caliphs) provided the role model of Islamic rule, which the later Muslim rulers tried to emulate, at least in name known as Khilafat (Caliphate), the last one abolished in 1924 in Turkey with the end of Ottomans.
The Western colonial rule of Muslim world ended in last century leaving its legacy in the form of oppressive, corrupt and inefficient governments to serve their interests. The reaction coupled with the desire for renaissance and to regain the lost glorious past, establishment of Caliphate has become a buzzword among Muslim youth and extremists. It is advocated that the re-establishment of the Caliphate should be the primary cause of all Muslims, and that without it nothing is proper or right. This has alarmed the oppressive corrupt Muslim regimes as well as their neocolonial masters. While the viability of establishment of system of Caliphate in some form is yet a distant dream, there is a need to look in to this concept in political, economic, geographical, historic and religious perspective. This paper briefly discusses the religiopolitical aspects of concept of Khilafat with in historic milieu.
Prevalent Political Concepts: Broadly the forms of governments may be classified in to three general categories; democratic, non-democratic and religious biased, the fourth could be suitable combinations of three concepts.
Democratic: The democratic form of government, most popular among developed and developing countries, the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodic free elections.
Non Democratic: Historically ‘monarchy’ was prevalent form of government, which is undivided sovereignty or rule by a single person, who is the permanent head of state. Oligarchy is the rule by the few, often seen as having self-serving ends. Most classic oligarchies have resulted when governing elites were recruited exclusively from a ruling class, which tends to exercise power in its own interest. The government based on dictatorship is run by one person or an oligarchy possesses absolute power without effective constitutional checks. Modern dictators usually use force or fraud to gain power and then keep it through intimidation, terror, suppression of civil liberties, and control of the mass media. In postcolonial Africa and Asia, dictators have often retained power by establishing one-party rule after a military takeover. The dictatorship may take the form of ‘totalitarianism’ that subordinates all aspects of its citizens’ lives to the authority of the state, with a single charismatic leader as the ultimate authority. The government based upon fascism philosophy stresses the primacy and glory of the state, unquestioning obedience to its leader, subordination of the individual will to the state’s authority, and harsh suppression of dissent.
Theocracy: The governments which base their legitimacy through religion are known as ‘Theocracy’ i.e. Government by divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. In many theocracies, government leaders are members of the clergy, and the state’s legal system is based on religious law. Theocratic rule was typical of early civilizations. The Enlightenment marked the end of theocracy in most Western countries. Contemporary examples of theocracies include Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Vatican.
The relationship between (any) religious and secular authority in society is termed as ‘Church and State’ (‘Church’, a Christian term, is used here in generic sense). In most ancient civilizations the separation of religious and political orders was not clearly defined. With the advent of Christianity, the idea of two separate orders emerged, based on command of Jesus to; “Render unto Caesar what are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark;12:17). In the early Middle Ages secular rulers claimed to rule by the grace of God, and later in the Middle Ages Popes and emperors competed for universal dominion. Later ‘Papal Monarchy’ was deveoped. The Reformation greatly undermined papal authority, and the pendulum swung toward the state, with many monarchs claiming to rule church and state by divine right. The concept of secular government, as evinced in the U.S. and post-revolutionary France, was influenced by Enlightenment thinkers. In Western Europe today all states protect freedom of worship and maintain a distinction between civil and religious authority. The legal systems of some modern Islamic countries are based on Shari’a . In the U.S. the separation of church and state has been tested in the arena of public education by controversies over issues such as school prayer, public funding of parochial schools, and the teaching of creationism. Lastly the combinations of various forms of democratic or non democratic governments with religious inclination.
The Political Philosophy of Islam: In the traditional democracies where Sovereignty belongs to the people, exercised thorough their elected representatives, in Islam the Sovereignty belongs to Allah, the power is exercised by the ruler, elected or chosen by Muslims through consultation (Shura) as representative (Khalifah) through Shari’a [Islamic law]. Islamic philosophy is based on the belief that all spheres of life (including hereafter), spiritual, social, political, and economic form an indivisible unity that must be thoroughly imbued with Islamic values. This ideal forms such concepts as “Islamic law” (Shari’a) and the “Islamic state” and accounts for Islam’s strong emphasis on social & spiritual life and duties in society. Even the cardinal religious duties prescribed in the five pillars of Islam have clear social implications therefore; religious authorities have had considerable political influence in the Muslim societies.
Shari’a (Islamic law): Shari’a (Islamic law) is the main pillar of Islamic state. It rests on four bases: the Qur’an; the Sunnah, as recorded in the Hadith; ijma, or agreement among scholars; and qiyas, or analogical reasoning. The Shari’a fundamentally differs from Western law in that it purports to be grounded in divine revelation. Thus the Shari’a is not merely a system of law, but a comprehensive code of behavior that embraces both private and public activities. By contrast in the Western Law, it is the society that moulds and fashions the law thus consumption of alcohol, homosexuality, gay marriages (not permitted in Bible) have been made legal, on the desire and public support of the Western Society, where as in Shari’a, it is not possible to make such laws which are unnatural and clearly against the Divine Will, manifested in Qur’an and Sunnah.
The Islamic Government:
The Islamic system of government is based on consultation, equal justice, freedom of expression, and serving the interest of the community. A government that does not try its best to serve and protect the interests of the community is not Islamic even if it professes to believe in Islam and its system and values. In fact the aim of all Islamic legislation is to serve the interests of the community and to protect every individual – his self, mind, offspring, property and religion, as these are the five essentials of a human being. Islam does not lay down any rigid form of Islamic government, leaving this to every Muslim community to determine within the outlined guiding principles. Islamic government is a consultative one. While talking about consultative government, Islam does not lay down any form for how the consultation is to be made. Every Muslim community may decide what institutions to establish in order to achieve the requirement of consultation. If it opts for a democratic system of the type which prevails in Europe, then that system can certainly be accommodated within an Islamic government. In a different set up, a Muslim country may decide to choose its overall leader by elections or by a referendum or by some other means, which ensures that the feelings of the Muslim community are determined. Any of these methods is acceptable.
We cannot equate this process of consultation (Shura) with any particular type of democracy, but we say at the same time that a democratic government could be an Islamic government if it resolves to implement Islamic law, because by definition a democratic government provides a process of consultation. If such consultation is genuine and the law to be implemented is Islamic. It must also guarantee freedom of expression and equality of all people before the law. Secularism is incompatible with the Islamic system, because secularism allows no position for religion in the system of government. But if we take the aspect of equality of all people which secularism advocates, then this concept of secularism is compatible with Islam. What is most important to remember is that an Islamic government is an ideological government. It believes in the Islamic faith and it seeks to implement the laws of Islam, sparing no effort for the achievement of that goal.
A country is Islamic if it declares that it wants to conduct its affairs in line with the code of living God revealed in the Qur’an and explained by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This means that any law or regulation a country adopts will be in line with the message of Islam. If it is found that there is a contradiction between any part of a law in force in that country and Islamic teachings, then that law will be considered null and void while Islamic teachings will be implemented. Take, for example, a country, which declares itself Islamic, but the law in force permits usury, use of intoxicants, narcotics, gambling, fornication and, homosexuality, such country can not be called Islamic.
The Creator and Creatures: Clearly comprehension of relationship between Creator and creatures would facilitate in understanding the meanings and role of ‘Khilafat’, the institution to rule the Islamic state. All the creatures obey their Lord; men enjoy special status as a rational creature. The creature can operate and work with in the framework or design of the Creator. God, being the Creator, Lord and Sustainer, of the world’s, grants sustenance to all His creatures, including humanity as a gift; hence they should in reverence be obeying their Lord:
“There is no moving creature on earth but its sustenance depends on Allah:” (Qur’an;11:6).“You (O; God) provide sustenance for anyone You wish without measure.”(Qur’an;3:27)
“Allah has made some of you excel in sustenance over the others;” (Qur’an;16:71)
“Had Allah bestowed abundance upon (all) His servants, they would have transgressed beyond bounds in the earth; that’s why He sends down in due measure as He pleases; He is well aware and observant of His servants.” (Qur’an;42:27)
“Say: who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? say: They are, (lawful) in the life of This world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do we explain the Signs In detail for those who understand.”(Qur’an;7:32)
“Those who desire the life of the present and its glitter, to them we shall pay (the price of) their deeds therein, without diminution. They are the ones who will have nothing in the hereafter except Hellfire. There they shall come to know that their deeds were fruitless and their actions were worthless.”(Qur’an; 11:15-16 – similarly also;17:18, 42:20).
“But there are among them such (believers) as pray, “O our Sustainer! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come, and keep us safe from suffering through the fire. Such people shall have their due share in both worlds according to what they have earned, Allah is swift in settling the accounts”(Qur’an;2:201-202) .
“Surely your LORD gives abundantly to whom He pleases and sparingly to whom He wills, for He is aware of the condition of His servants and observes them closely. (Qur’an;17:30).
Similarly it is also mentioned in Bible:
“The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”(Psalms;145:9)
“He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew;5:45).
Allah, in His infinite mercy, has given man the faculty to subdue the forces of nature and to penetrate through high mysteries with his powers of reason and insight:
“Do you not see that Allah has subjected to your (use) all things In the heavens and on earth, and has made His bounties flow to you In exceeding measure, (Both) seen and unseen? Yet there are among men those who dispute about Allah, without knowledge and without guidance, and without a Book to enlighten them! (Qur’an;31:20).
Man can only do so, because (1) he has got these gifts from Allah, and (2) Allah has fixed definite laws in nature, of which he can take advantage by Allah’s command and permission. Man has been made Vicegerent on earth (Qur’an;2: 30); Allah commanded the highest creatures to bow down to Adam (Qur’an;2:34). Man (believer or non believer, pious or sinner), by Allah’s command, can use rain to produce food; make ships to sail the seas; use rivers as highways, and cut canals for traffic and irrigation. Not only this, but even the heavenly bodies can (by Allah’s command) contribute to his needs. Humanity must realize that behind all human strength, skill, and intelligence there is the power and goodness of Allah, Who gave them all these things. This aspect has been repeatedly highlighted in Qur’an;14:32, 33, 16:12,14, 22:65, 44:12,13, 31:29, 35:13, 67:15, 2:164, 45:12.
In His Universal Plan, all are safeguarded. But man’s destiny, as far as we can see, is noble to the highest degree. Allah’s grace and bounties work at all times, but Spiritual blessings are for the believers, who willingly obey the God. In things which we can apprehend with our senses, we can see Allah’s grace, but even in them; sometimes it works beyond the sphere of our knowledge, sometimes we perceive through senses, and sometimes we do not. In the inner or spiritual world, sometimes, when our vision is clear, we can see it working, and often we are not conscious of it. But it works all the same. Consequently man should be grateful to Allah and obey Him, but there are some who lack knowledge, as they make no use of their intellects but are swayed by their passions & evil impulses; they lack guidance, as they are impatient of control; and the fruits of revelation, or spiritual insight, do not penetrate their hearts, as they reject Faith and Revelation.
All the creatures obey and glorify Allah:
“The seven heavens extol His limitless glory, and the earth, and all that they contain; and there is not a single thing but extols His limitless glory and praise: but you [O men] fail to grasp the manner of their glorifying Him!” (Qur’an;17:44)
“Whatever beings there are in the heavens and the earth do prostrate themselves to Allah (Acknowledging subjection), with good-will or in spite of themselves: so do their shadows in the morning and evenings.”(Qur’an;13:15).
“Are you not aware that before God prostrate themselves all [things and beings] that are in the heavens and all that are on earth – the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the beasts? And many human beings (submit to God consciously], whereas many [others, having defied Him,] will inevitably have to suffer [in the life to come]; and he whom God shall scorn [on Resurrection Day] will have none who could bestow honour on him: for, verily, God does what He wills.” (Qur’an;22:18).
Those who submit to God willingly (i.e., consciously) are the angels and the believers, whereas the deniers of the truth, who are “not willing” to submit to Him, are nevertheless, without being conscious of it, subject to His will and laws. It also includes all other physical objects, whether animate or inanimate. Except humanity and Jinns [invisible beings] who have been granted intellect and limited free moral will to choose between right and wrong, all the other creatures glorify and obey the Lord. Those people who willingly obey and glorify their Lord are entitled for reward in the eternal life, while the abode of transgressors is hell fire.
Meanings and Use of Term Khilafat:
Khilafat is a very important concept having significant political, spiritual, sentimental and symbolic implications of unity of Ummah in the history of Islam. The Arabic is a very rich language, one word at times is used to express a variety of meanings, similarly the word ‘Khalifah’ and ‘Istikhlaf’ has been used in Qur’an in the meanings of ‘representatives’, ‘vicegerency’ and ‘successorship’, the context determines in which particular meaning it has been used in a particular place in Qur’an as explained here.
Collective Responsibility to Sustainer as Representatives of Allah:
In the moral and spiritual sense, Khilafat as applicable to the humanity means that all human beings are ‘Khalifah of Allah’ or ‘representatives’ (successor) of Allah on earth:
“Behold, Thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a Khalifah on earth…”(Qur’an;2:30).
Even according to Bible God created man in ‘His own image’, with general dominion of human over creatures and resources on the earth, sea and air so as to subdue them (Bible Genesis;1:26-30). ‘His own image’ is a parable of man to be like his Creator, a rational spirit, exercising dominion because of His attributes because it is written: “I am God, and there is none like me.”(Isaiah;46:9), None like to Him (Exodus;9:14; Deutronomy;33:26; 2Samuel;7:22; Isaiah;46:5,9), Infinite (Psalms;147:5; Beyond human comprehension (Psalms;139:6), Invisible (Job;23:8-9). Thus man as God’s representative is clothed with authority and rule as visible head and monarch of the world. Just consider a simple example; man is not stronger than an elephant but by using his intellect he can lift much heavier weight by using a simple lever or machine like fork lifter.
The authority is not without responsibility, fair use of authority is the trial. Many of human being misuse the free moral will granted by God, they fail in trial by committing sins and not acting like Khalifah:
“It is He who hath made you (His) Khalif (plural of Khalifah) (agents, inheritors of the earth): He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for Thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”(Qur’an; 6:165).
“Or, who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on him, and who relieves its suffering, and makes you (mankind) inheritors of the earth? (can there be another) god besides Allah. Little it is that ye heed!”(Qur’an;27:62).
“He it is that has made you Khulufa (inheritors) in the earth: if, then, any do reject (Allah), their rejection (works) against themselves: their rejection but adds to the odium for the unbelievers in the sight of their Lord: their rejection but adds to (Their own) undoing.”(Qur’an; 35:39).
In this sense only a pious and righteous believer can be a Khalifah, because he alone can discharge the responsibilities of Khilafat truly. On the other hand, a disbeliever and sinner cannot be Khalifah: he is rather a rebel against Allah, because he abuses the power and authority delegated by Allah in disobedience to Him in the land bestowed by Him.
Messengers, Prophets are Designated Vicegerents of Allah on Earth:
These verses also indicate that a vicegerent (first human and Prophet Adam, peace be upon him) was appointed to keep order on the earth and to promulgate divine laws. From here we learn the basic principles for the governance of men on the earth. The ultimate sovereignty in the universe belongs to Allah Himself, as is explicitly stated in many verses of Qur’an:
“Sovereignty of the skies and the earth belongs to Him alone” (Qur’an;9:116)
“Verily, His is the Creation and the Command.” (Qur’an;7:54).
“Judgment belongs to Allah alone” (Qur’an;6:57).
“Allah grants kingship to whom He pleases.”(Qur’an;2:247);
Besides granting intellect and knowledge to differentiate the good from evil to humanity in general, God, in His wisdom, has chosen to send His special vicegerents with additional wisdom and knowledge to the earth for maintaining spiritual and temporal order. Their function is to announce and promulgate divine commandments, to teach men how to abide by these laws, and sometimes even to exercise temporal power as well as spiritual authority under divine guidance. This special appointment is made directly by Allah Himself, and is in no sense a reward for the good deeds or the spiritual effort of the individual concerned. There is a total consensus of all the authentic scholars of the Islamic Ummah on the doctrine that prophethood is not a thing which one can attain through one’s personal effort or on the merit of one’s good deeds, but that Allah Himself, in His supreme knowledge and wisdom, chooses certain individuals for acting as His messengers, prophets and vicegerents. The Holy Qur’an has explicitly declared it in several verses:
“Allah chooses His messengers from among the angels and from among men; surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing” (Qur’an;22:75)
“Allah knows best whom to entrust with His messages (Qur’an;16:124).
“For we Assuredly sent amongst every people an apostle, (with the Command), Serve Allah, and eschew Evil;” (Qur’an;16:36).
“To every people (was sent) an apostle: ”(Qur’an;10:47).
These chosen vicegerents received divine commandments directly from Allah, and then promulgated them in the world.
Sovereignty to Allah, His Delegated Powers be used As per His Laws:
The sovereignty belongs to Allah; His delegated powers should be used by representatives with in the bounds of His Law. Some prophets were also rulers of their communities, while others exercised spiritual and moral authority only. The chain of vicegerents began with Adam (peace be upon him) and continued in the same way through many prophets and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last Messenger blessed with spiritual, moral and political authority to rule according Shari’a (Law). Prophet David (peace be upon him) who also ruled Israelites as king, has been addressed as Khalifah, in Qur’an, to do justice and follow path of Allah: “O David! we did indeed make Thee khalifa-fil-ardh [a vicegerent on earth]: so judge Thou between men In truth (and justice): nor follow Thou the lusts (of Thy heart), for They will mislead Thee from the path of Allah for those who wander astray from the path of Allah, is a penalty grievous, for that They forget the Day of account.”(Qur’an;38:26).
[Unlike scandalous narratives of Bible, the Muslim idea of David is that of a man just and upright, endowed with all the virtues, in whom even the least thought of self-elation has to be washed off by repentance and forgiveness.]
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last Caliph of Allah:
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came to the world as the last Khalifah (vicegerent), the last Messenger (Rasool) and the last prophet (Nabi) of Allah; writes Moulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi in “Muarif-ul-Qur’an”, [Volume.1, page,125-128]. He further explains that a hadith of the Sahih of Muslim reports the Prophet (peace be upon him) as having said that he had been made superior to all other prophets in six things, some are:
- The first of these is, of course, the universality of his Prophethood. Each of the earlier prophets was sent for the guidance of particular people or area, and his authority was limited to his jurisdiction alone, – for example, Moses and Jesus Christ (peace be upon them) were sent to the Israelites. But the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been sent for the guidance of the humanity and also ruled according to Shari’a (Law) granted to him by Allah. The Holy Qur’an has declared the universality of his prophethood in these words: “Say: 0 mankind, I am the messenger of Allah to you all, of Him to whom belongs the sovereignty of the skies and of the earth” (Qur’an;7:158).
- Just as the vicegerency and prophethood of all the earlier prophets was limited to particular peoples and areas, in the same way it was also limited to specific periods; when the age of one prophet was over, another prophet would come to take his place as the new vicegerent. On the contrary, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been sent by Allah as the last of all prophets; his prophethood is not circumscribed within a specific period or people, but shall last for the humanity till the end of time.
- It has so happened that the teachings and the Law (Shari’a) of each of the earlier Messengers would remain intact for a time, but then gradually people would start deviating and distort the scriptures; then Allah would send a new prophet with a new Law or to revive the original Law. But the Law (Shari’a) granted to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is to remain intact in its original form up to the end of the time. Allah has taken up to Himself the responsibility of protecting the Holy Qur’an: “It is We who have sent down the Remembrance (i.e. the Holy Qur’an) and We are its Protector” (Qur’an;15:9). Similarly, He has made a special provision for the preservation of the Hadith which contains the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that is to say, in spite of all the vicissitudes of time there shall remain till the Last Day a group of people who will preserve these teachings and transmit them accurately to others, they shall receive help and protection from Allah Himself. Since Allah has ordained the survival of the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, there is obviously no need for a new prophet, messenger or vicegerent and hence no room for a new Law (Shari’a).
- Since the Prophethood and vicegerency of the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is universal, hence those who succeed him for the preservation of spiritual and temporal order in the world, are to be, not the vicegerents of Allah, but the vicegerents of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his deputies. According to a hadith reported by Bukhari and Muslim both says:
“The Israelis used to be politically ruled and governed by prophets: Whenever a Prophet died, another would take over his place. There will be no prophet after me, but there will be Caliphs who will increase in number.”[Extract from Sahih Bukhari volume.4, Number.661].
- Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: ‘My ummah will never unanimously agree upon evil’. Allah has ordained that after him, his Ummah, or the Islamic community, shall as a body enjoys the special privilege. That is to say, the Ummah as a collective body under the special protection of Allah shall not agree to evil in religion as community.
- Allah has bestowed great responsibility and honor upon this Ummah: “We have given the Book as an inheritance to those of Our servants (Muslims) whom We have chosen, among them there are some who wrong their own souls, some follow a middle course and some, by Allah’s leave, excel in good deeds; which is the supreme virtue.” (Qur’an;35:32). “We have made you a moderate Ummah (nation) so that you may testify against mankind and that your own Messenger may testify against you.”(Qur’an;21:143).
The Succession of Nation and People:
The word khalafa has also been used to mention the ‘Succession’ of nation and people believers or unbelievers:
“And they have been succeeded [khalafa] by (new) generations who – (in spite of) having inherited the divine writ – clutch but at the fleeting good of this lower world(Qur’an;7:169).
“But after them there followed a posterity [fa- khalafa min badi -him khalf] who missed prayers and followed after lusts soon, then, will They face Destruction,”(Qur’an;19:59)
The verses (Qur’an;2:30) which tell us of how Allah informed the angels about his intention to send a vicegerent to the earth provide us with some of the fundamental principles of the governance of man, which may be summarized as follows:
(a) The sovereignty of the skies and of the earth belongs to Allah Himself. The function of promulgating the Commandments of Allah on the earth is performed by a vicegerent who is at the same time a messenger of Allah and His Prophet.
(b) The chain of such vicegerents ends with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for he is the last messenger and Prophet.
(c) Now the function of vicegerency is performed by the deputies of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
(d) Such a deputy (Khalifah) is to be chosen by the Ummah or Islamic community.
Khilafat- Historic Overview:
A caliphate is the traditional Islamic form of government, headed by a Khalifah (Caliph), either appointed or elected, who is considered the political leader of all Muslims. The caliphate also incorporates a shura, a body similar to a parliament that represents the will of the people and may elect and advise the caliph. Though originally, and ideally according to some, a caliphate is a unique entity that unites all Muslims under its rule, there have been concurrent and even competing caliphates at some points in history. The caliphate began after the death of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). The first four successors to that office were chosen by consensus of the Muslim community’s elders and were known as leaders of the believers. After them the caliphate became hereditary. Two principle dynasties, the Umayyads and Abbasids, dominated the caliphate until destruction by Mongols in 1258. The Mamluk sultanate kept members of the Abbasid family as titular caliphs in Cairo until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. Ottoman sultans were then widely recognized as caliphs till abolition of the caliphate by Atatürk in 1924 on establishment of republic of Turkey.
While the majorities of caliphates have been centered in the Middle East and exercised authority over Muslims around the world, a notable exception is the Caliphate of Cordoba [Spain] that ruled the Iberian Peninsula during the 10th and 11th centuries. The Iberian Peninsula became part of the Islamic Empire during the 8th century, when the Umayyad Caliphate ruled out of Damascus. In 750, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in the Middle East, marking the beginning of a five-century dynasty. However, descendents of the Umayyads remained in control of Spain, eventually setting up a caliphate there. Many of Spain’s most famous and beautiful buildings date from the period of the caliphate, including the Great Mosque of Córdoba (Qurtaba).
It should be noted that, although the office of the caliph (Khalifah, one who is successor to the Prophet in rule) is not a spiritual office [First Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, may be an exception being very close pious companions of Prophet (peace be upon him), directly taught and groomed by him], but the institution was imbued with political and religious symbolism, particularly regarding the unity of the Muslim community hence traditionally many Muslim rulers symbolically bore allegiance to the Caliph. The caliph held temporal and sometimes a degree of spiritual authority this does not imply any functions comparable to those of the Roman Catholic Pope. The caliph has no authority either to define dogma or, indeed, even to legislate. He is the chief executive of a community based upon religion, and his primary function is to implement the sacred law and work in the general interests of the community. He himself is not above the law and if necessary can even be deposed, at least in theory. The ruler could not become absolute because a basic restraint was placed upon him by the Shari’a law under which he held his authority and which he dutifully was bound to execute and defend. When, in the latter half of the 16th century, the Mughal emperor Akbar in India wanted to arrogate to himself the right of administrative-legal absolutism, the strong reaction of the orthodox thwarted his attempt. In general, the ‘ulama` (religious scholars) jealously upheld the sovereign position of the Shari’a against the political authority.
The effective shift of power from the caliph to the sultan was, again, reflected in the redefinition of the functions of the caliph. It was conceded that, if the caliph administered through wazirs (viziers or ministers) or subordinate rulers (amirs), it was not necessary for him to embody all the physical, moral, and intellectual virtues theoretically insisted upon earlier. In practice, however, the caliph was no more than a titular head from the middle of the 10th century onward, when real power passed to self-made and adventurous amirs and sultans, who merely used the caliph’s name for legitimacy.
In the early 20th century as a result of Muslim fears for the integrity of Islam, the Khilafat movement arose in India . These fears were aroused by Italian (1911) and Balkan (1912-13) attacks on Turkey, whose ruler (sultan), as caliph, was respected as the symbol of the unity for worldwide Muslim community and by Turkish defeats in World War I. They were intensified by the Treaty of Sèvres (August 1920), which not only detached all non-Turkish regions from the empire but also gave parts of the Turkish homeland to Greece and other non-Muslim powers. A campaign in defense of the caliph was launched, led in India by the brothers Muhammad Ali, Shaukat Ali and by Abul Kalam Azad. The leaders joined forces with Gandhi’s non-cooperation campaign for Indian freedom, promising nonviolence in return for his support of the ‘Khilafat movement’. It was further undermined when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk drove the Greeks from western Asia Minor, deposed the Turkish sultan and finally abolishing the caliphate altogether in 1924.
Caliphate-A Political Concept:
One group of thinkers considers that the concept of Caliphate as a political concept does not rely on any clear evidence from the Sunnah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) established a state at Medina comprising believers and non believers, he did mention about his successors in rule (Khalifah). Narrated Abu Huraira; The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The Israelis used to be politically ruled and governed by prophets: Whenever a Prophet died, another would take over his place. There will be no prophet after me, but there will be Caliphs who will increase in number.”[Extract from Sahih Bukhari volume.4, Number.661]. Narrated Jabir ibn Samurah; The Prophet (peace be upon him)said: “The Islamic religion will continue until the Hour has been established, or you have been ruled by twelve Caliphs [continuity or chain in succession not mentioned], all of them being from the Quraish. I also heard him say: A small force of the Muslims will capture the white palace, the palace of the Persian Emperor or his descendants. I also heard him say: Before the Day of Judgment there will appear (a number of) imposters. You are to guard against them.”[Extract from Sahih Muslim Hadith Number. 841]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) however did not specifically advocate any form of government, or the political entity. This is the reason why the choice of the first five caliphs in Islam took five different procedures. All of them meet the general principle that Islamic government is consultative (shura), practice justice, and establish system of Prayer (Salah) and Zakah (alms, obligatory charity), enjoining good, forbidding evil in line with Qur’anic injunctions at 42:38, 3:159 and 22:41. The era of first four caliphs is considered as an era of Khilafat-e-Rashida [Rightly Guided Caliphs]. The individual character, personalities of first four caliphs and their strict adherence to the tenets of Islam being close associate of Prophet (peace be upon him) made them a role model for others to follow. However no Muslim ruler could ever reach closer to the high standards of ‘Khilafat-e-Rashida’ except Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz (682-720), [also called Umar-II]. He was a pious and respected caliph who attempted to preserve the integrity of the Muslim Umayyad caliphate (661-750) by emphasizing religion and a return to the original principles of the Islamic faith. He created a consultative body of pious men to aid him in his rule; dismissed unpopular governors, reformed the taxation system, and granted the Mawali (non Arab Muslims) the same fiscal rights as Arab Muslims. The other rulers in Muslim history, who declared to be Caliph, were hereditary kings, using ‘Khalifah’ as title to claim some legitimacy and religious support.
Allah in Grant, Kingship, Rule and Authority on Land: God is not bound to grant Kingship and Rule on the land to some specific people only; it is totally at His discretion. Hence high status wealth and honor is not symbol of closeness to Allah. He grants rule and authority on land to unbelievers as well as believers (pious and sinners) according to His Wisdom and Plan:
“Say: “O Allah! Maalik al-Mulk [Lord of power and Rule] , You give power to whom You please and strip off power from whomsoever You please; You give honor to whom You please and disgrace to whom You please; all the good is in Your hand; surely You have power over everything.”(Qur’an;3:26).
He may grant Authority & Rule to His believing servants to check mischief on land:
“By Allah’s will they routed them: and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him power (al-Mulk) and wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed. And did not Allah check one set of people by means of another the earth would indeed be full of mischief but Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds.”(Qur’an;2:251).
“Had not Allah repelled some people by the might of others, the monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s praise is daily celebrated, would have been utterly demolished. Allah will certainly help those who help His cause; most surely Allah is Mighty, Powerful.”(Qur’an;22:40).
Keeping civil society together, and protect innocent, punishments prescribe in Shari’a law which can be implemented through legitimate authority, however doors of repentance remain open:
“Don’t you know that Allah has sovereignty (Mulk) over the heavens and the earth? He may punish whom He pleases and forgive whom He pleases. Allah has power over everything.”(Qur’an;5:40)
“To Allah belongs the kingdom (Mulk) of the heavens and the earth: He forgives whom He pleases and He punishes whom He wills. Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”(Qur’an;48:14).
If believers as a community desert the cause of Allah and deviate from the straight path, He may punish them and replace with better people, it happened in destruction of Abbasids Arabs rulers through Mongols, who later converted to Islam, afterward Ottoman Turks took over the rule. Occupation of their lands, exploitation of resources and oppression of Muslims at Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Philippines and wave of terrorism in Muslim world, especially Pakistan warrants repentance and reversion to the true path, lest He may bring in other people:
“If ye turn back (from the Path) He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!”(Qur’an;47:38).
“If He will, He can remove you, O people, and produce others (in your stead). Allah is Able to do that.”(Qur’an;4:133).
“We have the power (qaadiron) to destroy them and replace them with others better than them, and nothing can hinder Us from doing so.”(Qur’an;70:40-41)
“O mankind! It is you who stands in need of Allah, and it is Allah Who is Free of all wants, Worthy of all praise. If He wants, He can destroy you and replace you with a new creation;”(Qur’an;35:15-16)
“Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”(Matthew;21:43) [Jesus Christ warned Jews, It was the death-knell of the Jewish nation with their hopes of political and religious world leadership, ultimately transferred to the Children of Ishmael (Arabs & Muslims)]
Rule and Power is not the sole domain of believers, it is also granted to Un-Believers:
“Remember that he made you successors (Khulafa) after the people of Noh and gave you a tall stature as compared to other people. Therefore, remember the favors that you have received from Allah, so that you may prosper. They replied: “Have you come to us with the demand that we should worship Allah Alone and give up those whom our forefathers used to worship? Well, bring us what you are threatening us with if what you say is true!””(Qur’an;7:69-70).
“Remember how you were made successors (Khulafa) after ‘Ad and settled in the land, capable of building mansions in the valleys and carving out homes in the mountains. Therefore, remember the favors of Allah and do not spread mischief in the land. The arrogant leaders from his nation asked the oppressed among them who have believed: “Do you really believe that Salih is a Messenger from his Lord?” They replied: “We do indeed believe in the revelation which he has been sent.””(Qur’an;7:74-75).
Allah in His Mercy, grants prosperity and wealth to humanity as a whole. It is trial to check their gratefulness to God through obedience:
“That it is He Who gives wealth and satisfaction ;”(Qur’an;53:48)
“When they neglected the warning they had received, then, instead of punishment, We opened the gates of every kind of prosperity for them; but just as they were rejoicing in what they were given, We suddenly seized them; lo! They were plunged into despair! ;”(Qur’an;6:44 also 7:95 17:18, 21.35, 18:7).
Allah bestows His grace freely, but He never withdraws it arbitrarily. Before He changes their state and circumstances, an actual state of rebellion and contumacy has arisen in their own souls, which brings about its inevitable punishment:
“Allah has never changed the blessings which He has bestowed on a people until they themselves changed the condition of their souls; verily Allah hears all and knows all.”(Qur’an;8:53)
“Allah never changes the condition of a people until they intend to change it themselves.”(Qur’an;13:11)
Allah is not intent on punishment. He created man virtuous and pure; he gave him intelligence and knowledge; he surrounded him with all sorts of instruments of His grace and mercy. If, in spite of all this, man distorts his own will and goes against Allah’s Will, yet is Allah’s forgiveness open to him if he will take it. It is only when he has made his own self blind and changed his own nature or soul away from the beautiful mould in which Allah formed it, that Allah’s Wrath will descend on him and the favorable position in which Allah placed him will be changed. When once the punishment comes, there is no turning it back. None of the things which he relied upon- other than Allah-can possibly protect him.
The concept of Khilafat is has been adopted as a maxim by some organizations and groups in Muslim countries to seek support form the masses to gain power. Some of them believe in peaceful struggle while the extremist justify use of violence and terrorism to get in to power. It is claimed that through establishment of Khilafat they will be able to implement Shari’a, get rid of corrupt rulers, provide quick justice, end oppression of Muslims and exploitation of their resource by super powers. Hence they will regain the lost glory of Muslim Ummah by uniting them under a Khalifah. They derive support form verse 55, of Surah Nur (24), commonly known as ‘Ayah Ishtikhlaf’ [The Verse for Khilafat]:
“Allah has promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance (of power), (yasta-khlif-anna -hum fe-al-‘ard) As He granted it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their Religion – the one which He has chosen for them; and that He will change (Their state), after the fear In which They (lived), to one of security and peace: ‘They will worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me. ‘If any do reject Faith after this, They are rebellious and wicked.”(Qur’an;24:55).
Instead of taking this one verse in isolation, it may be appropriate that it may be read and interpreted against the background of the Qur’an as a whole. The general divine policy for grant of Khilafat in the sense of power, rule, and kingship has been outlined in the verses of Qur’an mentioned above.[Qur’an;3:26, 2:251, 22:40, 5:40, 48:14. 47:38, 4:133, 70:40-41, 35:15-16, 7:69, 7:74, 8:53, 13:11].
Majority of scholars including Syed Abul Ala Moududi and Moulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi through Ibn Kathir, agree that the direct addressees of this promise of Allah, were the Muslims living in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). However indirectly it may also apply to the future generations of Muslims under identical conditions. The promise of Allah for bestowal of successorship (Khalifah) in the land is ONLY for those believers, who are true in faith, pious in character, sincere in devotion and who follow Allah’s religion in letter and spirit eschewing every tinge of shirk (polytheism). Allah warn the hypocrites that this promise is not meant for those people who are Muslims in name only, lacking above mentioned qualities and pay mere lip service to Islam, they are neither worthy of this promise nor its addressees. Therefore they should entertain no hope of having any share in Khalifah (successorship) in the land.
Background of This Revelation:
Qurtubi has reported on authority of Abul ‘Aliyah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) stayed in Makkah for ten years after commencement of revelation and declaration of prophethood, during this period they remained under fear due to persistent threat to their life from the infidels and disbelievers. Then after the Migration (Hijrah) to Medina there was also ceaseless danger of attacks from the disbelievers. So, someone asked the Holy Prophet: “Would a time come to us when we will be able to live in peace without wearing our weaponry?’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied ‘Yes, the time is coming very soon’. On that occasion these verses were revealed. (Qurtubi and Bahr). Allah had made three promises to the Prophet (peace be upon him), that 1) his Ummah will be made His vicegerent on earth and will rule over it, and 2) His favorite religion Islam will be made victorious, and 3)Muslims will be given so much power and grandeur that they will not fear to face any threat.
Allah fulfilled His promise by conferring conquest over Makkah, Khyber, Bahrain, and the whole of Yemen and the entire peninsula of Arabia even during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Also he received jizyah, (poll tax) from the Zoroastrians of Hajar and some Syrian territories. The kings and rulers of Rome, Egypt, Alexandria, Oman and Ethiopia sent gifts to the Prophet (peace be upon him), and gave him honour and respect. Then during his caliphate Abu Bakr crushed all the menacing uprisings. He also sent out Islamic armies to Persia, Syria and Egypt. Busra and Damascus fell to Islamic State during this time. Just before his death, Abu Bakr in his wisdom nominated Umar Ibn Khattab as his successor. The period of Caliphate of ‘Umar Ibn Khattab was golden period of good governance. During his caliphate the entire land of Syria and Egypt and major part of Persia were overpowered. It was during his time that the myth of grandeur of Byzantine and Persian empires was shattered. After that period, during the caliphate of Uthman the Islamic influence extended from the East to the Al-Maghrib (West) North Africa. In the west up to Cyprus, and in the east up to China. Besides, ‘Iraq, Khorasan and Ahwaz (now in Iran) all fell to Islamic State during the time of third Caliph. What the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said according to a Sahih Hadith that he was shown the entire east and west of the earth by bringing them together, and that the rule of his Ummah will extend up to all those places which have been shown to him; this promise was fulfilled by Allah even during the time of caliphate ‘Uthman. Once Adi Bin Hatim came to the Prophet in a delegation, the Prophet told him that this Din Al-Islam will extend all over and such peace will be established that a women shall travel alone without guards and return back to Hera after circumambulating Kab’a, she will have no fear. Adi Bin Hatim added that now women travel without any fear. (Extract from Ibn Kathir)
According to another hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said that caliphate will last for thirty years after him, then there will be callous rule. Here, the word caliphate means the Rightly Guided caliphate (Al-Khalifah Rashidun), which was run on the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It lasted up to the time of 4th Khalifah Ali. At this point Ibn Kathir has also reported a hadith from Sahih Muslim, that Jabir Ibn Samurah has said that he had heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying that his Ummah will continue ruling until the twelve caliphs last. After narrating this Ibn Kathir has commented that this hadith is pointing that there will be twelve upright caliphs in the Muslim Ummah, which is bound to happen. However, it is not necessary that all twelve come one after the other and there is no gap in between, rather it is more likely that they turn up with an interval of time. Out of this lot, four Rightly Guided Caliphs (Khulafa) had appeared one after the other immediately after the Prophet (peace be upon him) Umar Ibn ‘Abdul Aziz who came after a gap of some time. A few others also appeared in different times after him and will continue to come until the last caliph Mahdi (Guided one) comes. There is no mention in the hadith of those twelve caliphs which the Shiites have determined. Rather some of them are those who have no connection with the caliphate at all. It is also not necessary that all of them would be of the same status, and during their time there would be complete peace and tranquility. This promise is related to rectitude and firmness of faith, the righteous deeds and total obedience, and any difference in their degree will naturally make difference in the power and control of authority. Islamic history spread over a period of 1400 years is a witness that in different times and different, countries whenever and wherever there was a just and righteous ruler, he has received his share from this promise of Allah based or, the extent of righteous deeds he has performed. At another place, the Qur’an says that: “The people of Allah are the ones to prevail.”(Qur’an;5:56)
Proof of Divine Approval of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs:
This verse (24:55) is also a proof of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), because the forecast he had made came true exactly in the manner he had predicted. The same way it is also a proof of acceptance and approval of the caliphate of Khulafa Rashidun in the sight of Allah. It is for the simple reason that the promise Allah had made with His Messenger and his Ummah was completely fulfilled during the lifetime of the four Companions of Prophet. The address of Hadrat ‘AIi in ‘Nahjal Balaghah’, which was meant to dissuade 2nd Caliph ‘Umar from going personally to tight against the Persians further elucidate the same, he said:
“Our success in this work is not dependent on numerical strength; it is the religion of Allah for which He Himself has opened ways. We are grateful to Him for His help and succour which has enabled us to serve its cause till it has been raised to its present glory Allah Himself has said: `Allah has promised to those among you, who believe and do righteous deeds that He will make them successors in the land(Qur’an;24:55). Allah will certainly fulfill this promise and will help the armies of Islam. The position of the Caliph in Islam is like that of the string in a necklace of pearls. If the string breaks, the pearls scatter away and the order is destroyed. Once scattered and dispersed, it becomes difficult to collect them again. No doubt the Arabs are small in number, but they have been increased by Islam and strengthened by unity. You should therefore stick to Medina like the pivot and make the grindstone of Arabia rotate about you and guide the war-machine from here. Once you leave this place, your entire organization will begin to crumble, and then you will start feeling more worried about the dangers behind than the enemies in front. Moreover, the Persians will concentrate their whole attention on you, and will like to exterminate you, taking you as the main and only hurdle in their way to victory. As for your apprehension that they have come out in much greater strength, I would say that hitherto we have been fighting them not merely on the strength of numbers, but have been putting them to rout on the strength of Allah’s help and succour.”
Any discerning reader can see for himself as to which side is being held by Hadrat `Ali as worthy of Allah’s promise with regard to successorship in the land. If the caliphate of the earlier caliphs is not regarded legitimate and true, as claimed by some, then the Qur’anic promise has not been fulfilled as yet. Then the argument put forward by them that the Qur’anic promise will be fulfilled during the life of Mehdi is absurd, as it will amount to saying that for hundreds of years (exact timings know to Allah alone) the ‘Ummah will live in disgrace and misery, and nearing the Dooms Day when Mehdi will get the rule, only that period is referred by this promise. The fact of the matter is that the conditions of faith and righteous deeds, on which this promise was made by Allah, were present in these four Companions (Sahabah) to the perfection and in totality. In reality Allah’s promise was fulfilled in totality in their lifetime only. After that neither the degree of faith and deeds was maintained at that level, nor the dignity of caliphate and governance could be retained.
The Shiite Muslims follow the doctrine of Imamate, according to this doctrine there must be an infallible, divinely appointed guide, in every place and time, which preserves the religion exactly as it was revealed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The person who bears the duty of guarding and preserving the Divine message after it is revealed and is chosen by God for this function is called the Imam, in the same way that the person who bears the prophetic spirit and has the function of receiving Divine injunctions and laws from God is called the Prophet. It is possible for the Imamate and Prophecy (Nubuwwat) either to be joined in one person or to be separate. The twelve Imams consist of Ali ibn Abi Talib and his eleven descendants who were chosen to the Imamate one after another. They being chosen and from the household of Prophet (peace be upon him) are considered as infallible.
The Best Ruler:
What ever procedure of consultation (Shura) for selection of ruler is adopted by the Muslims, he should be the most righteous (49:13). The objective should be good governance through implementation of Islamic Shari’a (3:85), establish system of Salah and Zakah, enjoin good, justice and forbid evil (22:41, 3:110, 7:33), not betray trust (8:27), prepare well for defence be ready for peace (8:60-91). Obedience to ruler conditional to obedience to Allah and His Messenger (4:59). Narrated Awf ibn Malik; The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The best of your rulers are those whom you love and who love you, who invoke God’s blessings upon you and you invoke His blessings upon them. And the worst of your rulers are those whom you hate and who hate you and whom you curse and who curse you. It was asked (by those present): Shouldn’t we overthrow them with the help of the sword? He said: No, as long as they establish prayer among you. If you then find anything detestable in them, you should hate their administration, but do not withdraw yourselves from their obedience.”(Sahih Muslim Hadith number 861). It is narrated Abu Sa’id al-Khudri; The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best fighting (jihad) in the path of Allah is (to speak) a word of justice to an oppressive ruler.”(Sunan of Abu Dawood No.2040). It is evident that instead of using force and violence against Muslim rulers, the use of words, advice and peaceful protest is the preferable option.
Is Every Human Khalifah?
Under the influence of Western Humanism, and specially in their indifference to doctrinal matters, the Modernists have come to identify the prophet and the father of mankind, Adam, to tally with the biological species called ‘man’, and have made out as if every individual member of this species, unconditionally and without any qualifications, is born to be a vicegerent of Allah. The error has been promoted by a thoughtless misreading of Sufi metaphysical texts and Sufi poetry. What our Modernists have never cared to learn is the concept of degrees and their distinctions. The Sufis, no doubt, often speak of ‘man’ as being the vicegerent of Allah, but what they are actually referring to is not a biological organism or species, but ‘Al-Insan Al-Kimil’, ‘the Universal Man’ – a term which the orientalists have wrongly rendered as ‘the perfect man’, thus introducing ethical implications in the sphere of pure metaphysics. In the writings of the Sufis, prose and poetry both, ‘Man’ also stands for ‘the Total and Essential Reality of man’ (Al-Haqiqah al-Jami’ah al-Insiiniyyah). Now, the Universal Man par excellence is the Prophet this is the first degree of “manhood” to which belong the Aulia’ (Men of Allah or the great saints) and those rulers who delivered justice according to the Shari’a. Then, there are lower degrees pertaining to the pious and the virtuous Muslims down to the lowest degree where stand people who are sinful, yet, being Muslims, can hope for salvation. Allah alone knows best as to who belongs to which degree; below the degree of the blessed Companions one can never speak with certitude. If we allow ourselves to associate vicegerency with an ordinary Muslim, it would only be vicegerency, so to say, by reflection just as the ‘Iman’ (Faith, Beleif) of every Muslim is only a reflection of the ‘Iman’ of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Any way, the necessary condition of receiving even a faint reflection of vicegerency and “Manhood” is that one should be a Muslim (submit to the will of God), for, as Qur’an has explicitly declared: “The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His will):” Qur’an;3:19);”If anyone desires a Religion other than Islam (submission to Allah.), never will it be accepted of him; and In the Hereafter He will be In the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good)”. Qur’an;3:85).
As for attributing vicegerency of “Manhood” to common man as such is concerned, it can at best only be vicegerency, to use Aristotelian terms, in potency and not in act – it cannot be effective unless it is actualized through a total submission to the Shari’a and a strenuous spiritual effort and waiting upon the grace of Allah. In fact, the highest excellence open to man now is to be in word and deed and thought a perfect follower of the Sunnah, the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Khilafat – Political Power and Authority:
Some people interpret Khalifah (successorship in the land) in restricted sense to mean ‘political power and authority’ and conversely conclude that whosoever possesses power and authority in the land is necessarily a true believer and a follower of Allah’s approved religion and His devotee, free from all traces of polytheism. Then in order to get support for their wrong conclusion, they even change the very meanings of Faith, virtue, Divine Creed, Allah’s worship, idolatry, etc. to suit their interpretation. This is the worst distortion of the meaning of the Qur’an, even worse than what the Jews and Christians did with their Scriptures. This interpretation of the verse tends to destroy the very message of the Qur’an. If `successorship in the land’ (Khalifah) were to mean mere power and authority in the land; then all those people who wielded power and authority in the world, or wield it today, would fit in with the description contained in the verse, even if they denied existence of Allah, Revelations, Prophethood, life in the Hereafter, and were involved in all kinds of major sins like usury, adultery, drinking and gambling. If all such people are regarded as pious believers and considered worthy of holding the high offices because of their qualities as such, then `Faith’ would imply simple obedience to physical laws and `Virtue’ would mean making use of those laws effectively and successfully. Allah’s approved religion would mean making maximum progress -in the fields of industry and trade, commerce and politics by achieving excellence in the physical sciences; devotion to Allah would mean abiding by the rules and procedures which are naturally useful and essential for success in individual and collective enterprises; and shirk would mean adopting a few harmful methods also along with the useful procedures and rules. But the question is: Would a person who has studied the Qur’an with an open heart and mind, ever believe that the terms `Faith’, ‘Righteous deeds’, `True Religion’, `Devotion to Allah’, Tawhid [monotheism] and Shirk as used in the Qur’an really mean this ?
As a matter of fact, such a meaning can be understood either by the one who has never made an intelligent study of the Qur’an as a whole, writes Syed AbulAl’a Moududi; the people who pick up verses from here and there and give them their own biased meaning according to preconceived notions and theories: By the one who has read the Qur’an through but has all along been holding all those verses as wrong and absurd, which invite people to accept Allah as the One and only Lord, His Revelations as the only source of Guidance, His Messengers as the only true Guides worthy of absolute obedience, and which demand not only belief in the life-after-death, but also state that the people who would consider success in the worldly life as their sole and ultimate objective, without any idea of their accountability in the Hereafter, would be deprived of real success. The Qur’an has repeated these themes so frequently in diverse ways and in such clear and plain language that it is difficult to believe that anybody who studies it honestly can ever be involved in those misunderstandings in which the modern interpreters of this verse have been involved. The fact is that they have misconstrued Khilafat and Istikhlaf (successorship) after their own notions, which cannot be held as correct by anybody who has some knowledge of the Qur’an.
The word Khilafat is used here to mean vicegerency or successorship. Both these meanings of Khilafat are well known and recognized in the Arabic lexicon. Now anybody who reads this verse (Qur’an;24:55) in this context cannot have any doubt that the word Khilafat has been used here for the government which discharges the responsibilities of Allah’s Vicegerency strictly in accordance with Allah’s Law, and not in accordance with mere physical laws of the world. That is why, not to speak of the disbelievers, even the hypocrites, who professed faith in Islam, are being excluded from the purview of Allah’s promise. That is why it is being stated that true and righteous believers only are worthy of this promise. That is why it is being averred that the establishment of Khilafat will result in the establishment of Islam, Allah’s approved religion, on strong foundations; and that is why the condition being put forward for earning this favour is that the believers should remain steadfast in their faith and devotion to Allah avoiding every tinge of shirk (polytheism). To remove this promise from its right context and apply it on the international scene to the case of USA and Russia, or any other super power that be, is sheer absurdity and nonsense.
Is Caliphate Still Relevant?
Many people think that in modern era there is no room for a primitive concept like Khilafat, while others think that it is the only solution to the problems faced by Muslims. These two are extreme positions. As mentioned earlier, after Prophet (peace be upon him), his Ummah, or the Islamic community, shall as a body enjoys the special privilege. That is to say, the Ummah as a collective body, is under the special protection of Allah so that it will never unanimously agree upon a doctrinal error or a deviation, and hence any decision which has been arrived at in religious matters through the consensus of the Ummah is to be honored. That is why Ijma (consensus) of the Ummah has been accepted as the third source of the Shari’a, the first two being Qur’an and the Sunnah (Hadith). Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar; Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: Verily my Ummah, or the Ummah of Muhammad, will not agree on error and the hand of Allah is upon the community; he who sets himself apart from it will be set apart in Hell Fire. [Al-Tirmidh Hadith.57]. In another hadith narrated Thawban: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: A group of people from my Ummah will always remain triumphant on the right path and continue to be triumphant (against their opponents). He who deserts them shall not be able to do them any harm. They will remain in this position until Allah’s Command is executed (i.e. Day of Judgment is established) [Sahih Muslim Hadith.895].
It is well known that when ever some evil people tried to incorporate some new ideas and concepts which were in conflict with fundamentals of Islam and faith, they were rejected by majority. Such mischievous evil elements were isolated, marginalized and finally expelled from the Muslim community. Since it has been ordained that the Islamic Ummah on the whole as a body shall never arrive at wrong doctrines (in religious maters), the responsibility of choosing a deputy to the Prophet (peace be upon him) has also fall upon it. The legitimate way is that the Ummah through consensus should evolve the system to build the institution of Khilafat for the maintenance of spiritual and temporal order. The first to succeed the Prophet (peace be upon him) as his deputies were Khulafa al-Rashidun (or the rightly-guided ones), and the Khilafat order functioned according to the proper principles up to the end of their time (about thirty years). Due to their high spiritual, moral and political stature being close companions of Prophet (peace be upon them), their decisions are not merely temporary judgments, but have a permanent legislative value, and carry an authority in their own degree, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: ‘Follow my way steadfastly, and the way of the rightly-guided Khalifah.’ After the period of the rightly-guided Khulafa, different rulers appeared in different regions, but none of them can be described as a Khalifah of the whole Islamic community in the proper sense of the term, though they may be called the Amir of particular regions. When it became practically impossible for all the Muslims of the world to agree upon one man as their Khalifah, and it became customary to have a separate Amir for each region, people accepted the principle that the man who had been chosen or acknowledged by the majority of the Muslims in a country, should be called the Amir of that country. The basis for this procedure has been provided by the Holy Qur’an itself: “And they conduct their affairs by mutual consultation” (Qur’an;42:38).
The modern legislative assemblies are a form of mutual consultation, with the difference that they are quite free to make whatever laws they like according to their own opinion, while an Islamic legislative assembly, its members and their Amir all shall be bound by the law which Allah has sent through His last Prophet (peace be upon him). There are certain specific conditions for the membership of an Islamic assembly as well as for the choice of an Amir, and, most important of all, laws must be made within the bounds of the basic principles laid down by the Qur’an and Sunnah, which the assembly cannot have the right to question.
If one looks at the present democratic ‘Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ [known as 1973 Constitution], it is found that no law can be made repugnant to Qur’an and Sunnah. The article 62 lays down strict Islamic criteria for eligibility of representatives to contest elections. If the laws are implemented Pakistan can revive the golden era of Caliphate. Mere laws are not enough; the society has to be prepared to implement the laws. It is known that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) implemented Shari’a at Medina once the people were motivated, were strong in faith (eman) and prepared to accept and implement the law whole heartedly. There are examples of persons who committed sins like adultery themselves came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions to seek punishment (Rajam, death by stoning) [Al-Muwatta Hadith, 41.2]. They believed that the punishment of Rajam was nothing to the punishment of Hell fire in hereafter.
Shari’a is not restricted to executing the punishments only, there is much more to done at individual and collective level. As a first step the enthusiasts of Khilafat should make endeavors to reformation society in line with spiritual and ethical tenets of Islam. This reformation should be through peaceful preaching, self example and patience, demonstrated through the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a living model of Qur’an (see Al-Asr,103:1-3). Since Islam is the faith of “Peace”, the early Muslim community was urged to conduct the Bigger Jihad (Jihad Kabira), through Qur’an, i.e. Preaching of Allah’s message. Allah says in Qur’an: “therefore, do not yield to the unbelievers, and make Jihad (strive) against them with this (Qur’an), a mighty Jihad.”(Qur’an;25:52). Preaching and violence are incompatible.
The modern philosopher and political theorist, Rousseau (1712-78 C.E) admits, the practicability of the Islamic polity and records in ‘Social Contract’, that: ‘Muhammad held very sane views, and linked his political system well together; and as long as the form of his government continued under the Caliphs, who succeeded him, the government was indeed on and so far good’. The prospects of revival of Khilafat in some form for the Muslims of whole world though appears to be a remote possibility but the likelihood can not be totally ruled out, the institution did exist though in symbolic form just 90 years back. The reality of ‘European Union’, has been a distant dream for centuries. Who could have imagined the universal organization like UNO, a century and half ago. The modern Caliphate may not be a highly centralized single political entity but a ‘Common Wealth’, may lead to Confederation or groups of Confederations to start with. Already many countries are cooperating under regional organizations like Arab League, RCD etc. OIC [Organization of Islamic Conference, [Arabic Munazamat Al-Mu`Tamir Al-Islami] with more than 57 countries as members can act as spring board. OIC aims at promoting Islamic solidarity by coordinating social, economic, scientific, and cultural activities. Under the banner of strengthening the struggle of Muslims, the conference pledges to eliminate racial segregation and discrimination, it provide political and moral support to Muslims under oppression in Kashmir, Palestine and elsewhere. Projects include the International Islamic News Agency, the Islamic Development Bank, the Islamic Solidarity Fund, and the World Centre for Islamic Education. Thee is room to add more like ‘Islamic Shari’a Court’[Like International Court of Justice] etc. This process is long but first the Muslims have to put their own house in order. The Islamic ethics, morality and values have to be revived and practiced willingly by the Muslims; it does not require a Caliph but dedicated preachers of Islam (Da’ee) who can build the base for Khilafat. There are many selfless Muslims working peacefully at individual and collective level.
Islamic philosophy is based on the belief that all spheres of life (including hereafter), spiritual, social, political, and economic form an indivisible unity that must be thoroughly imbued with Islamic values. This ideal forms such concepts as “Islamic law” (Shari’a) and the “Islamic state” and accounts for Islam’s strong emphasis on social life and social duties. In western political philosophy, there is general agreement on the finer application of the concept of representation in government: “one (legal) person acting on behalf of a group of people”. The conceptual basis of the Khalifah is also considered one of representation, though the logic by which the concept arises is different to the path taken by Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes’s representative derives authority from an assumed human state of nature to become an absolute sovereign who predates law. The Khalifah is considered a representative of the people in the sense of implementing pre-existing societal rules that were addressed to the society through the revelations to the Messenger (peace be upon him) as a collective whole, but require embodiment in an authority tasked with implementation of these laws (Shari’a). The Khalifah is appointed to his position according to the will of the people. The consultative assembly (majlis al-shura ) is equivalence of ‘parliament’ or ‘house of representative’ in Western democracies.
The system of government in an ideal Islamic society it to be based on justice and consultation (shura), the democratic way spelled out by Qur’an fourteen centuries ago. Obedience to authority with in bounds of law (Shari’a) is important for stability and to avoid anarchy. The model Islamic state is headed by a Caliph (khalifah, “successor” to the Prophet), who hold temporal and sometimes a degree of spiritual authority. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was succeeded in rule by rightly guided successors among his blessed companions, who followed his footsteps (Sunnah) to the best of their abilities, in spreading knowledge, preaching Islam, and effectively managing the affairs of Islamic State with justice according to the law (Shari’a).
The system of Caliphate effectively continued for 30 years after death of Prophet (peace be upon him). Thereafter it became hereditary rule of Umayyads, followed by Abbasids who were destroyed by the Tartar hordes in mid 13th century. Later they converted to Islam; the Caliphate got new impetus through Ottoman Turks, though a hereditary empire using the title of Khalifah symbolically. Shari’a remained the dominant law among them, it was abolished in 1924. Modern Muslim militants consider the abolition of the caliphate a catastrophic event, and its return has been a central pillar of their political program.
Last five hundred years witnessed gradual decline of Muslim empires and colonization of their lands by Christians from the West. Though most of Muslims got independence but the legacy continues in the form of neocolonialism. The nostalgia of Caliphate lingers on the collective memory of Muslims as a symbol of unity in the glorious past. The urge for revival of splendor and dignity has turned some to make efforts for revival of the Caliphate, as a quick fix to the complex problems of lost identify and grandeur but they lack mass support. Keeping in view the success of European Union model, it may not be rejected altogether. There are many other forums for regional cooperation in the new world which is a global village now. The high-tech communications, advancement in science and technology has brought people together. Hence a distant dream may come true in future. The OIC may act as spring board. Islamic Republic of Pakistan was made after a lot of struggle on the name of Islam for the Muslims of subcontinent South-Asia. Its Constitutions has Islamic provisions. The government has been elected through so called popular vote, but the majority of rulers are not only far from Islam but many severely lack even in normal ethics and human values. Corruption, cheating (fake graduation degrees, purchasing votes, especially for Senate seats, stealing, bribes, bank frauds), mismanagement, nepotism, disrespect to judiciary, disregard of law, breach of written agreements, deceit, alleged murder, swindling state money and so on, the list is in too long, not to mention the moral aspects. We are reminded of a verse from Qur’an and Hadith:
It has been narrated Abu Huraira; The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The signs of a hypocrite are three: Whenever he speaks he tells a lie; whenever he is entrusted he proves dishonest; whenever he promises he breaks his promise.”[Shaih Al-Bukhar Hdith, Vilume.4, Number.12].
Allah says: “And there are people who say, “We do believe in God and the Last Day,” the while they do not [really] believe. They would deceive God and those who have attained to faith – the while they deceive none but themselves, and perceive it not. In their hearts is disease, and so God lets their disease increase; and grievous suffering awaits them because of their persistent lying And when they are told, “Do not spread corruption on earth,” they answer, “We are but improving things!” Oh, verily, it is they, they who are spreading corruption – but they perceive it not?”(Qur’an;2:8-11)
How these people claim to represent the will of people? Do people want robbers to rule them to add to their miseries? The simple masses are deceived repeatedly by successive gangsters, some times clad in uniform and some times in civvies, supported by ever compliant some religiopolitical parties and groups. The present political system does not allow election of genuinely God fearing, public representatives (Shura) having strong character and high morals, with some exceptions. Proper implementation of Constitution and Law is in the hands of those who make mockery of it. Presently, ‘We are chasing an Islamic order stripped of its humanism, aesthetics, intellectual quests and spiritual devotions…. concerned with power not with the soul, with the mobilization of people for political purposes rather than with sharing and alleviating their sufferings and aspirations.’ [Eqbal Ahmad]. The system requires major fix up.
Some pieces from the works of the Greek philosopher Plato (378 BC), who tried to find remedies for prevalent political injustice and decline in his famous book; The Republic may be relevant: ‘Though his rulers would be form elite, but he is also an anatomist of the evils of unbridled appetite and political corruption and insists on the need to use public power to moral ends. In democracy, in which the poor get the upper hand, demagogues [A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.] distribute “a peculiar kind of equality to equals and unequals impartially,” and the old flatter the young, fawning on their juniors to avoid the appearance of being sour, tyrant ruler. The leaders plunder the propertied classes and divide the spoils among themselves and the people until confusion and corruption lead to tyranny, a worse form of government. For the tyrant becomes a wolf instead of a man and “lops off” potential rivals and starts wars to distract the people from their discontent. “Then, the public learns what a monster they have begotten.” concludes Plato. He mentions that the state should aim at promoting the good life and social harmony and the rule of law, since no man can be trusted with unbridled power.’
This sham democracy is only to look after the interests of elite class through exploitation and oppression of masses. Only rich and influential can contest elections, politics has become a family enterprise for powers and wealth:
“Corruption has appeared on land and in the sea as an outcome of what men’s hands have wrought: [Since they have become oblivious of God] and so He will let them taste [the evil of] some of their doings, so that they might return (to the right path]”(Qur’an;30:41).
Any system of rule is bound to fail as ‘powerful mafia’ would mould it to their benefit through their strong grip at the centers of power. They are fully backed by the foreign powers as some of them willingly serve their interests. The looted money is parked in foreign banks and invested there. Most of the religious political parties are no different; some of them are always more than willing to join hands with any government. The religious extremists [sectarians and so called Jihadis] are also on killing spree, thorough suicide bombing and explosions at public places; their soft target is innocent unprotected masses. The elite enjoy foolproof security at state’s expense. Which is this Islam which sanctions killing of innocent Muslims and non Muslims? How the people who have no regards to the clear commandments of Qur’an will establish Khilafat? The Muslims and common citizens are like a sheep encircled by wolfs on one side and wild dogs on the other side.
What should be done in such a situation? Many options remain under discussion, we should do this, we should do that, but the point is who will do it? Who shall bell the cat? Should Muslims wait for Messiah, or reformer to come from heaven and solve their problems? The Mehdi and Messiah shall come at their appointed time; When? only Allah knows. The people have to do some thing themselves:
“Allah never changes the condition of a people until they intend to change it themselves.”(Qur’an;13:11).
“If you turn back (from the Path) He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!”(Qur’an;47:38).
Reformation of society is the only option, go back to the basics of Islam. The Sunnah of Prophet (peace be upon him) is the guide line because the Messenger (peace be upon him) practically lead the life according to Qur’an, Allah says: “..We have sent down the reminder (Qur’an) to you (O Muhammad), so that you may explain clearly to mankind as to what was sent to them so that they may think about it”(Qur’an 16:44). The state of Muslim deprivation in knowledge, morality, ethics and lack of practice of tenets of Islam demands the mighty effort like Jihad Kabira, through Qur’an. Preaching (Dawah) to fellow brothers and sisters. The Ulema (religious scholars) should abandon the power politics, so as to lead and play their role in this primary responsibility. The history shows that most of the great scholars of Islam like Ibne Abbas, Abu Huraira, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abdullah bin Abbas, Abdullah ibn Umar and later Imam Abu Hanifa, took no direct part in court politics or power struggles. Imam Abu Hanifa steadfastly refused to be Chief Justice consequently suffered severe persecution Once Ulema indulge in power politics they are doing it at the cost of their main role. The declining society in dire need of ‘men of knowledge’; will be deprived, further hastening the decline and degeneration. Power politics involves a lot of mud slugging and controversies which damages the credibility of Ulema. The scholars though knowledgeable but lacking in credibility become laughing stock. Ulema should lead in teaching and preaching din Al-Islam (Dawah), but if they don’t, every one should come forward to perform his/her moral duty as inheritors of Qur’an (Refer to Qur’an; 35:32,103:3). No special expertise is required to preach normal human ethics, values, good deeds [amal-e-saleh] so much emphasized by Islam, many people are already doing it. While calling brothers deeply entangled in sins, we must not forget the universal principal of Dawah, i.e. use of wisdom, kind arguments, patience (Qur’an;6:125-126,3:103).
The intelligentsia, media, civil society, good political leaders, workers and common citizens [irrespective of caste, creed, age and gender] should come forward to create awareness as part of ‘Peaceful Movement for Ethics’ [PME]. Local ‘Peaceful Pressure Groups’ [PPG] may be formed by good citizens, which should gradually build up to upper levels, to keep the corrupts under check and control of independent judiciary, and law. A word of caution, PPG should not behave as ‘Morality Enforcement Police’ [Khudai Faujdar, Danda Brigades], the peace must not be compromised, and law of the land must not be violated at all. Spreading anarchy and corruption are major sins and crime warranting exemplary punishment, by the competent authorities in Shari’a:
“It is but a just recompense for those who make war on God and His apostle, and endeavour to spread corruption (fasad) on earth, that they are being slain in great numbers, or crucified in great numbers, or have, in result of their perverseness, their hands and feet cut off in great numbers, or are being [entirely] banished from [the face of] the earth: such is their ignominy in this world But in the life to come [yet more] awesome suffering awaits them -save for such [of them] as repent ere you [O believers] become more powerful than they: for you must know that God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.”(Qur’an;5: 33-34)
The silent majority will also come forward. No one should wait for an announcement or call; every one must start to play his/her role to the best of abilities and resources. PME shall gain its own momentum to become credible PPG. The honest leadership will emerge form the masses. Through reformation of society, the Khilafat in some form will appear, to achieve the desired effects. If we fail in our collective responsibility then we are heading for more troubles. Many thinkers in United States and Europe are against the idea of the caliphate, which they perceive to be a threat to the Capitalism and their way of life. These misconceptions are unfounded, their apprehensions and concerns will be addresses with emergence of equitable, peaceful and strong Muslim Ummah:
Also see: Caliphate: Redundant or Relevant?
The Holy Qur’an, translation and commentary by; Abdullah Yousaf Ali,. The Message of Qur’an by Muhammad Asad. ‘Are We Muslims?’ [hal nahn-o Muslemoon] by Sayyid Qutb.‘Tafheem ul Qur’an’ by Syed Abul ala Moududi. ‘Mu’arif Qura’n’ by Muhammad Shafi. Tafseer Ibn Kathir. ‘Qur’anic Prism’, The index of subjects in Qur’an by Engineer Abudl Hakim Malik. Sahih Bukhari Hadith. Alim by ISL Software Corp. USA. Shi’aism; by Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai, Translated By Sayyid Husayn Nasr. Our Dialogue: Adil Salahi, Arab News Jeddah, apkar-pk, Muhammad Arif. Encyclopedia Britannica. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, by John Espostto.
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