Concept of Islamic Caliphate
Abdel Fattah Al-Awary
Dean of the Faculty of Usul Al-Din
Praise be to Allah, Lord of all creation. Peace and Blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad, His Companions and Followers.
What the world is going through in general and the Islamic Ummah in particular is evident for everyone. Recently, both have witnessed distressing scenes, serious political crises, violent security conflicts and intellectual battles that negatively impacted the Ummah. The above-mentioned resulted in serious practices and phenomena such as takfir, terrorism, violence, atheism, etc. Such practices and phenomena were the main reason for threatening world peace as well as destabilizing many human societies. As a consequence, the whole world- if Allah does not have mercy on it- is threatened with being swept away in total chaos and endemic violence.
Springing from legal and human responsibility, I contributed with writing this paper on the concept of Caliphate in order to resolve dispute arose about it. This is done by mentioning and refuting misconceptions about it growing up on the hands of fanatic groups such as ISIS and others. They deliberately distort its meaning and essence; the matter that contradicts with sound legal understanding.
I tackled the topic of "Understanding of Fanatic Groups to the Concept of Caliphate and Explaining the False Claim of ISIS to Establish a Caliphate in Iraq and the Levant" on two levels.
First: Understanding of fanatic groups to the concept of Caliphate and their specious argument.
Second: Refuting claims of fanatic groups.
Understanding of fanatic groups to the concept of Caliphate and their specious argument
Some extremist groups that emerged nowadays such as ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram, etc. They call for deserting Islamic communities and call Muslims living there Kafirs because they live in communities where kufr spread. Thus, they regard migration as a must. In addition, they call for establishing a Caliphate and choosing a Caliph following the footsteps of ISIS in Iraq and Levant. They fight for achieving this aim and disregard the sanctity of places of worship, the sanctity of blood and money.
The Specious Argument about Establishing a Caliphate in Iraq and Levant:
Those affiliated to ISIS claim that a Caliphate will be established recently. They based this claim on a number of Prophetic Hadiths:
1."Indeed Allah gathered the earth for me so that I saw its east and its west. And surely my Ummah's authority shall reach over all that was shown to me of it." (narrated by Muslim)
2."There will not remain on the face of the earth a mud-brick house or a camel’s hair tent which Allah will not cause the confession of Islam to enter bringing both mighty honor and abject abasement." (Musnad Ahmad)
3."The city of Heraclius will be opened first, meaning Constantinople" (Musnad Ahmad)
4."Prophethood will remain in you for as long as Allah decides for it to remain and then Allah will remove it when He decides to remove it. After prophethood, there will be a rule on the style of prophethood and it will exist for as long as Allah decides for it to exist, then he will remove it when He decides to remove it. Then, there will be a kingdom in which people will face trials and tribulations and it will continue to exist as Allah decides for it to exist. Then, He will remove it, When He decides to remove it. After this, there will be an oppressive kingdom and it will continue to exist as long as Allah decides for it to exist, then he will remove it when He decides to remove it. Then, there will once again be a rule on the style of prophethood. After saying this, the Prophet (PBUH) was silent".
This is refuted by:
First: Arabs used to express meanings using "the big" instead of "the small" to express and indicate its importance. Thus, the Prophetic Hadith ""Indeed Allah gathered the earth for me so that I saw its east and its west. And surely my Ummah's authority shall reach over all that was shown to me of it" could be interpreted from this perspective. As a matter of fact, Arabs reached many areas owing to Islam. They reached China in the East and the Atlantic Ocean in the West.
Second: Quran has mentioned the narration of Dhu al-Qarnayn, who had reached the far two edges of this world, where the sun rises and sets, and ruled over vast territories; will this mean that he reached Japan in the east and America in the west?
In fact, the purpose of such Hadith is to clarify how far the power of religion had been expanding all over the earth, and expansion is a relative thing.
Third: did "the conquest of Rome" refer to the actual city we know nowadays, or it might refer to the religion that shall prevail in the two greatest states, the Persian and Roman Empires?
Indeed, such a mission had been accomplished during the rule of the Caliphs and Pious Predecessors, where Islam prevailed in all colonies under the Romans' control; in fact, Muslim conquerors during the Ottoman Empire reached the walls of Vienna.
However, the Islamic conquest did not take place by the sword; it prevailed by other peaceful methods, where Muslim communities had established themselves in the states of both the ancient and modern worlds.
Fourth: assuming that there are good tidings of Caliphate, if Allah wills, we should take into account several factors and be fully prepared to confront all world forces and superpowers who possess lethal and destructive weapons. In fact, such confrontations shall not occur except all Arab and Muslim states unite on cultural, economic, and political levels. The question here; shall this process take place in reality?
Indeed, calls have been increasing now and then to establish Islamic leagues; however, two obstacles hinder such endeavors which are: colonization and the unwillingness of Muslim rulers to unite under a unified leadership. Yet, we must not lose the hope to achieve a Muslim federation with an agenda.
Fifth: Allah Almighty says: "Allah has promised those of you who believe and perform righteous deeds that He will surely make them successors in the earth, just as He made those who were before them successors, and He will surely establish for them their religion which He has approved for them, and that He will give them in exchange after their fear security. They worship Me, without associating anything with Me'. And whoever is ungrateful after that, those, they are the immoral". [Q.24:55]
Indeed, Allah's promise to empower the believers had been accomplished, where Allah ensured for Muslims to inherit the lands of heathens in the Arab Peninsula and secured practicing their faith and worshiping Him solely. This took place after the Conquest of Mecca, which was the stronghold of heathenism, and became a Muslim land. Indeed, Islam expanded beyond Mecca, to prevail in other heathen strongholds and Muslims ruled over these lands. We hope that such expansion shall take place on a wider scale; yet, as we mentioned above, certain reasons and factors should be taken into consideration. Indeed, many of the Quran and Sunnah texts stress such conception, as Allah Almighty says: "It is neither your desires nor the desires of the People of the Scripture. Whoever does evil shall be requited for it; and he will not find besides Allah any friend or helper.* And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, and is a believer - such shall be admitted into Paradise, and not be wronged." [Q.4:123-124]
Al- Hasan al-Basri said: "faith is not a wish; however, it is about what lies in the bottom of the heart and Man's good deeds. Indeed, people, who are deluded with false aspirations, to the extent that they claim they have very well thought of Allah Almighty, are liars; if they have faith in Allah Almighty, they would have refined their work".
The skies do not rain gold or silver for those reluctant to earn their livings; indeed, delusions are the arguments of losers.
Sixth: the welfare of the Muslim society is the aspiration of every Muslim; in fact, Muslims despise those who caused their countries to be among the developing ones; Alas, Muslims used to gain glories in their brighter times, when everyone sought their favor.
Indeed, reformation is great hope, and the greater the hopes are, the bigger the responsibility to attain them will be.
Considering Islam had previously established a powerful state that competed and defeated other neighboring powers, this is due to a divine intervention, which may not be repeated, where Allah Almighty promised His Prophet (PBUH) to secure Muslims and let them rule over the lands. As a matter of fact, this promise was not put into implementation except after supporting Muslims with strong faith, enhancing their sense of self-sacrifice, looking forward to take the lead and aspiring to win the hereafter rather than the worldly life, as Allah Almighty says: " Indeed Allah does not alter the state of a people unless they have altered the state of their souls". [Q.13:11]
Imam al-Sahfi'i had been asked: "will we be empowered or afflicted?" he said: "we shall not be empowered until we get afflicted; indeed, Allah Almighty did not grant Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) until they got afflicted and showed their patience".
Indeed, we may take examples from inventors and discoverers who did not attain their purposes except after exerting great endeavors for extended years.
Seventh: hence, we shall warn the society, and especially the youth, against adopting the ideology of the Takfiri extremist groups, which have greater threats to Islam rather than its known enemies. In fact, such perverted groups have been distorting the tolerant image of Islam and propagated misconceptions about its peaceful teachings. Indeed, the claims, such groups disseminate, allow them to establish their alleged caliphate and pledge their allegiance to the so-called caliph. Such a plot may break down the Muslim community and encourage dissension.
As a matter of fact, many of the Quranic verses and Hadiths have been warning against such scheme and criminalized its perpetrators, considering them corruptors and aggressors ( Khawarij) who deserve severe punishment, as Allah Almighty says: "Truly the only requital of those who fight against Allah and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth to do corruption there is that they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the Hereafter theirs will be a great chastisement" [Q:5:33]
Among the noble hadiths that addressed this takfiri thought and this dangerous social corruption:
1-The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said: “One who found in his Amir something which he disliked should hold his patience, for one who separated from the main body of the Muslims even to the extent of a handspan and then he died would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya”.
2-The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said: “He who rebels against obedience to the ruler abandons the Muslim community and then dies, his death will be as if he died at the time of Jahiliyya, and whoever fights for a cause that is not clear, advocating tribalism, getting angry for the sake of tribalism, then he has died a death of Jahiliyya.”
3-In another narration: “Whoever defects from obedience and separates from the main body of the Muslim - and dies the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya. And he who is killed under the banner of a man who is blind, who gets flared up with family pride and fights for his tribe is not from my Ummah, and whosoever from my followers attacks my followers killing the righteous and the wicked of them, sparing not those staunch in faith and fulfilling not his obligation towards them who have been given a pledge, is not from me.”
4-Hudhaifa said: The people used to ask the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) about the good, but I used to ask him about the evil lest they should overtake me. So I said, O Allah’s Messenger!: We were living in ignorance and the worst atmosphere, then Allah brought us this good. Will there be any good after that evil? He replied, Yes, I said: “Will there be any evil after that good?” He replied, “Yes, there will be some people calling at the gates of the fire.” - i.e.: Corruption - I said: Describe them for us. He replied, “There will be some people who will lead people according to principles other than my tradition. You will see their actions and disapprove of them". I said: “Will there be any evil after that good?” He replied, “Yes, there will be some people who will invite others to the doors of Hell, and whoever accepts their invitation to it will be thrown in it.". I said: “O, Allah’s Messenger, describe them to us” He replied, they will belong to us and speak our language”. I asked: “What do you order me to do if such a thing should take place in my life?” He replied, “Adhere to the group of Muslims and their Chief.” I said: “If there is neither a group of Muslims nor a chief?” He replied, “Keep away from all those different sects, even if you had to bite the root of a tree, till you meet Allah while you are still in that state".
Furthermore, Imam al-Nawawy said: “In this Hadith of Hudhaifa it is obligatory to obey the ruler, even if he commits immorality and sins. Besides, this hadith contains miracles of the Prophet (PBUH) because all these matters occurred".
Eighth: The invalidity of ISIS’s claim of establishing the caliphate: The attempt of gathering all Muslims around one Imam is impossible and imposing that on the people leads to blood-shedding and killing among those who take over this delusional caliphate and the rest of Islamic countries that cannot fulfill these rulings.
If it is difficult or even impossible to establish one caliphate for all Muslims with their variable languages, countries and their distribution in many continents, it is possible to establish a union of the Islamic countries such as the European Union that brings together many countries differ in languages, culture, religions, history, and origin; so that the union has a general policy, common interests, and an economic market, but with the independence of each country by its own system, president, and its internal policy.
The Islamic State has been divided into states and countries; each one has its ruler, or king or president or prince; each country has its inviolable land, maritime, and air borders that cannot be violated. With this global development of all countries, it became impossible to have one Imam or one caliph for all Muslims, because each country has its independent president and the geographic borders that distinguish it.
Ninth: We should take into consideration when we correct this bad idea or improper conduct that caliphate, as it was in the early Islam, is not a matter stipulated by the texts of the Holy Quran or the Prophet’s Sunnah, neither of them has anything to do with the issue of "caliphate".
It is known that the Prophet (PBUH) passed away without defining a specific form of the rule; rather he left the matter to be as consultation among Muslims. Thus, any political system that achieves justice, equality, and freedom of people, is a system that achieves the goals of Islam in the issue of rule and policy.