بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم
The institution of Khilafah is not a fundamental component of the Religion of Islam but instead a manifestation of Allah’s favor and blessing upon the deserving community of Muslims. This is best illustrated in the Ayat-al-Istikhlaf, or the Verse of Succession, in the Holy Quran:
وَعَدَ اللَّـهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَىٰ لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُم مِّن بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا ۚ يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا ۚ وَمَن كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ۞
Allah has promised those who believe among you and do righteous deeds surely He will grant them succession in the land as He gave succession to those who before them. And that He will surely establish for them their Religion which He has approved for them, and surely He will change for them after their fear, security. For they worship Me and don’t associate with Me anything. But whoever disbelieved after that, then those are the defiantly disobedient.
This blessed Verse establishes several beneficial points necessary for understanding the reality of Khilafah or Caliphate in Islam. Firstly, the granting of Khilafah is an action that is attributed directly to Allah Himself. This is highly significant for theological and ideological reasons. At present, there are many movements and tendencies within the Muslim world which call for the ‘restoration’ or ‘establishment’ of the Caliphate through human effort. Yet this Verse presents the reality that the human effort of the Believers is in the realm of believing and performing righteous deeds. The subsequent Verse mentions three other realms to which the Muslims are to focus their efforts:
وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ۞
And establish the Prayer and give Zakah and obey the Apostle so that you may receive mercy.
In other words, as a consequence of the Muslims (1) being faithful, (2) performing deeds of righteousness, (3) worshiping Allah alone, (4) not associating any partners with Allah, (5) establishing the Salat, (6) giving the Zakat, and (7) obeying the Apostle Muhammad ﷺ they will be granted Khilafah (succession) in the land by Allah Most High. The Muslims must direct their efforts in these seven things, and nowhere has any direct effort to establish the Khilafah been mentioned as something the Muslims must do themselves. Misguided and destructive groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT), Tanzimi Islami of Dr. Israr Ahmad, Jama’ati Islami (JI) of Mawdudi, etc., must first reflect on the reality of the Ayat-al-Istikhlaf and totally re-evaluate their ideology and programme in its light. The modern-day Kharijites meaning ISIL/Daesh a few years ago boasted that they had established the Caliphate in the lands of Iraq and Sham (Levant). They proclaimed that a certain Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been elected as the Caliph of not only those under his authority in the lands that Daesh had recently overrun, but indeed, that he was the Caliph of the entire Muslim Ummah and the Amir (Commander) of all the Believers. Yet one wanders how this Caliphate had suddenly been ‘established’ while the corruption and laxity of the Muslims in the seven conditions derived from the Verses of Caliphate (Surah 24:55-56) remained unchanged, indeed, even worse than what it had merely a generation ago. Hence Allah exposed the hollowness of this so-called Caliphate of the Kharijites by allowing it to be decimated within a matter of months. At present, the Kharijite terrorist group ISIL/Daesh are virtually defeated at every front and their so-called ‘Caliph’ nowhere to be seen.
This leads to our second point, which is related to defining what exactly Khilafah is. Can any group or individual who rises and claims Khilafah be taken seriously, especially when they do not fulfil the conditions of what Khilafah actually means? By Khilafah we are of course referring to the technical Khilafah spoken of in the Ayat-al-Istikhlaf known as Khilafat fil-Ard, or ‘Succession in the Land’. Without having any concrete dominion, power, or authority in the land, no group or individual which claim Caliphate can be taken seriously. When Daesh/ISIL initially overran some lawless areas in Iraq and Syria they claimed to have possession of the right to declare a technical Khilafat fil-Ard. But after a mere matter of months when that so-called possession of land and executable authority was no more, it has to be admitted by them and others that the basis for their Khilafah, if it had even the slightest merit then, is now unquestionably gone. The presence of security is another essential element of a Caliphate without which the latter cannot be said to even exist. The Kharijite faction known as Daesh/ISIL are evidently on the run now that their ‘State’ has collapsed, they live in a state of constant fear and instability. Their so-called ‘Caliph’ is a fugitive who is in hiding. But the Caliphate in the Land spoken of in the Holy Quran exists in a state of security and tranquility. It is not in any constant danger or ever forced underground. The Caliph is meant to be a public and accessible figure, not a mysterious fugitive who in on the run and operates underground. Being in a position of strength is a prerequisite for anyone who is assigned to an office of authority over the public, because he has to deal with their problems and rule them with justice and efficiency. Even a person who is extremely pious, knowledgable, just, and otherwise charismatic cannot be assigned to or claim a position of temporal authority over the Muslims if he is weak and unable to rule them effectively. This is evident from what the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ told his extremely pious and charismatic companion Abu Dharr al-GhifariRA when the latter asked to be appointed to a public office of authority:
يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ إِنَّكَ ضَعِيفٌ وَإِنَّهَا أَمَانَةٌ وَإِنَّهَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ خِزْىٌ وَنَدَامَةٌ إِلاَّ مَنْ أَخَذَهَا بِحَقِّهَا وَأَدَّى الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ فِيهَا
“O Abu Dharr! You are weak and it [public office] is a trust, and it shall be, on the Day of Resurrection, a cause of humiliation and regret except for the one who fulfils its obligations and properly discharges its duties.”
(Sahih Muslim: Kitab-al-Imarah)
Another aspect of Khilafah is that through it the Din or Religion of Islam is firmly established, from the verb مَكَّ ‘to establish’. Hence there is a subtle difference between Tamkīn of the Religion and its Iqāmah, the former being the prerogative and act of Allah as a divine favor, while the latter being something the Believers must directly make an effort for (Surah 42:13). Khilafah, as spoken of in the Ayat-al-Istikhlaf, has also been meant in its linguistic meaning of ‘succession’, meaning succession to something before it. The exegetes have explained that this refers to the fact that Allah promises the Believers they shall succeed the evil, tyrannical disbelievers by taking away power and dominion in the land from the latter and granting it to the former.
Finally, in this entry, I will to examine another extremely beneficial point derived from the Ayat-al-Istikhlaf which has been relatively neglected, namely, that the comparison of Allah granting the Believers of this Ummah ‘succession in the land’ with the succession in the land that He granted to ‘those before them’, namely, the Israelites. After the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) passed away, Allah granted the Israelites this Khilafah or succession in the land through the agency of Joshua and Caleb, and then subsequently through the righteous ‘Judges’. He gave them ascendancy over the various pagan tribes inhabiting the land of Canaan, and even granted them Mulk or kingship beginning with Saul, then Kings David and Solomon (peace be upon them). Now when we look at the history of the Israelites, we see that while Allah did grant them this succession in the land, and even a glorious kingdom with many great and powerful kings, they also experienced the dramatic loss of this divine favor when they became corrupt and undeserving of it (consistently relapsing into idolatry for example), at which time they were conquered by their ruthless enemies. At various times, the Israelites were subdued by the Assyrians, the neo-Babylonians, the Seleucids, and the Romans. The Israelites were, at other times, while maintaining a degree of autonomy, nevertheless ruled by oppressive and tyrannical kings from themselves, such as Jeroboam and Omri in the northern kingdom of Israel and Rehoboam, Athaliah and Ahaz in the southern kingdom of Judah. When it comes to the Muslims of the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ it is quite evident that at present we have not been granted by Allah ‘succession in the land’. Rather, the Muslims are either subdued directly or indirectly by foreign powers in places like Palestine, Chechnya and Kashmir, or else their ‘States’ are merely clients of those foreign powers. There is also a third category of Muslim States which may possess a degree of autonomy but even these cannot be considered as ‘Succession in the Land’ because their rulers and governments are tyrannical, oppressive and plain evil. The truth is that, generally speaking, the Rightly-Guided Caliphate spoken of in the Ayat-al-Istikhlaf was limited to the thirty year period subsequent to the death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. There may have been some pious rulers, kings, emirs, warlords, etc., after this thirty year Khilafat al-Rashidah, such as Umar b. Abdal AzizRA, Nur al-Din (Zengid), Salah al-Din (Ayyubid), Ahmad Shah Abdali (Durrani), Aurangzeb (Mughal), Sikander ‘Butshikan’ (Shah Miri), Muhammad bin Saud (Saudi), etc. Yet the prophecy surrounding the resurrection of the Khilafah upon the Prophetic Way is generally understood as relating to the advent of the promised Mahdi (may Allah hasten his appearance - Ameen).