بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم
وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين
Months ago I wrote an article detailing my view on the significance of the institution of Khilafa and my understanding of Ayat al-Istikhlaf. In the first line of that article I articulated my thesis: ’’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.’’ Consequently, the fact that the Muslims today are bereft of Khilafa is a sign that we have lost some favor in the sight of Allah, due to our corruption, and are therefore not deserving of it. The Children of Israel before us were given their version of Khilafa in the land, the monarchy beginning with kings Saul, David and Solomon (peace be upon them). But when the Israelites became corrupt, that institution, an example of God’s divine favor upon them, was gradually eroded and finally terminated altogether at the hands of Nebuchadnezzer in 589 BCE. If we examine the history of our Umma, we were originally blessed with the Rightly-Guided Khilafa, the four righteous caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them). However, following the same pattern as the Israelites before us, that divine blessing and institution of Khilafa was eroded into dynastic rule of tyrannical and impious kings, and then terminated altogether at the hands of Hulagu Khan in 1258 CE.
A false understanding of the reality of Khilafa crept into the Muslim world in the 20th century, championed by a certain Taqi ud-Din an-Nabahani, founder of Hizb ut-Tahrir. According to this new ideology, the Khilafa is not only essential for the practice of Islam, it is its most important component without which there can be no Islam. It is this erroneous idea that motivated other groups (al-Qa’ida, Islamic State and others) to pick up arms and even commit acts of terrorism in order to establish the Khilafa. Other groups that adhere to this ideology are apparently non-violent, and advocate the establishment of the Khilafa through peaceful means. Most, however, are only non-violent and unwilling, for the moment, to pick up arms for their cause as a matter of strategy and not creed. HT itself seeks to establish the Khilafa through stealth. It works to secretly indoctrinate military officers of various Muslim states, aiming to motivate a coup d’état that will be the basis for establishing the Khilafa. This top down approach that HT aims for was no doubt inspired by the various Arab military coups in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya during the 20th century. It also reveals the fact that HT is not really a religious, Islamic organization. It resembles more the Ba’ath Party and bears so many fundamental characteristics of fascism and revolutionary Marxism.
Those who argue that Islam cannot be practiced without the institution of Khilafa point to things like the collection of Zakat, the establishment of Islamic courts, the organizing and commanding of armies for waging Jihad, and even the appointment of prayer leaders and sermonizers. In short, it becomes impossible for Muslims to practice much of their Religion, including very fundamental parts of it, in the absence of a Khilafa. My answer to this argument is twofold. Firstly, it is not necessarily impossible or even problematic to practice or implement many of these things in the absence of a Khilafa. Secondly, if, theoretically, there is something in our Religion which cannot be implemented without the institution of Khilafa, then it is certainly not a fundamental part of it and definitely not obligated upon us. Although the world of Islam is currently bereft of a unified Khilafa, the Muslims are nonetheless under the authority of numerous states, republics, kingdoms, sultanates, emirates and sheikhdoms. Although this division of the Muslim Umma into these multiple polities is not ideal, nor are their particular forms of government ideal from Islam’s perspective, they are nevertheless valid and Muslims are obligated to acknowledge their temporal authority and be in a state of obedience to them. These polities have the authority to discharge necessary functions like collecting the Zakat, establishing Islamic courts, waging Jihad in defense of the Religion, etc. Furthermore, in scenarios in which a Muslim community does not even have an autonomous state, such as if they are under colonial rule or foreign occupation by the non-Muslims, or living as minorities in non-Muslim states, they still possess the authority to organize voluntary collection of Zakat and establishment of voluntary or unofficial tribunals to execute Islamic family laws. By voluntary, I mean that Muslims are obligated to pay the Zakat as a religious duty, but in the absence of a state that will discharge the duty of collecting and distributing Zakat, Muslim individuals and families voluntary discharge their religious obligation by entrusting their Zakat to a non-government Islamic organization that will distribute it on their behalf, or they directly give their Zakat to individuals who are worthy of receiving it. In all these scenarios, the religious duty of paying Zakat will be fulfilled. It is my thesis that far from being obligated to establish a unified, global Khilafa, Muslims are not even obligated to establish a state or polity. Of course it is ideal that Muslims have a state or polity to ease and facilitate the practice and propagation of Islam. When sayyidina Hubab b. al-Mundhir (radi Allahu anhu) proposed, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam), that the Ansar and Muhajirin go their separate ways and establish two separate polities, he was not proposing something that was haram or forbidden by our Religion. His proposal was rejected because it was not ideal, and it was superior to have a single polity under a unified Khilafa for the entire Umma to better facilitate the practice and propagation of Islam. In those critical days, the establishment of the unified, rightly-guided Khilafa through which Islam spread far and wide, and the Muslims enjoyed temporal power to be able to conquer Jerusalem, Damascus, Egypt, Iran, North Africa, Transoxania, etc., that was a takwini affair, the manifestation of Allah’s will, and not tashri’i, meaning something legislated by Allah that the Muslims were obligated to do.