Ibn Hajar on the Sin of Living without a Caliph (Imam)

final caliph

The following is a hadith related by Bukhārī:

Abu Rajā’ related from Ibn ‘Abbās that the Prophet ﷺ said: “If someone dislikes what his Amir does, he should be patient. Anyone who separates himself from the Sultan even a hand’s breadth will die the death of al-jāhilīyyah.”*
(Kitāb al-Fitan, Chapter 2)

Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī explains the meaning of the phrase مات ميتة جاهلية:
“To die as those who died in the pre-Islamic period of Ignorance (al-jāhilīyyah) means the state of death: to die in a state of misguidance with no Imam [Caliph] to obey, as the inhabitants of that era had no such kind of ruling. The hadith doesn’t mean that the Muslim will die as a kāfir but as a disobeying Muslim. This Hadith has possible definitions: To resemble between the state of death between the disobeying Muslim and the Jāhil, even if the Muslim was not in reality a Jāhil; or, to frighten and reprimand, and this meaning is not the apparent one… Ibn Baṭṭāl said: this hadith is an argument to not disobey the Sultan even if he is wronged. The scholars agreed unanimously on the obligation of obeying the empowered Sultan and (engaging in) jihad under his commandment. As well the scholars consider that obeying the Sultan is better than disobeying him as this act prevents bloodshed and mitigates the masses.”
[Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) commentary on hadith #7053]

*cf.: “Whosoever dies without a bay‘ah (pledge of allegiance to a caliph) on his neck dies the death of al-jāhilīyyah.” [Hadith in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Nafi]


“Whosoever dies without an Imam dies the death of al-jāhilīyyah.
[Musnad Abu Dawud 259, Sahih Ibn Hibban 10/434, Mu’jam Al-Kabir, Tabarani 19/388, Musnad Ahmad 61/5, Sharh Al-Maqasid 4/239, al-Haythami in Majma’ az-Zawa’id 5/228]

Ibn Hajar on Arab Rulers

ibn saud and percy cox

From the commentary of Hadith Jibril by Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī:

…The man said: “Messenger of Allah! When is the Final Hour?” The Prophet ﷺ replied: “The one who is questioned about it is no more informed at all than the questioner. However, I shall tell you about its preconditions (ashrāṭihā). When the slave girl gives birth to her master – that is one of its preconditions. And when the naked and barefoot are the top leaders of the people – that is one of its preconditions. And when the shepherds compete in building tall structures – that is one of its preconditions. [It is] among five things none knows but Allah.” [aḥīḥ Muslim]

“are the top leaders of the people” This means the kings of the earth as explicitly stated in al-Isma‘īlī’s and Abū Farwa’s narrations. Those meant are the people of the desert, as explicitly stated in Sulayman al-Taymī’s and other narrations: “Who are the barefoot and naked?” He replied: “The little Arabs (al-‘urayb).”

Al-Ṭabaranī narrates through Abū Hamza, from Ibn ‘Abbās, from the Prophet ﷺ: “Part of the overthrow (inqilāb) of the Religion is the affectation of eloquence by the boors (al-naba) and their betaking to palaces in big cities.” Al-Qurṭubī said: “What is meant here is the prediction of a reversal in society whereby the people of the desert will take over and hold sway over every region by force. They will become very rich and their primary concern will be to erect tall buildings and take pride in them. We have witnessed this in our time.” Of identical import are the ḥadīths “The Hour will not rise until the happiest man in the world will be the depraved son of a depraved father (luka‘ ibn luka‘)” and “If leadership is entrusted to those unfit for it, expect the Hour,” both of them in the aḥīḥ.

[Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī). English translation of excerpts in Sunna Notes Volume 3, Studies in Ḥadīth and Doctrine: The Binding Proof of the Sunna by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, AQSA Publications, UK, 2010, pp. 159-160, 196]

Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī was born in Cairo in 773 H (1372 CE). A Shafi‘i Imam and hadith master (hafiz), he reached the level of Commander of the Faithful in Hadith, the only rank above that of hadith master. He first learned literature and poetry, but then devoted his considerable talents to hadith, which he studied under the renowned African master al-Zayla‘i and others in Cairo, Yemen and the Hijaz. His works were popular in his own lifetime and were hand-copied by the greatest scholars of the era. Known as Sheikh al-Islam, scholars travelled to take knowledge from him, and he was appointed to the judiciary in Egypt several times. He authored a number of works on hadith, history, biography, Koranic exegesis, poetry and Shafi‘i jurisprudence, among the most famous of them his fourteen-volume Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī [The victory of the Creator: a commentary on the “Sahih” of Bukhari] which few serious students of Islamic knowledge can do without. He died in Cairo in 852 H (1449 CE).
[Excerpted from The Reliance of the Traveller by Shaykh Nuh Keller]

A Brilliant Qadi (Judge)


Iyas ibn Mu‘awiyah al-Muzani [d. 121H, 739CE] was a man of consummate eloquence and intelligence, proverbial for his reason and quick wit. It is said that once every hundred years a person is born with a perfect mind, and that Iyas was one such person.

He narrates how, when still a child at a primary school [maktab] in Damascus, a group of Christians gathered around and began to make fun of Muslims who claim that in paradise food leaves behind no excrement. ‘“Teacher,” I said, “would you not agree that most food is taken up and dispersed in the body?” “Yes,” he replied. I said: “Why then do you deny that in paradise the Almighty can make the remainder disappear totally inside the body?” He said: “You are a little devil.”’

Two men once came to plead before him. One of them said: ‘I went down to the river to bathe. I had a brand new green djellaba that I took off and placed by the bank of the river. This other man came wearing an old red djellaba. He took it off and went into the water. When he came out he ran ahead of me and took my green djellaba.’ Iyas asked them: ‘Do either of you have any proof?’ They said no. So he ordered a comb to be brought into the court and had them combed. Some green woollen threads were found in the hair of the owner of the green djellaba so Iyas ordered it restored to him.

A Persian squire [dihqan] came to see him and asked him about intoxicating drink, and whether it is licit [halal] or illicit [haram]. ‘It is illicit,’ said Iyas. ‘How so?’ said the squire. ‘Tell me, are dates licit or illicit?’ ‘Licit,’ said Iyas. ‘What about dodder?’ ‘Licit,’ said Iyas. ‘And water?’ ‘Licit,’ replied Iyas. ‘So what is it that makes these things incompatible? Is not date wine made from dates, dodder and water? What is it that makes date wine illicit and all these other things licit?’

Iyas answered: ‘If I were to take a handful of earth and throw it at you, would you feel pain?’ The squire said: ‘No.’ ‘What if I cupped my fingers and threw some water at you, would that pain you?’ ‘No,’ said the squire. ‘And what if I took a handful of straw and hit you with it, would that cause you pain?’ ‘No,’ said the squire. ‘If I now took the handful of earth, and kneaded it with water and straw making it into lumps, and I left it out to dry and then hit you with it, would this cause you pain?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the squire, ‘it may even kill me.’ Iyas said: ‘So also with dates, water and dodder. If mixed together and then aged they become illicit.’

Iyas once said, “I was reduced to silence by only one man. I was sitting in my court chamber in Basra when a man entered into my presence and testified that a particular orchard – and he specified its borders – was the property of so-and-so. I asked him: ‘How many trees does it have?’ He fell silent then said: ‘May I ask his honour the judge how long he has been judging in this chamber?’ ‘Since such-and-such a time,’ I replied. The man asked: ‘How many beams are there in this ceiling?’ ‘You are quite right,’ I replied, and I allowed his testimony.”

[Ibn ‘Asakir, Tahdhib al-Tarikh al-Kabir, 3:11 and al-Safadi, Al-Wafi bi’l Wafayat, 9:465-467 translated by Khalidi, Tarif ­In An Anthology of Arabic Literature: From the Classical to the Modern, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, pp. 50-51]

The Role of the Sultan in Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong in Tafsir al-Qurtubi

tafsir qurtubi“Not everyone is capable of carrying out the actions necessary to enjoin right conduct. However, this can be performed effectively by the ruler [Sultan] because he holds the authority to frame laws that will be in accord with the Shari‘ah. As ruler, he has the final word in matters of consequence, such as the legislation of laws, the prosecution of punishable offences and the treatment of prisoners. The role of head of state must be entrusted to an honest, strict, and righteous person since he holds the responsibility of enforcing the dictates of the Shari‘ah in all matters. It is incumbent on the ruler to appoint suitable, powerful and just persons in every city for this purpose. This is because Allah says, “[They are] those who, if We give them power in the land, establish [regular] prayer and give [regular] charity, enjoin right and forbid wrong; with Allah rests the end [and decision] of [all] affairs.” (22:41)”



[Imam al-Qurtubi, الجامع لأحكام القرآن, vol. 4, p. 47. Translated by Syed Amin Ashraf in Ma‘roof & Munkar, Jalaluddin Umari, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, 2008 (2nd Revised Edition), p. 119]

Imam al-Qurtubi is Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Abu Bakr ibn Farah, Abu ‘Abdullah al-Ansari al-Qurtubi, of Cordova (in present-day Spain). A Maliki scholar and hadith specialist, he was one of the greatest Imams of Qur’anic exegesis, an ascetic who divided his days between worship and writing. Educated in hadith by masters like ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Yahsabi and al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Bakri, we wrote works in the sciences of hadith and tenets of faith, though his enduring contribution is his al-Jami‘ li ahkam al-Qur’an (The Compendium of the Rules of the Qur’an), from which he mainly omitted the stories and histories customary in other commentaries, and recorded instead the legal rulings contained in the Qur’an and how scholars have inferred them, together with the usage of Arabic grammar. Scholars have used it extensively ever since it was written. It is related that Qurtubi disdained airs, and used to walk about in a simple caftan with a plain cap (taqiyya) on his head. He travelled east and settled in Munya Abi al-Khusayb in upper Egypt, where he died in 671H (1273 CE) [Excerpted from Reliance of the Traveller by Shaykh Nuh Keller, p. 1090]

When the Second Caliph Umar was Overruled by the Judge


Sa‘eed bin Musayyib narrates that Hadhrat Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) once intended to take the house* of Hadhrat Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) to include it in the Masjid. However, Hadhrat Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) refused to hand the house over. When Hadhrat Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) resolved that he would certainly have possession of the house, Hadhrat Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) proposed that they appoint Hadhrat Ubay bin Ka‘b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) to pass judgement between them. Hadhrat Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) agreed and they both approached Hadhrat Ubay raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him). After they had related the matter to him, Hadhrat Ubay raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “Allah sent revelation to Hadhrat Sulayman bin Dawud instructing him to construct Baytul Maqdis [in Jerusalem]. The land belonged to a man whom Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) approached to buy it from him. However, when Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) handed over the money to the man, he [the man] asked, ‘Is this price that you are paying better or is that which you are taking from me better?’ Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) replied, ‘Certainly that which I am taking from you is better.’ ‘In that case,’ said the man, ‘I shall not accept it.’

Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) then gave the man a higher price. The man then did the same thing two or three times until Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) made the condition with him, ‘I am buying the land from you at the price you fix. You may therefore not ask me which of the two is better.’ Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) took the purchased land from him at the price he fixed, which happened to be twelve thousand Qintar of gold (one Qintar equals four thousand gold coins). Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) then felt that the amount was too big to give the man. Allah then sent revelation to him saying, ‘If you are paying him from something that is your own, then you know best (what you have to do). However, if you are paying from what We have provided for you, then give him whatever he is pleased with.’ Hadhrat Sulayman 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) then paid the amount.”

Hadhrat Ubay raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) continued, “I feel that Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) has a greater right to his house, which cannot be taken from him until he is pleased.” Hadhrat Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) then said, ‘Since you have made the decision in my favour, I wish to make it Sadaqah [a charitable gift] for the Muslims.’

[Hayatus Sahabah (The Lives of the Companions), by Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Kandhelwi, excerpted from the English translation by Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias, Zam Zam Publishers, Karachi, June 2013, vol. 2, pp. 133-134 (related by Abdur Razzaq, as quoted in Kanzul Ummal vol. 4 p. 260. Also related by Ibn Sa‘d vol. 4 p. 13. Ibn Asakir relates a similar narration, as do Bayhaqi and Ya‘qub bin Sulayman – quoted in Kanzul Ummal vol. 7 p. 65). Words in square brackets have been added.]

*His house was next door to Masjidun Nabawi