Shāh Walī Allāh on Obedience to the Caliph

The Prophet ﷺ has said: “Hearing and obeying is an obligation of every Muslim, whether he likes the command or dislikes it, as long as he is not commanded to commit a sin. If he is commanded to commit a sin, then he absolved of the obligation to hear and obey.” [Sahih Muslim].

(I say): Since an imām is installed for two kinds of public weal, by which religious and political affairs are regulated, and since the Prophet ﷺ was sent for their sake, and the imām is the Prophet’s deputy and an executor of his mission, therefore, obedience to the imām is indeed obedience to the Prophet ﷺ. And disobedience to him would be tantamount to disobedience of the Prophet ﷺ except when he commands to commit a sin. For then it would be evident that obedience to him is not longer an obedience to God, and in that event, he would cease to be a deputy of God’s Prophet ﷺ. This is why the Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever follow an amīr, he indeed follows me, and whoever disobeys an amīr, he indeed disobeys me”. [Sahih Muslim]

Further, the Prophet ﷺ has said: “Verily the imām is a shield behind which his people fight their enemies, and through which they seek their own protection. If he commands piety and guides them toward it, he shall be entitled to a reward for it. But if he pursues any other path, then he shall have his portion of the evil consequences.” [Sahih Muslim]

(I say): The Prophet ﷺ regarded the imām as a shield because he is an instrument of inner cohesion among Muslims and a source of defence for them. The Prophet ﷺ has also said: “Whoever finds something in his amīr which he detests, he should tolerate it, because whoever separates himself a single span of hand from the community  and dies in that position his death shall indeed be in the state of Jāhiliyyah”. [Sahih Muslim]

(I say): This is because Islam is distinguished from Jāhiliyyah by addressing these two categories of public weal. And it is the khalīfah who deputises the Prophet ﷺ in carrying out the purposes of this public weal. Therefore, when someone separates himself from the executor of this public weal, he falls in the category of those who are living in the Jāhilī era.

The Prophet also said: “Any servant of God to whose care God gave a people, but he did not lend his fullest sincerity to their cause, he shall not [even] smell the fragrance of paradise”. [Bukhari]

(I say): Since the installation of [the] khalīfah takes place for the realisation of certain vital interests, it is necessary that the khalīfah is directed to fulfil these objectives. At the same time, the people should also be urged to follow him so that these stipulated interests are achieved from both sides.

[Shāh Walī Allāh, Selection from Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, English Translation by Muhammad al-Ghazali, Adam Publishers, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 116-117]

The Caliphate in Tafsir al-Qurtubi

When your Lord said to the angels,

‘I am putting a khalif on the earth,’

they said, ‘Why put on it

one who will cause great corruption on it and shed blood

when we glorify You with praise

and proclaim Your purity?’

He said, ‘I know what you do not know.’ [2:30]


‘I am putting a khalif on the earth,’

“Putting” in this context means creating, as aṭ-Ṭabarī said. The earth means Makka. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The earth was smoothed out from Makka,” which is why it is called the Mother of Cities. Khalīfa (khalif) has the form of an active participle, meaning “the one who replaced the angels before him on the earth”, or other than the angels, according to what has been reported. It is possible that it is in the passive mode, in which case it means one who is sent as a representative.

This āyat is sound evidence for having a leader and a khalif who is obeyed so that he will be the focus for the cohesion of society, and the rulings of the khalifate will [be] carried out. None of the Imāms of the Community disagree about the obligatory nature of having such a leader, except for what is related from al-Aṣamm [1] (lit. the Deaf), who lived up to the meaning of his name and was indeed deaf to the Sharī‘a, and those who take his position who say that the khalifate is permitted rather than mandatory if the Community undertakes all their obligations on their own without the need for a ruler to enforce them.

The Companions agreed to make Abū Bakr khalif after the disagreement which took place between the Muhājirūn and the Anṣār. If it had been a definite obligation that the ruler had to be from Quraysh, there would have been no point in the argument and the debate which took place. When Abū Bakr died, he delegated the task of being khalif to ‘Umar and no one said that it was not mandatory. Its obligatory nature indicates that it is one of the pillars of the dīn which support the Muslims. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

[Tafsir al-Qurtubi: Classical Commentary of the Holy Qur’an, translated by Aisha Bewley, Dar al-Taqwa, London, 2003, p. 203]

[1] al-Aṣamm was a well-known Mutazilite

Imam Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi on the Caliphate

The generality (jamhūr) of Orthodox Muslims (Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamā‘ah) are agreed about certain principles (uṣūl) of the essentials (arkān) of religion, and a knowledge of the essence of every one of these is binding on every understanding, mature person…

As for these principles, the Orthodox (Ahl al-Sunnah) are agreed about their basic character and they accuse of misguidance anyone who contradicts them…

Regarding the twelfth essential (rukn) relating to the Caliphate and Imāmate, they [the Orthodox] say that the Imāmate is a duty (far) incumbent on the Community (Ummah), because the appointment of an Imām establishes judges and executives. He guards their frontiers, leads their armies, apportions the booty among them, and establishes justice for the wronged against the oppressor…

[Imam Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi, al-Farq bayn al-Firaq, Chapter 5, Section 3]