Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio* on the Obligation of Appointing a Caliph (Imām)

“I say, and tawfīq is from Allah: Be it known that there is consensus on the point that it is the duty of the Muslims to appoint an Imām according to the law. With regard to the words of the versifier [1]:

‘It is an obligation to appoint a just Imām. Know that this is by divine precept, not the judgement of human reasoning.’

[Commenting on this] ‘Abd al-Salām ibn Ibrāhīm al-Laqqānī said in his Itḥāf [2]:

‘That is, to appoint and install an Imām. This law is addressed to the whole community (umma) as from the death of the Prophet (عليه الصلاة و السلام) until the Day of Resurrection; but when the influential men (ahl al-ḥall wa al-‘aqd) perform this task, it suffices for all, no matter whether it be in times of civil strife or otherwise. This is according to the Sunnis, and, when [the term] Imamate is used unrestrictedly, it means the Caliphate, which is an overall leadership embracing all religious and temporal affairs – [undertaken] on behalf of the Prophet ﷺ.’

Expounding the meaning of ‘by divine precept’ Al-Laqqāni said:


‘It means that the obligation of appointing an Imām over the community (umma) is based on divine law, according to the Sunnis, // for a number of reasons, the chief of which is the ijmā‘ of the Companions (رضي الله عنهم) who so emphasised it that they considered it the most important of duties and were distracted by it from burying the Prophet ﷺ. A similar [situation has occurred] following the death of every Imām up to the present day. However, their disagreement on who is suitable for the office of Caliph does not detract from their agreement on the obligation of appointing one. Thus none of them said that there was no need for an Imām.’

Al-Subki said:

‘According to the Consensus of the Companions (رضي الله عنهم) after the death of the Prophet ﷺ, men should appoint an Imām who will look after their interests. They gave this precedence over all other obligations and people have been abiding by this over the ages. Even if the appointed Imām is not the most suitable, nevertheless the mere act of appointing him is sufficient to discharge the [religious] obligation.’ ”

 

*Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio was born in 1168 AH (1754 CE). He is well known as Dan Fodio which literally meant son of the scholar, as his father was already a well known and established scholar in Hausaland.

For the next thirty years Shakyh ‘Uthmān, along with his family, relatives, fellow scholars and students, committed themselves to da‘wah (calling to islam) and teaching tours throughout Hausa land (West Africa): calling people to establish Islam in their hearts and homes; adhere to the Qur’an, Sunnah and Ijmā‘ (or consensus) of the Sunni scholars; forsake innovation; show compassion towards all Muslims; and to end all forms of political and economic oppression.

When the rulers became fearful and envious of Shaykh ‘Uthmāns large and loyal following of believers, they began persecuting the Muslims severely.

This led to their being blessed by Allah to perform hijra (emigration) and ultimately to their successful military struggle against the Hausa kings.

Their blessed struggle established an Islamic Sultanate in 1807 CE that became one of the most righteous, just and equitable societies this world has ever known.

 

[1] i.e. Shaykh Ibrāhīm al-Laqqānī (d. 1041 H), Jawharat al-Tawḥīd

[2] Shaykh ‘Abd al-Salām ibn Ibrāhīm al-Laqqānī (d. 1078 H), Itḥāf al-Murīd Sharḥ Jawharat al-Tawḥīd

[Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio, بيان وجوب الهجرة على العباد وبيان وجوب نصب الإمام وإقامة الجهاد (Bayān Wujūb al-Hijrah ‘ala al-‘Ibād wa Bayān Wujūb Nasb al-Imām wa Iqāmat al-Jihād), English translation by Fathi Hasan El Masri, Khartoum: Oxford: Khartoum University Press; Oxford University Press, 1978, p. 61]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s