In the final part of this series, we will continue our review of the classical works of uṣūl (beliefs). As a recap, notwithstanding that the institution of the Caliphate/Imamate relates to jurisprudence (law as opposed to belief), its sheer importance led to its inclusion within the uṣūl discussions of the classical scholars. This historical phenomenon is elaborated upon by Yusuf Ibish as follows: “there is hardly a book on uṣūl that does not contain, a long or short, discussion of it” [Ibish, Yusuf, The Political Doctrine of Al-Baqillani, American University of Beirut, 1966, pp. 24-25]. And Imam al-Baqillani delivers a “lengthy discussion of the imāmate” [ibid., p. 107] in his most famous work on creed, Kitāb al-Tamhīd.
Imam Abu Ja‘far al-Tahawi (d. 321 H/933 CE, Hanafi school of Jurisprudence)
Bayān al‑Sunnah wa al‑Jamā‘ah (commonly known as al-‘Aqīda al-Ṭaḥāwīyya) by al-Tahawi is considered the most widely acclaimed Sunni reference work on Islamic beliefs and for which numerous commentaries have been written. The obligation of obeying the Caliph is emphasised by him when he states that “we do not recognise rebellion against our Imam” even if he is unjust and that obedience to him is “part of obedience to Allah” as long as he “does not order disobedience” to Him (). Later, he also stresses the need to perform Hajj and Jihad under the leadership of the Caliphs, both “the righteous and wicked among them” [For more on the subject of obedience and disobedience, please see here].
Imam al-Tahawi also affirms the validity of the Caliphates of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali () and that “these are the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and upright Imams” who succeeded the Prophet (ﷺ).
Imam Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali ibn Musa al-Khusrawjirdi al-Bayhaqi (d. 458/1066, Shafi‘i school of Jurisprudence)
Imam al-Bayhaqi’s book on ‘aqīda, entitled al-I‘tiqād wa al-Hidāyah ilā Sabīl al-Rashād, dedicates several chapters to the Caliphate/Imamate. Like al-Tahawi, he elaborates on obedience to the Imam, adducing verses 4:59 and 4:115 as proof together with several hadiths. He also mentions the responsibility of the ruler, evidenced by a number of hadiths, including the following which is related in Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ():
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Indeed each of you is a shepherd, and each of you is responsible for his flock. The Imam who is over people is a shepherd and responsible for them. The husband is a shepherd over his household and responsible for them. A man’s wife is a shepherd over her husband’s home and her children, and she is responsible for them…Each of you is a shepherd, and each of you is responsible for his flock.’
Another similarity with al-Tahawi is al-Bayhaqi’s mention of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, to which he devotes six chapters in his book.
Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Tayyib ibn Ja‘far ibn al-Qasim al-Baqillani (403/1013, Maliki school of Jusrisprudence)
In his most famous work Kitāb Tamhīd al-Awā’il fî Talkhīs al-Dalā’il, Imam a-Baqillani discusses in great detail the correct beliefs and refutes unislamic doctrines. The book contains several chapters on the Caliphate/Imamate, beginning with a refutation of the Shi’ite belief that ‘Ali () was chosen to rule after the Prophet’s (ﷺ) death. He argues:
“If the Prophet [ﷺ] had actually designated ‘Ali as his successor and imposed on the umma obedience to him, he would have announced it in the presence of his companions, who would have transmitted it to the Community. For the obligation of the imāmate is one of which knowledge is obligatory on every member of the Community, in exactly the same manner as knowledge of the number of prayers (ṣalawāt) and pilgrimage (hajj) and fasting (ṣīyām) which are publicly known and upon which there is no disagreement” (paraphrased by Ibish, p. 87).
The Arabic text for the above from Kitāb al-Tamhīd (p. 442):
And like other scholars both before and after him, al-Baqillani mentions some of the reasons that necessitate the Imamate:
a To defend the umma against its enemies
b To restrain the oppressor and to redress the grievance of the oppressed
c. To enforce and maintain law or the limits (al-ḥudūd)
d. To divide the revenues of Conquest (Fai’) amongst Muslims
e. To secure pilgrimage and to dispatch troops against the enemies of Muslims
(Ibish, p. 102)
All four posts in this series illustrate the classical scholars considered the Caliphate/Imamate so important and foundational that they considered it necessary to discuss this topic of jurisprudence in their books on uṣūl (‘aqīda or beliefs). The subject has not been left out of even brief essays on creed. These leading scholars of the classical era consider knowledge of this legal duty (farḍ) to be a rukn (pillar) of the dīn, with Imam Ghazali describing it as “among the essential requirements of the law (ضروريات الشرع)” which cannot be ignored.
The scholars also bring attention to the the Companions () delaying the burial of Allah’s Beloved Messenger (ﷺ) and prioritising the appointment of the Caliph to lead the Muslims (see here for Imam Ghazali’s discussion of this matter).
Like the Companions (), we too need to take up this issue as an urgent matter. We must not allow the likes of Isis on the one hand and the so called reformist modernists on the other, who feebly argue that Islam did not mandate a system of governance, to overshadow this fundamental Islamic duty. As Syrian historian Sami Moubayed states in his article for the Daliy Telegraph:
“All pious Muslims well-read in the Hadith (the compiled sayings of the Prophet [ﷺ]) firmly believe in the need to establish an Islamic State headed by a Muslim Caliph. This is mentioned twice in the Holy Quran and it’s central to the Islamic faith. No Muslim scholar would debate an Islamic state and the caliphate.”
He argues in this article that a modern Caliphate which provides job opportunities and education for all would be the perfect way to counter the terrorists.