The Caliphate – One Ruler, One State

[Please note that the term ‘state’ is used in this blog as a translation of the Arabic دولة (dawlah). This is used by the classical scholars such as Imam Ghazali when referring to the Caliphate. The Islamic concept of دولة is in sharp contrast to the modern Westphalian notion of nation states which have permanent borders. The Caliphate has frontiers which are not fixed – it will continue to expand until Islam encapsulates the globe. Furthermore, modern nation states abide by the UN charter, which contradicts a number of Islamic principles. For a more detailed discussion of this topic please see Democratic Tyranny and the Islamic Paradigm by Ustadha Aisha Bewley (Diwan Press, 1436/2015)].

The Islamic evidences clearly indicate that the Muslims are not allowed to have more than one ruler. Despite this, Muslims today are divided into more than 50 countries, and governed by over 50 illegitimate leaders.

However, the Islamic Shari‘ah demands that we have one man ruling us in one state, and this also negates a federation or confederation of states.

The Prophet ﷺ said:

َمَنْ بَايَعَ إِمَامًا فَأَعْطَاهُ صَفْقَةَ يَدِهِ وَثَمَرَةَ قَلْبِهِ فَلْيُطِعْهُ إِنِ اسْتَطَاعَ فَإِنْ جَاءَ آخَرُ يُنَازِعُهُ فَاضْرِبُوا عُنُقَ الآخَرِ

“He who swears allegiance to a caliph should give him the pledge of his hand and the sincerity of his heart (i. e. submit to him both outwardly as well as inwardly). He should obey him to the best of his capacity. If another man comes forward (as a claimant to Caliphate), disputing his authority, they (the Muslims) should behead the latter [Narrated by Amr bin al-‘As, Sahih Muslim #1844]”


إِذَا بُويِعَ لِخَلِيفَتَيْنِ فاقتُلوا الآخِرَ منهُما

“If two caliphs are pledged allegiance to, kill the last of the two.” [Narrated by Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri, Sahih Muslim #1853]

Imam Nawawi  comments on the above hadith as follows:

فِيهِ الْأَمْرُ بِقِتَالِ مَنْ خَرَجَ عَلَى الْإِمَامِ أَوْ أَرَادَ تَفْرِيقَ كَلِمَةِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَنَحْوَ ذَلِكَ وَيُنْهَى عَنْ ذَلِكَ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَنْتَهِ قُوتِلَ وَإِنْ لَمْ يَنْدَفِعْ شَرُّهُ إِلَّا بِقَتْلِهِ فَقُتِلَ

 “Within it is the matter of killing of the one who rebels against the Imam or intends to divide the Muslims or similar. It is forbidding from that. If there has been no forbidding of him, he is killed. If there is no repelling of his evil except by killing him, he is killed.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim 12/241]

Also related by Muslim:

كَانَتْ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ تَسُوسُهُمُ الْأَنْبِيَاءُ، كُلَّمَا هَلَكَ نَبِيٌّ خَلَفَهُ نَبِيٌّ، وَإِنَّهُ لَا نَبِيَّ بَعْدِي، وَسَتَكُونُ خُلَفَاءُ فَتَكْثُرُ، قَالُوا: فَمَا تَأْمُرُنَا؟ قَالَ: فُوا بِبَيْعَةِ الْأَوَّلِ، فَالْأَوَّلِ، وَأَعْطُوهُمْ حَقَّهُمْ، فَإِنَّ اللهَ سَائِلُهُمْ عَمَّا اسْتَرْعَاهُمْ

“The Banu Isra’il were ruled by the Prophets, every time a Prophet deceased he was followed by another Prophet, and there will be no Prophets after me, there will be caliphs and they will be many.” The companions then asked “What do you order us?” To which the Prophet replied “Fulfil your pledge of allegiance to them one after another, and give them their rights, and truly Allah will ask them about their responsibilities.” [Narrated by Abu Hurayrah, Sahih Muslim #1842]

And in his commentary, Imam Nawawi states:

وَمَعْنَى هَذَا الْحَدِيثِ إِذَا بُويِعَ لِخَلِيفَةٍ بَعْدَ خَلِيفَةٍ فَبَيْعَةُ الْأَوَّلِ صَحِيحَةٌ يَجِبُ الْوَفَاءُ بِهَا وَبَيْعَةُ الثَّانِي بَاطِلَةٌ يَحْرُمُ الْوَفَاءُ بِهَا وَيَحْرُمُ عَلَيْهِ طَلَبُهَا وَسَوَاءٌ عَقَدُوا لِلثَّانِي عَالِمِينَ بِعَقْدِ الأول جَاهِلِينَ وَسَوَاءٌ كَانَا فِي بَلَدَيْنِ أَوْ بَلَدٍ أَوْ أَحَدُهُمَا فِي بَلَدِ الْإِمَامِ الْمُنْفَصِلِ

“The meaning of this narration, is that if a caliph is given a pledge of allegiance after another caliph has already been appointed, then the first appointment is valid and must be fulfilled, whereas the second is void and it is prohibited to fulfil it. It is prohibited for him to request that fulfilment, irrespective of whether they knew of the first caliph or not, and irrespective of whether they were in the same or different locations, or whether one of them was in a land totally separated from the other.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim 12/231]

Imam Nawawi then refutes the aberrant view held by al-Juwayni that in some exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to have more than one caliph:

وَاتَّفَقَ الْعُلَمَاءُ عَلَى أَنَّهُ لَا يَجُوزُ أَنْ يُعْقَدَ لِخَلِيفَتَيْنِ فِي عَصْرٍ وَاحِدٍ سَوَاءٌ اتَّسَعَتْ دَارُ الْإِسْلَامِ أَمْ لَا وَقَالَ إِمَامُ الْحَرَمَيْنِ فِي كِتَابِهِ الْإِرْشَادِ قَالَ أصحابنا لا يجوز عقدها شخصين قَالَ وَعِنْدِي أَنَّهُ لَا يَجُوزُ عَقْدُهَا لِاثْنَيْنِ فِي صُقْعٍ وَاحِدٍ وَهَذَا مُجْمَعٌ عَلَيْهِ قَالَ فَإِنْ بَعُدَ مَا بَيْنَ الْإِمَامَيْنِ وَتَخَلَّلَتْ بَيْنَهُمَا شُسُوعٌ فَلِلِاحْتِمَالِ فِيهِ مَجَالٌ قَالَ وَهُوَ خَارِجٌ مِنَ الْقَوَاطِعِ وَحَكَى الْمَازِرِيُّ هَذَا الْقَوْلَ عَنْ بَعْضِ الْمُتَأَخِّرِينَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْأَصْلِ وَأَرَادَ بِهِ إِمَامَ الْحَرَمَيْنِ وَهُوَ قَوْلٌ فَاسِدٌ مُخَالِفٌ لِمَا عَلَيْهِ السَّلَفُ وَالْخَلَفُ وَلِظَوَاهِرِ إِطْلَاقِ الْأَحَادِيثِ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ

“The scholars have agreed that it is not permissible for two caliphs to be appointed in the same time, irrespective of whether Dar al-Islam [the Abode of Islam] was widely spread or not. Imam al-Haramayn (al-Juwayni) wrote in his book Al-Irshad: ‘Our companions (meaning scholars in the Shafi‘i school of thought) said that it is not permitted for two people to be contracted (as caliph). My opinion is that it is not permitted to appoint two in a single land, and this opinion is agreed upon. If there is a large distance/region between the two leaders, then there is some scope for it (to be permitted).’ (Al-Nawawi:) This view contradicts what is conclusively known. Al-Maziri narrated this view as being the view of some of the later scholars, by which he meant Imam al-Haramayn, and it is an invalid (fasid) opinion which contradicts what the Salaf [early scholars] and Khalaf  [later scholars] were upon, as well as the clear/literal position of the prophetic narrations. And Allah knows best.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim 12/232]

Ibn Hazm said, in Maratib al-Ijma‘

وَاتَّفَقُوا انه لَا يجوز أَن يكون على الْمُسلمين فِي وَقت وَاحِد فِي جَمِيع الدُّنْيَا امامان لَا متفقان وَلَا مفترقان وَلَا فِي مكانين وَلَا فِي مَكَان وَاحِد

“They made consensus on the fact that it is not permissible for Muslims at any one time, anywhere in the world, to have two Imams, whether they are not in agreement or they are not differing, whether they are in two places or in one place.”

And in his well-known book on the Islamic ruling system, Al-Mawardi states:

إذا عقدت الإمامة لإمامين في بلدين لم تنعقد إمامتهما، لأنه لا يجوز أن يكون للأمة إمامان في وقت واحد

“If two Imamates are established in two lands none of the two is valid as it is not permitted for there to be two Imams at one time…” [Cf. al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah: The Laws of Islamic Governance, translated by Dr. Asadullah Yate, Ta Ha, London, 1416/1996, p. 16]

We conclude with the words of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (ra) in the speech he gave when he was elected as the first caliph:

وإنه لا يحل أن يكون للمسلمين أميران ؛ فإنه مهما يكن ذلك يختلف أمرهم ، وأحكامهم ، وتتفرق جماعتهم ، ويتنازعوا فيما بينهم ، هنالك تترك السنة ، وتظهر البدعة ، وتعظم الفتنة ، وليس لأحد على ذلك صلاح

“And it is not permitted for the Muslims to have two Amirs, since if that would occur it would lead to a difference in their affairs, and laws, and their unity would be split, and there would be competition between them. That would be leaving the Sunnah, and innovation would appear, and fitna would spread, and none of that would be in anyone’s benefit.” [Related by al-Bayhaqi, #16327]

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