Maulana Islahi* on the Caliphate: A Duty upon every Muslim

The Duty of Muslims as Muslims

It is due to this duty of prophethood that his Ummah has been given the title of the best Ummah. If the Muslims forget this bounden duty of theirs, they are but a nation among the nations of the world. They have neither any good in them nor any reason for superiority over others. And then God is not at all concerned whether they are doing an honourable existence in the world or passing their days in abject misery and disgrace abounding. Nay – thus consigning this duty of theirs to oblivion they will bring themselves to the position of a nation incurring God’s wrath, the same as some other nations of the world exalted to this position, earlier, had brought themselves to this disgraceful and uncoveted position. The Quranic verse mentioning the honour of the best Ummah being conferred on the Muslims, details their duty also:

“You are the best of people evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and believing in God.” [3:110]

It was in compliance with this Commandment that the first act of the Muslims, after the passing away of the Prophet [ﷺ], was to institute the Caliphate, strictly on the lines of the Prophet’s [ﷺ] mission. This institution was the faith’s organ calling people to good, ordering Ma‘roof [1] and prohibiting Munkar [2], established by the Muslims for the discharge of the collective duty of the Ummah that had come to their shoulders, namely, to keep the Ummah staunch on the  path of the Truth and to convey the message of the Truth to the world. So long as this institution was run soundly and kept discharging its duties among the Muslims and also in the world outside, every Muslim was relieved of that duty imposed on him by God and His Prophet [ﷺ]. During that period the duty of preaching the Truth was Farz-e-Kafayah, the Khilafat-i-Rashidah discharging this duty relieved the rest of the Muslims from this duty in the sight of God. But after the abolishment of the Caliphate, the duty of evidence of the Truth fell on each and every individual in the same way as the duty of protection of life and property devolves on the individuals of a society in a state of total anarchy. So long as the Muslims do not re-institute this righteous and wholesome Islamic order which has been enjoined on them by God as a duty, every Muslim is earning the sin of neglecting this duty and will be called to account for it on the Day of Reckoning.

The Subject of the Preaching

  1. The duty of preaching the truth to the end of days, imposed on the Prophet [ﷺ], was assigned by him to the Ummah under orders from God and under his own guidance, so that the Ummah might go on preaching the truth in every country, every nation and in every language for ever.
  2. For taking this message to the people, the conditions from God are that it should be done with one’s heart and soul in it, by word and deed, of the truth as a whole, unaltered and unadulterated, without fear or favour, and, if need be, with one’s life.
  3. The regular institution for the discharge of this duty imposed on the Muslims as a whole was that of the Caliphate, and so long as it was functioning soundly, every Muslim was relieved of the responsibilities of the discharge of this duty.
  4. After this institution became defunct, the responsibility of this duty fell divided on every individual of the Ummah according to his status and capabilities.
  5. There are only two ways of relief for the Muslims from the accountability and responsibility of this duty. They should either re-institute the Caliphate or at least stake their all in their attempt for its re-establishment.
  6. If the Muslims did neither of these two things, they would be incriminated for neglecting the duty of prophethood imposed on them by God, and will suffer not only for their own misdeeds but for them misguidance of humanity at large.

This shows that the real motive for preaching is the realization of this onerous duty imposed by God on the Muslims. And what is to be kept in view as the goal in this connection if the re-institution of the order delivering the message of God to humanity and guiding them to the faith revealed by God, thus leaving them no excuse that they can put up before God for their misguidance on the Day of Reckoning. So long as this institution is non-existent, the prime object of every Muslim is to do what he can to bring it into existence. He should keep it in mind, sleeping, waking, eating and drinking and he should live and die for this goal. In its absence, the life of the Muslims contrary to what God approved for them, and they would not be able to put up any excuse for this shortcoming before God. This duty is the purpose of their existence and in losing it, they will lose the purpose of their existence and become fit for the dung-heap the same way as all other things are consigned to the dust-bin once their utility has come to an end. The present-day Muslims as such have no more importance than the rubbish of the earth. And it does not become them to regard themselves worthy of the title of the best or moderate Ummah or expect help or support from God.

[Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, Call to Islam and How the Holy Prophets Preached, Islamic Book Publishers, Safat, 1978, pp. 30-32]

*Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi (r) was born in 1904 CE in the village of Bamhur, Azamgarh, India. After a primary education in his village maktab, he completed his education in the prestigious Madrasatul Islah, founded by Maulana Shibli Numani, in the town of Seraj Mir. After graduating from the Madrasah in 1922, he entered the field of journalism. For a while, he edited a newspaper Madinah at Bijnawr and also remained associated with Sach, a newspaper edited by Maulana ‘Abdul-Majid Daryabadi.
In 1925, the great Hamid Uddin Farahi offered Maulana Islahi the opportunity to study the Quran with him. The latter abandoned his journalistic career with no hesitation, and for the next 5 years continued to study under Farahi. After Farahi’s death in 1935, Islahi studied Hadith from a celebrated scholar of this discipline, ‘Abdur Rahman Muhaddith Mubarakpuri. In 1936, Maulana Islahi founded the Da’irah-i-Hamidiyyah, a small institute to disseminate the Qur’anic thought of Farahi. Under the auspices of this institute, he brought out a monthly journal, Al-Islah, in which he translated many portions of Farahi’s treatises written in Arabic. The journal was published till 1939, after which it was discontinued.
Perhaps the Maulana’s greatest achievement was his groundbreaking tafsir Tadabbur-i-Quran, which emphasises the coherence of the Holy Book and which took him 22 years to complete. He passed away in 1997 CE.

[1] Ma‘roof: literally, well known (to human nature), having an affinity for it. As a technical term of the Islamic Shariah, it comprises the acts, attitudes and behaviours that the normal person with unsullied natures have approved in every age. Truth, keeping of one’s word, justice, equity and kindness, to name a few, have always been regarded as desirable and laudable.

[2] Munkar: literally means alien to human nature. Acts, attributes and behaviours for which men of wholesome nature, in every age ans under any order, true or corrupt, have had abhorrence. Barring the few perverts, nobody ever approved and acclaimed falsehood, breach of trust, tyranny and injustice and other evils.

 

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