Imam Ghazali’s ‘Definite Proof’ that Appointing a Caliph is Obligatory

iqtisad

Despite the fact that Imam Ghazali’s al-Iqtiṣād fi al-I‘tiqād is a book on beliefs (‘aqīda), he includes a whole chapter on the imamate (caliphate) in this work. At the beginning of this chapter, he includes a discussion of what he describes as ‘definite legal proof’ (al-burhān al-qaṭ‘ī al-shar‘ī) that appointing an imam is an obligation. In this discussion, he also says that ‘religion (dīn) and sultan are twins’:

“We should not think that this obligation derives from the intellect. We have explained that obligations derive from the revelation, except when ‘obligatory’ is interpreted to designate an act, such that there is benefit in performing it or harm in refraining from it. According to this interpretation, it cannot be denied that appointing an imam is obligatory, since it leads to benefit and prevents harm in this worldly life. However, we present a conclusive legal demonstration [البرهان القطعى الشرعى] that it is obligatory. We will not rely solely on the consensus [ijmā‘] of the Muslim community; rather we bring attention to the basis of this consensus.

Hence we say:

Well ordered religious affairs are decidedly a purpose of the man with the revelation [Muhammad] (ﷺ). This is an unquestionable premise about which no dispute is imaginable. We add to it another premise, which is that well-ordered religious affairs can only be achieved through an imam who is obeyed. The correctness of the proposition that the appointment of an imam is obligatory follows from these two premises.

If it is said that the last premise, which is that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only through an imam, is not conceded, then we say: “Its demonstration is that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only by well-ordered worldly affairs and well-ordered worldly affairs can be achieved only by an imam who is obeyed.” These are two premises: which one is the subject of dispute?

It might be said: “Why do you say that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only through well-ordered worldly affairs? On the contrary, it can be achieved only by destruction of worldly affairs, for religious affairs and worldly affairs are opposites, and hence to be occupied with making one of them flourish is the ruin of the other.”

We say:

This is the argument of someone who does not understand what we intend here by ‘worldly affairs’. For it is an ambiguous term that may be used to designate luxury and pleasure and being excessive beyond what is needed and necessary, or it may be used to designate all that is required prior to one’s death. One of the designations is opposed to religion and the other is its very condition. It is this way that the one who does not distinguish between the meaning of ambiguous terms errs.

We thus say:

Well-ordered religious affairs are achieved through knowledge and worship. These cannot be achieve without the health of the body, the maintenance of life, the fulfillment of needs – such as those for clothing, shelter and food – and security from the onset of calamities. How true this is: “When a man wakes up safe among his family, with a healthy body, and in possession of his daily sustenance, it is as if the whole world is made available to him.”[1] A man does not achieve security in his life, body, wealth, home, and sustenance under all circumstances but [only] under some. Religious affairs cannot flourish unless security is achieved in these important and necessary matters. Otherwise, if one spends all his time being occupied with protecting himself against the swords of oppressors, and with winning his sustenance from exploiters, when would he find time for working and seeking knowledge, which are his means for achieving happiness in the hereafter? Therefore well-ordered worldly affairs – I mean the fulfillment of needs – are a condition for well-ordered religious affairs.

As for the second premise, which is that worldly affairs and security in life and wealth can be maintained only through an imam who is obeyed, it is confirmed by observing the periods of social upheavals when the sultans and imams die. If these periods are prolonged and not quickly terminated by the appointment of another sultan who is obeyed, the killing would continue and the sword would dominate, famine would spread, livestock would diminish, and industry would collapse; and whoever wins would plunder; and no one who manages to stay alive would have time to worship or seek knowledge; and the majority would die under the shadows of the swords. For this reason it has been said that religion [dīn] and sultan are twins, and also that religion is a foundation and the sultan is a guard: that which has no foundation collapses and that which has no guard is lost.

In sum, no rational person doubts that if mankind, given their different classes, diverse desires, and disparate opinions, are left to their own devices without decrees that they obey and that unify their factions, they would all end in ruin. This is an epidemic that has no remedy other than a strong sultan who is obeyed and who unifies their disparate opinions. This shows that a sultan is necessary for achieving well-ordered worldly affairs, and well-ordered worldly affairs are necessary for achieving well-ordered religious affairs, and well-ordered religious affairs are necessary for achieving happiness in the hereafter, which is decidedly the purpose of all the prophets. Therefore, the obligation of appointing an imam is among the essential requirements of the law – a requirement that by no means can be ignored.”

Later on in the chapter, Imam Ghazali argues that necessity dictates that in some circumstances a caliph who does not fulfill all the conditions (as was the case in his time) should still be recognized and obeyed, because of the dire consequences of not having an imam:

“I wish I knew how someone who does not accept this [principle] could judge that the imamate in our time is invalid insofar as its conditions are not fulfilled, while he is unable to replace the imam with someone who seeks it, for even he cannot find someone who fulfills its conditions. Which of his states is better; to say that the judges are dismissed, appointments are invalid, marriages are annulled, all the decrees of the governors everywhere in the world are unenforceable, and all of mankind are [on the verge of] engaging in what is unlawful [ḥarām]; or to say that, based on the current state and necessity, the imamate is valid and the decrees and appointments are enforceable?”

[1] This is a ḥadīth. It is reported by Ibn Maja, Sunan, XXXVII.9, No. 414; and Tirmidhi, al-Jāmi‘ al-Ṣaḥīḥ, XXXVII.34, No. 2347

[Al-Ghazali’s Moderation in Belief: Al-Iqtiṣād fi al-I‘tiqād, translated by A M Yaqub, Unviersity of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2013, pp. 229-231 and 234 (some words in square brackets have been added)]

Shāh Walī Allāh’s Definition of Khilafah

“It [the Caliphate] is the general authority to undertake the establishment of Religion through the revival of religious sciences, the establishment of the pillars of Islam, the organisation of jihād and its related functions of maintenance of armies, financing the soldiers, and allocation of their rightful portions from the spoils of war, administration of justice, enforcement of udūd, elimination of injustice, and enjoining good and forbidding evil, to be exercised on behalf of the Prophet ﷺ.”

[Shāh Walī Allāh, Izālat al-Khafā’ ‘an Khilāfat al-Khulafā’, Volume 1, p. 13, translated in The Socio-Political Thought of Shāh Walī Allāh, Professor Muhammad al-Ghazali, Adam Publishers, New Delhi, 2004, p. 86 ]

Hadith: The Knots of Islam will be Untied One by One

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said*:

لَيُنْقَضَنَّ عُرَى الْإِسْلَامِ عُرْوَةً عُرْوَةً فَكُلَّمَا انْتَقَضَتْ عُرْوَةٌ تَشَبَّثَ النَّاسُ بِالَّتِي تَلِيهَا وَأَوَّلُهُنَّ نَقْضًا الْحُكْمُ وَآخِرُهُنَّ الصَّلَاةُ

The knots of Islam will be undone one by one, each time a knot is undone the next one will be grasped, the first to be undone will be the Rule [of Islam; The Caliphate] and the last will be the Prayer (Salah).

Narrated by Abu Umamah al-Bahili (ra)

And in another version of the hadith authenticated by al-Hakim in his Mustadrak:

Verily, the knots of Islam will be undone and there shall be misguided rulers.

Commentary on the hadith from The Sixty Sultaniyya:

A: It was the Prophet ﷺ who tied together the knots of Islam, including the uppermost knot of ruling after he established the Islamic state between the Ansar [Helpers], the Muhajiroon [Emigrants], and the non-Muslims in and around Yathrib (Medina) after Hijra from his own people of Mecca.

B: As mentioned by Imam Mawardi, the leadership has been prescribed as the succession of the Prophet ﷺ in protecting the deen and governing the societal affairs. In this respect, Imam Baidawi mentioned that the Imamah/Khilafah is the succession from the Prophet in the establishment of the laws of the Shari‘ah and the protection of the territory. So without the Imam the laws lie unapplied and the territory is not protected effectively.

C: The hadith indicates that it is the uppermost knot that keeps the subsequent knots safe from being untied. This is since it is the ruler that is responsible to apply Islam in its entirety, to implement the limits proscribed by Allah سبحانه وتعالى and to protect the society.

D: Imam Ahmed mentioned without an Imam (for the Muslims as their leader) there would be fitna, and the destruction of the symbols of Islam ending with the Prayer is a great fitna.

 

*See:

  1. al-Bukhari, Ta’rikh al-Kabir, 4:233.
  2. Imam Ahmad from Fayruz al-Daylami from his father in the Musnad, 4:232, hadith no. 18068 (hasan, Shaykh al-Arna’ut).
  3. al-Tabarani, Mujam al-Kabir, 8:98, hadith no. 7486.
  4. al-Hakim, al-Mustadrakala ’l-Sahihayn, 4:469, hadith no. 7022 where he declared the isnad (chain of transmission) as sahih
  5. Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, 15:111, hadith no. 6715 with a very strong isnad (Shaykh al-Arna’ut).
  6. Al-Mundhiri, al-Tarhib wa’l-Targhib, 1:263 with a sahih chain of transmission
  7. Al-Haythami, Majmaal-Zawa’id, 7:284 where he comments that the narrators of the hadith are all sound (rijaluhu rijalun sahih).

Hat Tip: Dar al-Nicosia

The Caliphate in Durr al-Mukhtār*

Book of Prayer, Section on Imāmah

It (the Imāmah) is either minor or major. The major (type) (i.e. the caliphate) is the right of general administration over the people. Its realization is in kalām (scholastic theology) and establishing it is the most important of obligations, hence they (the Sahabah) gave it priority over the burial [1] of the Possessor of Miracles (ﷺ).

*The Durr al-Mukhtār [‘The Chosen Pearl’] is one of the central late texts of the Hanafi school. Its author, ‘Ala’ al-Dīn al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him), was the Grand Mufti of Damascus during the 11th Islamic century, and his works, particularly the Durr, profoundly influenced all texts that came after it, and became the central reference for legal details and rulings (Shaykh Faraz Rabbani).

Al-Durr al-Mukhtār, the commentary on Tanwīr al-Absār, has flown through the lands, and circled the cities, and become more manifest than the sun at midday, until people have busied themselves with it, and it has become their recourse. It is most deserving of being sought, and of the school (madhhab) being on it… for it contains more well-verified rulings, and sound details than many a longer work…” [Ibn ‘Abidīn, Radd al-Muhtār, 1: 2] (ibid)

[1] Ibn Kathīr said, “What is famously related from the majority of scholars is that the Prophet (ﷺ) died on Monday and was buried on Tuesday night.” (al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah (5/237) and Ṣaḥīḥ al-Sīrah al-Nabawīyyah, p.728)

Ibn Khaldun on the Defeated Mentality

“The vanquished always want to imitate the victor in his distinctive characteristics, his dress, his occupation, and all his other conditions and customs. The reason for this is that the soul always sees perfection in the person who is superior to it and to whom it is subservient. It considers him perfect, either because it is impressed by the respect it has for him, or because it erroneously assumes that its own subservience to him is not due to the nature of defeat but to the perfection of the victor.”

[Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah, quoted in S. Sayyid, Recalling the Caliphate: Decolonization and World Order, Hurst & Company, London, 2014, p. 1]

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]