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 ]

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.