“Not everyone is capable of carrying out the actions necessary to enjoin right conduct. However, this can be performed effectively by the ruler [Sultan] because he holds the authority to frame laws that will be in accord with the Shari‘ah. As ruler, he has the final word in matters of consequence, such as the legislation of laws, the prosecution of punishable offences and the treatment of prisoners. The role of head of state must be entrusted to an honest, strict, and righteous person since he holds the responsibility of enforcing the dictates of the Shari‘ah in all matters. It is incumbent on the ruler to appoint suitable, powerful and just persons in every city for this purpose. This is because Allah says, “[They are] those who, if We give them power in the land, establish [regular] prayer and give [regular] charity, enjoin right and forbid wrong; with Allah rests the end [and decision] of [all] affairs.” (22:41)”
[Imam al-Qurtubi, الجامع لأحكام القرآن, vol. 4, p. 47. Translated by Syed Amin Ashraf in Ma‘roof & Munkar, Jalaluddin Umari, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, 2008 (2nd Revised Edition), p. 119]
Imam al-Qurtubi is Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Abu Bakr ibn Farah, Abu ‘Abdullah al-Ansari al-Qurtubi, of Cordova (in present-day Spain). A Maliki scholar and hadith specialist, he was one of the greatest Imams of Qur’anic exegesis, an ascetic who divided his days between worship and writing. Educated in hadith by masters like ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Yahsabi and al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Bakri, we wrote works in the sciences of hadith and tenets of faith, though his enduring contribution is his al-Jami‘ li ahkam al-Qur’an (The Compendium of the Rules of the Qur’an), from which he mainly omitted the stories and histories customary in other commentaries, and recorded instead the legal rulings contained in the Qur’an and how scholars have inferred them, together with the usage of Arabic grammar. Scholars have used it extensively ever since it was written. It is related that Qurtubi disdained airs, and used to walk about in a simple caftan with a plain cap (taqiyya) on his head. He travelled east and settled in Munya Abi al-Khusayb in upper Egypt, where he died in 671H (1273 CE) [Excerpted from Reliance of the Traveller by Shaykh Nuh Keller, p. 1090]
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.
- al-Bukhari, Ta’rikh al-Kabir, 4:233.
- Imam Ahmad from Fayruz al-Daylami from his father in the Musnad, 4:232, hadith no. 18068 (hasan, Shaykh al-Arna’ut).
- al-Tabarani, Mujam al-Kabir, 8:98, hadith no. 7486.
- al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak ‘ala ’l-Sahihayn, 4:469, hadith no. 7022 where he declared the isnad (chain of transmission) as sahih
- Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, 15:111, hadith no. 6715 with a very strong isnad (Shaykh al-Arna’ut).
- Al-Mundhiri, al-Tarhib wa’l-Targhib, 1:263 with a sahih chain of transmission
- Al-Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 7:284 where he comments that the narrators of the hadith are all sound (rijaluhu rijalun sahih).
Hat Tip: Dar al-Nicosia