Is there a Divine ‘Method’ to Re-Establish the Caliphate (Khilafah)? – Part I

The argument for re-establishing the Caliphate is compelling; the divine evidences commands the believers to give their oath of allegiance to a Caliph, in addition one can say the need for the institution is self-evident, because any society needs some form of political institution to function, otherwise anarchy prevails. There could not be any dispute over the initial establishment of the state headed by the Prophet (saw), as it formed part of the divine revelation. The Prophets by definition are leaders (Imams) in the spiritual and political sphere; their primary task is to deliver the divine message and guide society through the application of the divine message. Anyone disputing the authority of the Prophet would commit an act of treason (apostasy), unless the individual was a non-believer in the first place.

After the demise of the Prophet, and in the absence of clear instructions regarding the nature of the state and succession of the political leadership, differences naturally arose, hence the variation in the appointment of the first four Caliphs. With the passage of time, disputes and rivalry became more pronounced, civil wars broke out and the state started to disintegrate from the time of the fourth Caliph, only 30 years after the demise of the Prophet, this is an undisputable fact.

Indeed, there are fundamental differences regarding the nature of the political institution and the leadership. For example, the Shi’ites venomously rejects the Sunni view that a fallible Imam or Caliphate can be chosen by the masses. A ruler must have divine endorsement, he can only be appointed by God or by His agent (Prophet), and having this divine endorsement means the ruler (Imam) infallible in terms of the interpretation and application of the law. According to the Shia doctrine, the legitimate political leadership was passed down, through the infallible Imam Ali.

Among the Sunnis there are also divergent opinions; the current debate is regarding the obligation to have one universal Caliphate whose authority extends over the entire Islamic world, which implies the obligation to reunify the numerous Muslim nations, and this will examined in a future article. Here the focus is on the process of restoring the Caliphate. Only the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb-ut-Tahrir) has made the claim that it has extracted the divine method from the Islamic texts, through the process of Ijthad (scholarly exertion). The method, meaning that one must undertake the steps as part of an obligation to re-establish the Caliphate. This article disputes the claim, which is highlighted by the following points.

  1. The method has been built entirely upon the evidences related to how the first Islamic State was established by the Prophet (SAW) and His companions. Naturally, the pool of evidence extends from how the Prophet (SAW) and His companions took the various steps from the beginning of divine revelation in Mecca to the migration (Hijra) to Medina leading to the establishment of the first Islamic state. First point to note is - there are no evidences in the Hadiths or the Quran that explicitly or implicitly states how the Islamic State should be re-established within complex Muslim societies that exists today.

    The method is primarily built on extracting the evidences that led to the establishment of the Islamic State in Medina. Those acts are applied to our current situation to re-establish the Islamic state. The common factor between establishing of the first Islamic state and the re-establishing the Caliphate is that - both cases involve changing the political system governing a society.

    However, this is too general and vague, particularly when you consider that in making an analogy between two situations, one must look at similarities as well as the ‘differences’. There are fundamental differences between the Prophet (SAW) establishing the first Islamic State in the primitive Arabian society, and of our situation of re-establishing the Islamic State amongst Muslim nations that has been shaped for centuries along geographical, racial and linguistic boundaries.

    Since the two scenarios are so different, one would argue the differences outweigh the similarities; thus, the evidences extracted from the Seerah (Life of the Prophet) are not even applicable, let alone binding. One can easily make the case that the establishment of the first Islamic State cannot be a reference point, as we are re-establishing the state amongst Muslim nations.

  2. There is a further significant problem in that Medina was transformed and not Mecca, thus the focus should confined to the relevant acts that led to the changes taking place in Medina. It is fact that the Prophet (SAW) brought the entire religion of Islam, which included the establishment of the Islamic State. Deciphering which acts contributed towards the establishment of the Islamic State in Medina is very much subjective; and difficult given that the state was established in Medina, the work was largely carried out by Musab Bin Umayr (RA) and this companions who had minimal contact with the Prophet (SAW) and functioned almost autonomously.

  3. Therefore, one can legitimately question the value in citing the actions of the Prophet (SAW) in Mecca, which did not change; they rejected the Prophet’s (SAW) message until the end and remained hostile, until it was conquered by force and compelled to obey the authority of the new Islamic state.

  4. The argument that regardless of his actions in Mecca, he targeted Medina through the companions sent there. However, this is a weak point as when the Prophet sought political authority in the latter stages (Nusrah), he did not even consider Medina; it was the tribes around Mecca, including the hostile territory of Taif that was on his list.

    On a side point, those who are incessantly arguing for re-establishing the Islamic State in the Arab lands should note the Arabs in Mecca were amongst the best in Arabic, understood the miraculous nature of Quran very well and related to the Prophet (SAW), yet they rejected the message of Islam. So much for the Arabic language being the factor as the example from Mecca shows otherwise!

  5. The method implies that set of actions stated should be applicable for all time to change different societies, however this does not hold up to rational scrutiny and the textual evidences actually confirms this as false - the example of the Seerah proves this as Mecca did not change but Medina did. Therefore, the actions of the Prophet (SAW) showed that they were an attempt to change the society, which may work in some cases and not others, hence cannot be binding for all cases.

    Furthermore, there is no corroborative evidence to make those steps obligatory especially given that we are referring to a situation (Seerah) that is fundamentally different to our situation of re-establishing the Islamic State. At most, one can make the case that one is permitted to emulate the steps taken by the Prophet (SAW) in establishing the first Islamic State, but they are not obligatory.

The only action that we can argue as applicable is the interaction with the society that we are attempting to change, but that is self-evident, and thus to claim it is part of the method is meaningless. If we observe history, we see many examples where such changes took place through interaction. In terms of the details as to how one should interact with the society depends on the situation, as stated earlier, the actions failed in Mecca but not Medina. Thus, one is not obliged to follow those actions of the prophet (SAW) and His companions in trying to change the society.

In part II the issue of seeking Nusrah (help from those with ability to change the system), as part of the divine method is examined.

Yamin Zakaria (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Published 05/05/2013
London, UK,

Last modified on Sunday, 05 May 2013 16:31

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