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Caliphate

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The term caliphate (from the Arabic خلافة or khilāfa) refers to the first form of government inspired by Islam. It was initially led by Muhammad's disciples as a continuation of the political authority the prophet established, known as the 'rashidun caliphates'. It represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah. The term is also used to refer to a state which implements such a government.

Sunni Islam dictates that the head of state, the caliph, should be selected by Shura, elected by Muslims or their representatives[1]. Followers of Shia Islam believe the caliph should be an imam descended in a line from the Ahl al-Bayt. From the time of Muhammad until 1924, after the Rashidun period; caliphates, sometimes two at a single time real and illusory, were ruled by dynasties; firstly the Umayyads, then the Abbasids, the Fatimids, and finally the Ottomans.

The caliphate was "the core political concept of Sunni Islam, by the consensus of the Muslim majority in the early centuries."[2].

Contents

History

Part of a series on the
Islamic Jurisprudence

– a discipline of Islamic studies

Fields
  • Economic
  • Political
    • Political Aspects
    • Caliphate
    • Imamah
    • Wilayat al-faqih
    • Bay'ah
    • Dhimmi
  • Marital
  • Criminal
  • Etiquette
  • Theological
  • Hygiene
  • Military


The caliph, or head of state, was often known as Amir al-Mu'minin (أمير المؤمنين) "Commander of the Believers". The first capital of the Caliphate after Muhammad died was in Medina ( located in what's known now as Saudi Arabia ). At times in Muslim history there have been rival claimant caliphs in different parts of the Islamic world, and divisions between the Shi'a and Sunni parts.

According to Sunni Muslims, The first Caliph to be called Amir al-Mu'minin were Umar ibn al-Khattāb, the second of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib also were called by the same title, while Shi'a consider Ali to have been the first truly legitimate Caliph, although they concede that Ali accepted his predecessors, because he eventually sanctioned Abu-Bakr.[3]

After the first four caliphs, the Caliphate was claimed by the dynasties such as Umayyads, the Abbasids, and the Ottomans, and for relatively short periods by other, competing dynasties in al-Andalus, North Africa, and Egypt. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk officially abolished the last Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and founded the Republic of Turkey, in 1924. The Kings of Morocco still label themselves with the title Amir al-Mu'minin for Moroccans, but lay no claim to the Caliphate.

Some Muslim countries, like Indonesia and Malaysia were never subject, to the authority of a Caliphate with the exception of Aceh, which acknowledged Ottoman suzerainty.[4] Rather some countries had their own, local, sultans or rulers who did not fully accept the authority of the Caliph.

Rashidun, 632-661

Islamic caliphate

Abu Bakr, the first successor of Muhammad, according to Sunni beliefs, nominated Umar as his successor on his deathbed, and there was consensus in the Muslim community to his choice. Umar Ibn Khattab, the second caliph, was killed by a slave. His successor, Uthman Ibn Affan, was elected by a council of electors (Majlis), but was soon perceived by some to be ruling as a "king" rather than an elected leader. Uthman was killed by members of a disaffected group. Ali then took control but was not universally accepted as caliph by the governors of Egypt, and later by some of his own guard. He had two major rebellions and was assassinated after a tumultuous rule of only five years. This period is known as the Fitna, or the first Islamic civil war. Under the Rashidun each region (Sultanate, Wilayah, or Emirate) of the Caliphate had its own governor (Sultan, Wāli or Emir)[5].

Muawiyah, a relative of Uthman, and governor (Wali) of Syria became one of Ali's challengers. After Ali's death, Muawiyah managed to overcome other claimants to the Caliphate. Under Muawiyah, the caliphate became a hereditary office for the first time. He founded the Umayyad dynasty.

In areas which were previously under Persian or Byzantine rule, the Caliphs lowered taxes, provided greater local autonomy, greater religious freedom for Jews, indigenous Christians, and brought peace to peoples demoralized and disaffected by the casualties and heavy taxation that resulted from the years of Byzantine-Persian warfare.[6]

Umayyads, 7th-8th century

The Caliphate, 622-750      Expansion under the Prophet Muhammad, 622-632      Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphs, 632-661      Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750

Under the Umayyads the Caliphate grew rapidly geographically. Islamic rule expanded westward across North Africa and into Hispania and eastward through Persia and ultimately to Sindh and Punjab in modern day Pakistan. This made it one of the largest unitary states in history and one of the few states to ever extend direct rule over three continents (Africa, Europe, and Asia). Although not ruling all of the Sahara, homage was paid to the Caliph by Saharan Africa, usually via various nomad Berber tribes. However, it should be noted that, although these vast areas may have recognised the supremacy of the Caliph, de facto power was in the hands of locals sultans and emirs.

For a variety of reasons, including that they were not elected via Shura and suggestions of impious behaviour, the Umayyad dynasty was not universally supported within the Muslim community. Some supported prominent early Muslims like Al-Zubayr; others felt that only members of Muhammad's clan, the Banu Hashim, or his own lineage, the descendants of Ali, should rule. There were numerous rebellions against the Umayyads, as well as splits within the Umayyad ranks (notably, the rivalry between Yaman and Qays). Eventually, supporters of the Banu Hisham and the supporters of the lineage of Ali united to bring down the Umayyads in 750. However, the Shiˤat ˤAlī, "the Party of Ali", were again disappointed when the Abbasid dynasty took power, as the Abbasids were descended from Muhammad's uncle, `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib and not from Ali. Following this disappointment, the Shiˤat ˤAlī finally split from the majority Sunni Muslims and formed what are today the several Shiˤa denominations.

The Caliphate in Hispania

During the Ummayad dynasty, Hispania was an integral province of the Ummayad Caliphate ruled from Damascus, Syria. Later the caliphate was won by the Abbasids, and Al-Andalus (or Hispania) split from the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad to form their own caliphate. The Caliphate of Córdoba (خليفة قرطبة) ruled the Iberian Peninsula from the city of Córdoba, from 929 to 1031. This period was characterized by remarkable success in technology, trade and culture; many of the masterpieces of Spain were constructed in this period, including the famous Great Mosque of Córdoba. The title Caliph (خليفة) was claimed by Abd-ar-Rahman III on January 16, 929; he was previously known as the Emir of Córdoba (أمير قرطبة). All Caliphs of Córdoba were members of the Umayyad dynasty; the same dynasty had held the title Emir of Córdoba and ruled over roughly the same territory since 756. The rule of the Caliphate is known as the heyday of Muslim presence in the Iberian peninsula, before it split into taifas. Spain possessed a significant native Muslim population until 1610 with the success of the Catholic-instigated Spanish Inquisition, which expelled any remnants of Spanish Muslim (Morisco) or Jewish populations.

Abbasids, 8th-13th century

Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.

The Umayyad dynasty was overthrown by another family of Meccan origin, the Abbasids, in 750. The Abbasids had an unbroken line of Caliphs for over three centuries, consolidating Islamic rule and cultivating great intellectual and cultural developments in the Middle East. By 940 the power of the Caliphate under the Abbasids was waning as non-Arabs, particularly the Berbers of the Maghrib, the Turks, and later the Mamluks in Egypt in the latter half of the 13th century, gained influence, and sultans and emirs became increasingly independent. However, the Caliphate endured as a symbolic position. During the period of the Abassid dynasty, Abassid claims to the caliphate did not go unchallenged. The Shiˤa Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah of the Fatimid dynasty, which claimed descent from Muhammad through his daughter, claimed the title of Caliph in 909, creating a separate line of caliphs in North Africa. Initially covering Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, the Fatimid caliphs extended their rule for the next 150 years, taking Egypt and Palestine, before the Abbassid dynasty was able to turn the tide, limiting Fatimid rule to Egypt. The Fatimid dynasty finally ended in 1171. The Umayyad dynasty, which had survived and come to rule over the Muslim provinces of Spain, reclaimed the title of Caliph in 929, lasting until it was overthrown in 1031.

Shadow Caliphate, 13th-16th century

1258 saw the conquest of Baghdad and the execution of Abbasid caliph al-Musta'sim by Mongol forces under Hulagu Khan. A surviving member of the Abbasid house was installed as caliph at Cairo under the patronage of the Mamluk Sultanate three years later, however, the authority of this line of caliphs was confined to ceremonial and religious matters, and later Muslim historians referred to it as a "shadow" caliphate. Thus for many centuries there was no Caliph in any real sense. This is a period of history which is ignored in the ideologies of modernist Islamist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir who claim that the Caliph always retained both theoretical and practical supremacy in the Islamic world.

Ottomans, 16th-20th century

The Ottoman Caliphate.

Ottoman rulers (generally known as Sultans in the West) were known primarily by the title of Padishah and used the title of Caliph only sporadically. Mehmed II and his grandson Selim I used it to justify their conquest of Islamic countries. As the Ottoman Empire grew in size and strength, Ottoman rulers beginning with Selim I began to claim Caliphal authority.

Ottoman rulers used the title "Caliph" symbolically on many occasions but it was strengthened when the Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamluk Sultanate in 1517 and took control of most Arab lands. The last Abbasid Caliph at Cairo, al-Mutawakkil III, was taken into custody and was transported to Istanbul, where he reportedly surrendered the Caliphate to Selim I. According to Barthold, the first time the title of "Caliph" was used as a political instead of symbolic religious title by the Ottomans was the peace treaty with Russia in 1774. The outcome of this war was disastrous for the Ottomans. Large territories, including those with large Muslim populations, such as Crimea, were lost to the Russian Empire. However, the Ottomans under Abdul Hamid I claimed a diplomatic victory by assigning themselves the protectors of Muslims in Russia as part of the peace treaty. This was the first time the Ottoman caliph was acknowledged as having political significance outside of Ottoman borders by a European power. As a consequence of this diplomatic victory, as the Ottoman borders were shrinking, the powers of the Ottoman caliph increased.

Around 1880 Sultan Abdul Hamid II reasserted the title as a way of countering the spread of Russian expansion into Muslim lands. His claim was most fervently accepted by the Muslims of British India. By the eve of the First World War, the Ottoman state, despite its weakness vis-à-vis Europe, represented the largest and most powerful independent Islamic political entity. But the sultan also enjoyed some authority beyond the borders of his shrinking empire as caliph of Muslims in Egypt, India and Central Asia.

Khilafat Movement, 1920

In the 1920s the Khilafat Movement, a movement to defend the Ottoman Caliphate, spread throughout the British colonial territories in what is now Pakistan. It was particularly strong in British India, where it formed a rallying point for some Indian Muslims as one of many anti-British Indian political movements. Its leaders included Maulana Mohammad Ali, his brother Shawkat Ali, and Abul Kalam Azad, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, and Barrister Muhammad Jan Abbasi. For a time it worked in alliance with Hindu communities and was supported by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who was a member of the Central Khilafat Committee.[7][8] However, the movement lost its momentum after the arrest or flight of its leaders, and a series of offshoots splintered off from the main organization.

End of the Caliphate, 1924

On March 3, 1924, the first President of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as part of his reforms, constitutionally abolished the institution of the Caliphate. Its powers within Turkey were transferred to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (parliament) of the newly formed Turkish Republic and the title has since been inactive.

Scattered attempts to revive the Caliphate elsewhere in the Muslim world were made in the years immediately following its abandonment by Turkey, but none were successful. Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, the title of the former governors of the Hejaz, who aided the British during World War I and revolted against Istanbul, declared himself Caliph two days after Turkey relinquished the title. But his claim was largely ignored, and he was soon ousted and driven out of Arabia by Ibn Saud, a rival who had no interest in the Caliphate. The last Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI made a similar attempt to re-establish himself as Caliph in the Hejaz after leaving Turkey, but he was also unsuccessful. A summit was convened at Cairo in 1926 to discuss the revival of the Caliphate, but most Muslim countries did not participate and no action was taken to implement the summit's resolutions.

Though the title Ameer al-Mumineen was adopted by the King of Morocco and Mullah Mohammed Omar, former head of the now-defunct Taliban regime of Afghanistan, neither claimed any legal standing or authority over Muslims outside the borders of their respective countries. The closest thing to a Caliphate in existence today is the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an international organization with limited influence founded in 1969 consisting of the governments of most Muslim-majority countries.

Religious basis

Quran

The following excerpt from the Qur'an, known as the 'The Istikhlaf Verse', is used by some to argue for a Quranic basis for Caliphate:

" God has promised those of you who have attained to faith and do righteous deeds that, of a certainty, He will cause them to accede to power on earth, even as He caused [some of] those who lived before them to accede to it; and that, of a certainty, He will firmly establish for them the religion which He has been pleased to bestow on them; and that, of a certainty, He will cause their erstwhile state of fear to be replaced by a sense of security [seeing that] they worship Me [alone], not ascribing divine powers to aught beside Me. But all who, after [having understood] this, choose to deny the truth - it is they, they who are truly iniquitous!"[24:55] (Surah Al-Nur, Verse 55)

Small subsections of Sunni Islamism argue that to govern a state by Islamic law (Shariah) is, by definition, to rule via the Caliphate, and use the following verses to sustain their claim.

So govern between the people by that which God has revealed (Islam), and follow not their vain desires, beware of them in case they seduce you from just some part of that which God has revealed to you

[Qur'an 004:049]

O you who believe! Obey God, and obey the messenger and then those among you who are in authority; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to God and the messenger's rulings, if you are (in truth) believers in God and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end.

[Qur'an 004:059]

Hadith

The following Hadith from Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal can be understood to prophesy two eras of Caliphate (both on the lines/precepts of prophethood).

"Hadhrat Huzaifa narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: Prophethood will remain among you as long as Allah wills. Then Caliphate (Khilafah) on the lines of Prophethood shall commence, and remain as long as Allah wills. Then corrupt/erosive monarchy would take place, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. After that, despotic kingship would emerge, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. Then, the Caliphate (Khilafah) shall come once again based on the precept of Prophethood."[9]

In the above Hadith the first era of Caliphate is commonly accepted by the Muslims as that of the Rashidun Caliphate.

Nafi'a reported saying:

It has been reported on the authority of Nafi, that 'Abdullah b. Umar paid a visit to Abdullah b. Muti' in the days (when atrocities were perpetrated on the People Of Medina) at Harra in the time of Yazid b. Mu'awiya. Ibn Muti' said: Place a pillow for Abu 'Abd al-Rahman (family name of 'Abdullah b. 'Umar). But the latter said: I have not come to sit with you. I have come to you to tell you a tradition I heard from the Messenger of Allah. I heard him say: One who withdraws his band from obedience (to the Amir) will find no argument (in his defence) when he stands before Allah on the Day of Judgment, and one who dies without having bound himself by an oath of allegiance (to an Amir) will die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahillyya. - Sahih Muslim, Book 020, Hadith 4562.

Hisham ibn Urwah reported on the authority of Abu Saleh on the authority of Abu Hurairah that Muhammad said:

Leaders will take charge of you after me, where the pious (one) will lead you with his piety and the impious (one) with his impiety, so only listen to them and obey them in everything which conforms with the truth (Islam). If they act rightly it is for your credit, and if they acted wrongly it is counted for you and against them.

Muslim narrated on the authority of al-A'araj, on the authority of Abu Hurairah, that Muhammad said:

Behold, the Imam (Caliph) is but a shield from behind whom the people fight and by whom they defend themselves.

Muslim reported on the authority of Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, who said,

I accompanied Abu Hurairah for five years and heard him talking of Muhammd's saying: The Prophets ruled over the children of Israel, whenever a Prophet died another Prophet succeeded him, but there will be no Prophet after me. There will be Khalifahs and they will number many. They asked: What then do you order us? He said: Fulfil the baya'a to them one after the other and give them their due. Surely God will ask them about what He entrusted them with.

The Sahaba of Muhammad

Al-Habbab Ibn ul-Munthir said, when the Sahaba met in the wake of the death of Muhammad, (at the thaqifa hall) of Bani Sa’ida:

Let there be one Amir from us and one Amir from you (meaning one from the Ansar and one from the Mohajireen).

Upon this Abu Bakr replied:

It is forbidden for Muslims to have two Amirs (rulers)...

Then he got up and addressed the Muslims.[10][11][12][13][14][15]

It has additionally been reported[16] that Abu Bakr went on to say on the day of Al-Saqifa:

It is forbidden for Muslims to have two Amirs for this would cause differences in their affairs and concepts, their unity would be divided and disputes would break out amongst them. The Sunnah would then be abandoned, the bida’a (innovations) would spread and Fitna would grow, and that is in no one’s interests.

The Sahaba agreed to this and selected Abu Bakr as their first Khaleef. Habbab ibn Mundhir who suggested the idea of two Ameers corrected himself and was the first to give Abu Bakr the Bay'ah. This indicates an Ijma as-Sahaba of all of the Sahaba. Ali ibni abi Talib, who was attending the body of Muhammad at the time, also consented to this.

Imam Ali whom the Shia revere said[17]:

People must have an Amir...where the believer works under his Imara (rule) and under which the unbeliever would also benefit, until his rule ended by the end of his life (ajal), the booty (fay’i) would be gathered, the enemy would be fought, the routes would be made safe, the strong one will return what he took from the weak till the tyrant would be contained, and not bother anyone.

The sayings of Islamic scholars

Al-Mawardi says[18]:

It is forbidden for the Ummah (Muslim world) to have two leaders at the same time.

Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi (Al-Nawawi) says[19]:

It is forbidden to give an oath to two leaders or more, even in different parts of the world and even if they are far apart.

Ahmad al-Qalqashandi says[20]:

It is forbidden to appoint two leaders at the same time.

Ibnu Hazm says[21]:

It is permitted to have only one leader (of the Muslims) in the whole of the world.

Al-sha’rani says[22]:

It is forbidden for Muslims to have in the whole world and at the same time two leaders whether in agreement or discord.

Al-Qadhi Abdul-Jabbar (he is a Mu’tazela scholar), says[23]:

It is forbidden to give the oath to more than one.

Al-Joziri says[24]:

The Imams (scholars of the four schools of thought)- may Allah have mercy on them- agree that the Caliphate is an obligation, and that the Muslims must appoint a leader who would implement the injunctions of the religion, and give the oppressed justice against the oppressors. It is forbidden for Muslims to have two leaders in the world whether in agreement or discord.

The Shia schools of thought and others expressed the same opinion about this[25][26][27][28]

Al-Qurtubi said in his Tafsir[29] of the verse, "Indeed, man is made upon this earth a Caliph"[30] that:

This Ayah is a source in the selection of an Imaam, and a Khaleef, he is listened to and he is obeyed, for the word is united through him, and the Ahkam (laws) of the Caliph are implemented through him, and there is no difference regarding the obligation of that between the Ummah, nor between the Imams except what is narrated about al-Asam, the Mu'tazzili ...

Al-Qurtubi also said:

The Khilafah is the pillar upon which other pillars rest

An-Nawawi said[31]:

(The scholars) consented that it is an obligation upon the Muslims to select a Khalif

Al-Ghazali when writing of the potential consequences of losing the Caliphate said[32]:

The judges will be suspeneded, the Wilayaat (provinces) will be nullified, ... the decrees of those in authority will not be executed and all the people will be on the verge of Haraam

Ibn Taymiyyah said[33]:

It is obligatory to know that the office in charge of commanding over the people (ie: the post of the Khaleefah) is one of the greatest obligations of the Deen. In fact, there is no establishment of the Deen except by it....this is the opinion of the salaf, such as al-Fadl ibn 'Iyaad, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and others

Reestablishment of the Caliphate

Once the subject of intense conflict and rivalry amongst Muslim rulers, the caliphate has lain dormant and largely unclaimed since the 1920s. For some ordinary Muslims the caliph as leader of the community of believers, "is cherished both as memory and ideal"[34] as a time when Muslims "enjoyed scientific and military superiority globally,"[35] though "not an urgent concern" compared to issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[34]

Tight restrictions on political activity in many Muslim countries, coupled with the obstacles to uniting over 50 nation-states under a single institution and a lack of interest from all Muslims apart from some groups (like Hizb ut-Tahrir), have ensured that calls to revive the Caliphate have remained muted. Popular apolitical Islamic movements such as the Tablighi Jamaat identify a lack of spirituality and decline in personal religious observance as the root cause of the Muslim world's problems, and claim that the caliphate cannot be successfully revived until these deficiencies are addressed. No attempts at rebuilding a power structure based on Islam were successful anywhere in the Muslim world until the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which was based on Shia principles and whose leaders did not outwardly call for the restoration of a pan-Islamic Caliphate.

Islamist call

A number of Islamist political parties and Islamist guerrilla groups have called for the restoration of the caliphate by uniting Muslim nations, either through political action (e.g., Hizb ut-Tahrir) or through force (e.g., al-Qaeda).[36] Various Islamist movements have gained momentum in recent years with the ultimate aim of establishing a Caliphate; however, they differ in their methodology and approach. Some are locally-oriented, mainstream political parties that have no apparent transnational objectives.

Pioneer Islamist Abul Ala Maududi believed the caliph was not just an individual ruler who had to be restored, but was man's representation of God's authority on earth;

Khilafa means representative. Man, according to Islam is the representative of "people", His (God's) viceregent; that is to say, by virtue of the powers delegated to him, and within the limits prescribed by the Qu'ran and the teaching of the prophet, the caliph is required to exercise Divine authority.[37]

The Muslim Brotherhood advocates pan-Islamic unity and implementing Islamic law, it is the largest and most influential Islamic group in the world, and its offshoots form the largest opposition parties in most Arab governments.[38] Founder Hassan al-Banna wrote about the restoration of the Caliphate.[39]

One of clearly stated goals of the radical Islamist group al-Qaeda's is the re-establishment of a caliphate.[40] Bin Laden has called for Muslims to "establish the righteous caliphate of our umma."[41] Al Qaeda recently named its Internet newscast from Iraq "The Voice of the Caliphate."[42]

According to author Lawrence Wright, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an active member of the Muslim Brotherhood, "sought to restore the caliphate, the rule of Islamic clerics, which had formally ended in 1924 following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire but which had not exercised real power since the thirteenth century. Once caliphate was established, Zawahiri believed, Egypt would become a rallying point for the rest of the Islamic world, leading the jihad against the West. "Then history would make a new turn, God willing," Zawahiri later wrote, "in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and the world’s Jewish government."[43]

One transnational group whose ideology is based specifically on restoring the caliphate as a pan-Islamic state, is Hizb ut-Tahrir (literally: "party of liberation"). It is particularly strong in Central Asia, Europe and growing in strength in the Arab world and is based on the claim that Muslim can prove that God exists[44] and that the Qur'an is the word of God.[45][46] Hizb-Ut-Tahrir stated strategy is a non-violent political and intellectual struggle.

Opposition

Scholar Olivier Roy writes that "early on, Islamists replace the concept of the caliphate ... with that of the amir." There were a number of reasons including "that according to the classical authors, a caliph must be a member of the tribe of the Prophet (the Quraysh) ... moreover, caliphs ruled societies that the Islamists do not consider to have been Islamic (the Ottoman Empire)." [47] (This is not the view of all Islamist groups, as both the Muslim Brotherhood (the largest) and Hizb ut-Tahrir view the Ottoman state as a caliphate.[48] [49].)

United States President George W. Bush has mentioned the Caliphate in speeches on the War on Terrorism claiming it as an integral part of the radical Islamic ideology at war with Western freedom. (No References)

Political system

Electing or appointing a Caliph

Fred Donner, in his book The Early Islamic Conquests (1981), argues that the standard Arabian practice during the early Caliphates was for the prominent men of a kinship group, or tribe, to gather after a leader's death and elect a leader from amongst themselves, although there was no specified procedure for this shura, or consultative assembly. Candidates were usually from the same lineage as the deceased leader, but they were not necessarily his sons. Capable men who would lead well were preferred over an ineffectual direct heir, as there was no basis in the majority Sunni view that the head of state or governor should be chosen based on lineage alone.

This argument is advanced by Sunni Muslims, who believe that Muhammad's companion Abu Bakr was elected by the community and that this was the proper procedure. They further argue that a caliph is ideally chosen by election or community consensus, even though the caliphate soon became a hereditary office, or the prize of the strongest general.

Al-Mawardi has written that the caliph should be Qurayshi. Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani has said that the leader of the Muslims simply should be from the majority. The founder of the biggest Sunni Madh'hab, Imam Abu Hanifa also wrote that the Caliph must be chosen by the majority.[1]

Sunni belief

Following the death of Muhammad, a meeting took place at Saqifah. At that meeting, Abu Bakr was elected caliph by the Muslim community. Sunni Muslims developed the belief that the caliph is a temporal political ruler, appointed to rule within the bounds of Islamic law (Sharia). The job of adjudicating orthodoxy and Islamic law was left to Islamic lawyers, judiciary, or specialists individually termed as Mujtahids and collectively named the Ulema. The first four caliphs are called the Rashidun meaning the Rightly Guided Caliphs, because they are believed to have followed the Qur'an and the sunnah (example) of Muhammad in all things.

Shi'a belief

Shi'a Muslims believe in the Imamate, in which the rulers are selected from Muhammad's Ahl al-Bayt. They believe that before his death, Muhammad had given many indications, in Ghadir Khumm particularly, that he considered Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, as his divinely chosen successor. They say that Abu Bakr had seized power by threatening and using force against Ali, and so Shi'a Muslims consider the three caliphs before Ali as usurpers. Ali and his descendants, the twelve Imams, are believed to have been the only proper leaders.

In the absence of a Caliphate headed by their Imams, some Shi'a believe that the system of Islamic government based on Vilayat-e Faqih, where an Islamic jurist or faqih rules Muslims, suffices. However this idea, developed by the Marja (Ayatollah) Ruhollah Khomeini and established in Iran, is not universally accepted among Shi'as.

Majlis al-Shura: Parliament

Traditional Sunni Islamic lawyers agree that shura, loosely translated as 'consultation of the people', is a function of the caliphate. The Majlis al-Shura advise the caliph. The importance of this is premised by the following verses of the Qur'an:

“...those who answer the call of their Lord and establish the prayer, and who conduct their affairs by Shura. [are loved by God]”[42:38]

“...consult them (the people) in their affairs. Then when you have taken a decision (from them), put your trust in Allah”[3:159]

The majlis is also the means to elect a new caliph. Al-Mawardi has written that members of the majlis should satisfy three conditions: they must be just, they must have enough knowledge to distinguish a good caliph from a bad one, and must have sufficient wisdom and judgment to select the best caliph. Al-Mawardi also said in emergencies when there is no caliphate and no majlis, the people themselves should create a majlis, select a list of candidates for caliph, then the majlis should select from the list of candidates.[1]

Some modern interpretations of the role of the Majlis al-Shura include those by Islamist author Sayyid Qutb and by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, the founder of a transnational political movement devoted to the revival of the Caliphate. In an analysis of the shura chapter of the Qur'an, Qutb argued Islam requires only that the ruler consult with at least some of the ruled (usually the elite), within the general context of God-made laws that the ruler must execute. Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, writes that Shura is important and part of the "the ruling structure" of the Islamic caliphate, "but not one of its pillars," and may be neglected without the Caliphate's rule becoming unIslamic. Non-Muslims may serve in the majlis, though they may not vote or serve as an official.

Accountability of rulers

Sunni Islamic lawyers have commented on when it is permissible to disobey, impeach or remove rulers in the Caliphate. This is usually when the rulers are not meeting public responsibilities obliged upon them under Islam.

Al-Mawardi said that if the rulers meet their Islamic responsibilities to the public, the people must obey their laws, but if they become either unjust or severely ineffective then the Caliph or ruler must be impeached via the Majlis al-Shura. Similarly Al-Baghdadi[clarification needed] believed that if the rulers do not uphold justice, the ummah via the majlis should give warning to them, and if unheeded then the Caliph can be impeached. Al-Juwayni argued that Islam is the goal of the ummah, so any ruler that deviates from this goal must be impeached. Al-Ghazali believed that oppression by a caliph is enough for impeachment. Rather than just relying on impeachment, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani obliged rebellion upon the people if the caliph began to act with no regard for Islamic law. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said that to ignore such a situation is haraam, and those who cannot revolt inside the caliphate should launch a struggle from outside. Al-Asqalani used two ayahs from the Qur'an to justify this:

“...And they (the sinners on qiyama) will say, 'Our Lord! We obeyed our leaders and our chiefs, and they misled us from the right path. Our Lord! Give them (the leaders) double the punishment you give us and curse them with a very great curse'...”[33:67–68]

Islamic lawyers commented that when the rulers refuse to step down via successful impeachment through the Majlis, becoming dictators through the support of a corrupt army, if the majority agree they have the option to launch a revolution against them. Many noted that this option is only exercised after factoring in the potential cost of life.[1]

Rule of Law

The following hadith establishes the principle of rule of law in relation to nepotism and accountability[50]

Narrated ‘Aisha: The people of Quraish worried about the lady from Bani Makhzum who had committed theft. They asked, "Who will intercede for her with Allah's Apostle?" Some said, "No one dare to do so except Usama bin Zaid the beloved one to Allah's Apostle." When Usama spoke about that to Allah's Apostle Allah's Apostle said: "Do you try to intercede for somebody in a case connected with Allah’s Prescribed Punishments?" Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying, "What destroyed the nations preceding you, was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah's Legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad (my daughter) stole, I would cut off her hand."

Various Islamic lawyers do however place multiple conditions, and stipulations e.g. the poor cannot be penalised for stealing out of poverty, before executing such a law, making it very difficult to reach such a stage. It is well known during a time of drought in the Rashidun caliphate period, capital punishments were suspended until the effects of the drought passed.

Islamic jurists later formulated the concept of the rule of law, the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land, where no person is above the law and where officials and private citizens are under a duty to obey the same law. A Qadi (Islamic judge) was also not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of religion, race, colour, kinship or prejudice. There were also a number of cases where Caliphs had to appear before judges as they prepared to take their verdict.[51]

According to Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University, the legal scholars and jurists who once upheld the rule of law were replaced by a law governed by the state due to the codification of Sharia by the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century:[52]

Economy

During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, the Caliphate understood that real incentives were needed to increase productivity and wealth, thus enhancing tax revenues, hence they introduced a social transformation through the changed ownership of land,[53] where any individual of any gender[54] or any ethnic or religious background had the right to buy, sell, mortgage and inherit land for farming or any other purposes. They also introduced the signing of a contract for every major financial transaction concerning agriculture, industry, commerce, and employment. Copies of the contract were usually kept by both parties involved.[53]

Early forms of proto-capitalism and free markets were present in the Caliphate,[55] where an early market economy and early form of merchant capitalism was developed between the 8th-12th centuries, which some refer to as "Islamic capitalism".[56] A vigorous monetary economy was created on the basis of the expanding levels of circulation of a stable high-value currency (the dinar) and the integration of monetary areas that were previously independent. Innovative new business techniques and forms of business organisation were introduced by economists, merchants and traders during this time. Such innovations included early trading companies, credit cards, big businesses, contracts, bills of exchange, long-distance international trade, early forms of partnership (mufawada) such as limited partnerships (mudaraba), and early forms of credit, debt, profit, loss, capital (al-mal), capital accumulation (nama al-mal),[57] circulating capital, capital expenditure, revenue, cheques, promissory notes,[58] trusts (waqf), startup companies,[59] savings accounts, transactional accounts, pawning, loaning, exchange rates, bankers, money changers, ledgers, deposits, assignments, the double-entry bookkeeping system,[60] and lawsuits.[61] Organizational enterprises similar to corporations independent from the state also existed in the medieval Islamic world.[62][63] Many of these concepts were adopted and further advanced in medieval Europe from the 13th century onwards.[57]

The concepts of welfare and pension were introduced in early Islamic law as forms of Zakat (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, since the time of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur in the 8th century. The taxes (including Zakat and Jizya) collected in the treasury of an Islamic government was used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. According to the Islamic jurist Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058-1111), the government was also expected to store up food supplies in every region in case a disaster or famine occurs. The Caliphate was thus one of the earliest welfare states.[64]

The Islamic Empire experienced a growth in literacy, having the highest literacy rate of the Middle Ages, comparable to Athens' literacy in Classical Antiquity but on a larger scale.[65] The average life expectancy in the lands under Islamic rule also experienced an increase, due to the Muslim Agricultural Revolution as well as improved medical care. In contrast to the average lifespan in the ancient Greco-Roman world (22-28 years),[66][67] the average lifespan in the early Islamic Caliphate was more than 35 years.[68] The average lifespans of the Islamic scholarly class in particular was much higher: 84.3 years in 10th-11th century Iraq and Persia,[69] 72.8 years in the 11th century Middle East, 69-75 years in 11th century Islamic Spain,[70] 75 years in 12th century Persia,[71] and 59-72 years in 13th century Persia.[72]

Famous caliphs

  • Abu Bakr - First Rashidun (Four Righteously Guided Caliphs) of the Sunnis. Subdued rebel tribes in the Ridda wars.
  • Umar (Umar ibn al-Khattab) - Second Rashidun. During his reign, the Islamic empire expanded to include Egypt, Jerusalem, and Persia.
  • Uthman Ibn Affan - Third Rashidun. The Qur'an was compiled under his direction. Killed by rebels.
  • Ali (Ali ibn Abu Talib) - Fourth and last Rashidun, and considered the first imam by Shi'a Muslims. His reign was fraught with internal conflict.
  • Hasan ibn Ali - Fifth Caliph (considered as "rightly guided" by many Sunnis as well as Shias). He ruled for six months only and handed the powers to Muawiyah I in order to unite the Muslims again.
  • Muawiyah I - First caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. Muawiyah instituted dynastic rule by appointing his son Yazid I as his successor, a trend that would continue through subsequent caliphates.
  • Umar ibn AbdulAziz - Umayyad caliph considered by some (mainly Sunnis) to be a sixth true and legitimate caliph under Islamic Laws of electing Caliph.
  • Harun al-Rashid - An Abbasid caliph during whose reign Baghdad became the world's prominent centre of trade, learning, and culture. Harun is the subject of many stories in the famous work One Thousand and One Nights.
  • Suleiman the Magnificent - Early Ottoman Sultan during whose reign the Ottoman Empire reached its zenith.
  • Abdul Hamid II - The last Ottoman Sultan to rule with absolute power.
  • Abdülmecid II - The last Caliph of the Ottoman Dynasty, the 101st Caliph in line from Caliph Abu Bakr and nominally the 37th Head of the Ottoman Imperial House.

Further reading

See also

  • Hizb_ut-Tahrir
  • Al-Muhajiroun
  • Caliph
  • Islamic Golden Age
  • Islamic state
  • List of countries spanning more than one continent
  • Muslim Agricultural Revolution
  • Shah
  • Sheikh ul-Islam
  • Twelver Shi`ism

Notes

References

  • Donner, Fred: The Early Islamic Conquests, Princeton University Press, 1981.
  • Crone, Patricia and Hinds, Martin: God's Caliph, Cambridge University Press, 1986.
  • Wright, Lawrence (2007). The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. London: Vintage. ISBN 9781400030842. 

External links