Dr Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It is an undeniable fact that for the past many centuries, the word khilafah is being used. However, it is certainly not a religious term. Religious terms cannot be coined by scholars like Razi, Ghazali, Mawardi, Ibn Haazm and Ibn Khuldun. Similarly, not every word that Mulims start using in a particular sense becomes a religious term.

On the contrary, religious terms can only be coined by God and His messengers, and are acceptable only when their meaning as a term is validated from the Quran and Hadith or other divine scriptures. Words such as sawm, salah, hajj and umrah etc are regarded as religions terms because God and His messengers have accorded them this status, and have used them at various instances as terms. On the other hand, the word khilafah is of the Arabic language and means ‘vicegerency’, ‘succession’, and ‘political authority’, It is used as a common Arabic word in one of these meanings at all places in the Quran and Hadith. It may be noted that certain verses of the Quran have generally been cited to convince people that they are used as terms.

In all such verses, people have not translated the words khilafah in the translation of the verses and have kept them intact in their original Arabic form. By doing this they want to give the impression that these words have been used as terms. If all these verses are looked up in any authentic translation, one will be at a loss to understand how this inference was made, just as one of my critics seems to be at a loss at the inferences made by me.

Presented below are the translations of two very competent scholars:

Verse 40 of Surah Baqarah: 1.

And when your Lord said to the angels: “I have to make a naib (deputy) in the earth.” (Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir)

And when your Lord told the angels: “I will make a naib (deputy) in the earth.” (Mahmud al-Hasan)

2. Verse 26 of Surah Suad:

O David! We have made you a naib (deputy) in the country; so govern people with justice. (Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir)

O David! We have made you a naib (deputy) in the country; so govern people with justice. (Mahmud al-Hasan)

3. Verse 55 of Surah Nur:

God has promised that those among you who have accepted faith and have done righteous deeds, in fact He will in the coming times make them hakim (rulers) in the country the way He made hakim (rulers) those prior to them. (Shah ‘Abd al-Qadir)

God has promised those among you who have accepted faith and have done righteous deeds, in fact He will in the coming times make them hakim in the country the way He made rulers those prior to them. (Mahmud al-Hasan)

The words naib and hakim used in these verses are translation of the Arabic words khalifah and istikhlaf, and it is quite evident that they do not have any religious connotation in them except if a person claims that every word used in the Quran becomes a religious term.

Similar is the case with the Ahadith and Athar. The word khalifah and all its derivatives are used in them in the same meanings as the ones stated earlier. So much so that in one Hadith, the word khalifah is used for God Himself in the meaning of ‘successor’. It is for this very reason that when meanings such as ‘rightly guided government’ or ‘government in accordance with the way of Prophethood’ need to be expressed, then words such as rashidah and ‘ala minhaj al-nubuwwah have to be appended with the word khilafah. By regarding such appended words to be understood with the word khilafah, our scholars have made khilafah a term.

As such, it is a term of political science and sociology of the Muslims just as the words fiqh, kalam, hadith etc have become terms – but it cannot be regarded as a religious term. No one except God and His Messenger has the authority to coin a religious term. This is solely their prerogative. If some word is regarded as a religious term, then it has to be deduced from the words of these two authorities. It cannot be adduced from works like the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun.

As far as the view that according to Islam there should be only one global government in the world is concerned, it is evident to every person of learning that the Quran is absolutely devoid of any such directive. Two Ahadith are, however, cited in favour of this view. One of them is: God’s Messenger (sws) is reported to have said that prophets ruled the Israelites; so, when one of them passed away, another would take his place; but there is no prophet after me; however, there will be rulers and they will be plenty. It was asked: “What is your directive about them O Prophet!” He replied: “Fulfil your oath of allegiance with the first one and then with the one who is the first after him,” (Bukhari no. 3455; Muslim, no. 1842).

The second Hadith is: “When the oath of allegiance is pledged to two rulers, kill the second one” (Muslim, no. 1853). Though this second narrative is not sound as far as its chain of narration is concerned, yet even if it is regarded to be correct, it is an incontestable reality that none of these Ahadith state in any sense what has been derived from them. What is said in these narratives is that if Muslims pledge their oath of allegiance to a ruler and then another person rebels against him and invites people to pledge allegiance to him, then each Muslim should adhere to his first oath of allegiance. Moreover, if the second person claims to be their ruler and some people even pledge their oath of allegiance to him, then he should be executed.

Such is the nature of these directives that their cogency can be made evident to every person. Thus, after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when a member of the Ansar tribe suggested that a ruler each from the Ansar and the Muhajirun should be appointed, ‘Umar (RA) on this very principle opined that two swords cannot exist in one sheathe, and Aba Bakr (RA) also cautioned people at this instance that a state can only have one ruler. This is because such an arrangement will result in severe differences, disorder instead of order will arise and the discipline of the state will be ruined, and instead of [following] the way on which the Prophet (pbuh) left his people this religious innovation that one state will be governed by two rulers will emerge. (Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Sunan al-kubra, no. 16549, 16550)

If the ascription of these Ahadith to the Prophet (pbuh) is correct, then they imply what has been explained above. No logic can adduce from them that Islam has directed its followers to set up a single government in the whole world. Similarly, no reasoning can deduce from these narratives that if the adherents of Islam are able to convert the majority of people of other countries to Islam, they cannot set up their own government and if they do so, as in the case of today’s fifty-odd Muslims countries, they will be regarded as sinners.

Scholars of Islam must bear in mind that the precepts of God’s religion must remain pure and unaltered. No scholar, jurist or Hadith doctor has the authority to make people liable for a directive for which the Almighty has not made them liable. Hence I have written and would like to repeat that the establishment of United States of Islam based on the union of countries in which Muslims are in majority can be the desire of every person and we can also strive to fulfil this desire, but there is no basis that such a union is a directive of the Islamic Shariah, defying which Muslims would be committing a sin.

The writer is a theologian, scholar and educationist.