إن الحمد لله نحمده ونستعينه ، ونعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ومن سيئات أعمالنا من يهده الله فلا مضل ومن يضلل فلا هادي له ، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له وأشهد أن محمدا عبده ورسوله صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وأصحابه وسلم تسليما كثيرا
A relatively recent article published by Yaqeen “in nothing” Institute entitled “Who Wants the Caliphate?” by Professor of Islamic Studies, Ovamir Anjum, is being hailed as the comprehensive conservative assessment on the issue of the caliphate. The article attempts to answer the question of what the caliphate is, and then, given the restrictions of the Qur’an and Sunnah, what sort of implementation can be accepted. This article penetrated so deeply with conservative Muslims and activists I know that I am often told “pretty much everything was good except for the conclusion”. I am not writing this article to blame the reader who may be thinking this, nor is it being written to ‘advise’ the author – who in fact is engaging in a very conscious project of religious brainwashing. Rather, the purpose of this review and Qur’an and Sunnah-based deconstruction is to point out that Anjum’s article, along with nearly all of Yaqeen’s recent publications, is a project engineered to deliberately target and create doubt (the opposite of ‘yaqeen’, mind you) in the minds of my fellow Muslims by using difficult Islamic legal concepts with fake or cherry-picked quotations from primary sources to convince you that a conclusion with no limit to the evil and shirk contained in it, we respect is because it “seems like” the author tried to use the Qur’an and Sunnah. The only parallel I can think of is how Israeli media manages to – with full confidence and self-righteousness – actually convince people that they are being oppressed by the Palestinian people. If anything, this line of so-called scholarship is worse, because it convinces you from a position of authority that the most deviant of views are based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. We know the saying: the hypocrite is worse than the open enemy.
In this classic line-by-line refutation of Anjum’s work – who made sure to enlist all of the pretend-conservative reform Muslims (see: Author Acknowledgements) – I intend to point out all objectionable and potentially objectionable material in the article. Keep in mind that areas where he explicitly opposes the Qur’an, Sunnah, and tawhīd (the Unity of Allah) are the most important for the reader.
It will be shown, firstly, that the caliphate upon the method of prophecy is an obligation upon the ummah. This is denied repeatedly in the article being responded to. Secondly, it is shown that all other alternatives to the khilāfah on the method of prophecy are both against the textual evidence – and the entirety of Islam itself – and against the material benefit of the Muslim nation.
The Refutation: Prelude
Anjum starts by saying “A word loaded like no other, “caliphate” summons deep memories and desires for some and ominous fears for others.”
Let us make this clear: the word caliphate (khilāfah in Arabic) is no more complex or ‘loaded’ in meanings or implications than the word ‘Allah’, ‘Qur’an’, or any other word used in the Qur’an or Sunnah. All of the words Allah and His messenger عليه السلام used to describe something – like the ideal form of government, distinct from democracy, monarchy, and all other forms – are made with the utmost clarity, and no amount of distortion by liberal mainstream media or accusations of far-right non-Muslims will ever change that. Our ability to understand these terms and hold them dear to us with the meanings transmitted from the first generation of Muslims is a show of faith and religion, as the messenger of Allah عليه السلام said: “religion [dīn] is sincerity [nasīha]…to Allah, His book, His messenger, to the leaders of the Muslims and the common folk” (Sahih Muslim 1/198).
He then states, “For some fourteen centuries, notwithstanding some discontinuities, the Muslim world had been synonymous with the caliphate. The loss of the Ottoman Caliphate after the First World War sent convulsive waves of shock and lament throughout the lands of Islam, the idea of its return inspiring numerous movements and intellectual projects. Its lure, however, receded in the short-lived excitement of post-colonial state-building in the shadow of the Cold War.”
This is an entirely false proposition. The notion being perpetuated (although was not intended by the author) is that there was a unified understanding of what the caliphate was – or even worse, that ‘caliphate’ is defined as whatever the people in their times and context defined it as; this amounts to deliberately misreading the Qur’an and Sunnah, as will be discussed later. Secondly, it claims that “its lure…receded in the short-lived excitement of post-colonial state-building in the shadow of the Cold War”. Firstly, state-building was alive and well in the world during the Ottoman Caliphate – and one of the reasons to its downfall was precisely its attempt to incorporate parts of the western concept of the ‘state’ into its government make-up (with Tanzimat Reforms). Secondly and most importantly, Anjum is clearly mistaken if he thinks that the ‘lure’ of the caliphate – if he means the Ummah’s love for it and desire to see it implemented – “receded” at any point in time. If anything, the hadith of the Prophet عليه السلام should have made it clear – as Anjum knows very well – that “There will never cease to be a group from my Ummah manifest upon the truth, they will not be harmed by those who forsake them until Allah’s Decree comes” (Tirmidhī, 2229).
Then, he says “Today, as the failure of this state-building becomes ever more spectacular, neoliberal economics and the global environmental collapse claim more victims, and the world system inches toward deglobalization and nativism, the idea of the caliphate as the only civilizational alternative that can safeguard the interests of the most vulnerable becomes stronger among Muslims globally. Although it is only beginning to attract scholarly attention, with every suppressed uprising in the Muslim world, every new cycle of terrorism and punitive war, every new Muslim population violated with impunity, and every new wall erected in Euro-America, the idea of a pan-Islamic union wins more converts.”
This one of the rare true statements you can find in the article, although we will soon see that it is not free from ulterior motives. It also seems to be swipe at the Trump Administration for erecting the US-Mexico wall. In any case, the most important point here is that the downfall of the New World Order will inevitably come not through nativism or deglobalization – not that the opposite ever existed in the west – but through the collapse of the world’s most powerful and oppressive economic system seen to man. Although Anjum may not be living in a Muslim country, he should know that the ugly face of capitalism lives contently in “most Muslim countries” that he claims to have visited. This inability to acknowledge the necessary downfall of a society and economy built entirely against the shari’ah – with interest, oppression of labour, Pax Americana imperialism, stock-market speculation, brainwashing children into believing the sustainability of a secular state, and most importantly, refusal to implement the divine law – will prove to be fatal to his argument below.
He says, “A recent boost for the idea of a good caliphate was the rise of a bad one. The meteoric rise and ignominious fall of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS; also known as ISIL: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), with all its promise and horror, threw the potency of the idea into sharp relief. Even populist leaders in the region have gestured toward it, none more than Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has capitalized on the growing global Muslim nostalgia for the Ottoman Caliphate. He recently declared that the Republic of Turkey is a continuation of the Ottoman Empire. “Sultan Erdogan,” as he is affectionately called by his admirers, fills a void that many Muslims worldwide feel with increasing poignancy. Although the Turkish president’s power may be short-lived, the aspirations he has stirred up are not.”
Anjum is no longer writing in the academic world. He no longer needs to appeal to the shared values (e.g., ‘good’/bad distinction) of old white men and feminists who make up his readership. Something is bad because it contradicts the Qur’an and the Sunnah, not because it is popular to call it bad in academia, the media, or civil society. The only reason something is ‘bad’ is because it sets an affront to Allah’s law and rule on earth. From that perspective – once we point out exactly where ISIS went wrong (somewhere around making takfīr of ahl al-sunnah) – we need to establish that any government or individual ruling in any way whatsoever, in a Muslim or non-Muslim country, contrary to the sharī’ah, is indeed opposing the Qur’an and Sunnah and deserves dispraise and disloyalty. Anything that goes against this view contradicts the well-established principle of divine rule in the Qur’an. I will quote them here, and direct the reader to read any tafsīr of any of these verses. You will find that every single one agrees on the impermissibility – if not declaration of kufr (without takfīr) – of ruling by, or supporting a system that rules by anything other than the divine law. Allah says, in the translation of the meaning:
“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result. Have you not seen those who claim to have believed in what was revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you? They wish to refer legislation to Taghut, while they were commanded to reject it; and Satan wishes to lead them far astray. And when it is said to them, “Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger,” you see the hypocrites turning away from you in aversion. So how [will it be] when disaster strikes them because of what their hands have put forth and then they come to you swearing by Allah, “We intended nothing but good conduct and accommodation.” … But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission” (Qur’an 4:59-65). Please consult: Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Tabarī, Tafsīr al-Rāzī, Ahkām al-Qur’ān by al-Qurtubi, Fath al-Qadīr by Imam Shawkānī.
As for the comment on Erdoğan, I can say for certain that his normal supporters don’t refer to him as “Sultan”. Usually, Reis (leader) or a similar term is used. Many conservative Muslims all over Turkey have no illusion that they are going to wake up under the Ottoman rule one day. Some have accepted the status quo of the modern state, while others continue to be rather naively optimistic. More importantly, the people should know that Erdoğan himself did not ‘stir’ any emotions within the Turkish population. This is a very important error! Erdoğan himself was a product of all of a national movement that had its peak in the 1990s. The notion that Erdoğan somehow saved or reignited Islamic thought in Turkey is one of the greatest insults made to the Turkish population and their political and ideological robustness (ironically, many Turks fall into the same trap).
He says, “Not too long ago, the advocates of resurrecting the caliphate were cast, not always unfairly, as being fanatics, romanticists, or die-hard traditionalists, nostalgic for a golden age that critics claimed never was. Mainstream Islamists, increasingly inclined or compelled to embrace nation-state politics, had adopted positions ranging from a vision paralleling the secular Christian democratic politics of Europe to a sheepish acknowledgment that a union of Muslim, or at least Arab, countries, imagined as a confederation of Muslim democracies like the European Union, was indeed desirable, if virtually out of reach.”
“Not always unfairly”. Again, a classic case of inverting the values of good and bad based on something other than the Qur’an and Sunnah. The question is: these people who are being dispraised, or are fairly being categorized with what he views as unfavorable terms – are they being praised or dispraised based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah, or not? First, Anjum is taking terms which are not in contradiction to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and then portraying them in a bad light. This is the second time in just the introduction that Anjum has shifted the criterion of morality from Allah’s perspective to the popular perspective (e.g., die-hard traditionalist=bad). Slips of the tongue and pen are telling of someone’s inner desires. Fanatic, romanticists, and die-hard traditionalism, in the literal sense of their terms, are in fact commendable if anything, if someone’s extreme zeal, traditionalism, and romanticization is for the Prophet عليه السلام and the first generation of Muslims. Anything else, of course, is very objectionable from the point of view of the Qur’an and Sunnah, including zealotry that comes in the form of extremism – again, an extremism which goes against the Qur’an and Sunnah (e.g., violence in the name of Islam not prescribed in the sharī’ah).
The word ‘Islamist’ is very problematic. Every Muslim is required to believe in the politics injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunnah. When the Messenger of Allah عليه السلام establishes a ruling for the Ummah, we have no choice but to accept it as Muslims. Hannah Arendt notes that every “ism” is any coherent ideology that can be traced to a single premise (really, there can be more than one). There is no “ism” that takes one away from Islam and turns him into an Islam-IST: these are two words for one concept. Finally, when it comes to Muslims’ insistence on nation-state politics or any form of federation or confederacy, know that we are existing the realm of the Qur’an and Sunnah with regard to command to implement the khilāfah. This becomes important later.
“Such pragmatists, for all their compromises, have largely failed in attaining their political goals or even avoiding massive persecution and, as the events after the Arab uprisings of 2011 show, seem to be losing the struggle for young Muslims’ imagination to newer, bolder visions. As the real and virtual images of the helplessness of Muslim masses and the betrayal of the Muslim elite circulate and grow, the idea of the ummah—the global community of Muslims—soars higher and sinks deeper, as does its natural complement, the caliphate, a unified government to care for all Muslims, especially the forgotten ones on the margins. As these margins widen, far outweighing the fewer and fewer protected populations of the Muslim lands, the call grows shriller. A recent New York Times article sheds light on the continuing power of the idea of the caliphate among Muslims worldwide, including those who abhorred ISIS and categorically condemned its violence as well as its religious outlook. The caliphate, the author found during her investigation, “was an idea with more appeal than many in the West wanted to admit.” The ensuing events—the vile, self-serving politics of Middle Eastern despots and the deepening rifts of sectarian violence—seem to have led to “a broad mainstream embrace of a collective Muslim identity that is global and overtly political and that has prompted young Muslims to view themselves as a collective community, for whom a homeland would provide solutions to trying circumstances.”
This is a glad tidings to the ummah, upon which the Prophet عليه السلام said: “There will be Prophethood for as long as Allah wills it to be, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be khilāfah on the Prophetic method and it will be for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be biting Kingship for as long as Allah Wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be oppressive kingship for as long as Allah wills, then he will remove it when He wills, and then there will be khilāfah upon the Prophetic method” and then he remained silent (Musnad Ahmad, 18406, hasan). The signs point to the return of this government. Let us see what Anjum thinks about it. Allah said, “They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it. It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although those who associate others with Allah dislike it” (Qur’ān 61:8-9).
The Refutation: Main Body
Anjum makes his first major slip: “The objections to the idea of resurrecting the caliphate, too, appear formidable. These are of three types: that it is undesirable, unfeasible, and/or religiously unnecessary. It is undesirable because it is a medieval, absolutist political system (if it can be called a system at all); it beckons to a primitive age prior to human rights, progress, citizenship, democracy, and religious freedom. Moreover, it is associated with terrorist outfits like ISIS and draws the worst kind of attention from both its supporters and its adversaries. It is unfeasible because the nation-state, whatever its flaws, is here to stay. Finally, it is religiously unnecessary because the caliphate, it is claimed, is not an Islamic religious institution to begin with but only a historical institution and one that never even existed for long in its ideal form as a unified authority over all Muslims. In this essay, I evaluate these claims.”
May Allah protect us from this kind of speech. How can a Muslim make the claim that objections to “resurrecting” the divinely promised and prophesized government upon the prophetic method “appear formidable”. While to the reason this type of phrasing seems unimportant – let alone worth refuting – however, it is important to point out each of these small mistakes for the main argument: that the author, and indeed the entire institute, has not the Qur’an and Sunnah on its mind, but rather making conservative Islam appealing to the west, which inevitably requires sacrificing the unambiguous orders of Allah and His messenger عليه السلام. Aa we see below, the only argument Anjum does not serious consider – in response to the objections – is that it contradicts the Allah’s order upon his nation, wherein he distinguished neither between feasibility, nor desirability among Muslims and non-Muslims in any place or time.
This refusal to accept the Qur’an and Sunnah as the absolute basis for all morality and judgement, both in terms of contrasting it to ‘desirability’ or popularity is precisely the cause that leads to a refusal to implement these orders on a practical level.
Anjum states, “The controversy around the caliphate is animated in part by the ambiguity of its significance; it may invoke, especially to its detractors, an absolutist medieval theocracy of one-man-rule or, to its reformist supporters, a confederation of Muslim governments after the model of the European Union (one, presumably, with a happier ending!). To some, it is a premodern alternative to contemporary political systems; to others, a postmodern union of Muslim-majority democratic nation-states. Both of these types of views miss part of the complexity and richness of the Islamic discursive tradition around the caliphate and need to be engaged and deconstructed. If understood as governance based on a just, accountable, human-rights-conscious, and decentralized union of the various Muslim regional governments with a unified economy and defense, it is my contention that the caliphate may be the only way to avoid the further spiraling degradation of Muslim societies and states into terrorist fiefdoms and, God forbid, a third world war. The idea that the caliphate—or the ideal caliphate—is unfeasible simply because it no longer exists is based on little more than a failure of imagination and intellectual courage. Democracy, after all, began its life in a limited fashion in a small Greek city-state, flourished for a couple of hundred years, and then disappeared for the following two thousand years. Even in its second incarnation, it emerged as a pejorative at first; the American Founding Fathers and the elite saw the idea of a “republican democracy” as an oxymoron but ultimately had to relent to popular pressures. There is no reason for an idea to be deemed unfeasible simply because it is not in vogue. At a minimum, caliphate means Muslim unity expressed in political terms, and as such, it is hardly an idea Muslims need to reinvent. It is present in every Qur’anic lesson on social existence, every Prophetic teaching, and every Friday sermon to this day. Throughout history, Muslims have agreed on the need for a political actualization of this idea; it not only predated Islamic law but was a condition of its birth and coherence. In reality, the caliphate did not always include all Muslim regions, and the idea of a total pan-Islamic unity has been an aspiration only rarely attained. In this respect, the ideal caliphate is no different from the ideal of a perfect democracy or even a sovereign nation-state. Such collective aspirations are rarely realized in their ideal form, yet they inspire personal and collective moral action for the majority of humankind in any given era. I call such ideals asymptotic ideals. An asymptote (fans of high-school Calculus will remember) is a line that approaches a curve but does not meet it at any finite distance.”
What does the caliphate really mean? This is very important to understand. No amount of unclear references to the Qur’an and Sunnah “on social, existence, every prophetic teaching, and every Friday sermon to this day” changes or reduces from the fact that the Prophet عليه السلام prescribed the ummah with a worldly system of governance. The response to this long quotation thus takes place in two parts:
One: Changing the Frame of Reference from the Qur’an to Man-Made Polemics
This is a very important problem with the article as a whole. The lack of reference to the specific and unambiguous establishment of the caliphate – along with a clear characterization of the type of government and its laws – makes the entirety of this debate between the ‘reformists’ and ‘traditionalists’ (i.e., himself) misguiding to the general public. If for instance, I was attempting to assemble an Ikea bed – we’ve all been there – and instead of the instruction manual, someone had placed an essay on the virtues of “why assembling things correctly” is a moral virtue, I would be left scratching my head – how come the manufacturer isn’t just telling me the answer? The downside of this faux instruction manual is, of course, that I don’t really know if I’m assembling it correctly when I’m in the process of doing it, and I have no instruction or picture to emulate. Now, to force the metaphor, if I were to engage in a debate with the author that “assembling things correctly” was not actually a virtue, I would be wrong (assuming I accept the concept of moral virtue and the benefit of a functioning bed). The ummah is the one making the bed, the bed is the caliphate, and Anjum is the one who wrote the essay. The point is that no amount of debate underlining the benefits or woes of the caliphate actually matters when the true question is: did Allah leave any instruction as to how to implement the caliphate? In part two, I show that there clearly is. For now, it suffices to say that Anjum is fundamentally deliberately avoiding discussion of the nass (textual evidence) in favour of polemics weighting its pros and cons.
Allah Himself in fact described precisely this form of thinking:
It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise – they are the foundation of the Book – and others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]. And no one knows its [true] interpretation except Allah . But those firm in knowledge say, “We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord.” And no one will be reminded except those of understanding” (Qur’ān 3:7).
The point here is that this lack of reference to the explicit texts makes the entire concept of the caliphate – let alone is ruling as obligatory, recommended, optional, etc. – as a matter of weighing pros and cons, or of defining these concepts the way in which they are understood by people other than the Prophet عليه السلام and his companions, the only people who matter. In other words, the conclusion that the ideal caliphate is not an obligation (discussed later) is based on an assumption that the Qur’an and Sunnah does not really matter.
Two: Opposing the Textual Evidence
With all that talk about textual evidence, it is worth mentioning the proof wherein the caliphate, as well as its obligation, is defined and contrasted to Anjum’s false, innovated definitions.
Evidence 1: Allah has the right to define justice and the law for humanity.
Hundreds, if not thousands of verses of the Qur’an affirm Allah’s authority, right, and all-prevailing justice over all of humanity, jinnkind, and even animal-kind (affirmed in the Sunnah). Consider the following statements which the scholars of tafsīr have affirmed their general meaning (although revealed within a context):
“Or have they other deities who have ordained for them a religion to which Allah has not consented? But if not for the decisive word, it would have been concluded between them. And indeed, the wrongdoers will have a painful punishment” (Sūrah al-Sūrā, verse 21).
“They are not but [mere] names you have named them – you and your forefathers – for which Allah has sent down no authority. They follow not except assumption and what [their] souls desire, and there has already come to them from their Lord guidance. Or is there for man whatever he wishes? Rather, to Allah belongs the Hereafter and the first [life]…although they have no knowledge regarding that. They only follow their conjecture and conjecture can never take the place of the Truth” (Sūrah al-Najm, verses 23-28).
“You worship not besides Him except [mere] names you have named them, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. Legislation is not but for Allah . He has commanded that you worship not except Him. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know” (Sūrah Yūsuf, verse 40).
“Say, “Allah is most knowing of how long they remained. He has [knowledge of] the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth. How Seeing is He and how Hearing! They have not besides Him any protector, and He shares not His legislation with anyone”” (Sūrah Kahf, verse 26).
Evidence 2: The Prophet has authority to establish divine law and command Muslims to obey it – at the cost of their Imān.
Allah commands obedience of the Shari’ah and reference and adherence to the prophet of Allah عليه السلام in the Qur’an many times; for affirming the transfer of political authority vis-à-vis the implementation of Divine Law (the shar’). This establishes the principle that every single law and position of authority itself be mandated by the Qur’an and sunnah. Refusing to refer these matters of legislation and government to Allah and His messenger come to the risk of one’s own faith. Al-Rāzī comments in his tafsīr on the verses quoted above (4:59-65):
The purpose of this is to point out that some people want to refer judgement to some of the people of tughyān and not ask judgement from Muhammad صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ. The Qāḍī [al-Bāqillānī] said: it is necessity that referring to judgement to these ṭāghūt is like disbeliever, and an absence of contentness with the judgement of Muhammad صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ is disbelief, which is proven in many ways. The first: that the Almighty said ‘they want to refer judgement to the ṭāghūt while they were ordered to disbelieve in them’, so he put referring judgement to the ṭāghūt as having belief in them, and there is no doubt that belief in the ṭāghūt is disbelief in Allah, as disbelief in them is belief in Allah. The second: His saying ‘nay, by your lord they will not believe until they make you judge between them’ to ‘and they will submit completely’: this is explicit proof of a declaration of disbelief those who are not content with the judgement of the messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ … Also, in these verses are proofs that one who rejects something from the orders of Allah or the Prophet is outside the fold of Islam, whether his rejection is out of doubt or disobedience, and that refers the authenticity of what the companions accepted in terms of legislation, by declaring as apostates those who withheld the zakāh… (Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Tafsīr al-fākhir al-rāzī, vol. 10, p. 159-160).
Evidence 3: The Prophet Signalled Towards the Existence of a Divinely-Mandated Government.
This is what is called khilāfah ‘alā minhāj al-nubuwwah, ‘Caliphate on the method of prophecy’, which is a concept universally accepted by the people of Ahl al-Sunnah, including those outside: the Shiites, Mu’tazilites, and even some Kharajites. I have already quoted the hadīth which establishes this. What comprises the content of this type of government and how can we distinguish it from others?
Evidence 4: The Prophet ordered, as a general principle, the following of this divinely-mandated government in all matters, including government and laws.
This has already been proved above, but it is worth bringing explicit evidence from the Sunnah, directly mandating the requirement of the entire Ummah, whom the Prophet ﷺ was addressing, to establish a caliphate based on the model mentioned above:
“One day after the morning Salat, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) exhorted us to the extent that the eyes wept and the hearts shuddered with fear. A man said: ‘Indeed this is a farewell exhortation. [So what] do you order us O Messenger of Allah?’ He said: ‘I order you to have Taqwa of Allah, and to listen and obey, even in the case of an Ethiopian slave. Indeed, whomever among you lives, he will see much difference. Beware of the newly invented matters, for indeed they are astray. Whoever among you sees that, then he must stick to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Caliphs, cling to it with the molars” (at-Tirmidhi 2676, al-Tirmidhī said: this is hasan sahīh).
Safīnah narrated: “The caliphate of Prophecy will last thirty years; then Allah will give the Kingdom to whom he wishes; or his kingdom to whom he wishes” (Abū Dāwūd 4647, hasan sahīh according to Al-Albani).
The reader will note here that this type of government is conceptually distinct from hereditary absolute monarchy, democracy, constitutional monarchy, national socialism, authoritarian communism, democratic communism, and any number of other types of government. The fundamental characteristics of the rightly-guided caliphs, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali are as follows:
- They were all elected by the people of influence in the Muslim ummah, or appointed directly or by a council of specified electors.
- The criterion of election is the ability to implement the Qur’an and Sunnah on a political level – and power is not given to those who desire it (the Prophet عليه السلام said: “we do not appoint those who desire it”: Sahih al-Bukhari 2261)
- They all had final decision-making authority, in contrast to democratic or other systems where elected or unelected councils legislate and the head of state only has veto authority (or none)
- The judiciary, and executive and legislative branches all existed subordinate to the office of the caliph.
By necessity of the Prophet’s command to adhere to this system of government which he prophesized, and to implement the sharī’ah in its entirety, tell us that this is not a matter of choice or election, but of absolute divine necessity. When the Prophet ﷺ, for instance, ordered “that an unmarried person guilty of illegal sexual intercourse be flogged one-hundred stripes and be exiled for one year” (Sahīh al-Bukhari, 6831), there can be no questioning of the law or debating the benefits or disadvantages.
The command to adhere to the divinely-ordained government is a general order that is required to be upheld by those in positions of political authority, which must be a government that follows the Sunnah of the rightly-guided caliphs, including but not limited to the punishment of adultery for unmarried men and women.
Evidence 6: Muslims are required to support this through enjoining the good and prohibiting the evil as defined by Allah, and whoever does not has disobeyed Allah and His messenger ﷺ:
Allah says, “And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful. And do not be like the ones who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them. And those will have a great punishment” (Sūrah Āl ‘Imrān, verses 104-5).
“On the authority of Abu Sa`eed al-Khudree (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith”” (Muslim vol. 1, hadīth 84; al-Nasā’ī, hadīth 5008; Abū Dawūd, hadīth 4340; and Ibn Mājah, book 5, hadīth 1334).
Allah mentions the exception to this rule being the one who is incapable (istitā‘ah) of this action, which may refer to physical or other types of inaction. The interpretation which matches the other verses of Qur’an and hadīth is that ‘ability’ here is defined not by physical capacity but ability to face the pressure and potential consequences of society or the law in undertaking that action; which may result in the physical harming of himself and/or others, i.e., out of necessity. Al-Nawawī said in Sharh al-Nawawī ‘alā Muslim (Bayt al-Afkār al-Duwaliyyah, 2000): “As for his saying, upon him be blessings and peace, “he should change it,” it is an order of obligation by consensus of the Ummah, and follows the order of enjoining the good and prohibiting the evil … [quoting Qādī Iyādh:] ‘and if he is more certain than not that changing it with his hand would be a reason for evil than itself, such as the killing of himself or another, he may resort to changing it with his speech’”.
When Ovamir Anjum said “caliphate means Muslim unity expressed in political terms”, nothing could possibly be further from the truth. Firstly, ‘Caliphate’ is a term in Arabic that means succession: a khalīfah (caliph) is someone who succeeds another: Abū Bakr was the political successor of the Prophet; the ‘Umar was the successor of Abū Bakr; and so on. Secondly, the legal term khilāfah (caliphate) based on authentic narrations of the prophet عليه السلام delineates a coherent form of government obligated upon the entire Muslim nation.
On this, Anjum makes his second true statement in his article,
“An asymptotic ideal is not the same as a utopian ideal: it is real, rational, and even attainable at moments, but its perfection is always a work in progress. Political theorist Sheldon Wolin expresses the same idea when he uses adjectives such as “episodic” and “fugitive” to describe democracy. All meaningful human ideals worth living for, including Islam’s religious ideals, are asymptotic, like the Sunnah of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad, God grant him peace and blessings. Avoiding sin, always preferring God over all else, and being truthful, just, and courageous are all part of the same asymptotic ideal. One’s asymptotic ideals, I contend, are the truest indication of one’s faith. True believers in democracy, liberalism, capitalism, or socialism are those who hold on to them even when they seem to be failing. The political unity of Muslims and the continuity of Prophetic governance is one such ideal that has been a part of Muslim identity throughout history and is based, I will show below, in the imperatives of Islam.”
Then, he continues:
The caliphate was not a utopia even in its best days; we must, therefore, reject the romanticization of the caliphate as an institution that can magically, merely by dint of a declaration, guarantee Muslims’ independence and well-being. Nor did it last continuously and unproblematically throughout its thirteen centuries of existence. Some critics, however, hold the historical caliphate grounded in fourteen centuries of consensus to such exacting ideals that would not leave any political or religious institution or ideal standing. Clearly, the consensus in Islam on the prohibition of perjury, usury, the killing of the innocent, etc. has not meant that these norms have always been upheld in practice. This selective skepticism reminds one of the Kharijite ferocity toward other Muslims. They, too, had first created a false ideal arbitrarily—the Qur’an alone, as they understood it, without the aid of the living authorities who had seen it revealed—and then condemned all whom they judged to have fallen short. Specifically, the Kharijites abhorred the imperfect governance by the caliphs and even leaders of their own sects. If the fact that past caliphates were not fully unified and not always just is taken to mean that no caliphate existed, we could argue by analogy that there have been no Muslims in history because they have all been imperfect, just as there exists no democracy because all democracies are imperfect. All such arguments are equally absurd. There are, of course, modern secularists who have argued that the political autonomy and unity of Muslims, as implied in the idea of the caliphate, are not desirable goals or religious ideals to begin with. To such arguments we turn presently. The point made so far is that merely pointing to historical imperfections is hardly an argument against the feasibility of the caliphate. The question of feasibility, admittedly, is an important element in evaluating and prioritizing obligations in Islamic jurisprudence and, rather than dismissing it out of hand, we must argue for it, as we begin to do in this essay.
To evaluate this, we must define utopia. The idea that the caliphate is not a utopia just as democratic countries are not ‘perfect’ is a major misrepresentation and deliberate mischaracteristization of Allah’s mandated system of government. The definition “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect” itself excludes any possibility of reality, due to the qualifier of “imagined”. Furthermore, the definition is problematic because the concept of “perfect” is not defined (and for good reason). Let us take out the “imaginary” part of the definition; say, the Merriam-Webster definition: “a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions.” If we define ‘perfection’ as stability, constant happiness and an abundance of wealth, we are clearly referring to heaven in the hereafter – the abode of those who take the support and implementation of the caliphate upon themselves, as proved by explicit proven texts in the Qur’an and Sunnah. On the other hand, insofar as perfection in the law, it is nothing short of heresy to claim that the government of the Prophet عليه السلام himself in Medina (for 10 years) was not a state of absolute perfection. I mean perfection, again, as a proper and perfect implementation of the law: in a moral scale based on the Qur’an, it means that no laws were passed or implemented in contradiction to Allah’s revelation. This was generally the case for the laws and implementation during the reign of the four rightly-guided caliphs – the operative word is “rightly guided”, i.e., with Divine guidance (rāshidūn in the hadīth above).
On the other hand, the notion of democracy itself – in fact, with regard to its very definition – must necessarily be fundamentally flawed. This is on two counts. Firstly, there is the fact that the concept of human legislation itself contradicts the most fundamental message of the Qur’an and Sunnah as quoted above. This should be the basis of our moral compass. However, for the record – and for Anjum’s information – it is worth noting that democracy itself is fundamentally flawed on its own terms precisely because nobody can agree to a proper definition of the concept in the modern age! In other words, everybody says “democracy is not perfect” – but what is perfection to begin with? Anjum’s acceptance of the statement “democracy is not perfect” shows precisely where is moral compass stands: he is referring to the morés and values of his 21st century academic audience. If he was referring not to that, but instead, the Qur’an and sunnah, I have just shown that democracy is precisely the absolute inversion of Allah’s rule, let alone being good, let alone perfect. What he means by ‘perfect’ is the way the supporters of ‘democracy’ view perfections: their own definitions of justice and perfection. For a situation where every single person has a different conception of justice and perfection, and then claims, ‘democracy is not perfect’ makes logical sense: because everybody’s conception of justice and perfection is different. In fact, there are some who believe that the current system is indeed perfect – some believe that Trump is upon divine guidance and nothing he does is wrong (similar beliefs are said Muslim world leaders’ supporters). This kind of comparison between Islam – where perfection and justice are known through explicit texts of revelation by all Muslims – and man’s inclinations and desires, deviates people from a correct understanding of the Caliphate as explained in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
He then makes a major mistake in what follows,
Next, there is the question of desirability. For the believers, the question of desirability is always subordinated to the question of the divine command. After all, God’s commands are for our ultimate well-being even when we cannot see it: “God knows and you know not.” Any particular command of God, however, is to be understood within an edifice of Islamic jurisprudence that consists of commands, prohibitions, and recommendations arranged (differently by different scholars) in terms of pragmatic priorities, individual and collective capacities, and epistemological certitude about its status. In the following, we briefly address the status of establishing the caliphate as a command, an exhaustive treatment being beyond our scope.
The first statement is true, and completely contradicts the entirety of what follows. When he says that “Allah knows what you know not” (Qur’ān 2:216), it means that we subordinate everything to the divine command, as stated. What follows, however is that Anjum attempts to carve out a loophole outside of obedience to Allah’s command: “commands, prohibitions, and recommendations arranged (differently by different scholars) in terms of pragmatic priorities, individual and collective capacities, and epistemological certitude about its status” can apparently amend and change Allah’s command. Of course, while Anjum is referring to the rules of scriptural interpretation (e.g., such as not sacrificing particular commands for general statements), we see that this turns into an attempt to override some of the most important of divine commands – and sacrificing the Unity of Allah in freedom from association – in the process.
When he claims that,
Some leading scholars of Islam, like Hujjat al-Islam al-Ghazali, have considered the caliphate an obligation regardless of its efficacy, like a religious ritual, thus separating it from its political functionality or utility. Others, like Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya and Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni, have emphasized its rational nature. This latter view, I believe, is more compelling. Any movement toward reenacting such a global institution must make a compelling case for its ability to address pressing political, social, economic, and ecological challenges confronting Muslims. Any attempt to transcend the existing state of affairs—which we shall identify as the nation-state system—in favor of pan-Islamic unification in the Muslim world would have to engage in a long and hard dialogue about these problems. Such an endeavor, moreover, would have to involve in this dialogue and rebuilding not only all Muslims, especially the disadvantaged and disenfranchised, but also non-Muslim citizens of Muslim lands, regional neighbors, and the global scholarly and scientific community. In summary, to argue for its religious obligation, we must invoke scripture and Islamic jurisprudential tradition, but to make a case for its feasibility and desirability, one must also turn to history and politics (the so-called fiqh al-wāqiʿ). In reality, on this as on any given issue, these two types of discourse must proceed dialectically between jurisprudence and reality. If the case is properly made with these considerations in mind, I submit, the outcome will be preferable to most well-meaning people worldwide, not just Muslims.
He is making a deliberate mischaracterization. First, by removing the matter at hand to be a case of interpretation of the divine revelation, Anjum is making legitimacy a product of the views of different scholars. This is particularly emphasized in the claim that Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Juwaynī permitted the overriding of divine text in favour of being commensurate to the so-called “maqāsid al-sharī’ah”, or the objectives that Allah’s command achieves when they are implemented.
This response is two-fold, and will be discussed in full over the following sections of Anjum’s article. It suffices to say that the response to this claim is two-fold: firstly, there is no evidence in Ibn Taymiyyah or al-Juwaynī expressly stating the permissibility to override the sharī’ah as in divine commandment to implement the khilāfah upon the method of prophecy, for the sake of pragmatism or achieving some sort of lofty aims. Rather, the argument comes from the western academic interpretive assumption that the ijtihad (legitimate independent use of legal reasoning) of Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Juwaynī was a deliberate and conscious attempt to reject the explicit text of the Qur’an and Sunnah in favour of agreeing with these general principles. This is a lie and accusation that parallels an accusation of an act of disbelief: they were legitimate beliefs and nowhere do we find them sacrificing the text in the conscious pursuit of material benefit. Following this, secondly, it must be established that any opinion of a scholar cannot be taken over the Qur’an and Sunnah: their reasoning can be debated and we accept their legal opinions, but both Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Juwaynī (as well as all four imams of the main madhhabs) agree with the principle of the ahl al-sunnah, which states that we do not take the opinions of scholars when they are mistaken or in contradiction to explicit texts. As was narrated from the Prophet:
‘Adi Ibn Hatim narrated: I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) while I had a cross of gold around my neck. He said: ‘O ‘Adi! Remove this idol from yourself!’ And I heard him reciting from Surah Bara’ah: They took their rabbis and monks as lords besides Allah (9:31). He said: ‘As for them, they did not worship them, but when they made something lawful for them, they considered it lawful, and when they made something unlawful for them, they considered it unlawful.’
Finally, Anjum states that any conclusion would need some sort of consensus and consensus-based dialogue with both Muslims and non-Muslims. There is no need to expand on the subject beyond pointing out the actions of the Prophet عليه السلام and the four khalīfahs: consultation is made insofar as it comes to an issue in which the law permits leeway – the consultation. Secondly, consultation with non-Muslims and their opinion of the sharī’ah was never a part of their consideration after the settlement of Medina. This is precisely why ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb did not think to consult the Jews of Medina after hearing the Prophet عليه السلام near his death stating that they ought to be expelled from the holy city (Sunan Abu Dawud, 3007).
Likewise, his statement concerning the need to differentiate between the Qur’an and Sunnah’s orders and the benefits brought to the nations – so as to imply that these two contradict each other or that it is permissible to sacrifice the former for the latter – amounts to major disbelief in Allah’s message, for the reason that the establishment of divine sovereignty is a part of Unity of Divinity (tawhid al-ulūhiyyah). As will be shown in the sections discussing the particulars of the ruling, the claim that the single most important Qur’anic injunction – the recognition of Allah’s divinity through belief and action – can be sacrificed or put onto a scale where ‘common wellbeing’ and other. On the other hand, to claim that what is indeed the command of the prophet عليه السلام runs contrary to the wellbeing of the people is a separate statement that could independently be a form of heresy, due to the statement of Allah: “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship” (Qur’ān 2:185), “Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you”, “We have not neglected in the Book a thing,” and “And never is your Lord forgetful” (Qur’ān 19:64).
It will be demonstrated in full that “Making a case” for the “feasibility” can only be a function of and conceptually following the acceptance of the obligation in the divine text.
Anjum says, There are more and more compelling grounds to make such a case today. Over the past few decades, globalization has enormously increased Muslims’ awareness of other Muslims and of their unity of circumstance and vision across the globe. At the same time, the gap between the haves and the have-nots has increased tremendously in every society. The Arab uprisings of 2011 threw into sharp relief the commonality of the public sphere of nearly two dozen Arabic-speaking countries. The convulsions of these uprisings are far from over. At the same time, the ensuing tragedies in nearly every country have demonstrated the vacuity of national sovereignty, as oil-based monarchies and military autocrats across national boundaries closed ranks against the popular protest movements. Too came tumbling down the facade of the clerical establishments that happily cheered on the massacres and imprisonments. Under the crushing weight of utter political illegitimacy and the bankruptcy of the clerical establishment, Muslim societies are becoming increasingly incapable of providing for decent human life, and reactions to such unbearable conditions include endemic violence (this includes terrorism, but more importantly, broken individuals and communities that are also more vulnerable to microaggressions and domestic violence), religious disillusionment or fanaticism, and general ethical cynicism. Globally, the nation-state model has been unraveling since the promulgation of the neoliberal policies of the 1980s by global powers. This anxiety has been evident in influential titles that have appeared since the 1990s, such as “The End of the Nation-State” (several monographs carry this telling title, discussed below), “The Clash of Civilizations,” Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism are Reshaping the World, and Endgames: Questions in Late Modern Political Thought. This literature speaks of the dissolution of the traditional nation-state and the rise instead of global capitalists in cahoots with regional strongmen bent on amassing wealth and securing their power at the expense of increasing numbers and classes of people. These forces have together repurposed the apparatus of the nation-state. Even in its best days (from the nineteenth century until the Second World War), the nation-state consisted of an alignment of particular interests behind the façade of an abstracted international system. A leading American scholar of international relations at Stanford University aptly captured this idea in his book Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy. The supposed sovereignty of weaker states, his work shows, has been routinely violated by global powers, but the fiction has been useful in maintaining just the right kinds of puppets in power. Much of the literature concerning the end of the nation-state points out the inability of this system to deal with the greatest crises of our times, from man-made climate change and income inequality to the growing refugee crisis (the rise of non-citizens), and recommends regional or global economic cooperation as the way out. The irony of it all is that Muslims have historically benefited the least from the Industrial Revolution but are going to be the first targets of its inevitable consequence, environmental catastrophe. “We’re headed for ‘climate apartheid,’ in which the poor will suffer while the rich save themselves, warns a chilling UN report.” Muslims can be sure that this scenario is going to play out in its most infernal form in the petty kingdoms and military states that they inhabit. In short, for Muslims, the nation-state system has been, and will continue to be, particularly brutal, divisive, and infernal. This is so not only because it was calculated by the outgoing colonizers from the outset to divide them and control their resources, but also, as we show below, because it is structurally incompatible with Islam.
This is the third correct statement of Anjum’s article. It is factually correct that sovereignty and the global system of nation-states was a result of an alliance between power-hungry imperialists and global economics elites who harnessed the power of the nation-state, its coercive capabilities, and global legitimacy (also created by them) in the form of human rights discourse, to extract resources and run an economy where the populations are both subordinated and in a state of constant production to increase the wealth of the elite class. The only factually incorrect statement on climate change portrays the United Nations, and this report, as telling the truth contrary to the desires of the economic elite. It is well-known that so-called ‘green initiatives’ fall perfectly into the elites’ various systems of consulting and environmental technology made to further indebt countries under the custodianship of the IMF and World Bank. This requires a completely independent study, but can be shown through such immediate evidence as large corporations’ introductions of various ‘eco-friendly’ alternatives to ‘traditional’ production strategies which are enormously profitable while also expensive for developing countries and small businesses to pay for up front. Instrumentally, on a political level, this also fits into the narrative that it is justified to control the economic output of competing countries in the international system, especially China which threatens the current Pax Americana (albeit with not better alternative).
Praise be to Allah, there is no force or power except by Allah, the High, the Great. We now start the refutation of the main body of Anjum’s article.
The Refutation: “Dreams, Pasts, and Futures”
Humans are creatures of memories and desires. Life without hope that transcends the present, without dreams of improving one’s condition and equally of saving others that we love, is a dreadful nightmare. Such dystopian hopelessness has often birthed great evil. Even great imperialists have recognized the need for dreams; Churchill once said that if one was not a Marxist by the age of twenty-five, one had no heart, but if one was still a Marxist by thirty-five, one had no brain. Marxism has been the ultimate secular religion of the modern age, complete with an eschatology and creed. To the secular youth of the Global North, Marxism or some other form of progressive vision fills the vacuum left by religious eschatology and world-saving compassion that capitalism lacks. Inasmuch as Muslims are a global community, they must possess worthy shared dreams and hopes.
Portraying Marxism as the ultimate fantasy comes right out of the capitalist new world order playbook. Of course it was Winston Churchill of all people playing the “no brain” card. This is the same person who said, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms”. What is ironic is that without even looking at the references in the previous section on the new world order and collusion of political and economic elites, I can guarantee with not doubt that every single academic referenced there was influenced by Karl Marx and some form of Marxist ideology. In any case, Anjum makes another slip as he claims that Muslims “must possess worthy shared dreams and hopes”. No, the Muslim community does not possess dreams or hopes because they are a global community. Nowhere in the Qur’an or Sunnah is the global character or size of the ummah correlated to its global vision: its global vision is directly instituted by Allah and His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ through the outward and inward revelation (Qur’ān and Hadith), and was possessed since the Muslim community was a few thousand individuals in a small city-state in Medina.
But he continues, The Orwellian control of official religion and extermination of any expression of alternative visions of Islam by the reigning despots in the Muslim world is directly responsible for the apocalypticism and nihilistic destructiveness evident in the likes of ISIS. The despots at home are aided and complemented by the global War on Terror and demonization by world powers of anything but the most emasculated Islam. This state of affairs has devastated the psyche of an entire generation of millennial Muslims by polarizing them between those who feel sorry for being Muslim and others who feel angry for the same reason. The kind of Islam that is sustainable in the future must be one that is at home with itself while being able to save the world not from itself, but by being itself. This vision is powerfully articulated by Professor Salman Sayyid in his bold, imaginative work Recalling the Caliphate. The call is long overdue. For nearly a century now, Islam has not been allowed to be Islam.
What could possibly be more self-contradictory? Anjum spend the entire introduction talking about how the Qur’an and Sunnah must be deliberately changed (more on that below) to suit the material and ideological circumstances of a majority of Muslims and non-Muslims. Read this paragraph very carefully. It is precisely the ideology that allowed for an emasculated Islam to appear in the Muslim world (and in Anjum’s country of residence) that is now allowing for the sacrifice of the Qur’an and Sunnah in this very article. The fundamental premise in interpretation or approach that makes this possible is the hypothetical statement: “It is permitted to reinterpret, or sacrifice, certain portions of the Qur’an and Sunnah in a way to agree with the material circumstances or ideological mores of a person or group of people”. In the Islam promoted by US-backed ‘scholars’ and organizations, or in Muslim countries where the Imam reads his khutbah without a care in the world for its truthfulness, the fundamental ideological premise used to justify a pro-government Islam is that Muslims are permitted to sacrifice or twist the application and meanings of the Qur’an and Sunnah in a way deemed acceptable by either the government and/or the general population. Whether it is extolling the virtues of ‘patience’ instead of political activism, of democracy and the US constitution as ‘mostly Islamic’, that justice is not the prerogative of the population, or that the Qur’an and Sunnah don’t have the final say in determining the government of Muslims. What all of these arguments have in common is the notion that it is permissible to oppose the explicit command of Allah in pursuit of another goal. Take a while to over the quotes of the great scholar Ibn Hazm, on the importance of accepting the truth at face value:
“Whoever does not judge by the Qur’an or the judgement of the Messenger of Allah صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ, and has the purpose of agreeing with an analogy or view, or someone’s opinion, is stripped of his īmān” Ibn Hazm, al-Muhalla bi al-Athar, vol. 8, p. 430
He then continues:
After the Cold War, the western order triumphed. Its prophets, from conservatives like Huntington (“Others are different, we must fight all”) to liberals like Fukuyama (“We are the end of history, we must assimilate all”), recognized the need for new frontiers and new enemies. Liberalism (like its economic twin, capitalism) constantly needs empire and conquest, and its triumph has nearly flattened the world, leaving liberals themselves sometimes wondering whether another kind of life is possible. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz agonized over this dilemma: his belief in the superiority of liberalism and his awareness, as an anthropologist, of genuine and irreducible diversity of human beliefs and cultures. His colleague, Richard Shweder, builds on this tension and poses a compelling question: given the current flattening of all civilizations by liberal capitalism, is our Brave-New-World-like monoculture the only possible human future? He boldly speculates three possible futures, inviting us to note that: [quote] It is the third possible future, he suggests, that alone ensures real human prosperity and liberty. And this is the only one, I contend, that Muslims can reasonably embrace: a world of genuinely different civilizations, but ones that see collaboration and coexistence, not clash, as their constant, renewing aim. Its false universalism is liberalism’s greatest aporia and its greatest hypocrisy. As Wael Hallaq has perceptively argued in his recent monograph Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge, those like Edward Said who opposed this belligerence of the “clash” did so by eliminating Islam as a civilizational reality. A rather more fruitful approach is to embrace Islam as a civilizational entity and question, rather, the seeming inevitability of “clash.”
Anjum has just sold himself to the devil, so to speak. The entire purpose of the entire liberal imperial project is to convince the people that the economic and political developments in their lives are for their own good. This ideology formulated from the Enlightenment period (famously in Kant’s Perpetual Peace) was built on precisely the type of racist imperialism and colonialism that destroyed the entire world over the last three-hundred-or-so years. The intelligentsia of the imperial monarchs and later colonial empires were hell-bent on portraying all non-white, non-Christian people as savages who were incapable of exercising individual reason and political authority. There have been hundreds of studies conducted on the great thinkers of liberal thought: John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stewart Mill, and countless others. Many of these characters believed – or directly participated– in the the transatlantic slave trade, and/or the European colonial projects. This developed over time: during the imperial conquests, the point was to extract resources and slaves as much as necessary to increase the Empire’s wealth and power. The notion of colonialism arose from the idea that western powers were responsible to educate and advance other worlds’ populations, as notoriously argued by many Enlightenment theorists, and a line continued by political theorists to this day (e.g., in John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples). This is why the word “colony” actually comes from the word “colere” in Latin, meaning to “cultivate”, in reference to religion and ‘rationality’ which all non-white Christians mostly had the potential for, but were not at that level yet. This is far too vast a subject to discuss in a short refutation.
The point here is that this ideology, with racist origins and colonial ambitions, is now masquerading the notion that Muslims should be “ready to [live together], even on politically liberal terms”. The problem here is not that Muslims should live together with other religious members: this is a hallmark of Islam; and to date, there is not a single order – liberal or otherwise – that has granted anywhere near the legal autonomy that the Prophet عليه السلام and the rightly-guided caliphs gave to religious minorities (who were actually majorities) from edge-to-edge of the true caliphate. This is a divinely-mandated system that fundamentally opposes forced conversions, undue economic pressure, and legal and political persecution. The problem here is the notion of accepting a political system on “liberal terms”.
Now, liberal itself has to be defined. ‘Liberal’ does not mean ‘left-wing’ as it does in our common vernacular, and Anjum refuses to define it, probably out of lack of understanding as to what the content of such a ‘liberal’ confederacy would really entail. The core value of liberalism used here is a political theoretical term used by modern-day liberal internationalists, which entails the fundamental freedom, consent, and right of legislation to the people, by the people. Distinct from liberal authoritarianism, which only permits discussion in the public sphere without consent and freedom beyond what threatens the state, this liberalism fundamentally entails three core principles: (a) the right to govern (there is no more enlightened despotism in the view of today’s liberals); (b) freedom of the public sphere (insofar as it doesn’t threaten the public order); and (c) agreement with contemporary human rights norms as enforced by secular courts according to western standards of evidence and punishment. Where do I get this from? Next time you see your professor or read a book, ask yourself: could this ideology tolerate not having any of these three principles? The answer is undoubtedly in the negative.
Yes, Islam accepts the right of certain people to elect the khalīfah, there is more-or-less freedom in the public sphere, and Islam’s human rights usually encompass a number of those specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Does that mean the khilāfah can be a part of a liberal system? We can only answer this through the divine texts and rulings of the prophet عليه السلام and the first four rightly-guided caliphs:
- Do people have the right support a leader who governs by non-Islamic law?
- Is freedom in the public sphere granted on the basis of ‘public order’, or based on whether the statement is determined to be harmful to society on basis of the Qur’an and Sunnah (including public preaching of deviant sects and non-Muslims)
- Did the khilāfah implement norms of evidence and punishments in agreement with courts such as the International Criminal Court, or any other?
- Did the khilāfah try human rights abuses in court because they abused human rights, the dignity of the individual, or because it violated the sharī’ah?
Hamza Yusuf once quipped that if the second generation of Muslims were brought to Norway, they would think they were in the caliphate of ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz. Let’s examine the question. Does any punishment of any crime in the khilāfah match any punishment in the Norway Criminal Code? Are evidentiary and court procedures the same? Did the khilāfah elect the leader by popular vote? Was public nudity, alcohol, pornography, interest banking, LGBT+ rights, or anything similar ever implemented by any khalīfah, ever?
All of this is to say a general rule we should all keep in mind: the commonality of general characteristics between things does not entail their mutual acceptance. If that were the case, I could make the case that North Korea is a mutually agreeable form of government to the khilāfah just like how I make the argument with the international world order. How? Look at the similarities: one man is the final decision-maker, there is social justice and minimum wages, they are both opposed to liberalism, colonialism, imperialism, post-modern “social justice” movements – you name it. The point is that for compatibility to be ensured, the systems cannot oppose each-other as a matter of ideological principle. To keep this illustration short, let me use one point. The liberal internationalists would never tolerate anything resembling the dhimmi system of government today. Equality under the law is the most fundamental characteristic of all liberal nation-states, and the creation of a class of people based on their religion would be rejected in any parliament and in any court in every single liberal country or confederation of countries (e.g., the EU) existing today.
The then states,
“Across the world, genocidal states are attacking Muslims,” reads the title of an opinion piece by sociologist Arjun Appadurai, “Is Islam really their target?” And the by-line reads: “As Israel incarcerates Palestinians and Myanmar drives out its Rohingyas, a reflection on the predicament of ethnic and racial biominorities.” Welcome to the club, I thought. For decades, this has been the question Muslims have asked themselves; most have no doubt about the answer. The piece ends with no great insight, but it is the banality of the observation—one made by an Indian-American sociologist, not an al-Qaeda operative ready to blow things up in revenge—that caught my attention. The banality of Muslim blood, that is.
As Muslim-majority nation-states, along with others in the developing world, fail or become otherwise uninhabitable, the Global North erects walls. Faced with war, colonialism, genocide, corruption, pollution, and/or starvation, Muslims worldwide—even those only nominally religious in their personal lives—readily sign up for a modern pan-Islamism that would protect them from these shared indignities. In a globalized world where the West’s War on Terror has, paradoxically, accentuated the Muslimness of Muslims everywhere, Israel, China, Myanmar, India, and countless other states feel free to deal with their “Muslim problem” with total impunity. “Our conflict is with the entire Muslim world, with the entire Arab world,” declared an Israeli politician, echoing the anti-Islam sentiment in Euro-America and elsewhere. Muslims are inevitably reminded of the warning of the Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, that nations will feast on them one day, and not because they will be few but because their great numbers will be worthless like the straw carried by a torrent.
The problem is not new, and it is not about to go away. Already at the end of the Cold War, pundits had declared Islam to be a problem for the West’s total cultural hegemony. “Islam has bloody borders,” declared Samuel Huntington in his epoch-making 1993 article “The Clash of Civilizations.” Huntington credited his inspiration for the idea to writers on both sides of the Islam–west divide. He quotes a secular Indian Muslim who wrote, “It is in the sweep of the Islamic nations from the Maghreb to Pakistan that the struggle for a new world order will begin,” and Bernard Lewis, who wrote, “This is no less than a clash of civilizations—the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both.” Lewis’s and Huntington’s vision was belligerent, inaccurate, and uncharitable, but it had an element of realism that has triumphed over the thousands of academic protests contending that there was no such clash because, they contended, there were no distinct civilizations. There are.
Always watch out for half-quotes written by liberal Muslims. Yaqeen Institute is full of them – especially when it comes to classical sources. I encourage everyone to look up every single reference where something seemingly questionable comes across in their articles. One example is Nazir Khan’s article on so-called “Myths” about women and Islam. He claims that “The classical commentator al-Qurtubi (d. 671 H) actually stated that a man’s authority in the family is contingent on his role as the breadwinner, and when he is unable to financially provide for her, he is no longer considered to have such authority (qawamiyyah) over his wife.” The underlying implication (dalīl al-khitāb) of this statement is that if both men and women are the breadwinners, then both share equal decision-making ability over the household. If you actually looked up the reference (Al-jāmi’li-ahkām al-qur’ān, vol. 5, p. 169), you see that Qurtubi is really just listing the opinions about whether the wife of a man who is unable to provide for her should be entitled to an immediate divorce.
Anjum’s haphazard quotation of the ḥadīth is as follows:
The Prophet said: The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their dish. Someone asked: Will that be because of our small numbers at that time? He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and last enervation into your hearts. Someone asked: What is wahn (enervation). Messenger of Allah: He replied: Love of the world and dislike of death (hubb al-dunyā wa karāhiyyat al-mawt). (Abu Dawud 4297).
This reveals the picture. The only reason Muslims, despite their large number, would be feasted upon by the other nations is because of their willingness to sacrifice the material (this world) for the hereafter. Specifically, the Prophet عليه السلام mentioned love of this world, and hatred of death. Are you telling me the Prophet عليه السلام said that people’s unwillingness to sacrifice everything in this world for the hereafter is the reason for all this death and destruction, and not because Muslim’s are too insistent on the khilāfah? Precisely. This turns Anjum’s argument completely on its head: the solution is not succumbing to precisely that order we got into because of our fear of political freedom; rather, the solution is sticking to the Qur’an and Sunnah’s explicit orders regardless of the amount of trial or sedition that exists in our midst:
“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron” (Qur’ān 13:11).
The Prophet said: “bite onto [my sunnah and the sunnah of the rightly-guided caliphs] with your molar teeth” (quoted above), and, after the Prophet told Hudhayfa Ibn al-Yamān about the tribulations after him, he responded to Hudhayfa’s question “What should I do if it happens in my lifetime?” “He said, “Adhere to the group of Muslims and their Chief.” I asked, “If there is neither a group (of Muslims) nor a chief (what shall I do)?” He said, “Keep away from all those different sects, even if you had to bite (i.e. eat) the root of a tree, till you meet Allah while you are still in that state” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3606).
This suffices as evidence concerning the need to stick even more to the sunnah in times of tribulation and difficulty, and is built upon the prophecies of the last Prophet ﷺ.
He further states,
Since Huntington wrote, the borders have only gotten bloodier, but not just the borders. Beyond the borders, the inner organs of the body of which the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ spoke are failing and bleeding as the body attacks itself. Palestine is being shot and bled to death by an ethnoreligious, colonizing apartheid state. The Rohingya are being burned, raped, and annihilated by another ethnoreligious, nationalist state as Rohingyan mothers are birthing en masse the children of their Myanmar rapists. The Kashmiris and millions of Indian Muslims are being deprived daily of their dignity, humanity, and life by yet another religiously-inspired ethnic nationalism. In China, the Uyghur Muslims are being exterminated in torture and brainwashing camps, where their men are killed while their women are forced to cohabit with Han Chinese men. To date, not a single Muslim-majority state in the region has strongly protested—even the Muslim street has been silent—and the only significant outcry comes from secular human rights groups and, increasingly, from states that are strategically hostile to the rise of China. Muslims in the Central African Republic are being ethnically cleansed. Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Afghanistan are embroiled in civil wars or deep unrest with no end in sight. The regional struggle between paper-tigers made of fossil fuels, Saudi Arabia and Iran—portrayed as a sectarian Shiʿa–Sunni conflict by embattled elites on both sides looking for distractions from their inadequacies—could catapult the entire region into an atrocious regional war that could easily pull in the rest of the world. The biggest hurdles on the way to unification and collaboration are also the precise reasons that they must be brought about.
This description is accurate. This is a terrible calamity to befall the ummah, and we pray that Allah hasten the coming of the rightly-guided khilāfah to re-establish the rights of Muslims and maintain their dignity around the world. None of this infighting, however, between Muslims – like between different ‘sects’ – is new, and in fact took place in the very first generation of Muslims. The only difference between these two cases is whereas one was dedicated towards purifying Islam from the outside, today we have to deal with an ideological battle where non-Muslim forces have a stronghold on both political and ideological centers in the Muslim world, and the lack of knowledge even among scholars is at its lowest point yet.
Refutation of “An absolutist theocracy or a tolerant Islamic union?”
This is where things get interesting. Anjum claims,
For any defense of the caliphate to be meaningful, the frequent failures of Muslim political thought and practice in the past would have to be candidly acknowledged and systematically distinguished from an authentic and feasible vision of a Muslim political union in the modern world. Such a vision cannot afford to be ahistorical, nor utopian, nor a mere recapitulation of one medieval treatise or institution or another.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First, let us define the terms “failure” of “thought” and “practice.” Again, as I note above, this author has a great difficulty differentiating between true morality, based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah alone, and the ‘good’/bad distinction based on what is popularly accepted to be “good,” “moderate,” and “successful”, and to the contrary, “bad,” “dangerous,” and “extreme” – i.e., anything other than the Qur’an and Sunnah. The only way Muslims are allowed to define success and failure, or good and bad, is according to the implementation of the divine law: if it is successful, it is good and praiseworthy, regardless of the popular conviction. If it is unsuccessful out of the nation’s neglect, unwillingness, or rebellion against Allah’s law, it deserves the worst condemnation and praise. Anjum’s obsession with “defense” of the ‘theory’ of the caliphate in the eyes of people who define success as political stability instead of the achievement of absolute good by implementing the divine law with not exception blinds him from accepting Allah’s law as the divine law of mankind.
This is the same problem when he uses words like “meaningful” and “robust accommodation”:
Furthermore, such a union must guarantee meaningful and robust accommodation of local variations of political arrangements, cultures, and religious denominations among Muslims and the rights of non-Muslim minorities. The task of delineating and imagining such a vision requires not an essay but a generation of Muslim jurists, theologians, political theorists entrepreneurs, and visionary leaders. What I offer here is a modest justification and some imaginative delineation of this vision in broad strokes, starting with a little history.
This so-called “modest” “justification” and “imaginative delineation” is certainly no justification of the Qur’an and Sunnah, which is completely sidelined for values like feasibility (which he himself objects to as a wrong argument) or justifiability to Muslims and non-Muslims around the world.
Yes, this generation needs “Muslim jurists, theologians, and political theorists entrepreneurs [sic]” for the establishment of the caliphate. But more importantly, as the explicit text of Allah’s revelation through the prophet عليه السلام stated, what is needed the most is knowledge of the truth (the exact opposite of Anjum’s case and that of the entire “Yaqeen” Institute) and a willingness to act upon it regardless of the opinions of others.
Anjum then extols the virtues of the caliphate as a protection of minority, non-Muslim identity,
Professor David Wasserstein, a scholar of Judaism and Islam of Jewish heritage at Vanderbilt University, recently published a study on the ideological and religious roots of ISIS and its caliphate, Black Banners of ISIS: The Roots of the New Caliphate. A few years earlier, he also delivered an enlightening address in which he argued that it was medieval Islam—the Islam of the Old Caliphate, that is—that saved Judaism from extinction. It is not clear if the irony is obvious to the professor. The historical caliphate was a precondition for the existence of Islamic civilization, one that produced the law, theology, and religious vision that, despite is imperfections (remember the asymptote!), protected intellectually vibrant communities of Christianity and Judaism and hosted the renaissance of Hellenistic science and philosophy. Before we dismiss this fact with a hasty “Enough with that nostalgia!” and “You cannot turn back the wheels of time,” it behooves us to stay with the contrast between Wasserstein’s two examples a bit longer. Had the caliphate not existed and presided over the centuries-long unified reign over far-flung lands characterized by relative peace, stability, and cultural and commercial exchange, and had the unity of the lands it conquered ended as quickly after the Prophet ﷺ as it was gained, the alternative would have been a dark age of little kingdoms or, worse, tribal vendettas presided over by the likes of the Kharijites (a fitting analog of today’s ISIS). Neither the Umayyads, nor the Abbasids, nor the Ottomans were perfect caliphs—some were downright tyrants—but on the whole, they and the Muslim religious and political elite all recognized the paramount value of the unity of the community and the primacy of law and order. It is this consensual ideal cherished by the learned Muslim to which we now turn.
These are all incorrect. Let us establish a few points:
Firstly, the alternative to Allah’s divine rule on earth is most certainly not the ‘kharajites’ – which Anjum severely mistakenly refers to as ISIS: calling them kharajites, if anything, emboldens them precisely because the Prophet عليه السلام prophesized their coming and extinction, and that was already finished in the first century – or neo-tribal forms of government. Or rather, that notion that these are bad concepts in of themselves is wrong. The actual underlying reason why these concepts are wrong is because they oppose the most fundamental reality of faith, tawhīd in Allah: a recognition that Allah is the only deity and worshipping none but Him (tawhīd of lordship and divine unity, respectively). This is the true reason why ‘bad’ things are really ‘bad’ – not because David Wasserstein or any other of Anjum’s western academic colleagues believe in a wrong value-system.
Secondly, the evidence of the hadīths of the Prophet عليه السلام quoted above prove the necessity of prophetic caliphate upon the method of prophecy: not hereditary absolute monarchy (Umayyads and Abbasids), constitutional monarchy (the Ottomans were both at different times), ISIS, or anybody else. When it comes to legitimate and illegitimate forms of government, regardless of the material ‘good’ or bad they produce (while acknowledging they are good and bad absolutely speaking), they may not be used as models, and especially not models upon which the future caliphate will be justified to the ummah.
Refutation of “The past: history and normative tradition”
Anjum begins the main body of the argument. Starting with etymology as is common, Anjum manages to completely destroy the notion of vicegerency in Islamic thought. He disconnects the meaning of the word khalīfah from its succession of the Prophet ﷺ, and second meaning of the viceroy of Allah, for no reason whatsoever (it has no impact in any case on the reality of the caliphate, its obligation, or anything else).
The word “caliphate” is the anglicized version of the Arabic khilāfa. Its triliteral root (khaʾ-lām-fāʾ) connotes the idea of “being or coming after or behind someone in terms of order, time, or space.” A khalīfa (caliph), then, is a successor, someone literally left behind by a predecessor to fulfill a certain responsibility. The Qur’an speaks of Adam and by implication his progeny as “khalīfa” (2:30)—which the earliest exegetes naturally took to mean “successor of an earlier creation that once dominated the earth.” But God is also, according to a famous supplication of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in Sahih Muslim, the khalīfa of a traveler who leaves his home and family in God’s care. This usage suggests that the modern translation of the “caliph” as “deputy” or “vicegerent” is imprecise, as is the idea popularized in the twentieth century that the humans are metaphysical “vicegerents of God.” Another reference in the Qur’an to the Prophet David, upon him be peace, as “khalīfa in the land,” simply meant “inheritor of the land,” but has been similarly used to impute to the word a sense of political authority and metaphysical stewardship of the earth. The metaphysical meaning is conceptually justifiable through the Qur’anic notions of taskhīr and takrīm (that God has honored humans and subdued all other creation for them, 17:70, 14:32-3, etc.), but linguistically, it has no necessary relation to the term at hand, khalīfa. This is not merely a linguistic quibble; entire genres of literature both by Muslim authors and Orientalists have emerged based on this misunderstanding. In certain cases, this misunderstanding has been used to impute to the Qur’an the modern idea of popular sovereignty in the nation-state. What we are interested in, however, is the historical use of the term to signify the supreme political ruler of the Muslims. In this sense, khalīfa (caliphate) came to mean the deputyship (niyāba) of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in the leadership and stewardship of his community after his death. This supreme political leader of Muslims was also called imam (leader) by theologians both Sunni and Shiʿa—although the Shiʿa reserved the term imam for their theologically rightful, and not necessarily political, leader. Earlier on, precisely because the term khalīfa did not have a clear political meaning and was only a description of Abu Bakr’s role as the successor to the Prophet ﷺ, the more explicit label of amīr al-muʾminīn (the commander of the believers) became the common way to address the ruler since the reign of the Second Caliph, ʿUmar. Over time, when the political field became crowded with different kinds of leaders such as amīr (military commander), sulṭān (authority, king) and malik (king), historical and political usage settled on the term khalīfa to refer to the single, supreme leader of all Muslims.
Firstly, the notion that Maududi and the orientalists started the idea of divine vicegerency from scratch is not only wrong, but that Anjum is deliberately lying and distorting the truth can be proven with undeniable evidence – Anjum’s own book. Firstly, the notion of khalīfah referring to the viceroy of Allah, in the sense of being sent to earth to undertake the divine mission over all of creation, to be the embodiment of Allah’s names and attributes in the sense of fulfilling his will (e.g., mercy, justice, knowledge), is well-established in the meaning of the Qur’ān, where Allah says:
And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed, I will make upon the earth a khalīfah.’ They said, ‘Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?’ Allah said, ‘Indeed, I know that which you do not know.’” (Qur’ān 2:30).
The word khalīfah is mistranslated by Sahih International and some other translations for misunderstanding of the term and its exegesis (it is translated correctly by Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Maududi, Mufti Taqi Uthmani, Abdul Haleem, etc.). Note that the first three predate orientalist literature cited by Anjum in the paragraph above – besides, where did you think orientalists understood the Qur’an? The fact that the two foremost English translations of the Qur’an in the 20th century both translate this term as such is telling of this reality. The other orientalist source – and this is how we know Anjum is deliberately covering up the truth – of the notion of being the khalīfah of Allah is quoted in Anjum’s own book on Ibn Taymiyyah (p. 42-48), where he approvingly quotes argument against the notion of that the term “khalīfat Allah” – which he admits was used by Umayyad caliphs – means that the caliphs replaced divine authority with their own (or claimed to). The later orientalist conclusion that khalīfat Allah refers to the replacement of the Prophet ﷺ and not of Allah is an argument against the notion that the sharī’ah was substituted for the rule of the king. This is a correct conclusion.
How about the meaning of the term khalīfah in the Qur’an itself? Anjum, assuming that he read the key parts of Majmū’ al-fatāwā (i.e., because it is his PhD and book subject), knows that Ibn Taymiyyah reprimandingly quotes great scholars before him, who indeed did view khalīfah to mean viceroy of Allah, and that people are His viceroy in the sense that we possess knowledge, capability, justice, truth, through that, we worship him and establish His rule on earth, as we were created in His form –as explained by Maududi word-for-word. Ibn Taymiyyah objects to Ibn al-‘Arabī and others who understood khalīfah in this way because he was against the interpretation that humans themselves were actually divine (this is major shirk: al-khilāfah wa al-mulk, p. 50-54, where he makes it clear that one who claims to actually possess Allah’s attributes, like knower of the unseen, he becomes a mushrik). He also rejects this interpretation, although I will not show evidence of it in the various tafāsīr of the verses quoted above. Al-Tabarī gathers a number of quotations of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ, and other people of tafsīr in the first generations who establish this meaning – which is not necessarily mutually exclusive the notion of succession:
It is possible the saying to mean that…Allah informed the angels that he was establishing a khalīfah of His (khalifah lahu) on earth to judge between them by Divine legislation…The interpretation of the verse based on this narration from Ibn Mas’ūd and Ibn ‘Abbas: that I am establishing a caliph from Me to succeed Me in judgement between My creation (innī jā’il fī al-arḍ khalīfah minnī yukhlafunī fī al-hukm bayna khalqī)”.
The matter is clear, as is the falsehood of the attempt to disconnect the notion of khalīfah from divine responsibility and government. Next, this claim is made with the government that succeeded the Prophet ﷺ itself, as will follow.
Regarding the claim that “In certain cases, this misunderstanding has been used to impute to the Qur’an the modern idea of popular sovereignty in the nation-state” is really a reference to anybody in the 20th century who attempted in any way whatsoever to recover the khilāfah established in the divine text. The idea that Maududi supports implementing the law of the modern nation-state is a deliberate misreading of his most fundamental works. The only area he was mistaken – and took back before the end of his life according to his student Israr Ahmed – was in believing that the nation-state and its politics could be a vehicle to revive the khilāfah once again (including voting, participating in elections, etc.).
Now, the author discusses various ‘historical models’ to the caliphate.
Refutation of “The five historical models of the caliphate”
He states, “The first and only normative model of the caliphate for the Sunni majority comprises the first four successors of the Prophet ﷺ, who later came to be called the Rashidun (Rightly Guided). At first, religious and political authorities were not systematically distinguished and the caliph or successor of the Prophet embodied both.” This is the four correct statement in this article, and undoubtedly true. It is also the Islamic state which the Prophet enforced upon the ummah after his death. Yet, it makes a detour in characterizing the rest of Islamic history as “caliphate” – apparently assigning the same level of legitimacy of Abū Bakr to Sultan Mehmet II of the Ottoman Empire…Less than a century later, another model emerged in which the caliphate became a primarily political office, and religious authority gradually came to be shared between the caliph and the scholars (ʿulamāʾ). The ʿulamāʾ, the emerging class of dedicated scholars, now increasingly served as the real socio-religious leaders of urban Muslim communities and intellectual schools. The caliph’s powers had never been absolute in practice, but the ʿulamāʾ began to theorize such limits and functions starting in the fourth/tenth century.
The Umayyad Caliphate, although their political rule and rulers can be respectively defined as “caliphate” and “caliph” due to the linguistic meaning of the word – and seeming approval of the Prophet ﷺ to refer to them with this vocabulary – we must be clear to not mix the reality behind legitimate (just, rightly-guided, approved by the prophet) and illegitimate (unjust, misguided, using forms of prohibited rule [e.g., monarchy], subject to potential righteous rebellion, etc.). This mixing of the two, i.e., legitimate and illegitimate, is proven by the assertion in the next paragraph:
“The early caliphs ruled the world’s largest empire from the small town of Medina as first among equals (primus inter pares). This egalitarian, direct-access, and piety-based model proved unscalable to the needs of administering a vast, far-flung empire. It thus gave way to the imperial caliphate of the late Umayyad and High Abbasid eras. At its height, during the second/eighth and third/ninth centuries, the Baghdad-based Abbasid caliphate was the richest and largest empire the world had ever seen in terms of per capita wealth. It also adopted the symbolism of the pre-Islamic Sassanid empire in which a worthy emperor, in order to dispense total justice, had to project an absolutist, god-like aura.”
The claim that the egalitarian and just caliphate was unstable due to material circumstances and turned into a monarchical absolutist regime – the characterization of the governments clearly admitted by the author – normalizes the latter in the sense that the change in government was justified and acceptable according to the sharī’ah. Anjum is reluctant to even classify these governments as different in function and chooses adjectives like egalitarian, piety-based, God-like aura, imperial, instead of delineating them as actual forms of government: absolute monarchy and rightly-guided caliphate. The reason is because he disputes the lack of continuity between what is a caliphate and “not a caliphate” later in the article and in his thought generally. This is to say that in his view, the notion of caliphate cannot really be distinguished from a non-caliphate, and therefore, a non-caliphate is not really commanded to be implemented by the Prophet ﷺ. The differentiation between these two forms of government is identified by the Prophet ﷺ explicitly, enumerated by countless scholars, and understood in the first generations of Muslims (especially those who recognized the lack of legitimacy of the Umayyad/Abbasid caliphates based on various hadīths).
What he calls the “second model” of the caliphate is described as such:
“The actual powers of the caliph, both in reality and in the Law of Islam, were rather limited, and in some cases drastically so. This was the second model of the caliphate As the actual power of the Baghdadi caliphs waned, a third model arose in which the caliph was primarily a symbolic and spiritual authority; the actual rulers of various provinces were often local governors or invading military commanders who, lacking inherent legitimacy, paid homage to the caliph. This age lasted for some five centuries. It is in this classical era that Islamic law, theology, and political thought crystallized. The caliph’s symbolic power was indispensable, and the possibility of its recovery of actual power was not far-fetched. The famous twelfth-century Islamic hero, Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn (Saladin), who took Jerusalem back from the Crusaders and won hearts by showing great magnanimity, died seeking but not attaining the approval of the caliph in Baghdad; the caliph’s approval mattered for a ruler’s authority to be legitimate, no matter his accomplishments.”
Yes, the actual powers of non-rightly-guided caliphs were indeed limited (and sometimes, non-existent). This was a ‘caliphate’ in the sense that some scholars accepted their legitimacy as caliphs because they were symbolically the ‘leader’ of the army, and the so-called fealty pledged by military rulers (who had the real power and did so symbolically) allowed for the caliph to remain legitimate, in the sense that we can still view the world under the implementation of the sharī’ah, even if the caliph is not personally undertaking these orders. Yes, the caliphs “symbolic power” was “indispensable,” at times, but actual military and political power belonged to someone else. Of course, while the populations saw it as a legitimizing force, the fact that the caliphs themselves were illegitimate (regardless of whether they had power or not) in the sense that they are not abiding by the sunnah of the rightly-guided caliphs as was ordered of the ummah. More on this later.
The nest two paragraphs are written to shift the criterion of judgement from the Qur’an and sunnah to the perception that differences between the scholars is a reason to turn a blind eye from the truth – or deliberately cover it up, as in Anjum’s case –:
The caliph, it became increasingly clear to Muslims, represented two crucial continuities for the Muslim ummah: (1) the symbolic connection back to the Prophet ﷺ and the Rightly Guided caliphs, whose conduct remained the gold standard, and (2) the spatial continuity (or unity) of all Muslims, who now lived in networked societies stretching over parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe and ruled by various local kings and governors. These two continuities made political fragmentation, religious sectarianism, and cultural rivalries manageable, averting the worst centrifugal tendencies and preventing a collapse of the region into constant warfare and savagery. These societies were largely self-governed by the Law of Islam as administered by local rulers and scholars. The kings or sultans served as ‘butlers’ or, more grandiosely, as the executive branch, who were important for defense and upkeep of the Law but nevertheless disposable. They came and went without changing the norms, laws, or institutions of this mega-society. This third model has been called “classical Islamic constitutionalism.” It is important because, with the exception of the first couple of centuries, it is what the caliphate has actually looked like throughout most of Islamic history. Things were far from perfect, and the most influential ʿulamāʾ who deliberated on political matters, from al-Mawardi (d. 450/1058), al-Juwayni (d. 478/1085), al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111), to Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), considered the actual loss of the caliph’s power to military usurpers unacceptable, though they deemed it tolerable as an exceptional situation. Al-Ghazali likened accepting the Saljuq sultans of his time, who only nominally accepted the supreme authority of the Abbasid caliph but in fact flouted his authority, to the eating of carrion: it was permitted only to save life in the absence of wholesome food. Others, in particular Ibn Taymiyya, agreed, as we shall see below. During the first half of this model before the Mongol attack in 656/1258, the Baghdad-based caliph’s symbolic power was significant, but even afterward in the Mamluk period, when the Abbasid caliph, now in Cairo, lost all power, in distant Muslim lands such as Delhi and Timbuktu, his letter of investiture was crucial to marking the difference between mere usurpation of power and legitimacy and belonging to the Muslim body politic.
Firstly, let us understand the terminology: the “caliph” here refers to the caliph in the linguistic sense, not in the Prophet’s use of the word khalīfah meaning legitimate caliph. Next, it is important to catch the two places Anjum shifts the criteria from the Qur’an and Sunnah to medieval popular discourse and the ‘deliberations’ of the scholars.
The first, which uses popular discourse as a standard is found in the phrase, “The caliph, it became increasingly clear to Muslims”, which continues to identify praiseworthy characteristics of these medieval empires’ traditions. The second is found in switching the discussion towards the views of the scholars, using the fact that they disagreed to open up a sliver of doubt, whereupon it could be said: the scholars disagree over the legitimacy and necessity of the various models of caliphates, so which should we choose? The genius of the argument is that it creates a conceptual space wherein debating what has been made expressly clear in the Qur’an and sunnah could be changed. The substance of this opacity and twisting of meanings and concepts beyond their implications will be reviewed in much more detail where the author actually attempts to reconstruct a modern-day ‘version’ of the caliphate – as if the Prophet ﷺ approved of different versions of divine government.
Next, Anjum manages to describe nearly every bad quality of the Ottoman empire from inception to destruction – omitting those which prove its illegitimacy – to further his point that the caliphate today is about ‘choosing’ a model:
A fourth model of the caliphate, which was an amalgam of the second and third ones, came to the fore when the Ottomans politically united Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa under one empire that lasted for about four hundred years as one of the most successful, stable, and powerful empires of the time. The Ottoman sultans (who took on the title “caliph” after defeating the Mamluks in Cairo), upheld the Shariʿa Law that was expounded and administered by the scholars as muftis and judges. The caliph-sultan’s powers, therefore, were limited. We have cases of sultans who were deposed because of the verdict of the chief qadi (judge). Yet the sultans could gain power and act despotically as well, flouting Islamic norms on matters that touched on their crucial interests. In contrast to the Ottomans in the Middle East and North Africa and to the Mughals in India, who ruled over a Hindu majority, their Shiʿa rivals, the Safavids, based their legitimacy on strong theocratic claims. The Ottoman claim to the caliphate was at times imagined in mystical ways. Anatolian Sufism helped imagine the Ottoman caliph as a ruler, spiritual guide, and lawmaker for all Muslims, even though no political effort was made—and was perhaps unthinkable—to join the three vast Muslim empires into one political order.
What are those qualities? Tyrannical rule, subservience to the judicial branch, accepting Islam ‘as formulated by scholars and judges’ without critically examining its actual substance, and being ‘imagined through mystical ways’ which included major and minor forms of shirk. What are the qualities that delegitimize them and further them from the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ and the rightly-guided caliphs? Gaining power through force, non-Qurayshī lineage, selection of ruler based on family status, substituting any version of the sharī’ah for modern constitutionalism (since the 1800s), and others. Anjum of course is trying to squeeze through two restrictions: too much doubt about the caliphs such as to make them illegitimate; and not enough doubt about the caliphs so as not to be able to justify his denial of the true caliphate later on. In other words, this section is about discrediting the notion of a true caliphate, and makes it one of five models.
What is more interesting is that my theory is better proven by the following paragraphs, while I had not even read them when responding to the paragraphs above. Anjum continues:
The crucial common factor in the last three models of the caliphate is that the caliph did not wield religious authority except in limited public matters. For the Ottomans, the mystics could imagine the caliph to be God’s shadow on earth, and even the occult could be used to make prophecies and justify policies, but the Hanafi legal establishment, the backbone of the empire, ensured that such claims remained within the Sufi lodges. Bernard Lewis, the famous hawkish neo-conservative doyen of Orientalist studies, acknowledged this much: there has been and can be no theocracy in (Sunni) Islam. This is thanks to the inherent epistemological pluralism of Sunni jurisprudence and the lack of any institution like the medieval Church to speak for God. The multiplicity of voices interpreting scripture and tradition meant two things: that religious authority was divided and polyphonic and that the ruling elite could never control the religious authority, and as a result, an organic system of socio-religious checks and balances emerged.
The so-called conservative Muslim academic (and faux ‘ālim) quotes Bernard Lewis, of all people, approvingly when he robs the entire religion of the entire tradition of fiqh from right under our eyes. Have no doubt. When he says, “there has been and can be no theocracy in (Sunni) Islam…thanks to the inherent epistemological pluralism of Sunni jurisprudence”, he is very clearly stating that the only true claim to truth and moral objectivity in law is through an institution and lack of plurality – something like the “medieval Church”. Anjum comments that the multiplicity of interpretations, as I explained above, meant that religious auhtoiry was divided and no real objective truth could be claimed. Although these two state that it means the political elite could not manipulate religious thought (which is false and easy evidence can be made to the contrary, although not important to the topic at hand), what it really means is that the notion of truth in law could never really be claimed.
Have no doubt about this type fo speech. Anybody taking courses on the history of Islam or the like should be very cautious when they read books like “What is Islam” by Shahab Ahmed and others. These academics are trying to displace Islam and the claim to genuine divine knowledge from its roots, by claiming that Muslims’ tolerance of juristic pluralism, and the absence of an institution like the church, means that Islam is basically whatever people define it to be in their own day and age. This is a very important point and deserves an entire refutation – perhaps of Shahab Ahmed’s book. The summary is that the notion of Islam, and especially of orthodoxy, is not ‘real’ in the sense that it cannot enforce itself through physical force or the backing of a political elite – and therefore, that Islam itself as a concept does not have any truth. It’s like pointing out all of the similarities between apples and oranges, and then claiming that their similarity means they are actually the same thing – or conversely, by pointing out all the differences between two apples, you claim that these two apples are actually two fundamentally different fruits, even if they came from the same tree.
First, know that Islam, Islamic law, and orthodoxy was heavily institutionalized the last four ‘models of the caliphate that Anjum lists. In Mamluk Egypt, if you claimed to believe in all of Allah’s names and attributes along with their meanings, and then peached it to the public, you could get sentenced to any number of punishments for committing heresy (this is exactly why Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim spent so many of their years in jail). Islamic ‘orthodoxy’ as defined by whatever government was embedded into the very makeup of the state: in the Ottoman times, you had the religious authorities, chief justice (who could remove the sultan), and institutions such that the smallest dispute was resolved by qādīs who implemented the Ottoman understanding of Hanafi jurisprudence. There have been countless forced conversions of non-Muslims by Muslim ‘caliphates’ – as well as conversions between sects. The reason Iran is majority-Shiite is because the Safavid Sultan, Ismail I (1487-1524), imposed Twelver Shi’aism on the official government level (some say, as a political maneuver between Sunni Islam and Ismailism, who were both powerful forces in medieval Iran).
Second, know that no amount of difference between the scholars, or between different types of government, or interpretations of verses or hadiths, can deprive from the truth. Allah said: “Nay – conjecture does not enrich the truth at all” (Qur’ān 53:28). This will be discussed in detail where Anjum quotes the relevant traditions and concludes through various false assumptions that the caliphate is no longer an obligation upon the ummah – may Allah protect us from this sort of speech, and deliberate denial of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
He then uses this to claim that some caliphates are “theocracies” and others are not, as if a matter of choice. But what does theocracy mean, and is it an Islamic obligation or not? There are two meanings of theocracy. The first refers to Christian theocracy, which is government in which political rule is in the hands of the clerical elite: your imams, priests, rabbis, official religious institutions like the Roman Catholic Church, etc. This is not found anywhere in the sunnah for the reason that the separation between lay people and clerical elite is not the defining feature of Islamic government as practiced by the Prophet’s successors. On the other hand, the modern definition (e.g., in Merriam-Webster) that a theocracy is “government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided”, is literally the linguistic equivalent of the term repeated in Friday sermons of the ahl al-sunnah: “al-khulafā’ al-rashidīn al-mahdīīn”, where the first adjective to caliph is “rāshid”, translated to orthodox, and “mahdī”, translated as “guided”, referring of course to divine guidance in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah. This is how the word is used by Anjum, and that which is obligated by Allah and His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ upon the ummah, which Anjum is acting like is a matter of choice: “The third and fourth models of the caliphate, which lasted a combined total of a thousand years, were, in short, neither theocratic nor absolutist.” He continues until the end of the section,
They guaranteed a large measure of freedom to communities under their rule: Muslims of different rites, Jews, Christians, and others could live as relatively free communities. Although far from perfect, this system worked more effectively in facilitating a fair and God-centered life than modern Muslim states and even many democracies. Unlike the modern liberal model, communities and hence communal norms were deemed necessary for any decent human existence, which is why even non-Muslims were free to live by the religious norms in which they believed. The needle of the balance between individual and communal rights tilted often in the latter direction. The Ottomans, like the Romans had been vis-à-vis the Greeks, were administrators and institution builders, and turned the Qur’anic model of protected communities, dhimmis, into an institution of multiple religious communities represented by their leaders in the capital. This became known as the millet system. When the modern nation-states of the nineteenth century confronted the Ottomans, for the first time becoming their equals and quickly surpassing Ottoman economic and military might, the Ottomans adjusted and ultimately made great strides in modernizing their army, economy, and society—in that order—in a relatively short time. The old organic, socially, and communally grounded limits on the sultan’s power were replaced with a constitution, but the Ottomans did not survive the First World War. Modern historians have suggested that the old idea of an unsustainably decrepit regime—the idea of the Ottoman Empire as the “sick man of Europe”—was incorrect; in fact, the Ottomans could have survived had they bet on a different side in the war or somehow survived it. We might call this short-lived constitutional caliphate a fifth potential model of the caliphate.
This praise of the non-theocratic-“ness” and non-absolutist-“ness” of the latter three governments is, according to Anjum, praiseworthy. This is especially the case to the Ottoman Empire’s having “adjusted” to the ‘advances’ of modern nation-states by imitating them and their rule, establishing so-called constitutionalism – the last nail in the coffin of the decaying Empire. While I have already critiqued all of these notions, think about this: what does Anjum’s praise of these changes say about his opinion of the first generation of Muslims?
Refutation of “The theory of the caliphate”
The deception begins,
“Trying to separate the essence of the caliphate from its various manifestations, the Sunni tradition theorized the caliphate meticulously, establishing the foundation of its obligation, its functions, nature, and limits, and responding to its transformations while also trying to stay true to the Rashidun model. This was a complex exercise; every disagreement that could be conceived was had, and the leading jurist-theologians built and continually rethought a careful edifice of proofs and justifications. Unsurprisingly, careful theorization of the institution took place first at the hands of the Sunni ulama in the fifth/eleventh century precisely when the institution’s existence was threatened. The sheer necessity of the caliphate for the continued unity and existence of the religious community during the first two centuries made extensive theoretical defense superfluous, even though we find one of the earliest preserved epistles in Islam, that of the Umayyad secretary ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd al-Kātib (d. 132/750), concerned with theorizing and defending the caliphate as a divinely mandated institution that continued the Prophet’s mission”
No, there is no ‘essence’ of the caliphate found within monarchical, oppressive, or illegitimate types of regimes. It either is a khilāfah ‘alā minhāj al-nubuwwah, or not on the minhāj al-nubuwwah. Acceptance of a mix of truth (caliphate) and rejection (non-divine law) does not make something “good” and “bad”, it spoils the whole batch. That does not mean someone cannot commit sins without being a disbeliever (as the khawārij believe), but rather that a given action itself, if it constitutes rejection of Allah, cannot be ‘good’ if it is breaking Allah’s direct command – especially when Allah predicates belief in Allah and the day of judgement upon its acceptance and desire:
“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result. Have you not seen those who claim to have believed in what was revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you? They wish to refer legislation to Tāghūt, while they were commanded to reject it; and Satan wishes to lead them far astray” (Qur’ān 4:59-60).
Allah predicates belief in Allah and the day of judgement – i.e., belief that frees one from divine punishment – upon referring of legislation to Allah and His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ. Note, the disobedience itself (i.e., a sin) does not deprive one of faith; rather, it is the act of taking a source of legislation besides the Qur’an and the Sunnah. I am not saying that the Abbasid or Ottoman caliphates are infidels or that different caliphs were not better than others – that would be incorrect as stated – but rather that we as slaves of Allah tasked with implementing divine legislation must accept nothing less of the truth, especially when it comes to matters of legislation. Shirk as an action is disbelief: calling to the dead in their graves, prostrating the idols, not necessarily because they don’t believe in Allah, but because they have made themselves subservient to something or someone else – that something only Allah deserves, including being called upon, worshipped, depended upon, and believed in. This is why Allah said that the polytheists in the times of the earliest prophets were associating with Allah by worshipping idols as an intermediary, i.e., not actually believing that the idols themselves were the Creator of the havens and the earth. Allah said:
“Unquestionably, for Allah is the pure religion. And those who take protectors besides Him [say], “We only worship them that they may bring us nearer to Allah in position.” Indeed, Allah will judge between them concerning that over which they differ. Indeed, Allah does not guide he who is a liar and disbeliever [kādhib kuffār]” (Qur’ān: 39:3).
Among these forms of subservience is looking for divine guidance in worldly matters beyond what Allah revealed while knowing he revealed answers to all worldly and religious problems. Legislation and taking of standards beyond Allah’s – or rejecting some of his message while believing in others for any reason – is a form of this disbelief:
“Indeed, those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and wish to discriminate between Allah and His messengers and say, “We believe in some and disbelieve in others,” and wish to adopt a way in between – Those are the disbelievers, truly. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment.” “So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part? Then what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment.” (Qur’ān 4:150-151 and 2:85).
The point here is that when it comes to divine governance as with other issues, it is necessary, a requirement upon which our faith is dependent, to accept nothing less than exactly what Allah ordered us to fulfill – each order in its specificity.
“All surviving Muslim schools and sects agreed on the obligation of appointing one leader for the Muslim community. The Sunnis and the Shiʿa agreed on this point but their conceptions of the office differed. The Imami Shiʿa included belief in an imam—a chosen scion of the Alid family—in the very definition of faith, and an obligation upon God (as a matter of luṭf, or divine grace), which meant that knowing and believing in one true imam (even if he was not in power or physically existent) to be an obligation upon all humans. The Zaydi Shiʿa believed in the right to rule of a scion of the Alid family, but one who showed his fitness for the office by successfully rebelling against unjust rule and claiming leadership. The Sunnis, in contrast, considered establishing the caliphate to be a collective obligation. The difference is subtle: for the Shiʿa, not believing in the right imam is heretical and may even invalidate one’s faith; for the Sunnis, failing to install a rightful imam or failing to strive to do so is sinful. The Ibāḍīs—the moderate and the only Kharijite sect to survive past the formative period—believe in the obligation of a just imam/caliph, but, unlike the Shiʿa and most Sunnis, and like most post-Ottoman Sunnis, they do not require that the candidate be from Quraysh or any particular lineage.”
Firstly, let us be aware once again of the deception. What the Shī’ah, Khawārij, Mu’tazilah, Nusayriyyah, or even Ahl al-Sunnah beyond the first three generations say have no bearing on the truth itself. That is to say, the Qur’an, Hadith, tafsīr of the companions, ijmā’ of the Muslims, or the righteous people among the first three generations of Muslims, do have a bearing on the truth and their opinions do matter in determining what is and is not acceptable, including in government, while none of the other groups – especially those who curse the companions of the Prophet ﷺ and mothers of the believers, make takfīr of ahl al-sunnah, or are outright mushriks (the followers of Ibn Nusayr known as the Alawis).
I include the scholars of ahl al-sunnah to make the point that they in of themselves do not constitute legal proof – something accepted by all Muslims, including those scholars themselves. This is important to cement, because the diversity in opinion concerning the nature of the khilāfah was interpreted by some, like Ash’arī scholars of the Shāfi’ī and Mālikī schools, many of whom had close ties to the governments and judges of their times. Have no doubt, the scholars of the first generations, especially the scholars of the four madhhabs (Abu Hanifah, Malik, al-Shafi’i, and Ahmad), had no doubt about the illegitimacy of governments that did not implement the prophetic method (more on that), and most supported in one way or the other, the toppling of the governments after the time of the rightly-guided caliphs. Although I cannot cover complete references in a response article, we have the following evidence of the jurists supporting rebellion against the state:
- Abu Hanifah donated money to the rebellion of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyyah (the great grandson of the Caliph ‘Alī) who rebelled against the Abbasid ‘Caliph’ al-Mansūr, with the support of a reported 4,000 Muslim scholars at the time (a ridiculous number considering the size of the Ummah at the time). It was recorded that he considered fighting himself were he not able to find a substitute in his school.
- Al-Shāfi’ī supported a rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate, and reportedly even pledged allegiance to one of the rebels.
- Imam Malik did not oppose the rebellion of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyyah, and issued a fatwa supposedly declaring the rebellion permissible, due to the fact that the caliph had forced others to pledge allegiance to him.
- Imam Ahmad disavowed many of his contemporaries, including great scholars of hadīth, for accepting patronage of the caliph of his time (including receiving money and committing kufr to spare their lives under threat of the caliph), and cried over the martyrdom of Ahmad al-Khuzzā’ī, who rebelled against caliph al-Ma’mūn for forcing the Ummah to accept the Mu’tazilī ‘aqīdah in what was known as the Mihnah (although he rejected rebellion himself due to the potential for bloodshed).
The point here is not historical analysis but to point out that what we should be paying attention to is not the opinions of the scholars, but of the evidences based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This is especially true in cases where some jurists cast aside evidence based on the hadīth for others which they viewed to better establish a given evidence.
This is the case with al-Juwaynī, who preferred the evidence of the consensus of the companions:
Opinions varied as to the possibility of Islamic life without a caliph. Some, like al-Ghazali, went so far as to deny the legitimacy of Islamic life under such conditions. Others, like his teacher and the chief Ashʿari theologian and Shāfiʿī jurist of his time Abū al-Maʿālī al-Juwayni, considered such a scenario in his brilliant, imaginative treatise Ghiyāth al-umam fī-l-tiyāth al-ẓulam. There he imagines dystopian futures in which Muslims may not have a caliph with proper qualifications, or no caliph at all, leaving the scholars to lead the community, and finally, the absence even of qualified scholars and instructions about what Muslims might do in such cases. Not satisfied with citing a few indirect verses and solitary (āḥād) ḥadiths, he insists that since the definitive obligation of the caliphate requires absolute proof, it must be established on the basis of the consensus of the Companions, the highest imaginable authority for a religious obligation. He argues that numerous rational people cannot agree on an answer to a question that accepts multiple rational answers unless there is a reason, and that reason in the case of the Companions must have been their shared understanding of the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet ﷺ. The consensus, therefore, was neither accidental nor one born out of mere necessity. As the initial disagreement of the Medinan Helpers (Anṣār) in their meeting at the Portico of Banū Sāʿida shows, it was arrived at after deliberation as Abū Bakr and ʿUmar saw clearly, and everyone subsequently agreed, that its need was created by the indubitable obligations of Islam.
Anjum then states that “In the post-Mongol period (seventh/thirteenth-century onward), the earlier tendency to pragmatically justify usurping strongmen in conditions of dire urgency and insecurity led to the justification of any usurper who could defend the community or some part of it.” This is due and unfortunate, because it represents the opposite eof the truth derivation of fiqh: from the Qur’an and Sunnah to our reality, not taking our reality as a standard and then justifying it through the Qur’an and Sunnah. This becomes much more dangerous when a rejection of sharī’ah entirely is being declared. Also, while Anjum says “in the post-Mongol period”, the readers should know that this really existed since the end of the rightly-guided caliphate, where scholars were gathered and forced to pledge allegiance to monarchical authoritarian regimes, legitimizing it in the eyes of the public. Other scholars, including many students of the four imams, consciously accepted judgeships and other positions where they viewed it as a conduit for ruling by the Qur’an and Sunnah (instaed of the position being filled by someone who did not). None of these arguments are acceptable in a nation-state where each judge, official, assistant, and even citizen is bound by a set of fundamental laws which fundamentally contradict both core values and specific rulings of the sharī’ah.
This line of talking becomes dangerous and very disturbing, because it both results in a rejection of the Qur’an and Sunnah for the opinions, actions, and unfounded theories of others; and secondly, by citing authorities (like Ibn Khaldūn) – even incorrectly – it distorts the message: if we are to take something as true because “Ibn Khaldūn said it”, and the argument turns into: did Ibn Khaldūn really say it? Are you saying he is wrong? Who are you to say that? Allah prohibits us from this form of inquiry, and from taking the scholars as lords besides Allah. The only benefit of the scholars is to learn the opinions and their interpretations of the evidences, and then see if it agrees with the evidences themselves. Imām al-Shawkānī (18th c. Yemen) and countless other scholars have emphasized the need to use only the Qur’an and Sunnah as the source of legislation. We may of course analyze and discuss the opinions of various scholars, but the actual determination of truth comes from the meanings of the speech of Allah and His prophet ﷺ, and their authenticity alone.
In any case, the idea that Ibn Khaldūn actually supported non-prophetic governance is not true. Although he accepted the caliphate of Mu’āwiyah (and possibly Yazid), he was clear that after them, and with nearly all the Islamic ‘governments’ and caliphs that followed – even if they were good – their legal rulings are in principle unjust because the government issuing the laws do not follow the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. Ibn Khaldūn says: “Government decisions are as a rule unjust, because pure justice is found only in the legal caliphate that lasted only a short while. Muhammad said: ‘The caliphate after me will last thirty years; then, it will revert to being tyrannical royal authority’” (Al-Muqaddimah, Chapter 4, Sect. 16). Yes, politically speaking, some countries are more effective and implement more just laws than others, with different levels of corruption, oppression, economic wellbeing, and most importantly, political solidarity (‘asabiyyah). Yet, in terms of justice, and more importantly, legitimate and absolutely just government, this cannot be found in any systematic form than the prophetic caliphate.
Ibn Taymiyyah is the same. Although he is clear to reject opinions which reject the justness and unjustness governments that have both bad and good, he is adamant that form a strictly legal perspective, the versions of the hadiths quoted by Ibn Khaldūn all prove decisively that prophetic caliphate is a requirement and anything less is the cause of major or minor sins. That being said, he states it to be a matter of ijtihād (legal reasoning), whereby the existence of monarchy does not give us the right to accuse of heresy or fight against them. Now, even if we accept this opinion, the corollary – a state that refuses to implement every aspect of the shari’ah – is indeed very grave, and for Ibn Taymiyyah, a cause of general takfīr (excommunication) and the Islamic obligation to rebel against the ruler. Those in the government apparatus are treated like non-Muslims (they are not legally protected through retribution), and the accusation of hypocrisy to even their civilian supporters is accepted. These opinions are all discussed in detail with evidence from the Qur’an, Sunnah, and consensus of the companions in various fatwas concerning the Mongol invasions in the 13th century. Ibn Taymiyyah is very clear to say that the reason for this need to fight is not due to their atrocities or even their having attacked and taken over Muslim land (since they claim to be Muslim it would not be a problem), but rather, that not necessitating the shari’ah in government and military ranks means the government apostatized from Islam (or never became Muslim to begin with). Unlike the khawārij who made excommunication of Msulims and went to extremes, or the apostates in Abu Bakr’s time who refused to pay the zakāh, these Mongols were not even practicing Muslims; and even if they were, they did not necessitate the application of shari’ah in government. He cites many if not all of the verses of Qur’an cited thus far in this refutation. Ibn Taymiyyah doubles down on this by saying that those among the Mongol ranks who do practice Islam through prayer, fasting and other acts of worship, are even worse than those who do not, because they are pretending to be religious when in reality supporting rulers who refused to accept divine law. These may be found in Ibn Taymiyyah’s “Mongol Fatwas” including the “Fatwa of Mardin”, found mostly in Volume 28 of Majmū’ al-Fatāwā.
Anjum then quotes some correct references (albeit with the wrong aim):
To give substance and texture to the claims just put forth, let us consider a sampling of the types of claims and justifications for the caliphate provided by scholars from a broad range of schools. The encyclopedic Ẓāhirī scholar Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064), writing in Spain and hence outside of the traditional lands of the Abbasid caliphate, noted: All Ahl al-Sunnah, all Murjiʾa, all Shiʿa, and all Kharijites have agreed unanimously on the obligation of the Imamate and that the Ummah has an obligation to obey a just Imam who establishes the rulings of God over them, managing their affairs with the Law brought by the Messenger of God. The only exception are the Najadāt of the Kharijites, who said that people have no obligation to have an imam; it is upon them, rather, to fulfill each other’s rights. Ibn Ḥazm’s reference is to a handful of radicals during the Second Civil War (AH 60–70s), when the Kharijites and a few Muʿtazila could even question the obligation of the caliphate in the heady days of early schisms. But then, even basic doctrines such as the authority of the hadith, the validity of rational analogy, the righteousness of the last two Rashidun caliphs, and even the sanctity of Muslim life were fair game for these groups. One such free-thinker argued almost counter-factually: if all believers volunteered to live by the divine law, no government would be necessary. Note that he did not suggest a secular government as an alternative, but denied the need for a political order altogether. Another argued, almost hyper-factually, that this no-imam situation applied only in times of civil war, and allegiance to no imam was necessary during one. On the whole, however, the necessity of a caliph was far more unproblematically and unanimously agreed upon than many other doctrines now taken to be fundamental… Writing about the same time in the western parts of the Islamic world, the great historian and Mālikī jurist Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406) summed up the consensus succinctly: Appointing a leader is obligatory. Its mandatory nature is known through revealed law by the consensus of the Companions and the generation of the Followers. It is so because the Companions of the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) hastened, upon his death, to pledge allegiance and submit consideration of their affairs to Abu Bakr (May God be pleased with him). And it was thus in every age thereafter, and the matter was established as consensus indicating the obligation of appointing a leader. Ibn Khaldun then goes on to argue, in accordance with his Ashʿari commitments, that the obligation of establishing the caliphate (like all other obligations) derives from the revealed law and not reason and hence cannot be suspended by rational judgment.
Again, the opinion of sects outside of the Ahl al-Sunnah does not matter. Now, that Anjum fails to actually to define Ahl al-Sunnah – which is what he means – itself is problematic. The reason is because he appeals to common acceptance of his ideas instead of textual evidence. When he said we must accept caliphate because those who disagree also disagree with the caliphate of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali, that itself is not evidence. What is really needed is to explain the truth according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah to establish the truth, and then provide common-sense reasons as to why it is correct. This is the same with the Maturidi creed book and its explanation. The quotes, which I omit in this refutation, use hadīths that are not known by the main compilers of hadīth, and are themselves highly problematic and have portions which oppose the sunnah (e.g., on the interpretation of the divine attributes and rules around the meanings of Allah’s verses). The purpose here is to point out that no individual’s creed book, explanation, or incorrect quoting of hadīth should be taken as the real standard (“Whoever dies without knowing the imam of his time dies in pre-Islamic ignorance” instead of the hadith in Sahih Muslim: “Whoever dies without giving allegiance dies the death of pre-Islamic ignorance”). This is the same problem with Taftazani’s argument that we need a single caliphate in one time because doing otherwise would cause corruption and animosity between Muslims. This is true, and the reasons given for the ruling is true. However, the ruling itself is represented to be such that if it were not the case (that animosity and bloodshed would occur), we would not need a single caliphate. This is not true, and the Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ makes the reason clear such that no discussion of the common benefit or harm could possibly dislodge the ruling:
It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: One who defected from obedience (to the Amir) and separated from the main body of the Muslims – if he died in that state-would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya (i.e. would not die as a Muslim). One who fights under the banner of a people who are blind (to the cause for which they are fighting, i.e. do not know whether their cause is just or otherwise), who gets flared up with family pride, calls (people) to fight for their family honour, and supports his kith and kin (i.e. fights not for the cause of Allah but for the sake of this family or tribe) – if he is killed (in this fight), he dies as one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya. Whoso attacks my Ummah (indiscriminately) killing the righteous and the wicked of them, sparing not (even) those staunch in faith and fulfilling not his promise made with those who have been given a pledge of security – he has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him. (Sahih Muslim 1848).
It has been narrated on the authority of Aba Sa’id al-Khudri that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: When oath of allegiance has been taken for two caliphs, kill the one for whom the oath was taken later (Sahih Muslim 1853).
If anything, the method of the Prophet ﷺ, Sahabah, and jurists is to quote the verse of Qur’an, then hadīth, and then explain the meanings if anything else remains unclear. The reason for this relates to what I have already stated above concerning the need to deduce from the text first, not from opinions and then justify the text.
It is an understatement to note that Ibn Khaldun upheld the caliphate; he wrote his masterpiece to explain its history and advocate its return. A leading Western scholar of Islamic civilization, Hamilton Gibb, argued that the caliphate occupied a central position in Ibn Khaldun’s thought. This can be inferred from the way that his chapters are logically organized to culminate in the caliphate, where he then discusses elaborately the organization associated with it before going on to analyze the causes of the state’s decay and its final destruction. It is impossible to avoid the impression that he, in addition to analyzing the evolution of political power and group solidarity, was, like other Muslim jurists of his time, concerned with the problem of reconciling the ideal demands of the Shari‘a with the facts of history. Others, including the Muʿtazila, Shiʿa, traditionalists like Ibn Taymiyya, argued that the obligation of the caliphate, like all other obligations, is known by both revelation and reason.
This is the same for Ibn Khaldūn, who was both a jurist and social scientist. In his masterpiece on sociology and political science – rightly earning him the title of father of sociology – Ibn Khaldūn was primarily interested in empirical study: why do people behave as they do, what are the characteristics of different types of governments, and how is it possible to predict the future of a people and government based on their characteristics? Anybody in the social sciences knows these are the central questions in the empirical study of human behavior (form psychology to politics). Yes, he supported the caliphate, and his view of justice was based on the Qur’an and Sunnah as I have quoted above – but that did not deter him from studying the factors which influence the material success or failure of various societies and forms of government. Ideological conviction, luxury, ethnic diversity, monarchical practices, tribal connections, and various other factors influence the success of any country, Muslim or non-Muslim. Ibn Khaldūn studies these factors and uses historical examples. Nowhere does he support or reject them as “legitimate” or “illegitimate”, because the Muqaddimah is not written from the perspective of a jurist, but from the perspective of a social scientist.
Finally, the fact of whether the caliphate is obligated by reason or revelation is simpler than stated. The obligation for one caliphate upon the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ and rightly-guided caliphs, affirmed by consensus of the companions (due to the countless verses and hadiths that affirm it generally or specifically). There is no doubt for this, and no need to weight the ‘pros and cons’, just like how there is no point in weighting pros and cons for any other obligation: prayer, purification, zakāh, banning of harmful substances, or even the prohibition of interest. All of these are absolutely prohibited, but make sure this is clear: they are not prohibited because they cause more harm than benefit, or because some people have decided that it does (not even the Prophet). It is prohibited because Allah declared it prohibited (or obligated), and it is not clear that a specific instance of these acts will lead to harm or benefit in this world: what is guaranteed is gaining of benefit and freedom from harm in the hereafter.
Yes, Allah revealed the Qur’an in stages (starting with ‘aqīdah and ending with rulings of government), his obligations do indeed – in most cases – garner benefit in this world: a world without economic exploitation (removal of physical harm and suffering), unity among Muslims, punishments which match the crime and evidence which matches the severity, and even the peace of mind and psychological benefits of a Muslim when praying to Allah with his brothers or alone at night.
This is all true, but what is also true is that this will not always be the case. In fact, we saw in the hadīths above that the willingness to sacrifice for Allah’s sake is precisely the cause of worldly attainment: or, in other words, in times of fitnah, we have to give up all those things we view to be worldly benefits. We have to give up our luxury, peace of mind, booming business growth, and the material wellbeing of our selves and families for the sake of Allah, without a guarantee to redeem it in this world. Yes, the sahābah did that and they were redeemed in this world. But that is not always the case: how about the martyrs, those who died starving in famines of Islam’s early days, those who died before seeing any material benefit for themselves (the Prophet ﷺ is the best example)? Likewise, how about the thousands killed by the khawārij, rebels against ‘Ali’s caliphate (e.g., Mu’āwiyah), killed by their own brothers? How about the sahābah who rebelled against the Umayyad ‘caliphate’ under Yazīd, who were killed and the honour of their wives violated in Medina in the massacre of al-Harrah committed by Yazid’s men? These are all real things, and real prices paid by real Muslims, who often paid the ultimate price for their religion.
This is not to say: be careless, don’t consider your worldly interests, don’t study the benefits of Islamic law and government, don’t examine the psychological and health benefits of fasting and prayer – that would be against the sunnah of Allah, His Prophet ﷺ, and the sahābah.
This is all to say: the source of Allah’s rulings is never the material wellbeing or any other type. The source of rulings is the Qur’an and Sunnah, and the promise of redemption in the hereafter. Only after understanding this comes counting the benefits of Allah’s rulings, or marveling over the material success of the Muslim world.
Scholars offered numerous reasons, or rational functions, that necessitate a government. For some, these functions are the cause or part of the cause of the obligation; for others, they are its benefits, but the obligation itself stands independent of any benefits. To those who emphasized the absolute ritual necessity of the caliphate for the validity of Islamic life, such as al-Mawardi and, even more so, al-Ghazali, it was an obligation to install a caliph even if he no longer possessed effective power (shawka, munna) and had to depend on others (e.g., sultans) for upholding its basic functions. For others, like al-Juwayni and Ibn Taymiyya, effective power to uphold the ḥudūd, maintain law and order, and defend the community and its religion was a necessary ingredient of the definition of a caliph. The ʿulamāʾ have continued to faithfully reproduce this line of reasoning until today. An eleventh-/seventeenth-century Damascene jurist notes in his authoritative compendium of Hanafi jurisprudence: “The major imama (khilāfa) is the right of general disposal over the people. Its investigation is in Kalam (i.e., theology) and establishing it is the most important of obligations. Hence, they (the Companions) gave it priority over the burial of the Possessor of Miracles.”
Again, words like “ritual” and “rational” do not have any effect on the legal necessity of the caliphate. What matters here is what is required by Allah and His prophet ﷺ in authentic transmissions. While that is the case, some scholars have theorized about the various practical conditions that would have to be in place for a khalīfah to be inaugurated. Logically, it is legally required that the khalīfah – to be considered one by definition – must actually take up the responsibly of a khalīfah when he is in office. The pledge of allegiance has no meaning without political power. Why? Well, what is the pledge of allegiance for? Obedience in hardship and ease, and to carry out the orders of the sharī’ah? That is literally physically impossible for the sharī’ah to be implemented if somebody else is making the political decisions. On that note, Al-Ghazālī wants to establish the legitimacy of a caliphate even when he did not have political power in order to be able to keep the sanctity of the law. This is because he believed that for the law – even marriages and financial contracts (and imagine a world where all are considered illegitimate!) – to be legitimate, the caliph has to be giving that legitimacy. Thus, his acceptance of a caliphate without political power, while held with a good came, cannot actually be considered legally applicable. In other words, if anybody were to argue as Ghazali did today – believing the caliph is needed to protect the sanctity of all law – would have to admit that any marriage contracted after the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate (1924) are in fact illegitimate, as are their children, financial obligations and contracts, inheritance to those children, and so on.
The opinion of Ibn Taymiyyah is that the caliph needs to have political power. This is why he constantly wrote letters to the Sultan (Vizier) of the Mamluk Empire – to summon them for jihad against the Mongols – instead of the Caliph who did not possess political power. Note, such a person is not a caliph because he has political power, nor is the current political regime legitimate because of a symbolic caliphal backing.
As for the statement that “Its investigation is in Kalam (i.e., theology) and establishing it is the most important of obligations. Hence, they (the Companions) gave it priority over the burial of the Possessor of Miracles” in approvingly quoting one legal opinion, this is not correct. The investigation of the caliphate, pledge of allegiance, various powers and authority of the caliphs, is found in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and no amount of prohibited theological speculation (all four Madhhabs prohibit kalām investigation, not in the least because it leads to a rejection of Allah’s divined attributes and has been discredited even by the greatest scholars of kalām, including al-Juwayni and Al-Razi, as even Anjum mentions in his book), can make what is not an obligation, an obligation; or an obligation, not an obligation.
He then says: Why has the caliphate been so central to Islamic creed? Chiefly, because it was the defining problem of Islam—as Trinity was for Christianity. Theorizing the rightful leadership of the community was central to defining faith since the early splinter sects had called into question the mainstream community’s rectitude and fitness as the carrier and embodiment of God’s message. Justifying the rectitude of the community that preserved the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ was, therefore, the central ‘problem space’ within which much of Islamic thinking was formed during the first two centuries of Islam
I do not really know where to start. The caliphate and trinity have absolutely nothing in common whatsoever. This statement is quite dumbfounding. Firstly, the Trinity is a matter of law, not ‘faith’. If somebody is stripped of their īmān, it happens due to rebellion against a legitimate government, or a rejection of the Qur’an and Sunnah that comes along with a rejection of the caliphate. This is the case with something like prayer and zakāh: it does not make up the central tenet of Islam, which is: There is no deity but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ. The Trinity represents both the central tenet of Christianity (i.e., the one that makes a monotheist, believer in Allah and the messengership of ‘Isa into a polytheist by rejecting tawhid in various ways), and has no basis in the Christian scripture whatsoever. On the other hand, the caliphate has a strong basis in the Qur’an and Sunnah – unlike the Trinity which was fabricated by earlier generations and cemented in councils backed by the Roman Empire – and its theory is not the first or second premise of faith. What could be construed as true here is that people who reject the caliphate, either in theory or in practice (i.e., not pledging allegiance), could lead to somebody’s happiness or misery in the hereafter. This is absolutely true, and that hadiths quoted above prove this. For this reason, those who rejected the authority of the legitimate caliphate – from Abū Bakr to ‘Ali – were warned against by the Prophet ﷺ in various traditions, and some of them even left Islam entirely:
Abu Ghalib narrated that Abu Umamah said: “(The Khawarij) are the worst of the slain who are killed under heaven, and the best of the slain are those who were killed by them. Those (Khawarij) are the dogs of Hell. Those people were Muslims but they became disbelievers [fa ṣārū kuffārā].” I said: “O Abu Umamah, is that your opinion?” He said: “Rather I heard it from the Messenger of Allah صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ’” (Ibn Majah, 1:181).
Narrated ‘Ikrimah: “[During the construction of the mosque of the Prophet] we carried the adobe of the mosque, one brick at a time while `Ammar used to carry two at a time. The Prophet (ﷺ) passed by ‘Ammar and removed the dust off his head and said, “May Allah be merciful to ‘Ammar. He will be killed by a rebellious aggressive group [al-fi’ah al-bāghiyah]. ‘Ammar will invite them to (obey) Allah and they will invite him to the (Hell) fire” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2812).
Some disagreed later on and built entire false theologies that originated from their concerns about the caliphate in the earliest generation. Anjum discusses them here:
The first instance of the Companions’ unanimous decision to declare political unity of the Muslims a top concern, reflected in the election of Abu Bakr, was truly consolidated in their consensus to go to war against those who had seceded from the Medinan authority. They did not merely express abstract opinions on the matter but took up arms on its basis. In doing so, they followed the Prophet’s own conduct toward those who abandoned the community or tried to divide it. This initial consensus of the Companions was confirmed time and again. The next clear confirmation of consensus is witnessed when ʿAli (based in Iraq) battled against Muʿawiya (based in Syria) at Ṣiffīn; ʿAli never entertained the idea of splitting the difference and dividing the Muslim community into two halves to avert the bloodshed, which turned out to be massive. Similarly, when ʿAbdallāh b. al-Zubayr in Mecca confronted the Umayyads in Syria, dividing the community for the sake of peace was similarly never considered a possibility. When Ibn ʿUmar and other leading authorities refused to give allegiance to Ibn al-Zubayr, they did so precisely on this basis: the community had not united under him yet.
Disregarding the last sentence about Ibn ‘Umar, who actually regretted not having fought against the “rebellious side” near the end of his life (in reference to those who rebelled against the legitimate caliphate), this paragraph raises the issue of the importance of political unity.
The notion of unity was emphasized, but what kind of unity? Non-division is a necessity in the Ummah, but does that mean we can unify under an illegitimate caliph?
During the ‘caliphate’ of Yazīd, al-Husayn and his supporters intended to restore the rightly-guided caliphate by taking the pledge of allegiance in Kufa. He was clearly fighting against the political status quo which was illegitimate ‘monarchy’, as the Prophet ﷺ had predicted would happen thirty years after his death. The great scholar Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalānī (15th c.) described al-Husayn and his supporters as followers of the truth against an illegitimate usurping government that had altered the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ, as per the hadiths:
“A group that rebelled angrily for the religion, against the injustice of the rulers and their abandoning the Prophetic Sunnah: they are the people of truth. They include al-Husayn Ibn ‘Ali, the people of Medina in al-Harrah, and the Meccans who rebelled against al-Hajjāj [Ibn Yusuf]” (Fath al-Bārī, vol. 12, p. 298).
‘Abdullah Ibn Zubayr was appointed by the people of Mecca as the caliph of the Muslims. He was fought by Yazīd, Marwān, and Abd al-Malik Ibn Marwān, only to be defeated by the latter after a long siege of Mecca, including al-Hajjaj’s catapulting of the Ka’bah partially destroying it, finally ending in the murder of Ibn Zubayr and his supporters, and his dead body being hung on the Ka’bah. Have no doubt, al-Husayn Ibn ‘Ali, the leader of the youth in paradise as stated by the Prophet ﷺ himself, and ‘Abdullah Ibn Zubayr who took on the mantle of the prophetic caliphate after it was effectively dismantled by Mu’āwiyah 30 years after the death of the Prophet ﷺ, were on the side of truth. They never accepted anything less than the Prophet’s sunnah in government, nor did they ever sacrifice it for the sake of political unity. This is all to say: the obligation to establish the Sunnah and act according to the shari’ah is a divine obligation because it is an obligation, not because it brings brings material benefit. This was the reason for the various rebellions of the greatest scholars in the two centuries of Muslims against Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. Unity is of utmost importance, but not at the expense of truth.
This is not to say that rebellion is encouraged at risk of physical destruction (Allah said: “do not put yourselves into destruction”), but that the status quo should only be accepted from an Islamic standpoint if it is in concordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ and rightly-guided companions.
The classical Sunni ʿulamāʾ’s view of the functions of the caliph is best captured in a statement attributed to Imam ʿAli. When the radicals in his army contested his right as the leader to accept arbitration in the battle against the Syrian rebels, he responded by emphasizing the necessity of a human leader to govern the affairs of the ummah: ʿAli said, “People must have leadership (imāra), be it pious or impious.” They asked, “O Commander of the Faithful, we understand the pious, but why if it is impious?” He said, “By it [legal] ḥudūd are established, public streets are protected, jihād is made against the enemy, and the spoils are divided.[”]
Firstly, we ought not to use the words of people of innovation when addressing people who could be confused by its use. Yes, ‘Ali was an Imam, and the Imam of the Muslims from 656-661. A more proper word – one he himself used – is Amir al-Mu’mineen, or Khalifah, or rightly-guided khalīfah. This is important so as not to confuse him with the Shi’a fabrication concerning the concept of Imamate: that he was infallible Imam who took the mantle of prophecy and transferred his Imamhood for twelve generations, the last of which is in major occultation and will come back to resurrect all the previous Imams and make everybody Shi’a. This is anachronistic but necessary to make the point: why is Abu Bakr “caliph” and ‘Ali “Imam” – it’s because the Shi’a fabricated their version of Imamate and ascribed it to ‘Ali after his death.
With that out of the way, let us get to the tradition quoted here. What khalīfah ‘Ali is saying must be understood in its context. He is saying that people by necessity require some sort of political authority – there was always leaders in any type of society, and complete anarchy never works. If a community were to have no leader, there would be no implementation of law, protection of residents, fighting against enemies of Islam, or public distribution of goods. This is all true. After all, he is objecting to the suggestion that Islamic government is possible without a leader. ‘Ali is saying, it doesn’t even matter whether the leader is a good person, there needs to be someone who actually implement the law. This is true in theory and even more in practice. Now, the construal of this quote to mean that the leadership of usurpers or non-Muslims is permissible Islamically an in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah – this is not found anywhere in the explicit text or through the implicit contours of the discussion in the hadith. If anything, he was telling the khawārij: you call me (a Rightly-guided caliph) impious; even if that’s true, it is not rational to rebel against me.
When Anjum says “What sets the caliphate apart from any other government is, first and foremost, formally speaking, the constitutive principle (its source, limits, ends, and functions)” this is misunderstanding the concept entirely – deliberately, to move the conversation from proofs in the Qur’an and Sunnah to a matter of weighting costs and benefits.”
The caliphate is set apart from any other government because it follows the orders of Allah and his prophet ﷺ – and for no other reason. This includes that idea that leaders are chosen by the ahl al-hall wa al-‘aqd (tribal leaders and scholars) among the Muslims, and that the ruler implements the Qur’an and Sunnah in all of its laws.
Then, he says:
The definitive classical work on the caliphate was authored by al-Mawardi, the chief judge of Baghdad and the leading Shāfiʿī of his time. It gave the standard description of the caliph, namely, that a caliph is “the successor of the Prophet who protects the religion and manages and governs worldly affairs of the community by it.” Nearly all definitions mention these elements, namely, that a caliph stands in the Prophet’s place, but is neither a prophet nor infallible, and commands the allegiance of the entire Muslim community, and governs the religious and worldly affairs of the Prophet’s community, which effectively means that he protects the religion, defends borders, upholds law and order, and (re)distributes resources. In other words, a caliph is defined as the leader of all followers of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and not primarily as the ruler of a territory, a country, a sect, or a chosen group of Muslims—even though he inevitably rules over and defends the territory of Muslims.
Yes, this is true of the qualities the caliph possesses. Of course, when we say “succession” of the Prophet ﷺ, we mean in implementing the sharī’ah and not in terms of divined guidance or ability to determine matters of ‘aqīdah or fiqh beyond what is established explicitly in the Qur’an and Sunnah. The caliph becomes the leader of all Muslims, whether or not they pledged allegiance. All Muslims have a requirement to pledge allegiance to the caliph and obey him in all orders made in the obedience of Allah. Allah demanded absolute loyalty to caliphs who are legitimate and implement the shari’ah, identifying the failure to do so with lack of faith (and in cases of treachery, the death penalty).
Response to “Caliphate is not kingship”
Since the earliest times, Muslims made a distinction between a properly Islamic government, which they came to call khilāfa, and political authority in general, which they called mulk. It should be noted that the word mulk has dual connotations in the Arabic language: it could simply refer to any kind of political authority, one particular species of which would be the Islamic caliphate. It could also denote, pejoratively, the stereotypical kingship characterized by arbitrary power in which the ruler treats his subject and wealth as his personal property. As noted earlier, the early Muslims avoided using the term malik (king) for their ruler because they despised the inegalitarianism implied by this term. A revealing hadith is reported in al-Bukhari, where Companion Jarir b. Abdallāh states that a wise man from Yaman told him, You O Arabs will do well so long as you consult when your chief dies, for when it is taken by the sword, they become kings (mulūk), their wrath is like the wrath of kings and their pleasure is the pleasure of kings. This distinction remained operative throughout the medieval period. A Mālikī scholar al-Maqarrī al-Tilimsānī answered revealingly when some Sufi mendicants (fuqarāʾ) asked him about Muslims’ misfortune with respect to their kings (mulūk), who often act without fairness and piety. He answered, It is so because kingship (mulk) is not in our Law (sharʿ); rather, it is in the law of those before us, as God mentioning His favors upon the Israelites. . . . He [God] has not legitimized for us anything but khilāfa. Al-Maqarrī then goes on to identify the difference between the two as primarily relating to whether one treats authority as personal and passes it on to one’s sons dynastically. What makes the caliphate different from kingship, then, is that in the former, the interests of the ummah are front and center and authority is exercised as a trust. Ibn Taymiyya is even more explicit. The obligation is not fulfilled with kingship, even if there be one just king over all Muslims, but the obligation is to install a caliph, an accountable ruler who will wield power as a trust, in the footsteps of the Prophet ﷺ and the early caliphs, rather than arbitrarily. The question arises whether kingship (mulk) is lawful and the Prophetic caliphate simply preferred or whether it is unlawful and may only be justified in the absence of the knowledge [that is it obligatory] or the power to establish the caliphate. In our view, kingship is essentially unlawful, and the obligation is to establish a prophetic caliphate. This is because the Prophet ﷺ said, “You must follow my practice and the practice of the rightly guided caliphs after me; stick to it and hold fast to it. Refrain from (unjustified) innovations and remember that every (such) innovation is an error” … This hadith is therefore a command; it exhorts us to follow necessarily the practice of the Caliphate (of the Prophet), enjoins us to abide by it, and warns us against deviation from it. It is a command from him and definitely makes the establishment of the caliphate a duty … Again, the fact that the Prophet ﷺ expressed his dislike for the kingship that would follow the prophetic caliphate proves that kingship lacks in something that is compulsory in religion… Those who justify monarchy argue from the words of the Prophet ﷺ to Muʿawiya, “If you acquire kingship, be good and kind.” But there is no (cogent) argument in this … The establishment of the caliphate is an obligatory duty, and exemption from it may be permitted only on grounds of necessity.
Unlike as stated by the author, the word Mulk refers to different meanings in the Arabic language. Firstly, it refers to the concept of ownership: the ownership of slaves [tamlīk al-‘abīd], or any other property. This is the legal category: to property, it denotes legal ownership. Secondly, outside of the legal category, mulk refers to dominion, in the sense that a region or people may be under the absolute control of another. For Allah – as in “Allah is the owner of all things” – this is absolutely true as Allah has complete dominion and power – status and physical control – of all things. The Prophet ﷺ used to praise Allah by declaring that the mulk belonged to him, that we were living in Allah’s mulk, and that one who takes the title “king of kings” (malik al-amlāk) is the most wretched on the day of judgement.
For human beings, it applies in the limited sense of political control. When someone has political power over a territory, he becomes a king or “malik”, in the sense he has dominion over territory. From this meaning, the see that the term mulk was used in a disparaging sense; the idea being that government was either caliphate, or something else. That ‘something else’, whatever it may be – and usually referred to absolute monarchical rule – is used in the negative sense because of its opposition with the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. Just like with any other action, you have guidance (what is upon the sunnah), and misguidance (what conflicts with the sunnah). The Prophet ﷺ said – and that too, in the same hadith about the rightly-guided caliphate: “beware of the innovated matters [against the sunnah], as every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the [hell] fire”. We know that any type of prayer, as long as it was not the type of prayer ordered in the Qur’an and Sunnah, is reprehensible and an innovation. In a similar sense, any configuration of political authority not in line with the Qur’an and Sunnah is worthy of condemnation because of its innovated nature.
The Prophet ﷺ affirmed this in two areas:
First, the Prophet ﷺ said “the caliphate after my will be 30 years, then, it will turn into kingship [mulk].” (al-‘Allā’ī, Ijmāl al-Isābah ilā Aqwāl al-Sahābah, no. 49).
In a sermon of the seventh companion to join Islam and a veteran of the battle of Badr, ‘Utbah Ibn Ghazwān, he stated: “Prophethood does not remain forever, and its impact fades with the result that it changes eventually into kingship [mulk]. You would soon come to know and experience those rulers [umarā’] who would come after us and see (how far they are from religion)” (Sahih Msulim 2967).
Here, the term is used by the sahābah not as a neutral term but a term for absolute despotic authority. The first type of despotic authority – condemned by the Prophet ﷺ – is monarchical regimes similar to the ones found in hereditary absolute monarchies: the Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman Empires, and (at least for the first) the Prophet ﷺ used the term “mulk ‘āḍḍ” (biting mulk). For the other type, which we can only speculate as to its existence, may refer to the current one-generation military-led authoritarian regimes. The reason is because the word the Prophet ﷺ used to describe the other type of despotic authority after it is “mulk jabriyy”, the adjective translating to a term denoting strong power and ability to subdue: this is why fatalists who state people have no will or control over their intentions or actions are called “jabriyyah” (fatalists). The modern nation-state differs from absolute monarchy of the past by its ability to surveil and control every single citizen and non-citizen within its borders. The stronger the state, the better its control.
Ibn Taymiyyah said regarding the concept of monarchy itself:
“he [the Prophet] chose not to be a king, in order not to be deficient: as in that [monarchy] is personal gain from political position [al-istimtāʿ bi al-riyāsa] and wealth he will be responsible for in the hereafter…This is the case such that the people of the book even criticize the kingship of David and Solomon, just as they criticize most of the entrusted authorities of political rule and wealth. (al-Khilafah wa al-Mulk, p. 30).
Elsewhere, Ibn Taymiyyah tells us the monarchy was the cause of the corruption and civil war in Muslim society, including religious innovation: “their durations increased, the nation became divided, and every people took a part of the religion, adding and reducing from it” (page 47).
In conclusion, the caliphate is not kingship, not is it the modern nation-state, nor is it democratic, socialist, or any other type of discernible government. Yes, it is possible to find various types of governments with some features resembling the khilāfah ‘alā minhāj al-nubuwwah (e.g., egalitarianism in Marxism, private property in capitalism, etc.), it could not be stressed more that the khilāfah is a type of government which implements the divine law, and follows the method of implementation of the Prophet ﷺ (e.g., being inaccessible in a throne on a castle goes against the prophet’s sunnah of accessibility – this was required of all governors by the four rightly-guided caliphs, for instance). Any benefits derived from it, or similarities between the effects of implementing the divine law and other types of government, do not point to any level of conducive character between them, or mutual acceptance of one another. Just because the caliphate had methods of enforcing law in public doesn’t mean it approves of various countries’ constant surveillance and recording of citizens in all public spaces (and even worse, China’s social credit system). Keep this in mind and ponder over it.
Refutation of “The Loss”
First Parliament of the Republic of Turkey
The religious necessity of the caliphate remained unquestioned until the twentieth century, when the arguments for abolishing the Ottoman caliphate were articulated by Turkish nationalists and made palatable, at least to the elite, by a century of secularization and Europeanization. A fateful moment in this transition was the seven-hour long speech by an Ottoman modernist scholar, Seyyid Bey, in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) in 1924, in which he made the case for a Turkish republic, tragically, on Islamic grounds. The Kemalists’ aggressive secularization campaign and violent de-Islamization of social life in the following decades was certainly not part of Seyyid Bey’s plan, but he was not the first nor the last scholar to be used as an intellectual mercenary and then discarded by a strongman. What Atatürk did next, suffice it to say, inspired Hitler and Mussolini.
What is interesting is that Seyyid Bey’s justification of abolishing the Ottoman caliphate is not grossly inaccurate, nor does it misrepresent or misquote verses of the Qur’an or hadith. In fact, Seyyid Bey’s ridiculous argument, which essentially rests on the notion that ‘caliphate’ is whatever the people determine it to be since it means ‘government’ and because there are no specific Qur’anic verses establishing the office, is nothing compared to Yaqeen Institute’s project of brainwashing Muslim youth by deliberately misrepresenting and misquoting scripture and the commentary of the scholars – and taking the most fringe scholars as the standard (and even misrepresenting their views).
Not the arguments of Anjum in his article, nor the arguments of perennialists and extreme left-wing liberals that make up Yaqeen Institute, nor their sympathizers, nor Seyyid Bey’s terrible speech, can be refuted except by accepting this fundamental premise: first comes the Qur’an, then explained by the Sunnah – only then are general principles like mercy, material and mental wellbeing, or communal welfare taken into consideration and discussed. People’s desires come after accepting the explicit texts, and specific texts specify general ones, not the other way around.
Let me give a concrete example from Seyyid Bey’s speech. He claims that the Qur’an does not discuss the concept of caliphate, and that the main principle set out is the concept of mutual consultation (shūrā). Because democracy upholds shūrā, therefore, Islam requires democracy. This is even more the case when Allah commands us to obey “those in authority among you” (Qur’ān 4:59). There is actually nothing wrong with this thinking if one were not to consider other verses of the Qur’an or Hadiths which prohibit democracy. Indeed, examples are plenty, but the point is that we must accept all texts in the context of each other. If Allah said “he does not wish hardship upon you” in Surah al-Ma’idah, it does not mean the one no longer has to pray five times because of the hardship that falls on him. Any permission to reduce or combine prayers must come from specific evidences themselves: the permission to combine, but never drop one of the prayers is established in the hadith – and anyone who deliberately stops praying completely is not considered a Muslim (and in three of four schools of law, he faces the death penalty).
The worst example of this type of discussion, which actually does have a significant amount of deliberate misquotation of the Qur’an and hadith is mentioned in the following paragraph of Anjum’s article, which I have deliberately omitted here. What Anjum misses is that the forty-three pages that has preceded shows this criticism applies to him as much as anyone.
The arguments listed by Anjum in the next section “Did the Prophet ﷺ establish a state?” In fact, this author he quotes used many of the argument of Seyyid Bey. This makes sense considering that the same method of thinking goes through each of these authors: how can I subvert the obvious necessitations of the Qur’an and Sunnah without actually rejecting them outright? On this note, a teacher of mine had a story concerning the idea that any ruling of Allah – even those which he predicated faith upon (prayer) – can be subverted to this erroneous interpretation. Remember that this amounts to a rejection of some texts over others by not considering them as a whole. As I recall, once in the university, my teacher (now a professor) was listening to a liberal professor of Islamic studies give a speech about reformist interpretations. One student asked, as a joke of course, “do you think this method of interpretation can get us out of getting up for fajr prayer?” He said, “of course! In the prophet’s time, the companions used to wake up at dawn due to their lifestyle and the environment they were living in. If we associate prayer with getting up to start the day, because you live in a circumstance where you wake up at nine or ten, pray when you wish!”
Allah said regarding those who deliberately accept some verses of the Qur’an while rejecting others: “Indeed, those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and wish to discriminate between Allah and His messengers and say, ‘We believe in some and disbelieve in others,’ and wish to adopt a way in between – Those are the disbelievers, truly. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment” (Qur’ān 4:150-151).
One thing in this section that needs to be pointed out is the issue of singular versus mutawātir reports concerning a concept. We do not have much space to flesh out, let alone quote, every single evidence that supports the caliphate, but is suffices to say firstly that yes, solitary reports are indeed ‘enough’ to determine a legal ruling, and secondly, that it does not matter in the case of the caliphate, because even the prophetic evidences themselves constitute mutawātir transmission of the meaning (tawātur al-ma’nā). One single hadīth may not have been reported by more than one or two chains; but together, the chains which discuss the concept and obligation of caliphate are so great that the meaning is transmitted too much to be denied. This is the same case with issues like the punishment of the grave, or in fiqh, the general prohibition of selling water.
What is interesting is that Anjum strongly defends the obligation, maybe even more than in this article, that one who denies the caliphate and its texts in fact have to undermine the basis of Islam itself, or in Anjum’s words “the very foundation of Islam”. I rest my case here.
Refutation of “Longing for the Caliphate”
To appreciate how deeply Muslims have felt the ideal of continuity and unity embodied in the caliphate, it helps to get a glimpse of how the loss of and rupture in the caliphate have been historically experienced at not only political but also emotional and cultural levels. Islamic studies scholar Mona Hassan has richly chronicled this experience in the wake of the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 656/1258 and then again some seven centuries later in 1924. Numerous Islamic scholars, activists, and transnational movements have kept alive the idea of a union of Muslims over the past century. Whereas most such groups consider a reconstituted caliphate a by-product of their revivalist and reformist activities, a few such movements have made it their primary objective. For groups most directly dedicated to resurrecting the caliphate like Ḥizb al-Taḥrīr (The Liberation Party) of Palestinian-Jordanian and Tanzeem-e-Islami (The Islamic Organization) of South Asian provenance, now both international, caliphate is not only a fruit of collaboration among reformed Muslim societies and states but the political end of the struggle as well as the instrument of attaining a desirable state of affairs and warding off internal and foreign threats to Muslims. Over the course of the twentieth century, ambitious political leaders of Muslim states have worked to create links and institutions at the international level to inch toward greater pan-Islamic collaboration. In the post-WWII era of developmentalist policies, nation-state politics largely trumped any serious attempts. Today, such aspirations have resurfaced once again. Non-state actors, like the ones mentioned earlier, have been more successful in keeping the idea alive. The most significant ones have been the socio-religious reformist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood (in Arabic speaking countries) and Jamaat-e Islami (in South Asia) that have sought to restore the caliphate only as a distant goal, never making it their priority. Only in times of crisis, such as the Israeli occupation of Palestine, would the pan-Islamic sentiment find a vent. In the era of statism (1940s–80s), the Islamic movements mobilized the masses to take the helms of various states. They often failed, and where they succeeded, as in Iran and Sudan, they often discovered that the internal, secularizing logic of the nation-state model was far stronger than their own ideological aspirations and often succumbed to repression, corruption, and self-serving regional and geopolitical concerns. Statehood never seriously took root in the Muslim world, and whereas socially, Islamism became increasingly popular, it never fulfilled its promise. The idea of the caliphate remained on the backburner as the ultimate goal that had to be realized as the final step after the attainment of democracy and progress.
It is very important to differentiate between ‘popular fervor’ for the caliphate and actual legitimate desire for its instatement. Yes, people have failed again and again to both theorize and implement Islamic government in various Muslim countries. The best example is the Muslim brotherhood: they were repressed for decades, and finally, when they had the chance, they had taken their gradualism to such an extreme that even once in power, they never actually took control (hence, the 2013 coup). Others never had an Islamic vision in the first place. Let us take Iran out of the way – their theology does not match the ahl al-sunnah, let alone their fiqh! Be it Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Sudan, none of the leaders of these countries were actually able to establish the ‘caliphate’? Is it because of a lack of willingness among the public? Anjum argues not, the nation-state was just too secular and too strong. Let it be clear here that he is trying to set up the argument that since it is not politically feasible, we should be settling for less (rejecting the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ in the hadiths quoted above).
This argument itself is very unconvincing. I cannot think of a single actual mass-movement of protestors (Hizb Ut Tahrir is far too small, nice try), or a political party, that has actually gone onto the streets and demanded the prophetic caliphate. In fact, it is difficult to even find movements discuss the concept, since even when held in theory, their gradualism – the idea that we need to take part in nation-state politics to achieve the goal and appeal to those who wouldn’t agree with our ultimate objectives – itself prevented the party from achieving its goal (e.g., Jamaat-e-Islami or the Muslim Brotherhood). Let us not forget all those speeches of Mohammed Morsi concerning implementing shari’ah.
It’s not that there are countless pious leaders and populations who know what the caliphate is and genuinely desire to implemented but are simply not able to because of the power of the mysterious “nation-state”. Not only do people not know what the caliphate (the divine obligation) is, the last thing authoritarian and secularist leaders of Muslim countries want is to threaten their grip over power at the expense of some caliphate. I hardly think any convincing is necessary. In fact, in most Muslim countries, it is the people in power and the populations alone who possess the ability to implement the caliphate. There is no powerful mysterious “nation-state” in Muslim countries. Most, if anything, are institutionally weak, very corrupt, highly volatile, and prone to regime change and civil war. This seems to be acknowledged by Anjum in the following section to the detriment of his agenda.
Refutation of “The Present: Failing States”
2019 Failed States Index
The Arab Revolt (1916–1918) began a century and God-knows-how-much-longer era of political illegitimacy and instability in the Arab Middle East. Today, the region is increasingly convulsive. One contemporary historian notes, linking the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate to the malaise in the contemporary Middle East, I think everyone is rational to be pessimistic about the prospects for the region. None of these problems have a short-term solution. Similarly, in his aptly titled A Peace to End All Peace (1989), historian David Fromkin wrote, reflecting on the continuing legacy of the European partitioning of the region: Continuing local opposition, whether on religious grounds or others, to the settlement of 1922 or to the fundamental assumptions upon which it was based, explains the characteristic feature of the region’s politics: that in the Middle East there is no sense of legitimacy—no agreement on rules of the game—and no belief, universally shared in the region, that within whatever boundaries, the entities that call themselves countries or the men who claim to be rulers are entitled to recognition as such. In that sense, successors to the Ottoman sultans have not yet been permanently installed.
Of course, by solution, Marrozi – ‘journalist’ and advisor of the Somali PM – means, “the Middle East is so screwed up that not even a white man could fix it in the foreseeable future”. Sounds like a mechanic looking at a totaled car.
The second quote is not entirely accurate but let us keep it as it is. Of course, the Ottoman Empire never actually brought peace and stability to the Muslim world. It was just like any other empire, absorbing what it could and fighting at the borders of control: in Iran, Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Hijaz.
Today, the future of Muslim nation-states is less certain than it has ever been over the last century. At least one reason for the unlikeliness—and, in the words of one scholar, the impossibility—of the nation-state is ideological: Islam. That is, given the deep roots of Islam in these societies, alternative attempts at constructing legitimacy through secular—whether nationalist, regional, leftist-internationalist, or other—narratives have failed. As the Arab scholar Nazih Ayubi described it in his influential study Overstating the Arab State (1996), twentieth-century post-colonial Arab states are not strong but fierce—meaning, they are weak, illegitimate, and hence ferocious. Because they do not command people’s broad allegiance (but only that of the elite benefitting from them), they can only assert control through brute force, often combined with and legitimated through extraneous factors such as regional threats and animosities (e.g., Israel, Zionists, crusaders, Shiʿa, Sunnis, etc.) and the exploitation of religious and ethnic divisions. As the elite realized the failure of their secular programs, especially with the failure of Nasser-led Arab nationalism and the epic humiliation of the Arab armies at the hands of Israel in 1967, they hoped to exploit Islam more effectively. The results have been unimpressive for a number of reasons.
Seemingly fulfilling the prophecy, we have entered the stage of “mulk jabriyy”, which you will note I translated above. I did that before even reading this section and the incredibly accurate description of this type of government the Prophet ﷺ mentioned, “they are weak, illegitimate, and hence ferocious”, “control through brute force”. Ferocious, control through brute force, these descriptions capture my translation of the hadīth above even better.
Of course, the reader should keep in mind that the standard itself is not stability, ability to control the people, their consent or vote, nor the ability to set up seemingly permanent institutional cultures like the Ottoman Empire. What matters is the divine obligation. Do we believe that the divine obligation will lead to an eventual good – more people successful in the hereafter, fulfilling the prophecy of our beloved Prophet ﷺ, including the material benefit and gain following the triumph of the Mahdī? Yes, of course. Does that mean we should determine an obligation based on material benefit, the lack thereof, or whether or not we think it will last? No, of course not. Keep in mind, the four rightly-guided caliphs knew well of the temporality of their government when they were ruling – and it was in a state of civil war more years than it was not.
Anjum then tried to tie the idea of people using scholars to justify their political rule to the notion of the modern nation-state:
First, although the rulers could control some of the ʿulamāʾ and religious institutions, Sunni Islam has never been amenable to a clerical hierarchy, and such attempts invariably engender or strengthen alternative, competing claims of religious authority. An example is the Egyptian state’s attempt to control the ancient al-Azhar University. Islam being a strongly scripturalist religion, the spread of literacy only facilitates the availability of its anti-authoritarian, if not anti-clerical, message to all believers. The same spirit of Islam that had thwarted the absolutist ambitions of the Umayyad (in the form of rebellions) and then the Abbasid caliphs (in the form of the heroic resistance of Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal) refuses to be manipulated by the military autocrats and monarchs of today. Another, and perhaps the most important, ideological factor obstructing Islam’s recruitment in the nation-building project is the global nature of the Islamic community and the essentially territorial nature of the modern state.
What is interesting is that the nation-state actually has nothing to do with this phenomenon. Al-Azhar university was founded by the heretical Qaramite Fatamid Empire for exactly the purpose of giving it legitimacy in the eyes of the public (as the descendants of Fatima, teaching ‘secret knowledge’ – shirk – to the Muslim community). From Mu’āwiyah’s rule where he and his successors forced anybody of religious standing to give him the pledge of allegiance, to centuries of rule under the Abbasid and Ottoman Empires, where they did not even need to do the convincing: they controlled the education and justice system, and had their arms stretched across all the various localities. Any rebellion or attempt to subvert their legitimacy meant fighting the powerful intelligence (you think they didn’t have spies then?), security forces, judges and scholars who could excommunicate you, and a countless of other measures used to keep people in line. This is why Ibn Taymiyyah and many of his students were constantly jailed, and many scholars were killed over the centuries.
The only difference between the modern age and the past is that the nation-state creates ideological-political polarization never seen in the Muslim world before. That is because there are two opposite forces which push the state of each nation into a constant battle for repression and justification at the cost of being overthrown. What are those two forces? The first is the force of the nation-state – not just because of the technology and ability to monitor and repress people, which in fact is not that good in most Muslim countries, but because of its need to justify itself and not tolerate any difference of opinion, regardless of the ideology of the person in government. The second force is the factor that is actually creating all this stability: the people. Modern nation-states in Muslim countries are so utterly illegitimate, in the eyes of both Muslims and secularists, that the people rise up the second they can find even the smallest opportunity. Why does the illegitimacy differ between then and now? Well, it is the first time in Islamic history – with the exception of the Mongols and Ismailis maybe – were are seeing such a strong drive to remove Islam from the public sphere. Laws and social values that have been implemented in one way or another no longer are: the shari’ah, dhimmī system, abhorrence of atheism, fornication, immorality, ad infinitum. When it comes to the state itself, it no longer even tries to hide its areligious nature. Back in the day, we actually lived in a state was there are was at least some level of admiration for government institutions. At the same time, on a purely political level, it is not even a secret that every single government institution is so incredibly corrupt to the core that attempts to reform them are not even worth it. Usually in Muslim countries, you have countries with one of these problems – where one is missing, the other is accentuated. For instance, in Turkey, the institutions are strong and command a certain level of legitimacy (although that is being questioned lately) – while on a religious level, Islam has been wiped from the public sphere like a clean slate. Ironically and as predicted: as the first is changing, so is the second one. In others, the religious conservatism of countries is somewhat respected – Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. – while you could not find weaker or more corrupt states than them.
This brings me to Anjum’s marveling as to why violence and instability exist in the Muslim nation-state. It is not really rocket science. Some want the shari’ah, some want it more secular – and both of these questions were made possible after the entire Muslim world was either externally or internally colonized by the west, creating these questions in the first place, and are accentuated by foreign involvement in east Muslim country (by it as a form of proxy war or economic control):
This illegitimacy of the state in Muslim-majority regions has had devastating consequences. Terrorism has been a direct and unavoidable consequence. These insecure, weak, and fierce states inevitably govern through repression and turn religious and cultural authorities into mercenaries against their own societies. Weaponing globalism for their cause, the autocrats hire global mercenary “ʿulamāʾ” against socially invested scholars. The oppressed inevitably look to the international community, which seldom helps except when moved by its own interests. This further deepens the illegitimacy of the state on the one hand and the distrust of any would-be reformers (who now can be labeled by the autocrats as foreign agents) on the other.
While this is true, what is interesting is that Anjum brings up the subject of “global mercenary ‘Ulamā.’” How interesting. You would think, to put it crudely, that the biggest sell-outs, are ‘scholars’ living in the secular west brainwashing Muslims into selling them that the Qur’an and Sunnah commands fitting into whatever values are socially acceptable in the 21st century. Liberalism, secular nation-state-ism, feminism, democracy, liberal human rights, perennialism – all of which are completely foreign to 1400 years of the Islamic intellectual tradition (with the exception of the Ottoman Empire’s Tanzimat stage). Instead of actually teaching people what the Islamic stance on these innovated, brand-new social concepts is, every single article of Yaqeen Institute, no matter of conservative or ‘scholarly’ their authors, dedicate the first word to the last footnote to justifying these movements by attempting to point out any level of similarity between them. Gay rights? Look at Ibn Hazm and how he did not believe the death penalty should be implemented. Feminism? Look at what al-Qurtubi said about men’s authority being based on their breadwinner status. Democracy? Look at the egalitarian shura council in the time of the rightly-guided caliphate. Interfaith dialogue where Muslims call Christians and Jews monotheists? Look at the debates in the Abbasid court. Alcohol and fornication? Look at the Abbasid court (you’ll find lots of things there). Slavery? Look at the Ottoman Empire banning it. Women’s rights? Look how Aisha’s uprising against ‘Ali lead to the death of 30,000 Sahabah and Tabi’īn (how nice!). This goes on and on. Be sure, these are all misunderstandings that deserve their own articles.
Refutation of “The secular theology of the modern state”
These problems are not accidental but essential to any state that has to contend with a popular religion that it cannot re-create for its own purposes. In addition, Islam is conceptually unique in its ability to challenge modernity not only theologically but also politically through its own compelling notions of belonging, solidarity, rule-of-law, and tolerance for plurality. Aspects of this Islamic exceptionalism have been recognized by both scholars who study the tradition as well as those who investigate the lived experience
Who does he quote? Michael Cook. The kafir orientalist who decided that since vilifying Islam was not working, we would destroy it from the inside by trying to convince people Islam equals liberalism. No wonder Anjum – referring to him – talks about the Muslim contribution to political thought being “rule of law” and “tolerance for plurality” – the only things you could even remotely connect to western secular states that exist today. Meanwhile, the actual contribution Islamic political thought was not mentioned even once by Anjum, nor by any of these orientalists or liberal apologist innovators and non-Muslims.
This is the most important statement of this article. The greatest contribution of Islamic political thought is as follows: Islam, the religion of mercy and justice delivered as a glad tiding for the believers, and warning to the disbelievers, the ultimate salvation of eternity in heaven and freedom from eternity in hellfire, prescribed a system of government wherein every single Muslim and person of the book can live according to divinely sanctioned justice, be called and encouraged to believe in Allah and practice Islam, and spread the message of Islam and the rule of justice to the entire world. Islam has nothing more, and nothing less to offer; and mark my words, there is no other system or ideology that ever was, or ever will promise the justice of Allah and His satisfaction of humanity for all of eternity.
Then he quotes the well-rehearsed postcolonial critique of the nation-state:
No nation-state can do without demanding near-total loyalty to the state and exclusion of outside interests and influences. It makes and implements laws and makes life-and-death decisions, drafting citizens to kill and die for its interests. In a liberal democracy with an impartial judiciary, this demand is presumably not arbitrary and the powers of the state are checked, but this is rarely the case in reality. Liberal democracies have shown themselves to be helpless before predatory capitalism and incompatible with religious commitment, community ethics, and now ecological sustainability. Lacking any collective and transcendent moral ideals, citizens in the modern state are either manipulated by large, multinational corporations or ethno-nationalist demagogues, or both. Liberal democratic or not, the modern state effectively functions as the absolute arbiter of the law, ethics, and lives of its citizens. The modern nation-state, precisely defined, is an institution foreign to Islam in any of its recognizable forms. Commonplace knowledge to the scholars of Islamic tradition and history, this incompatibility has been powerfully argued recently by Wael Hallaq’s important book The Impossible State. He contends that the modern nation-state is an amoral, if not immoral, institution, and an unsuitable home to Islam. His case, however, is based on a particular notion of the ‘state,’ and this has caused much confusion among non-specialists. A digression to clarify this claim, therefore, is in order. Whether and when we can use the term ‘state’ to describe the early Islamic forms of government depends on how we settle the thorny question of the definition of the state. The modern state has so ubiquitously conquered the contemporary world and imagination as to threaten all historical understanding and along with that, any historically extended and authentic alternative. European intellectual historians generally agree that the concept of the state emerged in Europe between 1300 and 1600 due to a number of specific developments. What set it apart from any prior form of rule is the confluence of a number of conceptions that constructed the state as “an omnipotent yet impersonal power”: (a) the state as a separate legal and constitutional order that governs, abstracted and distinct from the monarch or the officials who hold office, (b) the state as the sole source of law, exclusive of God, the Church, or the Holy Roman Empire, within its own territory, and (c) the state as the sole appropriate object of its citizens’ allegiance. Secularity, territoriality, abstraction (i.e., impersonality), and sovereignty are thus held to be the necessary ingredients of the modern state. This maximalist definition of the state employed by historians is to be contrasted with the more widely employed minimalist definitions, such as the one offered by Charles Tilly, who sees states as “coercion-wielding organizations that are distinct from households and kinship groups and exercise clear priority in some respects over all other organizations within substantial territories.” The Medinan order certainly represented such a ‘state’ by the time the Prophet ﷺ passed away, one that was further consolidated by the end of Abu Bakr’s reign. This latter use of the term, however, is too imprecise to be meaningful, and, following Hallaq, we are better off using the term ‘government’ or, better yet, ‘governance’ rather than ‘state’ to capture the essence of premodern Islamic forms of political authority.
Of course, there have been Muslims who made the same argument (e.g., Maududi) and did so with much more accuracy, mostly with regard to the ‘solution’ side of the argument. For instance, ‘predatory capitalism’ is ‘bad’, but how come? And what do those terms mean? What should we have instead of capitalism? Should there be no private ownership of industries that oppress the working class? These are all important questions that Maududi deals with and provides solutions to based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. For instance, instead of secular law courts implementing the British interpretation of laws like sedition (to merely affirm its sovereignty), the Islamic solution would be to hold every judge accountable not to ‘common’ law, but to the Qur’an and Sunnah for known problems (murder, apostasy, theft, etc.), and make ijtihad novel problems. There needs to be a shift in the standards applied: what sort of education should a judge have, what are his powers (i.e., is his word ‘the law’ or not?), what ought his decisions be based on, and the like.
In any case, idea that the nation-state requires ideological conformity and pretends to be objective when it in fact enforced liberalized Christian (mainly British and French) influence towards issues like freedom of religion, sedition, and the criminal code – is nothing new in the sense that for thousands of years, people have pretended to be objective – and some divine – without falling short of the promise. The only one exception to this case is the sharī’ah, which is neither influenced by foreign-imposed colonial legal norms, nor the sayings of even other Islamic scholars. The loyalty is to Allah alone.
Anjum then quotes Wael Hallaq, liberal Muslim and neo-orientalist, as an authority, who makes the claim that Islamic government today is not possible because the un-Islamic forces of the nation-state are too strong to cope with. This taken to its logical conclusion amounts to rejection (kufr) of the Qur’an and Sunnah, including the promise of divine redemption in this very world under the leadership of al-Mahdī and the global Islamic caliphate; as prophesized in countless hadīths. The Prophet ﷺ said:
The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them). When they will arrange themselves in ranks, the Romans would say: Do not stand between us and those (Muslims) who took prisoners from amongst us. Let us fight with them; and the Muslims would say: Nay, by Allah, we would never get aside from you and from our brethren that you may fight them. They will then fight and a third (part) of the army would run away, whom Allah will never forgive. A third (part of the army) which would be constituted of excellent martyrs in Allah’s eye, would be killed and the third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerors of Constantinople. And as they would be busy in distributing the spoils of war (amongst themselves) after hanging their swords by the olive trees, the Satan would cry: The Dajjal has taken your place among your family. They would then come out, but it would be of no avail. And when they would come to Syria, he would come out while they would be still preparing themselves for battle drawing up the ranks. Certainly, the time of prayer shall come and then Jesus (peace be upon him) son of Mary would descend and would lead them. When the enemy of Allah would see him, it would (disappear) just as the salt dissolves itself in water and if he (Jesus) were not to confront them at all, even then it would dissolve completely, but Allah would kill them by his hand and he would show them their blood on his lance (the lance of Jesus Christ). (Sahih Muslim 2897).
The Mahdi will be of my stock, and will have a broad forehead a prominent nose. He will fill the earth will equity and justice as it was filled with oppression and tyranny, and he will rule for seven years. (Abu Dawud 4285, hasan).
Three will fight one another for your treasure, each one of them the son of a caliph, but none of them will gain it. Then the black banners will come from the east, and they will kill you in an unprecedented manner.” Then he mentioned something that I do not remember, then he said: “When you see them, then pledge your allegiance to them even if you have to crawl over the snow, for that is the caliph of Allah, Mahdi. (Ibn Majah 4084, da’if)
You will fight the Arabian Peninsula and victory will be granted by Allah. Then you will fight the Romans and victory will be granted (by Allah). Then you will fight Dajjal and victory will be granted (by Allah).” Jabir said: “Dajjal will not appear until you have fought the Romans. (Ibn Majah 4084, sahih)
The point in quoting these hadiths here is firstly to establish the notion that Islamic government – especially that upon the path of prophecy – is not possible is not only untrue, but rejecting its possibility is disbelief in the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ predictions of the future. This is why the majority of the scholars have declared the one to deny the descent of ‘Isa, while being explained the mutawātir evidence in transmissions, to be legally declared a non-Muslim.
Outside of that, whether or not the nation-state can survive, or some sort of hybrid mix between kufr law and the sharī’ah is physically possible to establish, is not the concern of the practicing Muslim. The Muslim should be concerned about whether or not the people in power are or are not establishing the divine commands of government. Hamza Yusuf once said that the sharī’ah was the prerogative of the government, and that if the government does not implement it, we ought to do nothing. Yes, we cannot take the law in our own hands – but the Prophet ﷺ prescribed all Muslims to stop all oppression (including rule by other than Allah’s rule) through the tongue, and if prevented from that as well, then with the heart, which is the weakest of Iman, as the Prophet ﷺ said in the well-known hadith. Remember, this is the same person who mocked the Muslims suffering under the tyrannical of the non-Muslim Alawite government Syria. It’s the same person who mocked the prophecy of Muhammad on the establishment of the caliphate, and the verses of Allah which establish the hudūd. I shudder from the idea of even leaving the link here for people to watch.
Now, in terms of using the word ‘state’, ‘government’, and such, the semantics do not matter as long as we understand the meanings and definitions we have chosen. Islam does not prescribe a ‘state’ if what is included in the definition of state is “a political entity which commands absolute allegiance”, because allegiance is made to the khalīfah, not the country, and even when made to the khalīfah, allegiance no longer applied when he violates that sharī’ah. Anybody who accepts, on the other hand – or declares in their US citizenship ceremony – that US law is superior to Allah’s law, or that his allegiance it is when instead of with Allah, he potentially becomes a non-Muslim. In fact, becoming a naturalized citizen of a country fighting against Muslims was declared by various scholars to be disbelief in Allah, because Allah says, “whoever among you allies them, is one of them” and many similar verses with clear meanings as established in their exegesis. This is the reason why Algerian and Egyptian scholars (including from al-Azhar) declared Algerians who took French citizenship who were colonizing and killing Muslims in Algeria to be non-Muslim. For the record, here is the US Citizenship Oath:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
The act of taking such an oath, or allying one’s self with such an ideology, is very dangerous for a Muslim indeed.
Anjum then quotes the main jurist and enabler of the Nazi Party, Carl Schmitt, while making his case for Hitler as the absolute lawgiver (Führer):
Strictly speaking, the modern state is an abstract, impersonal institution apart from any particular individuals or dynasties that hold its reigns. Being a seventeenth-century European development, it is a new species of power foreign to Islamic theology or jurisprudence. Political philosophers and historians have long suggested that as an institution, it assumes the powers that belonged to God in traditional Christianity. To quote Carl Schmitt in his essay “Political Theology,” perhaps the most quoted words in modern political theory: All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because of their historical development—in which they were transferred from [Christian] theology to the theory of the state, whereby, for example, the omnipotent God became the omnipotent lawgiver—but also because of their systematic structure, the recognition of which is necessary for a sociological consideration of these concepts.
This is all true. Nobody can deny the idea that any state demands absolute fidelity and allegiance to its authority to create and enforce law. This doesn’t change whether or not the state respects its constitution. This is an innovation and furthest thing from Islam. As stated above, anybody who freely pledges allegiance and witnesses its absolute authority to create and enforce law, it is objecting to the fact that the only Lawgiver is Allah, and only those acting in agreement with the Qur’an and Sunnah have the right to enforce it.
Anjum quotes Hallaq saying that it is impossible for a nation-state to be Islam because the nation-state has its own ideology, regardless of the content of the law:
The obvious thing to note in this observation is that the theological origins and pretensions of political concepts define the modern state: sovereignty (a god-like, unquestionable authority to make laws and decide exceptions to them), territory (a bounded area where the sovereignty of the state is supreme), national community (the believers in the nation’s greatness and mythic past), and citizenship (rights given to individuals on the basis of relation to the state, denied to non-citizens), and so on. But its greater insight, I think, is to point out the ideologically secular structure of the state; it is not an empty space to be filled by whatever ideology, but possesses one of its own. This is what Wael Hallaq alludes to in the following passage: Modern Islamist discourses assume the modern state to be a neutral tool of governance, one that can be harnessed to perform certain functions according to the choices and dictates of its leaders. [It can be turned into] … an Islamic state implementing the values and ideals enshrined in the Qur’an and those that the Prophet had once realized in his “mini-state” of Medina. … [This is not so.] It inherently [emphasis in the original] produces certain distinctive effects that are political, social, economic, cultural, epistemic, and, no less, psychological, which is to say that the state fashions particular knowledge systems that in turn determine and shape the landscape of individual and collective subjectivity and thus much of the meaning of its subjects’ lives. One of the reasons for this ideological power of the state is that the state is its own lawgiver, judge, and executioner. This awesome and total power devolves to a seemingly immaterial, abstract entity but, in reality, is always wielded by some group of men. Furthermore, these authorities of the modern state are enforced (of course, always selectively) by global powers in the name of the international agreement that is the nation-state system. When the powers of this leviathan were found too absolute, the ideas of institutional checks and balances and the separation of powers inscribed in a constitution and democratic processes were born. Yet, all these checks and balances reside within the state. In imperfect democracies (are there any perfect ones?), the totality of this power becomes clearer, and the separation of powers becomes often less than effective. But, as numerous legal historians have argued, the separation-of-powers hypothesis does not hold in reality in even the most institutionally developed nation-states like the United States. When the state acts as a unified actor, as in times of real or fabricated crises, wars, and triumphs—which are potentially continual or even constant—it acts as an absolute power, a “mortal god,” as the Leviathan, a mythic creature of unlimited power—as imagined by the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. The insurmountable trouble for Islamic theology is not that the rulers as individuals may go rogue or engage in war, enact discriminatory policies, and arbitrary executions, which are all comprehensible evils and inevitable realities in political life. Religious authorities have always felt free to invoke Islamic norms to critique and censure the rulers, at times even justifying armed rebellion. Rather, the “impossibility” of the modern state within an Islamic framework, as argued by Hallaq and others, is that the state is, by definition as well as structurally, supreme. Religious opinions and institutions are authorized by the state, not the other way around. Even if the state elite are “Muslim” or “Islamic,” these scholars argue, structurally the modern state cannot be Islamic; it is secular and secularizing. And yet, being secular has never stopped the state elite anywhere, including in Europe and America, from exploiting religion to further their ends. The idea of an Islamic state, therefore, is an oxymoron, and the experiences of the actual states that have claimed to be Islamic over the last several decades only confirm this.
This is a tricky quotation. This has two possible meanings. The first meaning is that the modern nation-state with its constitutionalism, declaring its own sovereignty superior to Allah’s, claiming to be the sole legislator, declaring all people equal under a single law regardless of one’s religion, and so on, is not Islamic, and therefore no Islamic system should attempt to emulate the nation-state by taking part in its institutions: parliamentary elections, judgeships, citizenship, bureaucracy, the military, and any other institution. This is true and in agreement with the Qur’an and Sunnah. This seems to be implied near the end where Anjum says, “Religious opinions and institutions are authorized by the state, not the other way around”. This is against the Sunnah and prohibited to such an extent that the likes of Ibn Hazm and others have made it a condition of faith. Ibn Hazm said: “Whoever does not legislate by the Qur’an, or the ruling of the Messenger of Allah صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ, unless it agrees with some analogy, opinion, or somebody’s views, he is stripped of his faith [insalakha ‘an al-īmān]” (al-Muhallā, vol. 8/12, p. 430). The state cannot be the source of law – it is only the Qur’an and Sunnah itself – and the rulers, judges, and everyone else is required to abide by it.
The other meaning, which is implied in Hallaq’s book where he discusses the feasibility of Islamic government, is that Islamic government is not possible because any attempt to govern a population today will force people to take the institutions of the nation-state for granted, and therefore use them unwittingly to implement not divine law, but the law of the nation-state and all of the un-Islamic qualities it entails. This is false, for the simple fact that an Islamic government does not have to accept or implement any of the institutions that are exclusive to the modern nation-state. Let us count some of them: the law courts, in the sense of absoluteness in determining the law; the parliament, senate, presidency, or any other institution involved in formulating the law, in the sense of them having absoluteness in making law (above the Lawmaker); the surveillance and enforcement systems which breach peoples’ privacy and break the sharī’ah by spying on them (even in public), and thus are contrary to the sharī’ah.
These are all institutions, and all institutions which do not necessarily have to be implemented by a government. In fact, even current nation-states themselves fail spectacularly at doing exactly those functions, even with all the institutions. Look at Afghanistan: there is a president (‘but which one?’ is a good question), a parliament, various ministries, US-trained and backed national army and police, surveillance technology, law courts, judges, and a constitution, and lots of other things. Does it actually ‘do’ any of the bad things that Anjum and Hallaq blame the nation-state for and cannot be found in other forms of government? Hardly. Judicial systems are corrupt, surveillance and law enforcement capabilities don’t exist in more than half of the country, and don’t even get started with the ‘parliament’ and ‘presidency’.
This detailed and passionate criticism of the nation-state is all true, factually speaking; but none of them imply the impossibility of Islamic government. States are ‘forms’ of government just like the monarchies that preceded them, the empires that preceded them, and the ‘who knows what’ before them. What we do know with absolute certainty is that Islamic government was established, and its qualities are all known. We are able to separate between good and bad qualities of government today because we have a model in the Qur’an, Sunnah, and practice of the rightly-guided caliphs. Having a territory and implementing a single standard for law is not ‘bad’, even though it exists in many nation-state (note: not all; in fact, many nation-states such as federations have different laws depending on the state or province, including criminal law). On the other hand, forcing the same type of law on different types of people – e.g., Muslims and non-Muslims – was not practiced by the Prophet ﷺ, the rightly-guided caliphs, and is therefore contrary to their sunnah, and is therefore an innovation which should be rejected, as the Prophet’s hadith states: “bite onto them [their sunnahs] with your molar teeth, and beware of innovated matters, for every bid’ah is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the fire”.
Anjum continues, Another, and even more concrete, incommensurability with the demands of the modern state’s territorial sovereignty is that Islam brooks no differentiation of rights and duties of Muslims based on regional or territorial affiliation. Numerous scriptural commandments of solidarity and mutual support make it impossible to cut off Muslims in one region from the needs, rights, wealth, and suffering of other Muslims, except on temporary and pragmatic grounds. To act in response to the oppression of the Rohingya, the Uyghurs, the Palestinians, and the Kashmiris is, therefore, a direct Qur’anic command to all Muslims, a command whose enactment is subject only to considerations of distance and feasibility. A political structuration that circumscribes the loyalties of individuals to the territorial boundaries of the state is in essential conflict with Islam. Even more problematic to the demands of a territorial state is its citizens’ allegiance to a religious authority emanating from outside its borders. The widespread scholarly, intellectual, and Sufi networks that have defined the lands of Islam in the past continue to pose a challenge to the demands of the nation-state
This is only true if it is stipulated that Islamic government must necessarily carve out a specific territory and only implement Islamic laws within its territory. This in reality requires an acceptance of the western international legal requirement that governments define their territory and not infringe on others. However, Islamic government does not – and in fact, will not under the Mahdī – act upon these legal norms. Heck, even the nation-‘state’ that western powers are bleeding to support with their every bullet (literally by sending bullets), Israel, has no official borders of its state. In the law of jihad as established in the Qur’an, Sunnah, and recorded in the books of fiqh of all madhhabs, it is in fact a necessity for an Islamic government to fight non-Muslim states and non-state entities who have either (a) attacked them, or (b) abused the rights of Muslims living in their territory who ask the khilāfah for help:
“And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, ‘Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?’” (Qur’ān 4:75).
“Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors. And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah [shirk] is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al-Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers” (Qur’ān 2:190-191).
This is all well-established the scholars have agreed with consensus on the legal implications of these verses (although the issue of fighting without an Islamic government is debated). This necessitates that the khilāfah act according to the standards of international engagement of the Qur’an, and includes a denial of the conceptions of sovereignty as defined by the UN Security Council or any other institution.
Anjum makes a slip:
Of course, limited municipal or administrative independence of territorial or regional governments is indeed possible (and desirable), but the sovereignty claimed by the nation-state goes far beyond this. It is, therefore, crucial to distinguish the state, an abstract and sovereign entity, from government, the name for the administrative and legal apparatus in a region. Accordingly, the imagination of a future caliphate must not be deluded into thinking that local governments, institutions, communities, and histories must be destroyed to create a regional superstate. Many other critiques of the nation-state can be made, and indeed have been made, but our purpose is not to offer a comprehensive critique but to present some reasons for why the nation-state has had such a deeply troubled career in the lands of Islam, and why the end of the nation-state may offer a historical opportunity for the reconstitution of a more Islamic and humane form of political existence for Muslims.
Now, the idea that there has to be a choice between “limited municipal or administrative independence” and the nation-state is a false dichotomy. The third option is one that does not entail either of these: it is now – and in the Prophet’s time was not –limited to a local scale or that of a city-state, nor a modern nation-state. It controlled vast territory without being subject to external powers and laws, and at the time did not claim superiosity of its law outside of what Allah and His Prophet ﷺ legislated.
As for the statement that “local governments, institutions, communities, and histories [need not] be destroyed to create a regional superstate”, we leave this up to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Nowhere did the Prophet ﷺ or any of the four caliphs require the destruction of local forms of government and tribal organization, which we know existed at the time. However, by virtue of the caliphate implementing divine law, previous political, cultural, historical, or any other orders must be superseded by the caliphate if implementing the divine law requires it. This means that on a functional level, any government or locality not implementing the sharī’ah will have to be removed (with the exception of limited modified arrangements with people of the scripture). One the level of the actual commandments of the sharī’ah itself, any idols, shrines that are worshipped, public displays of religion (other than Islam), and a number of other things are banned under Islamic government. This was the practice of the Prophet’s destruction of idols, the caliphs’ removal of public displays of Christianity and other religions, and the Prophet’s general order to destroy idols where they found them.
Refutation of “Looking Ahead”
Anjum says: The critiques of the modern state that I have proposed in the foregoing require that the future caliphate be envisioned not as a super-nation-state, or merely a merger of existing states, but as a different kind of governance that draws its legitimacy from a different political philosophy than the one grounded in Westphalia, nationalism, and secularism. This does not require turning away from modern experience to a prefabricated premodern model, but rather seeking wisdom and guidance from the past while looking to the future, broadening the scope of thinking, and engaging the contemporary experience beyond hegemonic categories. Once we disabuse ourselves of the notion that the nation-state is a given (until foreign masters and textbooks permit us to think otherwise), many inspirations from past and present open up.
This speech is very vague, and likely deliberately. Just when the question becomes important, we reach the conclusion – likely because the argument could not be made in the actual body of the argument, since it would require evidence and explanation. In any case, it is true that nationalism, secularism, nor any other ‘–ism’ ought to be taken as a standard, besides of course what Anjum leaves out, the Qur’an and the Sunnah. I don’t know where Anjum is coming from, but of course the nation-state is not a given. It was a creation of western political history and theology, and exists in the ‘developing’ world as a way to control the people living in them: first for colonial and imperial purposes; and today, to extract countries’ resources by protecting corporations’ ‘right to private property’, while keeping the political elite in the pocket of former colonial powers’ special interests.
Then, he says “this does not require turning away from modern experience”. What does that mean? Technologically? That is debatable: any technology that causes more harm, including harm to the religion, ought not to exist within the borders of the khilāfah, especially those that destroy the environment as we speak, although this is a very nuanced and detailed discussion that cannot be discussed here. Socially speaking, if Anjum means to suggest that the caliphate can exist while also representing – or its population supporting – a modern ideology, like liberalism or postmodernism (which was only possible by modernism’s coming first), this amounts to blasphemy. Take any central tenet of any of the ‘modern’ ‘-isms’: liberalism, postmodernism, secularism, nation-state-ism, capitalism, communism, new atheism, Zionism, etc. Is any one of them prescribed by the Qur’an or Sunnah? Of course not. If that were the case, the Prophet ﷺ would have informed us of them and instructed us to follow them. If communism, defined roughly by a government wherein there is no ownership of private property, for instance, was a good thing and in accordance to the Qur’an and Sunnah – making us closer to Allah by following it – then he would have said so. Same goes for postmodernism: if denying absolute moral truth and even empirical reality saved us from the hellfire, we would have been told about it.
It is blasphemous to believe otherwise, because it implies that certain essential aspects of law – that which we gain closeness to Allah with – were not made clear by Allah or His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ. The Prophet ﷺ said, “nothing which brings one closer to paradise or further from the fire remains except what has been made clear to you” (i.e., in the religion) (al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr, vol. 2, p. 155, sahih). If something was known – e.g., the concept of absolute truth, or private property – and was approved believed in by all of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ, and practiced by all of the rightly-guided caliphs, then to now, be it the 21st century or another, claim the opposite, would be a rejection of that truth in the Qur’an or Sunnah.
Anjum then approvingly quotes a statement that denies the Qur’an, Sunnah, prophecies of our beloved Prophet ﷺ, and the entire argument of his own article until this point:
“The notion of an innovative restoration of the caliphate is far from unthinkable; it was how many independent Muslim thinkers imagined the future. The influential Egyptian jurist ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Sanhūrī (1895-1971), who is also the single most important author of Egyptian, Iraqi, and other Arab civil laws, shared an unambiguous commitment to the revival of the caliphate in a systematic and progressive manner: Given that establishing a rightly-guided or complete caliphate is impossible under the current conditions, there is no alternative to establishing incomplete or deficient Islamic government (ḥukūma) on the basis of necessity that the current circumstances impose upon the Islamic world today. But such a system (niẓām) must be considered deficient and temporary … The ideal caliphate system of the future must be flexible, for as we have seen, the sharīʿa does not impose a specific [administrative] form for governance at all. He goes on to offer these broad requirements for a feasible and effective caliphate: Unification of the Islamic world; application of Islamic law, and certain religious and political features. These he further elaborates as follows: Separation of powers: as history and experience show that concentration of power in the hand of one person or body leads to the domination of the political over the religious and moral. Legal reform: the traditional Islamic legal system (outside of ritual and religious aspects) had led to stagnation, which makes it necessary to engage in serious research and effect an intellectual renaissance of sorts before applying it in practice. Decentralization and localism: history and experience show that the unity of the Islamic world cannot be maintained stably in a highly centralized state, nor is that desirable from the perspective of Islamic jurisprudence; any such attempt will have to be decentralized with a large measure of freedom given to each region to govern itself.” Sanhūrī was no mere dreamer; his subsequent studies detailed at length the kinds of issues that would have to be faced in such a multilayered government, down to the kinds of committees for various religious and other affairs and the sensitivity to the rights of non-Muslims as well neighboring non-Muslim states—“the nations of the east”—that would be required … All these commitments provide building blocks for a constitutional design that will need to balance the check on the powers of the government. The institutional design of any future confederation of Muslim governments, in short, will have to use the ancient resources of Islamic tradition, but equally important will be the adoption of compatible contemporary institutions.
Now we know what he is talking about by not taking the ‘model of the past’ and transposing it in the future, or when he says we need to accept modernity and the nation-state as a fact. This is the most shameful and misleading act of intellectual betrayal against the Ummah and the reader giving the author husn al-zann (benefit of the doubt), thinking this is his dear Muslim brother writing in concordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ and tradition of the first generations of Muslims.
Let us count the number of false claims and statements, and lies against Allah and His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ in the model being proposed by al-Sanhuri – who wrote the legal codes of Arab countries and literally modeled Islamic legal codes upon western law. What on earth happened to the critique of the nation-state and the rejection of its assertion being the absolute sovereign and divine law? We literally quoted and agreeingly explained every sentence of benefit, of every paragraph in Anjum’s article above. The nation-state, the laws of the west, the political theological concepts of the Christian world, the colonial remnants of nation-states in the Muslim world: what *on earth* happened to them being the only thing Muslims need to avoid in conceiving of Islamic governments? Now we are being told that the model of the ‘caliphate’ ought to be in the hands of a man who literally wrote the laws of kufr into the codes of Muslim countries. You can’t even make it up. Every verse and hadith I’ve quoted so far applies the likes of this man more than it did to anyone in the history of Islam, besides Abdullah Ibn Ubayy himself and his followers.
Do the people of the ummah not take heed? We have been talking about people who desire to pass off kufr and rejection of Allah’s legislation for the last 56 pages – indeed, millions of pages written by the scholars in 1400 years of its history before modernity – quoting the ruling of the Qur’an on those who use sources of legislation other than our beloved Prophet ﷺ, and those who follow their desires and use the Qur’an and Sunnah to justify their opinions. One cannot find worse than the likes of these people on the face of the earth. When Allah speaks in the Qur’an, and the Prophet ﷺ speaks by divine inspiration about these people, take heed and be afraid of turning into one of them. Neither Allah, nor His prophet ﷺ speak in vein.
The first claim: “The notion of an innovative restoration of the caliphate is far from unthinkable”.
The response: “innovative” means “new” or it means “not a part of the sunnah”. Both meanings are implied in this sentence, because had the Prophet ﷺ allowed for the caliphate to be established by a method other than the sunnah, he would have allowed for its establishment through violent rebellion. “New” is not only not a standard, it is prohibited in Islamic law to found government on a method prohibited by the sharī’ah.
The second: “Given that establishing a rightly-guided or complete caliphate is impossible under the current conditions…”.
The response: anybody who denies the possibility of establishing the rightly-guided caliphate either believes in two things: (a) that it is impossible and will never happen – this is major kufr in all of the traditions where the Prophet ﷺ prophesized the establishment of the global caliphate; (b) that it is impossible now, and could be possible when Muslims gain control over a territory upon which they can declare the caliphate. Holding this view is not only true, bot obligatory, because the caliphate cannot be declared without Muslims actually deciding on establishing it. Now, “given” that is the case, does that mean we settle for anything else?
The third: “there is no alternative to establishing incomplete or deficient Islamic government (ḥukūma) on the basis of necessity that the current circumstances impose upon the Islamic world today. But such a system (niẓām) must be considered deficient and temporary”.
The response: the meaning of this statement is, “we must accept some sort of nation-state, semi-shari’ah world order until the caliphate can be established completely”.
We respond to this by stating that were it the case that all Muslim countries, or even one, actually agreed to implementing the sharī’ah in full, it would be obligatory for the Muslims to stipulate the caliphate as a condition. In other words, if the world actually came to the point where everyone agreed to implement the sharī’ah, the difference between “absolute sharī’ah” and “caliphate” is not very great, because the elites of every single Muslim city do not have to pledge allegiance for a caliph to be installed, by consensus of the Muslims (for the first four, only the city of Madinah was considered; for Hussain, Kufa; for Ibn Zubayr, Mecca, and so on). In this case, the caliphate is basically already here, there is no ‘deficiency’ in the system if the sharī’ah is implemented.
What this means is that al-Sanhuri’s “deficient system” is actually referring to a scenario in which the sharī’ah is not implemented, and not viewed as the direct source of all law. It means that we live in an order where shirk, public display of kufr, equality of religions, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, interest-banking, and oppressive capitalism are all permitted to exist in the state, which either ignores the fact the sharī’ah bans these, or actively chooses to reject some or all of it by declaring that sovereignty belongs not to the divine law, but to the parliament, people at large, presidency, state, law courts, or any other institution.
This is major kufr, and Abū Bakr fought the “apostates” in his time for refusing to pay the zakāh:
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) breathed his last and Abu Bakr was appointed as his successor (Caliph), those amongst the Arabs who wanted to become apostates became apostates. ‘Umar b. Khattab said to Abu Bakr: Why would you fight against the people, when the Messenger of Allah declared: I have been directed to fight against people so long as they do not say: There is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was granted full protection of his property and life on my behalf except for a right? His (other) affairs rest with Allah. Upon this Abu Bakr said: By Allah, I would definitely fight against him who severed prayer from Zakat, for it is the obligation upon the rich. By Allah, I would fight against them even to secure the cord (used for hobbling the feet of a camel) which they used to give to the Messenger of Allah (as zakat) but now they have withheld it. Umar b. Khattab remarked: By Allah, I found nothing but the fact that Allah had opened the heart of Abu Bakr for (perceiving the justification of) fighting (against those who refused to pay Zakat) and I fully recognized that the (stand of Abu Bakr) was right. (Sahih Muslim, 20).
This is also the state of the khawārij, who never for a moment denied the authority of Allah or of the sharī’ah in its entirety (and practiced it better than any of us today). They were declared to have “exited” the religion and people of sunnah for one reason: they refused to recognize the authority of the rightly-guided caliph. They also declared as disbelievers those who refused to agree with their false theology, including the idea that anybody who commits a major sin should be killed for being non-Muslim.
This is the reason why Ibn Taymiyyah and other scholars permitted fighting against the Mongols who had converted to Islam, and some in their ranks even prayed and practiced it to its full extent: claiming Islam outwardly does not permit your state to reject the sharī’ah. In other words, the act of not using the sharī’ah as a source of law, or not accepting the need for a government upon the method of caliphate – and not pledging allegiance to it or working to establish it – could endanger one’s faith, and permits a Muslim state to wage war against it. Indeed, even with a single one of these sins, one is doomed to the hellfire without repentance: “O you who have believed, fear Allah and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers. And if you do not, then be informed of a war [against you] from Allah and His Messenger” (Qurān 2:278-279). On the other hand, those who aid, support, join the ranks of, or willingly pledge loyalty to any of these modern nation-states leaves his faith in Allah, His messenger ﷺ, and the day of judgement at the door:
“How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned” (Qur’ān 2:28).
“But no, by your Lord, they will not believe [lā yu’minūn] until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission” (Qur’ān 4:65).
“And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty” (Qur’ān 5:2).
“Whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers” (Qur’ān 5:44).
“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people” (Qur’ān 5:51).
“Or have they other deities who have ordained for them a religion to which Allah has not consented? But if not for the decisive word, it would have been concluded between them. And indeed, the wrongdoers will have a painful punishment” (Qur’ān 42:21).
I recommend the reader consult each one of the available exegeses for each of these verses to be sure the meanings and implications of the verses are as they appear. They will find without exception that Allah dissociates from those who reject His law and settle for anything else – let alone support them through allegiance and being of material or ideological benefit to them.
Ibn Kathīr (my translation): However: There is a narration which may be considered ḥasan, in which Ibn Lahī’ah narrated from Abū al-aswad (taken by Abū Ḥātim): that two men had a disagreement and went to the messenger of Allah (صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ), and he rendered a judgement. The one who was ruled against said ‘let’s refer to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab’ and the Messenger of Allah صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ said “go to him”, so when they went, the man said “O Son of al-Khattab, the Messenger of Allah (صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) judged between us and said ‘go to ‘Umar,’ and we did”, he said, is that true? He said, yes. ‘Umar said “wait here until I come back to you to judge between you”, and he left them to pick up his sword, and killed the one who said ‘let’s go to ‘Umar’ The other went running to the Messenger of Allah upon him be blessings and peace, and said “O messenger of Allah, ‘Umar killed my companion, and he would have killed me too!” so the messenger of Allah صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ said “I don’t think that ‘Umar would kill a believer” and Allah revealed the “nay, by your lord they will never believe until they refer to you for judgement” verse (Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr, vol. 2, p. 351).
The fourth: “The ideal caliphate system of the future must be flexible”.
Response: this phrase is indicative of the suggestion that the author(s) here believe not only in the necessity of settling for kufr law, but also that this the closest we will ever get to the caliphate upon the method of prophecy. The words, “of the future” is the closest indicator. I already explained the ruling of such a belief above.
The fifth: “the sharīʿa does not impose a specific [administrative] form for governance at all”.
The response: the author does not say “administrative” – those were put in his mouth by Anjum, who interestingly is attempting to preserve his argument that the clipahte does prescribe a specific form of government (in previous sections) while also make the claim that the caliphate can be whatever we want it to be. This is the exact location of Anjum’s psychological malfunction: all of his research, even with its mistakes and grave errors, in the end of the day discovers that prophetic caliphate is separate from authoritianism, despotism, liberal democracy, nation-state-ism, facism, and communism, and at the same time, in literally a few paragraphs difference, claims that the prophetic caliphate has to fit into one of those exact models. I understand if he wants to reject the divine law, and claim that the words of the Prophet ﷺ when he says “my sunnah” mean nothing of substance, but he just spend 80% of his own article explaining precisely how meaningful the hadīth is. This is truly, seriously shocking. I have not seen or experienced the likes of this kind of mental malfunction. Most liberals and reformists pretend to be religious, but are find with criticizing the sahābah to prove their point that Islam allows liberal democracy (as Abdullah Ahmed al-Na’im’s 2010 book does). Hamza Yusuf mocks the sharī’ah and praises the US constitution. But to see these two polar opposites in the same exact article? I don’t know what to make of it, besides the saying of the Prophet ﷺ who warned us of this level of cognitive dissonance in times of fitnah: “Rush to do good deeds. A Fitnah will occur that is like a portion of the dark night, morning will come upon a man as a believer, who will be a disbeliever in the evening, and evening will come upon a believer, who will be a disbeliever in the morning. One of them will sell his religion for goods of the world” (al-Tirmidhi, 2195, sahih).
I have already counted and explained the main evidences that the khilāfah is itself a system of government with various qualities distinguishable from other forms of government. Don’t take my word for it: read the last four sections of Anjum’s article.
The fifth: “He goes on to offer these broad requirements for a feasible and effective caliphate: Unification of the Islamic world”
Here it gets even more contradictory. Not only is assessed practicality made a condition to accept shirk law over the sharī’ah, but now the most illogical and impractical of conceivable conditions is listed as a requirement. The idea that two individual nation-states merge into one – or even create a union of separate states – is according to Anjum’s criticism of the nation-state, the most illogical thing one could expect. Not only are multiple corrupt world leaders supposed to unite; this is supposed to happen while each of these governments are killing, torturing, suppressing, brainwashing, and constantly in battle with their own populations because of the fact they are attempting to legitimize something that nobody would ever agree with.
Without the nation-state criterion, unity is obviously the hallmark of the rightly-guided caliphate, as the Prophet ﷺ required it in various narrations. This is true. Yet, Anjum’s own assessment of contemporary politics already ruled out a unified caliphate because unity is too difficult to achieve? Why is unity between all Muslim nations now being praised as “practical” and “feasible”? According to Anjum, it clearly is not practical nor feasible, because if it were, he would not criticize the prophetic caliphate for being infeasible due to its requirement of unity. This is a contradiction within a contradiction:
Anjum criticizes prophetic caliphate expecting unity in today’s world.
Anjum then praises al-Sanhūrī for saying unity is a condition for practicality and feasibility (contradiction).
The sixth: it needs “the application of Islamic law”.
This discussed has preceded. If by Islamic he means the sharī’ah in its entirety, I still do not understand why Anjum discards the idea of the prophetic caliphate as impractical, nor do I understand al-Sanhūrī’s claim that such a system would be “deficient”. If there was a unified caliphate that implemented the entirety of the sharī’ah throughout, that would not be deficient at all: it would be ideal and exactly what Allah commanded of the Ummah.
If on the other hand he means by “Islamic law” a civil code whereby British, French, and other western legal traditions are disguised under the Arabic language and vocabulary used in fiqh, this amounts to a rejection of the sharī’ah as I have detailed on multiple occasions earlier in this article. There is no difference between saying “sovereignty belongs to the people,” as we say in English, rejecting Allah’s sovereignty in favour of manmade law, and the following:
- “Egemenlik kayıtsız şartsız Milletindir,” (Sovereignty is for the people without reservation or exception) (Turkish Constitution)
- “Transfer of authority shall be made peacefully through democratic means as stipulated in this Constitution” (Iraqi Constitution)
- “We believe in democracy as a path, a future, and a way of life; in political multiplicity; and in the peaceful transfer of power. We affirm the right of the people to make their future” (Egyptian Constitution),
- “Kuwait’s system of government is democratic; sovereignty is vested in the Nation as the source of all authority; and the exercise of that sovereignty shall be as set out in this Constitution” (Kuwaiti Constitution),
- “Sovereignty is in the hands of the people and is implemented according to this Constitution” (Indonesian Constitution), and so on.
The sixth: “Separation of powers: as history and experience show that concentration of power in the hand of one person or body leads to the domination of the political over the religious and moral.”
The Response: Any separation of powers in any government can only occur by permission of Allah and His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ. Neither the rightly-guided caliphate, nor the Qur’an or Sunnah, mention or discuss a situation wherein government institutions are arranged in a system of checks and balances. Anybody who knows political philosophy knows this was an invention of the west (Montesquieu and others), starting with Aristotle’s notion that a separation of powers was necessary, based on the assumption that power always corrupts. Meanwhile, the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ and the companions is to select the most pious and knowledgeable in the sharī’ah – including in implementing it himself – and thus frees one of the need to design a system where every institution is self-interested and looking to curb the power of the other. As Plato would respond – and as Abu Bakr responded, the government will only be as good as its people. Abū Bakr said to al-Aḥmasiyya when she asked him “how long will this matter [caliphate] remain among us?” He said: “so long as your rulers are on the straight path”. The Prophet ﷺ said in a number of da’īf chains: “those appointed over you are as you are” (ʿAlī Ḥasan ʿAlī al-Ḥanbalī, Mawsūʿat al-Aḥādīth wa al-Āthār al-Ḍaʿīfah wa-l-Mawḍūʿah, vol. 7, p. 356-7). We see that in the case where the populations are degenerate, no level of separation of powers actually makes the people enact law in favour of its citizens. The best example of the checks and balances system is the US. How many congressmen and senators can you count who are not in the pocket of corporations?
In other words, if the leader is just and pious, there is no need for a separation of powers. This is the sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ, all rightly-guided caliphs, the prophet-kings of the past, and indicated in the orders of Allah and the Prophet ﷺ to select a leader (who make final decisions) and undertake shūrā (who advise the leader of the Qur’an, Sunnah, and various perspectives before making the final decision).
The seventh: “Legal reform: the traditional Islamic legal system (outside of ritual and religious aspects) had led to stagnation, which makes it necessary to engage in serious research and effect an intellectual renaissance of sorts before applying it in practice.”
The response: by legal reform, if what is meant is ijtihad, then this is necessary. There are countless new ideologies, physical substances, inventions, material circumstances, and innovations which need to be addressed by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Allah said: “we have not left out anything from the Book”, “you Lord is not forgetful”, “And We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things and as guidance and mercy and good tidings for the Muslims” (Qur’ān 16:89).
The eighth “Decentralization and localism: history and experience show that the unity of the Islamic world cannot be maintained stably in a highly centralized state, nor is that desirable from the perspective of Islamic jurisprudence; any such attempt will have to be decentralized with a large measure of freedom given to each region to govern itself.”
The response: First of all, we have to define ‘centralized’. If by centralized one implies that every decision in every locality is made by some central authority office in the capital city or some kind of politburo, this is obviously against the Sunnah. If by centralized one means a government were the caliph appoints governors who manage provinces, cities, and judges to judge between the people by Allah’s law, then opposing such a government goes against the sunnah. This seems to be implied in the second part of the sentence, and is false. If the Prophet ﷺ and his successors could govern vast territories according to the sharī’ah, without legislating themselves, appointing their own judges without the leader’s permission, or anything else, in a time where it took weeks, if not months to communicate even the most simplest of messages between provinces of the empire – the idea that this would be impossible in a day where you can fly from Spain to China in a day (or give an order in 0.1 seconds) is ridiculous. As for ‘stability’, this is not the benchmark of what is or is not a part of the sunnah. Remember, we decide the order of the Prophet ﷺ, and then explain why it is beneficial.
But in case one were to say, “but centralized government caused civil war in the caliphate, and doing so again would be against the purpose of government itself!”
We respond in two points. Firstly, we are people of the sunnah. We follow the sunnah whether or not we view it to be practical. A world without interest, oppression, nation-states, democracy, and so on is unimaginable to us now – and removing these would upset the status quo (I doubt the 1% would be happy to hear every single bank was closing down). But who was it other than Ovamir Anjum that said, “There is no reason for an idea to be deemed unfeasible simply because it is not in vogue”? We don’t stop praying if it’s difficult, we don’t not make pilgrimage because our feet ache, we don’t stop ordering the good and prohibiting the evil because it’s unpopular, and we don’t start worshipping idols because our livelihoods may be in threat. We accept everything the Prophet ﷺ ordered us to do, accept all the ease given to us in times of hardship insofar as it was made explicit (e.g., shortening prayers, saying kufr under duress – note, not necessity but under direct threat of death), and explain the benefits of it later.
Secondly, who’s to say that centralized government is less stable than decentralized government? Anybody who knows the basics of social science knows the answer isn’t black and white; and even if it were, it changes from scenario to scenario. If someone told me that Cuba would be taken over by 19 rebels in the forests led by Fidel Castro, the entire Federation of Russia (that gave rise to the largest military in the world) would be conquered by what a few rag-tag communists in St. Petersburg led by a guy exiled in Switzerland, or most importantly, that a belied Prophet and a bunch of poor oppressed supporters you could count on your fingertips living in the least developed and poorest part of the world would lead a revolution that would devastate both the Roman and Sassanian superpowers within a single generation, I’d tell you, ‘get the hell ‘outta here!’ – as would any reasonable historian or social scientist. Power, mercy, social and ethnic unity, love, compassion, and justice all come from Allah and Allah alone. He promised us that if we held onto his sharī’ah, he would grant it to us; while if we left it, we would taste the punishment in both this world and the hereafter.
“Say, “He is the [one] Able to send upon you affliction from above you or from beneath your feet or to confuse you [so you become] sects and make you taste the violence of one another.” Look how We diversify the signs that they might understand” (Qur’ān 6:65).
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” (Qur’ān 3:103).
“Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects – you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah ; then He will inform them about what they used to do” (Qur’ān 6:159).
“[Or] of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has” (Qur’ān 30:32).
Brace yourselves. One ought to think somebody hit the poor guy in the head with a stick before he wrote this paragraph. We’ll go sentence by sentence because of how ridiculous it is:
“In this vein, the United States’ constitutional architecture represents one of the best cases of political envisioning the modern world has seen, and no contemporary effort of political thinking can afford to ignore it.”
By best, if the author means “good” as in objectively good, this is praising of the laws of the kuffār and a major sin; worse if he believes in it. If he means “best” and in “stable”, then we say two things. Firstly, the length and power of a government is not associated with whether or not it has a separation of powers. From ancient Egypt to the USSR, we know this to be the case. As for the US, every empire has its peak, and since it is largely agreed that US’s has gone over the mount, we can predict it will merely decline from here. Read any literature on US unipolarity in international politics. Not to mention, the US had a devastating civil war and was built on the ‘democracy’ of property-owning elites who were gaining economically from literally and metaphorically enslaving various classes of people. There is nothing ‘good’. If what is meant is the institutional structure, we point to the fact that states all around the world, both present and future, have governmental and intergovernmental political institutions that are far more complex and well thought-out than the US’s, which almost immediately destroyed the country just a few decades after inception.
“Right-wing pundit George Will recently remarked in an interview for his book The Conservative Sensibility that the Bush administration’s attempt to bring democracy to Iraq failed because Iraq did not have men like John Locke the philosopher, George Washington the statesman, Alexander Hamilton the visionary economist, and the society of eighteenth-century America. His larger argument is that certain political geniuses created the American political system, which in turn created a culture and subjectivity, which is necessary for a successful democracy”
Oh yes, Muslim countries are failing because the white men appointed to save them wasn’t as smart as the white men who lived 250 years ago, including the guy who drafted a constitution that institutionalized slavery (John Locke), and the man who owned slaves and died after draining his blood to get rid of a headache (George Washington). The last thing people could possible fathom is that democracy is a sham, and only works if the state is powerful enough to repress and brainwash the people – including George Will himself – into thinking the government actually represents the will of the people and is acting in their interest. This is the same government that could not defeat a bunch of outnumbered villagers living in caves in 19 years and counting. It’s the same government where people insist on its democratic nature while popular opinion almost has no effect on lawmaking in comparison to the economic agenda of the 1%. Even US-based political theorists with the smallest of minds understand that the US, at least for the last 150 years, was anything but a democracy, and that the development of the deep state, powerful economic elite, and incredibly strong powers of centralization removed any last bit of legitimacy the state could claim.
“In other words, one needs each of these three elements for a successful political vision: a set of shared ideals, an exceptional and courageous set of visionary thinkers, and a society ready to respond to their vision. George Will is hardly an expert on Iraq, and his view of America myopically filters out all the blood and contingency from its history, but some of his insights are correct: the need for visionaries and for buy-in from society and, in particular, the failure of imported solutions.”
Even though this certainly does not apply to the US government, the statement is more or less accurate. Of course, by success, we mean “absolutely good” and moral, not “able to last the longest” or “able to make the most money for the 1%”. The shared ideals of Muslims are the Qur’an and Sunnah; its visionary thinkers are the Prophet Muhammad صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ, followed by the four caliphs, followed by the mujtahids and mujaddids of the ummah; and the society ready to respond to its vision is you!
“Even more noteworthy is Will’s observation about the American Declaration of Independence: it sees its purpose as not inventing rights to be imposed top-down, but securing pre-existing rights widely believed to be given by God”
The only difference between the khilāfah and any state that believes in a sort of natural law or divinely-inspired set of human rights is that the khilāfah can actually claim legitimacy and accuracy in defining the divine will. Since John Locke was not a prophet, his arguments for certain rights cannot be accepted. After all, he was the one who believed in inter-generational slavery while also insisting that all men (and not women) are born equal and are to be treated equally under the law. This is not a contradiction, it is an interpretation fo the general principles. In other words, “all men are equal under the law, except for slaves as long as they are slaves, or women because they have no political agency”. Another interpretation (the one accepted today) is: “all people are equal under the law, except those who cannot think properly, those in jail (who have limited rights), children under the age of majority depending on the state or province, etc.” I’m not saying one is more accurate than the other. I’m saying: how can we know which one is more accurate provided there are exceptions to general statements like “all men are created equal”? Of course, the answer is the Qur’an and the Sunnah which describes and explains all of these cases and exceptions from the perspective of divine revelation, from Allah to the Prophet ﷺ through Jibrīl, or from Allah to the Prophet ﷺ in the form of non-verbal inspiration (hadīths). Islam is the only religion and political system able to claim true legitimacy in its laws.
Anjum then makes another statement against Allah and His messenger ﷺ – the only divinely revealed law the exists, as stated above:
We imagine the caliphate as a federation of local governments that may be governed democratically or by any number of traditional or yet undiscovered institutionalization of shura—by which I mean representation, consultation, and accountability. Islamic Law has been inherently legally pluralistic and does not seek to impose its communal norms on non-Muslims. This is so because the Islamic notion of communal life and governance is essentially bottom-up: people can be governed only by laws they believe in. Another related commitment of Islamic governance is the integrity of family and community. A third related commitment of Islamic tradition as it historically developed has been small government and respect for local customs. When modernizing nation-states abandoned these standards and tried to force Islamic law into a state law, disastrous abuse ensued
Claim 1: the caliphate does not need a central decision-maker.
Refutation: this is false, as Allah and His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ constantly mention the decision-making body of the ummah singularly “a group” who command good and evil, “those in authority among you”, “obey, even if an Abyssinian slave is appointed over you [plural you, i.e., the whole Ummah]” and most importantly, the “sunnah of the rightly-guided caliphs”, who were leaders that made the final decisions after consulting with the people of influence and knowledge. This is also proven through Anjum’s own discussion of the need for political unity – sometimes I think if Anjum literally forgot what he wrote in the first half of the article, and am amazed by such a level of cognitive dissonance. Read it for yourselves!
Claim 2: shūrā can mean democracy, and forms of shūrā that did not exist in the time of the Prophet ﷺ or the rightly-guided caliphs are permissible.
Refutation: this is false, as Allah and His messenger صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ categorically prohibited legislation by anything other than what Allah revealed. This applies to following vein desires, using legal arguments to satisfy vain desires, or making legislation against the Qur’an and Sunnah even if you think it will lead to greater good. Allah said about interest: “Those who consume interest cannot stand [on the Day of Resurrection] except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity. That is because they say, “Trade is [just] like interest.” But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So whoever has received an admonition from his Lord and desists may have what is past, and his affair rests with Allah . But whoever returns to [dealing in interest or usury] – those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein” (Qur’ān 2:275).
If any form of shūrā gives authority to a body of people – however selected – against the determination fo the caliphate, this goes against the tradition – nay, the definition – of caliphate, which is to substitute the Prophet’s implementation of the sharī’ah, and further consolidated by the fact that while none of the four caliphs ever made decisions without taking imput from others, they always possessed the ability to overrule the shūrā to stay in line with the Sunnah. This is because Allah guides those who are given the sole responsibility to determine what is law it and implement it. The Prophet ﷺ said: “If anyone desires the office of Judge and seeks help for it, he will be left to his own devices; if anyone does not desire it, nor does he seek help for it, Allah will send down an angel who will direct him aright” (Abu Dawud 3578, authenticated by many, and the meaning is true).
Claim 3: “Islamic Law has been inherently legally pluralistic and does not seek to impose its communal norms on non-Muslims. This is so because the Islamic notion of communal life and governance is essentially bottom-up: people can be governed only by laws they believe in.”
Refutation: if the author means by this statement that Islamic law is whatever the people want it to be, or whatever they believe it to be based on their subjective view of a law’s pros and cons, this is major kufr, because it implies that any law of the sharī’ah – including prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, and the public testimony of faith – is no longer binding upon a group of people if they deem it unnecessary. There is no level of interpretation or weighting of pros and cons that allows for the fundamentals of the religion, or the fundamentals justice, to be abrogated or rejected by a group of people, regardless of how far they are living or how culturally diverge they are. This is a matter of agreement of every single Muslim jurist, that the idea of maslahah, or laws based on weighting good and bad, can only apply under cases where there is no textual evidence (e.g., can the Qur’an be compiled). On the other hand, with issues like prayer and zakāh, Abū Bakr rejected the consultation of ‘Umar and the other companions who objected to fighting people that rejected to pay zakāh to the government in Medina – the logic being that changing the sharī’ah was impermissible and a type of leaving the religion itself. Now, the idea that “people can be governed only by the laws they believe in” is probably the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard. Not only is that not true for any nation-state or empire, it most certainly is not a principle in Islamic government. Believing in such a statement implies that the entirety of Islamic law means absolutely nothing – and cannot be enforced at all – if people decide not to believe in it. Incredible.
Claim 4: “A third related commitment of Islamic tradition as it historically developed has been small government and respect for local customs. When modernizing nation-states abandoned these standards and tried to force Islamic law into a state law, disastrous abuse ensued”.
Refutation: if this means that judges and governors are given a certain level of autonomy by the caliph to dispense rulings according to the sharī’ah, this is not incorrect. Otherwise, it calls under the third claim above. Further, Islamic law was never forced into state law: it became un-Islamic the second it was ‘adapted’ into a system of government prohibited by the sharī’ah (presidencies, parliaments, un-Islamic constitutions being upheld by courts, etc.), and construed to fit common legal practices of the British and French, as has preceded.
Anjum then says,
“This is not a call for a violent revolution, for it inevitably summons a reign of terror in its wake. It is a call, rather, for new discourses and practices in the framework of the broad, shared framework of the caliphate that take the collective future of the global Muslim ummah seriously. It is a call for Muslims to allow ourselves to dream big without neglecting small, immediate obligations and duties, to think globally even as we must act locally. It is a call for conversations, networking, rethinking, and reimagining the possibilities of living politically as Muslims. It is a call for young Muslims everywhere to link up with each other across artificial borders and ask themselves practical, moral questions: how can we respond better to the loss of faith and devotion to God, the apathy and corruption of the elite, lift up the dispossessed refugees, aid our persecuted brethren in faith, facilitate economic collaboration, alter political institutions, improve religious discourse, enrich dialogue and discourse with Muslims within and across sectarian and national boundaries, and improve education and communication across the many barriers of distance, language, and prejudice?” All these questions must be answered in a way that simultaneously defeats the autocrats as well as the terrorists, not only in their respective ideologies but in their tactics and worldviews.
It is not permissible to oppose violent revolution because of fear of a “reign of terror”. It is only permissible if it opposes the method of establishing the khilāfah according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. It does, and therefore we oppose it. Likewise, we do not call for the caliphate in order to be taken seriously by others. If that were the case, nobody in their right mind in 7th century would be Muslim, and in the process sacrifice their family ties, humiliation, torture, hunger and boycott, and even their lives.
The statement “It is a call for Muslims to allow ourselves to dream big without neglecting small, immediate obligations and duties” forgets that the caliphate itself is an immediate (though not small) obligation upon the entire Ummah – and certainly, local activism and the seeking of knowledge is required by all capable Muslims. As for all of those practical and moral questions we are mean to discuss, why not discuss what is obligated upon us by the Ummah according to the Qur’an and Sunnah? Since the beginning of the article, the last thing the author was concerned about is the notion that the khilāfah is an obligation, and must be articulated as such, in order to inform the people of that fact and actually get the ball moving. By the same token, Islam already has the answer to all of these, questions: it is a matter of finding them and spreading this truth to others, not ‘debating’ or ‘discussing’ without reference to the Qur’an and Sunnah and the idea of religious obligations, let alone sacrificing them for the sake of political or any other type of unity. Allah said that true unity only comes from Islam and adhering to His rulings.
When ISIS activities were at their peak and the western media were competing in publishing the most sensationalist stories about chopped heads and murderous suicides, as a researcher working on the issue at the time, I wanted to go beyond the headlines and get a personal grip on what ISIS was really about. Skeptical as I was about the pornography of violence that the group produced specifically for the Western media, I looked in their publications (such as the glossy magazine, Dabiq) for clues of the culture beyond the pervasive violence and judgments of unbelief. Nothing helped me understand it better than the obscure and largely ignored reports about the conduct of its members and supporters regarding how they treated each other. There were numerous clues that created a picture: Western, European, white recruits were treated as superior, they were given leading positions from where they controlled the messaging and even the direction, and recruits from poorer, darker countries were routinely humiliated and marginalized. The children were taught violence and hatred from the get-go, rather than knowledge, reasoning, and compassion. There was the cherry-picked invocation of legal norms from classical manuals, but no attention to history, context, and diversity; their apocalyptic message was the antithesis of these virtues so essential to Islamic tradition. I knew that these features could not be made up by the CIA propagandists, and they revealed the core. In a field rife with enormous propaganda and conspiracy theories, down-to-earth data like this helped me understand this bunch of angry thugs and psychopaths, the mariqa and the khawarij as prophesied and condemned by the Beloved Prophet ﷺ as “young fools who read the Qur’an but it does not go past their throats.”
Then, he makes a reference to the khawārij, who while possess some attributes as ISIS – as Anjum himself does – are not actually the same. The khawārij existed in the past and their innovations and qualities are well-known. The criticism of ISIS is not and should not be a criticism of violence and discrimination alone. Rather, the true objection and criticism of ISIS comes from the fact that they opposed the Sunnah of the Qur’an and Sunnah – not just in individual rulings (including many that are mere differences and do not have consensus), but importantly in the method and substance of what they called the “caliphate”. The method refers to the way it is established: it cannot be through violence and forced pledging of allegiance, the killing of ahl al-sunnah for refusing to grant them legitimacy, and so on. The substance refers to both the ‘aqīdah of ISIS, which makes takfīr of anybody who does not pledge allegiance and permits them to be killed, as well as many deliberate misinterpretations of the Qur’an and Sunnah used to propagate their illegitimate regime. We must resort only to the Qur’an and Sunnah in order to criticize and oppose them. Why? Because that is what Allah orders of us. Secondly, because the best criticisms of ISIS can be found in it, as can Allah’s wisdom in condemning then. Thirdly, it details the method in which they should be opposed: joining the US military and renouncing one’s allegiance to Allah is not permitted.
Next, Anjum says that “The pursuit of a just political order cannot replace the pursuit of humble prayers, reverence for parents, better marriages, deeper friendships, robust local communities, and most of all concern for justice for the underprivileged and the weak.”
This sense makes no sense. “A” just political order implies the existence of more than one just political order. There is only one, caliphate upon the method of prophecy. Insofar as this is the case, then anybody’s pursuit to establish the caliphate according to the sunnah (in method and substance) will not conflict, but rather complement and complete one’s religion: their prayers and pillars, their closeness to Allah through purification of one’s evil desires, understanding sacrifice for the path of Allah, gaining knowledge for His sake, making du’ā’ for one’s family and one’s ummah and calling them to the straight path, and the only type of friendship that is permanent: the bond of two Muslim brothers, which last in this life and beyond.
Maintaining the status quo in the Muslim world is a pipe-dream; the dream to change it is not. The current order is un-Islamic, unethical, and inimical to a decent future for Muslims and our human brethren at large. Those who wish to maintain it are a small and shrinking elite. To maintain these despotic states, these elites are having not only to suppress their majorities and kill or silence every last possibility of independent, moral thinking but also denature and distort Islam and massively brainwash Muslim societies. These grotesquely repressive and nearly-failed states are different from ISIS only in superficial ways. They are actively engaged in eliminating and replacing the Muslim sense of solidarity, as well as narrowing theological, jurisprudential, and ethical discourse to serve exclusively their interests.
Maintaining the status quo while believing that it ought to be implemented instead of the sharī’ah is worse than failed aspirations: it is a rejection of Allah’s sole right to legislation. Change is obligatory, and is must be upon the path of prophecy. My only question is that Anjum clearly rules out caliphate upon the method of prophecy. He also (once again!) rules out the nation-state. So, what does he support? What makes him think destroying the incredibly powerful system of international law and coercive capabilities of each nation-state can be removed in its entirety, while establishing true caliphate is not possible? Not that our perception of its possibility matters.
The final paragraph:
We Muslims, I submit, must reimagine the caliphate as a confederation of governments in the core regions of Islam that protects a range of human rights for all, provides political and economic stability to these regions, and allows Muslims to develop a variety of local political arrangements while embracing the larger religious and cultural unity of these regions. Such an order would not only be in accordance with the divine command but also is the only long term alternative to the mutually reinforcing coterie of despots and terrorists.
Here’s the kicker. I remember reading this last paragraph before I read the article, multiple times, and thinking: how will he actually make that argument? What substantive legal proofs will he use? What false reasoning will he use? After finishing this 70-page refutation of Anjum’s article, I am surprised to see that (a) this so-called ‘caliphate’ lacks substance entirely: if it is the sharī’ah then it is the true caliphate (he does not support this). If it is not the sharī’ah, then whatever applies to his criticism of nation-states and other systems of government applies to his own, especially from the fact that the Qur’an and Sunnah prohibit them upon the condition of one’s own īmān. (b) He literally does not quote a single verse of Qur’an or hadīth – neither general nor specific – to make the case that the sharī’ah of governance can be deliberately ignored and abandoned due to our perceived impracticability.
In conclusion, this article lacks both substance in defining the caliphate and identifying the obligation for rightly-guided caliphate, and opposes the Qur’an and Sunnah be rejecting the sharī’ah which Allah prescribed upon the entire Ummah in all times and places.
May Allah keep us upon the path of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and guide the entire ummah to realizing its purpose, to adhering to the essentials of Islam, and to spreading the dīn, the mercy, to all of mankind.
Praise be to Allah. May peace and blessings be upon His messenger, Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them until the day of judgement.
والحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسوله محمد، وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين، ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين