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Revival Of Khilafat In the Modern World


by: Abdullah Naeem Malik

“Allah has promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely make them successors in the earth as He made successors from among those who were before them; and that He will surely establish f or them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely give them in exchange security and peace after their fear; they will worship Me. Then who so is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious”. (Ch. 24: 56).

The Khilafat, or Caliphate, which we as a group have agreed to write as for the sake of English, is not alien to most people. Its syllable, ‘kha-la-fa’, literally means representative. The Caliphate has three important dimensions. In the moral and spiritual sense, Caliphate means that all human beings are caliphs of Allah’ or representatives of Allah on earth. This is the purport of the verse “Surely, we are going to place our representatives (Khalifa) on earth”[1].  ­­All human beings are caliphs of Allah though many of them commit sins and do not act like a caliph[2]. This is the spiritual Caliphate in Islam. The second and the most mentioned caliphate also means the political system of Islam. Caliphate, as a system of politics and management of state was established by the companions of Prophet, may peace be upon him . The third dimension of Caliphate is that it means the form of Government in Islam. The Ulema have now agreed by and large that in the framework of overall Islamic political theory, both Presidential and Parliamentary Governments of to-day are consistent with Islam. The project will not cover on the spiritual aspect and will focus on the second two types of caliphate systems.

The topic was selected because present democratic ways of thinking lead people to an inquiring study of the institution of Caliphate in Islam which emerges as a unique religio‑political system while meeting the electoral aspira­tions of the people and at the same time giving religious sanctity.

There are several distinctive features of the seat of the Caliphate: –

1.   Election. As Caliphate in those early days was political as well as religious, it was decided by the believers that the election should be held by the companions of the Holy Prophet, who knew the faith well, and also, the person who was well versed in it. It is possible to have different rules regarding elections, according to different times, and had Caliphate continued after the life‑time of the companions they would certainly have given considera­tion to the devising of relevant methods. The point however is that Caliphate is elective and the method of election has been left open to believers.

2.   Sharia. A Calpih is under the yoke of Sharia (Law). He can reject the counsel of his advisers but he cannot ignore the laws of Sharia. Thus, although he is a constitutional head, he is not absolutely free.

3.   Consultation. In addition to the control of Sharia, the Caliph is subject to consultations as well. In all important matters he is bound to consult his colleagues and to follow their advice as far as possible.

4.   Morals. Since a Caliph is the religious head as well as the leader of obligatory prayers, he feels morally and sub‑con­sciously obliged to lead a righteous path but this situation does not apply to a political leader, whether elected or not.

5.   Equality. A Khalifa is equal to other fellow beings in human rights. He can secure his rights through the judicial system just as people can obtain their rights from him through the same process.

6.   Non‑political. He is not aligned to any political party and his position is that of a father. It is the duty of an adjudicator to do so with justice i.e. a person in the position of Khalifa should exercise complete justice, leaning neither to an in­dividual nor to a party [3]

7.   Non-dictatorial. Since there is the concept of Majlis-e-Shura, there is no doubt that the caliph has not the sole authority. He has the power to amend or reject an opinion as per the need of time. However, the central authority still remains one – Shariah.

8.    Accountable. After assuming the office of Caliphate Abu Bakr’s first address was as follow:

“I have been given the authority over you, and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God wills; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God wills. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger. But if I disobey God and His Messenger, ye owe me no obedience. Arise for your prayer, God have mercy upon you.”

As a study, however, only the period of Hazrat Abu Bakr to Hazrat Imam Hassan, i.e. the age from 12 A.H. to 41 A.H., will be considered since it was these periods that were majorly free from tribulations with the correct approach, as accepted by most historians and ulemas alike. Since this is the subject of International Relations, the contemporary world will be highlighted, viewing it from the Caliphate frame of reference.

The Caliphate as a whole will be studied in three categories viz. the policies of the Caliph, how he implements them and the Caliph himself.


The character of the caliphs chosen for study will be highlighted briefly.

Abu Bakr:

William Muir states that Abu Bakr’s judgment was sound and impartial; his conversation agreeable and his demeanor affable and much sought after by the Quraysh and he was popular throughout the city. The faith of Abu Bakr was the greatest guarantee of Muhammad’s sincerity in the beginning of his career, and indeed, in a modified sense, throughout his life. To have such a person as a staunch adherent of his claim, was for Muhammad a most important step.” [4]

William Montgomery Watt writes, “From 622 [AD] to 632 [AD] he (Abu Bakr) was Mohammed’s chief adviser, but had no prominent public functions except that he conducted the pilgrimage to Mecca in 631, and led the public prayers in Medina during Mohammed’s last illness.”[5]

Umer Farooq:

“Hadrat’ Umar (R.A.) appointed Hadrat Ali (R.A.) as his deputy and went to Jerusalem with his slave. They were having one camel on which each of them rode by turn. When Hadrat Umar (R.A.) was entering Jerusalem it happened to be the slave’s turn to ride on the camel. Though the slave offered his turn to the “Khalifah” but Hadrat Umar refused and remarked: ‘The honor of Islam (i.e., being Muslim) is enough for all of us.’ He entered Jerusalem holding the rope of the camel on which was riding his slave. His clothes were dirty and there were several patches on them.” [6]

Usman bin Affan:

“Every Prophet will have a special companion of Him in the Heaven, and my companion there will be Usman.” [8]

Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing be upon him, married His daughter Hazrat Ruqqiya R.A. with Hazrat Usman Ghani R.A. When she died Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing be upon him, said: It is the order of ALLAH to marry her sister (Ruqqiya’s) Um-e-Kalsoom with Usman. So Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing be upon him, married her with Usman Ghani R.A. When she died, Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing be upon him, said: “If I would have another daughter, I would have also married her with Usman.”[9]

Ali bin Abi Talib:

Edward Gibbon stated, “The zeal and virtue of Ali were never outstripped by any recent proselyte. He united the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint; his wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings; and every antagonist, in the combats of the tongue or of the sword, was subdued by his eloquence and valor. From the first hour of his mission to the last rites of his funeral, the apostle was never forsaken by a generous friend, whom he delighted to name his brother, his vicegerent, and the faithful Aaron of a second Moses” [10] while, Sir William Muir mentions, Ali was

“Endowed with a clear intellect, warm in affection, and confiding in friendship, he was from the boyhood devoted heart and soul to the Prophet. Simple, quiet, and un-ambitious, when in after days he obtained the rule of half of the Moslem world, it was rather thrust upon him than sought.[11]

The poet Kahlil Gibran said of him: “In my view, Alī was the first Arab to have contact with and converse with the universal soul. He died a martyr of his greatness, he died while prayer was between his two lips. The Arabs did not realize his value until appeared among their Persian neighbors some who knew the difference between gems and gravels.”

Imam Hassan:

Once, he was asked: “We do not see you disappoint a beggar. Why?”

He replied: “I am asking Allah for His favors, and I love to be near Him. I am ashamed, as I am myself in need of Allah, to repulse a beggar. Allah got me used to a habit; to shower me with His bounties, and I get Him used to me showering His bounties on the people. I fear that should I stop my habit, He may stop His habit.”

In short, all the Caliphs we have pointed out were on the highest of virtues and character. They were aptly entitled to be the leader and a symbol of the Ummah.

Policies and Implementation

There is a lot of literature already available. The project will not suffice to inform every single policy the first five caliphs made. However, certain extractions will suffice for this section as written below:

“Yet the abstinence and humility of Umar were not inferior to the virtues of Abu Bakr: his food consisted of barley bread or dates; his drink was water; he preached in a gown that was torn or tattered in twelve places; and a Persian satrap, who paid his homage as to the conqueror, found him asleep among the beggars on the steps of the mosque of Muslims. [7] Economy is the source of liberality, and the increases of the revenue enabled Umar to establish a just and perpetual reward for the past and present services of the faithful. Careless of his own emolument, he assigned to Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, the first and most ample allowance of twenty-five thousand dirhams of pieces of silver. Five thousand were allotted to each of the aged warriors The relics of the field of Badr and the last and the meanest of the companions of Mohammad was distinguished by the annual reward of three thousand pieces. Under his reign and that of his predecessors, the conquerors of the East were the trusty servants of God and the people; the mass of public treasure was consecrated to the expenses of peace and war; a prudent mixture of justice and bounty maintained the discipline of the Saracens, and then united, by a rare felicity, the dispatch and execution of despotism with the equal and frugal maxims of a republican government.” [13]

“Simple and frugal in manner the energetic and talented Umar (634-644) who was of towering height, strong physique and bald headed, continued at least for some time after becoming the Caliph to support himself by trade and lived throughout his life in a style as unostentatious as that of a Bedouin Sheikh. In fact, Umar, whose name according to Muslim tradition is the greatest in early Islam after that of Mohammad [may peace be upon him], has been idolized by Muslim writers for his piety, justice and patriarchal simplicity and treated as the personification of all the virtues a Caliph ought to possess. His irreproachable character became an exemplar for all conscientious successors to follow. He owned, we are told, one shirt and one mantle only, both conspicuous for their patchwork, slept on a bed of palm leaves, and had no concern other than the maintenance of the purity of the faith, the upholding of justice and the ascendancy and security of Islam and the Arabians. Arabic literature is replete with anecdotes extolling Umar’s stern character. He is said to have scourged his own son to death for drunkenness. Having in a fit of anger inflicted a number of stripes on a Bedouin who came seeking his succor against an oppressor, the Caliph soon repented and asked the Bedouin to inflict the same number on him. But the latter refused. So Umar retired to his home with the following soliloquy: ‘O son of Al-Khattab humble thou wert and Allah has elevated thee, thou went astray, and Allah hath guided thee; thou were weak, and Allah hath strengthened thee. Then He caused thee to rule over the necks of thy people, and when one of them came seeking thy aid thou didst strike him! What wilt thou have to say to thy Lord when thou presentest thyself before Him’. The one who fixed the Hijrah as the commencement of the Muslim era, presided over the conquest of large portions of the then known world, instituted the state register and organized the government of the new empire, met a tragic and sudden death at the very zenith of his life when he was struck down by the poisoned dagger of a Christian Persian slave in the midst of his own congregation.” [14]

“To Umar’s ten years’ Caliphate belong, for the most part, the great conquests. He himself did not take the field, but remained in Medina; he never, however, suffered the reins to slip from his grasp, so powerful was the influence of his personality and the Muslim community of feeling. His political insight is shown by the fact that he endeavored to limit the indefinite extension of Muslim conquest, to maintain and strengthen the national Arabian character of the commonwealth of Islam; also by making it his foremost task to promote law and order in its internal affairs. The saying with which he began his reign will never grow antiquated: ‘By God, he that is weakest among you shall be in my eye the strongest, until I have vindicated for him his rights; he that is strongest I will treat as the weakest, until he complies with the law’. It would be impossible to give a better general definition of the function of the State.” [15]

Saeed M Mohtsham cites from Caliph Umar’s rule in his research paper Vision and Visionary Leadership – An Islamic Perspective:

“He used to monitor very closely the public policy and had kept the needs of the public central to his leadership approach. As second caliph of Islam, he refused to chop off the hands of the thieves because he felt he had fallen short of his responsibility to provide meaningful employment to all his subjects. As a ruler of a vast kingdom, His vision was to ensure that every one in his kingdom should sleep on a full stomach.

If a dog dies hungry on the banks of the River Euphrates, Umar will be responsible for dereliction of duty.


He also knew that just having a vision is not enough unless it is supported by effective strategies. He didn’t only have a vision; he truly transformed his vision into actions. For example, to ensure that nobody sleeps hungry in his empire, he used to walk through the streets almost every night to see if there is any one needy or ill.”[16]

In 641, before the conquest of Persian empire, Umar is reported to have said:

If I would live few more years, I wish to visit Syria next year, then next Iraq and then the next year Egypt to personally check the conditions of the subjects and inquire whether my mandate is followed or not.

Umar RA is reported to have left the following testament:

Be kind and generous to the Muhajirun and the Ansar. Those out of them who are good, be good to them; those who are bad overlook their lapses. Be good to the people of the conquered lands. They are the outer line of our defense; they are the target of the anger and distress of our enemies. They contribute to our revenues. They should be taxed only on their surplus wealth. Be gracious to the Bedouins as they are the backbone of the Arab nation. I instruct you to be good to the Dhimmis for they are your responsibility. Do not tax them beyond their capacity. Ensure that they pay the Jizya without undue inconvenience. Fear God, and in all that you do keep His pleasure in view. In the matter of people fear God, and in the matter of Allah do not be afraid of the people. With regard to the people, I enjoin upon you to administer justice with an even hand. See that all the legitimate requirements of the people are met. Be concerned for their welfare. Ensure the safety of their person and property. See that the frontiers of our domains are not violated. Take strong steps to guard the frontiers. In the matter of administration do not prefer the rich to the poor. Be hard against those who violate the law. Show them no mercy. Do not rest content until you have brought the miscreants to book. Treat all the people as equal. Be a pillar of strength for those who are weak and oppressed. Those who are strong but do wrong, make them pay for their wrong-doings. In the distribution of booty and other matters be above nepotism. Let no consideration of relationship or selfish interest weigh with you. The Satan is at large; it may tempt you. Rise above all temptations and perform your duties in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. Get guidance from the Holy Quran and Sunnah. Freely consult the wise men around you. Apply your own mind in difficult cases, and seek light from God. Be simple in your living and your habits. Let there be no show or ostentation about you. Lead life as a model Muslim. As you are the leader of the Muslims, justify your leadership by being the best among them all. May God bless you.

Dr. Wilferd Madelung in his book The Succession to Muhammad summarizing Umar’s contribution. [17]:

Umar judged the outcome of the Saqifa assembly to be a falta [translated by Madelung as ‘a precipitate and ill-considered deal'[17]] because of the absence of most of the prominent Muhajirun, including the Prophet’s own family and clan, whose participation he considered vital for any legitimate consultation (shura, mashwara). It was, he warned the community, to be no precedent for the future. Yet he also defended the outcome, claiming that the Muslims were longing for Abu Bakr as for no one else. He apologized, moreover, that the Muhajirun present were forced to press for an immediate oath of allegiance since the Ansar could not have been trusted to wait for a legitimate consultation and might have proceeded to elect one of their own after the departure of the Mekkans. Another reason for Umar to censure the Saqifa meeting as a falta was no doubt its turbulent and undignified end, as he and his followers jumped upon the sick Khazraji leader Sa’d bin Ubada in order to teach him a lesson, if not to kill him, for daring to challenge the sole right of Quraysh to rule. This violent break-up of the meeting indicates, moreover, that the Ansar cannot all have been swayed by the wisdom and eloquence of Abu Bakr’s speech and have accepted him as the best choice for the succession, as suggested by Caetani. There would have been no sense in beating up the Khazraji chief if everybody had come around to swearing allegiance to Umar’s candidate. A substantial number of the Ansar, presumably of Khazraj in particular, must have refused to follow the lead of the Muhajirun. [17] .

Modern World

International Relations:

The Caliphate does not go to war based on lies and deceit. Its sole purpose in fighting a war is to remove injustice and bring a new system for the people to live under. Although America and Britain cited the same objectives in Iraq the reality is far from this. Their use of depleted uranium, torturing and killing of civilians and imposition of another corrupt system would never happen with the Caliphate. Historically the Caliphate won the hearts and minds of the people on the lands it occupied. It never mistreated them and as opposed to an Empire, it didn’t impoverish them in order to enrich the capital.

In the classical book ‘Kitab Al-Kharaj’ Abu Yusuf gives the following report:

After getting on peaceful terms with the people of Syria and collecting the dues of the Jizya and the Kharaj, news reached Abu ‘Ubeida that the Byzantines had amassed their troops to attack him. The effect of this was great on Abu ‘Ubeida and the Muslims. He sent messages to the rulers of cities with whose citizens he had made peace, asking them to return to their subjects the paid dues of the Jizya and Kharaj with an instruction to tell them: ‘We hereby return to you the money you have paid us, because of the news of the enemy troops amassed to attack us, but, if God grants us victory against the enemy, we will keep up to the promise and covenant between us.’ When this was delivered to the dhimmi and their money returned to them, they told the Muslims: ‘May God bring you back to us and grant you victory over them!’

The Caliphate’s army must follow strict rules of engagement when fighting war (jihad). The soldiers do not fight the enemy out of anger or hatred, but to please their creator – Allah. Hence, atrocities committed by US troops such as the infamous 1968 My Lai massacre of 500 villagers in Vietnam or the recent massacre of two dozen Iraqi civilians by US marines in Haditha would not happen under a Caliphate. In the Battle of Khandaq 627CE, Ali (who later became a Caliph) was about to kill one of the enemy soldiers when the soldier spat in his face. Instead of killing him, Ali lowered his sword because he didn’t want to kill him out of anger. This is an example of the high values held by soldiers in the Caliphate’s army.

The Caliphate is not isolationist and must abide by the international agreements it signs.

It will encourage non-Muslims from other countries to visit it, study in its universities and conduct trade. Economic and cultural treaties will be signed to facilitate this. Any non-Muslim visiting the Caliphate from a country that the Caliphate has a treaty with, can enter without the need for a visa. They are called a Mu’ahid and have full protection under the state similar to the dhimmi. Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:

The one who kills a Mu’ahid (people with whom the State has treaties) without right he will not smell the fragrance of jannah (heaven) even if its smell was forty years traveling distance. [Reported in the Hadith book Ahmed]

Historically scholars and scientists from across Europe flocked to the Caliphate and studied in the universities of Cordoba, Cairo and Baghdad.

Caliphate is a Mainstream View:

The aspiration of restoring the Caliphate is not a minority view held by extremists and terrorists as all Muslims believe in the idea of a Caliphate or Imamate as Shia refer to it although both are synonymous.

On January 14th 2006, the Washington Post published an article ‘Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical’ by Karl Vick. The article heading was “Restoration of Caliphate, Attacked by Bush, Resonates With Mainstream Muslims” and he quotes many ordinary Muslims in Turkey traditionally the most secular country in the Muslim World. ‘I wish there was a caliphate again, because if there was a caliphate all the Muslims would unite,’ said Ertugul Orel, in a sweater and tie at the sidewalk cafe he owns outside Istanbul’s vast Hagia Sophia, an iconic building to both Christians and Muslims. ‘There would be one voice. But I know neither the American nor the Europeans will ever allow it.’ From the next chair, gift shop owner Atacan Cinar added, ‘Before the end of the Ottoman Empire , there was no problem in the Islamic countries.’ ‘The concept of the caliphate is very much alive in the collective memory of society,’ said Ali Bulac, a columnist and author of several books on Islam and Turkey. ‘There is absolutely nothing to keep Muslim society together at the moment.’

Majority of Muslims want the Caliphate:

The Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan published a survey in 2005 entitled Revisiting the Arab Street in which they interviewed numerous population samples throughout the Middle East. Some of their conclusions clearly highlight the desire of Muslims in the Middle East to live by the Shari’a in a Caliphate. Quoting from the survey it,

Asked whether Shari’a should be the only source of legislation, one of the sources of legislation, or not be a source of legislation, most Muslims believed it should at least be a source of legislation. Support was particularly strong in Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt, where approximately two-thirds of Muslim respondents stated that the Shari’a must be the only source of legislation; while the remaining third believed that it must be ‘one of the sources of legislation’. By comparison, in Lebanon and Syria, a majority (nearly two thirds in Lebanon and just over half in Syria) favored the view that Shari’a must be one of the sources of legislation.

The report continued:

In contrast, neither education nor age seems to explain attitudes toward the role of the Sharia in legislation. Pooled data from Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt indicate that 58% of respondents with low education, 59% of those with moderate education, and 56% with higher education believe that Sharia must be the only source of legislation in their countries. Similarly, the pooled data found that approximately 50% of respondents in all age groups wanted to see the Sharia become the only source of legislation, another 36-40% across age groups wanted to see it as a source of legislation, and 10-13% preferred that the Sharia not become a source of legislation.

There are many groups on ‘facebook’ that remark the revival of the Caliphate system. Ever in Pakistan, there are walls filled with slogans in support of the system. Some have been even extending their baa’i or pledge to Imam e Kaaba.


In lines with the discussion, revival will have to be solely in terms of Sharia. That might be hampered given the disposition of the people of the world. Although a majority is still in favor of Caliphate, there are people who need to be informed of the system well enough so as to have their misconceptions, if there are any, cleared or build support as flock under one identical banner. For this, revival of the understanding of the holy Koran is necessary as well the understanding of ‘deen.’ Also, mass awareness to influence those seated in parliament or constitutional bodies is imperative because then they will be forced to concord with the wishes of the people who have been enlightened by those who want to bring about Caliph.

Another thing that will count is the intellectual revival.


These are just some aspects of life under a future Caliphate that will make it a force for promoting good within the world. Clearly this vision completely contradicts what many western commentators, thinkers and politicians such as Tony Blair would have us believe. The restoration of the Caliphate will usher in a new era of peace, stability and prosperity for the Muslim world and beyond, ending years of oppression by some of the worst tyrants this world has ever seen such as Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and finally solving the long running problems of Palestine, Iraq, Kashmir and Chechnya to name but a few.


[1] Quran, Chapter number 2, verse number 30

[2] Quran, 6:165; 27:62 and 35:39

[3] Al‑Furqan, Khilafat Issue, July 1958

[4] http://www.anwary-islam.com/companion/abu_bakr_siddiq.htm

[5] Encyclopedia Britannia, Vol. I, page 54, 1973

[6] Encyclopedia of Islam by Mufti M. Mukarram Ahmed

[7] The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon

[8] Ibn-e-Majah

[9] Mishkawt

[10] The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London, 1911, (originally published 1776-88) volume 5, pp. 381-2

[11] The Life of Mahomet, London, 1877, p. 250

[12] Morteza Motahhari, Islam and Religious Pluralism

[13] The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon

[14] History of the Arabs, Professor Philip Khuri Hitti

[15] Encyclopedia Britannica

[16] The American Encyclopedia of 1851

[17] The Succession to Muhammad. Wilferd Madelung, Cambridge University Press 1997, page 22

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