The Concept of Khilafah & the Reality of Political Power

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

At a time of political turmoil in the Muslim world, Habib ‘Umar ibn al-Hafizh (q.s.) expounded on some of the meanings of khilafah and clarified the reality of political power.  This is an extract from a rawhah in Imam Abu Thalib al-Makki’s (r.a.) book, Qut al-Qulub, with some additions for extra clarity.  The lesson took place in Dar al-Muswthafa on 21st Ramadhan 1434 / 30th July 2013.

There are two types of khilafah.  The first is the outward khilafah which relates to political power, which is not noble and honourable in itself.  Anyone may attain political power, whether they be pious or corrupt, whether they be a believer or a disbeliever, whether they be a prophet or a wretched person.  The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “Had this dunya weighed even the wing of a gnat in Allah’s Estimation, He would not have given a disbeliever a glass of water from it to drink.”

The second type is the khilafah of prophethood, which is a noble and lofty thing.  It relates to understanding the Speech of Allah (s.w.t.), to our connection with Him, to attaining a pure heart and attaining His Pleasure.  It is the preserve of the prophets and their followers, the pious people in every time and place.  No disbeliever or corrupt person may come close to it, nor someone with arrogance or pride in their heart.  It began with two people on the face of the earth: Adam (a.s.) and Hawa’ and it continues to this day.  If there were only two of us on the earth and we obeyed Allah’s (s.w.t.) Commands in a state of truthfulness and sincerity, we would be the khulafa’ of Allah (s.w.t.) on the earth, without anyone calling us a president or a minister or a leader.  This is the khilafah we should seek.  Many Muslims have no desire to attain it, although it is the greatest form of khilafah.

‘Ali (k.w.) combined the inward and the outward khilafah, and after him, al-Hasan (r.a.), until he relinquished power.  At this point, the inward khilafah, which cannot be affected by evil, became separated from the outward khilafah, which is subject to oppression and misguidance.  Those who possess the inward khilafah will intercede for others on the Day of Judgement, whereas those who possessed the outward khilafah will await Judgement.  If they were just, they will be saved and if they were oppressive, they will be destroyed.  Shaykh ash-Sha’rawi (q.s.) said that one of the wisdoms behind the existence of oppressive rulers is that they cause people to hate oppression.  If we study history, we find that more often than not political power over the centuries has been in the hands of disbelievers and corrupt people.  Many of the messengers were Sent to their people while political power was in the hands of disbelievers.  Nuh (a.s.) spent 950 years amongst his people as the khalifah of Allah (s.w.t.) while political power was in the hands of disbelievers.

The inward khilafah was in the hands of Musa (a.s.) and the outward khilafah was in the hands of Fir’awn.  Musa (a.s.) told to his people to seek Allah’s (s.w.t.) Assistance and be patient, for the earth Belongs to Allah (s.w.t.), and He Bequeaths it to whomever He Wishes from among His slaves - whether they be believers of disbelievers.  However, the end is only for the people of taqwa.  So we must be of those who possess taqwa and do not concern ourselves with the outward khilafah.  The tyrants may threaten us and try to kill us, but the people of the inward khilafah seek Allah’s (s.w.t.) Assistance and rely on Him Alone.

We look at the life of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.), the master of the people of khilafah, and the imam of all people.  For forty years before receiving Revelation, he was not in a position of leadership or power.  He was, however, presiding over the inward khilafah and was known as al-Amin, ‘the Trustworthy One.’  People trusted him and consulted him in their affairs.  After receiving Revelation, he spent thirteen years in Makkah, during which time, power was in the hands of people like Abu Jahl.  Outwardly he was under their rule but inwardly he was the greatest khalifah of Allah (s.w.t.) on the earth.  In al-Madinah, he was confronted by hostility from the Jews, the hypocrites and the polytheists.  It was only after eight years that he finally entered Makkah at the age of sixty-one.  He only ruled over Makkah for two years before his death.  This did not, however, detract from his khilafah.  He is the greatest khalifah and every other khalifah from the time of Adam (a.s.) to `Isa (a.s.) will be under his banner.

How can people venerate political power when this is the example of the Master of the Prophets (s.a.w.)?  We leave the rulers to their corruption and their oppression.  We do not condone their oppression or follow them in committing evil.  We advise them if they are ready to accept sincere advice.  Meanwhile, we are in a position of khilafah, the pure khilafah Mentioned by Allah (s.w.t.):

Allah has Promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will of a Surety, Grant them in the land, inheritance (of power), as He Granted it to those before them; that He will Establish in authority their religion ― the one which He has Chosen for them; and that He will Change (their state), after the fear in which they (lived), to one of security and peace: “They will worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me.”  If any do reject faith after this, they are rebellious and wicked. (Surah an-Nur:55)

We are allowed to make the call to prayer, to pray, to openly teach these lessons which are broadcast to the east and the west.  We do not deserve any of this.  It is only through the blessings of Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his steadfastness.  Makkah was only Opened to him in the final years of his life, but he opened up the whole world.  We used to teach and study in a state of fear but Allah (s.w.t.) Promises as it the verse above, He will Replace their fear with security.  The years passed and the regime changed and now we find ourselves in a state of ease and safety.

They offer you political power and status but we have found something pure and lofty so why do they want us to enter into something filthy?  When Imam al-Husayn (q.s.), the son of Shaykh Abu Bakr ibn Salim (q.s.) was offered political power he said, “Had it had been fitting to give authority to animals we would not be content for it to be given to our horses.”  This is the perspective of the pious people on political power.

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “You will greedily seek positions of leadership and it will be a cause of regret on the Day of Judgement.”  We fear that anyone who seeks power and then attains it will be left to it without Allah’s (s.w.t.) Assistance, and then be destroyed.  So if we have a position of responsibility, we must have taqwa of Allah (s.w.t.) and rule by the Sacred Law of Allah (s.w.t.) and fear Allah (s.w.t.) in the way we treat people.  If we heed this advice, we hope we will be saved.  If not, we have chosen our own fate.

‘Umar (r.a.) would say, “I wish to leave power with the bare minimum – with nothing for me or against me.”  He was not proud of his position.  He also said, “It is enough that one descendant of al-Khaththab be asked about his position.  Do not make ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar the Khalifah after me.”  This was his understanding of the outer khilafah and the responsibility it entails.

The hadits inform us that the inward and outward khilafah will not be combined until the end of time.  Prior to this, there will be a period in which people heart’s and states with Allah (s.w.t.) are rectified which prepares the way for the coming of al-Mahdi (a.s.).  The foundation of his rule will be pure hearts.  Without the presence of these hearts, he will not be able to achieve anything.  Someone once asked ‘Ali (k.w.) why problems had arisen during his rule, whereas there had been stability during the time of Abu Bakr (r.a.) and ‘Umar (r.a.).  He replied, “Abu Bakr (r.a.) and ‘Umar (r.a.) ruled over people like me, whereas I am ruling over people like you.”

It is possible for any individual to reach the highest of ranks whatever situation they are in and whatever government they are under.  Why miss out on these opportunities?  We say we want to rule, we want power.  Let our Lord Rule.  The hadits states, “If you seek it you will be left to it, but if you are sought to rule, you will be assisted in it.”  Even when the people attempt to put al-Mahdi (a.s.) in power, he will refuse until they force him to do so.  Even though he is worthy of assuming power, he does not desire it and does not attempt to gain people’s votes.  Rather he is sought out and placed in power and then he receives Allah’s (s.w.t.) Assistance.

Merely speaking about this issue has taken a long time, which tells us how much harm is done by entering into these struggles.  So much time is lost and so much blood is spilt.  So we do not get involved with struggles which lead to harm and bloodshed.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Unite the Muslims and Remove these tribulations.  May He not allow their enemies to take advantage of them by giving them weapons and then watching them kill each other.  May Allah (s.w.t.) Awaken the hearts of this ummah.  Let them not place their trust in anyone in the East or West.  Let their trust be in Him.  If this is the case, then everything in the East and the West will be made subservient to them.

Allah (s.w.t.) has Decreed that power be in the hands of disbelievers and corrupt people.  This is the way of Allah (s.w.t.) in the past and we will find no change in the Way of Allah (s.w.t.).  We, however, have the opportunity to establish the rule of Allah (s.w.t.) and the Law of Allah (s.w.t.) in our homes, in our dealings with our families and friends and our neighbours.  We shall shortly meet Allah (s.w.t.) and we shall return to Him.  Nothing on the face of the earth will benefit us other than that which we have performed truly for Allah (s.w.t.).


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