Justice: The Obligatory Character Of The Caliphate

This is another article in the chapter Justice from the classical manual on Sharia called Reliance of the Traveller. The articles are posted one by one in the order they are given in the book.


en: This section has been added here by the translator because the caliphate is both obligatory in itself and the necessary precondition for hundreds of rulings (books k through 0) established by Allah Most High to govern and guide Islamic community life. What follows has been edited from al-Ahkam al-sultaniyya wa alwilayat al-diniyya by Imam Abul Hasan Mawardi, together with three principal commentaries on Imam Nawawi’s Minhaj al-talibin, extracts from which are indicated by parentheses and the initial of the commentator, Ibn Hajar Haytami (H:), Muhammad Shirbini Khatib (K:), or ‘Abd ai-Hamid Sharwani (S:).)



025.1 (Mawardi:) The reason the office of supreme leadership has been established in Sacred Law is to fulfill the caliphal successorship to prophethood in preserving the religion and managing this-worldly affairs. The investiture of someone from the Islamic Community (Umma) able to fulfill the duties of the caliphate is obligatory by scholarly consensus (def: b7), though scholars differ as to whether its obligatory character is established through reason or through Revealed Law. Some say that it is obligatory by human reason, because of the agreement of rational individuals to have a leader to prevent them from wronging one another and to come between them when conflict and arguments arise. Without authorities, there would be a chaos of neglected people and a disorderly mob. Others hold that it is obligatory not through reason, but rather through Sacred Law, for the caliph performs functions that human reason might not otherwise deem ethically imperative, and which are not entailed by reason alone, for reason merely requires that rational beings refrain from reciprocal oppression and strife, such that each individual conform with the demands of fairness in behaving towards others with justice and social cohesion, each evaluating their course with their own mind, not anyone else ‘s, whereas Sacred Law stipulates that human concerns be consigned to the person religiously responsible for them. Allah Mighty and Majestic says,

“You who believe, obey Allah and obey the Prophet and those of authority among you” (Koran 4:59),

thereby obliging us to obey those in command, namely the leader with authority over us. Abu Hurayra relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said.

“Leaders shall rule you after me, the godfearing of them ruling you with godfearingness and the profligate ruling you with wickedness. So listen to them and obey them in everything that is right; for if they do well, it will count for you and for them, and if they do badly, it will count for you and against them.”

(al-Ahkam al-sultaniyya wa al-wilayat al-diniyya (y87),5-6)

025.2 (H: The caliphate is a communal obligation (def: d.2) just as the judgeship is (S: because the Islamic community needs a ruler to uphold the religion, defend the sunna, succor the oppressed from oppressors, fulfill rights, and restore them to whom they belong).)


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