Jihadists Dream of the Caliphate. Here’s What You Need to Know.

There is hardly any Islamist group out there which does not expressly strive for the restoration of the caliphate. Here's why.

BY Immanuel Al-Manteeqi · @Al_Manteeqi | September 13, 2016

What do Islamist groups want and what are their aims? Most Westerners know that groups like ISIS are in some way, shape, or form related to Islam. Thanks to the media, they also associate, correctly, Islamist groups like ISIS and al-Qā’ida with violence. Although average Americans may be told by the media how these groups are fundamentally motivated by political and economic grievances, no more than a superficial spotlight is usually cast on their religious ideology and goals.

However, one thing that your average American probably knows is that groups like ISIS are working to establish an Islamic “caliphate.” Images of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State, speaking at the Grand Mosque of Al-Nurī in Mosul are likely to be conjured up.

But what exactly is a caliphate? And why do militant Islamist groups like ISIS, al-Qā’ida, Boko Harām, Jabhat al-Nusra, and even less overtly militant Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, want to establish a caliphate? And how important is the caliphate in the overall thought of Islamists? Is it perceived to be a necessary tenet of Islam? Let’s take a look.

What is a Caliphate? Who is a Caliph?

Etymologically, the English word “caliphate” is a loanword of the Arabic term khilāfa. The word khilāfa is derived from the triliteral root kh-l-f (خلف), meaning “to succeed” or to “come after.”[1] Khilāfa (خلافة) denotes a caliphate, and is obviously a noun derived from the verbal root kh-l-f; furthermore, the (slightly different) word ‘khalīfa‘(خليفة)  denotes a caliph and is an active participle meaning one who succeeds or comes after another.

The term khalīfa (خَلِيفَةً) occurs in the Qur’ān nine times and is always used by the Qur’ān to denote a successor or viceregent (e.g., “Oh David, we have made you a khalīfa upon the Earth”; Q 38:26). However, there is nothing in the Qur’ān about a khalīfa being a present ruler ruling over the believers or the Islamic umma (community). This specific application of the khalīfa-concept was clearly one that developed after the death of Muḥammad in 632 A.D.

A caliphate is essentially a state where an Islamic ruler or Caliph rules the Muslim umma. That is, a caliphate is an essentially theocratic and Islamic conception of government. It is important to emphasize that the idea of a caliphate is an exclusively Islamic notion. There is no such thing as a Christian, Buddhist, or atheist caliphate. Every caliphate is by definition an Islamic one, and every caliph is or should be a Muslim, as we will see later on.

An Outline of the History of the Caliphate

Much has been written on the history of the caliphate. The following is simply a brief overview of that history, with particular attention given to the formative years of the caliphate.[2]

The history of the caliphate begins with the death of Muḥammad, which was followed with the period of the four so-called rāshidūn or “rightly guided caliphs” (r. 632 – 661). According to Islamic tradition, after Muḥammad had conquered most of the Arabian peninsula and was nearing his last days in 632, he said that there would be a khalīfa or successor after him. In particular, the hadīth that is very often cited in this regard is recorded in the collection attributed to imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (780 – 855), the namesake and founder of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence:[3]

The Prophethood will remain amongst you for as long as Allāh wills it to be. Then Allāh will raise it when He wills to raise it. Then there will be the caliphate (khilāfa) upon the Prophetic methodology. And it will last for as long as Allāh wills it to last. Then Allāh will raise it when He wills to raise it. Then there will be biting kingship, and it will remain for as long as Allāh wills it to remain. Then Allāh will raise it when He wills to raise it. Then there will be tyrannical (forceful) kingship and it will remain for as long as Allāh wills it to remain. Then He will raise it when He wills to raise it. Then there will be a caliphate upon the Prophetic methodology (ʿala minhāj al-nabūwa).[4]

It should be noted that although there are ahādīth (plural of hadīth) of varying degrees of reliability where Muḥammad states that there will be a caliph after him, there are no reliable ahādīth where Muḥammad states exactly who this successor will be. The above is the clearest portent that the (acknowledged) ahādīth state about the caliphate.

According to Islamic tradition, after the death of Muḥammad, a shūra (council) convened in the Saqifa (roofed-building) of the tribe of Banu Saʿida and decided that Abu Bakr (c.537 – 634), the father of Muḥammad’s prominent wife, Ā’isha,[5] was to be Muḥammad’s successor or khalīfa. Sunni Muslims, who currently make up eighty-five percent of the Muslim population, agree with this decision and regard Abu Bakr as the first caliph. Sunnis regard the first four caliphs, praised as the “rightly guided” or rāshidūn caliphs, as consisting of Abu Bakr (r. 632 – 634), followed by ʿUmar ibn al-Khattāb (r. 634 – 644), ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān (r. 644-656), and Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (r. 656 – 661).

The minority Shi’i Muslims, who are today mostly concentrated in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Pakistan, however, believe that the decision by the shūra to name Abū Bakr as the caliph was an usurpation of the rightful inheritance of Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, the paternal cousin of Muḥammad and one who was the first male convert to Islam (according to our earliest and most reliable biography of Muḥammad, Sirāt Rasūl Allah).[6] Shi’is believe that only someone with Muḥammad’s bloodline should be the caliph, and so they deny the legitimacy of the rule of the first three so-called rightly-guided caliphs.[7]

Be that as it may, after the caliphate of Abu Bakr, ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭāb, and ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib did in fact become caliph. But Alī faced immediate opposition as soon as he ascended to the caliphate, and he was militarily opposed by people as close to Muḥammad as his favorite wife Ā’isha, whose army he defeated in the Battle of the Camel (656). Thereafter, Alī would be involved in a power struggle with Muʿāwiya ibn ʾAbī Sufyān. Muʿāwiya was a serious contender for power, for he hailed from the prestigious Ummayyad clan of Mecca, and was appointed and confirmed as governor of Syria by the caliphs ʿUmar and ʿUthman, respectively.[8]

Strife characterized the Muslim community more pronouncedly during Alī’s caliphate. Within three decades after Muḥammad’s death, and after skirmishes with Muʿāwiya, Alī was killed in January of 661 by a Kharijite called Ibn Muljam.[9] This resulted in Muʿāwiya consolidating the reins of power, and declaring himself caliph. Muʿāwiya’s reign marked the beginning of the Ummayad Caliphate, which lasted from 661 – 750, and which had its capital located not in Medina, as was the previous custom, but in Damascus, Syria.

Muʿāwiya’s ascent to power also marked a milestone in Islamic history, for thereafter there would always be disagreements about who was supposed to be the rightful ruler of Islam.[10] The feud between the Ummayads and the Alids (the descendents or followers of Alī) was irreversibly set in motion. Muʿāwiya ‘s son Yazīd, for example, would do battle with and ultimately kill Ali’s son Husayn, who is regarded by the Shi’is as being the third caliph (after Ali and Hasan), and whose death in Karbala, Iraq is commemorated every year with scenes of self-flagellation by the Shi’i faithful.

After the period of the Rashidūn (rightly guided) caliphates (632 – 661) and the Ummayad caliphate (661– 750),  many caliphates were established. Indeed, subsequent to the Ummayad caliphate there would always be a varying number of caliphates and counter-caliphates vying for the allegiance of the Muslim masses. The longest lasting and most significant caliphates were the Abbasid and Ottoman caliphates, which lasted from 750 – 1045, and c.1300 – 1924, respectively.[11]

But there were also other caliphates throughout Islamic history, such as the Córdoba caliphate (929 – 1031) in Andalusia or Spain, the Fatimid caliphate (909–1171) in Egypt, and the Sokoto caliphate (1804–1903) in Sudan. In the year 1924 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk abolished the Ottoman caliphate, and instituted a variety of secular reforms in Turkey.

No Sunni caliphate with plausible legitimacy would arise until about eighty-five years later, with the advent of ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Although decried as illegitimate by many Muslims, its reality is undeniable, as it currently controls a land mass about the size of the United Kingdom.

The Caliph’s Role

The role of a caliph is to rule over the Muslim umma in a way that unites both the secular and religious spheres. After all, the caliphate is to be founded upon the prophetic methodology (ʿala minhāj al-nabūwa), and Muḥammad, according to our earliest sources, clearly united what we would today call secular affairs of state with religious affairs; that is, he united both religion (dīn) and state (dawla). As the eminent Islamicist Bernard Lewis states, “during Muḥammad’s lifetime, the Muslims became at once a political and a religious community, with the Prophet as head of state.”[12]

This can be gleaned from the Sīra of Ibn Isḥāq, our oldest and best biography of Muḥammad. In the Sīra we learn that when Muḥammad emigrated to Yathrib (later called ‘Medina’) in the year 622, he had made a pact with the inhabitants of the city, which came to be referred to as al-Sahīfa, or “the Constitution of Medina.”[13] In the Constitution of Medina Muḥammad states the following:

Whenever you differ about a matter it must be referred to God and to Muḥammad…If any dispute or controversy likely to cause trouble should arise it must be referred to God and to Muḥammad, the apostle of God.[14]

As is evident from the above, if the Sirā is to be trusted, then the governance instituted by Muḥammad was a theocratic governance. In this governance any troublesome dispute, involving what we would normally call non-religious affairs, or otherwise, should be decided by reference to God and Muḥammad. The caliph is then supposed to follow the example of Muḥammad and fill in his place, despite lacking the charism of prophethood.

That this was the case is clear from the names the caliphs assumed. A caliph at least as early as the third caliph Uthman Ibn Affan (r. 644 – 656) was called khalīfat Allāh (deputy or successor of God), clearly implying that he was considered to be endowed with religious as well as political authority (it appears that later the title evolved to be khalīfat Rasūl Allāh (successor of the apostle of God).[15]

Muslim rulers also widely appropriated the title of “The Shadow of God on Earth.”[16] In addition, the most prominent title for the caliph was amīr al-mu’minīn, i.e., the commander of the believers, further evidence that the caliphal political role was wedded to the Islamic religion.

The caliph acted as the protector of religion and state (dīn wa dawla). In the words of Patricia Crone, the late and renowned scholar of Islam who taught at Oxford, Cambridge, and at the Institute for Advanced Study, “the Caliphate clearly did fuse religion and politics from the start [emphasis added].”[17] Only caliphs, for example, were granted the power to declare offensive jihad, because only they were taken to have the proper religious authority to do so (jihad being a religious “holy” war).[18]

One can cite many scholars to this effect. For example, the renowned medieval Shafi’i scholar, al-Mawārdī (972 – 1058), begins his study on the function of caliphal rule by stating that the “imamate’s purpose is for the succession of prophethood in safeguarding religion and leading the world.”[19] (The term “imamate” is frequently used interchangeably with the term “caliphate” in Arabic parlance).[20]

Likewise, the famous medieval Shafiʿī scholar and Qur’ānic exegete al-Baythāwi (d.1286), explains that the caliph is a successor of Muḥammad in instituting the laws of the Sharia and safeguarding the possession of the Islamic community, further adding that the caliph must be obeyed by all of the umma.[21]

Ibn Khaldun (1332 – 1406), the most renowned Medieval Muslim historian, states the following in the prolegomena (Muqaddima) to his book on history:

Political laws consider only worldly interests. “They know the outward life of this world.” (On the other hand,) the intention the Lawgiver [i.e., Muḥammad] has concerning mankind is their welfare in the other world. Therefore, it is necessary, as required by the religious law [sharīʿa], to cause the mass to act in accordance with the religious laws in all their affairs touching both this world and the other world. The authority to do so was possessed by the representatives of the religious law, the prophets. (Later on, it was possessed) by those who took their place, the caliphs. This makes it clear what the caliphate means…[22]

Having laid the framework for understanding the caliphate’s role, Ibn Khaldun goes on to note that,

(To exercise) the caliphate means to cause the masses to act as required by religious insight into their interests in the other world as well as in this world. (The worldly interests) have bearing upon (the interests in the other world), since according to the Lawgiver (Muḥammad), all worldly conditions are to be considered in their relation to their value for the otherworld. Thus, (the caliphate) in reality substitutes for the Lawgiver (Muḥammad), in as much as it serves, like him, to protect the religion and to exercise (political) leadership of the world.[23]

More recently, the famous Muslim scholar Abu ʿAlā al-Maududi (1903 – 1979) explained that the imamate or caliphate is supposed to succeed the prophetic position of Muḥammad insofar as it secures religion and secular affairs.

It is therefore clear what the role of a caliph is supposed to be. A caliph is one who has succeeded Muḥammad in being the lawgiver of the Muslim community. The caliph is one who is, by the very nature of his charism, supposed to look after both the secular and religious interests of the umma. Hence, there can be no question then  a caliphate is a theocratic rule where religious laws become the laws that govern the state.[24]

This conception of the caliph’s role is further substantiated when we look at the history of the first four “rightly guided” caliphs, who all fused the religious with the secular spheres.

There can be no question, therefore,  about the religious role of a caliph. When Islamists state that they want to resurrect the caliphate (or make a plausible claim that they have, in the case of ISIS), they have in mind a definite theological vision of a state where the Sharia is applied under the aegis of a successor of Muḥammad

The Conditions for Being a Caliph

Not anyone can be a caliph or ruler of the Muslim community in Islam. There are certain conditions that must be met. In what follows, I will delineate some of the important conditions (in no particular order of importance) that Muslim scholars have reached a consensus on for one to assume the position of a caliph.

The first and obvious condition of being a caliph is that one must be a Muslim. This is because the caliphal role, as we have seen, is not simply a political position, but a religious one as well. This can be inferred from verses in the Qur’ān. For example, Q 4:144 states the following: “O ye who believe! Take not for awlīya unbelievers rather than believers: Do ye wish to offer Allah an open proof against yourselves?”

The word awlīya means either friends, allies, or guardians. The exegetical tradition seems to support all of these readings.[25] So obviously if Muslims are not to take as friends, allies, or guardians from among the non-Muslims, then the caliph must be a Muslim. And of course, since Muḥammad was a Muslim and the caliphs are supposed to be successors of Muḥammad, they too must be Muslim.

The second condition is that the caliph has to be a man, not a woman.[26] Muḥammad was a man, so it is only natural that his successor would be a man. The precedent for this is well-established, as the first four “rightly guided” caliphs, the Ummayad caliphs, and the Abbasid and Ottoman caliphs, were all men. However, this idea is not just based on customary tradition, for it originates from a ḥadīth in Sahih al-Bukhari, the most trusted Muslim aḥadīth. In this ḥadīth, Muḥammad, upon hearing the news that the people of Persia had made the daughter of Khosrau their Queen, stated: “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler.”[27]

The third condition is that the ruler must be a just ruler and must rule in accordance with the Sharia. For Q 2:124 states that the oppressors will not inherit the covenant of God. Furthermore, ruling justly in the context of the caliphate means ruling according to the sharia, as ultimately based on the Qur’ān and the Sunna of Muḥammad; after all, Q 4:105 states that “we have sent down to thee [oh Muḥammad] the Book in truth, that thou mightest judge between men, as guided by Allah [emphasis added].

On this prerequisite of being a just ruler, the famous Muslim scholar al-Qurtubī states in his tafsīr, al-Jāmi’ lī ahkām al-Qur’ān, that “there is no difference in opinion amongst the umma that a corrupt person should not be a caliph.”[28] The caliph must then be a just ruler, where this is ostensibly measured in terms of how well he lives in accordance with the Sharia.[29]

The fourth condition for being a caliph is that the person must be from the tribe of Quraysh, the same Meccan tribe that Muḥammad hailed from. This is something that both Shi’i and Sunni Muslims agree upon, although it is a condition rejected by the Khawarij and the Muʿtazila groups (which are fringe Islamic sects).[30]

Not surprisingly, Abū Bakr Al-Baghdādī, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State, claimed to be descended from the tribe of Quraysh. This condition is generally based on multiple ahādith (plural of ḥādith), like “[the] authority of ruling will remain with Quraysh, and whoever bears hostility to them, Allah will destroy him as long as they abide by the laws of the religion”;[31] “[the] authority of ruling will remain with Quraysh, even if only two of them remained”[32]; and “the imams are from Quraysh.”[33]

Must there be a Caliphate in Islam?

While there are some reformist-minded Muslim thinkers who do not see the necessity of a caliphate, the vast majority of Muslim ulema or scholars throughout the fourteen-hundred year history of Islam have believed that having a caliphate is mandatory.

Dr. Ṣalāh Ṣāwī, who received a doctorate degree with highest honors from al-Azhar University (the seat of Sunni-Islamic learning), and who has taught at that same university, has written an introductory book on the fiqh of the caliphate (al-Wajīz fī Hikm al-Khilāfa). Ṣāwī devotes a whole section to the necessity (wijūb) of the caliphate. He states in no unequivocal terms that the caliphate is obligatory and he cites a number of supporting evidences and sources to that effect.

Ṣāwī cites the following two Qur’ānic verses as evidence that Muslims have an obligation to set up a caliphate:[34]

Q 4:58-9: Allah doth command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due; And when ye judge between man and man, that ye judge with justice: Verily how excellent is the teaching which He giveth you! For Allah is He Who heareth and seeth all things (58). O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination (59).

It should be noted that Muslim scholars have a history of appealing to these two verses in order to justify the existence of a caliphate or to stress that state legislation should be based on Islamic law or Sharia. For example, Ibn Taymīyyah (1263 – 1328), a darling of Islamists the world over and one of the greatest theoreticians of the Salafī strain of thought, wrote a whole treatise grounded on these two verses, which he interchangeably names the verses of al-umarā’ (the commanders) and wilāt al-umūr (the guardians of affairs).[35] However, it should also be noted that an explicit mention to a caliphate is lacking in these two verses.

There are also some aḥādīth that are appealed to here. In presenting the case for the necessity of a caliphate, Ṣāwī and other Muslim scholars cite a ḥadīth where Muḥammad states that “whoever died and did not proclaim allegiance or bīʿa [to someone] died the death of ignorance (jāhilīya).”[36] The idea here is that allegiance to some person or other is a requirement, and that this allegiance is supposed to be to the caliphate (although this latter inference is an interpretive gloss on the hadīth).

More explicit evidence from the Islamic source texts that there should be a caliphate is found in the very popular, though by no means universally recognized,[37] ḥadīth in Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, which was cited above. Recall that in the ḥadīth Muḥammad states that a caliphate will arise that will be in accordance with the prophetic model (ʿala minhāj al-nabūwa).

Another piece of evidence for the necessity of the caliphate that is cited by many Muslim scholars is that after the death of Muḥammad the ṣahāba or companions of Muḥammad convened a shūra (convention or council) at the saqīfa (roofed building) of the tribe of Banu Sāʿida in order to decide who was to be the successor of Muḥammad. The argument is that while there may have been disagreements among the early Muslims over who was to succeed Muhammad, there was no disagreement that there should be a successor.[38]

In his brief book on the fiqh of the caliphate, Ṣāwī states that Muslim scholars have reached a consensus that the caliphate is mandatory, and that only those who are “shāwaḍḥ,” i.e., eccentric, have disagreed.[39]

Whatever one thinks regarding the  justification for the necessity of a caliphate in Islam, there does indeed seem to be a consensus among Muslim scholars that under the Sharia the caliphate is a necessity. As the prolific Shāfi’ī scholar Ibn Hajar Haytam (1504-1567) states in his commentary on al-Nawawī’s (1233–1277) Minhāj al-Ṭālibīn, “the investiture of someone from the Islamic community (Umma) able to fulfill the duties of the Caliphate is obligatory by scholarly consensus [emphasis added].[40]

In addition, Ibn Qudāma (1147 – 1223) states in his al-Mughnī, one of the most authoritative Hanbalī legal manuals, that the imamate, i.e. the caliphate, is obligatory (wājib).[41] Likewise, in his Muqadimma (Introduction to History), Ibn Khaldun (1332 – 1406) is unequivocal about the necessity of the caliphate or imamate, for he states the following:

The position of imam is a necessary one. The consensus of the men around Muḥammad and the men of the second generation shows that (the imamate) is necessary according to the religious law. At the death of the Prophet, the men around proceeded to render the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr and to entrust him with the supervision of their affairs. And so it was at all subsequent periods. In no period were the people left in a state of anarchy. This was so by general consensus, which proves that the position of imam is a necessary one [emphasis added].[42]

Ibn Khaldūn goes on to state that although the Sharia mandates the formation of the caliphate, its necessity cannot be reached through reason alone, but requires an appeal to religious law. He cites some groups like the Muʿtazilites and the Kharijites, who have taken the “exceptional position” that the caliphate is not necessary at all; in this connection Ibn Khaldūn  goes on to note that “those (who so argue) are refuted by the general consensus.”

A quick Google search of (wijūb al-Khilāfa) returns quite a few written texts and video clips of Muslim scholars asserting the necessity of the caliphate. For example, one Muslim scholar, Faizer Qazaz al-Jāsim, states in one of his lectures available on YouTube that the caliphate is something that scholars have reached a consensus (ijma’) on, and that it is therefore incumbent on Muslims to implement.[43] One could probably find many more such statements to the same effect just by a quick perusal of internet sources.

The revival of the caliphate is a goal that is agreed upon by Muslim jurists, and has only been challenged in recent times by Muslim reformists. Indeed, the importance of the caliphate is something that is thoroughly entrenched in the fourteen-hundred year Islamic tradition. It has been perceived to be, rightly or wrongly, a central tenet of Islam.

Thus, although in a meeting on March 3rd, 2014, the Muslim Brotherhood-linked International Union of Muslim Scholars composed a strongly worded statement against the legitimacy of ISIS’ so-called caliphate, they were nevertheless unequivocal in their support of the idea of a caliphate. Their official statement contains the following:

Verily, we all dream of an Islamic caliphate according to the prophetic program (minhāj al-Nubiwa), and we desire from the deepest of our hearts that the caliphate would arise as soon as possible [emphasis added].[44]

The wording (particularly minhāj al-Nubiwa) is clearly an allusion to the above cited hadīth in the collection of Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.

The belief that the caliphate is necessary explains why the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, the longest surviving Caliphate in Islamic history (c.1300 – 1924), by the secularist Kemal Ataturk was seen as a devastating catastrophe or fitna by Muslims the world over. Indeed, very shortly after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire powerful groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (1928) emerged with the express goal of restoring the caliphate.

It can be argued that one of the main reasons the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups have succeeded in recruiting many young Muslims is that they propagate the romanticized dream of restoring the caliphate. There is hardly any Islamist group out there which does not expressly strive for the restoration of the caliphate.

Western policymakers need to be well-informed about the religious doctrines and aspects that motivate Islamist groups. It is unquestionable that most of their motivations are religious, and not grievances about Western foreign policy.[45] The doctrine of the caliphate is one of the central religious doctrines that Islamist groups appeal to. Therefore, any adequate understanding of these groups must of necessity involve delving into the religious source texts that speak about the caliphate.

When Osama Bin Laden, in a videotape in October 7, 2001, spoke of the “humiliation and disgrace” that Islam suffered for “more than eighty years,”[46] it was perhaps excusable for Middle East security analysts to not immediately understand the reference. However, in today’s post 9-11 world, it is certainly inexcusable for Middle East security analysts not to have internalized or care much for such religious references to the caliphate.

[1] Edward W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (vol.2), ed. Stanley Lane Poole (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1984), 702.  Bernard Lewis states in The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (New York: The Modern Library), xviii, that the Arabic word khalīfa,” by a useful ambiguity combines the meanings of ‘successor’ and ‘deputy.'”

[2] The early history of Islam that I recount in this article forms part of the traditional narrative of the origins of Islam. It is a non-revisionist history, the core of which, is accepted by most orientalists and Muslim ulema.

[3] Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad. Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal is one of our earliest collections of ahādīth, a collection that preceded the Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, and the rest of the al-Sahīh al-Sitah (the six collections of  ahādīth that are especially highly regarded by Sunnis). Dar al-Salām, the dominant publisher of English translations of the ahadīth collections,  has only translated three of the expected 18 volumes of the Musnad (which is actually the largest ḥadīth collection).

[4] From a historical-critical perspective, this is probably a saying that was retrospectively put in the mouth of Muḥammad, after the idea of a caliphate became  well established. But since many Muslims and Islamists believe in its authenticity, this point is irrelevant from a threat-doctrine approach.  The translation is taken from “Daily Hadith,” The Khalifah, accessed September 9th, 2016, http://www.khilafah.com/daily-hadith-256/

[5] Ā’isha is reputed to have been Muḥammad’s favorite wife, and many prophetic ḥadīth traditions are related on her authority. Ḥadīth traditions in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the two most reliable sources of Sunni ahadeeth, state that Muḥammad married Ā’isha when she was just six years old, and that he consummated the marriage with her when she was only nine.

[6] ʿAbd al-Malik Ibn Hishām, Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq, and Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muḥammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955), 114. The first convert to Islam was Khadīja bint Khuwaylid, Muḥammad’s first wife.

[7] Shi’is are divided into Ithnā‘asharis (Twelvers), and Ismaʿīlīs (Seveners). The former group, which is by far the largest sect of Shi’ism, believe that there were twelve infallible imams, and that the last one, the Mahdī, is currently in occultation, and will reappear during the end times. The Ismaʿīlīs believe only in the legitimacy of the first seven imams, and they disagree with the  Ithnā‘asharis over who that was supposed to be; the Ismaʿīlīs believe that it was supposed Mūsa al-Kaḍhim, whereas the Ismaʿīlīs believe that it was his older brother, Ismaʿīl.

[8] Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History (sixth edition), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 62.

[9] Ibid., 64.

[10] The Umayyad caliphate was exemplified a dynastic rule, with the caliphal seat being passed on by hereditary.

[11] Although technically the Abbasid caliphs were regulated to titular heads after the Buyyid invasion of Baghdad in 945 A.D.

[12] Bernard Lewis, Holy War, 6.

[13] The Constitution of Medina is a document that is generally agreed upon by even Islamicists of skeptical proclivities to be genuine.

[14] ʻAbd al-Malik Ibn Hishām, Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq, and Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muḥammad, 232-3.

[15] The position that later the title evolved to be khalīfat Rasūl Allāh is the reasoned view of Patricia Crone and Martin Hinds in God’s Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 5. Bernard Lewis in Holy War, p. xvii, seems to believe that this order went the other way around, viz., that “originally, the head of the Islamic community was ‘the Khalīfa of the Prophet of God,'” but that “some, more ambitious, shortened the title to ”the Khalīfa of God.'”  But Patricia Crone and Martin Hinds are the specialists on this particular issue, Crone having written multiple books on the caliphate. Furthermore, it is more likely that Crone and Hinds are correct here because Arabian coins originally only had one part of the shahāda, viz., “there is no God but God,” and they lacked reference to Muḥammad as the apostle of God. Interestingly, it is the position of Ibn Khaldūn that use of the term “caliph of God” is impermissible, and that Abū Bakr forbade its use when he was thus addressed. See Ibn Khaldūn , al-Muqaddima, ed., Franz Rosenthal, 389.

[16] Bernard Lewis, Holy War, xvii.

[17] Patricia Crone and Martin Hinds, God’s Caliph, 115.

[18] David Cook, Understanding Jihad (Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005), 6.

[19] Al-Mawāridī, al-Ahkām al-Sultānīya wa al-Wilāyāt al-Dīnīya, ed. Ahmad Mubārak al-Baghdādī (Kuwait: Maktabat dar Ibn Qutayba, 1989), 4. The translation is mine.

[20] See, e.g., Ibn Khaldūn , al-Muqaddima, ed., Franz Rosenthal, 388.

[21] As quoted in Ṣalāh Ṣāwī, al-Wajīz fī Hikm al-Khilāfa (n.p.:Dar al-ʿAlām al-Dowla, n.d.), 5.

[22] Ibn Khaldūn, Muqaddima: An Introduction to History (vol.1) , ed. Franz Rosenthal (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), 387.

[23] Ibid.,387-8.

[24] However, as Bernard Lewis notes in Holy War, p.20, this theocratic set up is not equivalent to priestly or clerical rule, which was largely the invention of Ayatollah Khomeini (1902 – 1989).

[25] The Islamicist Sydney Griffith  remarks  that the original meaning of the word was “friends,” although in verses such  Cf. the footnote in Sydney Griffith, “Al-Naṣāra in the Qur’ān: A hermeneutical reflection” in The Qur’ān in its Historical Context, ed. Gabriel Reynolds (New York: Routledge), 308.

[26] Ṣalāh Ṣāwī, al-Wajīz fī Hikm al-Khilāfa, 24.

[27] Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 88, ḥadīth 219.

[28] As quoted in Ṣalāh Ṣāwī, al-Wajīz fī Hikm al-Khilāfa, 27. The translation is a paraphrase.

[29] There is a dispute over whether the Hanafī school of jurisprudence rejects this condition.

[30] The term “Khawārij” was originally used by Muslims to denote the group of people who departed or kharaju from the community of Muslims by virtue of rejecting the truce that Ali made with Muʿāwiya (during the first Muslim civil war or fitna); so in modern times using the word to denote a group of prima facie Muslims is seen as insulting (there are ostensibly retroactive but nonetheless).  The Muʿtazila are essentially Muslim rationalists; one of their distinctive beliefs is that the Qur’ān was created, and is not eternal.

[31] Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 56, Hadith 704.

[32] Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 56, Hadith 705.

[33] This is from a a ḥadīth in Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, as cited in Ṣalāh Ṣāwīs al-Wajīz fī Hikm al-Khilāfa,.

[34] Ṣalāh Ṣāwī, al-Wajīz fī Hikm al-Khilāfa,  13.

[35] These verses have also been so labeled as such by other Muslim thinkers subsequent to Ibn Taymīyyah. See Ibn Taymīyyah, al-Sīyāsa al-Sharīʿa fi iṣlaḥ al-Rāʿi wa al-Raʿīya, ed. Ali ibn Muḥammad al-Imrān (Dar ālim al-fowā’id: Mecca, 2008). Indeed, this moniker goes at least back to the perfunctory section of the khalīfa-ḥadīth in Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.

[36] Ṣalāh Ṣāwī, al-Wajīz fī Hikm al-Khilāfa, 16.

[37] That this ḥadīth is not universally recognized as being authentic can be gleaned by the fact that Ṣalāh Ṣāwī omits mention of it in his string of evidence for the necessity or obligatoriness of the caliphate.

[38] Ibid., 17; “محاضرة الخلافة الشيخ فيصل قزار الجاسم” YouTube video, 6:20, posted by “شبكة أنوار البصيرة khaled,” Dec. 6th, 2005, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkE5-PdW2ms; Ibn Khaldūn , al-Muqaddima, ed., Franz Rosenthal,

[39] Ibid.,13.

[40] As quoted in Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misrī, The Reliance of the Traveler (Umdat al-Sālik), trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 1997), Book O (Justice), sec. 25.0-1, 638. This is not present in the original Arabic version of Umdat As-Sālik. But the translator, Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misrī, found it necessary to add a section on the caliphate because “the caliphate is both obligatory in itself and the necessary precondition for hundreds of rulings (books k through o) established by Allah Most High to govern and guide Islamic community life (ibid.).” It is important to note that scholarly consensus or ijma‘ is one of the principle foundations of Islamic law (particularly Sunni-Islamic law). In Muslim jurisprudence, if the ulema (Muslim scholars) have arrived at a consensus concerning some issue, then it is obligatory on the Muslim to follow the consensus. This principle of ijma’ ultimately has as its basis multiple aḥādīth where Muḥammad effectively states that his umma (nation) will not agree on an error.

[41] Ibn Qudāma, al-Mughnī, vol.14, eds. ʿAbd al-Fatāh Muḥammad al-Hilu and ʿAbdallāh bin ʿAbd al-Muhsin al-Turkī (Cairo: Dār ʿĀlim al-Kutub, 1997), 5.

[42] Ibn Khaldūn , al-Muqaddima, ed., Franz Rosenthal,

[43]محاضرة الخلافة الشيخ فيصل قزار الجاسم” YouTube video, 6:00, posted by “شبكة أنوار البصيرة khaled,” Dec. 6th, 2005, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkE5-PdW2ms.

[44]The exact Arabic words are as follows: “إننا كلنا نحلم بالخلافة الإسلامية على منهاج النبوة، من أعماق قلوبنا أن تقوم اليوم قبل الغد”

[45] This can be clearly seen from an article in ISIS’ 15th Dabiq magazine issue, entitled, “Why We Hate You.”

[46] Bernard Lewis, Holy War, xv.



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