The long road to Khilafah – Q-News, 1994.

(Dr Kalim Siddiqui, Q-News, 23-30 September, 1994.)

Now that the kerfuffle over the Khilafah Conference has died down, it is time to examine some of its implications. But first it must be acknowledged that the Hizb ul-Tahrir had done a great service by drawing attention to the key concept and position of khilafah in the structure of authority in Islam. This service to Islam is even more worthwhile at a time when such key concepts as khilafah have largely fallen out of use. By pitching its appeal to the youth, the Hizb ul-Tahrir has made the young generation aware of it. It is this generation that has a chance, insha’Allah, of living to see the khilafah established in their lifetime. If the conference has given this youthful generation a lifelong commitment to a central cause then undoubtedly they have achieved a good deal. This is a contribution that must be admired and applauded especially by those who, while active in the Islamic movement, do not appreciate the central position of the khilafah in Islam.

I write as one who enter the Islamic movement nearly 45 years ago in Karachi through a student group whose members dedicated themselves, or so they claimed, to the establishment of khilafat-e rashida in Pakistan. Many members of this group are still active in the Islamic movement in Pakistan and Britain. Most notable among them is the group’s founder, Mr Moazzam Ali Alavi, now living in Balham and Islamabad.

Let us begin with a discussion of the concept of leadership in Islam. Every Muslim accepts Allah subhannahu wa ta’ala as the supreme Creator, Master, Guide and Law-giver. Every Muslim accepts the position of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, as the best and the last medium of Allah’s message, and its best examplar. Every Muslim accepts that Allah’s word, the Qur’an, is “guidance for the muttaqeen” (2:2).

Every Muslim accepts that the authority of Allah and His Prophet must be exercised by a Leader of the Ummah, or Amir al-Mo’mineen. The Leader then is “in place of” or “vicegerent” of Allah’s Prophet. In other words, the Leader is khilafat ur-Rusool. This is what the term khilafah means and the State that has the khalifah at its head is called the khilafah. The position of the khalifah and his khilafah are common grounds among all Schools of Thought in Islam. On this issue, to my knowledge, there is no dispute.

There is also a more general role of leadership in a Muslim society. There should not be a time in the life of a Muslim when he/she is without a leader. Then there is the lower level leadership of such people as the husband and father, the mother in the absence of the father, the school teacher, the civil servant, the policeman or the hear of a “council” or “local authority”. In a sense all of these people, in the discharge of their leadership roles, must follow the Quran and Sunnah, as far as their knowledge and abilities allow. Others, such as the Prime Minister, Ministers, government officials, policemen and local functionaries must have the authority delegated to them by the khalifah. The khalifah may use a cabinet, a majlis-e shura, a consultative council, or parliament, however elected or appointed, in order to achieve orderly fusion and the exercise of this authority throughout the khilafah. The need for leadership and binding obedience to it is emphasised by the Prophet when he says that if only three Muslims are on a journey together they should appoint one of them as their amir (leader) and follow him.

A number of points emerge from this hadith. First and foremost is the issue of global khilafah v. partial khilafah. Clearly the hadith means that no matter how small the size of a Muslim community (even as small as three), it must have some degree of organisations (“government”), discipline (“laws) and leadership (“khilafah”). It follows therefore that Muslims living in distant lands and areas of the world may be separately organised, under local leadership. The global khilafah is the ultimate, desirable goal, but in the meantime local and partial leadership and government is also desirable, indeed necessary.

Linked to this is another issue. There is a basic usul of fiqh and shari’ah which states than if a believer, or a number of believers together, cannot do all that is desired or required of them, they should perform as much of their obligations as may be possible and practicable in their situation and circumstances. This is why, in some instances, a distinction is made between sughra (lesser) and kubra (greater) khilafah or leadership. The imam in a mosque in Britain, for example, performs the role of lesser (sughra) imam. Similarly, in the period before the khilafat al-kubra (the greater khilafah) is established, it may be possible to have a number of lesser khilafahs in such countries as Iran, Algeria, or other Muslim majority areas now in transition from nation-States to “Islamic States” and, ultimately, the khilafah.

Then there is the legitimacy of organisations and leadership of “political parties” such as the Hizb ul-Tahrir, Jama’at-e Islami and Ikhwan al-Muslimeen. Clearly all parts of the global Islamic movement must have of organisation (“government”), discipline (“laws) and leadership (“khilafah”). The founders and leaders of such parties must believe that party structures and their leadership is sanctioned by Islam. If the multiplicity of “Islamic parties” and their separate leaders  is sanctioned by Islam, why not separate khilafahs with their own khalifahs?

The Prophet’s hadith also opens up another avenue of thought. Not all parts of the Ummah will be in the same stage of historical evolution at any time. The historical experience of Muslim in different parts of the world will vary greatly, as will their human, intellectual, spiritual and material resources. We must assume that all parts of the Ummah desire to achieve the highest stage of khilafah. But we know from empirical observation that all parts of the Ummah are at different stages of progress towards such a khilafah. They will achieve their common goals at different times and often by different routes.

This opens the possibility of “competing approaches”, eventually converging into a single route, method and destiny. History, and historical experience, will have much to do with the validation of the truth. The historic validity of Islam was established by the Prophet, upon whom be peace, over 23 years of struggle. At the end of it he bequeathed to us the khilafah. It is this that we have to recapture. In doing so, in moving towards it, we have to make sure that our approach is not a narrowly self-righteous “party line”. We must allow others the same chance of being right or wrong as we claim for ourselves. The movement of history will sort out the goats from the sheep.

Among those likely (repeat likely) to fall by the wayside may be those with narrow party lines and closed minds. It is the all-inclusive, open and broad-based “movement” that is much more likely to lead the Ummah to khilafah. Those who fail to grasp this central point are in danger of failing ever to get beyond the starting gates.