Introduction to the History of the Khalifas

01A • Islamic Studies 1 • History of the Khalifas • Lecture 1 • Introduction & Overview • 01.09.12 from The Muslim Faculty on Vimeo.

Authors: Abdassamad Clarke, Tobias Sahl Andersson

Publication date: 01/09/2012

The History of the Khalifas (Islamic Studies I)

Transcript of the Overview

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى ءاله وصحبه وسلم

Assalamu alaykum. Welcome to the Muslim History Programme of the MFAS. This is the first of 12 sessions which make up the History of the Khalifas module. The lecture will last approximately 40 minutes during which time you should make a written note of any questions that may occur to you for clarification after the lecture. 


إِنَّ مَبَادِي كُلِّ فَنٍّ عَشَرَةْ الْحَدُّ وَالْمَوْضُوعُ ثُمَّ الثَّمَرَةْ

There are ten starting points for every science: 

its definition, its subject and then its fruit

وَفَضْلُهُ وَنِسْبَةٌ وَالْوَاضِعْ وَالْاِسْمُ الْاِسْتِمْدَادُ حُكْمُ الشَّارِعْ

Its status, its relationship [to other sciences], and its founder,

its name, its sources, and the Lawgiver’s judgement [on it]

مَسَائِلٌ وَالْبَعْضُ بِالْبَعْضِ اكْتَفَى وَمَنْ دَرَى الْجَمِيعَ حَازَ الشَّرَفَا

Its issues, and some people content themselves with a part of it

but whoever knows them all gains pre-eminence.


1. Definition (حدّ)

The history of the men who claimed to be khalīfas or were acclaimed as khalīfas and who have succeeded the Messenger of Allah @ in leadership of the Muslim community.

2. Subject (موضوع)

The men who have been the khalīfas.

3. Fruit – outcome (ثمرة)

An understanding of the dynamics of leadership in the Muslim ummah, and what has led to success and what to failure.

4. Its merit (فضله)

It has high merit since some of those who have succeeded the Messenger of Allah @ were remarkable men whose successes led to great openings for countless other human beings, and even if not all of them have lived up to that potential, then knowledge of failure and how it happened is often as important as knowledge of success.

5. Its relationship to other sciences (نسبته)

Since Islam is social and based on the jama‘a and the appointment of leaders is thus fundamental, then this knowledge is fundamental, particularly in an age without leaders in any meaningful sense.

6. The Founder (الواضع)

The founder of the science in the sense of a careful and reflective study of Muslim leaders and civilisations is Ibn Khaldun.

7. Its name (اسمه)

The History of the Khalīfas.

8. Its sources and references (استمداده)

The Muqaddima of Ibn Khaldun is one of the most important reference points.

9. The judgement of the sharī‘a on it (حكم الشارع فيه)

It is obligatory on the community – farḍ kifāya – because the appointment of a khalīfa is an obligation and thus whatever knowledge is indispensable in that process is also obligatory.

10. The topics it covers (مسائله)

The what, when, who, how and why.



1. Definitions (حد)

Proceeding to the definition of our topic necessarily means that we define the several terms we use, which in turn requires a proper investigation of their meanings. Indeed, there would be no harm in trying to define what we mean by the term ‘definition’ itself, or at least to explore what that process is.

1.1. Definition of 1.1. definition‘definition’

From the verb definire ‘set bounds to’.

And thus it has almost exactly the same meaning as the Arabic term hadd. Almost any subject is potentially boundless, and every thing can link to an infinity of other matters, so that in order to proceed it is vital to set limits to our subject matter.

Thus, in our course, we will not consider the history of kings and sultans who did not claim to be khalīfas such as Salah ad-Din al-Ayyubi nor people such as Yūsuf ibn Tashfin the leader of the Murabitun movement, nor those who claimed to be khalīfas but whose claims are rejected for various reasons, such as the Fatimids whose heretical shi’ism precludes their being accepted as legitimate. 

1.2. Definitions of history

Origin: late Middle English (also as a verb), via Latin from Greek historia ‘finding out, inquiry, narrative, history,’ from histōr ‘learned, wise man’ from an Indo-European root shared by wit.

In order to further clarify the meaning of history, it is useful to examine its functions. Besides functioning as inquiry about the historical past and present, history also functions as narrative. In relation to the subject, the history of the khalīfas, the following are important to underline:

1.2.1. History as 1.1.1. tTransmission - Akhbar (أخبار)

Deals with the historical question of what happened. This is the basic function of history as transmission of reports either orally or in written form, within various social spheres such as science, politics, literature and other cultural transactions. The transmission of reports provides the content for the following functions of history. For this there needs to be subsidiary sciences dealing with the biographies of those who narrate the reports, their memories, their intellectual acumen, political and religious inclinations and other things that would bear on the truth or falsehood or accuracy of what they transmit.

Similarly, there need to be sciences dealing with the circumstances of the age, the character of those who take part in events and other matters which ascertain the likelihood of their having done and said the things they are said to have done and said.

1.2.2. History as Dating – Tarikh (تاريخ)

Deals with the historical question of when it happened. This is fundamentally the task of chronologically arranging and thereby knowing what happened when and where and who was involved, which characterises the scientific approach to historiography. We can categorise under this heading all kinds of factual information, which, like the dating of events, are vital before one can even begin to investigate the meaning of events.

1.2.3. History as Narrative (رواية)

Deals with the historical question of how and to whom it happened. Once the facts are established, then a narrative becomes established that explains events and produces identity. Since all human activity is fundamentally historical, the narrative provides a self-defining memory that shapes the identities of individuals, groups, communities, societies and epochs. Depending on needs, usages and users, the function of the narrative can either be explanatory, legitimising or mobilising. 

1.2.4. History as 1.1.1. knowledgeKnowledge (علم)

Deals with the historical question of why itevents happened. Relates to the root meaning of the word history as inquiry and knowledge. One aspect of it is that in order to make sense of the plethora of historical data we often need to recognise the importance of ‘instances’, by which we mean what Goethe referred to when he said, ‘one instance is often worth a thousand.’ We are not surprised either that this is the Qur’anic method. The Qur’ān contains three divisions: tawḥīd or ‘aqīda, aḥkām rulings and qaṣaṣ, or stories. These instances function as a source of knowledge not only about the instances themselves, but about similar phenomena wherever and whenever they might occur. 

1.3. 1.1. Who are the khalifas, the successors?

1.1.1. Synonyms

The khalifa is also known as the Imām and the Amīr al-Mu’minīn.Definition of khalīfa

1.3.1. Linguistic definition

The word derives from khalafa which means to ‘come after,’ or ‘succeed’ and also ‘to stand in place of’ or ‘substitute’. Khalīf is either the intensive of khālif ‘one who comes after, who succeeds’ thus khalīf meaning ‘succeeding or coming after’, or it means the same as makhlūf ‘one after whom another one comes, i.e. one who is succeeded’. 

The Khalīfas are therefore defined as successors of the previous khalīfa who are themselves succeeded by a subsequent one.

و"خليفة" يكون بمعنى فاعل، أي يخلف من كان قبله من الملائكة في الأرض، أو من كان قبله من غير الملائكة على ما روي. ويجوز أن يكون "خليفة" بمعنى مفعول أي مخلف، كما يقال: ذبيحة بمعنى مفعولة.

“Khalīfa is in the sense of the active participle (fā‘il) of the verb, i.e. he succeeds whoever of the angels preceded him on Earth or whoever other than the angels preceded him on Earth, according to what has been narrated. It is conceivable that khalīfa is in the sense of the passive participle (maf‘ūl) of the verb, i.e. the one who is succeeded, just as one uses the term dhabīḥa in the sense of the passive participle [that which was slaughtered].” (Al-Qurtubi)

The khalīfa is also known as the Imām and the Amīr al-Mu’minīn.

Throughout the course, the broadest possible definition will be applied and all khalīfas succeeding another will be examined, rather than excluding some due to various deficiencies in relation to the Sharī‘a.Khaleefa is then a single case ‘one who succeeds another or comes after or after whom another one comes’.

1.3.2. Sharī‘a definitions of khilāfa

قال الله تعالى:

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَٰائِكَةِ إِنِّى جَاعلٌ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً

When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am putting a khalīfa on the earth’” (Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:30).

Al-Qurtubi said:

@ هذه الآية أصل في نصب إمام وخليفة يسمع له ويطاع، لتجتمع به الكلمة، وتنفذ به أحكام الخليفة. ولا خلاف في وجوب ذلك بين الأمة ولا بين الأئمة إلا ما روي عن الأصم حيث كان عن الشريعة أصم، ... ودليلنا قول الله تعالى: "إني جاعل في الأرض خليفة" [البقرة: 30]، وقوله تعالى: "يا داود إنا جعلناك خليفة في الأرض" [ص: 26]، وقال: "وعد الله الذين آمنوا منكم وعملوا الصالحات ليستخلفنهم في الأرض" [النور: 55] أي يجعل منهم خلفاء، إلى غير ذلك من الآي. 

“This āyah is a primary source for the appointment of an Imām and Khalīfah to be listened to and obeyed in order for the word to be unified by him and for the rulings of the khilāfa to be executed. There is no difference of opinion about the obligatory nature of khilāfa among the ummah nor between the imams except for that which is narrated from al-Asamm who was in this respect deaf (asamm) to the sharī‘a. … Our proof is the word of Allah, exalted is He, ‘I am putting a khalīfa on the earth’ (2:30) and His words, exalted is He, ‘O Dāwūd, We have made you a khalīfa on the earth.’ (Sūrah Ṣād:26), and He said, ‘Allah has promised those of you who believe and do right actions that He will definitely make them khalīfas on the earth’ (Sūrat an-Nūr: 55) – i.e. make some of them khalīfas – and other ayats.

1.3.3. The conditions for the khalīfa

1.3.3.1. Islam (إسلام)

The khalīfa may not be a kāfir.

1.3.3.2. Adulthood (بلوغ)

The khalīfa may not be a child.

1.3.3.3. Sanity and consciousness (عقل)

The khalīfa may not be insane or unconscious.

1.3.3.4. Male (ذكورة)

The khalīfa may not be a woman.

1.3.3.5. Justice (عدول)

The khalīfa must be just. If he is unjust but still establishes the dīn and the sharī‘a, then it is ḥarām to remove him, and one must obey him in jihad etc. However:

وَلاَ طَاعَةَ لِمَخْلُوقٍ فِي مَعْصِيَةِ الْخَالِقِ (الديلمي عن ابن عباس)

عن علي î وقال @ : لا طاعة في معصية الله. إنما الطاعة في المعروف (صحيح البخاري)

“There is to be no obedience shown to a creature that involves disobedience to the Creator.” (Ibn ‘Abbās, ad-Daylamī)

“There is no obedience that involves disobedience to Allah; obedience is only in respect of the well-recognised virtues.” (‘Alī in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī)

In other words, an unjust khalīfa or amīr must be obeyed when it comes to matters of the dīn, and those matters of ijtihad that are his prerogative, but not if he commands something that is in itself an act of disobedience. 

1.3.3.6. Knowledge (علم)

He must have knowledge because his function is to bring the dīn into effect, and to govern the world justly, for which he must have whatever knowledge is most needed for those tasks. That does not necessarily mean he must be an ‘ālim. If he is not an ‘ālim then he must have the counsel of the fuqahā’ who will help him in those matters pertaining to the dīn.

1.3.3.7. Competence (الكفاءة)

The khalīfa must be competent to lead, or literally ‘equal’ to the task. 

1.3.3.8. Lineage (النسب من قريش مع اختلاف)

“He must be descended from Quraysh, but about this there is a difference of opinion.” Thus Ibn Juzayy wrote before the epoch of the Mongol slaughter and the appearance of the Osmanlı.

1.3.4. Three terms


1.1.1. Who are they successors to? 

They succeed the previous khaleefa and are themselves succeeded by a subsequent one. Since Adam and Dāwūd are those prophets who have been named as khaleefas of Allah, and since such an expression is not properly used of anyone other than a prophet, then the khaleefas succeed the Messenger of Allah @. 

1.1.1. The roles of the Prophet @?

Therefore we have to delineate in what roles he @ could be inherited and succeeded.

1.1.1. He @ was: Kingship (ملك)

It is wrongly thought that kingship is forbidden. The Messenger of Allah @ was offered the choice between being a prophet who was a king or a prophet who was a slave, and chose the latter. Allah would not have offered him something that is ḥarām. Ibn Khaldun makes the distinction that where kingship contravenes the dīn and fails to uphold justice it becomes ordinary tyrannical kingship, but that where a king uses his royal authority to bring about the dīn, and to establish justice among his subjects, then he is a khalīfa.

1.3.4.1. Politics (سياسة)

The science of governance and power politics. Also rule or governance as contrasted with Divine sharī‘a. A decision based on public interest. The Osmanlis knew it as رِعَايَة literally “shepherding”.

1.3.4.2. ‘Asabiyya (عصبية)

This is Ibn Khaldūn’s famous term for the group feeling of a people that can be a dynamic force in history.

Most modern Muslims only know of the term in a pejorative sense, as when the Messenger of Allah @ said, “He is not one of us who calls for ‘aṣabiyya, he is not one of us who fights for ‘aṣabiyya and he is not one of us who dies for ‘aṣabiyya.1 

‘Aṣabiyya, in this negative and blameworthy sense, is defined by the Messenger of Allah @, in a hadith narrated by al-Bayhaqī in as-Sunan from Wāthila, as, “…that you aid your people in wrongdoing.” Where it denotes the natural force of kinship that binds a polity together, it is a key term in the work of Ibn Khaldūn. Many people misunderstand his position. Rather than calling to the forbidden ‘aṣabiyya in which people support their race or tribe or nation in wrongdoing, Ibn Khaldūn identifies how the natural forces of kinship operate, and moreover, how they work along with the dynamics of the dīn in creating Muslim polities, which he illustrates copiously with examples from history.

1.3.5. The functions of the khalīfa

In order to examine the functions of the khalīfa, we have to delineate in what roles the Messenger of Allah @ could be inherited and succeeded. He @ was: 

1.3.5.1. ‘Abd 

The absolutely obedient slave and worshipper of his Lord.

1.3.5.2. Prophet @

i.e. who received revelation. There are no more prophets after him @, but the Qur’ān itself is enduring revelation. So the Muslim still receives revelation if Allah grants that to him and he is open to it.

1.3.5.3. Messenger of Allah @

Who conveyed (tablīgh) the message. There are no more messengers, but it is a duty on the Muslims to convey the message to mankind, and this duty falls particularly on the shoulders of the élite of the Muslims among whom are the khalīfas.

1.3.5.4. Imām

a. i.e. the leader of the Muslims who led them, and al-Imām is a synonym for the khalīfa

b. and led them in ṣalāh

1.3.5.5. Muzakkī 

a. who took their zakāt and
b. who purified them

لَقَدْ مَنَّ ٱللَّهُ عَلَى ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولاً مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُوا۟ عَلَيْهِمْ ءَايَٰتِهِۦ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ ٱلْكِتَٰبَ وَٱلْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا۟ مِن قَبْلُ لَفِى ضَلَٰلٍ مُّبِينٍ

Allah showed great kindness to the believers when He sent a Messenger to them from among themselves to recite His Signs to them and purify them and teach them the Book and Wisdom, even though before that they were clearly misguided. (Sūrat an-Nisā 3:164)

"ويزكيهم" أي يجعلهم أزكياء القلوب بالإيمان؛ قاله ابن عباس. وقيل: يطهرهم من دنس الكفر والذنوب؛ قاله ابن جريج ومقاتل. وقال السدي: يأخذ زكاة أموالهم

yuzakkihim’ i.e. make them pure-hearted by means of īmān, as Ibn ‘Abbās said. Some said, ‘Purify them of the filth of kufr and wrong actions’ as Ibn Jurayj and Muqātil said. As-Suddi said, ‘He takes the zakat of their wealth’. (Al-Qurṭubī) 

Or, as it is stated more explicitly:

خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَٰلِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ 

Take zakat from their wealth to cleanse and purify them and pray for them. Your prayers bring relief to them. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Sūrat at-Tawbah 9:103)

The word tazkiya, in the sense of purification, is the alternative word for taṣawwuf with some of the Hanbalis.

1.3.5.6. Qāḍī and Ḥākim

i.e. the judge between people in their worldly affairs and the one responsible for the ḥudūd.

فَٱحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ

“So judge between them by what Allah has sent down.” (Sūrat al-Mā’idah 5:48)

1.3.5.7. The Muhtasib 

who, in his capacity of commanding the good and forbidding the wrong (see also Amīr), checked the weights and measures and the practices of the traders in the market, among other things.

1.3.5.8. Mufti

who responded to their queries about matters of the dīn:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَن...

“They ask you about…” (Many ayats in a number of surahs, starting with Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:189)

1.3.5.9. Amīr

a. who commanded and whom we are ordered to obey

قُلْ أَطِيعُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلرَّسُولَ

“Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger” (Sūrah Āl ‘Imrān 3:32)

b. commanded the right and forbade the wrong

ٱلَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ ٱلرَّسُولَ ٱلنَّبِىَّ ٱلْأُمِّىَّ ٱلَّذِى يَجِدُونَهُۥ مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ فِى ٱلتَّوْرَىٰةِ وَٱلْإِنجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُم بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ

“those who follow the Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, commanding them to do right and forbidding them to do wrong” Sūrat al-A‘rāf 7:157)

1.3.5.10. Murabbī

who fostered their growth. This most particularly relates to the ‘itra but not exclusively. Allah said:

مَا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ...

Muḥammad was not the father of any of your men…” (Sūrat al-Aḥzāb)

Now the ‘itra are not entirely genetic. ‘Īsā ï was not from Bani Isra’il because he had no father among them. Thus, ‘Alī, al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn are not the descendants of Muḥammad @ but they share with him @ in the genetic inheritance from Hāshim and ‘Abd al-Muttalib. What they did get was his tarbiya, and what was this tarbiya? The Messenger of Allah @ said:

إنَّمَا بُعِثْتُ لِأُتَمِّمَ مَكَارِمَ الْأَخْلَاقِ

( ق ) عن أبي هريرة ( رواه البخاري في الأدب المفرد برقم ( 273 ) عن أبي هريرة وقال : أخرجه أحمد والحاكم في الترجمة النبوية . ص )

“I was only sent to perfect the noble qualities of character.”

2655 - وَحَدَّثَنِي عَنْ مَالِكٍ، أَنَّهُ بَلَغَهُ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ @ قَالَ :  بُعِثْتُ لأُتَمِّمَ حُسْنَ الْأَخْلاَقِ (462). 

“I was sent to perfect the good qualities of character.”

He perfected them in himself @ as is evident, but in his role of murabbī he perfected them in others too; in some he did so as a parent does with a child and in others as a shaykh does with his Companions.

( 5694 ) ( ( جَرِيرُ بنُ عَبدِ الله مِنَّا أهْلَ البَيْتِ ظَهْرٌ لِبَطْنٍ ) ) ( طب عد ) عن علي .
( 6883 ) ( ( سَلْمَانُ مِنَّا أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ ) ) ( طب ك ) عن عمرو بن عوف .

1.3.5.11. A dā‘ī calling to Allah.

يَأَيُّهَا النَّبِيءُ إِنَّآ أَرْسَلْنَاكَ ... وَدَاعِياً إِلَى اللَّهِ بِإِذْنِهِ

O Prophet! We have sent you as …and a caller to Allah by His permission….”

1.3.5.12. A khalīfa of Allah

وخلافة داود بالنبوة والملك قال ابن عطية لا يقال خليفة الله إلا لنبي، وأما الملوك والخلفاء فكل واحد منهم خليفة الذي قبله، وقول الناس فيهم خليفة الله تجوز. 

(ابن جزي)

The khilāfa of Dāwūd was in prophethood and kingship. Ibn ‘Aṭiyyah said: “One only says ‘the Khalīfa of Allah’ about a prophet. As for kings and khalīfas, each one of them is the successor of the one who preceded him. When people say about them ‘the khalīfa of Allah’ it is valid. (Ibn Juzayy)

والمعني بالخليفة هنا - في قول ابن مسعود وابن عباس وجميع أهل التأويل - آدم عليه السلام، وهو خليفة الله في إمضاء أحكامه وأوامره، لأنه أول رسول إلى الأرض، كما في حديث أبي ذر... (القرطبي)

Who is meant by ‘khalīfa’ here – according to the position of Ibn Mas‘ūd, Ibn ‘Abbās and all of the people of interpretation – is Adam ï. He is the khalīfa of Allah in the execution of His rulings and His commands because he was the first messenger sent to the earth, as is in the hadith of Abū Dharr… (Al-Qurtubi)

If we take the converse of the statement that no one but a prophet can be called the Khalīfa of Allah and say that thus the Prophet @ was the Khalīfa of Allah then we can also say that the khalīfas succeed him in this khilāfa.

2. The subject

The subject is the history of the men who have been khalīfas since the time of the Messenger of Allah @, including al-Khulafā ar-Rāshidūn, the khalīfas of Bani Umayya, the khalīfas of Banī al-‘Abbās, the later Osmanlı and others who were, or who claimed to be, khalīfas.

2.1. Men, not an institution

The subject is the men, not the institution. Contrary to modern movements which focus on khilāfa as an institution, khilāfa is not a system but the condition of a man being a khalīfa, a successor to the Messenger of Allah @, with the awful responsibility that implies.

2.2. al-Khulafā ar-Rāshidūn 

2.2.1. Abū Bakr as-Siddiq

Abū Bakr as-Siddiq was his khalīfa, i.e. he succeeded him. He was the best of mankind after the prophets and the messengers. He was from Bani Taym, a small clan from Quraysh. He was neither from Bani Hāshim nor Bani Umayya. His khilāfa lasted for two years, three months and eight days.

2.2.1.1. Notable Occurrences

The gathering of the Qur’an.

The war waged on those who were renegades and …

…on those who refused the zakāh.

The continuance of the jihad against Rum.

2.2.2. ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb

‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb succeeded Abū Bakr, and insisted on making a distinction between Abū Bakr being the khalīfa of the Messenger of Allah @ and his being the khalīfa of the khalīfa of the Messenger of Allah @. Since that became cumbersome, he chose to be the Amīr al-Mu’minīn. He was from Bani ‘Adi, a small clan of Quraysh. He and Abū Bakr had been the two wazirs of the Messenger of Allah @. His khilāfa last for ten years and six and a half months. He was murdered by a disgruntled Christian Persian slave.

2.2.2.1. Notable Occurrences

The successful prosecution of the jihad against Rum and Faris resulting in many Openings of the lands to Islam. Many key ijtihads, particularly of the kinds known as al-maṣāliḥ al-mursalah ‘matters of general welfare’ and sadd adh-dharā‘i ‘blocking the means of access i.e. the prohibition of things that are not in themselves prohibited because of their leading to that which is prohibited’.

2.2.3. ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affan

His khalīfa was ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affan, the first khalīfa from Bani Umayya. He was murdered wrongfully, having been informed of that by the Messenger of Allah @ as is evident from many well known hadith. His khilāfa was ten days short of twelve years.

2.2.3.1. Notable Occurrences

The revision and publication of the mushaf.

The confirmation of Bani Umayya in places of prominence, although many of them had been appointed by the Prophet @ himself. He placed many of Bani Umayya in positions of power, including Marwan ibn al-Hakam. Thus as one of al-Khulafā ar-Rāshidūn he established the beginnings of Umayyad power.

The fitna.

2.2.4. ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib

His khalīfa was ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib î the first khalīfa of Bani Hāshim. Bani Hāshim are the family of the Prophet @, who are forbidden to receive the zakāh or ṣadaqah. His khilāfa was four years, nine months and ten days.

2.2.4.1. Notable occurrences

The removal of the khilāfa from Madina to Kufa.

The civil war with Mu‘āwiya.

The emergence of the first Khawarij from within the ranks of ‘Alī’s army. They were foretold by the Prophet @ and that ‘Alī would fight them. Arguably they are the real issue of the time rather than the civil strife with Mu‘āwiya.

The beginning of the codification of Arabic grammar begun by Abi’l-Aswad ad-Du’ali at his command and under his supervision.

2.2.5. Al-Ḥasan ibn ‘Alī 

His khalīfa was his son al-Ḥasan who was khalīfa for six months and who negotiated the cession of the office to Mu‘āwiya ibn Abī Sufyān. Al-Ḥasan then retired to Madina. It is attributed to him that he then took up the task of tarbiya. The Messenger of Allah @ said about him:

وقد كان رسول الله  @ قال: إِنَّ ابْنِي هَذَا سَيِّدٌ وَلَعَلَّ اللَّهَ أَنْ يُصْلِحَ بِهِ بَيْنَ فِئَتَيْنِ عَظِيمَتَيْنِ مِنْ الْمُسْلِمِينَ.

(حم، أخرجه البخاري كتاب الصلح باب قول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم للحسن بن علي... (3/243). ص) خ 3 - عن أبي بكرة).

“This son of mine is a noble chief, and it is likely that Allah will reconcile two great parties of the Muslims by means of him.” 

2.2.6. Mu‘āwiya ibn Abī Sufyān 

Al-Ḥasan pledged allegiance to him in Rabi‘ al-Awwal in 41AH, which  was known as the Year of the Jamā‘a, leading to twenty years of undivided unity. Ibn Khaldun and others include Mu‘āwiya among al-Khulafā ar-Rāshidūn, ô whereas others erroneously think of him as the start of the rule of Bani Umayya even though they had had their first khalīfa in Sayyiduna ‘Uthmān î.

2.3. Bani Umayya

During their time the jihad continued and there was great expansion of the dawla in both the East and the West. The number of people who were Muslims during this time were only a couple of percent of the total population.

The epoch was greatly tested with many insurrections particularly by groups of Khawarij and proto-Shi‘a.

2.3.1. The second fitna

The second fitna began during the khilāfa of Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya, and comprises the killing of al-Ḥusayn in Kerbala, the atrocities of al-Ḥarra in Madina, the siege of Makka, and ended with the death of ‘Abdullāh ibn az-Zubayr who had proclaimed himself khalīfa in Makka in opposition to the Umayyads. Al-Ḥajjāj defeated and killed ‘Abdullāh during the khilāfa of ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.

2.3.2. ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (646–705) 

Instituted the first mintings of Dinars and Dirhams according to the standard of ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb.

Made Arabic the official language of government.

Under him, al-Ḥajjāj who was instrumental in the above rulings

2.3.3. Marwan ibn Muhammad ibn Marwan

The last of Bani Umayya. He was killed in Rabi‘ of 132AH. The Umayyads lasted for 90 years, 11 months and 17 days.

2.3.4. Notable Occurrences

The Opening of al-Andalus to Islam in 92AH at the hands of Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād the mawlā of Mūsā ibn Nuṣayr the governor of Ifriqiyya.

2.4. Banī al-‘Abbās: the Rise

During their time the miracle of the spread of Islam among the population occurred, all the seeds for which had been planted previously.

2.4.1. Notable Occurrences

The loss of Andalus, North Africa and Egypt, and in the East, Khurasan, so that never again was the khilāfa united.

‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Mu‘āwiya ibn Hishām establishes the amirate of Bani Umayya in Andalus in 138AH.

The miḥna (inquisition) during which the ascendant Mu‘tazila used the force of the dawla to have ‘ulamā’ and fuqahā’ interrogated as to their belief in the tenets of the Mu‘tazila creed. The miḥna was ended by al-Wāthiq.

It was during this period that the fuqahā’ consolidated the madhhabs of fiqh, and the ‘ulamā’ of kalam formed the intellectual schools of ‘aqīda.

2.5. Banī al-‘Abbās: the Decline

Later ‘Abbasid rule, which began with the murder of al-Mutawakkil by his own troops, saw the decline of their power and the reduction of the khalīfa himself to the figure of a kind of pope, completely passive and ceremonial,  a prisoner in the hands of the troops, without any substantive power. It also saw the abandonment of jihad.

2.5.1. Notable Events

‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Abdullāh assumes the title of Amīr al-Mu’minīn and Khalīfa in Andalus in 316AH/929CE and rules for fifty years. The dynasty lasts a century.

Al-Mu‘taṣim was the last of them. He was killed in Baghdad in 656. The number of their khalīfas were thirty-seven, and they reigned for 524 years.

The Mongols swept away the remnants of ‘Abbasid power, arguably leaving a clean new slate for the Osmanlı.

2.6. The Osmanlı

The Osmanlı revived the waging of jihad. What is less well known is that they undertook the tarbiya that is the very core of the prophetic message, through the various futuwwa institutions.

2.6.1. Notable Occurrences

Osman al-Ghazi became the ruler in 687AH under the Seljuqs and it is from his reign that we date the Osmanlı and it is after him they are named.

“The third Osmanlı Khân Murâd (726AH/1362CE-791AH/1389CE) Hudâvendigâr, refers to his capital Edirne (Adrianopolis) as dârul khilâfat.” Prof. Maksudoglu considers this the correct date for the beginning of the Osmanlı khilāfa and not 1517CE. This latter date is based on the last Abbasid khalifah al-Mutawakkil III surrendering the title formally to Selim I.

Mehmed II (1432/1481): Opened Constantinople to Islam in 805/1453. That is foretold in a famous hadith in the Musnad of Imām Aḥmad.

Sulaiman al-Kanuni (6 November 1494CE – 5/6/7 September 1566CE): promulgated his Kanun law alongside sharī‘a. He took jihad right up to the gates of Vienna in 1529 CE.

Maḥmūd II (20 July 1789CE – 1255AH/1839CE), ‘the Reformer’, laboured to modernise the army and the bureaucracy and all of Osmanlı society. The Tanzimat (1839-1876CE) was the continuation of the reforms which resulted in the First Constitution.

2.6.2. Al-Majalla

The first ever codification of sharī‘a law 1869-76. It was made law in 1877.

2.7. The Interregnum

2.7.1. Modernity

We could say that in the colonial era and amid the collapse of the khilāfa and other power centres, the dominant culture ‘ate’ the umma and is now suffering indigestion. We can also say that in recent centuries, the Muslims ate modernity and are now suffering indigestion. 

2.7.2. Technology 

The great issue is the nature of technology, which is not necessarily the same thing as machines, and its impact on our age. 

2.7.3. Banking

The most significant of all technology is the technologisation of money and commerce, which also drives the speed and impact of all other technology.

2.7.4. The Islamic State

Another aspect relating to technology that appeared around the fall of the khilāfa was the technologisation of governance. The greatest impact upon the Muslims after the covert one of finance and banking has been in the infatuation with foreign models of the national state, initially autocratic and authoritarian ones. It later evolved into an engagement with the model of representative democracy. Contrary to the critique that says that colonial powers imposed modern finance and autocracy on the Muslims, it rather represented the Muslims’ own aspirations and their first engagement with modernity. A mistake.

3. The Fruit of its study

3.1. Narrative

One’s knowledge of history becomes a part of one’s narrative as an individual and as a society and that contributes to the formation of identity. There are two primal types of narrative: open and closed.

3.1.1. Closed narrative

The closed narrative works by excluding material that does not fit. It initially seems to be an act of ‘definition’, i.e. placing bounds on the subject, but the difference is that the bounds are arbitrary or due to a hidden prejudice or passion, a hawā. This restriction can bring a certain power but in the end it is self-defeating since it excludes matters that really ought to be considered.

A closed narrative is one which fails to take into account the point of view of others. In extremis it is the narrative of the psychopath. 

An example of a closed narrative is the the dominant ‘scientific’ narrative that, despite claims of being ‘open’, in fact is a closed narrative that dismisses a great deal without proper open examination and that starts from premises that are not actually scientific. Nevertheless, its apparent openness, even if only a claim, is very attractive and has given it genuine power, particularly because it is wed to actual political and military power and the very considerable wealth of modern finance. The root of this psychopathic condition has its clearest manifestation today in the practice of usury. It is the act of taking increase from one’s ‘brother’ in his hour of need thus transforming him into the ‘other’ and, in Prof. Benjamin Nelson’s inimitable phrase, transforms a society of ‘tribal brotherhood into one of universal otherhood’. 

Another example of an apparently closed narrative is to be found in many parts of the Muslim world. It is clearly a failed narrative. It is determined either to emulate the narrative of the psychopathic dominant order because what is important is to be dominant and everything else is subsumed under that imperative or to define itself in opposition to that order. Thus in the first instance, the contemporary Muslim world has no other wish than to absorb what it can from its psychopathic opponent – even if those are not the values of Islam – and thus come to dominate it. It is this society that the Muslim world today wishes to emulate, to swap one closed dysfunctional and defeated narrative for another victorious but psychopathic narrative. In the second instance, rejectionists simply define themselves as whatever is opposite to the dominant order.

This is actually a closed narrative based on a ‘ressentiment’, a psychological condition defined as a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one's frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one's frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the "cause" generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one's frustration. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.

3.1.2. Open narrative

The open narrative is riskier since it has to allow for material that appears not to fit and for arguments that seem to contradict but in the end it is more stable because it deals with everything before it.

The very nature of Islam is of an open narrative. The Noble Book speaks of all the arguments against the existence of the Divine or in favour of a plurality of divinities, it speaks of the prophets and messengers, whether explicitly or implicitly, those we know and those we don’t insisting on the universality of the message, and it tells universal stories of man throughout time, of every culture. This is different from the modernists who say that we are friends of the People of the Book. It is different from saying that we think their dīn is acceptable. But it is permitted to them to live under our governance when we govern and it is permitted to us to live under their governance where they govern under certain conditions.

Intrinsically our narrative is an open one. 

Our ‘aqīdah was not established by a church but by the open discussion and indeed controversy of the people of knowledge. Similarly, our fiqh was not established by diktat but by the very fundamental differences of the Companions themselves and the later generations, their differing understandings of the Sunnah and subsequent ijtihads. The four madhhabs enshrine those differences that have stood the test of time. Indeed, the Qur’ān itself contains an open ‘argument’ with disbelievers, the People of the Book and others, and calls on them to bring a trenchant criticism of the revelation and to provide proof for their position. The Islamic narrative is intrinsically an open one and only suffers if it is closed.

3.2. Identity

History and the narrative to which it gives rise brings about clarity in the identity and a historical orientation which is a fundamental necessity of psychological health.

3.3. Restoration

The fruit of its study is the understanding of the khalīfas and thus of what it is to be a khalīfa.

4. Its merit (وَفَضْلُهُ)

Since this knowledge is intimately connected to the very nature of the second half of the shahada, it has high merit, because the khalifa is the successor of the Messenger of Allah @ and not merely the ruler who succeeded him.

5. Its relationship to other sciences (وَنِسْبَةٌ)

Khilāfa is, according to the Ash‘ari school but not the Maturidi, comprised under ‘aqīda, as was the view of representatives of the older ‘Athari’ school of ‘aqīdah, aṭ-Ṭaḥāwī and Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī.

6. Its founder (وَالْوَاضِعْ)

Although there are many illustrious names who have written on the history of  the khalīfas, there is only one whom we could look on as the founder of this discipline that we are talking about: Ibn Khaldun. He alone looked back over history, during the very first interregnum of khalīfal power,  and, looking with the eye of the sharī‘a and the eye of accurate observation and understanding of power, delineated an understanding that lacked fantastic elements and yet was true to the revelation. However, along with him then we have to acknowledge the historians who preceded him who carefully transmitted and sifted historical traditions and reports, paramount among whom is aṭ-Ṭabarī.

7. Its name (وَالْاِسْمُ)

History of the Khalīfas (tarikh al-khulafa or siyar al-khulafa).

8. Its sources and references (الْاِسْتِمْدَادُ)

8.1. Transmissions (أخبار)

Tarikh of at-Tabari. Secondary sources include as-Suyuti’s Tarikh al-khulafa, an eclectic assembly of reports, and Ibn Katheer’s al-Bidaya wa’n-Nihaya.

8.2. Knowledge (علم)

Its sources are the Muqaddima of Ibn Khaldun and his Kitab al-‘Ibar, and other vital works such as The Defence Against Disaster of Qadi Abū Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi, works which seek to understand what happened, how it happened and why it happened, and the History of the Caliphs of Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti for an overview of events and personalities. For Osmanlı history, there is the work of Halil Inalçik and Prof. Mehmet Maksudoglu. 

9. The judgement of the shari‘ (حُكْمُ الشَّارِعْ)

Knowledge of the history of the khalīfas is farḍ kifāya – a communal obligation – because that without which a communal obligation cannot be discharged becomes itself a communal obligation. Since the khilāfa is a communal obligation, then this knowledge becomes obligatory for the restoration of it in two ways: it comprises knowledge of the strengths of the khalīfas and also the weaknesses that lead and led to defeat.

10. Its issues (مسائل)

10.1. What happened (أخبار)?

The transmission of reports establishing what actually took place.

10.2. When did it happen (تاريخ)?

The chronological arrangement of what happened thereby understanding the context and the relation between events.

10.3. Who were involved (سير)?

The biographical understanding of the people involved in the events.

10.4. How did it come about (رواية)?

The construction of meaningful and coherent narratives.

10.5. Why did it happen (دراية)?

The critical examination of the reasons and consequences of the dynamics of historical change in a way that will enable one to understand other events and their circumstances.

وَالْبَعْضُ بِالْبَعْضِ اكْتَفَى وَمَنْ دَرَى الْجَمِيعَ حَازَ الشَّرَفَا

…and some people content themselves with a part of it

but whoever knows them all gains pre-eminence.


That brings us to the end of today’s lecture. I would recommend as further reading for this course that you study the notes of this lecture, and in particular the two appendices, and that you begin to look up topics in Ibn Khaldūn’s Muqaddima, particularly those pertaining to the khilāfa.

The subject of our next lecture is the Khulafa Rashidun part 1. The best introductory reading to that is the first two chapters of my own translation of as-Suyuti’s book Tarikh al-Khulafa published as the History of the Khalifas who took the right way. Thank you for your attention. Assalamu alaykum.

About the course

Content: Covers the political and biographical history of the khalifas from al-Khulafā ar-Rāshidūn to the sultans of the Osmanli caliphate in order to to provide an understanding of political changes throughout the history of the caliphates, with particular reference to the importance of the leading figures. Although focusing on bio-political history, the course also covers the political, social, military, economic, ideological and sectarian changes during the different caliphates. The aim is to analyse the changes and historical events leading up to the present day situation and relating the history of the caliphs to the interregnum that faces the contemporary umma. The course will also present an overview of the history writing of Islam in relation to the different caliphs and caliphates, which furthermore provides the necessary perspectives and theories needed for understanding historical events.

Tutorial and examination: The students will have tutorials with the teachers and an exam is required to complete the course as a part of the degrees. The student essays will be the main exam of the course and the essays of particular distinction will also be published in the online Faculty Library. However, all courses and classes are open for participation with or without completing the written essay.

Degree: The course is available as a part of the degree in History of the Muslims.

Teachers: Abdalhaqq Bewley, Aisha Bewley, Abdassamad Clarke, Uthman Ibrahim Morrison, Abdalhakim Andersson, Asadullah Yate.


READING LIST FOR THE COURSE


Bewley, Aisha 2002. Mu‘awiya: The Restorer of Muslim Faith. Dar al-Taqwa, London.

Dan Fodio, ‘Uthmān 1978 بيان وجوب الهجرة على العباد وبيان وجوب نصب الإمام وإقامة الجهاد [Bayān wujūb al-hijrah ‘ala al-‘ibād wa bayān wujūb nasb imām wa iqāmat al-jihād], translation by F. H. El Masri, Khartoum: University of Khartoum Press.

Ibn al-‘Arabi, Abu Bakr 1995. Defence Against Disaster. Trans. Aisha Bewley. Madinah Press, Granada.

Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddima. (http://muslimphilosophy.com/ik/Muqaddimah/index.htm)

Inalcik, Halil 1973. History of the Ottoman Empire: Classical Age / 1300-1600. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.

Maksudoglu, Mehmet 2011. Osmanlı History and Institutions. Ensar Kitab, Istanbul.

(http://Www.Ensarkitap.Com/prddet.php?pid=731485)

as-Sufi, Shaykh Abdalqadir 1996. The Return of the Khalifate. Madinah Press, Granada.

as-Suyuti, Jalaluddin 1995. History of the Khalifas – Who Took the Right Way. Trans. Abdassamad Clarke. Ta-Ha Publishers, London. (http://www.tahapublishers.com/the%2Dhistory%2Dof%2Dthe%2Dkhalifahs%7E251)

------ 1881. History of the Caliphs. (http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924023164654)


The above are recommended reading. Students are encouraged to explore further and discover their own sources as well as reading other works mentioned in the lectures.

Appendix 1 – Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio on the Obligation of Appointing a Caliph (Imām)2

I say, and tawfīq is from Allah: Be it known that there is consensus on the point that it is the duty of the Muslims to appoint an Imām according to the law. With regard to the words of the versifier:

‘It is an obligation to appoint a just Imām. Know that this is by divine precept, not the judgement of human reasoning.’

[Commenting on this] Al-Laqqāni said in his Itḥāf [1]: ‘That is, to appoint and install an Imām. This law is addressed to the whole community (umma) as from the death of the Prophet (عليه الصلاة و السلام) until the Day of Resurrection; but when the influential men (ahl al-ḥall wa al-‘aqd) perform this task, it suffices for all, no matter whether it be in times of civil strife or otherwise. This is according to the Sunnis, and, when [the term] Imamate is used unrestrictedly, it means the Caliphate, which is an overall leadership embracing all religious and temporal affairs – [undertaken] on behalf of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم).’

Expounding the meaning of ‘by divine precept’ Al- Laqqāni said: ‘It means that the obligation of appointing an Imām over the community (umma) is based on divine law, according to the Sunnis, // for a number of reasons, the chief of which is the ijmā‘ of the Companions (رضي الله عنهم) who so emphasised it that they considered it the most important of duties and were distracted by it from burying the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). A similar [situation has occurred] following the death of every Imām up to the present day. However, their disagreement on who is suitable for the office of Caliph does not detract from their agreement on the obligation of appointing one. Thus none of them said that there was no need for an Imām.’

Al-Subki said: ‘According to the Consensus of the Companions (رضي الله عنهم) after the death of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), men should appoint an Imām who will look after their interests. They gave this precedence over all other obligations and people have been abiding by this over the ages. Even if the appointed Imām is not the most suitable, nevertheless the mere act of appointing him is sufficient to discharge the [religious] obligation.’

[1] itḥāf al-murīd sharḥ jawharat al-tawḥīd

[‘Uthmān Dan Fodio, بيان وجوب الهجرة على العباد وبيان وجوب نصب الإمام وإقامة الجهاد [bayān wujūb al-hijrah ‘ala al-‘ibād wa bayān wujūb nasb imām wa iqāmat al-jihād], translation by F. H. El Masri, Khartoum: University of Khartoum Press, 1978]

Appendix 2 – The Imamate, from Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi

This absolutely representative passage from Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi’s al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyya sums up very succinctly a number of key elements of khilafa.


On the Imamate concerning which there are two issues:

First issue: on affirmation of the Imamate of the Four Khulafa, may Allah be pleased with them. The proof of the Imamate of all of them has three aspects: First, each of them united the conditions of the Imamate completely; Second, the Muslims who lived in the time of each one of them were unanimous in pledging allegiance to him and in coming under obedience to him, and consensus is a proof; third, that companionship (with the Prophet, ) which each of them had, emigration, majestic deeds, Allah’s praise of them, and the Truthful One’s bearing witness of the Garden for them. Moreover the Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu alaihi wa sallam, indicated the Khilafah of Abu Bakr and cUmar, and he commanded that people model themselves on them. He put Abu Bakr in charge of the Farewell Hajj and made him lead the prayer in his final illness which is an indication of his being appointed Khalifah. Then Abu Bakr appointed cUmar Khalifah, then cUmar made the matter the business of consulation among six [people] and they agreed on putting cUthman forward. He was wrongfully killed, for which there is the testimony of the Prophet , salla’llahu alaihi wa sallam, and his promise to him of the Garden for that. Then the man with most right to it was cAli because of his noble rank and his sublime virtues. As for that which happened between cAli and Mucawiyyah and those Companions with each of them, then the most fitting thing is to withhold oneself from mentioning it, and that they should be remembered in the best way, and that one should seek the best interpretation for them, because it was a matter of ijtihad. As for cAli and those with him, they were on the truth because they exercised ijtihad and were correct [in it] and so they will be rewarded. As for Mucawiyyah and those with him, they exercised ijtihad and were mistaken, and they are to be excused. It is required that one respect them and all of the Companions and love them because of the praise of them that occurs in Qur’an and because of their accompanying the Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu alaihi wa sallam. He, salla’llahu alaihi wa sallam, said, “Allah! Allah! concerning my companions. Do not make them a target after me. Whoever loves them, then it is for love of me he loves them. Whoever hates them, it is because of hatred of me that he hates them. Whoever harms them has harmed me, and whoever harms me has harmed Allah.”

The Second Issue: the pre-conditions of the Imamate are eight: Islam, maturity (puberty), intellect (i.e. sanity), maleness, justice, knowledge, competence, and that his descent should be from Quraysh, but on this [last] there is a difference of opinion, so that if people agree [on pledging allegiance] to one who does not meet all of the conditions then it is permitted, from fear of causing dissension and sedition. 

It is not permitted to rise up against the people in authority even if they are tyrannical, unless they openly display clear disbelief. It is obligatory to obey them in whatever a man loves and dislikes, unless they order disobedience [to Allah] for there is no obedience due to a creature it if involves disobedience to the Creator.


1 Abū Dāwūd, kitāb al-adab, bāb fi’l-‘aṣabiyya, No. 5121.

2 Accessed at http://scholars1.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/uthman-dan-fodio-on-the-obligation-of-appointing-a-caliph-imam/ on 1/9/2012.