They are some who argue that having more than one Khalifah at one time and the multiplicity of Muslim states like we have today is an area of legitimate difference of opinion. They say that the ahadith about this issue are not definitive, not clear in meaning and that there is no Ijma (consensus) upon this issue. They also misconstrue the statements of classical scholars to justify this. Despite the fact that the states today don’t even rule by Islam we should look at this issue from the Islamic evidences.
It is important to appreciate that there are ahkam which are from authentic texts which are definitive in meaning and if rejected makes someone a fasiq and not a Kafir. Just because something is not Qat'i thuboot (definitive by transmission) and Qat'i dalalah (definitive by meaning) – this doesn't mean that issue automatically becomes ikhtilafi (subject to legitimate difference of opinion).
There are many ahadith which are clear in meaning regarding this subject such as:
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri narrated that the Prophet (saw) said: "When the oath of allegiance has been taken for two Khalifs, kill the latter of them". [Muslim]
Abdullah b. ‘Amru b. al-‘A'as said that he heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say: "Whoever pledged allegiance to an Imam giving him the clasp of his hand and the fruit of his heart, he should obey him as long as he can, and if another comes to dispute with him, you must strike the neck of the latter". [Muslim]
Afrajah said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say: "Whosoever comes to you while your affairs has been united under one man, intending to break your strength or dissolve your unity, kill him." [Muslim]
Muslim reported that Abu Hazim said: I accompanied Abu Hurayra for five years and heard him talking about the Messenger of Allah (saw), he said: "The children of Israel have been governed by Prophets; whenever a Prophet died another Prophet succeeded him; but there will be no prophet after me. There will soon be Khulafa’a and they will number many (in one time); they asked: What then do you order us? He (saw) said: Fulfil allegiance to them, the first of them, the first of them, and give them their dues; for verily Allah will ask them about what he entrusted them with". [Muslim]
Some use a strange argument to legitimise ignoring the Ijma of the Sahabah, they claim that as one of the Sahabah initially proposed having two rulers after the death of the Prophet (saw) this means that it is allowed.
It is true that it is narrated that Al-Habbab Ibn ul-Munthir (ra) said when the Sahaba met in the wake of the death of the Prophet (saw) (at the thaqifa hall) of Bani Sa'ida:
"Let there be one Amir from us and one Amir from you (meaning one from the Ansar and one from the Muhajireen)".
Have they forgotten what Abu Bakr replied: "It is forbidden for Muslims to have two Amirs (rulers)..." Then he got up and addressed the Muslims. [‘As-Sira’ of Ibnu Kathir, ‘Tarikh ut-Tabari’ by at-Tabari, ‘Siratu Ibn Hisham’ by Ibn Hisham, ‘As-Sunan ul-Kubra’ of Bayhaqi, ‘Al-fasil-fil Milal’ by Ibnu Hazim and "Al-A'kd Al-Farid" of Al-Waqidi]
It has additionally been reported in "as-Sirah" of Ibnu Ishaq that Abu Bakr went on to say on the day of Thaqifa: "It is forbidden for Muslims to have two Amirs for this would cause differences in their affairs and concepts, their unity would be divided and disputes would break out amongst them. The Sunnah would then be abandoned, the bida'a (innovations) would spread and Fitna would grow, and that is in no one's interests".
Just because Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) after the Prophet (saw) passed away initially was adamant that the Prophet (saw) was not dead, this doesn’t mean that it makes it a legitimate opinion. He was clearly mistaken and accepted this when Abu Bakr (ra) corrected him just as Habbab Ibn ul-Munthir realised this and was the first to give the pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr (ra)
In fact if we read another narration of the incident it is clear that Habbab was emotional when he made the suggestion and it is clear that he wasn’t arguing on the basis of evidence.
When Al-Habbab b. Al-Munthir b. Aljamouh, one from the Ansar, noticed that everybody was at ease with Abu Bakr's proposal, he was afraid that the meeting might be adjourned without pledging allegiance to a Khaleefah from the Ansar. So he stood up and said: “O people of Al-Ansar, have control of your own matters, for the people are in your shadow, and nobody would dare to disagree with you. People will not express except according to your opinion. You are the people of power and wealth. You are the majority and people of strength, experience, fortitude and help of others. People are ever watchful of your actions. So do not differ, otherwise this will weaken your opinion, and your affair will crumple. These people will only take what you just heard. An Ameer from amongst us and an Ameer from amongst them.”
The moment Al-Habbab finished his speech, Umar b. Al-Khattab stood up and said: “There is no way for two (leaders) together at any one time. By Allah the Arabs will not accept to make you leaders and their Prophet is from other than you. The Arabs have no objection to surrendering their affairs to those in whom the Prophethood came, and the man in authority of their affairs is whoever is from amongst them. Thus we have with this the clear proof and evident evidence against whoever from the Arabs who might refuse. Who disputes with us regarding the authority of Muhammad and his leadership, when we are his close friends and his tribe, except someone dispensing falsehood, or indulging in sin, or involved in a catastrophe.”
When Al-Habbab heard this, he stood up and replied: “O people of Al-Ansar control yourselves, and do not listen to the words of this man and his companions, otherwise they take your share of this matter (authority). If they refused your demands then oust them from these lands, and hold this matter over them. For by Allah, you are more deserving in this matter than them, since it was by your swords that those who did not submit to this Deen were forced to submit. I am the one who is most fit, and most experienced for it. However, by Allah, if you wish, we will go back to where we started.'”
When Umar heard him he became angry and said: "If so, may Allah kill you". Al-Hubab answered "But you whom He will kill", reaching for his sword as he spoke, but Umar hit his hand, making his sword fall, and Umar seized it.
At this crucial moment Abu Ubaydah b. Al-Jarrah, having kept silent until then, interfered in the matter. He stood up and spoke to the Ansar: "O people of Al-Ansar, you were the first of who helped and supported, so do not be the first of those who changed and reverted."
Besides this, what about the Ijma as-Sahabah that took place when Umar bin al-Khattab was stabbed. He said:
"You have this group whom, when the Messenger of Allah (saw) died, he was pleased with them, and he said about them: They are the people of paradise: Ali b. Talib, Uthman b. Affan, Sa’ad b. Abi Waqqas, Abdur Rahman ibn Awf, Az- Zubayr b. Al Awwam, and Talha b. Ubaydullah. Let Abdullah ibn Umar be with them, but let him have only an opinion without having anything in the matter of Khilafah."
Umar advised these six people to select a Khaleefah, and appointed to them a three day time limit. After a long talk with them he said: "When I die, consult for three days, and let Suhaib (in these days) lead the Muslims in prayer. Do not let the fourth day come without having an Ameer upon you." He also appointed Abu Talha Al-Ansari to protect the gathering and to encourage them in their task, and he said to him: "O Abu Talha, Allah (swt) has helped Islam by you (i.e. the Ansar) so select fifty men from the Ansar, and urge these (six) people to select one from amongst them." He asked Al-Muqdad ibn Al-Aswad to select the place of the meeting and said to him : "After you put me in my grave, gather these (six) people in a house till they select one man from themselves." Then he asked Suhaib to monitor the meeting and said to him: "Lead the people in prayer three days, and let Ali, Uthman, Az-Zubayr, Sa’ad, Abdul Rahman b. Awf, and Talha, if he came back (from his travel) and bring in Abdullah b. Umar, without allowing him any personal interest in the matter, and stand at their heads (i.e. supervise them). If five agreed and accepted one man, while one man rejected, then hit his head with the sword. If four consented and agreed on one man, and two disagreed, then kill the dissenters with the sword. If three agreed on one man and three disagreed then let Abdullah bin Umar arbitrate. The group which Abdullah b. Umar judged for, let them select one from them. If they did not accept the judgement of Abdullah b. Umar, then be (all of you) with the group in which is Abdul Rahman b. Awf, and kill the rest if they declined to accept what the people agreed upon."
If having more than one Khalifah was allowed why did Ali (ra) fight against Mu’awiya for not giving him the Bay’ah as the Khalifah, why did Abdullah ibn Zubair (ra) fight against Yazid – they could have easily avoided bloodshed and the death of many of the Sahabah by permitting more than one Khalifah, but they didn’t as they knew it was prohibited to do so. If the issue was about Maslaha (interests) of the Muslims, then surely stopping the Fitna and spilling of Muslim blood is a great Maslaha, yet they the Sahabah didn’t see that as an excuse to legitimise having more than one Khalifah.
It is true that some of the classical scholars discussed scenarios such as:
- If there were two Khulafah in different parts of the world and they did not know of each other then both would be legitimate until they found out then one would have to step down.
- If there was a rebellious part of the Islamic state like at the time of Mu’awiya’s rebellion against Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) it would still be considered as Dar al-Islam.
- If the Imam’s were so far apart (which was a possibility then) that it was impossible for one of them to supervise the other region.
Ibn Khaldun says:
“It is not possible to appoint two men to the position (of imam) at the same time. Religious scholars generally are of this opinion, on the basis of certain traditions. Those traditions are found in the book, "On Leadership (imarah)," in the Sahih by Muslim. They expressly indicate that this is so.
Others hold that (the prohibition against two imams) applies only to two imams in one locality, or where they would be close to each other. When there are great distances and the imam is unable to control the farther region, it is permissible to set up another imam there to take care of public interests.
Among the famous authorities who are reported to have held this opinion is Professor Abu Ishaq al-Isfariyini, the leading speculative theologian. The Imam al-Haramayn also showed himself inclined toward it in his Kitab al-Irshad. The opinions of the Spaniards and Maghribis often make it evident that they, too, were inclined toward it.” [Al-Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun]
Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni wrote:
“On Election, It's Characteristics, and How the Imamate is to Be Invested
On investing the imamate in two individuals
Our associates agree on precluding the investing of two different individuals with the imamate at either end of the world. But, they add: If it should happen that two different persons were invested with the imamate, that would be analogous to the situation of two guardians contracting a marriage for the same woman to two different suitors without either being aware of the other's contract. The decision in the matter rests on the application of jurisprudence. My opinion on this issue is that investiture of two individuals with the imamate in a single locality within relatively restricted boundaries and limited provinces is not permitted and the investiture should be in accord with a consensus. But, when the distances are great and the two Imams quite remote from each other, there is room to allow it, although this cannot be established conclusively.” [A Guide o the Conclusive Proofs for the Principles of Belief" (Kitab al-irshad ila qawati' al-adilla fi usul al-i'tiqad) p 234]
Imam Mawardi wrote:
“The investment of two sovereigns in two different cities is invalid in both cases, for the Community may not have two rulers simultaneously, even though there are some dissenting voices who would make that permissible. Jurists are disagreed regarding which one of the two should be sovereign. One party take him to be the one elected in the city where the previous leader died, because its residents are more entitled to make the choice, the rest of the Community in other districts delegating the task to them and investing the one they elect, so that no disunity is caused by differences of opinion and multiplicity of private interests. Others have suggested that each one of the two must give up the office in favour of his opponent, thus allowing the electors to opt for one or the other, in order to secure peace and ward off civil strife. Still another group have argued that lost must be drawn to prevent discord and end the dispute, the stronger claim to leadership being determined by the winner. Now, the truth of the matter is that the greater claim really belongs to the one who receives the vote of allegiance before the other, as in the case of a woman married off by her guardians to two men, for the marriage is effective only with the first of the two to conclude. Thus once the earlier appointee has been determined, the office is his, and the runner-up must concede him the leadership and vow allegiance to him. If the two, however, are invested simultaneously, their investment is invalid and the process is resumed either to choose one of them or a different candidate not known to whom, the issue is settled by evidence of priority in time. Thus, if the two adversaries claim each to have been invested earlier than the other, the claim is not considered and neither is sworn in support of it because the matter does not concern them alone but all Muslims. Neither the taking of the oath nor declining to take it is relevant to the question; indeed, were one to give up the fight and hand the office over to his opponent, the latter's right to it is still only established on the basis of evidence of his earlier investment. Even the admission by one that the other has preceded him merely excludes the testifier from office, albeit without confirming the other's right to it, for the testimony given applies to a right that pertains to the Muslim Community in its entirety. A concession of temporal precedence rendered by the adversary, on the other hand, is admitted provided it is corroborated by the testimony of an independent witness and he asserts that he had not been sure of the facts at the time when the quarrel started, but it is rejected if he does not mention his uncertainty, on account of the contradiction between the two statements.” ["The Ordinances of Government” (Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya w'al-Wilayat al-Diniyyya) pg. 7-8]
They discussed scenarios which were possible in their time when the means of communication was the pen and the means of transportation was via animals and ships. They did not discuss the reality of what exists today. Today it is clearly possible for one Khalifah to supervise the affairs in a geographically large state spanning the globe, therefore what these scholars said does not apply.
Ash-Shawkani wrote: "It is known from Islam by necessity (bi-dharoorah) that Islam has forbidden division amongst Muslims and the segregation of their land". [Tafseer al-Qur'an al-Atheem, Shawkani, volume 2, p. 215]
Imam Al-Juzairi, an expert on the Fiqh of the four Sunni schools of thought said regarding the opinion of the four Imams, “...It is forbidden for Muslims to have two Imams in the world whether in agreement or discord." [‘Fiqh ul-Mathahib ul- Arba'a’ (the fiqh of the four schools of thought), al-Juzairi, volume 5, p. 416]
Ibn Taymiyyah says: "It is essential that we know that leadership is one of the most greatest obligations of Deen. As a matter of fact, there is no Deen without it. The children of Adam will not fulfil their needs unless they get together for their needs. And when they get together, they must have a leader. For this reason, the prophet (saw) says: "If three are travelling, there must be a leader amongst them." So, the prophet (saw) mandated that one is to be appointed as the leader in a simple situation where three people are travelling. This is to make us aware of other important types of get-togethers." [Book As-Siyasah As-Shar'iyah, p.138 & 139]
Al-Imam Al-Mawardi in his book Al-Ahkam Al-Sultaniyah page 9 says: "It is forbidden for the Ummah to have two Imams at the same time."
Al-Imam Al-Nawawi in his book Mughni Al-Muhtaj, volume 4, page 132 says: "It is forbidden to give an oath to two Imams or more, even in different parts of the world and even if they are far apart".
Al-Imam Al Qalqashandi in his book Subul Al-Asha, volume 9, page 277 says, "It is forbidden to appoint two Imams at the same time".
Al-Imam Ibnu Hazm in his book Al-Muhalla, volume 9, page 360 says, "It is permitted to have only one Imam in the whole of the world."
Al-Imam Al-Sha'rani in his book Al-Mizan, volume 2, page 157 says: “It is forbidden for Muslims to have in the whole world and at the same time two Imams whether in agreement or discord."
Al-Imam Al-Qadi Abdul-Jabbar in his book Al-Mughni fi abwab Al-Tawheed, volume 20, page 243, says: "It is forbidden to give the oath to more than one."
The Shia schools of thought and others expressed the same opinion about this, whoever wishes to explore this in detail can refer to the book of Al-Fasl Fil-Milal, volume 4, page 62, and the book of Matalib Ulil-Amr and the book of Maqalat Al-Islamyin, volume 2,page 134, or the Book of Al-Moghni Fi Abuab Al-Tawhid, volume 20, pages 58-145.