Misapplication of the Bay’a (pledge of allegiance) in Islamic History
The second principle of the Islamic ruling system is that ‘Authority belongs to the Muslim Ummah.’ The Khaleefah is not a king or dictator who imposes his authority on the people through coercion and force. The Khaleefah’s authority to rule MUST be given willingly by the Muslims through the Islamic ruling contract known as bay’a. Without this bay’a the Khaleefah cannot rule.
Unfortunately, after the time of the rightly guided Khulufaa which lasted 30 years Muawiya came to power and instigated the start of a hereditary bay’a where sons or family members would assume power after the Khaleefah’s death.
“The Khilafah in my Ummah will be for thirty years. Then there will be Mulk (kingdom) after that.” (Tirmidhi)
This doesn’t mean the Khilafah stopped after 30 years, rather it means the Khilafah based on prophethood (following the sunnah) which we refer to as the Khilafah Rashidah stopped and then the Khilafah continued but had the characteristic of a monarchy due to hereditary rule.
Why did the ulema use the title Malik (King) for the Khulufaa?
Ibn Kathir in Bidiyah wan-Nihiya states, ‘The first monarchy began with the rule of Mu‘awiyah, making him the first king (Malik) in Islam and the best of them all.’
The reason the ulema used the title Malik for the Umayyad and Abbasid Khulufaa was because these Khulufaa were not following completely in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in ruling. Abu Bakr, the first Khaleefah was given this title because Khaleefah means successor and Abu Bakr was a successor to the Prophet ﷺ in ruling.
Abul-Hassan al-Mawardi in his classical ruling system book Ahkam as-Sultaniyyahstates, “He is called the Khaleefah (successor) as he stands in for the Messenger of Allah at the head of his Ummah and so it is permitted for someone say, ‘O, Khaleefah of the Messenger of Allah!’ or for someone to say, ‘Khaleefah’ on its own.”
Was the Khaleefah sovereign like the Byzantine and Persian Kings?
It should be noted that the Khaleefah was never sovereign like the Byzantine and Persian Kings because sovereignty was always to the sharia. Clear evidence of this is the justification the ulema used for hereditary rule which was a shubhat daleel(semblance of an evidence) derived through ijtihad.
Mawardi states: “Imamate comes into being in two ways: the first of these is by the election of those of power and influence, and the second is by the delegation of the previous Imam…
It is permitted for the Khaleefah to designate succession to two persons or more and to lay down an order of succession amongst them by saying, ‘The Khaleefah after me is such and such a person, and if he dies then the Khaleefah after his death will be such and such, and if he dies then the Khaleefah after him will be such and such a person.’ Thus the Khilafah will be transferred to the three persons in the order he has designated. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ designated Zayd ibn Harith as vice-commander over the army of Mu’tah saying, ‘If he is struck down then Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, and if he is struck then Abdullah ibn ar-Rawahah, and if he is struck then the Muslims should agree on another man.’ So it was that Zayd went forward and was killed, and then Ja’far took the banner and went forward and was killed; then Abdullah ibn ar-Rawahah took the banner, advanced and was killed and so the Muslims chose Khalid ibn al-Walid after him. If the Prophet ﷺ did this with regard to amirate, the like is permitted regarding the Khilafah. If it is argued that it is a contract of authority with a particular character and condition, and that contracts of authority are not based on such specific conditions and characteristics, then it must be replied that it is a general matter of public interest which should be addressed with more flexibility than in the case of private contracts between individuals.
This was acted upon during two dynasties (the Umayyads and the Abbasids) and none from amongst the ulema of the age have rejected it. Sulyman ibn Abdul-Malik pledged succession to Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz and then after him to Yazid ibn Abdul-Malik. Even though Sulayman’s judgement was not accepted as proof, his acceptance by those amongst the ulema of the Tabieen who were his contemporaries and among those, ‘who do not fear the censure of those who censure’ (Quran, 5:55), in matters regarding the truth constitutes a proof.”
Although Qiyas (analogy) cannot be done between the bay’a and appointment of army commanders because the contracts are completely different, this still represents a shubhat daleel for the ulema of the time.
Did any previous Khaleefah try and remove the hereditary bay’a?
As Mawardi mentions, “Imamate comes into being in two ways: the first of these is by the election of those of power and influence…” This is the method followed by the Khilafah Rashidah and which was formalised by the second Khaleefah Umar ibn Al-Khattab who appointed an electoral council of six nominees tasked with appointing one of them as the next Khaleefah. Umar stipulated that his son Abdullah ibn Umar could offer advice but would not be a nominee. This was to prevent hereditary rule entering in to the bay’a election process.
When Muawiya came to Abdullah ibn Umar seeking shura on his decision to appoint his son Yazid as the next Khaleefah, Abdullah ibn Umar said: “Indeed this Khilafah is not a Hercules-style nor a Roman-style nor a Chosroes-style ruling system, in which the sons inherit from their fathers; if it had been like this I would have taken over after my father; by Allah he only included me in the six nominees of al-Shurah on the basis that al-Khilafah was not a precondition; it is rather specifically within Quraysh for whoever is competent from among them, the Muslims would choose for themselves as being the most pious and the most suitable.”
Two Umayyad rulers tried to remove the misapplication of the bay’a and return to a system of shura. They are Muawiya bin Yazid and Umar bin Abdul-Aziz.
After Yazid the usurper died, his son Muawiya bin Yazid was given bay’a by some of the Ummah and is noted in history as an Umayyad Khaleefah. The strongest opinion is that Abdullah ibn Zubair was the legitimate Khaleefah at the time but the ummah and some of the ulema were split on who was a legitimate Khaleefah. This continued until Abdul-Malik bin Marwan defeated Abdullah ibn Zubair and the Khilafah became united again.
Muawiya bin Yazid was known for his piety and honesty. Ibn Kathir narrates that he would say, “O people! Indeed, I have been entrusted with your affairs while I am weak and unable. I would therefore like for you to concede leadership to a man of strength in the same manner that as-Siddiq (Abu Bakr) endowed Umar. If you will, then appoint a committee for consultation comprised of six persons from amongst you as Umar bin al-Khattab did; for just one of you cannot be right concerning it. And so, I have bequeathed your affairs to yourselves, therefore you should appoint the one that is most fitting to undertake leadership over you.”
Muawiya bin Yazid was only in power for a few months due to his ill health and his advice was not acted upon by subsequent Umayyad rulers.
Umar bin Abdul-Aziz is noted in history as one of the Khulufaa Rashidah for his righteous rule. Dr Muhammad as-Sallabi narrates the incident of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz’s bay’a.
“Having now officially assumed the seat of the Khilafah, Umar ascended the Minbar (pulpit) in what would be his first encounter with the Ummah. He said: “O people! I have been burdened with the responsibilities of the Khilafah against my own will and without your consent. I thereby remove the bay’a to me that is on your necks so that you are at liberty to elect anyone whom you like.” But the audience cried out with one voice that he was the fittest person for the high office and said: “We have chosen you, O Amir al-Mu’mineen, and we are pleased that you have blessed and honoured our good affair.” At this juncture, Umar sensed that he was not going to be able to evade bearing the responsibility of the Khilafah, and so he decided to go on with determining his method and approach in dealing with the politics of the Muslim Ummah…”
Unfortunately after Umar bin Abdul-Aziz’s death the Umayyads didn’t follow his example and continued with their hereditary bay’a.
Restricting ruling positions to those from a particular tribe and choosing rulers based on familial ties rather than merit will inevitably lead to instability and rulers emerging who are not capable to rule. This happened when one of the last Umayyad rulers Al-Waleed bin Yazeed bin Abdul Malik, who was nicknamed the Depraved by Ibn Kathir for his non-adherence to sharia. It should be noted that the red line in Islamic history was always the implementation of sharia. Even though some of the Khulufaa abused their positions, if they went too far and then violated the sharia rules they would be removed. This happened with Al-Waleed who was removed by his Umayyad relatives. Yazid bin ‘Anbasa who was part of the guard sent to remove him said, “Our grudge against you is because of your violating the prohibitions, drinking alcohol, your illicit relations with your stepmother and belittling the commandments of Allah.”
Also since there is no opportunity for anyone except the ruling family to be appointed to ruling positions then it leaves opponents only one option which is to fight the Khaleefah and physically remove him. This happened at the Battle of Zab where the Umayyads were wiped out by the Abbasids who then assumed power and took over the Khilafah. Like their Umayyad predecessors they followed the same path of hereditary bay’a.
One feature of hereditary rule is that depending on how many sons are born there is the possibility that very young leaders who are not capable of ruling can appear. This happened to the Abbasids when Al‐Muqtadir came to power in 908CE. Being incapable of ruling at such a young age he relied on a large council of Wazirs to run the state. Sensing weakness, the Fatimids under the leadership of al-Mahdi Billah broke away from the Abbasid Khilafah in 909CE and established their own state in Egypt which they called Khilafah. Some years later in 929CE Abd‐ar‐Rahman III proclaimed himself Khaleefah in Spain. The Khilafah remained divided like this until Salahudeen Ayyubi dismantled the Fatimid state in 1171 and re-unified the Abbasid Khilafah once again. This unity allowed Salahudeen to finally defeat the Crusaders at the Battle of Hittin in 1187 and liberate Al-Quds and Palestine.
How will a future Khilafah prevent hereditary rule?
The Khilafah state is an ideological Islamic state. This means all elements of state and society are working for the same goal which is seeking the pleasure of Allah (Most High). Someone seeking power within the Khilafah would not get far unless he is strong in his adherence to the Islamic ideology. Also a person would need to be capable of ruling and so would be appointed to a government post on the basis of merit not family ties. The Majlis ul-Ummah (House of Representatives) and the Makhamat Mazalim (Court of Unjust Acts) sit as powerful accountability bodies overseeing government corruption such as nepotism, and the Mazalim court has the power if proven, to remove all corrupt government officials including the Khaleefah.
In a future Khilafah, there will be constitutional processes in place on how to elect the next Khaleefah which will prevent the bay’a being misapplied as it was previously.
Hizb ut-Tahrir in its draft constitution of the Khilafah state has the following article based on Umar bin Al-Khattab’s style of appointing the next Khaleefah which along with the rest of the constitution would prevent a descent in to hereditary rule.
Article No 34
The method of appointing the Khaleefah is the pledge of allegiance (bay’a). The practical steps to appoint the Khaleefah and his bay’a are:
The mazalim court announces the vacancy of the position of the Khilafah
The temporary leader takes control of his responsibility and announcing the opening of the nomination procedure immediately
The candidates who have been accepted by the mazalim court, are then selected by the Muslim members of the Shura council in the following two stage procedure: first to select the six candidates who received the most votes from them, and the second stage to select the two candidates who received the most votes
The names of the two are announced, and the Muslims are requested to vote for one of them
The result of the elections is announced, and the Muslims are informed as to who received the most votes.
The Muslims promptly set out to give the pledge to whomever received the most votes, as the Khaleefah of the Muslims upon the Book of Allah (swt) and the Sunnah of His Messenger .
Once the pledge has been completed, the Khaleefah is announced to the public, until the news of his appointment has reached the whole Ummah, with mention of his name and that he fulfilled the characteristics which mean he is suitable to contract the Khilafah.
After completing the steps to appoint the new Khaleefah the responsibility of the temporary leader ends.
The path to power
As mentioned above closing off ruling positions to an elite few from the same tribe is not permitted in sharia and can cause huge problems to the Khilafah’s future stability. Therefore, there needs to be a clear path to government, and even the post of Khaleefah, for any of the state’s citizens with such aspirations. This will be done primarily through allowing the formation of numerous Islamic political parties, establishment of Regional Assemblies in each province and the empowerment of a central Majlis in the Khilafah’s capital in the heart of government.
The scenario below attempts to illustrate this path.
Abdullah joins an Islamic political party in his youth. He is an activist of the party through his schooling and university. After completing university, he pursues a full time career as an army officer in the Khilafah’s army. He rises up the ranks and then decides on pursuing a full time political career. His political party put him forward as a candidate for the 5-yearly Regional Assembly elections. He campaigns and wins his seat. He then becomes a member of the Regional Assembly and makes a strong impression on his constituency and the Assembly.
In the elections for his second term he gains enough votes for a seat on the House of Representatives (Majlis) in the Khilafah’s capital. His work on some on the Majliscommittees impresses the Assistants (Mu’awinoon) who recommend his appointment to a government position. He works his way through various government posts finally becoming Foreign Affairs Secretary which is a senior departmental position. From there he becomes an Assistant Khaleefah and when the Khaleefah unexpectedly dies he is shortlisted by the Majlis for candidacy to the post of Khaleefah. His previous political and military experience wins over the Ummah who believe he can successfully manage their affairs and be the commander in chief of the armed forces. He gains the majority of votes during the election and becomes the Khaleefah.
This is not an idealistic dream. The Khilafah Rashidah will return once again. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:
“There will be Prophethood for as long as Allah wills it to be, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be Khilafah on the Prophetic method and it will be for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be biting Kingship for as long as Allah Wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be oppressive kingship for as long as Allah wills, then he will remove it when He wills, and then there will be Khilafah upon the Prophetic method” and then he remained silent. (Ahmed)