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Islam and Politics – Chief Justice, Mufti Taqi Uthmani حفظه الله

The Meaning of Khilafah
The Holy Quraan frequently mentions the words Khaleefah and Khilafah. The Mufassireen (commentators on the Quraan) say that Divine Khilafah has two meanings.

One is that everyone who believes in Allah ﷻ is a Khaleefah of Allah. Man is required to abide by the Divine Commandments, and to adopt morals and ethical standards resembling those of the Divine. This has been referred to as تخلق باخلاق الله (acquiring the character traits of Allah). In this sense, every believer is Allah's Khaleefah, and it is required of mankind to carry out Khilafah of Allah ﷻ in this sense. The majority of commentators hold that the Ayah اني جاعل في الارض خليفة refers to this individual kind of Khilafat, according to which every human being is Allah's Khaleefah insofar as they are bound to abide by the Divine Commandments, and commanded to live up to the maxim تخلق باخلاق الله ('Acquire the characteristics of  Allah').

The second meaning of Khilafah is that in order to implement Allah's ﷻ attribute of Rulership, there needs to be His representative on earth, who is to rule over the people, keeping in mind that he is to do so in the capacity of Allah's Caliph. The Holy Quraan says about Sayyidina Dawud AS:

يَـٰدَاوُۥدُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَـٰكَ خَلِيفَةً فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ

“O Dawood! We have made you a Khalīfah on Earth. [Sad 38: 26]

This refers to the second meaning of Khilafah.

When we mention Khilafah as a political principle, we mean this meaning of the word. In line with this second meaning, an Islamic ruler is not a ruler in his own right, but a Khalifah of Allah Most High. And being a Khalifah, he is necessarily bound to abide by Allah's commandments in his government.

This is a major distinction between the Islamic concept of politics and other theories: in secular systems, the ruler is not bound to follow the Divine Commandments, whereas a Khalifah must follow the Divine Edicts before issuing any edicts himself.

Here it should also be kept in mind that the actual Khalifah of Allah Most High was the Noble Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The caliphs who followed him, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs عليهم السلام, became Caliph because of him; and that the is why they used to call themselves Khalifat Rasūl Allāh ﷺ, rather than Khalifat Allah. Once a person addressed Abu Bakr al- Şiddiq RA as `Khalifat Allah. ` In reply, Abu Bakr RA said لست خليفة الله و لكني خليفة رسول الله.

Allah Most High granted Ibn Khaldun an amazing type and degree of intelligence. Ibn Khaldun R, in his Muqaddimah, discussed every kind of topic to perfection, and although the Muqaddimah is just a single volume, there seem to be few aspects of life that he did not discuss or touch on. Ibn Khaldun wrote, with reference to our topic, that government is of three types: governing according to one's nature; governing for the sake of political ends; and Khilafah.

The first type he defined as follows: to govern being guided by one's own benefit as well as by one's whims and passions. This was very much the case with absolute monarchies.

The second type he defined as follows: to rule the people according to the dictates of gaining worldly benefit and warding off detriment, in the light of reason. This description fits secular democracy which, having no enduring values, must rely on what reason tells it to be the best course of action.

The third type, Khilafah, Ibn Khaldun defined as follows: ruling the people according to the spirit of the Shariah, which will benefit them in the Hereafter as well as in this world, and the outcome of which will improve their prospects in the Hereafter. Think it over and you will find that all forms of government are covered by these three definitions.

In sha Allah from next week we will look at the Islamic outlook of a democracy and related matters.

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