The Islamic State, Caliphate and Khilafah

A grand meeting was convened in Egypt – referred to as the Body of Religious Knowledge in Egypt for the Research into the Matter of the Khilafah and Preaching and the Meeting was for the entire Muslim world on behalf of all the Muslims.[1]

An official document was written and we will mention this document in full due to its’ importance. The document was written at the meeting on Tuesday 19 Sha`ban 1342 AH,[2] wherein was gathered the general authority over the religious seminaries and a group known as the Greater Committee for Religious Knowledge.

This was done under the headship of the following:

Shaikh Mahmud Abul Fadl Al-Jizawi[3]

The Noble Shaikh,  Head over Al-Azhar University and the Seminaries of the Muslims

Shaikh Muhammad al-Maraghi[4]

The Head of the Courts of Revealed Law

Shaikh `Abdur-Rahman Qura`ah[5]

The Grand Mufti of Egypt

Shaikh Ahmad Harun

The Trustee of Al-Azhar and Director of the Religious Seminaries

Shaikh Husain Wali[6]

The General Secretary of the Highest Al-Azhar Majlis and the Religious Seminaries

The Shaikhs of the Highest Seminaries –

Shaikh Muhammad Al-Ahmadi az-Zawahiri

Shaikh Muhammad `Abdul Latif al-Fahham[7]

Shaikh `Abdul Ghani Mahmud

Shaikh Ibrahim Al-Jibali[8]

And there were also the Shaikhs of all different disciplines of knowledge at Al-Azhar and many from the Senior Scholars – particularly people such as –

Shaikh Bakhit Al-Muti`ii[9]

Shaikh Muhammad Shakir [10]

Shaikh Muhammad an-Najdi

The Head over the Shafi`ii scholars

Shaikh Ahmad Nasr

The Custodian of the Maliki scholars

Shaikh Subai` adh-Dhahabi[11]

The Head over the Hanbali scholars

Shaikh `Abdul Mu`ti ash-Sharshimi[12] and others from the scholars, researchers of the seminaries of religious knowledge and their affirmation was reached after a long meeting and research.

The results of that meeting are as follows:

There has been much discussion among the people on the subject of the Khilafah since the expulsion of the amir, `Abdul Majid[13] from Istanbul. The Muslims have attached importance to researching and thinking about what is necessary for them to do in establishing what is compulsory for them in their pure religion.

Due to this situation, we decided to give our ruling in the matter of the khilafah of `Abdul Majid and that which the Muslims are required to do now and thereafter.

The Khilafah, which is also referred to as the Imamah is the general leadership in the religion and the establishment and maintaining of the leadership of this kind is for the general good and protection of the religion and discharging the affairs of the Ummah.

Thus in This Religion, the dispensing of judgements and discharging worldly affairs according to the rulings taken from the principles of the Revealed Law is carried out by the Imam.

This very Imam is the representative of the one who first brought the Revealed Law,[14] peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, from which all of these rulings and principles derive.

The Imam becomes such by[15] a) the oath of allegiance being given to him by the High Ranking Scholars, b) or by a living Imam leaving the post to his next successor; but this must be that his judgement is universally felt among those under his rule[16] and that those subject to his rule fear his power and authority.[17]

Now in such a case where the Imam is given the oath of allegiance by the people and his judgement is not universally felt among them due to his inability of ruling them or the

previous Imam gives his authority to his successor and his judgement is not universal among those subject to him due to his inability, then such an individual could neither be declared Imam by oath of allegiance nor by a living Imam abdicating and handing over authority;

then there is also c) the post of Imam being brought about solely by conquest.

So when an individual conquers over the khalifah, usurps his place and unseats the first ruler while receiving the oath of allegiance or successorship just as happened with most of the khalifahs of the past, this person is referred to and accepted as the khalifah and the oath of allegiance is due and rebelling against him would not be permissible.[18]

All of the aforementioned is well-known in the books of fiqh[19] and explicitly discussed in the books of the senior Hanafi scholars.

The Imam bears the responsibility of disposing of all matters the subjects require and it is necessary that all the governorates under authority are derived from him and declared by his word.

This includes things like the administration of ministers, rulers over provinces, administration of judges and administrative posts for the leaders over the armies and the border patrols and so forth.[20]

A man has his post of Imamah dissolved by anything that would render him unable to rule, i.e. his becoming a prisoner and has no hope of being freed in the near future or his inability to discharge the duties of the Religion and the Ummah at large.

In addition to this, whenever a man in the post of Imamah is found to be in such error that this would necessitate a deficiency regarding the state of affairs of the Muslims or neglect of the affairs of the Religion, then it is permissible for the Ummah to remove him from his post as long as this does not lead to tribulation.

If his removal would lead to further tribulation, he is left in power based upon the principle of warding off a greater evil with a lesser one.

The Muslims judging in the matter of the leader, Wahid ud-Din[21] were pleased with his abdication due to reasons which they know about him and they believed that abdication was the best option.

The Turks then brought forward the leader `Abdul Majid for the Khilafah, announcing that all authority vested in the office of khilafah was removed[22] and then vested in the Turkish National Assembly that soon after declared the leader, `Abdul Majid to be a khalifah in name alone, a figure head.

In doing this, the Turks brought about an innovation that the Muslims had never known before in the annals of their history. Then after that they brought about another innovation which was the abolition of the office of Khilafah.

Neither the “khilafah” nor the appointment of `Abdul Majid by the Turkish National Assembly were based on the Revealed Law. The religion of Islam knows no such Khilafah in which his office is limited and reduced and he is pleased with that. There was no authentic oath of allegiance given to him by the Muslims based in the Revealed Law

When we turn our attention away from all the aforementioned and say that the oath of allegiance to this leader was valid, it is still invalid as the individual in question by virtue of the office appointed to him cannot carry out the judgement which in the Revealed Law is binding upon such a person bearing the position of Khilafah when the term is understood in legal context.

When one knows that it is necessary that he complete all matters described in the office of the Khilafah according to the meaning given to this position in the Revealed Law, then `Abdul Majid has had this title removed from him due to the very real inability to stand up and dispose of the affairs of the Muslims, both spiritual and temporal.

He is unable to establish his kingdom in the land, protest and defend himself and his family after the Turks have completed their conquest over him.

Based upon all of this the conclusion is that `Abdul Majid does not have any oath of allegiance binding on the Muslims due to lifting of the intent of what the office of Imamah entails in the Revealed Law.

It is neither wise nor noble for Islam and the Muslims that an oath of allegiance be claimed over them for an individual that cannot establish his rule in the land and the people do not establish his rule in it.

The centrality of the Khilafah in the Religion of Islam and among all of the Muslims has an importance that cannot be negated. This position has its’ rank in matters such as manifesting and exalting the status of the Religion and its’ people, unifying the body of the Muslims, strengthening their ranks with power and affirmation.

It is necessary that the Muslims think about the system of their Khilafah and how it is established according to the agreed upon judgements in Islam and not become neglectful of the Muslim regimes which the Muslims are pleased with to discharge their judgements.

They should not be pleased with the animalistic violence and regimes that the Turks have brought about through the abolition of the very place of the Khilafah, conquest over the leader, `Abdul Majid and then throwing the Islamic World into complete chaos.

The Muslims have no guarantee of safety under these regimes nor can they bring about a fresh idea or choose a khalifah for themselves until after the tribulation has subsided and matters have become quieted. This will come after devotion and reflection, knowledge of the matter and investigation in all matters from all different sides to examine the utility of carrying out such an endeavour.[23]

It is for these reasons that we see it necessary that this meeting be convened for the religion of Islam calling to it the heads of all the Muslim nations to bring about what is necessary regarding the Khilafah of Islam in the city of Cairo under the headship of Shaikh ul-Islam in the lands of Egypt.[24]

This meeting was called in this country after taking a look at the excellence of Egypt among the Muslim nations and the meeting was completed in the month of Sha`ban in the year 1343 after the Hijrah. This would also correspond to March of 1925 of the Christian Era.

We would also like to publically say a word of thanks for all of the Muslims that showed great jealousy for this faith regarding the matter of Khilafah and the manifest importance of this obligation.

We would also further like to show gratitude to the nations which are not Muslim and the states throughout the world who have stayed far away from interference in the matters of the khilafah of Islam and we hope that these nations will understand that the issue of the Khilafah is solely one to do with Islam and it is not permissible that they and other nations should transgress their bounds and concern themselves with affairs other than those of their people.

It should be known that all of the Muslim World wants to live at peace with other nations while at the same time preserving the rules of its’ true Religion and its’ system, which is clear and innocent of any spirit of enmity.

This is what we see is the religious obligation upon us to discharge to the Muslim world not only in their places but also to the world at large so that all might clearly understand the affair with clarity.

Cairo, Egypt

9 Sha`ban 1342 AH

25 March AD 1923

This whole statement was taken from: Nur ul-Islam, vol.2, pt. 8, pp. 588-590, Al-Ma`ahid ud-Diniyyah il-Islamiyyah Printers, Cairo (1359 AH (AD 1931), Al-Azhar Repository, Cairo, 1342 AH (AD 1924).



[1] trans. note: This scholars, particularly the marja` people did this as they have authority over matters spiritual and temporal. This is clearly accepted. Imam Abdul Qadir ibn `Umar at-Taghlabi (d. 1133 AH (AD 1738) makes the matter clear to us:

“It is necessary for the Imam to designate Qadis to discharge all duties in every jurisdiction. There are seven jurisdictions where law is discharged and they are, 1) Undivided India 2) Al-Hijaz 3) Undivided Egypt 4) Babel 5) Rum/Byzantium and Sham 6) the Turkish Lands and 7) All of Asia. This has been explained in the handwritten statement of my teacher and master, Shaikh `Abdul Baqi Al-Hanbali.”Nail ul-Maarib Bi-Sharhi Dalil it-Talib Li-Nail il-Matalib, pp. 434-435.

Let the reader therefore understand that the scholars and marja` people, in carrying out these activities, are carrying out their jurisdiction, which is global. Undivided India refers to the landmass that contains the nations of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and a large portion of Afghanistan.

Al-Hijaz is a shorthand for all of Arabia while Babel refers to all of Iraq, Persia and the rest of Afghanistan. Byzantium is the former Byzantine Empire which includes Italy, Sicily, Turkey and lower Europe along with upper Europe. Sham refers to the lands now known as Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel.

As for the Turkish lands, this was a reference used not just for Turks but for all Central Asian people, sometimes including Slavs. Asia (Ar. As-Sin) was used to refer to the whole continent. As for the Americas, their governing usually was administered by North Africa and referenced by King Mawlay Isma`il in the year AD 1787 in a treaty of the same year with George Washington acting as plenipotentiary ruler over what would later become the United States of America.

When referencing Australia, this is under the same ruling as Byzantium while Antarctica, although uninhabited, bounds against the continent of Africa, which is considered Egypt in general as it was a capital province. This therefore shows that all seven continents have jurisdiction and that jurisdiction is the laws that govern areas with discipline, not ideas, thoughts or personal opinions.

[2] trans. note: This corresponds to 25 March AD 1924 on the Gregorian calendar.

[3] trans. note: 1264-1346 AH (AD 1847-1927). He is the marja`, the great authority and Maliki scholar who was one of the successors of the marja` and previous Shaikh al-Azhar, Imam Muhammad `Illish (1217-1299 AH/AD 1802-1882). Born in Giza in South Egypt and enrolled at Al-Azhar after memorising the Qur’an before the age of fifteen, he was one of the most important maraji` of his time during the post consolidation period when the khilafah disintegrated.

[4] trans. note: 1298-1364 AH (AD 1847-1945). He is Muhammad ibn Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn `Abdul Mun`im, the great marja`, latter successor to Imam al-Jizawi and senior Maliki scholar. Born in the governorate of Al-Maraghah in South Egypt, he memorised the Qur’an before the age of eleven and was enrolled in a branch of Al-Azhar, South Egypt and transferred northward to Cairo after some time.

[5] trans. note: 1279-1358 AH (AD 1862-1939). The Shafi`ii mufti of Egypt and one of the greatest scholars of his time, he hails from the city of Asyut in the south of Egypt and memorised the Qur’an when he was nine years of age.

[6] trans. note: 1285-1354 AH (AD 1868-1936). He is Husain Wali ibn Husain Wali ibn As-Sayyid Ibrahim Wali, a direct descendent of Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him. He completed memorisation of the Qur’an before he reached twelve years of age and was sent to Al-Azhar to continue his studies.

He was given permission to teach in Al-Azhar in 1318AH (AD 1900), headed the school for non-sentencing Qadis in the years 1325 AH (AD 1907), became a senior advisor to the research council of head seminaries 1329 AH (AD 1911), trustee for the law centre at Tanta in 1332 AH (AD 1914) secretary general for all the courts in 1338/9 AH (AD 1920), declared as part of  a panel of senior scholars in the year 1342 AH (AD 1924).

[7] trans. note: 1321-1408 AH (AD 1894-1980). Born in Alexandria but from a family originally hailing from South Egypt in Asyut, he memorised the Qur’an before the age of twelve and was later enrolled at Al-Azhar, where he studied systematic theology, the Revealed Law and numerous other disciplines.

[8] trans. note: 1295-1370 AH (AD 1878-1950). He is the famous Egyptian marja` born in Al-Buhairah in the area of Shabrakhait in Egypt. After memorising the Qur’an at the age of seven years old, he learned some of the early sciences from his father before being sent to study at Al-Azhar in Cairo.

A master of many disciplines, he focused on commentary on the Qur’an and renewal. He also headed a delegation of scholars that headed to India to de-colonialise the schools and teachers of the mind set of their previous master, the British Empire in the year 1355 AH (AD 1936).

Outposts of Al-Azhar were further entrenched and established by him in Iraq and Syria as most of the scholars had been decimated after Consolidation Forces (CF) took power over the area at the collapse of the khilafah. The Imam, believing that Al-Azhar might be attacked or completely overrun with CF at some point in the near future, advised scholars to either withdraw from Al-Azhar and move to the countryside or live in the countryside and commute to Al-Azhar daily or weekly for teaching.

[9] trans. note: 1271-1354 AH (AD 1856-1935).  He is Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti`ii. Born in Asyut in Upper Egypt, he studied the great Maliki classics after having memorised the Qur’an before the age of eleven years old He also memorised Arabic grammar text, Al-Ajurrumiyyah around the same time and was later enrolled in Al-Azhar.

[10] trans. note: 1282-1358 AH (AD 1866-1939). Born in Upper Egypt, he was a child prodigy and memorised the Qur’an when he was still a youth. He later enrolled in Al-Azhar and also studied different sciences until having perfected them.

[11] trans. note: d. 1338 AH (AD 1919). He is Muhammad ibn Subai` ibn Yahya adh-Dhahabi al-Basyuni, the great marja` whose family hail from the south of Egypt. He completed memorisation of the Qur’an before thirteen years of age and was enrolled into Al-Azhar in Cairo in the north of Egypt. After some twenty years of study, he was appointed teacher and head over the Hanbalis of Egypt and began instructing and giving rulings at the Hanbali porch in Al-Azhar.

[12] trans. note: d. 1426 (AD 2006). The well-known scholar and judge, he was a large figure among the great scholars of the Ummah and penned a number of books.

[13] trans note: 1284-1364 AH (AD 1868-1924). He is `Abdul Majid ibn `Abdul `Aziz ibn Mahmud ibn `Abdul Hamid. Also known as `Abdul Majid II, his role carried no political weight, strength or absolute rule and was beset by debts and betrayals.

The last declared sultan before the formal abolishment of the office of Imamah and Khilafah, he fled with his family and later died in Paris, France the same year that Germany’s Nazi war machine was defeated in France. His body was later interred in Madinah in Arabia.

[14] trans note: 51 BH-11 AH/AD 570-632. He is Muhammad ibn `Abdullah ibn `Abdul Muttalib ibn Hashim. Primordial prophet before the ages, shepherd, rectifier of good, merchant and constant preacher, he was the final prophet sent to all humanity before the end of the age. He had been prophesied and expected by all the prophets and messengers, peace be upon them, from the beginning.

He lived the first 40 years of his life in Makkah, but 13 years into his prophetic mission, due to persecution, he was commanded by Allah to leave for the city of Madinah, and continued preaching his message. Eventually, the whole of Arabia and indeed all domains that would listen, heard his message. His message of salvation has inspired 12 civilisations, three empires, seminaries, hospitals and the bedrock that most mathematics, science and other schools of higher learning depend on today.

[15] trans. note: This position is also referred to as ‘the Grand Imam’ or the ‘General Imam’. Imam Ibn Balbani (d. 1083 AH (AD 1688), may Allah have mercy on him, defined this position saying, “The Imam is the one who stands in the place of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is from the lineage of the Quraish.

He establishes the canon of Revealed Law and in doing so establishes the Truth and debases Falsehood. He establishes Hajj, offensive wars and the rest of the actions of worship, judicial punishments, protecting the oppressed, ordering with righteousness, forbidding the wrong, guarding the Ummah, safeguarding the Revealed Law,

gathering peoples under one banner, so they can know the rulings on things, righteousness in assessing matters and distribution of wealth, commanding obedience, taking the land taxes, money seized in war, zakah and other charities due to the poor, dispersing wealth towards necessary causes and other matters connected to the position.” Mukhtasar al-Ifadat fī Rub` il-Ibadati wal-Adabi wa Ziyadat, pp.510-511

Shaikh ul-Islam Mansur al-Buhuti (d. 1051 AH (AD 1656), may Allah have mercy on him, said before someone can fill this position they must possess the characteristics of being, “…from the Quraish tribe, sane and having reached at least the age of 15 years, possessing the faculties of speech, hearing and sight that are unimpaired by disability,

free and not a prisoner or slave, knowledgeable of the principles of Revealed Law, male, just in personal and public conduct, able to discharge the duties of the office…” (text truncated from Kash-shaf ul-Qina` `An Matn il-Iqna`, vol.5, pp.137-138).

Shaikh ul-Islam Mansur al-Buhuti, may Allah have mercy on him, also stated that there are three ways a khalifah can be chosen:

1) By a meeting of the most senior scholars, who make consensus on the person they deem most suitable.

2) A living khalifah openly appoints a successor in his will, or during his reign in the presence of the senior scholars.

3) A khalifah takes hold of power, possessing most of the characteristics, but has not been chosen, ruling by the Revealed Law, but without a consensus (text truncated from Kash-shaf ul-Qina` `An Matn il-Iqna`, vol.5, pp.137-138).

Who brings about this office? Shaikh ul-Islam Mansur al-Buhuti and Imam Ibn Balbani, may Allah have mercy on them, both state that it is the most senior scholars who bring about the position and choose the most eligible based upon the conditions mentioned above.

(cf. Mukhtasar al-Ifadat fī Rub` il-Ibadati wal-Adabi wa Ziyadat, pp 510-511 and Kash-shaf ul-Qina` `An Matn il-Iqna`, vol.5, pp.137-144 for further details).

[16] trans note: this means that those under his rule are safe and also protected from invasion or hostility from potential or real enemies. This is in addition to the fact that the borders are protected

[17] trans. note: this refers to the fact that those who are potential brigands, thugs, gangsters or all such manner of criminal know that the leader can and will implement the laws and is able to execute them by himself or through his deputies and representatives.

[18] trans note: Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 620 AH (AD 1223), may Allah be pleased with him, quotes the Consensus on this point: “It is from the Sunnah to hear and obey the Imams of the Muslims and the Leaders of the Believers – their righteous and sinful – as long as they do not command one in the disobedience of Allah for there is no obedience to anyone in disobedience to Allah.

Whoever is given the khilafah and the people agree upon him and they are pleased with him (he is the khalifah); or if he conquers over them with the sword until he is a khalifah and named, ‘leader of the believers,’ it is compulsory to obey him and impermissible to oppose him, rise against him and break the ranks of the Muslims.” Taken from The Creed and Way of Muslim Orthodoxy, pp. 70-71 (Arabic/English edition) with permission of Al-Hajj Abu Ja`far al-Hanbali.

[19] trans. note: what is well known as that someone who became khalifah through conquest is indeed a valid ruler and if he receives the oath of allegiance he is to be obeyed by the populace over which he rules.

[20] trans. note: The reason that only the Imam and his representative can implement this is due to the fact that apostasy, penal judgements and the machinery to govern requires that there should be the people to implement these laws. The reason for this is due to what was established by Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 620 AH (AD 1223), may Allah be pleased with him, when he said,

“The judicial punishments are not established by anyone except the Imam or his appointed representative, except in the case of the master punishing his prisoner or slave as he may do some flogging specific to the one under his charge of bond. The question is whether it is permissible for him to kill him due to riddah or strong armed robbery. There are two positions mentioned in this matter.” Al-Muqni` fi Fiqh il-Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal ash-Shaibani, pp. 430-431.

Imam Musa al-Hajjawi (d. 968 AH (AD 1573), the authorised commentator, summariser and writer on Al-Muqni`, states the same when he says, “The judicial punishments are not established except by the Imam or his appointed representative, and it is not done in the masjid.” Zad ul-Mustaqni` fi Ikhtisar il-Muqni`, pp. 217-218.

We shall also quote Imam Mansur al-Buhuti (d. 1051 AH (AD 1656), the authorised commentator on the texts of Imam Musa al-Hajjawi and the dominant voice of the Peninsula, “The judicial punishment is only established by the Imam or his representative, whether it is a judicial punishment for Allah, as in the case of fornication and adultery, or for a human being, as in the case of slander and libel.

The reason is that these judicial punishments require ijtihad and there must be someone to whom it is entrusted. It is compulsory to consign the matter to the representative of Allah the Exalted for His Creation. The judicial punishment is not to be done in the masjid.” Ar-Rawd ul-Murbi` Bi Sharhi Zad il-Mustaqni`, pp. 502-503

[21] 1277-1345 AH (AD 1861-1926). He is Wahid ud-Din Mahmud ibn `Abdul Hamid ibn Mahmud. Known as Mahmud VI, he was the 36th in succession and last actual khalifah (meaning with power to enforce rules and government), reigning for four years before overthrow and forced abdication. His reign was fraught with military defeats and after his loss of rule, he lived in numerous countries but could not return to his birthplace, the now communist Turkey.

He is buried in Damascus, his final place of residence. The significant point about his reign is that when he was overthrown, the Turkish Assembly took over and abolished the sultanate, which was the actual source of his absolute rule and power, leaving an office of khilafah as merely a husk or sacerdotal title of the same capacity as the Archbishop of Canterbury in the United Kingdom or royal families of Scandinavia.

The post was nothing more than a relic, title or office which was governed by the new system or regime now in place. The reader must keep this point in mind when looking at the words of the scholars.

[22] This separation was two-fold: sultanah and khilafah, the first being government and the second being the office. Both things were abolished within two years but the initial separation was necessary in order to give the Turkish National Assembly time to form its’ own government and legislative and executive powers.

[23] trans. note: This means that they should not rush to bring about another khalifah but reflect on why it was abolished and consider what happened and also wait for a period of time. This advice is strikingly similar to that which was given by the scholars at the time of the destruction of the Khilafah system during the Mongol Invasion of Baghdad in 656 AH (AD 1258).

The Khilafah after the 656 AH destruction was not reinstated until four years later and war was not declared until sometime thereafter. The reason for this was that the scholars then, as they do now, declared that the time was not yet right to bring about khilafah again so they should wait, repent and reflect.

[24] trans. note: What this statement entails is that those marja` people gathered just declared Shaikh Mahmud al-Jizawi the Shaikh ul-Islam of the period and thus the leader of the Muslims and those under him as his representatives and deputies. This wording can be clearly seen in that they referred to him as not just the head over Egypt but the “Shaikh ul-Islam” and designating him as having headship. Again, the heads over this Ummah, in all matters spiritual and temporal, are the scholars.

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