Caliphate, Ruling

2. CALIPHATE CONTENTIONS: The obligation to establish a Khilafa is not mentioned in the Quran, and therefore not an obligation.

This article has been reproduced from Dr. Reza Pankhurst’s facebook page.

Contention 2: The obligation to establish a Khilafa is not mentioned in the Quran, and therefore not an obligation.

  1. The obligation can be derived from the Quran directly
  2. Every verse that mentions a law that must be implemented is an evidence for the obligation to establish an authority to implement that law
  3. Ali Abdul Raziq was the first contemporary scholar to make the claim there was no evidence in the quran for the obligation of the khilafa – and his views were deconstructed as completely inaccurate and incorrect]

Full Response:

Neither is the issue of the obligation to pray 5 times a day mentioned in the Quran explicitly, nor are the details of the pillars and sunnan of the prayer. While the Quran does contain many rules and details, it also directs us to the Prophetic sunna being the second primary source of legislation, and that the sunna is a necessity to explain and expand upon the Quran. As mentioned in the Quran –

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad SAW) the reminder and the advice (the Qur’an), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought


While taking this into account – in the case of the Khilafa there are several evidences in the Quran which have been used to state its obligation both directly an indirectly.

Some scholars have used ayat from the Quran to indicate the obligation directly – for example Imam Qurtubi uses the verse from al-Baqarah “And when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority (Khalifa).” The Imam comments that this verse is the origin/ root in the issue of appointing an Imam and Khalifa who is to be listened to and obeyed and who unites the Muslims. The Imam then continues to state that there is no recognised difference among the umma and scholars upon the obligation to establish such a Khalifa.

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً
هَذِهِ الْآيَةُ أَصْلٌ فِي نَصْبِ إِمَامٍ وَخَلِيفَةٍ يُسْمَعُ لَهُ وَيُطَاعُ، لِتَجْتَمِعَ بِهِ الْكَلِمَةُ، وَتَنْفُذُ بِهِ أَحْكَامُ الْخَلِيفَةِ. وَلَا خِلَافَ فِي وُجُوبِ ذَلِكَ بَيْنَ الْأُمَّةِ وَلَا بَيْنَ الْأَئِمَّةِ إِلَّا مَا رُوِيَ عَنِ الْأَصَمِّ حَيْثُ كَانَ عَنِ الشَّرِيعَةِ أَصَمَّ

The first contemporary scholar to try to deny the obligation of the Khilafa – Ali Abdul Raziq – put forward the argument that there was no evidence from the Quran used, writing in his book al-Islam wa usul al-Hukm (Islam and the foundations of government):

“We do not find any of the previous scholars who made the claim that the establishment of the Imam is an obligation, trying to establish evidence for that claim using any verses from the Book of Allah”

«لم نجد فيما مر بنا من مباحث العلماء الذين زعموا أن إقامة الإمام فرض من حاول أن يقيم الدليل على فرضيته بآية من كتاب الله الكريم.»

With this particular argument, Ali Abdul Raziq was trying to dismiss the obligation of the Khilafa by stating that there was no evidence for it from the Quran, which was based upon his claim that if there were then the scholars would have used it. As has already been highlighted with the quote of Imam Qurtubi, this was a wholly inaccurate claim.

One of the many rebuttals and outright rejections of the views of Raziq, was authored by Sheikh al-Khidr Hussein (one of the great scholars of the early 20th century who was Sheikh of al-Azhar for a time), who addressed this argument with the following:

“Some of the people of knowledge use as evidence for the Imama the words of Allah – Oh you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those in authority among you,” and the author himself [referring here to Raziq] narrated that ibn Hazm used this verse as an evidence. And Sa’ad al-din al-Taftazani mentions it in his Sharh al-Maqasid where he states: “And they use evidences such as the words of Allah – ‘Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you’, and the words of the Messenger ‘and whoever dies without knowing his Imam, dies the death of jahiliyya’ – and this is because the obligation to obey (those in authority) and to know (the Imam) requires that Imam to be established.”

استدل بعض أهل العلم على الإمامة بقوله تعالى: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ، وقد نقل المؤلف نفسه الاستدلال بهذه الآية عن ابن حزم، وأوردها سعد الدين التفتزاني في شرح المقاصد،٤ فقال: وقد يتمسك بمثل قوله تعالى: أَطِيعُوا اللهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ، وقوله ﷺ: «من مات ولم يعرف إمامه مات ميتة جاهلية.» فإن وجوب الطاعة والمعرفة يقتضي وجوب الحصول،

Al-Taftazani stating that since it is an obligation to know who the Imam is – it is therefore an obligation to establish an Imam. And since it is an obligation to obey those in authority, it becomes obligatory to establish said authority.

The principle that whatever leads to an obligation is an obligation itself can be applied to all of the verses in the Quran which relate to rules and laws which require an authority to implement them. For example, all the verses related to hudud, or to jihad and so on. The obligation to implement these rules necessitates an authority to be in place to implement them, and therefore to establish afore-mentioned authority also becomes obligatory.

In summary – the obligation to establish a Khilafa is derived from the Quran, and the sunna further confirmed, explained and expanded upon its details – and so the contention is rejected as wholly incorrect.



The rule ‘whatever is required to fulfil an obligation is itself an obligation’ establishes that several verses of the Quran indicate the obligation of establishing an Islamic state.

If any text from Allah indicates explicitly that an act is obligatory, anything which is required to achieve that act is also obligatory by the same text.

For example – one of the obligatory acts for abolution is to wash the arms up until the elbow due to the instruction in the Quran “so wash your faces and your arms until the elbow”. Some of the elbow also has to be washed in order to achieve this command, and therefore even though washing the elbow is not mentioned explicitly, it is obligated by the same text.

This principle is applicable to the several Islamic laws and rules which are obligated explicitly, but require an authority to establish them.

  1. Allah explicitly orders the establishment of a number of hadd rulings
  2. Those verses do not explicitly order the establishment of an authority to implement those laws – but they cannot be implemented without such an authority being established
  3. Therefore establishing that authority is an obligation through the principle ‘whatever is required to fulfil an obligation is itself an obligation’
  4. In conclusion: any order to establish a hadd ruling is, by necessity, also an order to establish the necessary authority to implement that hadd. And the same applies to any other order which requires an authority to implement.

As an example of the use of this principle – Ibn Kathir in his tafsir of the ayah in al-baqara “And when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority (Khalifa)” comments on the words of Imam al-Qurtubi stating:

وقد استدل القرطبي بهذه الآية على وجوب نصب الخليفة ليفصل بين الناس فيما اختلفوا فيه، ويقطع تنازعهم وينتصر لمظلومهم من ظالمهم ويقيم الحدود ويزجر عن تعاطي الفواحش إلى غير ذلك من الأمور المهمة التي لا يمكن إقامتها إلا بالإمام، وما لا يتم الواجب إلا به فهو واجب

“And al-Qurtubi uses this verse to prove the obligation of appointing a Khalifa, in order to decide between people in their disputes and to end their conflict, and to support the oppressed against the oppressor, and to establish the hadd punishments, and to prevent people from committing abuse, and other important issues which cannot be established without the Imam – and whatever is required to fulfil an obligation is itself an obligation”