The bay’a (البيعة) is a ruling contract which governs the relationship between Muslims and the Islamic state. For those Muslims living under the authority of the Khilafah the bay’a is their citizenship contract with the state.
How is free choice and consent of millions achieved in the bay’a?
Historically in the rightly guided Khilafah of the sahaba, the senior representatives of the people would contract the bay’a to the Khaleefah. The rest of the Muslims would accept their opinion and rush to pledge their bay’a to the newly appointed Khaleefah directly in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which was the capital of the state, or indirectly through the governors in the other provinces.
Historically in the rightly guided Khilafah of the sahaba, the senior representatives of the people would contract the bay’a to the Khaleefah. The rest of the Muslims would accept their opinion and rush to pledge their bay’a to the newly appointed Khaleefah directly in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which was the capital of the state, or indirectly through the governors in the other provinces. The classical scholars called this contracting group the Ahlul hali wal-aqd which literally means the ‘people who loosen and bind’.
Ahmad ibn Hanbal says: “The imamah is not effective except with its conditions […], so if testimony was given to that by the Ahlul hali wal-aqd of the scholars of Islam and their trustworthy people, or the imam took that position for himself and then the Muslims were content with that, it is also effective.”
Mawardi says: “Imamate comes into being in two ways: the first of these is by the election of the Ahlul hali wal-aqd, and the second is by the delegation of the previous Imam.”
The sharia has not defined who the Ahlul hali wal-aqd or people’s representatives are. This falls under manat ul-hukm (reality the rule is applied to) and will vary through the ages. This is explained in more detail in the Bay’a in Islamic History Series.
The Ahlul hali wal-aqd in the time of Harun al-Rashid
On the annual Hajj in 802CE, the Abbasid Khaleefah Harun al-Rashid (r. 786CE – 809CE) drew up an agreement between his two sons – Al-Amīn and Al-Ma’mun – the successors to the Khilafah, to respect one another’s rights to the succession. Harun had suspected that tensions between his sons would lead to civil strife and fitna after his death, so he drew up this public agreement as a preventative measure. The ceremony took place in Makkah at the Ka’ba before an audience of ‘Banū Hāshim, the army commanders and the legal scholars’, and others, including the Qurashī ‘guardians’ of the Kaʿba. Before this audience, Al-Amīn and al-Maʾmūn both swore to respect one another’s rights to the succession.
What is interesting about this incident is that we have the names of all the influential people or Ahlul hali wal-aqd present at the bay’a ceremony. These people were chosen because they were representatives of their various tribes and institutions and so their consent was necessary for the wiliyatul-ahd (succession contract) to be valid. The witnesses to the contract are listed below.
The Abbasid Family
The first fourteen names on the list are all senior members of the Abbasid family – the ‘people of the house’, or ahl al-bayt; that is, they are all agnatic descendants of ʿAlī b. ʿAbd Allāh b. al-ʿAbbās.
|Sulaymān||son of the former Caliph al-Manṣūr|
|ʿĪsā b. Jaʿfar b. al-Manṣūr||son of the former Caliph al-Manṣūr|
|Jaʿfar b. Jaʿfar b. al-Manṣūr||son of the former Caliph al-Manṣūr|
|ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Mahdī||son of the former Caliph al-Mahdī|
|Jaʿfar b. Mūsā||son of the former Caliph al-Hādī|
|Isḥāq b. ʿĪsā b. ʿAlī|
|ʿĪsā b. Mūsā||son of the former Caliph al-Hādī|
|Isḥāq b. Mūsā||son of the former Caliph al-Hādī|
|Aḥmad b. Ismāʿīl b. ʿAlī|
|Sulaymān b. Jaʿfar b. Sulaymān|
|ʿĪsā b. Ṣāliḥ b. ʿAlī|
|Dāwūd b. ʿĪsā b. Mūsā|
|Yaḥyā b. ʿĪsā b. Mūsā|
|Dāwūd b. Sulaymān b. Jaʿfar|
The Caliph’s Administration and entourage
Next thirteen members of Hārūn al-Rashīd’s administration and entourage are listed (eleven in al-Yaʿqūbī – the last two names are missing). The Barmakids listed here were an influential Persian family of administrators who were Wazirs to the early Abbasid Caliphs.
|Khuzayma b. Khāzim al-Tamīmī|
|Harthama b. Aʿyān|
|Yaḥyā b. Khālid b. Barmak||Wazir to al-Hādī|
|al-Faḍl b. Yaḥyā b. Barmak||Wazir to the Caliph|
|Jaʿfar b. Yaḥyā b. Barmak||Wazir to the Caliph|
|al-Faḍl b. al-Rabīʿ b. Yūnus||Mawlā of the Caliph|
|al-ʿAbbās b. al-Faḍl b. al-Rabīʿ b. Yūnus||Mawlā of the Caliph|
|ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Rabīʿ b. Yūnus||Mawlā of the Caliph|
|al-Qāsim b. al-Rabīʿ b. Yūnus||Mawlā of the Caliph|
|Daqāqa b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. ʿAlī b. ʿAbd Allāh al-ʿAbbāsī|
|Sulaymān b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Aṣamm|
|al-Rabīʿ b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥārithī|
|ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Abī ’l-Samrāʾ al-Ghassānī|
The list ends with the local Meccan elite and some less important members of the caliphal entourage.
|Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Makhzūmī||Qāḍī (Chief Judge) of Mecca|
|ʿAbd al-Karīm b. Shuʿayb al-Ḥajabī||Guardian of the Ka’ba|
|Ibrāhīm b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥajabī||Guardian of the Ka’ba|
|ʿAbd Allāh b. Shuʿayb al-Ḥajabī||Guardian of the Ka’ba|
|Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿUthmān al-Ḥajabī||Guardian of the Ka’ba|
|Ibrāhīm b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Nubayh al-Ḥajabī||Guardian of the Ka’ba|
|ʿAbd al-Wāḥid b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥajabī||Guardian of the Ka’ba|
|Ismāʿīl b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Nubayh al-Ḥajabī||Guardian of the Ka’ba|
|Abān||Mawlā of the Caliph|
|Muḥammad b. Manṣūr b. Ziyād|
|Ismāʿīl b. Ṣubayḥ al-Kātib al-Harrānī||Barmakids’ Mesopotamian scribe|
|al-Ḥārith||Mawlā of the Caliph|
|Khālid||Mawlā of the Caliph|
The above is part of the Bay’a in Islamic History Series and is an extract from Part 3: Bay’a in Islamic History – The Abbasid Khilafah
 Dr Ali Muhammad As-Sallaabee, ‘The Biography of Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq’, Dar us-Salam Publishers, pp.250
 Ahmad, al-ʿAqīdah bi-Riwāyah al-Khallāl, 1/124
 Abu l-Hasan al-Mawardi, The Laws of Islamic Governance, translation of Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyah, Ta Ha Publishers, pp.12
 Abu Ja`far Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari, ‘The History of Al-Tabari’, translation of Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk, State University of New York Press, Vol. XXX, pp.183
 Andrew Marsham, ‘Rituals of Islamic Monarchy – Accession and succession in the first Muslim empire,’ pp.225
 Freed slave, servant or administrator