baya, Caliphate, Featured, Ruling

What is the Bay’ah?

The bay’ah or pledge of allegiance, is a ruling contract which governs the relationship between Muslims and the Islamic state. For those Muslims living under the authority of the state, the bay’ah is their citizenship contract with its ruler – the Khaleefah.

The bay’ah is the method of appointing the Khaleefah and legitimising his rule. It must be given with the consent of the ummah, who are free to choose whomever they wish to rule them, within the boundaries of the sharia rules. If the bay’ah and its conditions are absent, then the Khaleefah has no authority to rule and will be considered a usurper. From the time of Abu Bakr to the last Khaleefah Abdul-Majed II, the bay’ah was always present and legally convened, albeit misapplied for much of Islamic history.

If we look back to Islamic history, most of the major political problems and fitan (tribulations) that occurred, can be traced back in some way or the other to the misapplication of the bay’ah. It’s the misapplication of the bay’ah that distinguishes a rightly guided Khilafah from mulk (monarchy), and it’s the misapplication of the bay’ah which sowed the seeds of the sunni shia schism which lasts to this day.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims needlessly lost their lives throughout the centuries in civil wars over who should govern the Muslims. Mu’awiya’s decision to appoint his son Yazid as the next Khaleefah after him, without the consent of the sahaba, transformed the Khilafah in to mulk, not in the sense of the Khaleefah being sovereign like an absolute monarch or king, but in the characteristics of a monarchy like hereditary rule and abuse of power. This was prophesised by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ who said,

تكون الخلافة ثلاثين سنة ثم تصير ملكا

“The Khilafah will be for thirty years. Then it will become mulk (monarchy).”[1]

Eric Hanne mentions, “A case in point were the difficulties inherent in the Buyid, Saljuq, and Abbasid household politics. The familial-confederacy system, although irrevocably linked to the cousin-clan tradition from which both dynasties arose, was an inherently volatile form of rule. Baha’ al-Dawla rose to power only after he had earned the position through a protracted struggle with his relatives. To secure his rule he had to maintain this effort, a process that involved recognizing the status of such older relatives as Fakhr al-Dawla, and simultaneously bolster his own position in the region partly through the deposition of al-Ta’I’ and the installation of al-Qadir in Baghdad. Upon Baha’ al Dawla’s death, however, his lands, and those of the other Buyids in the region, experienced a prolonged series of conflicts among the various Buyid sons, brothers, and uncles.

The Saljuq system, although initially more successful than that of the Buyids, fell victim to the same centrifugal tendencies. After the relatively “cohesive” reigns of Tughril Bek, Alp Arslan, and Malikshah, the central Islamic lands experienced almost a century of constant warfare among the rival claimants to the Saljuq sultanate.”[2]

Does Islam have a ruling system?

This question was never on the minds of the Muslims because to them the Islamic ruling system of Khilafah was an inseparable part of Islam. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever removes himself from the Jama’at [the unified Muslim Ummah] by a handspan then he has taken Islam from his neck until he returns.”  And he ﷺ said, “Whoever dies and does not have an Imam of the Jama’at over him then his death is a death of jahiliyah.”[3]

Abu Hurairah said: “By the One Whom there is no god but him, if Abu Bakr had not been appointed as Khaleefah then Allah would not have been worshipped.”[4]

Mona Hassan says, “For many Muslims, the caliphate even constituted a symbol of Islam itself, one deeply embedded in a rich intellectual and cultural discourse that could readily evoke a sense of the wider community’s glory, righteousness, and esteem.”[5]

Israel Gershoni and James Jankowski said: “In much of the Islamic world by the beginning of the twentieth century, identity as a Muslim had come to mean political solidarity with the Ottoman Empire and manifested itself in declarations of allegiance to its Sultan/Caliph, acceptance of its theoretical authority as an alternative to final subjection by Europe, and support for it in the international crises in which it was involved.”[6]

During the last period of the Abbasid Khilafah, the power of the Khulufa’ was limited to a near ceremonial role, with the Saljuq Sultans retaining actual executive power[7]. Imam Ghazali commented on this situation, and whether the ulema should declare the Khilafah (Imamah) void due to the Khaleefah’s loss of executive power. He said, “So which situation is better, to say that the judges are discharged and public functions are invalid and marriages cannot be contracted and all the transactions of the holders of public office across the world cannot be implemented and that all creation is engaged in what is forbidden, or to say that the imamate is contracted and that transactions and public functions can be implemented based on contemporary circumstances and necessity?!”[8] We will come back to this question later. Does the bay’ah become batil (void) or fasid (defective) in a situation where the Khaleefah ’outsources’ his executive power to a wazir or sultan?

The abolition of the Khilafah on 3rd March 1924 (28 Rajab 1342H) in Turkiye sent shockwaves across the Muslim world. On 19th March 1924, the Albanian newspaper Shpresa Kombëtare expressed a common sentiment among the ummah: “At the time of the Young Turk Revolution in Constantinople Sultan [Abdül-] Hamid was dethroned, but no one suspected that bold commencement would end by wiping out, not only the Imperial House and the ancient might of the House of Osman, but would also drive out of Turkey that which for three hundred million Moslems is the religious centre of their lives.”[9]

The early 20th century reformists and orientalists worked hard to undermine the Khilafah in the minds of the Muslims. One such reformist – Ali Abdel Razek – living under British rule in occupied Egypt, wrote a book called ‘Islam and the Foundations of Governance’ published in 1925. He said, “If the establishment of a state had indeed been part of his appointed purpose, how could he have left it so vague that the Muslims, finding themselves completely in the dark [after his death], fell to killing one another? Why did he not address the problem of succession or the head of state when holders of power always and everywhere regard it as a duty to settle this question as a matter of priority? How could he have left his people in such utter confusion as that which swept over them and instantly plunged them into the most vicious violence even before they could see his body to the grave?”[10] His attempt to undermine the Khilafah and the ongoing efforts at the time to resurrect it, led to his excommunication from Al-Azhar by the ulema.

The British orientalist Thomas Arnold said, “The Prophet Muhammed nominated no successor. It would be idle to speculate why with his genius for organization he neglected to make such provision for the future of the new religious community he had founded.”[11]

These shallow arguments are easily debunked by the sahih hadith on the bay’ah which we will discuss in due course, and the ijma (consensus) of the sahaba who acted according to these hadith upon the death of the Messenger ﷺ. One such hadith which is agreed upon (متفق عليه) by Bukhari and Muslim is:

كَانَتْ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ تَسُوسُهُمُ الأَنْبِيَاءُ كُلَّمَا هَلَكَ نَبِيٌّ خَلَفَهُ نَبِيٌّ وَإِنَّهُ لاَ نَبِيَّ بَعْدِي وَسَتَكُونُ خُلَفَاءُ فَتَكْثُرُ ‏‏قَالُوا فَمَا تَأْمُرُنَا قَالَ فُوا بِبَيْعَةِ الأَوَّلِ فَالأَوَّلِ وَأَعْطُوهُمْ حَقَّهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سَائِلُهُمْ عَمَّا اسْتَرْعَاهُمْ

“The prophets ruled over the children of Israel, whenever a prophet died another prophet succeeded him, but there will be no prophet after me. There will soon be Khulafaa’ and they will number many.” They asked; “What then do you order us?” He said: “Fulfil the bay’ah to them, one after the other, and give them their dues for Allah will verily account them about what he entrusted them with.”[12]

“According to Ibn Taymiyyah’s analysis [of this hadith], the acknowledgment of a future multitude of caliphs indicates that there would be more caliphs than just the first few righteous ones (since they alone could not be considered “many”). The Prophet’s instruction to be loyal to one’s pledge of allegiance to whoever had assumed the caliphate first also suggested to Ibn Taymiyyah that, unlike the time of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, succession would later become a matter of dispute. Ibn Taymiyyah further regards the Prophet’s injunction to respect the rights of those later caliphs, who would eventually be taken to task by God for their shepherding of the Muslim community, as evidence supporting the Sunni position of recognizing temporal political authority.”[13]

After the death of the Prophet ﷺ, the senior sahaba gathered and elected Abu Bakr as the first Khaleefah, by giving him the bay’ah. Abu Bakr then organised the state according to the same ajhizat (structure) established by the Prophet ﷺ. This proves that Islam has a detailed ruling system which is the Khilafah. For further information please read History of the Islamic State’s Institutions

Who is the Khaleefah?

The Khaleefah (Caliph) or Imam is the head of the Khilafah or Islamic State. The scholars have formally defined this institution as: “The Khilafah (Caliphate) is the general leadership over all the Muslims, in the whole world, whose responsibility is to implement the laws of Islam, and to convey the Islamic Message to the whole world. It is also known as the Imamah (Imamate), so Imamah and Khilafah are synonymous,”[14] and “Imamate is prescribed to succeed prophethood as a means of protecting the deen and of managing the affairs of this world. There is a consensus of opinion that the person who discharges the responsibilities of this position must take on the contract of Imamate of the Ummah.”[15]

A Khaleefah cannot exist without a Khilafah and vice-versa, because the Khaleefah is the state. The title ‘Khaleefah’ is not important, but the function of the post is, which is a leader ruling by Islam over a land (dar) whose security is in the hands of the Muslims i.e. dar ul-Islam, with a legitimate bay’ah from the Muslim ummah. This is the criteria against which we assess rulers and states. As an example, King Salman of Saudi Arabia is called a king and Mu’awiya was called a king, but Mu’awiya was a Khaleefah with a legitimate bay’ah whereas King Salman is not a Khaleefah, because the bay’ah given to him is batil (void) due to him not ruling by Islam.

The Khilafah is a general leadership (Riyaashah ‘Aammah)[16], because the Khaleefah is the Ameer of Ameers, and sits above all the leadership positions in the state.

Ruling Contracts

Allah (Most High) revealed a detailed system for governing the relationships between people. These relationships are known as the mu’amilaat (transactions) and account for the largest section of Islamic Fiqh. The contract (‘aqd) is a fundamental concept in mu’amilaat for defining these relationships. Allah (Most High) says,يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ أَوْفُوا۟ بِٱلْعُقُودِ “O you who believe, fulfil your contracts.”[17]

The relationship of marriage between men and women is governed by the contract of Nikah. The relationship of trade is governed by the contract of Al-Bay’, and the relationship of establishing companies is governed by the contract of Sharika (partnership) and so on.

The relationships of ruling are no different. They are governed by three specific contracts which are:

1- Bay’ah (بَيْعَة) – contract between the Muslims and the Khaleefah

2- Dhimmah (ذِمَّة) – contract between the non-Muslim citizens and the Khaleefah

3- Mu’aahadah (مُعاهَدَة) – treaty between other states and the Khaleefah

Our concern here is with the bay’ah which is a contract between two parties – the Muslims and the Khaleefah who is head of the Islamic State or Khilafah.

Difference between ‘aqd and ‘ahd

In this series on the bay’ah, two terms will be used for ruling contracts – ‘aqd (عقد) and ‘ahd (عهد). Both have similar meanings, but ‘aqd is more appropriate for the bay’ah, and ‘ahd more appropriate for the succession contract. In Islamic history the succession contract which governed who would be the next Khaleefah, became known as the Wiliyatul-‘Ahd based on the ‘ahd of Abu Bakr nominating Umar as his successor. Abu Bakr summoned Uthman to him in private and said to him, “Write, ‘In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Most Merciful. This is the ‘ahd which Abu Bakr bin Abi Quhafah has enjoined on the Muslims. Now then…’”[18] Treaties with other nations are also a derivative (form III) of ‘ahd called mu’ahadaat (المعاهدات).

What is the meaning of bay’ah?

Linguistically bay’ah (بَيْعَة) is derived from the verbal noun[19] البيع which means “selling or purchasing”.[20] Form III of this verb بايع means “to contract” or “pledge allegiance”.[21]

The sharia texts (Qur’an and Sunnah) have assigned a different meaning to the word بَيْعَة which is – the contract between the Muslim Ummah and the Khaleefah. This contract stipulates that the Khaleefah must rule by Islam and the Ummah must obey the Islamic laws he adopts. This is why bay’ah only existed in the Islamic State of Madinah or in relation to assuming authority in Madinah (1st and 2nd pledges of Al-Aqaba). Prior to this, anyone who became Muslim in Makkah simply attested to the shahada, أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وأشهد أن محمدا رسول الله and by doing so obeying the Messenger ﷺ was obliged upon them in his ﷺ capacity as a Prophet and Messenger. Allah (Most High) says in Surah Al-Jinn, a Makki surah,

وَمَن يَعْصِ ٱللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُۥ فَإِنَّ لَهُۥ نَارَ جَهَنَّمَ خَـٰلِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَبَدًا

“As for him who disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he will have the Fire of Hell, remaining in it timelessly, for ever and ever.”[22]

After the Messenger of Allah ﷺ assumed authority in Madinah, he was acting in his capacity as a ruler of a state and this is the reason obedience is restated in the bay’ahوَلَا يَعْصِينَكَ فِي مَعْرُوفٍ “or disobey you in respect of anything right”.[23] In his capacity as a Prophet and Messenger, he ﷺ was infallible and would never order anything except that which is right. But in his ﷺ capacity as a ruler he acted differently. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “…I verily would wish to meet Allah Azza wa Jall without anyone claiming from me for an act of injustice I had committed against him be it blood or money.”[24]

Abdul-Qadeem Zaloom mentions, “This clearly indicates that he ﷺ held two posts: Prophethood, together with Messengership and the leadership over all the Muslims in the world in order to establish the Shari’ah of Allah which He revealed to him ﷺ. He ﷺ performed each task in accordance with that which the task itself required, acting differently in each role. He ﷺ took the Bay’ah to rule upon the Muslims in ruling. He took it from men and women but not from children who had not yet reached puberty. This only confirms that it was a Bay’ah over ruling and not over Prophethood.”[25]He also says,“Thus his execution of ruling does not require infallibility as such, but in reality he ﷺ was infallible because he was a Prophet and a Messenger.”[26]

The Khaleefah therefore succeeds the Prophet ﷺ in ruling not prophethood, as the temporal head of the ummah.

Ibn Khaldun says, “It should be known that the bay’ah is a contract to render obedience. It is as though the person who renders the oath of allegiance made a contract with his Ameer, to the effect that he surrenders supervision of his own affairs and those of the Muslims to him and that he will not contest his authority and that he will obey him by (executing) all the duties with which he might be charged, whether agreeable or disagreeable.

When people rendered the oath of allegiance to the Ameer and concluded the contract, they put their hands into his hand to confirm the contract. This was considered to be something like the action of buyer and seller (after concluding a bargain). Therefore, the oath of allegiance was called bay’ah, the infinitive of bâ‘a ‘to sell (or buy)’. The bay’ah was a handshake. Such is its meaning in customary linguistic terminology and the accepted usage of the religious law.”[27]

Are there any other meanings of bay’ah?

Since bay’ah has a linguistic meaning of making a pledge, it is sometimes used for pledging to other than the Khaleefah. In Sufism for example, bay’ah is used for a mureed (seeker of spiritual knowledge) who attaches himself to a sheikh who teaches him. Bay’ah here is used in the linguistic sense and means making an oath of commitment.

After the Umayyad ‘Khaleefah’ Mu’awiya ibn Yazid (64H/683CE) died, the Muslims in the provinces elected Ameers to rule over them until a new Khaleefah had been appointed. The term bay’ah was used here for this pledge to the Ameer. Tabari mentions,

و الضحاك بن قيس الفهرى قد بايعه أهل دمشق على أن يصلى بهم و يقم لهم أمرهم حتى يجتمع أمر أمة مح مد[28]

“The people had given bay’ah to al-Dahhak bin Qays al-Fihri on the understanding that he should lead them in prayer and manage their affairs until the question of authority over the community of Muhammad had been settled.”[29]

Bay’ah was also used in the Umayyad period for the wali ul-ahd (succession contract). This started with Mu’awiya who took ‘bay’ah’ for his son Yazid while he was still in office. It was well known during that period that bay’ah can only be given to one Khaleefah at a time. Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr said to Mu’awiya regarding him taking bay’ah for Yazid, “Allegiance to both of you can never be combined.”[30]This is based on the famous hadith, إِذَا بُويِعَ لِخَلِيفَتَيْنِ فَاقْتُلُوا الآخَرَ مِنْهُمَا “When bay’ah has been taken for two Khaleefahs, kill the latter of them.”[31]So although the word bay’ah was used by Mu’awiya and subsequent Khulufa’, it actually means wali ul-ahd.

Is bay’ah on belief or action?

The 9th year of the Hijrah is known as the ‘Year of the Delegations’ (سنة الوفود), in which each Arab tribe sent a group of representatives to meet with the Prophet ﷺ in Madinah. Apart from the Christians of Najran who chose to remain on their religion and pay the jizya, the rest of the Arab tribes accepted Islam and gave their bay’ah to the Prophet ﷺ. Since the bay’ah for many of these tribes and individuals was given at the same time as accepting Islam, this may lead someone to the conclusion that the bay’ah is related to belief, and withdrawing bay’ah is apostasy.

In response to this, bay’ah is related to ruling which is an action, and those who give bay’ah are already Muslim. The evidences for this are as follows.

1- Bay’ah is always taken from a believer

Allah (Most High) says:

يا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِذا جاءَكَ المُؤمِناتُ يُبايِعنَكَ

“O Prophet! When women who have iman come to you pledging allegiance to you…”[32]

لقد رضي الله عن المؤمنين إذ يبايعونك تحت الشجرة

“Allah was pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you under the tree.”[33]

إِنَّ الَّذينَ يُبايِعونَكَ إِنَّما يُبايِعونَ اللَّهَ

“Those who pledge you their allegiance pledge allegiance to Allah.”[34]

When the Prophet ﷺ met members of the Al-Khazraj tribe at Hajj, two years before the hijra, six converted to Islam but there was no bay’ah. The following year ten members of Al-Khazraj and two from Al-Aws met with the Prophet ﷺ at Hajj and all were Muslim. When the Prophet ﷺ saw that their number had increased, and that they had started to convert members of their traditional enemy the Al-Aws tribe, he ﷺ saw a potential for gaining authority in Yathrib, so he ﷺ took the first bay’ah of Al-Aqaba from them, and then despatched Mus’ab ibn Umayr to prepare the society of Yathrib for Islam.

2- Bay’ah is not taken from a child whereas belief in Islam is accepted from a child

Zainab bint Humair took her son ‘Abdullah Ibn Hisham to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and said: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ بَايِعْهُ‏ ‘O Messenger of Allah! Take his Bay’ah’. The Prophet ﷺ said: هُوَ صَغِيرٌ “He is young”, so he stroked his head and prayed for him.[35]

Zubair ibn Al-Awwam asked his son Abdullah ibn Zubair to go to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to give the bay’ah.

ثُمَّ جَاءَ وَهُوَ ابْنُ سَبْعِ سِنِينَ أَوْ ثَمَانٍ لِيُبَايِعَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَأَمَرَهُ بِذَلِكَ الزُّبَيْرُ فَتَبَسَّمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم حِينَ رَآهُ مُقْبِلاً إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ بَايَعَهُ

“He (Abdullah) went to him ﷺ when he had attained the age of seven or eight years in order to pledge allegiance to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as Zubair had commanded him to do. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ smiled when he saw him coming towards him and then accepted his allegiance.”[36]

Nawawi comments on this saying, هَذِهِ بَيْعَة تَبْرِيك وَتَشْرِيف لَا بَيْعَة تَكْلِيف “This is a bay’ah of blessing and honor, not a bay’ah of (shar’i) responsibility.”[37]

This is different to accepting Islam, because reaching puberty is not a condition for becoming Muslim. We know from the seerah that Ali ibn Abi Talib was the first boy to accept Islam and he hadn’t reached puberty. Ibn Kathir says, “And the first boy to accept Islam was Ali ibn Abi Talib; he was young then and had not reached puberty – as generally believed.”[38]

3- A Bedouin requested to be relieved of his bay’ah and wasn’t executed for apostasy

A Bedouin came to the Prophet ﷺ and said, بَايِعْنِي عَلَى الإِسْلاَمِ‏ “Please take my bay’ah for Islam.” So the Prophet took from him the bay’ah for Islam. He came the next day with a fever and said to the Prophet ﷺ أَقِلْنِي “Cancel my pledge.” But the Prophet ﷺ refused and when the Bedouin went away, the Prophet said, الْمَدِينَةُ كَالْكِيرِ، تَنْفِي خَبَثَهَا، وَيَنْصَعُ طِيبُهَا “Madinah is like a pair of bellows (furnace): It expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good.”[39]

Abdul-Qadeem Zaloom comments on this hadith, “It would be wrong to claim that the Bedouin wanted to leave Islam by seeking relief from his bay’ah rather than the obedience to the Head of State. This is because if this had been the case, his act would have been considered as apostasy, and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would most certainly have killed him, since the punishment for the apostate is killing. The bay’ah itself is not a bay’ah for embracing Islam but for obedience. Therefore, the Bedouin wanted to rid himself from his oath of obedience, not to apostasise.”[40]

So coming back to the original point that the tribes and individuals in Madinah gave bay’ah at the same time as accepting Islam, what actually happened was the bay’ah was combined, or made at the same time as the shahada to accept Islam. This is evident from Khalid bin Walid’s conversion to Islam, as narrated in the Seerah of Ibn Hisham where Khalid first accepted Islam (submitted) and then gave the bay’ah.

فَتَقَدَّمَ خَالِدُ بْنُ الْوَلِيدِ ، فَأَسْلَمَ وَبَايَعَ

“So Khalid bin Walid came forward and submitted, then gave bay’ah.”[41]

Two parts of the bay’ah

The bay’ah can be split into two parts:

1- Bay’ah of Contract (بيعة الانعقاد)

2- Bay’ah of Obedience (بيعة الطاعة)

The reason for this split is because the bay’ah is a contract of one-to-millions i.e. between the Khaleefah and the Muslim ummah. This is different to other Islamic contracts which are one-to-one such as buying, selling and marriage. This therefore poses a challenge on how you get the consent of millions of people which is a condition in Islamic contracts. It’s not possible for every Muslim to participate in the election of the Imam, which is why in the rightly guided Khilafah of the sahaba, the senior representatives of the people would contract the bay’ah to the Khaleefah. The rest of the Muslims would accept their opinion and rush to pledge their bay’ah to the newly appointed Khaleefah. This was done either directly in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which was the capital of the state, or indirectly through the governors in the other provinces.[42] 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.”[43]

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.”[44]

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. We will come back to this point later.

The bay’ah of contract is the actual contracting ceremony where the Khaleefah is appointed. This is referred to by some as the private bay’ah(bay’at al-khassa)Once its concluded, the Khaleefah is the new ruler, and he must fulfil the conditions of his contract which is primarily ruling by Islam. The Muslims must also fulfil their side of the contract which is obedience.

The bay’ah of obedience, also referred to as the public bay’ah (bay’at al-‘amma)is not another bay’ah. It is simply the Muslims publicly confirming their side of the existing bay’ah contract, which is obedience. In fact, the bay’ah of obedience can be given multiple times, and the Khaleefah can demand it from the Muslims if he so wishes. This is similar to what some westerners do when they renew their marriage vows. They are still contractually married, but renew their vows with each other to reconfirm and celebrate their relationship.

Abdul-Qadeem Zalloom says, “Therefore, the Khilafah is contracted if the Bay’ah was taken from those who represent the majority of the Islamic Ummah that lives under the authority of the (last) Khaleefah, in whose place another Khaleefah is sought to be appointed, as it was the case at the time of the Khulafaa’ Ar-Rashidoon. Their Bay’ah would constitute a Bay’ah of contract, while for the others, once the Khilafah has been contracted; their Bay’ah would be classed as a Bay’ah of obedience, i.e. a Bay’ah of allegiance to the Khaleefah and not a Bay’ah of contract.”[45]

The election of the first Khaleefah in Islam – Abu Bakr As-Siddiq clearly illustrates the two parts of the bay’ah. After the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ passed away, the senior sahaba from the Muhajireen and Ansar who were the Ahlul hali wal-aqd, met in the saqeefa (portico) of the Sa’ida clan of the Al-Khazraj tribe to appoint a new head of state. A heated debate ensued, and then Abu Bakr was selected and given the bay’ah, becoming the first Khaleefah of Islam. This is the bay’ah of contract. The next day the Muslims of Madinah gathered in the Masjid and Abu Bakr’s appointment was announced. They then came one by one giving him the bay’ah by shaking his hand. Messengers were dispatched to the various provinces, and the Muslims living there gave bay’a via their governors.[46] Abdul-Qadeem Zalloom says, “Thus the first Bay’ah of the Saqeefah was the Bay’ah of contract, while the Bay’ah of the Masjid, on the next day, was that of obedience.”[47]

The two bay’ah ceremonies continued throughout the Khilafah and this is shown in the bay’ah to the Abbasid Khaleefah Al-Qadir. Hanne says, “Going beyond the concerns of regional and household politics, however, the events surrounding al-Qadir’s rise to the Caliphate also shed light on the procedural issues surrounding the installation of new caliphs. Al-Qadir was required to participate in two bay’a ceremonies, the first the bay’at al-khassa (private bay’a), generally limited to the household and members of the new caliphal administration and court, and the second one, the bay’at al-‘amma (public bay’a), a general audience in which the people were allowed to give their oath of allegiance to the new caliph. The final phase of the procedure with regard to Baha’ al-Dawla and al-Qadir included an officially witnessed ceremony wherein both leaders swore mutual oaths of fealty to one another. [48]

Evidence for the Bay’ah

The Bay’ah of Contract is Fard Al-Kifayah (a collective obligation)[49]. Although it is the right of every Muslim man or woman to participate in contracting the Khaleefah, it is not obligatory for them to practice this right, as long as some from among the ummah are engaged in this. As mentioned before, those involved in contracting the bay’ah are the Ahlul hali wal-aqd who represent the opinion of the Muslims at large. The bay’ah of obedience on the other hand is Fard Al-‘Ain (an individual duty).

The evidence for the bay’ah being an obligation is from the sunnah. The Prophet ﷺ said,

كَانَتْ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ تَسُوسُهُمُ الأَنْبِيَاءُ كُلَّمَا هَلَكَ نَبِيٌّ خَلَفَهُ نَبِيٌّ وَإِنَّهُ لاَ نَبِيَّ بَعْدِي وَسَتَكُونُ خُلَفَاءُ فَتَكْثُرُ ‏‏قَالُوا فَمَا تَأْمُرُنَا قَالَ فُوا بِبَيْعَةِ الأَوَّلِ فَالأَوَّلِ وَأَعْطُوهُمْ حَقَّهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سَائِلُهُمْ عَمَّا اسْتَرْعَاهُمْ

“The prophets ruled over the children of Israel, whenever a prophet died another prophet succeeded him, but there will be no prophet after me. There will soon be Khulafaa’ and they will number many.” They asked; “What then do you order us?” He said: “Fulfil the bay’ah to them, one after the other, and give them their dues for Allah will verily account them about what he entrusted them with.”[50]

The commandفُوا بِبَيْعَةِ “Fulfil the bay’ah to them” is an obligation because of the decisive qareena (indication) found in many other hadith such as:

It has been reported on the authority of Nafi’, that Abdullah ibn Umar paid a visit to Abdullah ibn Muti’[51] in the days (when atrocities were perpetrated on the People of Madinah) at Harrah in the time of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya. Ibn Muti’ said: ‘Place a pillow for Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman (family name of ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar). But the latter said: I have not come to sit with you. I have come to you to tell you a tradition I heard from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. I heard him say:

 مَنْ خَلَعَ يَدًا مِنْ طَاعَةٍ لَقِيَ اللَّهَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ لاَ حُجَّةَ لَهُ وَمَنْ مَاتَ وَلَيْسَ فِي عُنُقِهِ بَيْعَةٌ مَاتَ مِيتَةً جَاهِلِيَّةً

“Whoever withdraws his hand from obedience (to the Ameer) will find no argument (in his defence) when he stands before Allah on the Day of Judgment, and whoever dies while having no bay’ah on his neck he dies the death of Jahiliyah.”[52]

Also narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar through Nafi’ that the Prophet ﷺ said:

” من خرج من الجماعة قيد شبر فقد خلع ربقة الإسلام من عنقه حتى يراجعه ” قال : ” ومن مات وليس عليه إمام جماعة فإن موتته موتة جاهلية

“Whoever removes himself from the Jama’at [the unified Muslim Ummah] by a handspan then he has taken Islam from his neck until he returns.” [and] he ﷺ said, “Whoever dies and does not have an Imam of the Jama’at over him then his death is a death of jahiliyah.”[53]

The phrase “death of jahiliyah”doesn’t mean the person is a disbeliever, because the subject matter of the hadith is action not iman. In usul ul-fiqh (the science which governs the actions of people), any text of the Qur’an and Sunnah related to actions which negate Iman, is considered a decisive qareenah which indicates an obligation or prohibition, not kufr.[54]

Muhammad Hussein Abdullah says, “If the Daleel (evidence) indicates that leaving, or not doing the action has a punishment built upon that in the Dunya (the life of this world) or in the Akhirah (the hereafter), or the hate (detestation) or anger of Allah is attached to it or the negation of Imaan (belief),”[55] then it is a decisive qareenah in the command or prohibition which means its either fard or haram. An indecisive qareenah would only indicate the action being mandub (recommended) or makruh (disliked). This is similar to the hadith where the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,

إِذَا قَالَ الرَّجُلُ لأَخِيهِ يَا كَافِرُ فَقَدْ بَاءَ بِهِ أَحَدُهُمَا

“If a man says to his brother, O Kafir! Then surely one of them is such.”[56]

This doesn’t mean the man saying this is a kafir. Rather it means because it is related to an action it is a decisive qareenah that saying to a believer “O Kafir” is a major sin.

Abu Ubayd al-Qaasim ibn Sallam (d.224H/838CE) comments on such hadith saying, “These reports are not to be interpreted as meaning that the one who commits sin is to be labelled as belonging to the people of jahiliyah, a kafir or a hypocrite when he believes in Allah and the message sent by Him, and he fulfils the obligatory duties. What these reports mean is that these sins are part of the actions of the kuffar which are forbidden in the Qur’an and Sunnah, so that the Muslims can avoid these things and steer clear of them, and not imitate the kuffar in any of their attitudes or ways.”[57]

These two hadith are clear in that it is Fard Al-‘Ain for all Muslim men or women to have a bay’ah on their neck because of the generality indicated in the use of من (whoever). In other words, they are bound by the bay’ah of obedience, even if they were not part of the process to contract the bay’ah to the Khaleefah.

The second hadith explains what is meant by the metaphor “having no bay’ah on his neck” with the words “does not have an Imam of the Jama’at over him”. [58] Therefore establishing the Khilafah today is an obligation based on the sharia principle “whatever leads to a wajib (obligation) is itself wajib”.[59]Abdul-Qadeem Zalloom says, “The obligation therefore, is the existence of a bay’ah on the neck of every Muslim. This necessitates the existence of a Khaleefah, who, through his existence, is entitled to a bay’ah (on the neck of every Muslim). Thus, the existence of the Khaleefah is the issue that necessitates a bay’ah on the neck of every Muslim, whether he actually gave the bay’ah [in person] or not.”[60]

More in this series (coming soon):

The Bay’ah Contract

Misapplication of the Bay’ah

Who contracts the Bay’ah?

The Designated Successor (Wali ul-Ahd)

Bay’ah in Islamic History: The Islamic State of the Prophet (saw)

Bay’ah in Islamic History: The Rightly Guided Khilafah

Bay’ah in Islamic History: The Umayyad Khilafah

Bay’ah in Islamic History: The Abbasid Khilafah

Bay’ah in Islamic History: The Abbasid Khilafah within the Mamluk Sultanate

Bay’ah in Islamic History: The Ottoman Khilafah


[1] The hidden pronoun (dameer mustatir) in the verb تصير is a هي and it refers back to the word Khilafah. This doesn’t mean the Khilafah will end after thirty years, rather it means the Khilafah will continue but with the characteristics of mulk. Sayf ad-Deen al-Amidi (1156-1233CE) says, “He ﷺ said: ثم تصير ملكا ‘then it will become a mulkan’. The personal pronoun (dameer) in تصير ملكا ‘taseeru mulkan’ refers to the Khilafah. Since the mentioned (verb) cannot refer to anything other than the Khilafah, it’s as if it is saying ‘and then the Khilafah becomes a mulk’. It judged that the Khilafah will become a mulk, where the judgment on a thing requires that the thing itself still exists.” [Sayf ad-Deen al-Amidi, ‘al-Imaamah min abkar al-afkar fi usul ad-din,’ p.306; Kamal Abu-Zahra, ‘The Centrality of the Khilafah in Islam,’ p.48]

[2] Eric J. Hanne, ‘Putting the Caliph in His Place: Power, Authority, and the Late Abbasid Caliphate,’ 2007, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, p.205

[3] Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, 267

[4] Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti, ‘The history of the Khalifahs who took the right way’, translation of Tareekh ul-Khulufaa, Ta Ha Publishers, p.63

[5] Mona Hassan, ‘Longing for the Lost Caliphate,’ Princeton University Press, 2016, p.13

[6] Israel Gershoni and James Jankowski, Egypt, Islam, and the Arabs: The Search for Egyptian Nationhood, 1900– 1930 (NY: Oxford University Press, 1986), 5; Quoted in Mona Hassan, ‘Longing for the Lost Caliphate,’ p.10

[7] This made the bay’ah contract fasid (defective) but NOT batil (void)

[8] Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al- Ghazālī, al- Iqtiṣād fῑ’l-ʾItiqād, ed. Hüseyin Atay (Ankara: Nur Matbaası, 1962), p.240. Quoted in Mona Hassan, ‘Longing for the Lost Caliphate,’ p.102

[9] T.N.A., F. O. 371/10218/E2823, March 31, 1924; Quoted in Mona Hassan, ‘Longing for the Lost Caliphate,’ p.151

[10] Ali Abdel Razek, ‘Islam and the Foundations of Political Power,’ a translation of Al-Islam Wa Usul Al-Hukm, 1925, Translated by Maryam Loutfi, Aga Khan University-ISMC; Edinburgh University Press, 2013, p.104

[11] Thomas W. Arnold, ‘The Caliphate,’ Oxford University Press, 1924, p.19

[12] Sahih Muslim 1842a, ; sahih Bukhari 3455,

[13] Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmūʾ Fatāwā, 35:20; Quoted in Mona Hassan, ‘Longing for the Lost Caliphate,’ p.113

[14] Abdul-Qadeem Zaloom, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’ translation of Nizam ul-Hukm fil Islam, Khilafah Publications, Fifth Edition, p.35; Ibn ‘Aabideen also said, “The general leadership (Riyaashah ‘Aammah) in respect to the Deen and the Dunyaa, in successorship (Khilafatan) to the Nabi ﷺ” [Haashiyah Ibn ‘Aabideen: 1/571-572]

[15] Abu l-Hasan al-Mawardi, The Laws of Islamic Governance, translation of Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyah, Ta Ha Publishers, p.10

[16] Ibn ‘Aabideen, ‘Haashiyah,’ 1/571-572

[17] Holy Qur’an, Surah al-Maa’ida, ayah 1

[18] al-Tabari, ‘The History of Al-Tabari’, translation of Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk, State University of New York Press, Volume XI, pp.147

[19] The grammarians disagreed on the original roots of every derived Arabic word. Some said they are derived from the masdar (verbal noun) as is mentioned here. Others said they are derived from the verb (three-letter roots).

[20] The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern written Arabic, fourth edition, p.105


[22] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Jinn, ayah 23

[23] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Mumtahana, ayah 12

[24] Musnad Ahmad, narrated from Anas

[25] Abdul-Qadeem Zaloom, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’ Op.cit., p.131

[26] Ibid, p.133

[27] Ibn Khaldun, ‘The Muqaddimah – An Introduction to History,’ Translated by Franz Rosenthal, Princeton Classics, p.268

[28] al-Tabari, ‘Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk,’ Arabic Edition, Vol.4, p.409

[29] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Vol. XX, p.48

[30] Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti, ‘History of the Umayyad Caliphs,’ a translation of Tarikh al-Khulafa’, Translated by Abdassamad Clarke, Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd, p.24

[31] Sahih Muslim 1853,

[32] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Mumtahana, ayah 12

[33] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Fath, ayah 18

[34] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Fath, ayah 10

[35] Sahih al-Bukhari 7210,

[36] Sahih Muslim 2146a,

[37] Imam Nawawi, ‘Sharh Sahih Muslim,’ 14/126

[38] Ibn Kathir, ‘The Life of the Prophet Muhammad,’ translation of Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya,’ pp.314

[39] Sahih al-Bukhari 7216,

[40] Abdul-Qadeem Zaloom, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’ Op.cit., p.125

[41] Sirah An-Nabuwa by Ibn Hisham

[42] Dr Ali Muhammad As-Sallabi, ‘The Biography of Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq’, Dar us-Salam Publishers, p.250

[43] Ahmad, al-ʿAqīdah bi-Riwāyah al-Khallāl, 1/124

[44] Abu l-Hasan al-Mawardi, Op.cit., p.12

[45] Abdul-Qadeem Zaloom, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’ Op.cit., p.65

[46] Dr Ali Muhammad As-Sallabi, Op.cit., p.250

[47] Abdul-Qadeem Zaloom, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’Op.cit., p.86

[48] Eric J. Hanne, Op.cit., p.64

[49] Fard Al-Kifayah means if some Muslims fulfil the duty then the sin is dropped from the rest of the ummah. Janazah prayer is another example of Fard Al-Kifayah.

[50] Sahih Muslim 1842a, ; sahih Bukhari 3455,

[51] He was a commander for the Muslims of Madinah who rebelled against Yazid at the battle of al-Harrah. Abdullah ibn Umar had given bay’ah to Yazid, and held a different opinion to ibn Muti’ and those who fought against Yazid at al-Harrah.

[52] Sahih Muslim 1851a,

[53] Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, 267

[54] If the text is applicable to both actions and iman then depending on the context it may indicate kufr such as the ayah, وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ “Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down, such people are kafirun.” [al-Maaida, 44] “if he [Khaleefah] adopted rules from other than the Islamic rules and he knew that what he had adopted was something other than the Islamic Shari’ah then the words of Allah (swt)

“And whosoever rules by other than what Allah has revealed then such are the disbelievers” apply to him, so if he believed in the rule that he adopted then he has committed disbelief and apostatised from Islam.” [Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, ‘An Introduction to the Constitution and its obligation’ translation of Muqadimatud-Dustur Aw al-Asbabul Mujibatulah, Article 38, p.115]

[55] Muhammad Hussein Abdullah, ‘Al-Waadih Fee Usool ul-Fiqh,’ 1995, First Translated English Edition 2016, p.525

[56] Sahih al-Bukhari 6103,

[57] Kitaab al-Eemaan by Abu Ubayd al-Qaasim ibn Sallam, p.94; Quoted in Umar al-Ashqar, ‘Belief in Allah in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah,’ International Islamic Publishing House, p.61

[58] Abu Luqman Fathullah, ‘The Sixty Sultaniyya,’ p.13

[59] Ibid

[60] Abdul-Qadeem Zaloom, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’ Op.cit., p.36