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The Secret to Moonsighting Unity for Ramadan and ‘Eid

Only by the establishment of a Rightly Guided Caliphate will the endless moonsighting disputes come to a close. This is because Muslims are obliged to obey the Caliph in this matter as part of their bay’a of obedience to him.

Article 3 of the draft Caliphate constitution states:

“The Caliph adopts specific Sharia rules, which he will enact as a constitution and laws. If he adopts a Sharia rule, this rule alone becomes the Sharia rule that must be acted upon and it becomes a binding law that every citizen must obey openly and privately.” [Hizb ut-Tahrir, Muqadimatud-Dustur Aw al-Asbabul Mujibatulah]

Some of the classical scholars also held this view.

The following has been reproduced from

Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī quotes the following in his Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī:

“Ibn al-Mājishūn* said: Only the people of the town where the witnessing occurs are obliged [to fast] unless it is established by the Caliph (al-Imām al Azam). In such a case, all the people are obliged [to fast], because all the towns with respect to him (the Caliph) are as one town, since his verdict is binding upon everyone.”
[Translated by Shaykh ‘Abdullah bin Hamid ‘Ali]

*“Abu Marwan ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Abi Salama al-Majishun (r) (d. 212) the sea of knowledge, a Jurisprudent and Mufti of Madina, a contemporary of Malik more than his actual student, he studied mostly under his father, then with Malik and others. Whenever al-Shafi‘i rehearsed Fiqh with him, people would not understand them because they spoke the desert Arabic of Hudhayl and Kalb. Suhnun and Ibn Habib praised him lavishly and preferred him to most of Malik’s companions.”
[The Four Imams and their Schools, Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Muslim Academic Trust, 2007, p. 148]

[NB: The relied upon opinion in the Hanbali, Hanafi and Maliki Madhabs is global sighting of the moon. The main point made here by Ibn al-Mājishūn is that if the Caliph announces the beginning of Ramadan (or indeed for ‘Eid), then all will be obliged to accept his decision since “his verdict is binding upon everyone”.
Having an orthodox Caliph ruling us would solve the chaos caused every Ramadan and ‘Eid by a certain kingdom]

[See for Hanbali Madhhab: Muwaffaq al-Din and Shams al-Din ibn Qudama, al-Mughni (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.), 3:10-13]
[See for Hanafi Madhab: Muhammad Amin “Ibn Abidin”, Hashiya Radd al-Muhtar (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1415/1995), 2:432-433]
[See for Maliki Madhab: Mubarak bin ‘Ali al-Ahsa’i, Tashil al-Masalik ila Hidaya al-Salik ila Madhhab al-Imam Malik, ‘Abdul Hamid bin Mubarak, ed. (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Imam al-Shafi’i, 1416/1995), 3:783]

Ustadh Iyad Hilal has spent years studying the topic of moon-sighting and argues that in origin a lot of the debates about what constitutes sighting have been subject to differences between the classical scholars. To insist on one way, as some Islamic groups do, in the absence of a caliphal authority that resolves disputes, comes from a shallow understanding of the lawfulness of difference of opinion in Islam. He argues that it is perfectly natural for there to be differences of interpretation of texts and that the correct way is to accept this difference with adab and civility. In other words, there is no problem in having differences as long as it is based on a sincere reading of the Islamic sources of law. Listen to a full podcast on this subject below courtesy of The Thinking Muslim.

Tafseer of Surah Quraish

The following is based on a translation of Dr Fadhel al Samarrai’s Tafseer of Surah Quraysh. Translation courtesy of Abu Yusuf.

لِإِيلَافِ قُرَيْشٍ ﴿١﴾ إِيلَافِهِمْ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتَاءِ وَالصَّيْفِ ﴿٢﴾ فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَٰذَا الْبَيْتِ ﴿٣﴾ الَّذِي أَطْعَمَهُم مِّن جُوعٍ وَآمَنَهُم مِّنْ خَوْفٍ

(1) For the accustomed security of the Quraysh – (2) Their accustomed security [in] the caravan of winter and summer – (3) Let them worship the Lord of this House, (4) Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear.


The connection between this chapter and the chapter before, Sura Al-Fil, is obvious. The owners of the elephants (أَصْحَـٰبِ ٱلْفِيلِ) came to Makkah because of the house of Allah, the Ka’bah. Allah ﷻ preserved and honoured His house, and protected Quraysh by destroying the army of the elephants. He protected the house and provided security and well-being to the people of Quraysh.

In Bahr Al-Muheet, Abu Hayan says:

إذْ لَوْ سُلِّطَ عَلَيْهِمْ أصْحابُ الفِيلِ لَتَشَتَّتُوا في البِلادِ والأقالِيمِ، ولَمْ تَجْتَمِعْ لَهم كَلِمَةٌ

البحر المحيط لأبي حيان — أبو حيان

“If the companions of the elephants had dominated them, they would have been dispersed throughout the lands and regions, and no word would have united them…”

It was mentioned in Tafseer Al-Kabeer of Al-Razi:

اعْلَمْ أنَّ الإنْعامَ عَلى قِسْمَيْنِ:

أحَدُهُما: دَفْعُ الضَّرَرِ.

والثّانِي: جَلْبُ النَّفْعِ، والأوَّلُ أهَمُّ وأقْدَمُ، ولِذَلِكَ قالُوا: دَفْعُ الضَّرَرِ عَنِ النَّفْسِ واجِبٌ أمّا جَلْبُ النَّفْعِ (فَإنَّهُ) غَيْرُ واجِبٍ، فَلِهَذا السَّبَبِ بَيَّنَ تَعالى نِعْمَةَ دَفْعِ الضَّرَرِ في سُورَةِ الفِيلِ ونِعْمَةَ جَلْبِ النَّفْعِ في هَذِهِ السُّورَةِ، ولَمّا تَقَرَّرَ أنَّ الإنْعامَ لا بُدَّ وأنْ يُقابَلَ بِالشُّكْرِ والعُبُودِيَّةِ، لا جَرَمَ أتْبَعَ ذِكْرَ النِّعْمَةِ بِطَلَبِ العُبُودِيَّةِ فَقالَ: (فَلْيَعْبُدُوا)

“Know that blessings are divided into two: Firstly, removal of harm and secondly, attainment of benefit. The first is more important and a higher priority. Because of this they say removing the harm itself is obligatory. As for the attainment of benefit it is not obligatory. Because of this reason He ﷻ explained the blessing of removing harm in Sura Al-Fil, and the blessing of attainment of benefit in this chapter. Whenever the blessings are realised, they must be met with gratitude and servitude. Without doubt, the mention of blessings was followed with the request of worship, so He ﷻ said: فَلْيَعْبُدُوا ‘Let them worship’.”

1- For the accustomed security of the Quraysh

لِإِيلَافِ قُرَيْشٍ

The word الإيلاف (accustomed security) is from the word الألف and الألفة, and it is the verbal noun of آلف.

Originally the word has two hamzas أألف, and the origin of الإيلف is الإئلاف with two hamzas.

The second hamza changed to a madd (elongation) in the verb and in the verbal noun because of its sukoon, and because of the previous hamza’s vowel.

 الإيلف – according to Al-Ragib means ‘gathering with a common purpose’.

Quraysh used to gather for two journeys, a journey in the winter to Yemen and a journey in the summer to the Levant (Al-Sham).

In Al-Kashaaf,

فيمتارون ويتجرون، وكانوا في رحلتيهم آمنين لأنهم أهل حرم الله وولاة بيته، فلا يتعرّض لهم، والناس غيرهم يتخطفون ويغار عليهم

“They gathered and traded, and they were in their travels safe because they are the people of Allah’s sanctuary and governors of His house. He ﷻ did not expose them while other people were afraid of being kidnapped and raided upon.” (Al-Kashaaf, 538)

The prepositional phrase لِإِيلَاف ‘For the accustomed security of the Quraysh’ is connected to His saying:فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَٰذَا الْبَيْتِ ‘Let them worship the Lord of this House’ because of the accustomed security of the Quraysh during the winter and summer journeys. This blessing alone justifies worshipping the Lord of the house who fed them and made them secure, so how about the rest of the favours Allah bestowed upon them? If they aren’t going to worship Allah because of all other favours, then at least they should worship him for this manifest blessing!

It was said, the prepositional phrase لِإِيلَاف, is connected to an assumed verb اعَجَبُوا ‘be astonished’ i.e. be astonished at the accustomed security of the Quraysh during the two journeys, who then abandon worshiping the Lord of this House who has made them pleased in this matter, while people are being kidnapped all around them.

It was mentioned in Al-Kashaaf:

لِإِيلافِ قُرَيْشٍ متعلق بقوله لْيَعْبُدُوا

أمرهم أن يعبدوه لأجل إيلافهم الرحلتين فإن قلت: فلم دخلت الفاء؟ قلت: لما في الكلام من معنى الشرط لأن المعنى: إما لا فليعبدوه لإيلافهم، على معنى: أنّ نعم الله عليهم لا تحصى، فإن لم يعبدوه لسائر نعمه، فليعبدوه لهذه الواحدة التي هي نعمة ظاهرة

“لِإِيلَافِ قُرَيْشٍ ‘for the accustomed security of the Quraysh’ is connected to His saying:  فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَٰذَا الْبَيْتِ ‘Let them worship the Lord of this House’. He commanded them to worship Him because of their accustomed security in the two journeys. So if you say: ‘Why was the particle [فَ] mentioned?’ I will reply: because the speech includes the meaning of a condition (shart). This is because the meaning is either let them worship due to their accustomed security. Based on this meaning, Allah’s blessing is countless upon them. If they did not worship him because of the rest of His blessings, then at least worship Him because of this one blessing which is an apparent blessing.

It was said: عجبوا لإيلاف قريش ‘they were amazed for the ‘accustomed security of the Quraysh’.”

It was mentioned in Al Bahrul Al Muhit,

تَتَعَلَّقُ بِاعْجَبُوا مُضْمِرَةً، أيْ اعَجَبُوا لِإيلافِ قُرَيْشٍ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتاءِ والصَّيْفِ، وتَرْكِهِمْ عِبادَةَ رَبِّ هَذا البَيْتِ

“that the prepositional phrase is connected to (اعَجَبُوا assumed verb) ‘they were amazed’ i.e. they were amazed at the accustomed security of the Quraysh during the winter and summer journeys, and their abandoning worship of the Lord of this house.”

Khalil bin Ahmed said:

وقالَ الخَلِيلُ بْنُ أحْمَدَ: تَتَعَلَّقُ بِقَوْلِهِ: ﴿فَلْيَعْبُدُوا﴾ والمَعْنى لِأنْ فَعَلَ اللَّهُ بِقُرَيْشٍ هَذا ومَكَّنَهم مِن إلْفِهِمْ هَذِهِ النِّعْمَةَ ﴿فَلْيَعْبُدُوا﴾ أمَرَهم أنْ يَعْبُدُوهُ لِأجْلِ إيلافِهِمْ الرِّحْلَةَ

“it is connected to His saying: ‘Let them worship’ فَلْيَعْبُدُوا, and the meaning is Allah has done this for Quraish, and established this blessing in their accustomed security. He commanded them to worship Him because of their accustomed security during the journey.”

The choice of the word الإيلف (accustomed security) indicates a matter they were accustomed to and it was not something rare for them, which is why they should be thankful to their Lord.

The foregrounding[1] [Taqdeem] of the prepositional phrase لِإِيلَاف over its connected verb فَلْيَعْبُدُوا is for many reasons, and coveys many benefits:

  1. If it was said: لْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَٰذَا الْبَيْتِ لِإِيلَافِ قُرَيْشٍ ‘Let them worship the Lord of this House because of the accustomed security of Quraysh’, then this necessitates the omission of the particle [فَ], and removes the meaning which it indicates upon, which we will mention shortly. Therefore, it is not correct to add the [فَ] first.
  2. This foregrounding widens the meaning. It enables the possibility of connecting the preposition to the verb [لْيَعْبُدُوا] and to the possibility to an assumed verb [اعَجَبُوا]. If it was delayed then the connection would only be to the mentioned verb [لْيَعْبُدُوا].
  3. Foregrounding creates a stronger connection to the previous chapter [Surah Fil], which makes this chapter and the previous chapter as if it was one chapter. It is as if He ﷻ said: فَجَعَلَهُمْ كَعَصْفٍ مَّأْكُولٍ ‘And He made them like eaten straw’ لِإِيلَافِ قُرَيْشٍ  ‘For the accustomed security of the Quraysh’. Some of the scholars have connected it like this.
  4. This foregrounding لِإِيلَافِ قُرَيْشٍ ‘For the accustomed security of the Quraysh’ shows the importance of this accustomed security for their lives and its great position among them. Mentioning this blessing is a reason why they recognise His guardianship over them and His worship alone, not the worship of the idols. The delaying of the prepositional phrase doesn’t show this care and concern.
  5. If it was not brought forward then it would read ‘Let Quraysh worship the Lord of this House who has fed them, saving them from hunger, and giving them security from fear because of their accustomed security during the winter and summer journey’. This speech would have been convoluted, and the eloquence and beauty would have been lost. Also it would not fulfill the intended meaning, because of the possibility of connecting the prepositional phrase to His feeding and providing safety for them. Therefore, the meaning would have been that He fed them and secured them because of their accustomed security, and the accustomed security is not a reason to worship Him.
  6. Indeed this foregrounding is a type of foregrounding for the reason of an action. So mentioning the reason necessitates worship firstly and then it follows with the request. So this type of foregrounding for precedence [Taqdeem bi-al-sabq], is because the reason motivated the action, and it deserves to be prior to it, so it was foregrounding for that.

It is similar to what we find in Surah al-Fatiha where He ﷻ says:

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٢﴾ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ ﴿٣﴾ مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ ﴿٤﴾ إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

“[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds -The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, Sovereign of the Day of Recompense. It is You we worship and You we ask for help.”

The reason for fulfilling the exclusive worship of Allah “It is You we worship and You we ask for help” was brought first “[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds…”.

This is what we also find in Surah Quyash.

2- Their accustomed security [in] the caravan of winter and summer

إِيلَافِهِمْ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتَاءِ وَالصَّيْفِ

Accustomed security was mentioned first, and then it was substituted (Mubdaal Minhu) to explain and to specify it. So Allah ﷻ said:  إِيلَافِهِمْ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتَاءِ وَالصَّيْفِ  “Their accustomed security [in] the caravan of winter and summer.” That is to emphasize [tafkheem] that matter of accustomed security, and to show the greatness of the favour upon them and its position among them.

It was mentioned in Al-Khashaaf:

أَطْلَقَ الْإِيلَافَ ثُمَّ أَبْدَلَ عَنْهُ الْمُقَيَّدَ بِالرِّحْلَتَيْنِ، تَفْخِيمًا لِأَمْرِ الْإِيلَافِ، وَتَذْكِيرًا بِعِظَمِ النِّعْمَةِ فِيهِ

“It mentioned accustomed security [الْإِيلَاف] and then substituted it by restriction with two journeys, to emphasize the matter of the accustomed security and the remainder of the great blessing in it.”

It was mentioned in Tafsir Al Kabir:

ثُمَّ خَصَّ إيلافِ الرِّحْلَتَيْنِ بِالذِّكْرِ لِسَبَبِ أنَّهُ قِوامُ مَعاشِهِمْ

“It specified that the accustomed security for the two journeys be mentioned because it is the basis of their livelihood.”

The journey was made singular [رِحْلَةَ] and what is meant by [رِحْلَتَيِ الشِّتاءِ والصَّيْفِ “two journeys of winter and summer”], is that there are two journeys for winter and two for summer and not one for each season. Therefore, what was mentioned using the singular is superior.

3- Let them worship the Lord of this House

فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَٰذَا الْبَيْتِ

This House هَٰذَا الْبَيْتِ is the Ka’ba. The word [رَبَّ] Lord, was added to the House for veneration for it, and because the two journeys continued to be successful because of this House which the Arabs venerated, Had this not been the case, then the existence and continuation of these two journeys would not have happened. Therefore, Allah requested them to worship the Lord of this House, and by means of it He bestowed upon them two great blessings:

  1. that they shouldn’t worship anyone other than Him
  2. and they should acknowledge His bounty upon them and be grateful to Allah.

The genitive construct [Al-Idafah] to the House is the most suitable thing in this position, because the one who facilitated for them these two journeys and fed them, saved them from hunger and gave them security from fear is the Lord of this House and not the idols which they worship.

The genitive construct to the house has another meaning. It is that the Lord of the House is the one who guarantees its protection and preservation. So the genitive construct to the House means its protection is dependent upon Him, just as Abdul Muttalib said to Abraha: ‘Indeed the house has a lord that will protect it’. Its Lord protected it and dealt with the companions of the elephants when they tried to destroy it.

The choice of the word [رَبَّ] is most suitable here, because Rabb is the one who takes care and protects, feeds when hungry and provides security when there is fear. So the choice of the word Al-Rabb is the most appropriate word because He ﷻ said:

  الَّذِي أَطْعَمَهُم مِّن جُوعٍ وَآمَنَهُم مِّنْ خَوْفٍ

“Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear.”

The demonstrative pronoun [هَٰذَا] was brought to specify the house so there is no confusion. Allah did not say:  فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ الْبَيْتِ ‘Let them worship the Lord of the House’ because then it would not specify exactly which house. So bringing the demonstrative pronoun [هَٰذَا] specifies the intended house.

The particle [فَ] in فَلْيَعْبُدُوا, has been mentioned and it has several meanings. It was said: It was mentioned because of the presence of the meaning of condition [Al-Shart], i.e. if they don’t worship because of all the blessings, then let them worship for this blessing. It was also said that it is extraneous [Za’ida] for the purpose of emphasis.

It may show the cause [Al-Sabab] from two angles:

  1. Being an estimated response to a condition [Jawab Al-Shart], and the particle فَ in the response to a condition predominantly shows cause.
  2. The فَ can in its different meanings give the meaning of cause generally.

In this surah the particle [فَ] shows all these meanings. So it shows the meaning of cause [sabab] and its strengthening, and also emphasizes the speech. It induces by the means of strengthening the reason so that the strength of the cause is indicated by the prepositional particle [لِ َ] لِإِيلَافِ قُرَيْش

Therefore, the particles فَ and لِ, both assist each other in indicating the cause.

The foregrounding of the prepositional phrase allows the bringing of the فَ here. If it was not foregrounded then bringing it here would not be correct. It is not permitted to say by initiating with a فَ as in:  فأعنه لأنه أعانك ‘Help him because he helped you’ and nor is it permitted to say:

فليعبدوا رب هذا البيت لإيلاف قريش

Similar expressions are His saying: لِمِثْلِ هَٰذَا فَلْيَعْمَلِ الْعَامِلُونَ “For the like of this let the workers [on earth] work.” [37:61] and His saying:  وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ  “And your Lord glorify” [74:3].

You may say, why did Allah not say: ‘Let them pray to their Lord’ as in Surah Al Kawthar after mentioning the favour which was bestowed on His Messenger ﷺ:

فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ “So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone]” [108:2].

Why did He ﷻ not mention prayer in Sura Al-Quraysh but only mentioned worship in a general form?

The reason is clear. The disbelievers of Quraysh did not worship Allah alone, rather they used to worship idols. As for prayer, it is a part of worship. Therefore He ﷻ did not request from them the prayer only for Allah. Rather He requested the general worship which includes the prayer for Him alone, and this is suitable here.

Allah did not say: ‘Let them worship their lord, who feeds them, saving them from hunger, and provides security against fear’ for more than one reason. If He ﷻ had said this, then the matter would not indicate Quraysh specifically, because Allah feeds many creations and saves them from hunger, and He provides them security, saving them from fear. Many creations do not receive these two benefits. Indeed, Allah did not feed a group of servants of Allah, saving them from hunger, and He did not provide safety and save them from fear. So if He said this, the meaning would be that whoever is not included in these two benefits, then he doesn’t worship Allah.

In this chapter, He intended to specify Quraysh with the speech and invite them to His worship, so He connected to the House that they were around, and He provided food and security because of it. He indicated that had He not protected the House, then they would have dispersed in the land and be kidnapped by people.

Allah mentioned the House, to remind them of their father Ibrahim (as) who founded of it, and due to his blessed supplication for wellbeing and security they were living in comfort. Ibrahim (as), only built the House because of the command of His Lord, and he was a servant to Allah and not to the idols which the Prophet ﷺ destroyed.

4- Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear.

الَّذِي أَطْعَمَهُم مِّن جُوعٍ وَآمَنَهُم مِّنْ خَوْفٍ

Allah ﷻ combined for Quraysh these two blessings, and reminded them of how great these blessings are. Makkah is a barren valley without any vegetation, and its people are exposed to hunger and fear, so He provided them with food and safety from being kidnapped while people were being kidnapped around them.

This is because of the blessed supplication of Ibrahim (as), who had made supplication for the provision of Makkah, when he said:وَارْزُقْ أَهْلَهُ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ  “and provide its people with fruits” [2:126] Ibrahim (as) also supplicated for security for them when he said:

 رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَٰذَا بَلَدًا آمِنًا  “My Lord, make this a secure city” [2:126]

It was mentioned in Bahrul Al Muhit:

كانُوا قُطّانًا بِبَلَدٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عُرْضَةً لِلْجُوعِ والخَوْفِ لَوْلا لُطْفُ اللَّهِ تَعالى بِهِمْ، وذَلِكَ بِدَعْوَةِ إبْراهِيمَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلامُ، قالَ تَعالى: ﴿يُجْبى إلَيْهِ ثَمَراتُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ﴾ [القصص: ٥٧]﴿الَّذِي أطْعَمَهم مِن﴾ فَضَّلَهم عَلى العَرَبِ بِكَوْنِهِمْ يَأْمَنُونَ حَيْثُ ما حَلُّوا، فَيُقالُ: هَؤُلاءِ قُطّانُ بَيْتِ اللَّهِ، فَلا يَتَعَرَّضُ إلَيْهِمْ أحَدٌ، وغَيْرُهم خائِفُونَ

“They were residents in a non-agricultural land, susceptible to hunger and fear, had it not been for the kindness of Allah ﷻ for them. This is the du’a of Ibrahim (as) which He ﷻ answered: يُجْبَىٰ إِلَيْهِ ثَمَرَاتُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ “for them a safe sanctuary to which are brought the fruits of all things” [28:57].

الَّذِي أطْعَمَهم مِن Allah preferred them to the Arabs, in that they were safe wherever they settled, so it is said: These are the residents of the House of Allah, and no one confronted them while others were fearful.”

It was mentioned in Ruhu Al Maani from Ibn Abbas:

أنَّهُ قالَ: أطْعَمَهم مِن جُوعٍ بِدَعْوَةِ إبْراهِيمَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلامُ حَيْثُ قالَ: ﴿وارْزُقْهم مِنَ الثَّمَراتِ﴾ ﴿وآمَنَهم مِن خَوْفٍ﴾ حَيْثُ قالَ إبْراهِيمُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلامُ: ﴿رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَذا البَلَدَ آمِنًا﴾

“that Allah said: He has fed them, [saving them] from hunger because of the prayer of Ibrahim (as) when He said:  وارْزُقْهم مِنَ الثَّمَراتِ  وآمَنَهم مِن خَوْف when Ibrahim (as) said:  رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَذا البَلَدَ آمِنًا

Allah said أطْعَمَهم and did not say: أشْبَعَهم because [الإشْباعُ] satiation, sometimes may cause that which is not praiseworthy because of gluttony and indigestion etc. As for [الطَّعام] it removes hunger, and the best food is that which blocks hunger.

It was mentioned in Tafseer Al Kabir of Al-Razi:

ما الفائِدَةُ في قَوْلِهِ: (مِن جُوعٍ) ؟ الجَوابُ: فِيهِ فَوائِدُ:

أحَدُها: التَّنْبِيهُ عَلى أنَّ أمْرَ الجُوعِ شَدِيدٌ، ومِنهُ قَوْلُهُ تَعالى: ﴿وهُوَ الَّذِي يُنَزِّلُ الغَيْثَ مِن بَعْدِ ما قَنَطُوا﴾ [الشورى: ٢٨] وقَوْلُهُ ﷺ: «مَن أصْبَحَ آمِنًا في سِرْبِهِ»  الحَدِيثَ.

وثانِيها: تَذْكِيرُهُمُ الحالَةَ الأُولى الرَّدِيئَةَ المُؤْلِمَةَ وهي الجُوعُ حَتّى يَعْرِفُوا قَدْرَ النِّعْمَةِ الحاضِرَةِ.

وثالِثُها: التَّنْبِيهُ عَلى أنَّ خَيْرَ الطَّعامِ ما سَدَّ الجَوْعَةَ: لِأنَّهُ لَمْ يَقُلْ: وأشْبَعَهم لِأنَّ الطَّعامَ يُزِيلُ الجُوعَ، أمّا الإشْباعُ فَإنَّهُ يُورِثُ البِطْنَة

What is the benefit of His saying: (مِن جُوعٍ)?

What follows are the benefits:

  1. Making people aware that hunger is severe, like in His saying:

وهُوَ الَّذِي يُنَزِّلُ الغَيْثَ مِن بَعْدِ ما قَنَطُوا [الشورى: ٢٨]

“He is the One Who sends down rain after people have given up hope” (Ash-Shuraa, 28)

and in the hadith where Mihsan al-Ansari reported that the Prophet ﷺ said,

مَنْ أَصْبَحَ آمِنًا فِي سِرْبِهِ، مُعَافًى فِي جَسَدِهِ، عِنْدَهُ طَعَامُ يَوْمِهِ، فَكَأَنَّمَا حِيزَتْ لَهُ الدُّنْيَا‏

“When someone is secure in his property, healthy in his body and has his food for the day, it is as if he owned the entire world.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

  1. Reminding them of the first bad and painful case, which is hunger, so that they know the extent of the present blessing
  2. Noticing that the best food is that which satisfies the hunger because it was not said: [وأشْبَعَهم] and satisfy them, because food eliminates hunger, whereas satiety, can cause gluttony.

It may be asked, why did Allah not just say أَطۡعَمَهُم when الإطعام is superior to الشبع satiety?

The response is that no all forms of الإطعام will prevent hunger or prevent the need, so it doesn’t complete the blessing. Due to this, Allah said:  أَطْعَمَهُم مِّن جُوعٍ “Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger” i.e. Allah removed from them hunger by feeding them [الإطعام]. Therefore the blessing with [مِّن جُوعٍ] attached was complete and perfect.

Hunger [جُوعٍ] and fear [خَوْفٍ] was made indefinite (naqira] in their usage, so as to include all types of hunger and fear. If they had been made definite then there is a possibility that they were identified and known. Therefore, it would have specified the feeding against a specific hunger and security against a specific fear, such as the fear from the companions of elephants for example. Therefore, making the words indefinite denotes general hunger and fear. It was also said, the indefiniteness indicates intensity and enormity, i.e. He fed them, saved them from hunger whatever hunger it may be, and gave security from whatever fear it may be.

It was mentioned in Al Khashaaf:

والتنكير في جُوعٍ وخَوْفٍ لشدتهما، يعنى: أطعمهم بالرحلتين من جوع شديد كانوا فيه قبلهما، وآمنهم من خوف عظيم وهو خوف أصحاب الفيل، أو خوف التخطف في بلدهم ومسايرهم

“The indefiniteness of hunger and fear is due to their severity, meaning: He feeds them in the two trips of extreme hunger they were in before them, and secures them from great fear, which is the fear of the owners of the elephant, or the fear of being kidnapped in their own country and in their journeys.”

It was mentioned in Al Tafseer Al Kabir:

لِمَ قالَ: مِن جُوعٍ، مِن خَوْفٍ عَلى سَبِيلِ التَّنْكِيرِ ؟ الجَوابُ: المُرادُ مِنَ التَّنْكِيرِ التَّعْظِيمُ

“Why did He say: “From hunger”, by way of indefiniteness?  The answer is, what is intended from the indefiniteness is magnification [التَّعْظِيمُ].

It may be asked why hunger is mentioned before fear?

It was done for the following reasons:

  1. Hunger is more severe than fear. If hunger is continuous then people will eventually die, whereas fear may be continuous but may not lead to their death. Indeed, people can remain fearful for years. Therefore, what is more important and of priority was brought first i.e. hunger.
  2. Indeed, the two journeys were for the purpose of provision and trade. Security was a cause for provision and trade, and their continuity. To be fed (saved from hunger) was the purpose of the two journeys. As for security it is one of the reasons for their success. So the original objective of the two journeys is provision and trade. Therefore, the primary reason for the two journeys in winter and summer was brought first.
  3. The Quraysh’s need for food was severe, since they were in a land without cultivation. So that which they were in need of most was brought first necessarily. As for the issue of security then it was a general concern in the Arabian Peninsula, and it varied from people to people.
  4. Foregrounding hunger over fear is suitable because of the foregrounding of winter over summer in His saying: إِيلَافِهِمْ رِحْلَةَ الشِّتَاءِ وَالصَّيْفِ  “Their accustomed security [in] the caravan of winter and summer.” People in general are more in need of food in the winter than in the summer. Due to this many people store food in the summer for the winter. Therefore, to be fed and be free from hunger was suitable to be foregrounded first because of the foregrounding of winter.

He made security from fear correspond with summer, because it is easier during the summer to raid in any place, whereas in the winter it is harder to plot and scheme outdoors. This in addition to wild animals and vermin hiding during the winter. Therefore, the reasons for fear in summer are more than in winter. Due to this, security from fear was connected to summer, and every expression is in its suitable place.

  1. It may be said, that in other places in the Qur’an fear is mentioned before hunger as in His saying: وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger” [2:155]. Why did Allah do this if hunger is more intense and important?

The answer is that foregrounding is only according to what the position and context demand. To explain further, a combination of hunger and fear has come in three places in the Qur’an and what is mentioned in the chapter of Quraysh is one of them.

In addition to Surah Quraysh, the other places are:

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient” [Al-Baqara, 2:155]

وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُّطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِّن كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

“And Allah presents an example: a city which was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in abundance from every location, but it denied the favors of Allah. So Allah made it taste the envelopment of hunger and fear for what they had been doing.” [An-Nahl, 16:112]

Fear was foregrounded over hunger in the verse of Al-Baqarah, and hunger was foregrounded over fear in the verse of Al-Nahl according to the what the context and position of the respective verses demands. 

As for the verse of Al-Baqarah, then fear was foregrounded over hunger, because the context is fighting and misfortunes.

He ﷻ said:

وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَن يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَمْوَاتٌ ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ وَلَٰكِن لَّا تَشْعُرُونَ ﴿١٥٤﴾ وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ ﴿١٥٥﴾ الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ ١٥٦

“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, ‘They are dead.’ Rather, they are alive, but you perceive it not. And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient. Who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.’ [Al-Baqara, 2:154-156]

Therefore, it was appropriate to bring fear before hunger.

As for the verse in Sura Al-Nahl, its context is one of feeding, so it came after:

 فَكُلُوا مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمُ اللَّهُ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَاشْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ ﴿١١٤﴾ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةَ وَالدَّمَ وَلَحْمَ الْخِنزِيرِ

“Then eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] lawful and good. And be grateful for the favor of Allah, if it is [indeed] Him that you worship. He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine.” [An-Nahl, 16:114-115]

Therefore, it was suitable to bring forward hunger before fear.

In addition, there is another appropriate reason for foregrounding fear in Surah An-Nahl, which is in consideration of His ﷻ saying: فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ “So Allah made it taste the envelopment of hunger and fear.” [An-Nahl,112] Indeed hunger results from scarcity or loss of food, and it is food which is tasted in reality. So the beauty of foregrounding hunger is also from this angle.

It was mentioned in Ruhu Al-Maani:

وتَقْدِيمُ الجُوعِ النّاشِئِ مِن فُقْدانِ الرِّزْقِ عَلى ( الخَوْفِ ) المُتَرَتِّبِ عَلى زَوالِ الأمْنِ المُقَدَّمِ فِيما تَقَدَّمَ عَلى إتْيانِ الرِّزْقِ لِكَوْنِهِ أنْسَبَ بِالإذاقَةِ أوْ لِمُراعاةِ المُقارَنَةِ بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ وبَيْنَ إتْيانِ الرِّزْقِ.

“The foregrounding of the hunger that arises from loss of livelihood over the (fear) resulting from the demise of established security, while it precedes the maintenance of livelihood, will bring forward the coming of provision because it is more suitable with tasting or in consideration of comparing that with bringing of provision.”

It may be asked however, that security [Al-Amn] was preceded by the provision [Al-Rizk] in the beginning of the verse, when He said: كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُّطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِّن كُلِّ مَكَانٍ “was safe and secure, its provision coming to it in abundance from every location.”

The response is that foregrounding security here is suitable, because Allah said:

 يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِّن كُلِّ مَكَانٍ “its provision coming to it in abundance from every location.” The security of the ways and paths are required to reach the city. Therefore, if there was no security present then the provision will not come to any place. Therefore, it is necessary for the security of the ways and paths for provisions to reach the city, so safety and security fulfills the coming of the provision to it. Foregrounding of security here is therefore more appropriate because it is the reason for the coming of the provisions.

This is from one angle, and from another angle, in the verse of Al-Baqarah, it is only in the situation of trying and testing the believers, and it was not from any type of punishment. Whereas the verse of Al-Nahl, it is in the context of punishing the disbelievers, and it is known that hunger is stronger than fear regarding punishment. Therefore, what was more severe was brought forward and Allah Knows best. Every expression is in its most suitable place.


[1] Foregrounding and backgrounding (al-taqdlm wal-ta’khlr) are semantically oriented syntactic processes. These processes are employed in Arabic to designate rhetorical effects in a given proposition. These two notions are concerned with the deliberate placement of a sentence constituent either sentence-initially or sentence-finally so that the linguistic construction becomes compatible with the context of situation and the state of the addressee. Foregrounding and back- grounding are central to the notion of order system (al-nazm) in Arabic rhetoric and are of fundamental value to argumentative and legal discourses.

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz: Reviver of the Rightly Guided Caliphate

1. Who is Umar bin Abdul-Aziz?

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz (May have mercy on him) was a Caliph during the first century of Islam, in the Umayyad period of the Caliphate. He is counted as the sixth rightly guided Caliph after Al-Hasan.

When Umar bin Abdul-Aziz was a young man, he went to his father’s stables to see one of the horses when a horse suddenly struck him in the face causing him a head wound. As his father was wiping away the blood, he said to Umar, “If you were to be the one with the scar (ashajj), then you would be the happiest of all the Umayyads.” This is because Umar bin al-Khattab used to say, “There will be among my offspring a man with a scar (ashajj) on his face who will fill the earth with justice, just as it was filled with injustice and oppression.”[1]

Term of office start Hijri[2]Friday 15 Safar 99AH
Term of office end Hijri[3]Friday 20 Rajab 101AH
Term of office start GregorianFriday 28 September 717CE
Term of office end GregorianFriday 6 February 720CE
Term of office2.5 years
Caliph’s allowance[4]None. Umar was wealthy. It was said to him: “Just take what Umar bin al-Khattab used to take”, but he would respond by saying: “Umar had no money whereas my money makes me rich.”

2. His family

On the authority of Aslam, “While I was with Umar bin al-Khattab in al-Madinah, during one of his frequent journeys in disguise to survey the condition of his people, we overheard a milkmaid refusing to obey her mother’s orders to sell adulterated milk by diluting it with water. When her mother insisted that Umar would be none the wiser, the girl replied: ‘O mother! By Allah! I would never obey him in public and disobey him in private. For if Umar will not come to know of it, the Lord of Umar surely knows!’ Upon hearing every word, Umar then gave instructions for the door of their house to be marked.

The following morning, Umar said: ‘O Aslam, pass by that house and purchase milk from the girl to see if she kept her resolve,’ and so he did and learnt that the milk was unadulterated as she had vowed. Umar summoned the girl and her mother to his court and told them what he had heard. As a reward, he offered to marry the girl to his son Asim. She accepted, and from this union was born a girl named Layla that would in due course become the mother of Umar bin Abd al-Aziz.”[5] Umar ibn Al-Khattab is therefore the great-grandfather of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz.

His father Abdul-Aziz ibn Marwan was the governor of Egypt and next in line to be the Caliph after his brother Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan. However, Abdul-Aziz passed away before his brother and so the line of succession changed to Al-Walid and then Sulayman ibn Abdul-Malik. Umar bin Abdul-Aziz comes from a line of Caliphs and rulers and was nurtured from a young age with a ruling mentality.

3. Biography

When Umar bin Abdul-Aziz was a young man he would say to his mother, “I hope to be like my maternal uncle” meaning Abdullah ibn Umar, and she would reply, “There is no doubt that you are like him”.

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz’s father Abdul-Aziz ibn Marwan travelled to Egypt to take up the post of governor in 65AH. Sometime later he sent word for his wife Umm Asim to join him along with their son Umar. After receiving the letter Umm Asim sought advice from her uncle Abdullah ibn Umar who said, “O my niece! He is your husband. You should catch up with him.” However, as she was about to leave, he said: “Leave the young boy (meaning Umar) with us, for out of all of you he resembles the Ahl al-Bayt the most”, and so, she left him behind.[6]

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz was educated and his Islamic personality nurtured at the hands of the most eminent sahaba, tabieen and Ahl al-Bayt who resided in the blessed city of Madinah Munawarrah.

One incident in particular shows the care taken with developing Umar’s Islamic nafsiyya (disposition) from a young age. Umar’s father, Abd al-‘Aziz, entrusted him to the care of Salih bin Kisan who was one of the most learned and pious men of al-Madinah, who supervised his education.

One day Umar was late to the congregational prayer in the mosque. When Salih asked him, “What business were you engaged in?” Umar replied, “I was sorting out my hair”, to which Salih remarked: “You love yourself that much that you would let it influence your prayers?!”

He immediately wrote to his father Abd al-‘Aziz informing him about it. His father then sent a delegate to Umar instructing him to shave his head completely.[7]

Period of the CaliphateUmayyad
Born[8]Madinah, 61AH/681CE during the time of Yazid ibn Muawiyah.
Age at start of rule37
TribeBanu Umayyah, Quraysh
Mandatory condition of Caliph:

Strength of ideology

Adh-Dhahabi says: “He was an Imam (Leader), a Faqih (Jurist) and a Mujtahid. He was well informed of the Sunan, knowledgeable on important matters, a Hafiz, obedient to Allah and extremely conscious of good conduct and acting fairly, in likeness to his grandfather from his mother’s side. He was equal to Hasan al-Basri in asceticism and to az-Zuhri in knowledge. His words and actions were requested by the Fuqaha and scholars, like when Imam al-Layth bin Sa’ad wrote a short letter to Imam Malik bin Anas (may Allah be pleased with them) in which al-Layth stated he needed – numerous times – a sound opinion, which is why Imam Malik went to Umar bin ‘Abd al-Aziz concerning some of his questions.”[9]
Mandatory condition of Caliph – Capability to rule:
Ruling experience gained under Abul-Malik ibn Al-Marwan
  • Governor of Khanasser (the city of Anasartha located in western Syria)[10]
  • Shura[11]
Ruling experience gained under Al-Walid ibn Abdul-Malik
  • Governor of Madinah 87-93AH. In 91AH Ta’if was also added to his mandate.[12]
  • Shura[13]
Ruling experience gained under Sulayman ibn Abdul-Malik 
Additional conditions
  • Quraysh
  • Mujtahid
  • Brave

4. Bay’ah Contract

The bay’ah is a ruling contract which governs the relationship between Muslims and the Islamic state. In origin the bay’ah should be freely given by the Muslims’ representatives (ahl hali wal-aqd) to a person of their choice. This is what occurred during the rightly guided Caliphate of the sahaba. Mu’awiya however, changed this and instigated a hereditary bay’ah by appointing his son Yazeed as the Caliph after him and forcing the Muslims to accept this. After Mu’awiya’s death, the majority of the sahaba rebelled against Yazeed since he was a usurper and illegitimate leader. This led to 13 years of civil war until 73AH/692CE when Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan defeated Abdullah ibn Zubair and the Islamic State became unified once again. This unity was short lived because confining bay’ah to a ruling family, in this case the Umayyads, meant no other political opposition could come to power through peaceful means. The opposition in Iraq then united under the Abbasids and they rose up and wiped out the Umayyads at the Battle of Zab in 132AH/750AH.

LocationDaabiq Masjid, Qinnasreen, Northern Syria
Candidates[15]Dawud bin Sulayman (Caliph’s son)

Yazid ibn Abdul-Malik (Caliph’s brother)

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz (Caliph’s nephew)

Style of choosing CaliphNominated by previous Caliph Sulayman ibn Abdul-Malik. See below for more details.
Provisional Leader[16]Raja’ bin Haywah al-Kundi
Police Chief assisting provisional leader[17]Ka’ab bin Hamid
Bay’ah of Contract[18]The influentials from Banu Umayyah gathered in Dabiq Mosque and gave the bay’ah in person to Umar bin Abdul-Aziz. These influentials were the ahl hali wal-aqd (people who can contract the bay’ah).
Crown PrinceYazid ibn Abdul-Malik
Time without a CaliphNo delay. Bay’ah taken same day as Sulayman’s burial.

When Marwan ibn Al-Hakam came to power he made an additional change to the hereditary bay’ah by not just appointing the next Caliph but also the Caliph after him. Marwan nominated his son Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan as the Caliph after him and Abdul-Aziz ibn Marwan after Abdul-Malik.[19] This ijtihad is explained by Mawardi in Ahkam as-Sultaniyah.

Mawardi states: “Imamate comes into being in two ways: the first of these is by the election of those of power and influence, and the second is by the delegation of the previous Imam…

It is permitted for the Khaleefah to designate succession to two persons or more and to lay down an order of succession amongst them by saying, ‘The Khaleefah after me is such and such a person, and if he dies then the Khaleefah after his death will be such and such, and if he dies then the Khaleefah after him will be such and such a person.’ Thus the Khilafah will be transferred to the three persons in the order he has designated. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ designated Zayd ibn Harith as vice-commander over the army of Mu’tah saying, ‘If he is struck down then Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, and if he is struck then Abdullah ibn ar-Rawahah, and if he is struck then the Muslims should agree on another man.’ So it was that Zayd went forward and was killed, and then Ja’far took the banner and went forward and was killed; then Abdullah ibn ar-Rawahah took the banner, advanced and was killed and so the Muslims chose Khalid ibn al-Walid after him. If the Prophet ﷺ did this with regard to amirate, the like is permitted regarding the Khilafah. If it is argued that it is a contract of authority with a particular character and condition, and that contracts of authority are not based on such specific conditions and characteristics, then it must be replied that it is a general matter of public interest which should be addressed with more flexibility than in the case of private contracts between individuals.

This was acted upon during two dynasties (the Umayyads and the Abbasids) and none from amongst the ulema of the age have rejected it. Sulyman ibn Abdul-Malik pledged succession to Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz and then after him to Yazid ibn Abdul-Malik. Even though Sulayman’s judgement was not accepted as proof, his acceptance by those amongst the ulema of the Tabieen who were his contemporaries and among those, ‘who do not fear the censure of those who censure’ (Quran, 5:55), in matters regarding the truth constitutes a proof.”[20]

Although Qiyas (analogy) cannot be done between the bay’ah and appointment of army commanders because the contracts are completely different, this still represents a shubhat daleel (semblance of an evidence) for the ulema of the time.

4.1 The Provisional Leader

When Sulayman ibn Abdul-Malik was Caliph he was advised by the righteous scholar Raja’ bin Haywah al-Kundi, to nominate his nephew Umar bin Abdul-Aziz as the next Caliph over his own son and brother. Sulayman did this, and knowing that Banu Umayyah would not be happy he nominated his brother Yazeed ibn Abdul-Malik as the Caliph after Umar. Raja’ bin Haywah, who was the provisional leader overseeing the transition process to the next Caliph, sealed Umar bin Abdul-Azeez’s nomination so no one could read it, and the influentials from Banu Umayyah who were the ahl hali wal-aqd took bay’ah over the sealed document. After Sulayman’s death, the sealed document was opened and Umar bin Abdul-Aziz’s name announced. Umar bin Abdul-Aziz reluctantly ascended the minbar in the Dabiq Masjid and Banu Umayyah came to give their bay’ah. Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik initially refused to give bay’a but Raja’ threatened to have him beheaded so Hisham then gave bay’ah. The provisional leader can call on the police to assist him in quelling rebellion and dissent during the transition process if required. The police chief assisting Raja’ was Ka’ab bin Hamid al-‘Unsi.[21]

This is similar to what occurred when Umar ibn Al-Khattab appointed the council of six to nominate a new Caliph after his death. Suhaib Ar-Rumi was appointed as the Provisional Leader of the state overseeing the election process, and he was assisted by Abu Talha Al-Ansari who had 50 men with him to protect the council.[22]

5. Why didn’t Umar bin Abdul-Aziz want to be Caliph?

As previously mentioned Sulayman’s decision on nominating Umar bin Abdul-Aziz was sealed so no one could read it. The only one aware of its contents was the Provisional Leader Raja’ bin Haywah. Umar had a suspicion that Sulayman had nominated him so he went to Raja’ bin Haywah and asked him: “Oh Abi al-Miqdam! I fear that Sulayman might have attached this affair to me in some way. If Sulayman has any reverence and respect for me, or wished to put my mind at ease, I implore by Allah and my respect and esteem, that you inform me if this is the case, so I can ask him to pardon me of it now before a situation emerges in which I will have no power to do so, as I have no power on the Hour.” Raja’ replied: “No, by Allah, not even a single letter.” Umar then angrily left.

The reason for this reluctance was due to the immense responsibility on the neck of the ruler and the taqwa of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz which is an essential attribute of any leader. Without taqwa the ruler has the propensity for severe oppression as we witness throughout the world today. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “A ruler who, having obtained control over the affairs of the Muslims, does not strive for their betterment and does not serve them sincerely shall not enter Paradise with them.”[23]

Despite this heavy responsibility and reluctance Umar accepted the position of Caliph and was a just Caliph, an Imam ‘Adil as mentioned in the hadith:

سبعة يظلهم الله في ظله يوم لا ظل إلا ظله‏:‏ إما عادل

“Seven types of people Allah will shade them by His Shade on the Day of Resurrection when there will be no shade except His Shade. They will be, a just ruler…”[24]

He discharged his duties in an exemplary manner and so is exempt from the humiliation on the day of judgement. It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr who said:

قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَلاَ تَسْتَعْمِلُنِي قَالَ فَضَرَبَ بِيَدِهِ عَلَى مَنْكِبِي ثُمَّ قَالَ

يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ إِنَّكَ ضَعِيفٌ وَإِنَّهَا أَمَانَةٌ وَإِنَّهَا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ خِزْىٌ وَنَدَامَةٌ إِلاَّ مَنْ أَخَذَهَا بِحَقِّهَا وَأَدَّى الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ فِيهَا

I said to the Prophet ﷺ: “Messenger of Allah, will you not appoint me to a public office?” He stroked my shoulder with his hand and said: “Abu Dharr, you are weak and authority is a trust, and on the Day of judgment it is a cause of humiliation and repentance except for one who fulfils its obligations and (properly) discharges the duties attendant therein.”[25]

6. Why is Umar bin Abdul-Aziz counted as one of the rightly guided Caliphs?

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

الْخِلاَفَةُ فِي أُمَّتِي ثَلاَثُونَ سَنَةً ثُمَّ مُلْكٌ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ

“The Khilafah in my Ummah will be for thirty years. Then there will be Mulk (kingdom) after that.”[26]

This does not mean the Caliphate (Khilafah) stopped after 30 years. Rather it means the Caliphate based on prophethood (following the sunnah) which we refer to as the Rightly Guided Caliphate (Khilafah Rashidah) stopped and then the Caliphate continued but had the characteristic of a monarchy due to hereditary rule.

6.1 Why did the ulema use the title Malik (King) for the Caliphs (Khulufaa)?

Ibn Katheer in Bidiyah wan-Nihiya states, ‘The first monarchy began with the rule of Mu‘awiyah, making him the first king (Malik) in Islam and the best of them all.’[27]

The reason the ulema used the title Malik for the Umayyad and Abbasid Khulufaa was because these Khulufaa were not following completely in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in ruling. Abu Bakr, the first Khaleefah was given this title because Khaleefah means successor and Abu Bakr was a successor to the Prophet ﷺ in ruling.

al-Mawardi states, “He is called the Khaleefah (successor) as he stands in for the Messenger of Allah at the head of his Ummah and so it is permitted for someone say, ‘O, Khaleefah of the Messenger of Allah!’ or for someone to say, ‘Khaleefah’ on its own.”[28]

Two Umayyad rulers tried to remove the misapplication of the bay’ah and return to a system of shura. They are Muawiya bin Yazid and Umar bin Abdul-Aziz.

After Yazid the usurper died, his son Muawiya bin Yazid was given bay’ah by some of the Ummah and is noted in history as an Umayyad Caliph. The strongest opinion is that Abdullah ibn Zubair was the legitimate Caliph at the time, but the ummah and some of the ulema were split on who was a legitimate Caliph. This continued until Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan defeated Abdullah ibn Zubair and the Caliphate became united again.

Muawiya bin Yazid was known for his piety and honesty. Ibn Kathir narrates that he would say, “O people! Indeed, I have been entrusted with your affairs while I am weak and unable. I would therefore like for you to concede leadership to a man of strength in the same manner that as-Siddiq (Abu Bakr) endowed Umar. If you will, then appoint a committee for consultation comprised of six persons from amongst you as Umar bin al-Khattab did; for just one of you cannot be right concerning it. And so, I have bequeathed your affairs to yourselves, therefore you should appoint the one that is most fitting to undertake leadership over you.”[29]

Muawiya bin Yazid was only in power for a few months due to his ill health and his advice was not acted upon by subsequent Umayyad rulers.

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz did manage to revive the process of shura which is one of the reasons why he is counted among the rightly guided Caliphs, and also known as a mujaddid (reviver). “Having now officially assumed the seat of the Khilafah, Umar ascended the Minbar (pulpit) in what would be his first encounter with the Ummah. He said: “O people! I have been burdened with the responsibilities of the Khilafah against my own will and without your consent. I thereby remove the bay’ah to me that is on your necks so that you are at liberty to elect anyone whom you like.” But the audience cried out with one voice that he was the fittest person for the high office and said: “We have chosen you, O Amir al-Mu’mineen, and we are pleased that you have blessed and honoured our good affair.” At this juncture, Umar sensed that he was not going to be able to evade bearing the responsibility of the Khilafah, and so he decided to go on with determining his method and approach in dealing with the politics of the Muslim Ummah…”[30]

Unfortunately, after Umar bin Abdul-Aziz’s death the Umayyads didn’t follow his example and continued with their hereditary bay’ah.

7. Why is he considered a Mujaddid (reviver)?

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْعَثُ لِهَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ عَلَى رَأْسِ كُلِّ مِائَةِ سَنَةٍ مَنْ يُجَدِّدُ لَهَا دِينَهَا

“At the turn of every century, Allah will send a person to rectify (tujaddidu) the religious affairs of this Ummah.”[31]

The scholars and historians unanimously agree on the fact that Umar bin Abd al-‘Aziz was the first Mujaddid (Reviver; Renewer) in Islam. The first person to ascribe this title to him was Imam Muhammad bin Shihab az-Zuhri, followed by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal who said: “It is narrated in the Hadith that at the turn of every century Allah will send a person to rectify the religious affairs of this Ummah. We saw that the Mujaddid of the first century was Umar bin Abdul-Aziz.”[32]

The reason he is known as a mujaddid is because he renewed the ruling principles of the rightly guided Caliphate. As already mentioned, he started with abolishing hereditary rule, and reviving the concept of shura where the influentials freely choose the leader. He went on to revive the principles of accountability and justice for all citizens, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, and he applied justice not just internally but externally in the state’s foreign policy. This occurred with his abolition of unjust customs duties (maks)[33], and withdrawing the army from Samarkand because it didn’t follow the sharia method of conquest.[34]

8. Accounting the Caliphs

Prior to becoming Caliph, Umar bin Abdul-Aziz was fearless in accounting the rulers of his time. The Caliphs Abdul-Malik, Al-Walid and Sulayman were his paternal uncles, but he didn’t let this family relationship divert him from speaking the truth.

8.1 Letter to Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan

“To proceed: You are a shepherd and responsible for everyone in your flock. Anas bin Malik informed us that he heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: ‘Everyone is a shepherd and responsible for his (or her) flock.’

Allah, there is no god but Him. He will gather you to the Day of Rising about which there is no doubt. And whose speech could be truer than Allah’s? (an-Nisa’, 4:87)”[35]

8.2 Advice to Al-Walid ibn Abdul-Malik

Umar entered upon him and al-Walid said: “Your advice, O Abu Hafs?” Umar began:

“Certainly, after Shirk there is no greater sin in the Sight of Allah than the spilling of blood, yet your officials are killers who record down that the sin of the murdered person was such and such. Indeed, you are responsible for this and will be held to account for it; therefore, write to them commanding them to not kill a single person but to record their sins and then to give testimony to them. This way, your order will allow your affairs to become clear to you.” As a result, al-Walid said: “May Allah bless you, O Abu Hafs and forbid your misfortune. It is incumbent upon me to write to them.”[36]

8.3 Advice to Sulayman ibn Abdul-Malik

Sulayman embarked on a journey to the desert in the company of Umar. While they were on their way, a lightning and thundercloud cast over them that caused Sulayman to become extremely frightened. As a result, Umar said: “Verily, this is a blessed sound. Therefore what would you be like at the sound of punishment?” Sulayman, however, responded: “Take this one hundred thousand Dirhams (£180K) and give it away in charity.” So Umar replied: “Or even better than that, O Amir ul-Mu’mineen?” He asked: “And what is that?” Umar said: “A nation has sent you complaints that you have not attended to”, and so Sulayman sat down to restore them their rights.[37]

9. Relationship with the scholars and jurists

The scholars (ulema) played a pivotal role in upholding the legislative and judicial branches of the Islamic state.

Noah Feldman states, “It [the law] was analyzed, discussed, applied, discovered, and (an outsider would say) made by the members of a distinct social-political grouping known as the scholars, or in Arabic ‘ulama. From this scholarly class came not only theologians and other intellectuals but the appointed judges who decided concrete cases and independent jurists who opined as to the meaning of the law. Through their near monopoly on legal affairs in a state where God’s law was accepted as paramount, the scholars-especially those of them who focused on law-built themselves into a powerful and effective check on the ruler.”[38]

If the scholars become too close to the ruler then this independence from the executive would become compromised, and this could allow the ruler to gain legal legitimacy for his corruption and oppression. We can see this in the Muslim world today where some of the government scholars rubber stamp the ruler’s tyranny. In Egypt, the former Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa supported the 2013 coup against Mohamed Morsi and said, “Shoot them in the heart … Blessed are those who kill them, and those who are killed by them,” in what is believed to be a speech delivered to the Egyptian military and police leadership prior to the August 2013 Rabaa Al-Adawiya massacre.[39]

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ warned against this type of scholar:

تَعَوَّذُوا بِاللَّهِ مِنْ جُبِّ الْحَزَنِ» قَالُوا: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا جُبُّ الْحَزَنِ؟ قَالَ: «وَادٍ فِي جَهَنَّمَ تَتَعَوَّذُ مِنْهُ جَهَنَّم كل يَوْم أَرْبَعمِائَة مرّة» . قُلْنَا: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَنْ يَدْخُلُهَا قَالَ: «الْقُرَّاءُ الْمُرَاءُونَ بِأَعْمَالِهِمْ» . رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ وَكَذَا ابْنُ مَاجَهْ وَزَادَ فِيهِ: «وَإِنَّ مِنْ أَبْغَضِ الْقُرَّاءِ إِلَى اللَّهِ تَعَالَى الَّذِينَ يَزُورُونَ الْأُمَرَاءَ» . قَالَ الْمُحَارِبِيُّ: يَعْنِي الجورة

“Seek refuge in Allah from the pit of sorrow.” On being asked what the pit of sorrow was, he replied, “It is a valley in jahannam from which jahannam seeks refuge 400 times every day.” When Allah’s messenger was asked who would enter it, he replied, “The Qur’an readers who are ostentatious in what they do. Among the Qur’an readers who are most hateful to Allah are those who visit the rulers.” Al-Muharibi said that he means tyrants.[40]

Many of the scholars who were the sahaba and tabi’een maintained a distance from the Umayyad rulers due to their misapplication of Islam and extravagance in spending the public funds. However, with Umar bin Abdul-Aziz they became sincere advisors and played a pivotal role in the judiciary, education system and in dawah in the newly opened lands.

Said bin al-Musayyib would not see any of the governors except for ‘Umar.[41]

Nafi’ the freed slave and narrator of Abdullah bin ‘Umar was sent by Umar bin Abdul-Aziz as a teacher to Egypt.[42]

10. Establishing a Majlis ul-Wiliyah (Regional Assembly)

Al-Walid appointed Umar bin Abdul-Aziz as the governor (waali) of Madinah in 87AH. On his arrival in Madinah, Umar formed a shura council (majlis) of ten eminent fuqaha (jurists) and notables of the holy city. The purpose of this majlis was to act as an accountability and advisory body for the governor. The members of this majlis were:

  1. ‘Urwah ibn az-Zubayr
  2. ‘Ubaydullah bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Utbah
  3. Abu Bakr bin ‘Abd ar-Rahman bin al-Harith bin Hisham
  4. Abu Bakr bin Sulayman bin Abi Khaythamah
  5. Sulayman bin Yasar
  6. al-Qasim bin Muhammad
  7. Salim bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar
  8. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar
  9. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amir bin Rabi’ah
  10. Kharijah bin Zayd bin Thabit

Umar said to them, “I have called you for a matter that will help you earn reward and also enable you to be supporters of the truth. I shall not decide on a matter unless I take your opinion into consideration. If you see someone violating the boundaries, or if you hear of any injustice on the part of my workers, I ask you by the Majestic, Allah, to inform me about that.” He also said: “Rulers usually appoint people to watch over their subjects. I appoint you a watcher over me and my behaviour. If you find me at fault in a word or action, guide me and stop me from doing it.”[43]

Shura (consultation) in Islam is not wajib (compulsory) but mandub (recommended). Majority opinion has no place when it comes to deriving legislative laws from the sharia, which are derived through a process called ijtihad. Similarly, technical laws and opinions are sought from the experts not the majority.

11. Expanding Masjid an-Nabawi

An incident occurred during the governorship of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz which highlights the limits of shura, and shows how Umar was willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions if required. This is the mark of a good ruler.

In Rabee‘ul-Awwal, 88AH the Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abdul-Malik ordered Umar bin Abdul-Aziz to expand the Prophet’s ﷺ mosque in Madinah to a size of 200×200 cubits (Dhira). A Hashemite cubit is equivalent to 61.6cm[44], so the expansion was to a size of 123×123 metres.

After receiving the order Umar bin Abdul-Aziz convened the Majls ul-Wiliyah and the people of Madinah informing them of the decision. The people were not happy about this decision and exclaimed, “But these apartments have low ceilings made from palm branches, the walls are made of unburnt bricks and the doors are made from cloth, that must remain intact in their original form for the Hajj pilgrims, visitors and travellers to look at so that they might contemplate on the houses of the Prophet ﷺ and be humbled by them. It is incumbent that they are not renovated except out of necessity and even in those dire circumstances they should remain as they are. These lofty buildings that ai-Walid proposes are indeed like the dwellings of the Pharaoh and Khosrau in origin and, moreover, they are symbolic of their high hopes of everlasting life in this world.”[45]

Umar informed Al-Walid of the outcome of his shura from the people of Madinah, but Al-Walid pressed on with his decision and Umar implemented it. Shura in this case is not binding on the Caliph and since the Caliph is also the Imam and responsible for the salah he must do what is necessary to facilitate salah for the people. Expanding the mosque to allow more Muslims to pray took precedent in Al-Walid’s opinion over keeping the original houses of the sahaba which surrounded the mosque.

12. Replacing corrupt governors

For the citizens of the Caliphate, their first point of contact with the leadership of the state is the governor. The governor is managing people’s day to day affairs. If the governor is oppressive then this affects people’s daily lives more than any other government official including the Caliph.

While Umar bin Abdul-Aziz was governor of Medina, the governor of Iraq was Hajjaj bin Yusuf ath-Thaqafi. Hajjaj was notorious for his harsh and oppressive rule against the people of Iraq. Ibn Katheer mentions that a man, supposedly by the name of ‘As from the Banu Yashkur tribe, approached Hajjaj and said: “I have been afflicted with a hernia and because of that Bishr bin Marwan (previous governor) excused me and commissioned that I should be granted my maintenance from the Bait ul-Mal.” Upon hearing the man’s claim, al-Hajjaj refused to accommodate it and instead sentenced him to death, and so he was killed. Due to this incident, the people of al-Basrah grew so scared of him that they left the city.[46] The people of Iraq started fleeing to the provinces of Makkah and Madinah under Umar bin Abdul-Aziz’s authority because they knew he was a righteous and just ruler. This angered Hajjaj who wrote to Al-Walid asking for Umar to be expelled from his post as governor. Hajjaj wrote, “It has become apparent that the people of Iraq and Thaqaf are fleeing from Iraq and seeking refuge in al-Madinah and Makkah.”[47] Al-Walid accepted Hajjaj’s advice and dismissed Umar from his post as governor of Madinah.

The sharia rule regarding governors is that if the majority of the people of the province complain against the governor and want him removed, then it is binding on the Caliph to remove him. This occurred during the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ where he removed the governor of Bahrain al-Ala’ bin Al-Hadrami after complaints from the tribe ‘Abd Qays who lived there. Al-Hadrami was a distinguished sahabi yet he was still removed because the people’s majority opinion whether right or wrong is binding in this case.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ wrote to al-Ala’ bin Al-Hadrami to come to him with twenty men from ‘Abd Qays…The delegation complained about al-‘Ala’ bin Al-Hadrami so the Messenger of Allah ﷺ removed him and appointed Iban bin Said bin Al-Aass and said to him: “Take care of ‘Abd Al-Qays and respect their chiefs.”[48]

One of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz’s first actions as Caliph was to remove all the corrupt governors.[49] This stabilised the state by removing the grievances which were fuelling rebellion especially in Iraq, and facilitated the spreading of Islam such as in North Africa where under the governorship of Isma’il bin Ubaydullah all the Berbers embraced Islam.[50]

Arabian Peninsula

Province (wiliyah)Governor (waali)
Makkah[51]‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin ‘Abdullah bin Asyad al-Umawi
Madinah[52]Abu Bakr Muhammad bin ‘Amr bin Hazm
Yemen[53]‘Urwah bin Muhammad

Iraq and the East

Province (wiliyah)Governor (waali)
Basra[54]Udayy bin Arta’ah al-Fazari
Kufa[55]‘Abd al-Hamid bin ‘Abd ar-Rahman bin Zayd bin al-Khattab
Khorasan & Sijistan[56]Al-Jarah bin Abdullah al-Hakmi
Tukharistan[57]Sulayman bin Abi al-Sari

North Africa and Spain

Province (wiliyah)Governor (waali)
Egypt[58]Rifa’ah bin Khalid bin Thabit al-Fahmi
Maghreb[59]Isma’il bin ‘Ubaydullah bin Abi al-Muhajir al-Makhzumi
Andalus[60]As-Samh bin Malik

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz took great care in choosing his governors and was very astute following the words of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ:

لاَ يُلْدَغُ الْمُؤْمِنُ مِنْ جُحْرٍ وَاحِدٍ مَرَّتَيْنِ

“A believer is not bitten from the same hole twice”[61]

A man named Bilal bin Abi Bardah arrived in a delegation to Umar bin Abdul-Aziz and after praising Umar with some poetry he stayed in the masjid, spending his days and nights reciting the Qur’an. Umar considered appointing him as governor of Iraq, saying: “There is virtue in this man.” But first he sent one of his trusted advisors to put Bilal to the test. The advisor said to Bilal, “If I can get you appointed over Iraq, what will you give me?” In return, Bilal guaranteed him a large amount of money. When Umar was informed of this, he immediately discarded him.[62]

13. Restoration of public funds

The public funds belong to all Muslims and the rulers cannot spend from them without adhering to strict sharia guidelines concerning their collection and distribution.

The Umayyads had illegally appropriated many lands and property which should have been deposited in the Bait ul-Mal (state treasury). They had also taken extravagant allowances to fund their lavish lifestyles. Stealing from the public funds is a major sin and mazlama (state oppression) in Islam. It is narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: “A man gave as a gift to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ a slave who was called Mid’am. Whilst Mid’am was bringing down a saddle for the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, an arrow came out of nowhere and killed him. The people said, “How fortunate he is! Paradise is his,” but the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “No, by the One in Whose hand is my soul, the cloak which he took from the war-booty on the day of Khaybar before the booty had been shared out will burn him with fire.” When the people heard that, a man came and brought one or two shoelaces to the Prophet ﷺ and said, “A shoelace of fire” or “Two shoelaces of fire.”[63] The war booty is of the public revenues.

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz embarked upon a mission to restore the public funds and put an end to this misappropriation and corruption. This policy caused much distress within the wider Umayyad family, and led to Umar’s eventual martyrdom when he was poisoned by his slave on behalf of some of the Umayyads.[64]

Ibn al-Jawzi reports that “Umar was hardly free from the burial ceremonies of Caliph Sulayman and wanted to take a short respite when his son, ‘Abd al-Malik, asked him if he would like to take a rest before dealing with the cases pertaining to confiscated properties. Umar replied: ‘Yes, I will deal with them after taking a rest.’ ‘Are you sure that you will live up to that time?’ asked his son. Umar kissed his dear son and said: ‘Praise be to Allah for having given me such a virtuous son.’[65]

13.1 Umar starts with himself

As part of Umayyad family Umar was rich and had been gifted lands and properties throughout the state. Starting out on his mission Ibn Sa’ad narrates that Umar said, ‘I should not start with anyone other than myself.’ So he discarded what he owned of land, possessions and wealth until he finally looked at his ring and said: “This was presented to me by al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik upon his return from the Maghreb and so he deposited it into the Bait ul-Mal.[66] Umar bin Abdul-Aziz sold his land and properties and took his articles of luxury [which included items of clothing and perfume] which had all been gifted to him by previous Caliphs, and auctioned them for 23,000 dinars (£4.2million) and gave away the proceeds in sadaqa.[67]

13.2 Reviving the Mazalim

The concept of redressing state oppression is known as Mazalim, and has existed since the first Islamic state of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. All the rightly guided Caliphs practised redressing people’s complaints against the state. In the Abbasid period of the Caliphate a separate judge was appointed, and in the later Sultanates a separate institution called the Dar Al-‘Adl (House of Justice) was created for this purpose.

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz announced to the people that any eligible claimant would receive justice. In one example, the governor of Basra sent a man to Umar who had lost his land. Upon returning the land to him Umar asked him, “How much did you spend in order to get to me?” “O Amir al-Mu’minin! You ask me about my expenses while you have already returned my land that is worth more than 100,000?” he asked. Even so, Umar said, “I have only restored what is rightfully yours”, and without hesitation handed the man 60 dirhams (£108) to compensate his travel expenses.[68]

13.3 Reducing public waste

The governor of Madinah Abu Bakr Muhammad bin ‘Amr bin Hazm asked Umar to give him money for candles. Umar replied, “I swear, O ibn Umm Hazm, when I assigned you to office, you would leave your house on a dark winter’s night without a lamp and, I swear, you were better than you are today even though your family have enough wicks to make you rich.” Having also requested writing paper, Umar wrote back: “Once you have read my letter, use less ink, shorten the gaps between your lines and make your words more concise so that they fit on one page, for I certainly hate to exhaust the Muslims’ funds on what is of no direct benefit to them.”[69]

Umar applied this to himself where he would only use a lamp paid for by the Bait ul-Mal for state business. When it came to his own needs, he would put out the lamp and use his own.[70]

13.4 Consequences of this policy

There is no blessing in unlawful wealth whether for the individual or the society. Umar bin Abdul-Aziz undertook a huge number of economic reforms such as abolishing unjust taxes, returning people’s private properties and restoring the public funds. The consequences of this are that during his era a man would pay his Zakat but there was nobody eligible to receive it.[71]

14. Restoring the rights of the Dhimmi (non-Muslim citizens)

Non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state are referred to as dhimmi. The word dhimmi is derived from the Arabic word dhimmah, which means pledge or covenant (‘ahd).

The famous Maliki jurist, Shaha al-Deen al-Qarafi sums up this covenant: “The covenant of protection imposes upon us certain obligations toward the ahl al-dhimmah. They are our neighbours, under our shelter and protection upon the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger ﷺ, and the religion of Islam. Whoever violates these obligations against any one of them by so much as an abusive word, by slandering his reputation, or by doing him some injury or assisting in it, has breached the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger ﷺ, and the religion of Islam.”

So we deal with non-Muslim citizens on the basis of justice and fair treatment. They are dealt with in society equally with Muslims without discrimination. The law in society applies to them as it does to Muslims unless they have an exemption due to their religion, or belief in Islam is a prerequisite for the law such as paying zakat, ruling, or marrying a Muslim woman etc.

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz reformed the dhimmah with the non-Muslims which had been abused by some of the governors like Hajjaj. Umar would bring food for them and eat with them as they were his citizens and he was entrusted with their care.[72]

14.1 The Jizya tax

The sharia has put the condition of belief on some of the taxes in the state which means they are applied differently between the Muslims and dhimmi. Muslims for example are ordered to pay the Zakat but dhimmi are exempt, whereas dhimmi are ordered to pay the jizya (head tax) but Muslims are exempt. The jizya tax is applied to all mature, male dhimmi who have the means to pay it. Women and children are exempt as are the poor who have no livelihood.[73]

When Mu’awiya conquered Cyprus he made a peace treaty of dhimmah with them stipulating an annual jizya payment of 7000 dinars (£1.3million) for the whole island. This treaty remained in effect until Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan increased it by 1000 dinars (£189,000K). Umar bin Abdul-Aziz repelled this and reinstated the original amount agreed upon in the treaty.[74] This reflects the Islamic obligation to fulfil the covenants because Muslims are not treacherous in their dealings with anyone.

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنوا أَوفوا بِالعُقودِ

“O you who believe! Fulfil your covenants.” (Al-Maaida, 5:2)

Umar bin ‘Abdul-‘Aziz wrote to his official in Kufa saying: “Find out whose land has become diminished due to paying the Jizyah and provide them with financial assistance to cultivate their land. Inform them that we do not want payment from them for a year to two years.”[75]

14.2 Restoring their land

A Dhimmi from Hims in Syria approached Umar and said: “O Amir al-Mu’minin! May I ask you about the Book of Allah, the Majestic?” “What about it?” Umar asked him. He replied: “al-‘Abbas bin al-Walid bin ‘Abd al-Malik (son of the former Caliph) violated my land”. Al-‘Abbas was sitting there in the gathering so Umar turned to him and said: “O ‘Abbas! What do you have to say?” He answered: “I was allotted it by al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik who wrote down the deeds to it for me.” So Umar said: “The Book of Allah is more worthy of being followed than the deeds of al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik. Therefore, return his loss to him, Oh ‘Abbas” and he did.[76]

14.3 Freeing the captured Berber women

An injustice was inflicted on the people of Lawatah (in modern day Tunisia) where their women and girls were captured as slaves. Umar wrote: “Whoever sends you any of those women, do not put a price on them as a price cannot be deemed lawful for her. If one already has any of these women, seek her hand in marriage from her father, otherwise return her to her people.”[77]

15. Restoring the Islamic Foreign policy

The foreign policy of an Islamic State is to carry Islam to the world through daw’ah and military intervention. It consists of three stages:

  1. Calling the people to accept Islam and become Muslim citizens of the Islamic State
  2. Calling the people to pay jizyah and become non-Muslim citizens (dhimmi) of the Islamic State
  3. Fighting their regimes and armies who are preventing their territory joining the Islamic State

Umar bin Abdul-Aziz restored this methodology in Samarkand and North Africa and ordered a tactical retreat of the army laying siege to Constantinople.

15.1 The illegal occupation of Samarkand

Qutaybah bin Muslim was the Amir of Jihad in Central Asia who conquered Samarkand in the year 93AH/711-12CE under Al-Walid.[78] Instead of following the methodology of offensive jihad he simply invaded the city and turned it in to a garrison town.

When Umar bin Abdul-Aziz came to power the people of Samarkand saw an opportunity to gain justice so they met with the Central Asian governor Sulayman Abi as-Sarri and said, “Qutaybah has betrayed and wronged us by seizing our town. Allah has shown us justice and equity, therefore if we are allowed, we would like to send a delegation to the Amir al-Mu’minin to complain of our injustices and if we are within our rights, he will address our needs.”

Sulayman granted their request and a delegation of men represented their case to the Caliph. After speaking with the delegation Umar bin Abdul-Aziz wrote to Sulayman saying, “Indeed, the people of Samarkand have come complaining to me of the injustices inflicted upon them, stating that Qutaybah has unjustifiably stationed his army in the town in their midst and forced them to leave. Therefore, when my letter reaches you, appoint a tribunal to judge and settle the dispute between Qutaybah and the people of Samarkand. If the judgment of the tribunal goes against the army chief and his men are asked to vacate, they must do so at once and the people may return to the way they were before Qutaybah appeared on the scene.”

Sulayman appointed Jumay’a bin Hadir as the Qadi Mazalim over the case. Jumay’a ruled in favour of the people of Samarkand saying, “Sudden attack on them without warning was unlawful,” and the Muslim army had to withdraw. After witnessing this justice, Samarkand and neighbouring Soghd decided against fighting a war with the Muslims and agreed to live side by side with them under Islamic rule. Their influential scholars said, “We have mixed and lived side by side with those people. They are peaceful with us and we are with them. Should you decide that we are to return to war, it would be futile and we do not know whom the victory will belong to. We would only be bringing hostility upon ourselves.”[79]

15.2 The Berbers embrace Islam

Isma’il bin Ubaydullah bin Abi al-Muhajir al-Makhzumi was appointed as the governor over Maghreb (modern day Morocco) in North Africa. One of the duties of the governor is to propagate Islam which Isma’il bin Ubaydullah excelled in.

Ibn Khaldun says: “All Berbers embraced Islam during his days. Ten jurists and scholars from among the Tabi’in were sent with him to teach the people the affairs of the religion and explain to them the halal and the Haram.”[80]

15.3 Four Thousand embrace Islam in Khorasan

Al-Jarah bin Abdullah al-Hakmi was appointed as the governor of Khorasan (modern day Afghanistan). Four thousand non-Muslims accepted Islam at his hands.[81]

15.4 Islam spreads in India

The rulers in Sind continued to accept Islam and adopt Arab names such as Jayshabah bin Dahir.[82]

15.5 Tactical Retreat from Constantinople

The previous Caliph Sulayman ibn Abdul-Malik sent his brother Maslama ibn Abdul Malik as commander of an army to conquer Constantinople in 99AH (717CE). Constantinople held a special place in the hearts of the Muslims due to the famous hadith, on the authority of Abdullah bin Bishr Al-Khathami from his father that he heard the Prophet ﷺ say:

لَتُفْتَحَنَّ الْقُسْطَنْطِينِيَّةُ فَلَنِعْمَ الْأَمِيرُ أَمِيرُهَا وَلَنِعْمَ الْجَيْشُ ذَلِكَ الْجَيْشُ

“You will open Constantinople, its Amir is a wonderful Amir, and its army is a wonderful army.” He said, Maslama ibn Abdul Malik called for me and asked me, so I mentioned the Hadith to him so he attempted to invade Constantinople.[83]

The was the second siege of Constantinople by the Umayyads with the first undertaken in the time of Muawiya. Due to the heavily fortified walls, and sea on three sides, all the army could do was lay siege to the city. Running low on supplies the troops were forced to eat their own riding animals out of starvation. Umar bin Abdul-Aziz ordered their retreat so they could be redeployed elsewhere against more achievable targets.[84] It wasn’t until 1453CE that the Muslims managed to finally conquer Constantinople under the leadership of Muhammad al-Fatih.

This incident is similar to when the Muslim army under the leadership of Khalid bin Al-Walid entered Medina after the failed expedition to Mut’ah and the people started throwing dirt at them yelling, Oh you who flee! Have you fled from fighting in the way of Allah?! In defense of the army the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, They are not people who fled! Rather, they are a people who have turned around only to resume fighting later on InshaAllah Taaalah.[85]


Umar bin Abdul-Aziz was certainly the mujaddid of the first century of Islam as the scholars mention, but Allah will send a mujaddid every century to this ummah. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْعَثُ لِهَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ عَلَى رَأْسِ كُلِّ مِائَةِ سَنَةٍ مَنْ يُجَدِّدُ لَهَا دِينَهَا

“At the turn of every century, Allah will send a person to rectify (tujaddidu) the religious affairs of this Ummah.”[86]

The corruption in the Muslim world today is such that the countries do not even hide it. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi Ambassador to the United States brazenly defended government corruption in an interview with PBS in 2001: “If you tell me that building this whole country, and spending $350 billion out of $400 billion, that we misused or got corrupted with $50 billion, I’ll tell you, “Yes.” But I’ll take that any time. There are so many countries in the Third World that have oil that are still 30 years behind. But, more important, more important — who are you to tell me this? … What I’m trying to tell you is, so what? We did not invent corruption, nor did those dissidents, who are so genius, discover it. This happened since Adam and Eve. … I mean, this is human nature. But we are not as bad as you think.”[87]

This state of affairs cannot last, because Allah (Most High) says,

وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَىٰ لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا وَمَنْ كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

Allah has promised those of you who have iman and do right actions that He will make them successors in the land as He made those before them successors, and will firmly establish for them their deen with which He is pleased and give them, in place of their fear, security. ‘They worship Me, not associating anything with Me.’ Any who are kafir after that, such people are deviators.” [An-Nur, 24:55]

The condition here is to believe and do right actions. The right actions as Tabari explains in his tafseer are that: وأطاعوا الله ورسوله فيما أمراه ونهياهThey obey Allah and His Messenger in whatever He commands and forbids.”

Working to re-establish the Khilafah is among the highest obligations and acts of obedience to Allah and His messenger, which the ummah must undertake to the best of its ability.


Editor of Islamic Civilization


[1] Dr. Ali Muhammad As-Sallabi, ‘Umar bin Abd al-Aziz,’ Darussalam, p.55

[2] Ibid, p.109

[3] Ibid, p.720

[4] Ibid, p.594

[5] Ibid, p.52

[6] Ibid, p.59

[7] Ibid, p.67

[8] Ibid, p.54

[9] Ibid, p.72

[10] Ibid, p.76

[11] Ibid, p.75

[12] Ibid, p.77

[13] Ibid, p.87

[14] Ibid, p.92

[15] Ibid, p.103

[16] Ibid, p.105

[17] Ibid, p.105

[18] Ibid, p.106

[19] al-Tabari, ‘The History of Al-Tabari’, State University of New York Press, Volume XX, p.160

[20] Abu’l Hasan al-Mawardi, ‘Ahkam As-Sultaniyah,’ Ta-Ha Publishers, p.23

[21] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.106

[22] al-Tabari, ‘The History of Al-Tabari’, State University of New York Press, Volume XIV, p.146

[23] Sahih Muslim,

[24] Al-Bukhari and Muslim,

[25] Sahih Muslim 1825,

[26] Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 2226,

[27] Ibn Katheer, ‘The Caliphate of Banu Umayyah,’ Darussalam, p.21

[28] al-Mawardi, Op.cit. p.27

[29] Ibn Katheer, Op.cit. p.205

[30] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.107

[31] Sunan Abi Dawud 4291,

[32] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.203

[33] Ibid, p.154

[34] Ibid, p.150

[35] Ibid, p.75

[36] Ibid, p.88

[37] Ibid, p.97

[38] Noah Feldman, ‘The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State,’ Princeton University Press, 2008, p.6


[40] Mishkat al-Masabih 275,

[41] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.69

[42] Ibid, p.542

[43] Ibid, p.77

[44] Abdul-Qadeem Zalloom, ‘Funds in The Khilafah State,’ 2nd edition, Al-Khilafah Publications, p.52

[45] Ibn Katheer, Op.cit. p.414

[46] Ibid, p.345

[47] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.85

[48] Ibn Sa’d narrated on the authority of Muhammad b. ‘Umar: At-Tabaqat al-Kubra by ibn Sa’d, vol. 4 p.360.

[49] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.138

[50] Ibid, p.544

[51] Ibid, p.646

[52] Ibid, p.646

[53] Ibid, p.672

[54] Ibid, p.644

[55] Ibid, p.645

[56] Ibid, p.642

[57] al-Tabari, ‘The History of Al-Tabari’, State University of New York Press, Volume XXIV, p.178

[58] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.647

[59] Ibid, p.647

[60] Ibid, p.648

[61] Sahih al-Bukhari 6133

[62] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.649

[63] Sunan an-Nasa’i 3827,

[64] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.710

[65] Ibid, p.123

[66] Ibid, p.122

[67] Ibid, p.123

[68] Ibid, p.137

[69] Ibid, p.595

[70] Ibid, p.190

[71] Ibid, p.574

[72] Ibid, p.394

[73] Abdul-Qadeem Zalloom, Op.cit. p.58

[74] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.145

[75] Ibid, p.147

[76] Ibid, p.199

[77] Ibid, p.148

[78] al-Tabari, Op.cit. Volume XXIV, p.94

[79] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.149

[80] Ibid, p.544

[81] Ibid, p.554

[82] Ibid, p.552

[83] Narrated by Ahmad. In Mujma’ Az-Zawaa’id, in its comment it states: “Narrated by Ahmad, Al-Bazzar, Al-Tabarani and its men are trustworthy…”

[84] As-Sallabi, Op.cit. p.532

[85] Dr. Ali Muhammad As-Sallabi, ‘Noble life of the Prophet ﷺ,’ Darussalam, p.1659

[86] Sunan Abi Dawud 4291,

[87] PBS,

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