One of the misapprehensions, which is now common among many Muslims, is the assumption that the Prophet ﷺ would have established a state. Apart from the fact that the concept state, as we know it, has existed only since the 17th century, this assumption is false, because when we take a look at the sources of the Prophet ﷺ we find nothing of a state or a rule. The Prophet was neither a leader nor ruler of a kingdom, there were no clear boundaries, no organized army, no office. Of course, the Prophet is a messenger of God, who also declared the normative side of Islam to his followers, and also ensured that it was more or less respected in the case of norms concerning public life. However, the fact that the Prophet ﷺ waged wars against his opponents who persecuted him and his congregation, made the rules of the market certain, and made judgments, does not make him a secular ruler. For such activities have existed among many other tribal leaders in their communities, tribes, and oases in the Arabian Peninsula of that time. There must be a clear distinction between a head of a congregation and a ruler or king. The Prophet himself said clearly: „I am not a king /ruler. I am merely the son of a woman from the tribe of Qurayh, who used to eat dry flesh.“
Medina was a simple city, with simple structures and infrastructures. Outside of Medina, the Prophet ﷺ hardly interfered in the administration of other cities and oases. At that time, only the loyalty to the Muslims against their opponents as well as the release of Zakat, had been expected from the other tribes. Otherwise, they were economically and politically quite independent. The initial features of a rule are found at the earliest in the first successors of the Prophet, especially under the leadership of Sy. Umar, who, among other things, took over the governance and administrative structures of the Persian and Byzantine empires. The adoption of these structures has intensified in the Umayyad empire. This is a phenomenon which has often been repeated in the course of history when new empires replace the old empires.
But what is important in this context is that the early Muslims were pragmatic. The assumption of the tax administration, the coinage, the armaments of the Byzantines, the Diwan system and the judges of the Persians are just examples of the fact that the form of rule was simply a child of their time. For nowhere in the Qur’an nor in the Sunnah of the Prophet is spoken about the form of a rule. There are no places that dictate to us how a country, empire, or a government should look, let alone how they should be structured.
The forms of dominion were and always are changing, according to the time, space and context in which these empires arose and subsided. Change is even included in the Arab concept used for domination/state. Change is, so to speak, dominion. Dawla comes from the root d-w-l, which means spatial change. The Reign of Sy. Umar was not one-to-one like the reign of the Umayyads, and the Abbasids were organized differently from the Umayyads, the Mughal Empire, unlike the Ottoman Empire – even the early Ottoman Empire, was organized differently from the late Ottoman Empire. This is the most natural thing in the world. Whoever believes that there is a clear form of rule »in Islam« has no idea, neither of the Quran and Sunnah, nor of history.
It is often the result of supposed consensus – taken out of their historical and normative context – that one should appoint a caliph for all Muslims, and that if that did not happen, the Muslims would sin. If in the works of some theologians it is a duty to have an »imam« in the sense of a political ruler, then they mean only two things: 1. There must be a political structure or a sovereign to avoid anarchy. 2. There must be a structure that ensures justice and security, the two foundations of every form of rule.
In the pre-modern period, both Muslims and non-Muslims knew only a few forms of domination, such as the monarchy or tyranny, which is why the theorists have interpreted the leadership (Imama) on the basis of the systems of domination known to them at that time, not because it is written in the Qur’an or the Sunnah. In other words, not an office called Caliph, Sultan, or Imam is meant and intended, but order, justice, and security. If they are guaranteed, then everything is all right.
There are, however, some sects, such as the Hizb at-Tahrir and other groups who sell the young Muslims an ahistoric dream of a united Umma under the direction of a caliph. Sects that tell people that the existence of a caliph is in itself a duty and foundation of religion. The whole understanding of religion revolves around these myths as if it were a part of the confession of faith. I wonder if it is so important, why does God not explicitly mention in the Qur’an that you need a caliphate? Why does God not tell us how this Caliphate should look like? „We did not leave out anything in the scripture.“ 6:38.
The fact is, whoever tells the people of so important basic principles of Islam, who find no mention in the main source of this religion, simply misleads people with this ideological nonsense. Have these sects not read the history?
Did they not read that three Caliphs were murdered? Have they not read that since the Umayyads there has been no uniform ruler for all Muslims and that the Muslims did not need it? Have they not read that there were always separate kingdoms, empires, and ironically also so-called caliphates? Have they not read that there were times when a caliph was in Baghdad, another in Cairo, and one in Cordoba? Have they not read that there were numerous small kingdoms in Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia? Whom do you want to fool with your Disneyland-caliphate-peace-joy-eggcake-myth?! Or do you only use the ignorance, regarding history, of the people?
And no, the caliphate is not the solution to the problems of Muslims. Apparently, most of the rulers and so-called caliphs do not know the biographies of history. Actually, the difference between the Sultan of Aghraba (in Aladin) and many other Sultans of the Umayyads, Abbasids, Ottomans and others is that the Sultan of Aghraba was perhaps prudish. For there were not a few sultans who had wine, women, and singing as motifs of life. But perhaps it is worthwhile to highlight some interesting pages of the caliphs in an extra article.
The task of the Prophet ﷺ is clearly described in the Qur’an, where we read in Sura 62: „It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom.“ (62:2) In another verse, we read „Certainly did the almighty confer favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom.“ (3:164). The Qur’an, the cultivation of the self, and the prophetic wisdom have, in turn, aim to strengthen the relationship between man and his Creator. In this respect man is at the center of all that constitutes his humanity.
The Prophet ﷺ, showed us through his work that one cannot demand the same from all men. In his community, the most varied people were found, with whom he also handled differently. The Prophet ﷺ considered the fortune of everyone, because he was interested in people and not in abstract ideas. Numerous traditions testify how Bedouins came to him sometimes and stayed with him only for a short time. They only learned certain basic principles from him, then lived their lives and never saw him again. They were neither blotted with commandments and prohibitions, nor did the Prophet ﷺ demand from them a complete transformation of their lives. The relationship with God was accompanied by a serenity and above all a naturalness.
But if I look at the prophetic message today, I wonder: where is God and His Messenger at all? The political idea in the broad sense of the word has replaced not only man, but also God and His prophets. It is no longer the relationship to God and the realization of human being that is central but the realization of the idea.
Political ideas, such as nationalism, feminism, secularism, conservatism, liberalism, anti-colonialism or anti-racism, are spasmodically mixed with the prophetic message so that ‚to be Muslim‘ serves only as a bearer in this constellation. The political idea always stands in the foreground. Political ideas need their opposites, they need a dialectic so that they can exist. If this dialectic is projected onto faith, then faith and the relationship to God are spoiled with power struggles. For you will always be on the search for the other, which is a contrast to yourself, so that you can confirm your own thoughts and give them a right to exist.
Islam, which actually means devotion, and was not understood as the name of a religion by the Prophet ﷺ, since the concept of religion did not exist at the time, is today imagined as a being outside of us, indeed as a cake, of which each has a share. Some think they own this cake. Some go further and want to have the cake „Islam“ in the name of their ideology. However, when a person imagines „Islam“ as something outside her own self, one has already internalized the categories of modernism and secularism, even if that person considers himself as »conservative« or „traditional“.
It is no longer a matter of realizing the love of God and His Prophet, of telling people about this love, of being there for people, and I mean with man all men, just as the Prophet ﷺ was there for all men and was sent for them. No today, one goes to court with his fellow men, per the motto „Tit for tat“. But the very one who wants to follow the Prophet should be able to bear the burden and harassment of the world with an eye of grace and mercy, and be gentle with those who hate him. We live in times when faith is almost a miracle. One should look forward to anyone who still talks about God at all. The real question is what we want at all? Do we, at the expense of ideas and ideologies, try to trample the legacy of the Prophet by his feet, or do we want to carry his grace within us and pass it on to others? With mockery, merciless activism or arrogance, we only frighten people.
We know that „the caliphate“ and „the Islamic state“ were always just and great in history because they were directed to „the Shariah“ and „the Umma“ was a wonderful, functioning „unity“ from „Spain to China and Indonesia“.
A testimony to the righteousness of the Seljuk caliphate is given to us by Ibn al-Ǧawzī, who tells us of a high-ranking „civil servant“ whose brothels should be temporarily closed by an epidemic to ward off the punishment of God for Baghdad. In the end, „the Islamic state“ then justly paid compensation for the loss of earnings in the world’s oldest profession, which was only done in view of the imminent punishment by God.
How good that everything was better in the glory days – All human beings were angels, the caliph cared for the Shariah and everything else. Read it yourself: In the month of Ḏū al-Qa’da 469 AH [May / June 1077 AD], many diseases arose in Baghdad, Wasit and Sawad. There were so many dead that the fields in the steppe could not be harvested, since there was no one else who could have done this. Similar news also came from the Levante [aš-Šām]. On the twentieth day of the month Ḏū al-Qa’da 469 AH [15. June 1077 AD], the meeting places of sin and the houses of vice were closed down and demolished in Baghdad.
The viciously villagers had to flee because of an order from the caliph to his commander-in-chief, who, however considered these institutions as fiefs. The caliph wanted to give him 1000 dinars as compensation, which the military governor refused because the income was normally 1800 dinars. This was then matched with Niẓām al-Mulk, who, on his part, compensated the military governor and ordered compliance with the prohibition.
This alleged God-proclaimed Caliphate, which is supposed to be indispensable from the Shari’ah, which would create paradise on earth according to the demagogues, somehow, quite strangely enough, seemed not at all well-disposed to the prophets and true heirs of the Prophet, the interpreters of Shariah.
Many despots and tyrants were not exactly squeamish to massacre important people. Abdulmalik b. Marwān and his bloodthirsty general ǧǧaǧāǧ al-Ẓālim (the tyrant of Yūsuf aṯ-Ṯaqafī) were known to kill Sahaba when these hadiths or opinions were not in their interest. It is true that any killing of human beings of every kind is in our view terrible, but the caliphate ideologist could quickly excuse collateral damage: insurgents must be defeated, what else?
But the history of the passive insurrection of the scholars, the killing of Sahaba under the banner of the caliphate, cannot be avoided by the demagogue.
Here is another story from the dark chronicles of the caliphate: Imam Abū Ḥanīfa, probably the greatest Imma of the Fiqh after Ibn ǧaǧar al-Makkī al-Šāfi’ī, was given by Yazīd b. Amr convened to become judge and governor Kufas.
The Imam declined. He did not see it as a great opportunity to finally carry through the Shari’ah fully and neither as an honor and sincerity to serve the Caliphate. On the contrary, he feared injustice. Then he was quickly thrown into the dungeon and whipped. The honored face of this Imam swelled. The next day he was offered the job again and asked for time to think about it. He traveled to Mecca and stayed in Mecca for five or six years.
When the second caliph of the Abbasids, Mansur, came into power, the Imam was to be examined again. The Caliph Manṣūr greatly respected the Imām. He gave him 10,000 silver coins and a slave. The Imam rejected this gift.
Manusur, as a few before him, was a tyrant. In 145 AH, Ibrāhīm b. ‚Abdullāh b. Imām Ḥasan collected in Medina for the proclamation of his own caliphate soldiers. He came to Kufa and there was a rumor in Kufa that Imām Abū Ḥanīfa had supported him. Manṣūr, of course, was not pleased. He had the Imam of Kufa brought to Baghdad. There he forced the Imam to proclaim that he, Manṣūr, was the only true caliph, and Manṣūr offered him the highest judicial office.
But as the Imam was of high godliness and secular ranks did not interest him, he rejected this. This wounded Manṣūr and he dug Abū Ḥanīfa. His torture began the caning with 30 strokes – blood flowed from the feet of the Imam. Manṣūr regretted this and in an act of remorse and remedy and reflection, he sent the Imam 30,000 silver coins. The Imam rejected this again.
This went too far for the good Manṣūr! He revenged Abū Ḥanīfa again, but he ordered 40 strokes – every other day ten more. On the 11th day, Manṣūr feared the revolts of the people. The order to kill came promptly, the Imam was put on his back and poisoned him. So, he died in the year 150.