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Summary of 9.3 "Political Process-Choice of Rulers"

In the first part of the third program we discussed the basic purpose behind the establishment of an Islamic State and we said that it is basically to establish justice and we indicated again the variety of opinions given by the jurists on the basis of Quranic provisions in terms of what needs to be achieved.  We said that this is a near unanimous position that has been taken by Muslim jurists.  We also discussed the very minor opinions of some scholars that emerged at one time or another but we said that the consensus is that it is imperative to have an Islamic system.  Then we moved on to the ruler itself even though they do not have a particular title.  The title Caliph or Calipha or successor to the Prophet in conducting the affairs of the believers is a common term.  After this we discussed the main qualifications required of an Islamic ruler in an ideal Islamic State.


9.4 Early Application I

Host:  What are the method of selecting a ruler under the Islamic System?

Jamal Badawi:

The basic rule is that a ruler can not be imposed on the people, but he must be consented to or chosen by the people.  When the Quran mentions obedience it says obey God, His Messenger and those in authority from among you.  This means the one chosen from among you.  As far as the decision for how this takes place, there is a great deal of flexibility.  In this case the basic principle of free choice of the people is respected.  Perhaps it may be useful to indicate between Sharia and Fiqh.  Sharia is the difference between the basic divine law which appears in the Quran based on text or spirit of the revelation.  Fiqh is jurisprudence and the way a particular jurists tries to interpret specific rules and how they can be applied in a certain place, circumstances or in a given time.  When you talk about the ideal mechanism it is very difficult to talk about one mechanism of selection of rulers in a purely Islamic State because it varies from time to time and place to place but the principle is always there even though the mechanism could be rather flexible.


Host:  What was the method of selection used in the period of the Prophetic era and the 4 rightly guided Caliphs?

Jamal Badawi:

Prophet (PBUH) was in a unique position which combined two offices.  He was the Messenger sent to humanity and being the head of the Muslim community especially when they migrated, after 13 years of torture and persecution, from Mecca to Medina where the geneses of an Islamic State was established.  He was in the office of head of that State.  In any case we find that this was all with the acceptance of the people.  Even then we find that the Prophet accepted Bia’a which is a pledge of loyalty or acceptance of his leadership in both respects.  In fact he began to exercise this political authority as soon as he went to Medina with the consent of the inhabitance.  In fact we find that the oldest written constitution proposed by Prophet Muhammad when he went to Medina which was composed by 47 articles.  This could be a subject by itself which was far ahead of its time.  It annunciated basic principles and in a way as some scientists put it, established the fullest and truest meaning of what a state really means. Some of the basic principles were that tribal relationships were replaced with ties of faith, it determined the first head of State, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it reiterated the principles of equality which are inshrined in the Quran and Sunnah including the protection of non-Muslims living under the protection of the Islamic State.  This could be a subject in itself especially when we touch on the life of the Prophet and his Serah or history.  The main point in any case is that in the present context, when we deal with the political system, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was able to exercise political authority only with the consent and overwhelming acceptance of the people.


Host:  It is sometimes claimed that the first Caliph after the Prophet was chosen by very few people? Is this true?

Jamal Badawi:

No it is not true at all and in fact it reflects confusion between nomination and actual selection.  While the nomination of Abu Bakr to be was initiated by Omar, on of the prominent companions, which did not give Abu Bakr legitimacy to his leadership until the leaders of tribes also pledged loyalty, and not until the following day when he went to the Mosque openly and the Muslim masses came and expressed their approval through what is called Bia’a (pledge) was he then officially installed as the Caliph, successor after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  It was approved by the masses even though he was nominated by a few.


Host:  Did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give any instruction as to who should succeed him as the leader of the Muslims?

Jamal Badawi:

No, not really.  Before the death of the Prophet there is no conclusive evidence that he specifically specified that a specific person should be the successor.  If this was the case it would have violated the basic principle that we spoke of which are based on the Quran and His teachings.  I believe that it is better that the Prophet took this approach.  If he suggested a particular person or method in succession it would have been regarded as binding on all Muslims and it would have become extremely inflexible for times to come.    Indeed he left the Muslim Ummah to settle this and to apply reasoning.  Islam combined between permanent divine revelations and the use of the human mind and reason to adapt or apply these rules to the circumstances of time and place.  There is a reference to the Prophet saying that “Ali would be a ruler after me.”  This did not say that Ali would be the first Caliph after him.  Ali was the fourth after the Prophet.  Indeed there are references with respect to other companions but no one used it as conclusive evidence that they should have been the first successors of the Prophet.  An example is that at the time the Prophet was ill he asked Abu Bakr to lead the prayer.  And Abu Bakr was elected as the first Caliph, but nobody uses that as the major argument for that.  This may have given hints but no one can say that it is conclusive, clear evidence that he specified one person over another.  This was appropriate because it left it to the freedom of the people to choose their rulers.  After all there is no one who is infallible after the Prophet at all, only Prophets are infallible because they are guided by revelation and are directed by God.  Other human beings are left to the people to judge who is the most qualified to start as the first, second, third or fourth successor.


Host:  How was the first Caliph chosen?

Jamal Badawi:

When the word got around that Prophet (PBUH) died a meeting was held in a place called Sakifat Bani Saida which was a sort of meeting hall which was initiated by the Ansar.  The people who migrated with Muhammad (PBUH) from Mecca to Medina because of persecution were called the Muhajirene or migrants.  The original residents of Medina who received them, supported them and gave refuge to them were called Ansar which means supporters.  So the Ansar initiated the meeting.  One of their prominent leaders by the name of Sa’d Ib Ubadah said “Now that the Prophet died his successor should be one of you, Ansar, because after all you gave refuge to Muslims when they were persecuted and migrated to our city, you participated in protecting Muslims and the Prophet against the campaigns conducted by the pagans and you made Jihad for the sake of Islam.”  When news of this meeting got out and reached Omar, a prominent companion of the Prophet, he rushed to the house of the Prophet where his body was being prepared for burial and he sent to Abu Bakr a prominent companion and told him that something important happened that you must be present.  Abu Bakr rushed with Omar and on the way they met a third Muhajir, Abu Ubaidah and they joined the meeting.  This was the initial forum where the initial succession was discussed.


Host:  Some people may wonder wether or not it was appropriate for Abu Bakr and Omar to go to this meeting before the Prophet was even buried?

Jamal Badawi:

Islam is based on principles and not individuals.  With all respect and adoration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the model of Islamic teachings and the model of the personality that God shoes to show us the way through.  Islam is not based on the worship of individuals.  The end of the life of an individual neither means the end of Islam itself nor of the political system and order of the Muslim community.  One of the principles, which is universally accepted, is that no State, nation or group of people should remain without leadership for any period of time.  A few examples which might be familiar to many of the views include when President Kennedy was assassinated no one urged people to wait till his burial and long before burial his Vise-President Lindon Johnson was sworn in immediately in order to make sure there was continuity of leadership.  More recently when an attempt on the life of President Reagan was made and he was in the hospital we find that someone took charge.  We are not arguing who should have been in charge but again nobody disagreed that somebody should be in charge aside from burial.  This matter was even more important and urgent in the case of early Muslims because in the case of the United States the process of succession had already been spelled out but in the case of Muslims they did not have all these details so someone had to move so that problems would not arise and a vacuum would not emerge.

The fact that the meeting was held and initiated only by one segment of Muslims the Ansar, it was a serious matter, because a leader who should be accepted by all should not be left in the hands of a few people.  This would prevent disorder or dissension.  Given the circumstances and the seriousness of the matter I think it was very appropriate on the part of Abu Bakr and Omar not to let the problem go and to try to participate and see how a better procedure for the choice of successor of the Prophet can be initiated.  It was a matter of public interest and order.


Host: What happened once they went there?

Jamal Badawi:

When they joined the meeting that the residence of Medina started the discussion seemed to center around three basic proposals.  The initial proposal was the one we sited earlier by Sa’d Ib Ubadah that the leader should be one from the residence of Medina and he gave his reasons.  The second suggestion was that the successor of the Prophet should specifically be from one segment of the family of the Prophet, Bani Hashim and the name of Ali his cousin was given.  A third proposal was that there was no need to specify one segment of the family of the Prophet but since Kureish is the more prominent tribe which was likely to be obeyed and accepted by other tribes would have the least rebellion and that it would be appropriate for the successor to be from among the migrants.  Others said that while the Ansar were very kind and instrumental in helping the migrants, the migrants were also the first to accept the mission of the Prophet, had a rough time through torture and sacrifice for the sake of Islam.  For all of these reasons that particular opinion seemed to have prevailed.


Host:  How was the decision resolved?

Jamal Badawi:

We find some Orientalists who lack insight into Islam who try to analyze everything in terms of politics in the same way we see it today.  McDonald once put it  that the above mentioned was just like party representatives meeting.  This is not necessarily true because there were no parties.  Of course the Ansar could constitute a group but not really a party and when Omar, Abu Bakr and Abu Ubidah joined them the did not attend in the capacity of Muhajirene or they would have been overwhelmed in numbers.  Was it like parties trying to settle their affairs?  Again we find that it did not follow what we know today as party politics in a partisan way.  In fact when the discussion went on, which was a free discussion, we find that even a resident of Ansar told his people and reminded them that “after all if we give refuge to Muslims, supported the cause of Islam we have done that only for the pleasure of God and in obedience to his Prophet not for the pursuit of any benefit or possession.”  When the final discussion took place, as to who should succeed the Prophet, we find that those who were present even those who were residents of Medina agreed to a migrant, Abu Bakr.  The mechanism is what we may call pre-discussion.  I am not trying to imply that the discussions were very courteous and easy going, there were emotional outbursts, there were strong statements made here and there but this is natural.  People express their opinions and even today in Parliaments people use very strong terms.  There were arguments and heated discussions at times but people were convinced of the validity of the argument that Abu Bakr should be nominated.


Host:  Why did Abu Bakr receive the wide acceptance as the first Calipha?

Jamal Badawi:

The virtues of Abu Bakr on any other great companion of the Prophet.  First of all the qualities possessed by Abu Bakr made him the clear logical choice to succeed the Prophet, at least for that particular period.  Abu Bakr was the first person to follow Islam and the Prophet from among the males.  The first person to imbrace Islam was a woman, Khadijah the wife of the Prophet but the first from among men was Abu Bakr.  Second, Abu Bakr manifested his sincerity and commitment to God by the many sacrifices he made of his own comfort, his wealth (he was wealthy), persecution and never wavered in support of Islam and the mission of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  Third, Abu Bakr was a very close companion to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  He was so close to him and he learned so much directly from him through words and example.  Abu Bakr was the one companion chosen by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to accompany him on a very important and dangerous trip when the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina.  In fact the Quran (9:40) makes reference to this and describes the Abu Bakr as the companion of the Prophet.  In the Quran in (24:22) there is also another reference to Abu Bakr.  As a person he had the qualities of compassion, firmness in decision making and justice which made him widely accepted by the people.  The choice of Abu Bakr was not unanimous.  In any place where there is truly free choice and free elections a ruler is never chosen with 100% of the votes.  There are always people with different views, who may have felt that another companion was better for the position that he was.  There are some who felt that Ali should have been the first Caliph.  This again is the freedom that Islam allows people to express and is a matter of the joint decision and the majorities opinion as to who should prevail.  In any case there was no question about the necessity of having a leader nor on the need to have participation on the part of the people in order to choose him.


Host:  How was the second Caliph appointed?  Some say he was appointed by the first Caliph is this true?

Jamal Badawi:

It is just as true as the previous question that Abu Bakr was chosen by a few.  As we indicated he was nominated by Omar and chosen by the leaders of the people and did not become the official first Caliph until the following day when he went to the Mosque and the masses came and expressed their approval.  Only then with this Bia’a, pledge of allegiance and loyalty, was he installed as a Caliph and derived his legitimate authority.  When Abu Bakr was dying he gathered some prominent people and asked them to chose one person to succeed him so that they would not fall into dispute after his death.  Because people trusted Abu Bakr with his integrity and piety they told him that his opinion is ours.  In other words they asked him to suggest one to us, which

would only be a nomination.  He asked them for time and during this time he made some consultations and collected the opinions of prominent people which lead him to suggest Omar.  It is reported that when he talked to Omar about accepting, Omar said “No, it is a big responsibility and I don’t want it.”  Abu Bakr really pressured Omar to accept the responsibility.  Even though the mechanism of nomination here differed the same principles were there.  Legitimacy of Omar being the second Caliph was not established till he went to the Mosque and the masses came to him and made the pledge of allegiance  and then he was actually installed as Caliph.  This is the process of nomination that suited that time.

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