Hadith / Khilafah

Imam Ahmad_hadith on Khilafah


The Rightly Guided Caliphate

(al-Khilafah al-Rashidah)

إمام أحمد بن حنبل: المسند

By S. Z. Chowdhury

Autumn 2003.

The venerable, pious, Amir al-Mu‘minin[1] in the field of hadith scholarship, the Absolute Jurist (mujtahid mutlaq), Faqih, and Reviver of the Sunnah (muhyi ’l-sunnah) and author of the famous Musnad[2] Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad b. Hanbal b. Hilal b. Asad b. Idris al-Dhuhli al-Shaybani (d.241) – may Allah’s Mercy be upon him – related the following hadith:[3]

Sulayman b. Dawud al-Tayalisi[4] related to us; Dawud b. Ibrahim al-Wasiti related to me; Habib b. Salim[5] related to me from Nu‘man b. Bashir b. Sa‘d who said:

We were sitting in the Mosque and Bashir was there preventing a man from speaking (yakuffu hadithahu). Then Abu Tha‘labah al-Khushani came and said: O Bashir b. Sa‘d! Have you memorized a narration of the Messenger of Allah (SAW) regarding the rulers (al-umara’)? Hudhayfah replied: I am memorizing his [SAW] sermon (khutbatahu). So Abu Tha‘labah sat down and Hudhayfah said: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:

The Prophethood will remain amongst you (fi-kum)[6] as long as Allah wills that it remain and then he will remove it when He intends to remove it. Then (thumma)[7] there will be the Khilafah[8] upon the way of the Prophethood (‘ala minhaj al-nabuwwah) and it will continue as long as Allah wills it to continue and then he will remove it when He intends to remove it. Then there will be a harsh rule (mulkan addan)[9] and it will continue as long as Allah wills it to continue and then he will remove it when He intends to remove it. And then there will be a coercive rule (mulkan jabriyyatan)[10] and it will continue as long as Allah wills it to continue and then he will remove it when He intends to remove it. Then there will be the Khilafah upon the way of the Prophethood (‘ala minhaj al-nabuwwah)[11] and [the Prophet (SAW)] kept silent (sakata).

Habib [b. Salim] said: When ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz came to power and Yazid b. al-Nu‘man al-Bashir was his companion, I wrote this narration to him reminding him to be wary of it, so I said to him: Indeed I hope that the Leader of the Believers (amir al-mu’minin) – meaning ‘Umar – is subsequent to the harsh and coercive rule. My letter was taken (udkhila) to ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and he was delighted by it (fa-surra bihi) as well as very pleased.

                                                                                    And Allah knows best.

[1] The title (laqab) is given to that scholar who has complete mastery over everything related to the hadith sciences in addition to being the most famous person at the time for the profusion in memorization. Sufyan al-Thawri and Imam Malik are said to also be, amongst others, in this category. See the introduction to Abu Hatim al-Razi’s al-Jarh wa ’l-Tadil, p.128; al-Dhahabi’s Tadhkirah al-Huffaz, 1/127; al-Jawahir al-Durar, 1/7; al-Shinqiti, al-Hadiyah al-Mughith fi Umara’ al-Mu’minin fi ’l-Hadith, p.7 & al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, al-Jamili-Akhlaq al-Rawi, p.193.

[2] The word ‘musnad’ literally means ‘supported’ but more technically, it is a genre of hadith collection where the emphasis is given to the chain of transmission (isnad) usually categorised under the name of a companion regardless of the subject-matter. Imam Ahmad’s Musnad contains 40,000 hadiths including 10,000 repetitions reported by about 700 companions.  It was taken from a much larger number of 750,000 hadiths which took him over twenty years to complete.

[3] See Imam Ahmad, Musnad, 4/273 (#18596). The narration is only related by Ahmad (infarada bihi al-musannif) through this chain which is rigorously authenticated (sahih) in ‘raised form’ (marfu‘, i.e. authentically attributed to the Prophet from a companion). Cf. al-Sunnah of ibn Abi ‘Asim (#1166 & 1169).

[4] He is Sulayman b. Dawud b. al-Jarud Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi al-Basri (d.204): trustworthy (thiqqah) by consensus of the muhaddithun; Hafiz in hadith and is said to have memorized 40,000 narrations but erred in at least 1,000 of them; see al-‘Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, pp.237-238; al-Ilal of al-Madini, p.110; al-Ilal al-Tirmidhi by ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, p.; al-Mizzi, Tahdhib al-Kamal, 11/402; ibn Hibban, al-Thiqat, 8/278; al-‘Ijly, Tarikh al-Thiqat, p.203 & al-Khatib, Tarikh al-Baghdad, 9/23.

[5] Habib b. Salim al-Ansari: considered trustworthy (thiqah) although Imam Bukhari did tactfully say of him: “fihi nazar” (he needs to be looked into) in his Tarikh al-Kabir, 2/318 & ibn ‘Adi said: “there are anomalies (idtirab) in the chains narrated from him” but also says: “there are no rejected narrations (hadith munkar) in his hadith texts” in his al-Kamil fi ’l-Duafa’, 2/405. See also, al-‘Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, p.130; al-Mizzi, Tahdhib al-Kamal, 5/374; Mizan al-Itidal, 1/455 of al-Dhahabi; Abu Hatim, al-Jarh wa ’l-Tadil, 3/102 & ibn Hibban, al-Thiqat, 4/138.

[6] The pronoun ‘kum’ (you all) is the 2nd person plural form (mukhatab). The prepositional construction ‘fikum’ – amongst you – is the indication (qarinah) that the subject matter is restricted to the Muslims suggesting that what follows in the narration is what will take place with regards to the Muslim ummah.

[7] The use of the particle ‘thumma’ is to establish sequence and succession but with slight delay (li ’l-tartib maa ’l-tarakhi). The suggestion is that what will befall the ummah in terms of their authority and rule will occur in succession one after the other. In other words, the turn of authority and its sort will follow a cyclical pattern whereby it will begin with the khilafah upon the  manner of the Prophethood, undergo transition and then finally return to it.

[8] It is interesting to note that wherever the word ‘khilafah’ or its derivative is employed, it is immediately followed by the word ‘al-ard’ (‘the earth’) e.g. see 2:30; 7:166; 38:26; 27:62 & 24:55. In these verses, the definite article ‘al-’ grammatically denotes ‘familiarity’ and ‘proximity’ (li ’l-ahd) thus suggesting that it is this earth we know and inhabit.

[9] The word is derived from the root verb ‘adda meaning ‘to seize with the teeth’ and ‘to bite down hard’ (e.g. see Qur’an 3:119 & 25:27) as well as ‘to torment’. What is remarkable is the Prophet’s choice of the word “mulk” which encompasses a wide variety of significations such as: ‘rule’, ‘power’, ‘authority’, ‘sovereignty’, ‘reign’, ‘dominion’ and ‘monarchy.’ Thus, any entity or phenomenon governing and co-coordinating the affairs of human beings falls under the sense of the word; in effect it is any ruling system. Thus the hadith is fittingly inclusive in its scope.

[10] This word is from the root verb jabara meaning – among others – ‘to force’, ‘to compel’ and ‘to put pressure.’

[11] The coming of the Caliphate will not be an unholy amalgamation of differing systems and laws neither will it be an imitation of the fallen Ottoman Caliphate, rather it will be upon the Rightly Guided (rashidah) model, methodology and representation. The word ‘khilafah’ which is indeed general in its purport has been qualified (muqayyad), thus establishing the fact that like the reign of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with them all!) who are known as the khulafa’ al-Rashidin, the khilafah to come will also rule with the Qur’an and the Pristine Sunnah just as they did. Finally, the point to bear in mind is that the verbs are all in the future tense indicating that the Prophet’s (SAW) account will come to pass and that the khilafah rashidah will return. Insha’ Allah ta‘ala!


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