Islamic Themes / Khilafah

The basic conditions for being a Khalifah

The Conditions for being a Khalifah

شروط الخليفة

By S. Z. Chowdhury

Autumn 2003.

al-Imam al-Mawardi, the famous Shaficite Jurist wrote in his treatise regarding ruling and governing the following conditions for being a khalifah:[1]

            As for the eligibility (ahall) for the Imamah,[2] there are seven requisite conditions:[3]

1. Justice or probity (al-cadalah) with all its conditions.

2.  Knowledge (al-cilm) conducive for the ability to exercise ijtihad whether for a crises (al-nawazil) or relevant judgments (al-ahkam).

3. Sound senses (salamah ’l-hawas) in the faculties of hearing (al-samc), sight (al-basr) and speech (al-lisan) so that he may directly arrive at a correct assessment (li-yasihha) from that which he senses (ma yadruku bi-ha).

4. Physical fitness (salamah ’l-acda’) such as freedom from handicaps (naqs) to movement or normal modes of action (surcah al-nuhud).

5. A capable skill in organising the affairs of the people (siyasah ’l-raciyyah) and maintaining [their] interests (tadbir al-masalih).

6. Bravery (al-shujacah) as well as undaunted courage in effecting protection of the territories (fi himayah ’l-baydah) and mounting jihad against the enemies (wa jihad al-caduw).

7. And that his descent (al-nasb) is from the tribe of Quraysh due to the existence of explicit texts regarding it (al-nass) in addition to the indisputable consensus [of the Muslims] over it. No validity (la ictibar) is given to [the opinion of] Dirar who alone stands in permitting it for all people because on the Day of Saqifah, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (RA) put forward an argument against the Ansar in holding the office of the khilafah when they had already given the pledge of allegiance to Sacd b. cUbadah citing the words of the Prophet (SAW) that: “the leaders are from the Quraysh” (al-a’immah min al-quraysh). As a result, [the Ansar] relinquished (fa-aqlacu) their sole [claim to the Khilafah] and gave up any share in it (rajacu musharakah fiha) from when he had said ‘a leader (amir) from us and from you’ submitting therefore to the narration, affirming the report as true and pleased with his[4] statement: “We are the leaders and you are viziers” (nahnu al-umara’ wa antum al-wuzara’).[5]

And He (SAW) said: “Give precedence to the Quraysh and do not give others precedence over them” (qaddamu qurayshan wa la taqaddamuha). And there is nothing doubtful in this impeccable text and no dispute over it (la qawl li-khalif lahu).   

The great Malikite Judge from Granadain Andalusia Imam ibn Juzay al-Kalbi (d.) listed the following as being the conditions for a khalifah:[6]

The Fifth Issue: On the Conditions of the Imamah and they are eight.

1. Being a Muslim (al-islam).

2. Maturity (al-bulugh).

3. Rational (al-caql).[7]

4. Male (al-dhukurah).

5. Probity (al-cadl).

6. Knowledgeable (al-cilm).

7. Competence (al-kifayah).

8. That his lineage is from the tribe of Quraysh (wa an yakuna nasabuhu min quraysh) but in this [last condition] there is controversy (khilaf).[8]

But, if there is agreement[9] upon one who does not combine (man lam yajtamic) all the conditions, then it is permitted[10] for fear of disorder (iqac) and dissension (fitnah). iIt is also not permitted to separate oneself from the ruling authorities (al-wulah) even if they are unjust (wa in jaru) unless an explicit disbelief (al-kufr al-buwah) is displayed. And it is obligatory to obey them in what a person likes and dislikes unless they command disobedience [to Allah] because there is no obedience to the created [if it means disobedience to the Creator.”

The Honourable Shaykh, Mujtahid and delineator of the Islamic revival Taqi al-Din Muhammad b. Ibrahim Mustafa b. Ismacil Yusuf al-Nabhani (d.1979) wrote that the contractual conditions of the khalifah number seven. He wrote:[11]

            “It is necessary that seven conditions are found in the Khalifah in order for him to be eligible (ahallan) for the [post of] khilafah and in order that he is given the pledge of allegiance for the Khilafah. These seven conditions are contractual, so if one of the [seven] is missing, he cannot be appointed.

1. He must be Muslim.

2. He must be male (dhakaran).

3. He must be mature (balighan).

4. He must be sane (caqilan).

5. He has legal probity (cadlan).

6. He is free (hurran).

7. That he is able (qadiran) to carry out the tasks [required] for the Khilafah [post].


And Allah knows Best.


[1] Translated from the Kitab Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah wa ’l-Wilayat al-Diniyyah by the Chief of Judges (qadi al-qudat) Abu ’l-Hasan cAli b. Muhammad b. Habib al-Basri al-Baghdadi al-Mawardi (d.450), 1st edn. Dar al-Fikr, Beirut 2002, p.6.

[2] An illustration of this synonymity is how Imam al-Mawardi uses the words “imamah” and “khilafah” interchangeably throughout the text.

[3] Imam al-Mawardi omits that the khalifah must be male and Muslim; most probably due to the fact that both were already understood by the Muslim ummah as being axiomatic conditions for the position of the Imamah. Nevertheless, both conditions are established by decisive texts.

[4] Meaning Abu Bakr (RA).

[5] For a short account of the pledge of allegiance given to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (RA), see Imam Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti’s concise Tarikh alKhulafa’, 1st edn. eds. Taha cAbd al-Racuf Sacd and Yasir Salah cAazab, Maktabah al-Tawqifiyyah,Cairo n.d., pp.63-67.

[6] From his book Qawanin al-Ahkam al-Sharciyyah wa Masa’il al-Furuc al-Fiqhiyyah, 1st edn. Dar al-cIlm li ’l-Malayin,Beirut 1968, pp.28-29.

[7] Meaning he must be sane.

[8] That is, there is a genuine disagreement between jurists as to whether or not the khalifah must be from Quraysh, i.e. whether it is a necessary or preferential condition (min shurut al-afdaliyyah).

[9] Meaning if the pledge of allegiance is given to that khalifah by the people.

[10] To have the person as khalifah.

[11] See his Nizam al-Hukm fi ’l-Islam, 6th Arabic edn. edited, revised and expanded by Shaykh cAbd al-Qadim Zallum, Beirut 2002, pp.50-53. The translation is abridged although the full original Arabic section – including the previous two – are attached at the end.


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