Caliphate (Khilafat) is an Islamic system of ruling the state under the injections of Quran and Sunnah. The system of Caliphate emerged after the demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). In Caliphate state is ruled by an elected Caliph (Arabic version, “Khalifa”) who is also sometimes called as Amir-ul-Mumeenen (leader of the believers) and Imam. In Caliphate system the election process, responsibilities and status of a Caliph in the state’s affairs is quite different from that of modern world political systems. The affection and reverence of Muslim Ummah for the system of Caliphate can be understood from the fact that most of the Muslims, even today favor Caliphate instead of a modern western political system. Many religious and political scholars of the Muslim world considered the adoption of western political system as one of the major reasons of the decline of Muslim Ummah in today’s world. They therefore often asks for turning back to the system of Caliphate but the important question that should be answered first is, is Caliphate possible in contemporary world?
Caliphate in Contemporary World
We know and have faith that the principles of Islam are not for a specific time and nation. They are rather for all the times and all the nations. The implementation of the system of Caliphate in contemporary world is not impossible but there are some hurdles in its way which must be removed first in order to make the system workable in modern world.
Universal or State Based Caliphate
Today Muslim world is divided into many small independent states. These states are not only free of each other’s influence but most of the time they also have different interests and opinion over a particular political matter. In such diverse pattern of the Muslim world, those scholars who want to have a universal system of Caliphate in whole of the Muslim world should know that at present the establishment of such Caliphate system seems impossible. Therefore it is necessary that Muslims should first adopt the political system of Caliphate at state level and then grow it gradually to universal level.
Under the present western political system, leaders in democratic states are elected by conducting plebiscite throughout the state but in Caliphate the system of election of Caliph was altogether different. History shows that the first four Caliphs were nominated by the Shura who were then elected by the general public of Madina by taking baith (pledge) at their hands. This shows that in the system of Caliphate, only members of the Shura have authority to nominate a person the post of Caliphate. After nomination, public opinion was to be asked. When people had no objection over the faith, character and piousness of the nominated person, they used to elect him by taking pledge at his hand. The application of such system of election in modern world looks quite impossible. There could be many other hurdles as well in its implementation process but the apparent two major challenges are
- Competency and neutrality of the members of Shura and
- Unanimity among the masses over the nominated person.
In Islamic political system, Shura is a consulting body, which consists of representatives of the Muslim community. Main function of the members of Shura is to guide Caliph in running the state affairs. In Islamic political system an idea given by the Shura regarding any matter of the state is binding upon the Caliph. Having such an important position in the political system of an Islamic state, the appointment of the members of Shura would be a great challenge both for the state and the public. It is important to note that the concept of institution of Shura should not be mixed with the concept of institution of parliament of modern world’s political system. Both these bodies have different functionalities and different criteria and members’ appointment process.
Competency of Candidate
In an Islamic state the function of a ruler is threefold. He acts as;
- A guardian (Wali) of his people and their interests
- As an agent (Wakil) on behalf of his people while conducting state affairs in international arena and
- As a partner (Shareek) of his people in every thin and thick of their lives
In today’s world when every person possesses some hidden personal motives behind joining the political system of state, nomination and the election of such a person looks almost impossible.
In today’s world most of the people are against one man’s rule. They preferred and like western political model which stands for political leaders’ periodic rule rather than the hegemony of a single person for lifetime over the state. In such case their persuasion for change of the political system and one man’s rule is also one of the daunting challenges.
Caliphate is one of the best political systems of the world which has solution for all the social, political and economic problems of the modern world. Though there appears many hurdles in its implementation process in modern world but that does not mean that either the system has some defects or it cannot be implemented.