4. He Is The Khalifah Of Allah

Imam Ibn al-‘Athir (d. 606 H), an ace Sunni lexicographer, opens this chapter:

الخليفة من يقوم مقام الذاهب ويسد مسده

The khalifah is whoever stands in the position of the one who is physically absent and substitutes for him.1

The absence may be due to a variety of reasons – such as travel, seclusion, death and others. As such, when Prophet Musa, ‘alaihi al-salam, was leaving his Ummah temporarily for some days, he appointed a khalifah:

وقال موسى لأخيه هارون اخلفني في قومي

Musa said to his brother, Harun: “Be my khalifah over my people.”2

Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 H) also informs us:

فمن المعلوم انه كان لا يخرج من المدينة حتى يستخلف

It is well-known that he (the Prophet) never left Madinah without appointing a khalifah over it.3

Meanwhile, Allah is our King:

قل أعوذ برب الناس ملك الناس إله الناس

Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind, the God of mankind.4

No doubt, His is the kingdom of all the heavens and the earth:

ولله ملك السماوات والأرض والله على كل شيء قدير

And to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and Allah has power over all things.5

However, He does not physically rule the kingdom on the earth. He instead appoints certain people to act for Him:

والله يؤتي ملكه من يشاء

And Allah gives His kingdom to whoever He wishes.6

Whoever He appoints to run His kingdom on His earth is called His khalifah. Prophet Adam, ‘alaihi al-salam, was the first of such people:

وإذ قال ربك للملائكة إني جاعل في الأرض خليفة

And when your Lord said to the angels, “I will appoint in the earth a khalifah.”7

Imam al-Mawardi (d. 450 H) states under this verse:

والثالث : أنه أراد : جاعل في الأرض خليفةً يخلفني في الحكم بين خلقي ، وهو آدم ، ومن قام مقامه من ولده ، وهذا قول ابن مسعود.

The third opinion: is that He intended “I will appoint in the earth a khalifah WHO WILL SUBSTITUTE FOR ME in giving judgments among My creatures, and he is Adam and whoever stands in his position among his offspring”. This was the opinion of Ibn Mas’ud.8

Imam al-Baydhawi (d. 685 H)also submits:

والخليفة من يخلف غيره وينوب منابه والهاء فيه للمبالغة والمراد به آدم عليه الصلاة والسلام لأنه كان خليفة الله في أرضه وكذلك كل نبي استخلفهم الله في عمارة الأرض وسياسة الناس وتكميل نفوسهم وتنفيذ أمره فيهم لا لحاجة به تعالى إلى من ينوبه بل لقصور المستخلف عليه عن قبول فيضه وتلقي أمره بغير وسط

The khalifah is he who substitutes for another and deputizes for him. The ha in it (i.e. the word khalifah) is only for emphasis. The one intended with it is Adam, peace and blessings be upon him, for he was the khalifah of Allah in His earth, and so were all prophets. Allah made them His khalifahs in the administration of the earth, the government over the people, the perfection of their (i.e. the people’s) souls, and the implementation of His Commands among them. This was NOT due to His dependence on appointing someone to deputize for Him. Rather, it was as a result of the inability of those over whom He appoints the khalifah, to accept His Grace and receive His Command directly.9

Imam al-Sharbini (d. 968 H) has the same words as above, almost verbatim, in his Tafsir.10 Imam al-Nasafi (d. 710 H) agrees with them:

آدم كان خليفة الله في أرضه وكذلك كل نبي، قال الله تعالى : { يا داوود إنا جعلناك خليفة في الأرض } (ص : 26)

Adam was the khalifah of Allah in His earth, and so were all prophets. Allah the Most High says: {O Dawud! We have appointed you a khalifah in the earth} [38:26]11

Imam al-Baghwi (d. 516 H) affirms this too:

والمراد بالخليفة هاهنا آدم سماه خليفة لأنه خلف الجن أي جاء بعدهم وقيل لأنه يخلفه غيره والصحيح أنه خليفة الله في أرضه لإقامة أحكامه وتنفيذ وصاياه

The one intended with the word “khalifah” here (in the verse) is Adam. He was named a khalifah because (according to one opinion) he succeeded the jinns, that is he came after them. It is also said (in another opinion) that it was because he substituted for another. THE CORRECT OPINION is that he was the khalifah of Allah on His earth for the establishment of His Verdicts and the implementation of His Decrees.12

Imam Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 H) says also:

أحدهما انه خليفة عن الله تعالى في إقامة شرعه ودلائل توحيده والحكم في خلقه وهذا قول ابن مسعود و مجاهد

One of both (opinions) is that he was a khalifah of Allah the Most High in the establishment of His Laws and the proofs of His Oneness and the government of His creatures. This was the opinion of Ibn Mas’ud and Mujahid.13

Imam al-Zuhayli has this exegesis of the verse, as well:

اذكر أيها النّبي لقومك قصة خلق أبيهم آدم، حين قال اللّه للملائكة: إني متخذ في الأرض خليفة، يقوم بعمارتها وسكناها، وينفذ أحكامي فيها بين الناس

Mention, O Prophet, to your people the story of the creation of their father Adam, when Allah said to the angels, “I will appoint in the earth a khalifah who will uphold its structure and its residence and will implement my Laws in it among the people.”14

And, al-Mahalli (d. 864 H) and al-Suyuṭi (d. 911 H) in their Tafsir al-Jalalayn, cap everything:

{و} اذكر يا محمد {إذ قال ربك للملائكة إني جاعل في الأرض خليفة} يخلفني في تنفيذ أحكامي فيها وهو آدم

{And} remember, O Muhammad {when your Lord said to the angels: I will appoint in the earth a khalifah} who will substitute for Me in the implementation of My Laws in it, and he is Adam.15

Adam and all the other prophets, ‘alaihim al-salam, were khulafa of Allah on the earth. Each one of them was His khalifah over his people. Without doubt, Prophet Muhammad is the supreme khalifah of Allah in our Ummah. However, there are others too besides him among us, non-prophets like us, who are his successors in the khilafah. He has specifically named Imam al-Mahdi as one of these khulafa of our Lord in our blessed Ummah. Imam al-Bazzar (d. 292 H) records:

حدثنا أحمد بن منصور، قال: حدثنا عبد الرزاق، قال أخبرنا الثوري، عن خالد الحذاء، عن أبي قلابة عن أبي أسماء عن ثوبان، رضي الله عنه، قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: يقتتل عند كنزكم هذا ثلاثة كلهم ابن خليفة، ثم لا يصل إلى واحد منهم، ثم تقبل الرايات السود من قبل المشرق فيقتلونكم قتلاً لم يقتله قوم، ثم ذكر شيئا فإذا رأيتموه فبايعوه، ولو حبوا على الثلج فإنه خليفة الله المهدي.

Ahmad b. Mansur – ‘Abd al-Razzaq – al-Thawri – Khalid al-Hadha – Abu Qilabah – Abu Asma – Thawban, radhiyallahu ‘anhu:

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “Near this treasure of yours, three people will kill one another. Each of them is a son of a khalifah. But it will not reach any of them. Then the black flags will come from the East, and they will kill you in a way that no nation had ever done been killed.” Then he mentioned something (and said): “When you see him, pledge allegiance to him, even if you have to crawl on snow, for verily he is the khalifah of Allah, the Mahdi.”16

Al-Bazzar himself comments:

فإنا اخترنا هذا الحديث لصحته وجلالة ثوبان وإسناده إسناد صحيح.

We have selected this hadith (for our book) due to its authenticity and the greatness of Thawban, and its chain is a sahih chain.17

Imam al-Hakim (d. 403 H) also records:

أخبرنا أبو عبد الله الصفار ثنا محمد بن إبراهيم بن أرومة ثنا الحسين بن حفص ثنا سفيان عن خالد الحذاء عن أبي قلابة عن أبي أسماء عن ثوبان رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : يقتتل عند كنزكم ثلاثة كلهم ابن خليفة ثم لا يصير إلى واحد منهم ثم تطلع الرايات السود قبل المشرق فيقاتلونكم قتالا لم يقاتله قوم ثم ذكر شيئا فقال : إذا رأيتموه فبايعوه ولو حبوا على الثلج فإنه خليفة الله المهدي

Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Saffar – Muhammad b. Ibrahim b. Urumah – al-Husayn b. Hafs - Sufyan – Khalid al-Hadha – Abu Qilabah – Abu Asma – Thawban, radhiyallahu ‘anhu:

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “Near your treasure, three people will kill one another. Each of them will be a son of a khalifah. But it will not get to any of them. Then the black flags will come from the East, and they will fight you in a way that no nation had ever been fought.” Then he mentioned something and he [the Prophet] said: “When you see him, pledge allegiance to him, even if you have to crawl on snow, for verily he is the khalifah of Allah, the Mahdi.”18

Al-Hakim declares:

هذا حديث صحيح على شرط الشيخين

This hadith is sahih upon the standard of the two Shaykhs.19

And Imam al-Dhahabi (d. 748 H) agrees:

على شرط البخاري ومسلم

Upon the standard of al-Bukhari and Muslim.20

Al-Hafiz Ibn Kathir (d. 774 H) further documents:

وقال ابن ماجه: حدثنا محمد بن يحيى وأحمد بن يوسف قالا، حدثنا عبد الرزاق عن سفيان الثوري عن خالد الحذاء عن أبي قلابة عن أبي أسماء الرحبي عن ثوبان قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: يقتتل عند كنزكم ثلاثة كلهم ابن خليفة لا يصير إلى واحد منهم ثم تطلع الرايات السود من قبل المشرق فيقتلونكم قتلاً لم يقتله قوم، ثم ذكر شيئا لا أحفظه قال فإذا رأيتموه فبايعوه ولو حبوا على الثلج فإنه خليفة الله المهدي.

Ibn Majah – Muhammad b. Yahya (al-Dhahli) and Ahmad b. Yusuf – ‘Abd al-Razzaq – Sufyan al-Thawri – Khalid al-Hadha – Abu Qilabah – Abu Asma al-Rahbi – Thawban:

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “Near your treasure, three people will kill one another. Each of them will be a son of a khalifah. But it will not get to any of them. Then the black flags will come from the East, and they will kill you in a way that no nation had ever been killed.” Then he mentioned something which I cannot recall. (Then) he said: “When you see him, pledge allegiance to him, even if you have to crawl on snow, for verily he is the khalifah of Allah, the Mahdi.”21

Ibn Kathir says:

وهذا إسناد قوي صحيح، والظاهر أن المراد بالكنز المذكور في هذا السياق كنز الكعبة يقتتل عنده ليأخذه ثلاثة من أولاد الخلفاء حتى يكون آخر الزمان فيخرج المهدي ويكون ظهوره من بلاد المشرق

This chain is strong and sahih. The apparent is that what is intended with the mentioned treasure in this context is the treasure of the Ka’bah. Three children of the khalifahs will kill one another near it, (aiming) to take it, until the End Time and the Mahdi will come out and his appearance will be from the Eastern towns.22

Dr. al-Bastawi also comments about this riwayah of Ibn Majah, copied above by Ibn Kathir:

إسناده صحيح.

Its chain is sahih.23

Strangely, however, al-Albani (d. 1420 H) attacks the sanad of the hadith:

وقد ذهل من صححه عن علته، وهي عنعنة أبي قلابة، فإنه من المدلسين

Those who declared it sahih have overlooked its defect, and that is the ‘an-‘an report of Abu Qilabah, for verily he was from the mudalisin.24

Meanwhile, Dr. al-Bastawi has provided a devastating rebuttal to al-Albani and the other deniers:

فأما اختلاط عبد الرزاق فلا يضر في صحة هذا الإسناد. فقد كان اختلاطه بعد سنة مائتين والظاهر أن سماع الذهلي وأحمد بن يوسف السلمي كان قبل الاختلاط، فقد قال ابن حجر" : احتج به) عبد الرزاق (الشيخان في جملة من حديث من سمع منه قبل الاختلاط. "ولذلك أخرج البخاري لمحمد بن يحيى الذهلي عن عبد الرزاق وأخرج مسلم لأحمد بن يوسف السلمي عن عبد الرزاق…

وأما عنعنة أبي قلابة وسفيان الثوري وهما من المدلسين، فلا تضر في صحة الإسناد أيضا لأن المدلسين ليس كلهم على حد سواء عند المحققين. وقد رتبهم الحافظ ابن حجر في كتابه طبقات المدلسين على خمس مراتب. الأولى: من لم يوصف بذلك إلا نادرا. والثانية: من احتمل الأئمة تدليسه وأخرجوا له في الصحيح لإمامته وقلة تدليسه في جنب ما روى كالثوري أو كان لا يدلس إلا عن ثقة كابن عيينة وذكر أبا قلابة في المرتبة الأولى وسفيان الثوري في المرتبة

As for the confusion of ‘Abd al-Razzaq, this does not hurt the authenticity of this chain. He became confused after 200 H, and it is apparent that the hearing of (Muhammad b. Yahya) al-Dhuhli and Ahmad b. Yusuf al-Sulami (from him) was before the confusion, for Ibn Hajar had said: “He (‘Abd al-Razzaq) is relied upon as a hujjah by the two Shaykhs (i.e. al-Bukhari and Muslim) in a number of ahadith by those who heard from him before the confusion.” Due to that, al-Bukhari has narrated from Muhammad b. Yahya al-Dhuhli from ‘Abd al-Razzaq while Muslim narrated from Ahmad b. Yusuf al-Sulami from ‘Abd al-Razzaq”….

As for the ‘an-‘an report of Abu Qilabah and Sufyan al-Thawri, and both of them are from the mudalisin, that does not hurt the authenticity of the chain either. This is because mudalisin are not at a single level in the view of the researchers. Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar has categorized them in his book, Tabaqat al-Mudalisin into five categories. The first: he who is rarely described with that (i.e. tadlis); and the second: he whose tadlis is tolerated by the Imams and they narrated from him in the Sahih books due to his excellence and the rarity of his tadlis in his reports like al-Thawri or he who never did tadlis except from thiqah (trustworthy) narrators like Ibn ‘Uyaynah. He mentioned Abu Qilabah in the first category and Sufyan al-Thawri in the second category.25

So, al-Albani and others like him are simply desperate in their efforts against the hadith. It is perfectly sahih; and their excuses are only due to poor research.

The following points are undeniable from the above sahih reports:

1. Three sons of three khalifahs will be fighting over the treasure in the Ka’bah. It is not clear if all three khalifahs would have died before the conflict. Instead, what seems apparent is that there will be some three separate khalifahs ruling different regions at the same time while their sons kill one another over the treasure. None of the three khalifahs is identified as a khalifah of Allah or of His Messenger.

2. It must be noted that the word “khalifah” is synonymous with “amir” – spelt “emir” in English – and “imam”. Moreover, “khilafah” is interchanged with “kingdom” in authentic Sunni ahadith. So, the word “khalifah” may be a reference to a “king” or an “emir”. Also, on Sunday, June 29, 2014, some Salafi militants under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi established a new “caliphate” and awarded the title “Caliph Ibrahim” to their leader. Then, a week after that, in early July, 2014, another group of Salafi militants, under Abu Muhammad al-Julani announced the birth of an independent “emirate” – basically, another word for a separate “caliphate”. Yet, a third Salafi militant group, Boko Haram, also proclaimed another “caliphate” on August 24, 2014. This may be the start of a race for Sunni caliphates, which may spring up in Arabia and elsewhere in the future.

3. The original army of Imam al-Mahdi will be from the Eastern towns, and he will accompany them. They will be carrying black flags. This army will be extremely powerful, and their first battles will be with Muslims.

4. Al-Mahdi will be the khalifah of Allah on the earth. His legitimacy as the amir of the believers hinges entirely upon this fact.

A moral of all this is that none is entitled to the bay’ah (pledge of allegiance of Muslims) except he who can prove to be a khalifah of Allah (i.e. “When you see him, pledge allegiance to him, even if you have to crawl on snow, FOR verily he is the khalifah of Allah, the Mahdi”). Rather, it is one’s status as the khalifah of Allah which creates the right to receive the bay’ah of Muslims and to command them and their armies. This is obvious anyway, since the bay’ah in Islam is given to none but Allah Alone - being a direct, personal covenant with Him - and NOT even to His Messenger:

إن الذين يبايعونك إنما يبايعون الله يد الله فوق أيديهم فمن نكث فإنما ينكث على نفسه ومن أوفى بما عاهد عليه الله فسيؤتيه أجرا عظيما

Verily, those who give their ba’yah to you, they are only giving their ba’yah TO ALLAH. The Hand of Allah os over their hands. So, whosoever breaks his pledge, breaks only to his own harm, and whosoever fulfils what he has covenanted WITH ALLAH, He will bestow on him a great reward.26

As such, Prophet Muhammad was only receiving the bay’ah solely on behalf of, and for, his Creator. Obviously, anyone who wants the ba’yah of the Muslims must prove to them that he has the authority from Allah to act as His representative on His planet, or authority from His legitimate representative to do that on his behalf for Him. The legitimate representative of Allah on the earth, of course, is none other than His khalifah therein. Meanwhile, the cases of Adam, Dawud and the Mahdi have established, beyond doubt, a clear pattern of how the khalifahs of Allah attain their office: they are explicitly and directly appointed by Him through wahy. Therefore, whosoever asks for your ba’yah must also show you evidence that our Creator specifically sent down a revelation from the heavens appointing him His khalifah. If he cannot do that, then he is an impostor; and every ba’yah to an impostor – or to anyone else other than Allah - is a ba’yah against Him. Alternatively, the ba’yah-seeker must firmly establish that he is a designated representative of the legitimate khalifah of Allah, receiving the ba’yah on his behalf for Him.

The ahadith also teach that it is NOT the bay’ah that creates the khilafah. The Mahdi will be the khalifah already even before the generality of Muslims pledge their allegiance to Allah through him. Whether or not they give or refuse their bay’ah to him, he will be their only legitimate amir whom they must obey: he will be their true khalifah – the one imposed upon them by their Lord - with or without their allegiance. This is why it is an obligation upon them to pledge their bay’ah to him at all costs, in the first place. Otherwise, they will be rebels to the khalifah of Allah, and - by extension - to Allah Himself!

  • 1. Ibn al-Athir, Abu Sa’adat al-Mubarak b. Muhammad al-Jazari, al-Nihayah fi Gharib al-Hadith wa al-Athar (Qum: Muasassat Isma’iliyyan) [annotator: Mahmud Muhammad al-Tanahi and Tahir Ahmad al-Zawi], vol. 2, p. 69
  • 2. Qur’an 7:142
  • 3. Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Halim b. Taymiyyah al-Harrani, Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah (Muasassat Qurṭubah; 1st edition, 1406 H) [annotator: Dr. Muhammad Rashad Salim], vol. 7, p. 327
  • 4. Qur’an 114:1-3
  • 5. Qur’an 3:189
  • 6. Qur’an 2:247
  • 7. Qur’an 2:30
  • 8. Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali b. Muhammad b. Habib al-Mawardi al-Basri, al-Nakat wa al-‘Uyun (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah) [annotator: Sayyid Ibn ‘Abd al-Maqsud b. ‘Abd al-Rahim], vol. 1, p. 95
  • 9. ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Umar al-Baydhawi, Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Tawil (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr), vol. 1, p. 280
  • 10. Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Sharbini, Tafsir al-Siraj al-Munir (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah), vol. 1, p. 52
  • 11. Abu al-Barakat ‘Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Mahmud al-Nasafi, Tafsir al-Nasafi (Beirut: Dar al-Nafais; 2005 CE) [annotator: Shaykh Marwan Muhammad al-Shi’ar], vol. 1, p. 78
  • 12. Abu Muhammad al-Husayn b. Mas’ud al-Baghwi, Mu’alim al-Tanzil (Dar al-Taybah li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzi’; 4th edition, 1417 H), vol. 1, p. 79
  • 13. Abu al-Faraj Jamal al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Ali b. Muhammad al-Jawzi al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi, Zad al-Masir fi ‘Ilm al-Tafsir (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami; 3rd edition, 1404 H), vol. 1, p. 60
  • 14. Wahbah b. Mustafa al-Zuhayli, al-Tafsir al-Wasiṭ (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr; 1st edition, 1422 H), vol. 1, p. 22
  • 15. Jalal al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Mahalli and Jalal al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Abu Bakr al-Suyuṭi, Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith; 1st edition), p. 7, # 30
  • 16. Abu Bakr Ahmad b. ‘Amr b. ‘Abd al-Khaliq al-Bazzar, Musnad al-Bazzar (Madinah al-Munawwarah: Maktabah al-‘Ulum wa al-Hukm; 1st edition) [annotator: ‘Adil b. Sa’d], vol. 10, p. 100, # 4163
  • 17. Ibid
  • 18. Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah al-Hakim al-Naysaburi, al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah; 1st edition, 1411 H) [annotator: Mustafa ‘Abd al-Qadir ‘Aṭa], vol. 4, p. 510, # 8432
  • 19. Ibid
  • 20. Ibid
  • 21. Abu al-Fida Ibn Kathir al-Dimashqi, al-Nihayah fi al-Fitan wa al-Malahim (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah; 1st edition, 1408 H) [annotator: Prof. ‘Abduh al-Shafi’i], vol. 1, pp. 25-26
  • 22. Ibid, vol. 1, p. 26
  • 23. Dr. ‘Abd al-‘Alim ‘Abd al-‘Azim al-Bastawi, al-Mahdi al-Muntazar fi Dhaw-i al-Ahadith wa al-Athar al-Sahihah wa Aqwal al-‘Ulama wa Ara al-Firaq al-Mukhtalifah (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm; 1st edition, 1420 H), p. 192
  • 24. Muhammad Nasir al-Din b. al-Hajj Nuh al-Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Dha’ifah wa al-Mawdhu’ah wa Atharihah al-Sayyiah fi al-Ummah (Riyadh: Dar al-Ma’arif; 1st edition, 1412 H), vol. 1, p. 197, # 85
  • 25. Dr. ‘Abd al-‘Alim ‘Abd al-‘Azim al-Bastawi, al-Mahdi al-Muntazar fi Dhaw-i al-Ahadith wa al-Athar al-Sahihah wa Aqwal al-‘Ulama wa Ara al-Firaq al-Mukhtalifah (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm; 1st edition, 1420 H), pp. 191-192
  • 26. Qur’an 48:10