Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan ruled Islamic Caliphate from 661 till 680.

Did he come to the power in a legitimate way (according to Quran and hadith)?

I am only interested in the views of Sunni Muslim scholars. Please support your answer using accepted references (and explicitly state the school they belong to if they are not generally accepted by Sunni scholars).

4 Answers 4


Firstly, Mu'awiyah (radiallahu anhu) is considered by sunnis as first king of muslims though he was called khalifah. The word "khalifah" simply means successor. The Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Verdicts were asked the question:

The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said: "The khilaafah after me is thirty years, then there will be biting kingship" and for this reason Mu'aawiyah said, "I am the first of the kings", from the risaalah of Abi Zayd al-Qayrawaanee (1/96). What is the meaning of this hadeeth?

They replied:

This hadeeth has been related by Imaam Ahmad in al-Musnad, al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak, Abu Ya'laa in al-Musnad, Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh and at-Tirmidhee in as-Sunan. And the meaning of the hadeeth has been explained by al-Haafidh (Ibn Hajar) in al-Fath, he said:

He meant by the khilaafah, the khilaafah of prophethood (i.e. the thirty years), and as for Mu'aawiyah and whoever came after him, then they were upon the way of the kings (i.e. kingship) even if they are named "khalifahs (successors)".

There are also other narrations confirming this:

The hadeeth narrated by Safeenah (radiallaahu anhu), that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said:

خلافة النبوة ثلاثون سنة ثم يؤتي الله الملك من يشاء

The Prophetic khilaafah will last for thirty years. Then Allaah will give the dominion to whomever He wills. Reported by Abu Dawud and al-Haakim. Saheeh al-Jaami' as-Sagheer (no. 3257) declared Saheeh by Imaam al-Albaani (rahimahullaah).

And in the Sunan of Abu Dawud, there occurs after this hadeeth, what is said by Sa'eed bin Jamhaan, who narrated from Safeenah:

قال سفينة: امسك، خلافة أبي بكر رضي الله عنه سنتين، وعمر رضي الله عنه عشراً، وعثمان رضي الله عنه اثنتي عشر، وعلي ستّاً

Safeenah said (to me): Hold on (meaning, listen), the khilaafah of Abu Bakr (radiallaahu anhu) was two years, and [that of] Umar (radiallaahu anhu) was ten years, and [that of] Uthmaan (radiallaahu anhu) twelve years, and [that of] Alee (radiallaahu anhu) six years. Abu Dawud, Kitaab us-Sunnah, Chapter on the Khulafaa, (no. 4647).

Also reported by Safeenah, the saying of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam):

الخلافة بعدي في أمتي ثلاثون سنة ثم ملك بعد ذلك

The khilaafah after me in my Ummah will last for thirty years. Then there will be kingship after that. Reported in the Musnad Imaam Ahmad, by at-Tirmidhi, Musnad Abi Ya'laa, and Ibn Hibbaan. Saheeh al-Jaami' as-Sagheer (no. 3341) declared Saheeh by Imaam al-Albaani (rahimahullaah).

Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah explains (Majmoo' 10/354):

The kingship of Mu'aawiyah was one of mercy, and when Mu'aawiyah departed - may Allaah's mercy be upon him - and the leadership of Yazeed came, and there occured therein the tribulation of the killing of Husain in Iraq, and the fitnah of the people of Harrah in Madinah, and the siege of Makkah, when Abdullah bin Zubayr made his stand. Then Yazeed passed away and the Ummah split, Ibn az-Zubayr in the Hijaaz, Banu al-Hakam in Shaam, and al-Mukhtaar bin Abee Ubayd seizing power in Iraaq. All of this took place at the end of the period of the Companions, when there only remained the likes of Abdullah ibn 'Abaas, Abdullah ibn Umar, Jaabir ibn 'Abdullah, Abu Saeed al-Khudree and others.

Secondly, regarding Mu'awiyyah (radiallahu anhu) he was one of the Prophet's Sahabah (Companions) and one of the scribes who wrote down the Revelation.

Thirdly, coming to the claim of caliphate, Mu'awiyah(radiallahu anhu) did not claim the caliphate for himself and the Ba'yah (pledge of allegiance) was not made to him when he was fighting against Ali (radiallahu anhu). He did not fight Ali(radiallahu anhu) because he considered himself to be the rightful caliph or that he thought he deserved to be. Neither he nor his supporters wanted to initiate a fight with Ali (radiallahu anhu), it was only when Ali(radiallahu anhu) told them to swear allegiance and obedience to him, so there would not be two caliphs, that they refused their obedience. It was then that Ali(radiallahu anhu) had no alternative but to fight them, to force them to obey him and maintain the Muslim community, as Mu`awiyyah and his supporters were saying that this was not obligatory for them until Uthman's (radiallahu anhu) rights had been taken from those in Ali's army who had rebelled and killed him.

The following is evidence that Mu’awiyah’s true goal was not to become the caliph, but rather, his right for avenging Uthman.

From Siyar A’alam Al-Nubala:

وقالوا: أنت تنازع عليا أم أنت مثله ؟ فقال: لا والله، إني لاعلم أنه أفضل مني وأحق بالامر مني، ولكن ألستم تعلمون أن عثمان قتل مظلوما، وأنا ابن عمه، والطالب بدمه، فائتوه، فقولوا له، فليدفع إلي قتلة عثمان، وأسلم له. فأتوا عليا، فكلموه، فلم يدفعهم إليه

Rough translation: Al-Ju’fi (Yahya bin Sulaiman, from his book “Siffeen”): Ya’la bin Ubaid, from his father: Abu Muslim Al-Khawlani and a group of people entered upon Mu’awiyah, and they asked, “Do you dispute Ali? Are you his equal?” He replied, “No, I am not, and I know that he is better than me, and deserves this (khilafa) more than me, but don’t you know that Uthman was killed unjustly, and that I am his cousin, and that I ask for his blood? So go to him (Ali), and tell him to bring forth the killers of Uthman, and I will submit to him.” So, they went to Ali, and spoke to him, but he didn’t hand them (the killers).

Same narration can be found in Shia sources. See Waq’at Siffeen by Nasr bin Muzahim:

إن أبا مسلم الخولانى قدم إلى معاوية في أناس من قراء أهل الشام، [ قبل مسير أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام إلى صفين، ] فقالوا [ له ]: يا معاوية علام تقاتل عليا، وليس لك مثل صحبته ولا هجرته ولا قرابته ولا سابقته ؟ قال لهم: ما أقاتل عليا وأنا أدعى أن لى في الإسلام مثل صحبته ولا هجرته ولا قرابته ولا سابقته، ولكن خبروني عنكم، ألستم تعلمون أن عثمان قتل مظلوما ؟ قالوا: بلى. قال: فليدع إلينا قتلته فنقتلهم به، ولا قتال بيننا وبينه.

Rough translation: And Abu Muslim Al-Khawlani came to Mu’awiya with a group of qura’a from the people of Al-Shaam, before Ali went to Siffeen. They said, “Why do you fight Ali? You are not in his level of suhba or hijra or closeness or earliness (in Islam). He said, “I don’t fight Ali with the claim that I am like him in suhba, hijra, closeness or earliness, but tell me, aren’t you aware that Uthman was killed unjustly?” They said, “Yes.” He said, “They if he gives us the killers, we’ll kill them, and there will be nothing between us and him (Ali).”

Also, interestingly, the following, by Al-Tabari implies that Mu’awiyah was never seen as a caliph, until after the death of Ali, nor was he given bay’a:

(وفى هذه السنة) بويع لمعاوية بالخلافة بايلياء حدثنى بذلك موسى بن عبد الرحمن قال حدثنا عثمان بن عبد الرحمن قال أخبرنا اسماعيل بن راشد وكان قبل يدعى بالشأم أميرا وحدثت عن أبى مسهر عن سعيد بن عبد العزيز قال كان على عليه السلام يدعى بالعراق أمير المؤمنين وكان معاوية يدعى بالشأم الامير فلما قتل على عليه السلام دعى معاوية أمير المؤمنين

Rough translation: In this year, Mu’awiyah was given baya’a in Ilya’a. Musa bin Abdulrahman said that Uthman bin Abdulrahman said, Isma’eel bin Rashid told us that “he (Mu’awiyah) used to be called the ameer of Al-Shaam.” I was told that Abu Mushir that Sa’eed bin Abdulaziz said, “Ali used to be called Ameer Al-Mu’mineen in Iraq, and Mu’awiyah was called the ameer in Al-Shaam, but when Ali was killed, Mu’awiyah was later called Ameer Al-Mu’mineen.”

Also notice that Al-Tabari didn’t say that Mu’awiyah was given baya’a before this year. This implies that nobody gave Mu’awiyah a baya’a for the khilafa before this time.

Ibn Katheer also says,

“When Ali died, the people of Al-Shaam pledged their allegiance to Mu’awiyah, as the Ameer Al-Mu’mineen, for there was nobody that could dispute them.”

The belief of Ahlus Sunnah is that the Khilafaah and Immamate can be achieved in several ways: (1) Either by choosing the person who is most qualified and best positioned for it, as was the case with Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq, may Allah be pleased with him; or it can be achieved by (2) the former leader passing it onto his successor, as was the case when Abu Bakr delegated the authority over to 'Umar; or it may occur by (3) delegating the matter to a specified group of well-known individuals to choose someone among them, as was the case with when 'Umar delegated the authority to the people of the Shoora (Committee). Then when 'Uthmaan was martyred, the people gave oath of allegiance to Ali. Or leadership can be obtained by victory through battle, as it was case with Banu Umayyah. [From Beneficial Answers to Questions on Innovated Methodologies]

So, when Ali martyred, Mu'awiyah was given oath of allegiance by people of Shaam as Ameer Al-Mu'mineen. Hence, it is perfectly legitimate.

This is the view of the Sunni Muslims.

Sources: The Khilaafah Lasted for 30 Years Then There Was Kingship Which Allaah Gives To Whomever He Pleases, Regarding the 'Khalifahs' After the Khilaafah of Prophethood that Lasted 30 Years ,Mu’awiyah’s Claim for the Caliphate, Matters related to the Sahabah,


Yes, Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan (RA) became the Caliph in a very legitimate way and as Mohammed (PBUH) predicted in his two authentic Hadiths:

حَدَّثَنَا صَدَقَةُ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ عُيَيْنَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مُوسَى، عَنِ الْحَسَنِ، سَمِعَ أَبَا بَكْرَةَ، سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَلَى الْمِنْبَرِ وَالْحَسَنُ إِلَى جَنْبِهِ، يَنْظُرُ إِلَى النَّاسِ مَرَّةً وَإِلَيْهِ مَرَّةً، وَيَقُولُ ‏"‏ ابْنِي هَذَا سَيِّدٌ، وَلَعَلَّ اللَّهَ أَنْ يُصْلِحَ بِهِ بَيْنَ فِئَتَيْنِ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

Narrated Abu Bakra: I heard the Prophet talking at the pulpit while Al-Hasan was sitting beside him, and he (i.e. the Prophet ) was once looking at the people and at another time Al-Hasan, and saying, "This son of mine is a Saiyid (i.e. chief) and perhaps Allah will bring about an agreement between two sects of the Muslims through him."

[Sahih Albukhari]

As you see, Mohammed (PBUH) predicted that Alhassan (RA) will be the reason for reconciliation between two groups of Muslims and that was by giving up the throne to Muawiyah (RA).

second Hadith:

قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : " الْخِلافَةُ بَعْدِي فِي أُمَّتِي ثَلاثُونَ سَنَةً ثُمَّ مُلْكٌ "

The khilaafah after me in my Ummah will last for thirty years. Then there will be kingship after that.


Again, Mohammed (PBUH) clearly stated that there will be kingdom after thirty years of Caliphate. Abu Bakr (RA), Omar (RA), Othma (RA) and Ali (RA) ruled as Caliphs for thirty years then Muawiyah (RA) came and he was a king (because caliphate run through his dynasty) Which is the same as Mohammed (PBUH) predicted.

In Quran, there is no evidence in Quran that states that Caliphate is for Ali (RA) and his dynasty. Instead, Allah says in Quran:

قُلِ اللَّـهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتَنزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَاءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَاءُ ۖ بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ‌ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ‌

Say, "O Allah , Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent.

[Quran 3:26]

It is clearly stated in the Aya above that God is the one who give Sovereignty. So if God wanted Alhassan (RA) to be the Caliph then God could have done that. But instead Muawiyah (RA) was chosen. And trust no one can become Caliph against God's well.

Last proof is from history, (Ijma'a) at that time was in Muawiyah's (RA) side. Most Islamic areas were with Muawiyah (RA), Arabian Peninsula and Sham Area (Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon) and the rest of Islamic areas except for Iraq area. For sure most of the people chose Muawiyah (RA) for a valid reason, Many of them were Sahaba and Sahaba knows better because they were close to Mohammed's (PBUH) time.

Note: This answer is from Sunni point of view.

  • Thanks HaLaBi for answering (though I think you are reading too much regarding the verse). What I am interested in is an explanation regarding the legitimacy of the process through which he came to power. And as I said in the question I want answers based on Sunni scholarly views (not just personal evaluations of Quran and hadith). Could you please expand the answer and link to a reference discussing the the view of Sunni scholars on the issue (for example an article on the issue from a Muslim scholar at Al Azhar would be nice).
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 15:26
  • 1
    Sure @Kaveh I will find one and post it.. just give me sometime to locate it :)
    – user37
    Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 16:38
  • @Kaveh I think Ershad's answer will give you all.
    – user37
    Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 22:16

You are asking for opinions from Sunni scholars, but what is being overlooked is that the published works of the Sunni scholars did not appear until minimum 200 years after Hijra, many years after the usurpation of the caliphate by Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan and his starting the Umayyad dynasty by appointing his son Yazid as successor. Few written records from historians survived from the period, so the Sunni scholars had to base their knowledge from oral traditions and hope for a reliable chain of narration.

The problem with these oral traditions is that they were filtered by the Umayyad monarchies. That is why very few narrations of Hz. Ali ibn Abu Talib is found in the Bukhari hadith collection. Muawiya supposedly made it a mandatory practice to curse Ali after the salahs and had pro-Ali Muslims who professed their allegiance to him be killed.

Being that the Sunni scholars did not have unbiased sources for their information, the question can be answered using the Quran and common sense.

Muawiya's entrance into politics was when he replaced his brother Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan as governor in Syria in Damascus when Yazid died of illness in 640 AD. When the 3rd Rashideen caliph, Uthman ibn Affan was murdered in June of 656 AD, Muawiya demanded the murderers be brought to justice before the next caliph would be chosen. Both Muawiya and Uthman belonged to the Banu Umayya tribe from Mecca and were related as cousins. The umma in Medina could not wait and elected Ali ibn Abu Talib, the prophet’s cousin, son in law, and the first male to accept Islam, as the 4th caliph the same year (Tabari 16). Muawiya rejected the election of Ali as caliph and rebelled causing two civil war battles: the battle of the camel on November 7 656 AD and the battle of Siffin on July 26, 657 AD. Both battles resulted in much bloodshed (Tabari 16). Since Muawiya started the fitna (rebellion) against the duly elected and selected caliph, he should have been put to death: “tumult and rebellion are worse than slaughter” (Quran 2:191). Therefore, because Muawiya committed treason and caused much bloodshed, he was surely unworthy of the caliphate, which he assumed upon himself after the death of Ali ibn Abu Talib in 661 AD.

After assuming the caliphate for himself, Muawiya never followed up on pursuing Uthman ibn Affan's murderers and bringing them to justice. This proves his sole motivation for his fitna against Ali was because he coveted the caliphate for himself all along.

Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan’s assumption of the caliphate was illegitimate since it violated the rights of the umma in preventing them from choosing the most righteous leader. The Islamic political process for choosing the caliph or any ruler could best be termed as a meritocracy. The selection decision should be determined by shura (mutual consultation) of Islamic scholars and, if any still exist, the sahaba (companions of the prophet) (Tabari 7).

“Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation” (Quran 42:38). The prophet himself was commanded by Allah swt to consult with his companions in matters for which there was no revelation: “and consult them in affairs (of the moment). Then, when thou hast Taken a decision put thy trust in God. For God loves those who put their trust (in Him)” (Quran 3:159).

If the prophet himself, who was receiving revelation from God, was humble enough to seek advice from his companions before making decisions on matters large and small, it does not bode well for Muawiya to make such a critical decision of caliphate succession on his own. Indeed, there was much outrage about this including from much of the umma.

The ideal Islamic society should approximate perfect justice where the rights of all members of the umma are respected, and no one violates the life, liberty, and property of another. One can say that in an ideal Islamic system there is zero tyranny. Each person would have the right to be consulted on matters that directly affect them. That is because each person is given guidance from Allah: “Our Lord is He Who gave to each (created) thing its form and nature, and further, gave (it) guidance" (Quran 20:50), so deriving collective guidance for a group is done through mutual consultation. Thus Muawiya violated the political rights of the umma, and set a dangerous precedent when he decided on his own without any shura to usurp the caliphate for himself and subsequently to hand the caliphate to his son Yazid, starting the illegitimate Umayyad dynasty.

Muawiya demonstrated that he was an illegitimate ruler by many decisions during his reign. One of the most infamous was delegating caliphate succession to his son Yazid. This was illegitimate since it violated the peace treaty agreement between Muawiya and Hasan ibn Ali. Said written and sealed agreement, that was clearly witnessed by the umma at the time, without any doubt stipulated that Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan was not to choose his successor, but that the successor decision would be left to be determined by shura (mutual consultation) of Islamic scholars and the sahaba (companions of the prophet) (Tabari 18).

The hard copy of the agreement no longer exists, but while historians and scholars may disagree on the other points in the agreement, they are unanimous on the said caliphate successor stipulation (Tabari 18). Firstly, Islam requires all parties to put all agreements in writing (Quran 2:282). That being done, all parties must abide by and honor their agreements with Allah swt as their witness: “O ye who believe! fulfill (all) obligations” (Quran 5:1). Thus, Muawiye committed treason against Allah swt and the umma by not fulfilling his obligations in the treatise, rendering his caliphate and the caliphate succession illegitimate.

The tradition of dynasties of Muslim monarchy started by Muawiya caused un-Islamic tyranny, oppression, and abuse of authority by monarchs from the Umayyad dynasty until the present day. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Many Muslim monarchs forgot that they were 'Muslim' and also forgot their role as caliph, ‘khalifa’ in Arabic meaning God’s agent (Quran 2:230, 38:26). Not long after Yazid took power his army massacred the prophet’s grandson Hussein ibn Ali and his family at Karbala on October 10 680 AD.

This martyrdom of Hussein led up to the Sunni/Shia rift in Islam that persists to this day. This was the beginning of perpetual persecution of the prophet’s progeny (Ahlul Bayt) by ‘Muslim’ dynasties throughout history until even today. Thus it is evident that the usurpation of the caliphate started by Muawiya also started the unfortunate tradition of abusing Islam for political gains and sustaining monarchies and dynasties, which are both antithetical to Islam, causing diversion of the true mission of Islam.

It is also evident that the Muawiya caliphate usurpation was a pivotal event in Islamic history. The world lost true Islam from that time forward. If this illegal succession had not occurred, most likely the most qualified person to be caliph would have been chosen through shura. The battle of Karbala, where Hussein ibn Ali was slain, would not have happened. The Sunni/Shia divide would have never occurred. All leaders would have been chosen by the umma based on merit. There wouldn’t be dictators and tyrants abusing Islam for political purposes. The caliphate would have been much closer to true Islamic shariah where justice would have prevailed economically, politically, and socially. The world would have been a much better place.


Nu’man bin Bashir (ra) narrated from Abu Hurairah (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Prophet-hood will be amongst you as long as Allah wishes, then He will lift it up when He wishes to lift it up. Then there will be a Khilafah on the way of the Prophet, and it will be as long as Allah wishes it to be, then Allah will lift it up when He wishes to lift it up. Then there will be a biting monarchy and it will last as long as Allah wishes it to, then Allah will lift it up if when He wishes to lift it up. Then there will be an oppressive monarchy and it will last as long as Allah wishes it to be, then Allah will lift it up when He wishes to lift it up. Then there will be a Khilafah on the way of Prophethood.” Then he was silent. [MUSNAD AHMAD: 18596 }

Sa'eed bin Jumhan narrated: " Safinah narrated to me, he said: 'The Messenger of Allah(s.a.w) said: "Al-Khilafah will be in my Ummah for thirty years, then there will be monarchy after that."' Then Safinah said to me: 'Count the Khilafah of Abu Bakr,' then he said: 'Count the Khilafah of 'Umar and the Khilafah of 'Uthman.' Then he said to me: 'Count the Khilafah of 'Ali."' He said: "So we found that they add up to thirty years." Sa'eed said: "I said to him: 'Banu Umaiyyah claim that the Khilafah is among them.' He said: 'Banu Az-Zarqa' lie, rather they are a monarchy, among the worst of monarchies."'

( Tirmidhi = 2226 ) ( http://www.sunnah.com/tirmidhi/33 )

The above two hadeeth describes the rule of Muawiyah. Prophet said it is " biting Monarchy " , safeena RA says its worst of monarchies.

Apart from that there are several hadeeth which shows why Muawiyah was a cruel Monarch.

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