Do muslims have the obligation to create a khilafah? What is this opinion based on?

Is the creation of khilafah a sunni, or shia "thing". What schools favors khilafah?

2 Answers 2


It is obligatory on the Muslims to appoint an Imam over themselves who will administer Allah's Laws: arbitrate disputes, execute hudud and qisas, collect and distribute zakat, organize jihad, lead the hajj and the congregations of eid etc.

Qurtubi in his tafsir writes that there is no dispute among the ummah that it is obligatory to appoint a caliph:

هذه الآية أصل في نصب إمام وخليفة يسمع له ويطاع ، لتجتمع به الكلمة ، وتنفذ به أحكام الخليفة . ولا خلاف في وجوب ذلك بين الأمة ولا بين الأئمة إلا ما روي عن الأصم حيث كان عن الشريعة أصم

This verse is the origin of appointing an imam and caliph who is heard and obeyed and the laws of caliphate are implemented through him. There is no difference of opinion on the obligation of appointing a caliph among the ummah or the scholars ...

Tafsir Qurtubi on on 2:30

The verses which establish the obligation include:

إني جاعل في الأرض خليفة

I am going to create a deputy on the earth!

Quran 2:30

إنا جعلناك خليفة في الأرض فاحكم بين الناس بالحق ولا تتبع الهوى

We have made you a vicegerent on earth, so judge between people with truth, and do not follow the selfish desire

Quran 38:26

وهو الذي جعلكم خلائف الأرض

It is He who made you the vicegerents of the earth

Quran 6:165

وعد الله الذين آمنوا منكم وعملوا الصالحات ليستخلفنهم في الأرض كما استخلف الذين من قبلهم وليمكنن لهم دينهم الذي ارتضى لهم

Allah has promised those of you who believe and do good deeds that He will certainly make them (His) vicegerents in the land, as He made those before them, and will certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them

Quran 24:55

وأن احكم بينهم بما أنزل الله ولا تتبع أهواءهم

And judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations

Quran 5:49

Further, Qurtubi notes that after the Prophet ﷺ, an argument arose among the muhajirin and ansar regarding who to appoint as the caliph, where the ansar eventually conceded to the view of the muhajirin, whereas if appointing a caliph was optional and not obligatory then this argument was pointless:

. فلو كان فرض الإمامة غير واجب لا في قريش ولا في غيرهم لما ساغت هذه المناظرة والمحاورة عليها ، ولقال قائل : إنها ليست بواجبة لا في قريش ولا في غيرهم ، فما لتنازعكم وجه ولا فائدة في أمر ليس بواجب ثم إن الصديق رضي الله عنه لما حضرته الوفاة عهد إلى عمر في الإمامة ، ولم يقل له أحد هذا أمر غير واجب علينا ولا عليك ،

فدل على وجوبها وأنها ركن من أركان الدين

And if appointing an Imam was not obligatory then this argument and tense conversation would not have been permitted and a sayer could have said: "Caliphate is not obligatory, then why do you quarrel?" There is no benefit in raising a conflict over an act that is not obligatory. Then when Abu Bakr's time of death came close he appointed Umar as the Imam, and no one said that the act of appointing a caliph is not obligatory.

Hence this is evidence that establishing caliphate is obligatory and a pillar from the pillars of religion

  • So why don't they? The Catholic have pope. Why don't they pick a caliph now rather than keep complaining they don't have one?
    – user4234
    Jun 2, 2018 at 5:55
  • Some of them wants to change constitution in my country. That's the issue. And you know, they uses terror to get what they want blowing things up.
    – user4234
    Jun 2, 2018 at 6:37
  • @SharenEayrs There's some criteria that a caliph has to fulfill; for example, according to some scholars (I don't know how widespread this opinion is) the caliph must be from the Quraysh. What's probably operative though is that there is little will among the ruling classes in Muslim countries to be replaced by a caliph. It wouldn't be too tricky to find someone that could be caliph and appoint him, if he takes the role.
    – G. Bach
    Jun 2, 2018 at 11:23
  • @SharenEayrs . I don't think you understand. The Caliph is not like the Pope. The Caliph has to have military, legal, and economic authority over all Muslim lands, and if they don't give it willingly it will be taken by force. Seeing as your country is majority Muslim (or has a sizable Muslim population), if a Caliph is appointed your country will be on his "Countries to Attack into Submission" List (if it doesn't willingly join). So, you would be facing an invasion rather than just a (presumably) relatively peaceful attempt to change the constitution.
    – The Z
    Jun 2, 2018 at 12:23
  • The pope used to be like that. Also even though US government and China government also have military legal and economic authority among huge land doesn't mean they Trump gonna attack many countries. War are expensive and a wise caliph can see that it's not toward the best interest of muslims to keep waging war. That's assuming the muslims can get a wise caliph that actually care about their interests and humans' interests as a whole.
    – user4234
    Jul 11, 2018 at 9:55

Yes, it is an obligation. Throughout Islamic history and beyond, jurists discussed the issue of the caliphate (khilafah) and concluded it to be an obligation without which the Islamic way of life, i.e. Islam, would not be possible.

A few quotes of the scholars:

Ad-Darami said in his Sunan:

"On the authority of Tamim Ad-Dari who said: 'People were building high building during the time of Umar (ra), Umar said: 'Oh Arab people, don't build such high buildings. There is no Islam except with jama'ah, and no jama'ah except with imarah (leadership), and no imarah except with ta'ah (obedience). If people appoint a leader who has fiqh then there will be life for him and them, but if they appoint a leader without fiqh, it will be theirs and his destruction.'" (Ibn Abd al-Birr, Jami Bayan Al Ilm Wa Fadhluh 1:263)"

Ahmed bin Hanbal (164-241 AH) stressed the importance of the khilafah, citing the first dispute amongst the companions after the death of the messenger, Abu Bakr demonstrating the vital role of a khalifah in preventing arguments or disputes and a means to avoid sedition (fitnah):

"The Fitna (tribulations) occurs when there is no Imam established over the affairs of the people. He was asked: What is the meaning of the hadith: 'Whosoever dies and he does not have an Imam he dies the death of jahiliyyah' He said: 'Do you know what an Imam is? An Imam is the one around whom all the Muslims unite. This is its meaning."

The Shafi'i jurist al-Nawawi (631-676 AH) said:

"(The scholars) agreed that it is an obligation upon the Muslims to select a Khaleefah... It is forbidden to give an oath to two Imams or more, even in different parts of the world and even if they are far apart." (Sharh Sahih Muslim, 12:205)

Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH) said:

"It is imperative to know that the office in charge of governing the people is one of the greatest obligations of the deen. Nay, there is no establishment of the deen or the dunya except by it. The interests of humans are not achieved except by social interaction due to their need of one another, and this social interaction necessarily requires a head... so he obligated making one a leader in a small and temporary social interaction in travel, drawing attention by this to all other types of social interaction. Further, because Allah has obligated enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, and this is not executed except through a power and authority. The same applies to other obligations such as jihad, establishing justice, organising the hajj, jumu'a and the eids, assisting the oppressed, implementing the hudud; none of these are able to be executed except by a power and authority. For this reason, it has been narrated that, "The sultan is the shade of Allah on Earth", and it is said, "Sixty years of an oppressive imam is better than one night without any leader," and experience substantiates this. Thus did the salaf such as al-Fadl ibn Iyad and Ahmad ibn Hanbal used to say, "If we had one du'a guaranteed to be answered, we would supplicate for the sultan." (al-Siyasah al-Shar'iyyah, p.129)

The Sahabah also agreed that establishing the Caliph is an obligation.The consensus of the companions is a central and definitive proof of the obligation of appointing an Imam to rule the Muslims and call others to Islam, and the contention is rejected.

So it is not about being a Sunni or a Shi'i thing. It is Islam. Without the Khilafah, the majority of the obligations of Islam won't be implemented.

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