Summary of 9.4 “Early Application I”
The main point that we discussed was how a ruler in Islam is chosen.’ We indicated that the cardinal rule in Islam is that the ruler should be chosen with the free choice of people without him being imposed on them in one way or another.’ In analyzing how this happens in what we regard to be the perfect model, we started looking as to how the Prophet and the first four Caliphs were accepted as leaders.’ In the case of the Prophet we said that his case was quite different even though the same principles still applied.’ He was different than the Caliphs because he was both a Prophet and head of State.’ In any case we have seen that the Prophet would not have been in that leadership position without the overwhelming support and acceptance of his Prophethood as well as his leadership as the head of the State. We have indicated that even in the case of the Prophet there had the process of Bia’a, pledge of oath or allegiance which the people gave.
Then we went on to analyze the choice of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, successor as head of State.’ We indicated that Abu Bakr was chosen with the consensus of the people.’ The procedures for appointing each Caliph may have varied between the first, second, fourth or third but the consensus of the people was always there.’ In the case of the first Caliph we said that when the news of the death of the Prophet got around, a meeting was called by the Ansar (original residence of Medina) in which they suggested that one of them succeed the Prophet.’ There was some discussions, eventually some of the Muhajirene joined the discussion of alternatives and Abu Bakr was nominated.’ The most important thing we emphasizes in the previous program was that even though Abu Bakr was nominated by the leaders of the people it was not binding on the community and he did not gain legitimacy as a ruler until the following day when he went to the Mosque and the masses came and pledged their loyalty and accepted him as their ruler.
In the case of the second the same principle was there even though the methodology varied with the needs of the time.’ We said when the first Caliph was on his death bed, people approached him and gave him authorization to suggest or nominate one person to succeed so that they can minimize the amount of dispute.’ After this Abu Bakr made some consultations before he nominated a very prominent companion of the Prophet, Omar, the second Caliph.’ Even then he was not appointed as some may interpret it, as he did not have the power to appoint Omar regardless of the people’s will.’ It was simply a nomination’ based on the people’s confidence in his suggestions.’ Even in the case of the second Caliph legitimacy was established only after he went to the Mosque, just as his predecessor did, and people came and pledged their allegiance and accepted him.’ The same principle was implemented in the case of the third and fourth Caliph.
9.5 Early Application II
Host:’ Could you explain the circumstances surrounding his selection as Caliph?
A similar situation as in the selection of the second Caliph occurred when Omar was dying where he gave suggestions in order to avoid too much conflict and division.’ He named six prominent companions of the Prophet who were from among the Known Ten.’ In Islamic tradition there are ten particular companions of the Prophet who received explicit glad tidings that they would go to Paradise.’ This means that both Allah and the Prophet were very pleased with their faith and commitment and that they would live their lives and die as true believers.’ These six included Ali, Othman (who was chosen as the third Caliph), Abdu Alrahman Ibn Ouf, Sa’d Ibn Muath, Al Zubair and Talha.’ These were the six people that Omar nominated.’ He was quite strict and said that all of these six should meet together and should nominate one person from among themselves to be suggested to the people and that there should be no division and nobody should deviate.’ Once there is agreement on this everyone should unite from among the six to support that choice.’ During the meeting of the six Abdu Alrahman Ib Ouf made a suggestion and asked ‘Who among you offers to withdraw his nomination?” There was some silence and he took’ the initiative and said that he withdrew his nomination, and that he did not want to be a ruler.
So they agreed that he would act as a mediator.’ He took an oath from them that whatever is decided that everyone would follow.’ He tried a number of approaches to try to find out what the consensus really was.’ So he approached the two more prominent members of this committee of six: Ali and Othman.’ He went to each of them individually in private.’ He went to Othman and he said ‘Suppose you were not the one to be chosen to be a ruler who do you think would be the most deserving and he answered Ali (the cousin of the Prophet).’ He went to Ali and asked him the same question and Ali said Othman.’ In addition to this two other prominent members Al Zubair and Sa’d also indicated their strong preference for Othman.’ This was one way of getting a feeling from the committee members.’ In addition Abdu Alrahman Ibn Ouf spend several nights meeting, discussing and consulting with the companions of the Prophet in addition with consulting with common people.’ He found that both Ali and Othman seemed to be the most acceptable and strongest candidates with a slight edge for Othman.’ At that particular point the need seemed to be pointing towards Othman.’ In addition to this he held a general meeting after the Dawn prayer which is performed 75 minutes before sunrise.’ In the Dawn prayer there were so many people in the Mosque who included people who migrated from Mecca to Medina and some of the original residents of Median, Alansar, some of the leaders of armies or others on business trips where are public discussion was held.’ They discussed the virtues of Othman and Ali and it ended with the conclusion in the mind of Abu Alrahman Ibn Ouf that there was more of an edge for Othman.’ When he offered that they should pledge their allegiance to Othman the people accepted it.’ Again it was only when this nomination was excepted by the masses that Othman gained legitimacy as the third successor or ruler after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Host:’ What is the background for the selection of the fourth rightly guided Caliph?
There were some commotions and difficulties during the rein of Othman but many historians agree that the most important reason was that Islam spread os fast and a large number of people followed Islam in so many diverse areas and they did not all have the chance to grow into Islam under the supervision of the Prophet so there were some things that carried over from their past.’ The commotions ended up with the assassination of the third Caliph, Othman who was very pious.’ Following the assassination of Othman the situation was quite confused and depressing.’ At this point Ali was very depressed and unhappy about what happened to Othman.’ He isolated himself and went away in seclusion.’ Some of the prominent companions of the Prophet went to him and begged him and said that in this time and in this situation that they could not think of someone who was more qualified and competent to be the fourth Caliph.’ Some historians say that he was reluctant and preferred to be an advisor rather than to be the ruler.’ This was the character of all of the Caliphs.’ They were all humble and did not run for power because the office required a great deal of sacrifice unlike today where rulers have all kinds of benefits.’ He said that he could not accept this unless it happened in the Mosque, the common place for any Muslim to express his or her view, and with the acceptance and consent of other Muslims.’ This again shows the same basic principles which were adhered to with all four Caliphs.’ This shows that regardless of the specific method or mechanism by which each of these four rightly guided Caliphs was chosen each of these was choses followed by Bia’a.
Host:’ Can you elaborate on the concept of Bia’a?
The term Bia’a comes from making a deal which includes commitment on both parties.’ This term appears in the Quran in at least 3 verses in two Surhas: Al Mumtahana and Al Fath.’ There were three incidents where we find reference from the Prophetic life about Bia’a.’ One was the Bia’a of Women and the Quran directed the Prophet, if they come and gave their allegiance that they would follow the path of truth, to accept their oath.’ There is a cross reference to this in the series about the Social System in Islam when we talked about the political ‘rights’ of women.’ We indicated that this concept if Bia’a is an early reference to the right of election or the right of women to chose and give allegiance to their leader.’ This, today, is equivalent to participation in elections.’ There was also another Bia’a which took place in Al Aqaba which included a few persons from Ansar during the time of pilgrimage.’ There was a second Aqaba oath which was in preparation for the migration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina.
In all of these pledges the most common aspect was that it was an allegiance to accept the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a Prophet and head of State.’ As a Prophet the allegiance accepts whatever he communicates by way of revelation from God and secondly to accept him as the head of the Muslim community.’ In a way the concept of Bia’a is more or less like the concept of election but is more broad.’ In an election one excepts a certain person to be the ruler but in the case of Bia’a the pledge is more than that as it is pledge on the part of the person to obey the leader so long as he is not doing something against the Quran or the Prophetic Tradition.’ It also includes a pledge to advise and correct the ruler if he makes a mistake.’ Any Muslim has the right to participate in Bia’a.’ In the early days of Islam it was not too practical when Islam spread so fast and means of communication and transportation we not available to have everybody from all Muslim countries to gather in one place and give this Bia’a.’ In the early days it was mostly the people in Medina, which included the early Muslims.’ This was justified because they included the conscious of Muslims and they were the ones who received the directives of the Prophet, they lived with him and absorbed Islam with him and they sacrificed a great deal.’ So they were the people who most understood Islam and its spirit.’ Again they were practically the ones in the center of the Government of the time.’ However we find that even in the case of the first four Caliphs there were participants by deputation or by people who came from other places.’ When we talked about the choice of Othman we s aid that among the people who participated in the discussion in the Mosque were representatives from other places.’ The principle is there but the mechanism could vary depending on the time.
Host:’ How can the basic principle be applicable in this day and age?
So long as the principle is adhered to any mechanism or method that does not deviate from the basic rules of Shari’a or Divine Law would be acceptable.’ It is beautiful how Islamic teachings respond to the needs of place and time.’ There are certain principles that create boundaries, to prevent chaos, but details and methods of implementation are left to the place and time.’ The methods I will address are some of the possible ways of implementing that principle in todays situation.’ One possibility that would not contradict Islamic Law is to have a nomination of the leader by a trusted person from the community like when Abu Bakr nominated Omar.’ It could be a nomination made by a trusted group of people who represent the people’s views.’ It could also be a nomination after consultation.’ This nomination would be made after mutual consultation between people who are excepted in the community as representatives of the peoples views and understanding.’ There isn’t anything that prohibits the mechanism where an elected council chooses one person from among themselves to be head of state or someone from outside of that council.’ This is just like parliament or a representative assembly.’ It could also be a public referendum where one person has one vote.’ There is nothing in Islam Law, that I know of, that says one can’t follow that.’ If the people are reasonably educated, know what they are deciding on with sufficient circulation of information allowing people to make intelligent choices this could perhaps be a desirable method to follow.’ As indicated earlier these are only examples of possible mechanisms which would not contradict the spirit or letter of Islamic Law.’ This is what is accepted and understood by the overwhelming majority of Muslims.
Host:’ You used the term ‘overwhelming’ not ‘unanimous’ which suggests that there could be other views for how this can take place; what are these views?
There are few things in this world which are unanimous but the main reason I used overwhelming majority is to try to be as honest as possible by not ignoring some opinions that might not necessarily represent the majority but rather a small minority.’ There is a minority opinion which differs with the basic principle.’ This is the concept of Imamite which is followed by a group of Muslims called Shia or Shi’ite Muslims.’ The Shia represent approximately 10% of the world Muslim population.’ Their basic position is that the question of headship of the State or community of believers is fundamental of faith.’ They don’t regard it as the choice of the people or Ishtihad, where people can reason and choose what they feel is best for their situation.’ They believe it is a matter of faith.
Basically they say that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) specified that the one who should succeed him should be his cousin Ali (may Allah be pleased with him).’ This is the same Ali who was chosen by the public to be the fourth Caliph.’ They say that he should have been the first and that he was specified as an appointed person.’ The say that people should not choose the ruler but every ruler chooses or appoints his successor.’ They say the Prophet appointed Ali, to be his successor and so Ali appoints his successor and that successor appoints his successor and it goes on like a sort of hereditary succession within one segment of the household of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).’ They believe that the Imams are infallible, unlike any other human being.’ They believe that the 12th Imam in this succession went into a cave more than a 1000 years ago and that he is going to come back before the day of judgement to fill the world with justice after it has been filled with injustice.’ This is similar to the concept of Messiah coming at the end of time.’ The implication of this minority view is that a ruler is not to be chosen freely by the people but it is a matter of succession or appointment.’ This view is not accepted by the mainstream of Islam which is more than 90%.