How Does A Muslim Ruler Or Caliph Gain Authority? – Shaykh Uthaymeen

Shaykh Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah) said, “(Firstly), if the Caliph before him appoints him, then he is the (new) Caliph and it is impermissible to dispute this. And he is in no need of a bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) because the bai’ah (to the first caliph) suffices for his (the new caliph’s) bai’ah.

This is because the bai’ah to the first (caliph) means that it is binding upon the people to allow the first (caliph) to act freely without restriction.

So if the first (caliph) chose to act in this way and said, “Indeed the imaam after me or the caliph after me is so-and-so ” then he indeed is the (new) caliph without there being any pledging of allegiance (to the new caliph). And this is one (way of gaining authority).

Secondly, by consensus – meaning consensus of the people of influence upon giving him the bai’ah .This is just as the six people of the shooraa (consultative body) – those whom ‘Umar had designated – agreed in consensus upon giving the bai’ah to ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan radi Allaahu ‘anhu .

So if the people of influence agree upon a person and appoint him to be the imaam then he becomes the imaam.

However this (is only true) with the condition that the original caliph (i.e. the preceding one) did not appoint a specific person (to be the caliph after him).

So if he did appoint a specific person then there is nothing more to be said.

However if he (the first caliph) died without having appointed anyone, then the people of influence have a meeting; and if they agree in consensus upon a person being the caliph, then he becomes the caliph.

And is it a prerequisite that every single person from the (Muslim) nation give the bai’ah to him (the new caliph)?

The answer: It is not a prerequisite and (in fact) this is something which is not possible. And for this reason only the people of influence gave the pledge of allegiance to Aboo Bakr radi Allaahu ‘anhu .

So he did not send for every adolescent, nor for every elderly person, nor for every young person nor for every man that they should pledge allegiance to him. Nor did he send out to Makkah nor to Taa-if nor to other cities – in fact not even to the (common) folk of al Madeenah.

So he was content with the pledge of allegiance of whom?

Of the people of influence. In this way we come to know that (when) the gullible fools say, “I didn’t give a pledge of allegiance (to this ruler)!!” , we say, “Who said that it was a condition that you give the pledge of allegiance?” The pledging of allegiance is not to be done by every single person – (rather) the pledging of allegiance is for the people of influence.

So if they agree in consensus and give the bai’ah to him, then he becomes the imaam. It is obligatory upon everyone to adhere to the rulings of the imaam with regards to this man whom the people of influence have united upon. And this is one (way of gaining authority).

Such as the example of whom?

The example of ‘Uthmaan, ‘Uthmaan radi Allaahu ‘anhu was given the pledge of allegiance by the consensus of the people of the consultative body whom ‘Umar radi Allaahu ‘anhu had appointed.

Thirdly, by force – meaning if a man rebelled and overthrew the authority(1), then it is obligatory for the people to yield to him, even if this is through coercion without them being pleased (with him), because he overpowered the authority…

Is there a fourth (way of gaining authority) remaining?

They say “No”; these are the three methods by which the imaam becomes the imaam:
a) Appointment
b) Consensus
c) By force(2)

So if we say that the Caliphate is established through one of these three methods, then this means that it is never permissible to rebel against the one who (has become) imaam by one of these (methods).”

Ref: Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al Uthaymeens’ explanation of Al ‘Aqeedah Al-Safaareeniyyah p.533 – 534 from


(1) (My words not Shaykh Uthaymeens words) overthrew the authority – this means to remove the authority by force, to topple the authority or to put an end to the authority.

So what Shaykh Uthaymeen is referring to here is what is known as coup d’état (coup) which is a sudden and illegal seizure of the government by a rebelling force.

This is what happened with Abdul Malik ibn Marwarn when he became the recognised with caliph of Sham (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine) and Egypt while at the same time Abdullah Ibn Az-Zubayr was recognised caliph for the rest of the Muslim world. Abdul Malik forcibly removed Az-Zubayr from his position by firstly sending one of his generals Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf to capture Az-Zubayr, who instead killed him. After this Abdul Malik then took the caliphate of Az-Zubayr and united his caliphate and Az-Zubayrs caliphate, thus he became the sole overall caliph for the entire Muslim empire.

Also the same thing happened with Abbasid dynasty who forcibly overthrew the Umayyad dynasty, who were the caliphs of the Muslim empire before the Abbasid sized the caliphate by force, from the Umayyads.

What Shaykh Uthaymeen s words are not referring to;

is when the head of a Islamic fighting force sets himself up as ruler or caliph of a certain area without actually having successfully toppled the ruler/government of that land and is in the process of battling the well-known and established ruler of that land.

The reason Shaykh Uthaymeens words do not encompass this head of an Islamic fighting force and deem him to be a ruler due to force is because in this case the head of this force has not overthrown the authority in that land. The authority in this case, is fully functional, that is the reason why the authority are able to gather an army and try to fight to recapture their land sized from them by this Islamic fighting force.

Also the people of power and influence in this case still recognise the authority in this case as being over all rulers of that area because the opposing Islamic fighting force have not killed the ruler, taken control of the government, forced the rulers army into an overall surrender, forced the ruler into exile, taken overall control of the institutions that government use to run that land nor do they control all of the land belonging to the ruler.

This is in contrast to Abdul Malik Ibn Marwarn and the Abbasids who forcibly overthrew the authorities in the lands they took hold of and were recognised as caliphs in. They completely took power by removing the opposing authority. Hence the lay people and the people of power and influence considered them their caliphs plus the previous authorities forces surrendered to them, they had complete control of the government, they took overall control of the institutions under the pervious authorises control, they took control of all the land belonging to the previous rulers and the pervious heads of the old authority were killed.

(2)  Shaykh Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, “If a man rebels and seizes power, the people must obey him, even if he seizes power by force and without their consent, because he has seized power.

The reason for that is that if his rule is contested, it will lead to a great deal of evil, and this is what happened during the Umayyad period when some of them seized power by means of force and gained the title of caliph, and people obeyed them in obedience to the command of Allaah.” Ref: Sharh al-‘Aqeedah al-Safaareeniyyah p.688.

Posted by Abdul Kareem Ibn Ozzie


About Abdul Kareem Ibn Ozzie

I am a revert trying to spread the sunnah inshallah.
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