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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Islamic State 4: Qurayshite Descent, a Condition for the Khalīfah

We have seen in the above discussions that the Islamic State is an ideological state. It is founded on well defined principles and beliefs instead of race, tribe or family. All the Muslims believing in and following God and his Messengers are equal citizens of the state and as such enjoy equal rights. None among them bears superiority over his fellow citizens. The only thing that raises the status of some of the believers over the rest is their piety, understanding of religious sources and ability to reach at conclusions using independent reasoning. In the Islamic society it is only excellence on the basis of taqwā (God-consciousness) that earns some of the people the authority to rule others and run the collective affairs. No one enjoys the right to rule because of his superior race or noble descent.
The above represents a very conspicuous directive of the Qur’ān. We do not think it necessary to quote the divine commands in this regard from the Book. Yet, unfortunately, having misinterpreted a ḥadīth, some people believe that only a qurayshite may be elected as khalīfah. No other person can be elevated to the position of khalīfah. The text of the ḥadīthfollows:

The imāms (rulers) are from among the Quraysh. (Musnad Aḥmad, No: 19792)

The most common interpretation of the above prophetic ḥadīth violates the fundamental Islamic doctrine in this regard. It also provides the disputants with a basis to label objections on Islam. To explain our point fully we need to refer to some of the objections against Islamic system of government.
The most favourite objection raised against the common faulty conception of the Islamic system runs as follows. Islam very vociferously claims that all humans are equal. Such claims are in fact hollow. When it is believed, based on the consensus of the Muslim, that only a qurayshite may assume the chair of khilāfah, the Islamic claim of equality of mankind loses all meaning. What kind of equality can exist along such marked discrimination? This doctrine grants the Quraysh a status no less than that the Levites held among the children of Israel or that the Brahmans hold among the Hindus. Just like Hindu religious law does not allow a vaisya or a shudra to participate in the social and political affairs, Islam too considers the non-qurayshites inherently ineligible for the post.
Another objection against the common conception of Islamic system of state claims that, God forbid, the Prophet Muhammad failed to found the state in accord with his teachings. The whole life he propagated equality and justice and condemned racial discrimination only to hand over the state and political authority to his family just before his death.
It will not be out of place to mention that it was this ḥadīth which, during the British rule in India, some English Orientalists and political leaders employed in misguiding the Muslims. They intended to realize their political programs regarding the Muslim movement of khilāfah. They tried to make the protesting Muslims realize that they were going out of the way in order to protect and help out the Turkish khilāfah, whereas their religion recognizes the right to rule only for the Qurayshites. How can they consider helping the Turkish khalīfah a religious obligation in spite of such pronounced judgment by the Messenger? It was on the contrary a violation of the sharī‘ah.
In present times some ‘intellectuals’ have endeavoured to establish, on the basis of the above mentioned ḥadīth, that some of the basic and fundamental teachings of religion can be abandoned if the wise consideration of the circumstances demands such an expedient suspension of the sharī‘ah. Though equality is one of the fundamental teachings of Islam underscoring many a Qur’ānic commandments and the prophetic teachings, yet, they maintain, it was only wise to abandon such teachings in those crucial circumstances as prevailing around the death of the Prophet when the right to rule was held exclusive for the Quraysh. That is why the Prophet, before his death, made it clear to the people that only the Quraysh would be chosen as political leaders of the state after him.


These and other similar objections levelled at the political teachings of Islam, owe themselves to erroneous interpretation of the ḥadīth mentioned above. The prophetic saying has been divorced from its context. It has erroneously been taken as an order or commandment rather than expression of the hard political reality of the time.
We believe it was neither a command nor a testamentary will left by the Prophet. It was a judgment pronounced on a dispute undercurrent in that political context. There is no denying the fact that the issue was not presented before the Prophet as a dispute between prospective candidates for the khilāfah,yet, it was there in the minds of the people and manifested itself in different forms. It was not difficult for the Prophet to read the real implication of the question and that after his death it would translate into a serious dispute, leading to dissension among the ummah. Therefore, the Prophet considered it only wise to decide the issue in his life. He stated that considering the political condition of Arabia at that time it was only the Quraysh who could assume the authority.
One party of the claimants to the khilāfah were the Quraysh. The only contestants besides them were the Anṣār. During the Prophet’s lifetime only these two groups wielded political influence. Though Islam had purified them of bias of the jāhiliyyah (pre-Islamic) period, yet, they kept alive the lawful flare of the tribal solidarity. Their mental race would not reveal itself in much serious forms during the lifetime of the Prophet. However, after his death such a dispute could be intensified. Though it was not feared that their lust for power would generate political dissension, for both the groups aspired to serve the religion of God more actively, yet, their enthusiasm for service of God’s religion could create contention and problems in the nascent state. This did not leave the Prophet but to decide the matter during his lifetime.
Both the groups were contesting for the political leadership of the Muslim world. It was not a battle for a position for the imām in a mosque. A just decision, therefore, would be based only on the services of the contestant parties to the religion and their political influence.
Both the parties had rendered equal services to Islam. Both were true followers of Islam. If the Quraysh had rendered certain important services to the religion, the Anṣār had other equally important ones to their credit. Therefore, we see, that whenever the Qur’ān counts services of the earliest believers to the religion, it praises both the groups in equal terms. We cannot, therefore, base ourselves on the Qur’ān in claiming that either has been given more importance. Similarly the Prophet too always considered the services of both the parties equal and neither of the parties lost significance in his sight. Therefore, none among them could be given superiority over the other on the question of their religiosity and service to Islam.
The Quraysh, however, outmatched the Anṣār in that they exercised more political influence over the Arabs. Taken alone, the political supremacy a group wields does not mean anything. However, when added to the sound religious grounding of the group, it renders them competent enough to successfully run the Islamic State and guard the public and religious interests of the nation. It, therefore, adds to the qualities of that group and makes it more deserving of political power than the others. In Islam, the responsibility of khilāfahis allotted to a group keeping in consideration its religiosity as well as its political status. The Quraysh were considered a dominant political power in Arabia even before the advent of Islam. They did not lose this position after the rise of Islam. Their rule was not, therefore, an unfamiliar and unacceptable thing for the Arabs who could readily recognize the rule of the Quraysh in Islam for they were accustomed to obey the clan in the pre-Islamic period. The only thing that could legitimately render their rule unacceptable could be a religious commandment. We know that there is no such divine command. By the grace of Almighty Allāh, the Quraysh had, by serving the religion of God, attained prominence among the believers too. Thus they were equipped with both the qualities necessary for political leaders; political dominance and service to Islam. The Prophet decided the issue in favour of the Quraysh against the other claimant party namely the Anṣār on the basis of this fact. He explicitly stated that considering the political reality of the time, the leadership would go to the Quraysh. Consequently, this timely verdict of the Prophet, later on, helped greatly in removing the conflict among the Emigrants and the Hosts that did not take long to appear. It has been reported that just after the demise of the Prophet, the Anṣār gathered in the Saqīfah Banī Sā‘idah and claimed their right to rule.
It is utterly wrong to claim that the Prophet decided in favour of the Quraysh merely because of their racial origin. This is because if there were a third political group outmatching the Emigrants and the Hosts in its service to Islam, wielding more political influence than these two parties, the Prophet would have decided the issue in its favour.


Though the explanation of the ḥadīth we have offered is very plain, yet, some people may have some questions in their minds in this regard. We will first of all try to determine such possible confusions and then provide our response to them.
First, it may be asked what determines the difference between a decision pronounced on a dispute and an independent ruling. Why not both translate into a principle? One may also hold that the preference the Prophet gave to the Quraysh in this regard should be taken as it is. It does not make any difference whether they were given preference over the Hosts or all the nations of the world. One thing, however, is certain. The Prophet preferred the Quraysh over the others.
Second, one may seek to know how it can be established that it was a judgment on a dispute rather than an independent ruling especially when no historical proof can be cited to the fact that any such contention between the Emigrants and the Hosts existed during the lifetime of the Prophet.
Third, how can one be sure that it was really a judgment on a dispute between the two groups? Did the Prophet make it clear that he was deciding a dispute? Are there some other indications in the related historical material which provides sufficient proof to the fact that it was a decision and not an independent ruling?
Fourth, many scholars have stated that there is a consensus of the ummah on that none other than the people of Qurayshite origin be made rulers. How can a dissenting view be validated then?
We believe that none of these questions poses a serious problem, yet, they can lead people into confusion. We, therefore, consider it desirable to explain them.
As regards the first confusion, we wish to explain that there is a difference, though subtle, between a decision pronounced on a dispute and an independent ruling. This requires a little elaboration. It is, however, upon the interlocutors to seriously try to understand it. A decision pronounced on a disputed issue between two parties applies only to the contestants alone. It cannot be extended to a third group. It means that when a third party which is more deserving than the first two appears it would be considered rightful owner of the position allotted to any two of the original contestants. In other words considering it a decision pronounced on a dispute entails that the right will accrue to any third contestant with more solid qualification. If, therefore, the Prophet gave an independent ruling to the affect that no non-Qurayshite has the right to rule Muslims then it will be considered a general and an absolute ruling applicable to all groups for all times. None will be able to lawfully rule the Muslims till the Day of Judgment save for the Quraysh. Then the Muslims will have to search for a Qurayshite to appoint as the head of the state whenever they have to form one. If there is nobody of the Qurayshite origin in the Muslim state it has to import one. If, on the contrary, it was just a judgment on a dispute then it would mean that the Quraysh were given preference over the Hosts alone. It does not then entail that this preference was universal and that the Quraysh were given preference over all the people of the world. It does not mean that none else could lawfully rule the Muslims no matter how clearly competent and remarkably deserving.
As regards the difference the nature of the prophetic command creates, it can be ascertained through careful analysis of the basis of the preference. In order to know the basis we have to see the nature of the dispute first. We will see what the issue being contested was and what were the factors which contributed to the dispute. Suppose we come to know that the dispute was among the Emigrants and the Host on the issue of khilāfah on the basis of their racial origin. The Prophet preferred the Quraysh on that basis alone. This finding would take us to the conclusion that in the matter of right to rule in Islam the basic criterion is the racial origin. It was, therefore, the racial origin of the Quraysh based on which the Prophet preferred them over the Hosts. Our investigation into the issue may reveal that the dispute was over the right to rule. Both the parties considered themselves more deserving for the honour on the basis of their religious services and their political power. And the Prophet decided in favour of the Quraysh. This finding would mean that in Islam, the issue of right to rule is decided considering the religious services and the political status of the contesting parties. The right to rule, then, accrues to the group, which wields more political power, is recognized by all the factions of the society as political leaders and outshines others in their services to the religion. Racial origin does not play any role in this second case.
Now, we believe, it is clear what difference does it make to consider the prophetic saying a decision on a dispute rather than an independent judgment.
The answer to the second question consists of certain points which follow.
First, the dispute between the Emigrants and the Hosts did not necessarily relate to the issue of khilāfah because the question of ascendancy to the khilāfahcould not have been manifested until after the death of the Prophet. However, we know that the Hosts considered themselves equal to the Quraysh in their political status and their religious services. On the basis of this fact we can conclude that a contest between the both parties in fact existed. This feeling had generated in their minds a sense of competition with the Quraysh. There is no denying the fact that the Hosts considered themselves a dominant political power at least in Madīnah. They were no way wrong in this estimation of their political power in their hometown. We also know that their services to Islam were no less important than that rendered by the Quraysh. That is why they considered themselves equal to the Quraysh both politically and religiously. The presence of such a spirit of contest was so pronounced that no student of their history can deny it. Let us, for example, consider the following speech of their leader Sa‘d b. ‘Ubādah delivered in the meeting of the Hosts in the Saqīfah Banī Sā‘idah:

O party of the Hosts, your excellence with regards to your services to Islam is not the share of any other tribe in the whole Arabian Peninsula. The Prophet stayed among his folks for more than a decade. He continued calling them to worship God. He pleaded them to abandon the idols. None believed in his call except for a few. These few, however, did not have the power to protect the Messenger. Nor were they able to propagate his religion. They could not even defend themselves. This state of affairs prevailed until God decided to grant you excellence. He granted you respect and specifically chose you for his bounty. He gave you the ability to profess faith in him and in his Messenger. He chose you for the protection of his Prophet and the companions, for helping the religion grow and for fighting the enemies of God. You have been most hard on those among you and others who turned away from the religion of God. You continued rendering services to the religion till its enemies had been made to bow before the will of God willingly or unwillingly. Those from the far flung areas were compelled to follow. God conquered the land for the Prophet through you. He subjected the Arabs before the Prophet through your swords. Now, the Messenger of God has left for the next world while he was pleased with you. This is why you deserve the right to succeed him more than any other group. Hold this (khilāfah) firmly.
Then all those present among the Hosts said: “What you have opined and expressed is right.”[1]

It is no way possible to hold that these feelings of competition sprouted instantly among the group of Anṣār. One cannot deny that traces of this contest reflected in their attitudes before this event. And granted that such a spirit of contest was there in the minds of the Hosts, one may say, the Prophet had to address the issue. He felt compelled to guide the people in right direction so that they could amicably solve the dispute when it arose.
That such feelings indeed were there in the minds of the Hosts can be gleaned from the fact that the hypocrites tried to take advantage of this group feeling during the lifetime of the Prophet. At a number of occasions the hypocrites incited the group feelings of the Emigrants and the Hosts and made the people from both the parties draw out their swords. One such incident happened during the expedition of Muraysī.
The incident of Saqīfah Banī Sā‘idah did not accidentally happen. There were various factors which worked behind such bold expressions from the Hosts. There is no doubt in that in every such dispute the hypocrites had their role. It was, however, never possible for the hypocrites to incite the group feeling of the Hosts if there was nothing supportive in minds of the latter to be aggravated. Who could have been more sensitive to all these affairs than the Prophet ? It was only he who could devise a proper solution to the problem and curb the ensuing difficulties. I find it perfectly understandable that the Prophet realized the feelings of competition underlying various expressions from both the groups. He, therefore, decided on the matter before it could be aggravated after his passing away. Thus the Prophet curbed the conflict between the Hosts and the Emigrants before it was fuelled by the hypocrites in his absence.
Second, it is utterly wrong to say that during the lifetime of the Prophet Muslims had never imagined that the Prophet would depart or that the issue of khilāfahwould be raised after his death. Such assumptions clearly negate the influence of the Prophet’s teaching over the companions and misrepresent the views and beliefs of the Muslims of the time. Had the Prophet left this ummah in dark regarding such basic issues they would have fallen in more grievous kind of ignorance, the Prophet’s prediction that “the nights (i.e. future) of this ummahare as bright as its days (i.e. the prophetic era)” would have been proved wrong. Every Muslim living during the time of the Prophet fully appreciated the fact that the Prophet was a human being and that he would depart this world one day. They knew that they had to establish a government after him. Somebody would succeed him. The principles and basis of the khilāfah were also clear to them. They knew what would be the nature and characteristics of the caliphate in the beginning. They also appreciated the deviations which were expected to creep in the institution later on. All these things had clearly been explained by the Prophet himself. The companions have reported them all as recorded in the ḥadīth works.
How could the companions ignore the issues facing them? They could certainly not remain oblivious to the matters which directly related to them and which affected their lives and faith. They knew that thinking over these realties and forming an opinion in this regard was no sin. If it were not for fear of length we could afford all the traditions which enlighten us regarding this issue and which help us know that the Hosts had in their minds the issues and the problems expected to surface after the death of the Prophet.
In response to the third question, we maintain that text of the ḥadīth,“The imāms (rulers) are from among the Quraysh” does not contain any textual indication to the explanation we have offered. It has not been explicitly stated that the Prophet passed a judgment on a disputed matter. However, the text does not either indicate that it was an independent universal directive. Nor does it guide us to that we can abandon the basic teachings of Islam in wise consideration of circumstances.
The text, therefore, is not decisive in ascertaining any of the explanations given it. In such cases the scholars of the science of Ḥadīth opt for ta‘wīl(re-interpretation).
Re-interpretation in this case is usually done according to the principle that a khabar-i wāḥid (the individual report) cannot contradict the basic categorical teachings of Islam. An individual report contradicting the categorical teachings of Islam has to be re-interpreted in such a way that it is shown in conformity with the basic principles of Islam. This re-interpretation should then be corroborated by the help of external and textual indicators and contexts.
Now we discuss the factors which force us to take the ḥadīth as a decision over a dispute based on the criterion of religious services of the groups involved and their political power.
The first thing that substantiates our interpretation is that, as stated above, there existed a spirit of contest and competition between the Emigrants and the Hosts. Such a spirit was, at occasions, exploited by the hypocrites to sow difference among both the major groups even during the life time of the Prophet. This could have made the Prophet see that after his death this feeling, though positive, could be misused by the hypocrites in a well planned manner. It could prove destructive for the unity and solidarity of the nascent state. This sense of apprehension required that the Prophet decided the most crucial issue of succession in his lifetime so that at the hour of need his decision could guard the community from possible dissonance.
Secondly, a claim over the khilāfah could only be made by the Hosts. In the whole of Arabia, at that time, there was no other group, besides them, with such great services to the religion and political influence over other tribes, except for the Quraysh, on the basis of which that group could claim to be the rightful heir to the Prophet’s political leadership. The other groups, therefore, were not considered claimants for the post of khilāfah on this ground. There was also no other compelling connection of those groups with the question so that we can also consider them a party in the dispute and therefore subject to the prophetic judgment.
Thirdly, according to the most fundamental teachings of Islam no individual or group can rightfully be given priority over the rest except on the basis of their services to Islam and the political dominance in the public. None can, therefore, lay any kind of preference over the others on the basis of their racial or tribal origin. The Qur’ān says:

O People, we have created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you might get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is he who is most righteous among you. (Q 49:13)

Similarly the Prophet made it clear that no Arab enjoys superiority over the non-Arabs and no non-Arab has preference over the Arabs. The only thing that can lend excellence to one is god-consciousness (taqwā). Keeping in the view the above mentioned clear Qur’ānic teachings and also the prophetic clarifications we cannot correctly take the ḥadīth, “The imāms (rulers) are from among the Quraysh” to mean that the Quraysh were given preference over the rest of the world in this regard on the basis of their racial origin. Seen in the light of the Qur’ānic teachings and prophetic explanations it can only be interpreted to mean that the Prophet considered the political power wielded by the Quraysh over Arabs and their unparalleled services to the religion of God. Even the Hosts did not match them in this regard.
Fourthly, the text of some of the relevant prophetic aḥadīth indicates that the question of superiority of the Quraysh was in fact created in relation to the Hosts. They also make it clear that the basis of the preference attached to the Quraysh was not their origin but the confidence of the majority of the Arabs in them. Consider the following narratives. While arguing against the claim of the Host regarding the khilāfah, Abū Bakr Ṣiddīq said to Sa‘d b. Mu‘ādh:

Sa‘d, you know very well that the Prophet said in your presence that the Quraysh are rightful owner of this thing (the khilāfah). The righteous Arabs follow the righteous among them (i.e. the Quraysh) and the evil factions among the Arabs follow the evil among them (i.e. the Quraysh). (Musnad Aḥmad, No: 18)

Another saying ascribed to Abū Bakr says:

The Arabs do not acknowledge this (i.e. rule) for any group other than the Quraysh. (Musnad Aḥmad, No: 391)

‘Alī says:

The Prophet said: “The people (of Arabia) follow the Quraysh. The righteous Arabs follow the righteous among the Quraysh and the evil Arabs follow the evil among them.” (Musnad Aḥmad, No: 790)

This theme has been discussed in various other narratives. All these prophetic statements do not make sense unless they are taken to mean that the Prophet wanted to make it clear to any clamant of the khilāfah that the only group which could fulfil the responsibilities of the khilāfah were the Quraysh for the Arabs would not accept the rule of any other group. A little deliberation over the political circumstances of the time shows that only the Hosts could lay such a claim on the right to khilāfah besides the Quraysh. We must also consider the fact that it was the political influence of the Quraysh over the Arabs during the days of ignorance and also after Islam that is being discussed as the basis of the preference in this regard. Nothing in the text of the relevant narratives indicates that it was the qurayshite origin that worked as the basis of the prophetic decision. Just like the democratic cultures in which the party that enjoys confidence of the majority is given the right to rule, the Quraysh were given the responsibly to run the government after the Prophet because of the confidence of the majority Arabs they enjoyed and the services they had rendered to the religion of God.
Now we come to the upholders of the view that the condition of Qurayshite origin is based upon the general consensus on this point obtained in the ummah. If the view refers to the consensus established among those participating in the meeting called by Anṣār in the Saqīfah of Banī Sā‘idah then it is recognize by all. It is a known historical fact. However, they did not agree on that the Quraysh are the superior race and therefore rightful owner of the khilāfah. If, however, the reference is towards some other kind of consensus then the claim in unfounded. Such a consensus is not known by the Muslim scholarship. Perhaps it was only limited to Imām Nasfī and Shahrastānī. As stated above the consensus of opinion among the elders of the Hosts and the Emigrants in the Saqīfah of Banī Sā‘idah did not violate any principle of Islam. It was perfectly in accord with the Islamic teachings. Not only the consensus under discussion but all consensuses held in the entire history of Islam were in accord with the Islamic teachings. Never ever the ummahgathered over a view which violates the principle teachings of Islam. We believe that no consensus is considerable and valid unless it is in accordance with the Islamic teachings. If the ummah or the scholars of the ummahunanimously hold a view contradicting the Islamic teachings their consensus is not valid. It lacks the basic conditions of consensus in Islam. Such a violation is utterly wrong and should never be heeded to.
The elders among the Hosts and the Emigrants did not agree on the opinion that only the Quraysh would enjoy the right to rule after the Prophet because they were a superior race. They reached at a consensus on that the Quraysh enjoyed the confidence of the majority Arabs and that they had rendered great services to Islam and, on that account, they would be given the right to rule in those particular circumstances. Had the Quraysh lacked any of these qualities and had there some other group with these qualities the Quraysh would never be given that priority. The negation of this right to rule would not have, however, removed their Qurayshite origin. Had the companions known that the basis of such preference was the Qurayshite origin, the Emigrants would have argued that according to the Prophet’s teachings no non-Qurayshite would be taken as the ruler. They would have brought the discussion to end simply by proving this point. When a scholar well versed in the history of Islam reads through the reliable works on the subject he learns that the arguments of the Hosts and the Emigrants in the meeting held in the Saqīfah were not based on the racial origin of the Quraysh. They, on the contrary, pleaded to their political competence and the services to the religion as the basic criterion.
If the racial origin and tribal affiliation would decide this issue then only the Tribe of Banū Hāshim could have been the most prominent claimant of khilāfah. They were the noblest race. But the crucial question in this regard was the political competence and influence over the subject. This quality was possessed by the Quraysh collectively. No clan among the Quraysh individually wielded that political power over the Arabs which they wielded collectively. That is why we see that holy Prophet did not say that it was necessary for a caliph to be of Qurayshite origin. On the contrary he said that the leaders would be from among the Quraysh. This sufficiently proves that the basis of decision in this regard is their political power and not their racial origin.
Had the companions taken the prophetic saying to mean that the qurayshite origin was a necessary condition for a caliph and that this principle is a major clause of Islamic political directives and had the Hosts and the Emigrants agreed on this understanding of the Prophet’s saying it would not have been possible for ‘Umar to wish to transfer the khilāfah to someone who was not a qurayshite. Every student of Islamic history knows that, on his death bed, the caliph ‘Umar was requested to nominate his successor. He sorrowfully said that if Mu‘ādh b. Jabal would be alive he would have nominated him as his successor. He said:

Then, if my Lord would ask me: [“Whom have you handed over the affairs of the ummah?]”, I would be able to say: “In the hands of Mu’ādh b. Jabal. I heard your Prophet say that Mu’ādh would be walking in front of all the scholars on the Last Day.”[2]

Similarly regarding Sālam he said:

If Sālam would be alive, I would not have been forced to form this council asking it to select a caliph from among them. I would have nominated him instantly.[3]

One wonders how the caliph ‘Umar expresses his grief over the loss of Mu‘ādh, one of the Hosts. How did ‘Umar remain ignorant of the Ijmā‘ these people so vociferously claim over the condition of qurayshite origin for the caliph when we know that he was present in the meeting of the elders among the Hosts and the Emigrants? Do we have to believe that nature of that Ijmā‘ was more clear to Nasfī and Shahrastānī than it was to ‘Umar? We have noticed that ‘Umar expressed his desire to appoint a non-qurayshite even in those political circumstances. The Quraysh still enjoyed, in their collectivity, the confidence of the Arabs. They were still united and organized. Great leaders like ‘Uthmān and ‘Alī were still alive.
‘Umar’s wish to appoint Sālam is even more enlightening. Sālam was not a qurayshite. Nor even an Arab. He was an ‘ajamī, a freed slave. Not even a free ‘ajamī. He was freed by Abū Ḥudhayfah or his wife. ‘Umar says that if Sālam were alive he would have appointed him as his successor. So ponder.
The crux of the matter is that it was not the qurayshite origin that determined the status of the Emigrants rather the basic criterion was confidence of the people in them. The confidence of the people the Quraysh enjoyed was taken into consideration by the Prophet. This made them competent enough to fulfil the responsibilities of the khilāfah. Considering their political power they could have nominated a slave, any from among the Hosts, or even a non Arab. Their nominee could have run the government with them on his back. Minus this political power and influence and none could have been competent enough to be burdened with the responsibility. This explains the prophetic saying: “The imāms(rulers) are from among the Quraysh.” Would it be possible to believe that appointing a group or a party as rulers considering their political mandate would violate any of the fundamental teachings of Islam? Such preference for the majority parties against the minority is considered the real beauty and apex of democracy. But unfortunately some of the Muslim scholars have interpreted this virtue to be a violation of the basic Islamic principles of justice and equality and have toppled one of the pillars of Islam opening the door of deterioration of other principles too.


It would not be out of place to mention the viewpoint of Ibn Khuldūn in this regard. Students of Ibn Khuldūn’s Muqaddama(Prolegomena) know that he founds his political theory on group-feeling and political unity developing from blood relation. People of a race, he argues, develop a sense of unity. The individual members of the group feel for and help one another. This mutual help and care creates, in turn, the courage to protect the interests of the community and seek for it the opportunity to self-rule. This last mentioned urge culminates in formal government.
According to Ibn Khuldūn, the group-feeling which engenders government initially develops out of common descent. However, the common descent works only when the sense of unity among the group is strong enough to create the feeling of help and protection of the group members. The stronger this feeling for others and the desire to help and protect the members of the group the more productive this common descent is. Minus this and it is not enough to be considered a firm basis for the establishment of a rule. In that case it would only be an illusion.
According to Ibn Khuldūn the Quraysh were able to wield political power and supremacy among the Arabs only on the basis of this group-feeling. This group-feeing, strengthened by their religious affiliation, made them rightful heirs of the political legacy of the Prophet. No other Arab tribe was their rival in this regard. They were rightful owner of the right to rule as long as their group-feeling and the resultant political power was intact. Once the Quraysh lost this basic competence to rule the other nations, which had developed their group-feeling and earned them political power, they were replaced by the new political powers.
The above is a summary of Ibn Khuldūn’s political theory. According to him, the Quraysh were made the rulers of the Arabs and the rightful owners of the khilāfah only because of their group-feeling and the resultant political power over the other factions in the Arabian society of the time. This view does not suspend any basic Islamic principle. One may, however, accept or reject this explanation on the basis of sound proofs but one cannot maintain that Ibn Khuldūn has come up with a theory which violates any of the basic teachings of the Qur’ān. If Ibn Khuldūn lived in the modern age he would have put his theory differently. He would have said that since the Quraysh were the most powerful party among the whole Arabian tribes both in terms of their religiosity and political power, they were granted the right to rule by the Prophet Muhammad.


[1] Ibn Qutaybah, al-Imāmah wa al-Siyāsah, 1: 5.
[2] Muhammad b. Aḥmad b. Uthmān, Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā, 8th ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risālah, 1995), 10.
[3] Ibid., 170.