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II. Can Khilafat lead to Dictatorship?

The second criticism of Khilafat‑i‑Rashida is that if it means an individual Khalifa, it is likely to lead to dictatorship, for the accumulation of vast powers in one individual’s hand, without the corresponding checks and balances available in a corporate body, is susceptible to abuse. This criticism arises out of lack of knowledge both of the institution of Khilafat‑i‑Rashida and its distinc­tive characteristics and of the real stature of those who occupied this office in the past.

Distinctive Features of Khilafat‑i‑Rashida

The Promised Reformer, the Second Successor to the Pro­mised Messiah, has listed the special features which distinguish Khilafat‑i‑Rashida from monarchial sovereignty and other powers and I have the privilege of setting them below:

In Islam, Khilafat‑i‑Rashida has seven distinctive features:

  1. Election. God says in the Holy Quran : “Indeed Allah orders you to bestow trusts upon those best suited to them”. Here the word used is “trusts”, but since it occurs in the context of government, it means the trust of government. The method of elections has been left to believers to decide. As Khilafat in those early days was political as well as religious, it was decided by the believers that the election should be held by the companions of the Holy Prophet, who knew the faith well, and also, the person who was well versed in it. It is possible to have different rules regarding elections, according to different times, and had Khilafat continued after the life‑time of the companions they would certainly have given considera­tion to the devising of relevant methods. The point however is that Khilafat is elective and the method of election has been left open to believers.
  2. Sharia. A Khalifa is under the yoke of Sharia (Law). He can reject the counsel of his advisers but he cannot ignore the laws of Sharia. Thus, although he is a constitutional head, he is not absolutely free.
  3. Consultation. In addition to the control of Sharia, he is subject to consultations as well. In all important matters he is bound to consult his colleagues and to follow their advice as far as possible.
  4. Morals. Since a Khalifa is the religious head as well as the leader of obligatory prayers, he feels morally and sub‑con­sciously obliged to lead a righteous path but this situation does not apply to a political leader, whether elected or not.
  5. Equality. A Khalifa is equal to other fellow beings in human rights. He can secure his rights through the judicial system just as people can obtain their rights from him through the same process.
  6. Providential protection. As he is a component of the religious machine, a Khalifa has been promised providential protection from major mistakes liable to bring about disastrous con­sequences. In such situations he is assured of God’s succour and help against adversaries. This unique position is not available to any other type of leader.
  7. Non‑political. He is not aligned to any political party and his position is that of a father. God says: “When you adjudicate, do so with justice” i.e. a person in the position of Khalifa should exercise complete justice, leaning neither to an in­dividual nor to a party (Al‑Furqan, Khilafat Issue, July 1958).

Basic Distinction between Khilafat and Dictatorship

It is evident from the foregoing that Khilafat‑i‑Rashida is the end result of an elective process which has not been defined but left open to suit the prevailing times. Then the person elected has been made subject to the laws of Sharia with the obligation to abide by every one of its injunctions. At the same time it has been made necessary for him to take counsel from his colleagues on all important matters which have a national bearing and to follow their advice as far as possible, departing there from only in the case of absolute conscience, in which event he can proceed with his own decision placing his trust in Allah. He has his own moral standards to control him, for he is the religious head and leader of obligatory prayers for believers. His mental and sub‑conscious frame so composed keep him on the right course under spiritual guidance from Allah. Again, he is equal among fellow human beings as far as individual rights are concerned and this position is hardly applicable to other leaders. He can sue and be sued like any other person. He enjoys providential protection so that God saves him from catastrophic decisions and affords him His help in hours of dire need. Finally, he is above politics and is enjoined to exercise absolute justice, leaning neither to an individual nor to a party.

Having looked at the personal attributes of Rashid Khalifas and having examined the electoral procedure and also having studied the Quranic teachings on the subject and the sayings of the Holy Prophet, it is clear that the seven distinctive features enumerated above are found in full in the institution of Khilafat‑i­Rashida. These features make it impossible for a Khalifa to become a dictator nor is it possible for the system to degenerate into a catastrophic instrument for its people. Indeed the rulers who are bereft of these distinctive features are liable to the evils of dictatorship who feel free to do whatever they will to the utter disregard of law and order and thus lead their people to death and decay. But Rashid Khalifas who are under the laws of Sharia and under obligation to seek counsel from their colleagues become a shield for their people and bring about comfort and prosperity. This is why Abu Bakr once told the people of Medina that they would be consulted in every matter and nothing would be done without their unanimous consent (Tabri, Vol. 1). Omar is also reported to have said:

“O’ people, you have certain rights against me which I shall enumerate and which it is for you to secure from me. It is your right that I should not misuse any of the taxes or booties which may be bestowed upon you by God. It is your right to obtain satisfaction of your rights from me. It is your right to enjoy my protection . . . and that I should look after your families like a father when you are absent on wars”. (Al‑Farooq Omar by Mohammad Husain Haikel).

Osman once addressed his people as follows:

“Hearken, I am a faithful follower rather than an innovator; apart from following the Quran and the precepts of the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, I pledge myself to three promises before you. First, I shall follow the procedures and systems agreed by you before my Khilafat. Secondly, I shall seek your advice in regard to any practices for which no procedure has already been agreed upon. Thirdly, I shall control myself against exercising penal proceedings against you unless they are fully sanctioned by the Law of God and the precepts of the Holy Prophet” (Tabri, Vol. III, p. 446).

History fails to find any rulers and dictators rising to similar high morals and making such candid pledges.

The Necessity of Obedience to Khilafat‑i‑Rashida

Since a Rashid Khalifa stands in the footsteps of the Prophet in order to complete his mission, to expand his following, to create unity and strength of his people and personally bear the noble characteristics enumerated in the foregoing, it becomes essential that he should be followed completely faithfully. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said: “Anyone who follows my Emir shall be regarded as having followed me but anyone who disobeys My Emir shall be regarded as having disobeyed Me“. The same loyalty was echoed by the elders of Ahmadiyyat upon the election of Maulana Hakim Nur‑u‑Din as the first Khalifa to the Promised Messiah, when they declared: “In future, every command of Hazrat Maulvi Sahib would have the same authority as had the command of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, on whom be peace.” (Badr, 2.6.1908).

Difference between Khalifa Rashid and a Dictator

The big difference between a Dictator and Khalifa Rashid is that while the former is more concerned about interests of his personal power, the latter is mostly busy in the welfare of his people, and while the world is asleep, he supplicates before his Lord for their well‑being. Thus says Musleh Maood, the Second Successor to the Promised Messiah:

“For you there is a well‑wisher who loves you and shares your woes and afflictions and prays for you before God. Other people have none like this available to them. Your Khalifa is concerned about your welfare and intercedes God on your behalf while others have none to do this for them.” (Barakat‑i‑Khilafat).

It is certainly not possible for any Dictator to show this type of intimate concern for his people, nor to have the desire of suffering nightly inconveniences in prayers for them. This is because the institution of Khilafat belongs to spiritual realms and is bound by the seven special features making it impossible for dictatorship to creep in or evil consequences to crop out.