The word Khalifah in the Arabic language linguistically means ‘successor’. But, the Shari’ah (laws) of Islam have given us another, more comprehensive definition of the word Khalifah. The Prophet of Allah (saw) said, “…there will be no more prophets after me, only Khulafa’a.” (Bukhari) In this hadith the word Khulafa’a is not referring to successors, but to heads of the Islamic State. The word Khalifah is, therefore, taken to mean ‘that man who rules over a people by Islam,’ acting as the head of the State. The same Shari’ah definition would apply if we used the word Imam, instead of Khalifah, to indicate the head of State. And since in Islam, the bay’ah (pledge) is given only to a head of the State, both the words Khaleefah and Imam are pertaining to the head of the State.
The Process of Bay’ah, the method of installing the Khalifah is through the process of bay’ah. The power to rule by Islam is given by the Ummah (attribute of the muslims) to the Khaleefah. Authority belongs to the Ummah and it deputises the Khalifah to enact the Shari’ah. This is done through a contract between the Khalifah and the Ummah. The Ummah must obey as long as the Khalifah implements Islam on them. The process of bay’ah may occur after a general vote given by all the Muslims of the Islamic State or it may occur after a vote among the Leaders of the Ummah (ahl-al-halli-wal-‘aqd). Voting is merely a means to determine the choice of the Ummah, it does not substitute the bay’ah. Non-Muslims, children, and Muslims residing outside of the State do not have the right to vote. If all the Muslims of the Islamic State are voting then the bay’ah of in’iqad (pledge of acceptance, by which he becomes Khalifah) is given to the man elected. However, if the vote occurs through the representatives, then a bay’ah of in’iqad is first given by the representatives, after which a second bay’ah of obedience (ta’aa) is given by the Ummah, to the person elected. The silence of the Ummah over the elected Khalifah can be considered as the bay’ah of obedience (ta’aa). It is through this bay’ah process that a person attains his position as Khalifah. The candidates for the position of Khalifah may, in addition to self nomination, be chosen by the Majlis al-Ummah. It is from these candidates that the Ummah chooses for itself a ruler.
Once the appointment is made, the Ummah then has no right to dismiss the Khalifah, as long as he upholds the Shari’ah and fulfils the conditions to be a Khalifah. Since the contract made between the Ummah and the Khalifah is for the Khalifah to rule over them with Islam, the Ummah has no right to dissolve the contract, as long as he maintains his part of the contract. Therefore, a Khalifah has no term of office. He remains the head of State, as long as he is able to uphold the contract or until he tenders his resignation.
On the other hand, a Khalifah may be dismissed for the following Islamic reasons:
- If he becomes an apostate (i.e. becomes a non-Muslim).
- If he neglects the prayers and proposes for others to do the same.
- If he becomes physically incompetent to handle the duties assigned to him in his contract, such as by losing his sight, hands, both legs, etc. However, losing one ear or his nose or his sexual organs does not impair his ability to perform his duties.
- If he persists in debauchery and immoral behaviour (fisq), injustice in public behaviour, and negligence of the Islamic laws.
- If he changes his sex, since women are not allowed to assume positions of ruling.
- If he becomes a captive, under the kuffar, from where he cannot enforce his rulings upon the citizens of the State and freely maintain the operation of the State (in addition to the absence of any possibility for his return.)
- If another person dominates him in his opinions and the Khalifah is unable to exert his own opinion in the process of running the State. Here, the case would be that a second person is running the State, while the Khalifah becomes symbolic.
In each of these situations, the case is brought to the highest court of the Islamic State i.e., the Court of Madhaalim (complaints against the State). The court arbitrates according to the Qur’an and Sunnah and the decision (based on divine law) made by the Court of Madhaalim is binding on both parties.