The Khalipha – Successor of Muhammad
Old Islamic governments did not have a written law or judicature. The
head of the Consultative Council pronounced the edict according to the
inspiration of the prophet that later became the rule of law, now called
Hadeeth. Most of the revelations and pronouncements of Muhammad
contained legal and moral guidelines, some of which were memorized by
the immediate associates and followers of the prophet or written down on
parchment, cloth or patches of leather by scribes. The oral ones where
recited, in rhythmic prose, when the need arose. Many adherents learnt
the verses by heart and later handed them down to others by rote
learning. Such pronouncements became the basis of the Islamic culture.
Judgements emanated from the practical life and daily teachings.
Preaching and practice of Islam culled such rules that were later
codified and became enmeshed in their cultural custom, hence compiled
into a holy book, the Koran, as it is known today, and Hadeeth seventy
after the death of the prophet.
With the unification of the nomadic tribes and steady ascendance of
Islam into an Umma Nation, religion and state became inextricably bound
together. Religion and State became interlocked, and functioned in
conjunction with each other - never separately. They fell under the sole
leadership of Prophet Muhammad. He became the Supreme Head of Islam and
the Islamic Umma Nation. His immediate followers from the inner circle
of leaders became enforcers of the Islamic law and executioners, by
order of the prophet, basing their rule on the Islamic ideals.
In the absence of the prophet, a member of his inner circle of power led
the public prayer. In the latter years of the prophet, his Aid and close
companion, Abu Bakr, led the prayers in his absence. The successor of
leadership emerged from within that inner circle of power of the prophet
after his death, and became known as the Khalipha, successor of the
prophet. The succession (Khilapha) of the prophet is the highest office
in Islam. The authority of the Khalipha is absolute and his term of
office is for life.
Before the death of the prophet, a member from the inner circle had
asked Muhammad who would succeed him in leadership after his death. It
is said that the prophet’s reply was “Aqrabokom ilayya yakhlifoni –
the nearest of you, to me, shall succeed me.” Whether “nearest to”
meant in ideology and Islamic faith; or in proximity to distance (i.e.,
a member of the inner circle being nearest to him at his deathbed in his
last dying moments); or in affinity to him in kinship by marriage, or
blood relationship, has since been in dispute and unresolved.
Immediately after the death of the prophet, this leadership was pledged
to Abu Bakr. Yet, Muhammad’s son in-law, Ali, being a member of the
prophet’s inner circle, but not being present at the time of Muhammad’s
death, also claimed the title of succession (Khilapha).
On Muhammad’s death, the Muslims of Medina pledged the leadership of
succession to Abu Bakr by acclamation, due to his close companionship to
Muhammad and being at his bedside, as well as being the nearest to the
prophet at the time of his death. Abu Bakr thus gained the successor’s
office by public and popular acclamation.
The issue of succession to Muhammad’s leadership has since become the
real bone of contention in Islam, in particular between the Shi’ah
(Ali’s followers) and the Sunni (the traditional followers of Abu Bakr).
This contentious issue, as yet, has not been resolved.
The office of the Khilapha is seen to hold both, divine and temporal
powers. This revered symbol of the office of the Khilapha is enshrined
in the doctrine of the Koran and the Hadeeth and headship of the supreme
commander of the Islamic army. As Khalipha, he is the sectarian guardian
of the Muhammadan religion and the prophet’s household, wealth and
property. As a secular leader, he is the absolute authority and
protector of the (Umma) Islamic Nation, its state treasury and one-fifth
(20%) of the booty.
During the Ottoman reign of Selim I, (1512-1520), the Ottoman Turks
usurped the title of the Khilapha office from the Janissary/Mamlukes in
Cairo, Egypt. The Ottomans acquired and assumed the Khilapha title of
succession for the last time until Post World War I.
In 1924, during the reign of the Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,
the link to the title of the office of the Khilapha was broken.
Subsequently, Ataturk abrogated the title. He established his government
on a secular basis. Ataturk adopted a Western style parliamentary system
and re-formed his country under the name of The Republic of Modern
Turkey. The Khilapha title has since then remained in disuse.
Turkey’s elimination of the Khilapha title and power has since caused a
crisis in the Islamic Umma Nation. Its absence has created a vacuum in
the Islamic traditional leadership of their government system. Although
many have attempted, not one Muslim person has, as yet, been able to
legitimately claim the Khilapha title for lack of a direct lineal
descent from the Prophet Muhammad. Since the fall of the Khilapha post
in 1924, the struggle to claiming this supreme leadership, post
continues without any hope of being resolved. The struggle is between
the two rival sects, the Sunni camp, through pledge of allegiance to Abu
Bakr, and that of the She’ah, who avow allegiance to Muhammad’s son
in-law, Ali. Both parties, though they share power, live in a restive
mood, unable to resolve this issue amicably. Since secular reforms and
democracy disagree with their form of governance, peace between them is
despairingly unattainable. In most circumstances, these two rivals, in
frustration, turn on non-Muslims and vent their anger on them, so much
so, that this type of immoral behaviour has become a norm to them.