Is Kingship Accepted in Islam?


The question was asked whether there is “such a thing as kingship or princeship or royal families in Islam and Shari`a.” I said yes, because there are so many texts to that effect.

A revolutionary type (“Thawri” or “Khariji” in Arabic) expressed his profound disapproval without providing proof.

Since the way of Ahl al-Sunnah is different than theirs in Religion, and since we fear speaking of this Religion without proof, here are the proofs.

If that person fears Allâh, he should provide his proofs. Not simply deny each these, as I suspect he will do – for lack of an alternative.


Proof-texts for the concepts of malakîyya – “monarchy, kingship, royalty” – and mulûkîyya – “monarchic rule, monarchism, kingship, royalty” – as viable systems in Islam and Shari`a.

These texts are arranged by topic under the following headings:

1. Prophecy that there shall be Kingship in Islam
2. Exalted Status of Righteous Monarchy and Kingship in the Qur’an and the Sunnah
3. Every Epoch has a Divinely-Appointed King Reflecting Its People
4. The Awaited Mahdî  (as) Shall be a King
5. Belief in the Mahdî  is Obligatory in Islam

1. Prophecy that there shall be Kingship in Islam

1.1 The Prophet said – Allâh bless and greet him: “This business began as prophethood and mercy, then mercy and a khalifate, then a voracious kingdom, and then arrogance and tyranny and corruption will enter the community.” In Qâdi `Iyâd’s al-Shifâ, chapter on the Prophet’s (s) knowledge of the Unseen. This is a proof in Islam and Shari`a that kingship is not as good as caliphate but is better than tyranny. Here are some narrations to that effect in their precise wordings inshâ-Allâh:

1.2 “Successorship (al-khilâfah) after me shall last for thirty years. After that, there will be kingship.” Imam Ahmad declared this narration sound and adduced it as a proof for the caliphate of the four Imams. A sound hadith narrated from Safîna by al-Tirmidhî (hasan) with a fair chain according to Shaykh `Abd Allâh al-Talîdî who declared it sahîh because of its corroborative and witness-chains in his edition of al-Suyûtî’s Tahdhîb al-Khasâ’is (p. 293 #375); also narrated by al-Nasâ’î, Abû Dâwûd, Ahmad in his Musnad with two chains; al-Hâkim; Ibn Hibban with two fair chains as stated by al-Arna`ut (15:34 #6657, 15:392 #6943); al-Tayâlisî in his Musnad (p. 151, 479); and al-Tabarânî  in al-Kabîr with several chains. This narration is among the “Proofs of Prophethood” (dalâ’il al-nubuwwah) as the sum of the first five caliphates is exactly thirty years: two years and three months for Abû Bakr, ten years and a half for `Umar, twelve years for `Uthmân, four years and nine months for “Alî, and six months for al-Hasan as narrated from Safîna by al-Suyûtî in Tahdhib al-Khasâ’is (p. 293 #375) and Târikh al-Khulafâ’ (p. 22, 198-199). Al-Dhahabî cites the saying by Mu`awîya: “I am the first of the kings” (anâ awwalu al-mulûk) in the Sîyâr (3:157). 1.3 To the man who said: “O Messenger of Allâh! I saw in my dream as if a balance came down from the heaven in which you were weighed against Abû Bakr and outweighed him, then Abû Bakr was weighed against `Umar and outweighed him, then `Umar was weighed against `Uthmân and outweighed him, then the balance was raised up.” The Prophet ? said: “Successorship of prophethood (khilâfa nubûwwah)! Then Allâh shall give kingship to whomever He will.” Narrated from Abû Bakrah by Ahmad with three chains, Abû Dâwûd, and al-Tirmidhî who said: hasan sahîh, and from Safînah by Abû Dâwûd with a fair chain and al-Bazzâr with a fair chain as indicated by al-Haythamî. Al-Tirmidhî’s narration omits the last statement of the Prophet (s). Al-Hâkim narrated it with a chain similar to al-Tirmidhî’s and graded it sahîh, and al-Dhahabî concurred.

1.4 “There shall be Prophethood (nubûwwah) among you for as long as Allâh wishes it to be among you. Then it shall be lifted up when Allâh wishes to lift it up. Then there shall be successorship (khilâfa) on the pattern (minhâj) of Prophetship for as long as Allâh wishes it to be. Then it shall be lifted up when Allâh wishes to lift it up. Then there shall be a trying kingship (mulkan `addan) for as long as Allâh wishes it to be. Then it shall be lifted up when Allâh wishes to lift it up. Then there shall be a tyrannical kingship (mulkan jabrîyyatan) for as long as Allâh wishes it to be. Then it shall be lifted up when Allâh wishes to lift it up. Then there shall be successorship on the pattern of Prophetship.” Narrated from Hudhayfa by Ahmad with a sound chain as stated by al-Zayn in the Musnad (14:163 #18319) and as indicated by al-Haythamî (5:188-189): “Narrated by Ahmad, al-Bazzâr with a more complete wording, and al-Tabarânî  partly, in al-Awsat. The narrators in its chain are trustworthy.” Also narrated from Abû `Ubaydah by al-Tabarânî  in al-Kabîr (1:157) with the wording “Then there shall be kingship and tyranny” after the mention of successorship. It was pointed out that the sequence of events described in these narrations is strikingly similar to the Christian Eastern Orthodox explanation of the Prophet Daniel’s interpretation of the dream of the Babylonian King in Daniel 2:31-43.

2. Exalted Status of Righteous Monarchy and Kingship in the Qur’an and the Sunnah

2.1 Allâh (swt) praised monarchy and kingship by making it one of the greatest gifts He gave to a Prophet, making it synonymous with prophethood itself in the verse “And Allâh gave him [Dâwûd] the kingdom and wisdom” (2:251).

2.2 Greater yet is the kingdom Allâh gave to Sulaymân (as). The Prophet said – Allâh bless and greet him – in the authentic hadith of Isrâ’ and Mi`râj: “[O Allâh!] You have given Sulaymân an immense kingdom, and subjected the jinn and men and devils to him, as well as the winds, and You have given him a kingdom the like no one may have after him.”

2.3 Kingdom was given to Sayyidina Muhammad (s) also. An angel descended as Gibrîl – upon him peace – was sitting together with the Prophet (s). Gibrîl said: “This angel did not descend on earth since its creation until this moment.” The angel said: “O Muhammad! Your Lord told me to ask you: ‘Shall I make you a king or a servant and Messenger?'” Gibrîl said: “Humble yourself before your Lord, O Muhammad!” The Prophet (s) said: “A servant and Messenger!” Narrated from Abû Hurayra by Ahmad, al-Bazzâr, and Abû Ya`la, the former two with a sound chain as stated by al-Haythamî and Ahmad Shâkir in Ahmad’s Musnad (#7160). Also see al-Mundhiri’s al-Targhib. This hadith is a proof that kingship is an honored state, as Allâh (swt) would not propose to His Beloved anything dishonorable or disliked, and Allâh knows best.

2.4 The fact that an even greater Kingdom than Dâwûd’s and Sulayman’s – a royal family, by the way – was actually given to Sayyidina Muhammad (s) even though he preferred the higher title of Servant to that of King, is established by the foundational hadith in the two Sahîhs “I was given the keys to all the riches of the earth” beginning with the words “I was given five things which no Prophet before me was given.”

2.5 As-Sultān dhillullāh fi’l-ard, “The Sultan is the shadow of Allah on earth” is a saying of Ka‘b al-Ahbār as stated by al-Daraqutnî, al-Zarkashî, and al-Suyûtî, pos­sibly also one of the Companions, but not a Prophetic hadith as claimed by Ibn Taymîyya who went so far as to declare it sound, in Majmu‘a al-Fatāwa (35:45). See complete documentation in our Four Imams and Their Schools (p. 293-294).

3. Every Epoch has a Divinely-Appointed King Reflecting Its People

3.1 Nor did the Prophet (s) condemn monarchy in itself, as shown by the hadiths already cited. A more specific proof that it is not monarchy but evil rule that is condemned – whether under caliphate or kingship – is the following narration: “Every epoch has a king whom Allâh sends in the semblance (`ala nahw) of the hearts of its people. If He desires their reform He sends them a reformer, and if He desires their destruction He sends them one who shall cause their perdition.” Al-Fattini said in Tadhkirat al-Mawdu`at (#182): “`Umar said: ‘People follow the religion of their kings.’ I do not know it as a Prophetic hadith, but … it supported by what al-Tabarânî  narrates [and al-Bayhaqî from Ka`b, as stated in Kashf al-Khafâ (2:166)] raised [to the Prophet, Allâh bless and greet him]: “Every epoch has a king… etc.”

3.2 Al-Tabarânî  narrated that al-Hasan [al-Basrî] heard a man supplicating against al-Hajjâj whereupon he said to him: “Do not do that! Truly you are all the same and were treated accordingly. The only thing we fear, if al-Hajjâj were to be put away or die, is that apes and pigs shall be made rulers over you.* It has been narrated: “Your deeds are your workers (a`malukum `ummalukum) and as you are, so will your leaders be.” … No doubt, “ape rule” includes the lust and advent to power of those who scoff at the encouragement to worship and the power of du`a, dhikr, salât `alâ al-Nabî, karamat al-Awlîyâ’ etc. believing only in human power, its means and its instruments with little or no knowledge of the Sunna, its fiqh, its adab, and its secrets, w’Allâhu a`lam.

3.3 Ibn Hajar [al-Haytamî] said [in al-Fatawâ al-Hadîthîyyah]: “Al-Najm said that Ibn Abî Shayba narrated from Mansûr ibn Abî al-Aswad that the latter asked al-A`mash about Allâh Almighty’s saying: “Thus We let some of the wrong-doers have power over others because of what they are wont to earn” (6:129) to which he replied: ‘I heard them say about it [that it means] that the most evil of people are made to rule over them.'” …

3.4 Al-Bayhaqî also narrated from al-Hasan that the Israelites asked Musâ – upon him peace – saying: “Ask your Lord to show us how we can tell He is pleased with us and how we can tell He is displeased.” He asked Him and He said: “Tell them: My good pleasure with them is [seen in] the fact that I make their best govern them, and that my displeasure with them is [seen in] the fact that I make their most evil ones govern them.” …

3.5 [Al-Sakhâwî] said in al-Maqâsid: “We have narrated from al-Fudayl [ibn `Iyâd] that he said: ‘If I had one supplication that is answered, I would consider the Sultan more deserving of it. For in his uprightness lies the uprightness of those who are governed by him, and in his corruption lies their corruption.'” This is supported by what al-Tabarânî  narrated in al-Kabîr and al-Awsat from Abû Umâmah, raised [to the Prophet, Allâh bless and greet him]: “Do not curse the governors but supplicate that they be upright. For their uprightness is best for you.” …

3.6 Similarly al-Qâsim ibn Mukhaynara’s saying: “The epoch in which you live is nothing other than your governor. If your governor is upright then your epoch is upright and if your governor is corrupt then your epoch is corrupt.” I mentioned all the narrations in this section in my July 1999 internet post titled “Ape Rule.”

4. The Awaited Mahdî  (as) Shall be a King

4.1 When the Israelites were oppressed by Jâlut and his forces they went to their Prophet and asked him to ask Allâh to raise up for them a King so they could fight in the way of Allâh: “Bethink thee of the leaders of the Children of Israel after Moses, how they said unto a Prophet whom they had: Set up for us a King and we will fight in the way of Allâh” (2:246). Our Shaykh, Mawlana al-Shaykh Nazim – Allâh save and keep him in the best care – spoke to this effect: “Why do you now run to the U.N. and ask for help? Go to the Grave of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and ask him to ask Allâh, to send al-Mahdî  (as). Indeed, One of the distinguishing traits of Ahl al-Sunnah today in contrast to innovators is their belief in Khalîfat Allâh al-Mahdî  (as) as righteous *King* – as shown by the following narrations – endowed with full Divine support and even reaching a spiritual level higher than the Four Caliphs, as stated by al-Hâkim al-Tirmidhî (d. 320) and others.

4.2 Many hadiths mention that al-Mahdî  shall actually “rule by Kingship” (yamluku) and speak of “the duration of his kingdom” (muddatu mulkihi) as narrated by Abû `Amr al-Dânî in al-Sunan al-Wârida fî al-Fitan, Nu`aym ibn Hammâd in Kitab al-Fitan, Ibn Hajar al-Haytamî in al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamat al-Mahdî  al-Muntazar, and al-Barzanjî in al-Isha`a li Ashrat al-Sa`ah (cf. p. 225). This indicates that his Caliphate shall be of the nature of a righteous monarchy.

4.3 For example: The Prophet – Allâh bless and greet him – said: “The Hour shall not rise until a man from the People of my House [again the concept of royal family] shall rule by kingdom (yamluk), named after me, his father named after mine, and fill the earth with justice and equity just as it had been filled with oppression and injustice.” Narrated from Ibn Mas`ûd by Abû Dâwûd in his Sunan (book of al-Mahdî ), al-Tabarânî in al-Mu`jam al-Kabîr (10:165 #10219), al-Hâkim in al-Mustadrak (4:442) where al-Dhahabî said it is sound (sahîh). Cf. al-Dâni (5:1040, 1041, 1047, 1048, 1051 [“Rule by kingdom over the earth”], 1052 [“Rule by kingdom over the Arabs”]). 4.4 From Abû Sa`id al-Khudri: The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Al-Mahdî  shall rule by kingdom for seven, eight, or nine years.” Nu`aym ibn Hammâd (2:689). He cites several similarly-worded reports with variant durations (1:376-378).

5. Belief in the Mahdî  is Obligatory in Islam

5.1 It should be remembered also, that belief in al-Mahdî ‘s coming and in his God-sanctioned reformative functions is an obligatory tenet of belief in Islam. The opening lines of Shaykh al-Islam, Ibn Hajar al-Haytamî’s book on the
Mahdî  entitled Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi `Alamât al-Mahdî  al-Muntazar (“The Brief Discourse on the Portents of the Awaited Mahdî “) are: It has been related that the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, said: “Whoever denies belief in the Dajjal, has certainly committed disbelief (man kadhdhaba bi al-dajjâli fa qad kafara), and whoever denies belief in the Mahdî , has certainly committed disbelief (wa man kadhdhaba bi al-Mahdî  fa qad kafara).” Abû Bakr al-Askafî narrated it in Fawâid al-akhbâr, and also [the hadith master] Abû al-Qâsim al-Suhayli in his book Sharh al-Sira. End of Haytamî’s words.

The hadith mentioned above is also narrated by the hadith master Ibn Nâsir al-Dîn al-Dimashqî in his book `Uqud al-durar fî `ulum al-athar (The pearl necklaces in the science of tradition) p. 156 and the hadith master Jalâl al-Dîn al-Suyûtî in his monograph al-`Arf al-wardi fî akhbâr al-Mahdî (The roselike fragrance in the reports of al-Mahdî ) in his collected fatwas entitled al-Hâwi li al-fatâwi 2:161.

5.2 Under note #18 Dr. Suhaib Hasan in his book An Introduction to the Science of Hadith wrote:”Although the Mahdî  is not mentioned explicitly in the collections of al-Bukhâri and Muslim, numerous sahîh ahadîth which are mutawâtir in meaning speak of the coming of the Mahdî, a man named Muhammad bin `Abdullâh and a descendant of the Prophet (s) through Fâtimah who will be the Leader (Imam, Khalîfah) of the Muslims, rule for seven years and fill the world with justice and equity after it had been filled with tyranny and oppression. He will also fight along with Jesus son of Mary. The author, in his The Concept of the Mahdî  among the Ahlul Sunnah has named 37 scholars who collected ahâdîth about the Mahdî  with their own isnads and 69 later scholars who wropte in support of the concept compared to 8 scholars who rejected the idea. (page 62 of An Introduction to the Science of Hadith published by Darusalam, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

The author he means seems to be `Abd al-`Alîm `Abd al-`Azîm who wrote a Master’s thesis titled al-Ahâdîth al-Wâridah fi al-Mahdî  fi Mîzân al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dîl in which he states that there are thirty two authentic (hasan or sahîh) Hadiths about Mahdî . Of these, nine of them mention the Mahdî  explicitly while the others simply give a description of him. This quantification, of course, is unreliable as the man is obviously not a hadith master and is using a computer to reach his conclusion. However, he and Hasan can be cited insofar as they confirm what actual hadith masters and the `ulama of Ahl al-Sunnah have long since established.

W ‘Allâhu Ta`ala A`lam wa âhkam.

Blessings and peace on our Master Muhammad, his Family, his Companions, and all those loyal to him until the end of Time.

Wal-Hamdu Lillâhi Rabbi-l-`Alamîn.

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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