Are Muslims Duty-bound To Establish Islamic State Or Caliphate?
There are some Muslim scholars who think that each and every Muslim has been asked by Islam to strive to establish an Islamic state in case Islam does not reign supreme in the country he is living in.
It needs to be appreciated that Muslims are not required by their religion to fulfill any such obligation. Some religious scholars do present the example of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and say that since he had established an Islamic state in Arabia, Muslims, wherever they are, should follow his example. In this regard, it is submitted that neither did the Prophet (sws) ever undertake the task of establishing an Islamic state nor was he ever directed by the Almighty to do so. The truth of the matter is that it is the Almighty Who, according to His established practice regarding His messengers, took matters in His own hands at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and bestowed on him and his nation the supremacy of Arabia.
Scholars who are of the opinion that Muhammad (sws) strove to establish an Islamic state in Arabia typically present the following verse in support of their view:
هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَى وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُونَ(9:61)
It is He who has sent His Messenger [–Muhammad–] with Guidance and the Religion of Truth that he may proclaim it over all religions, even though the Idolaters may detest [this]. (61:9)
On the basis of the phrase “all religions”, it is understood that the followers of Islam must struggle for its dominance in their respective countries and territories.
An analysis of the context of this verse shows that it belongs to the class of directives that relate to the established practice of the Almighty regarding His messengers (rusul) according to which a messenger (rasūl) always triumphs over his people who intentionally reject him:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحَادُّونَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ فِي الأَذَلِّينَ كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِيإِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ عَزِيزٌ(58: 20-21)
Indeed those who are opposing Allah and His Messenger are bound to be humiliated. The Almighty has ordained: “I and My messengers shall always prevail.” Indeed, Allah is Mighty and Powerful. (58:20-21)
Muhammad (sws) was also informed that he would triumph over his people in case they deliberately rejected him. He and his Companions (rta) were told that they would have to fight the Idolaters of Arabia until the supremacy of Islam was achieved therein and that these Idolaters should be informed that if they did not desist from their evil ways, then they too would meet a fate no different from those of the other nations who denied their messengers:
قُلْ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنْ يَنتَهُوا يُغْفَرْ لَهُمْ مَا قَدْ سَلَفَ وَإِنْ يَعُودُوا فَقَدْ مَضَتْ سُنَّةُ الْأَوَّلِينَ وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ كُلُّهُ لِلَّهِ (8: 38-40)
Say to these Disbelievers that if they now desist [from disbelief] their past would be forgiven; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already [a warning for them]. And fight against them until there is no more persecution and prevails there the religion of God. (8:38-40)
Consequently, it is to be noted that the word al-mushrikūn (the Idolaters) is used in 61:9 quoted above. The Quran uses this word specifically for the Idolaters of Arabia of the Prophet’s times. As a result, “all the religions” in the conjugate clause can only mean all the religions of Arabia at that time. So, the verse has no bearing on Muslims after the times of the Prophet (sws).
Therefore, striving to achieve political supremacy of Islam is not a religious obligation of a Muslim, let alone waging Jihad to achieve this supremacy. The verses from which this obligation has been construed specifically relate to Prophet Muhammad (sws).
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