On the Concept of Khilafah and the Reality of Political Power

At a time of political turmoil in the Muslim world, Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) expounds on some of the meanings of khilafah and clarifies the reality of political power. Extracts from a Rawhah lesson in Imam Abu Talib al-Makki’s book, Qut al-Qulub in Dar al- Mustafa on 21st Ramadan 1434 / 30th July 2013.

There are two types of khilafah. The first is the outward khilafah which relates to political power, which is not noble and honourable in itself. Anyone may attain political power, whether they be pious or corrupt, whether they be a believer or a disbeliever, whether they be a Prophet or a wretched person.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Had this material world (dunya) weighed even the wing of a gnat in Allah’s estimation, He would not have given a disbeliever a glass of water from it to drink.”1

The second type is the khilafah of prophet-hood, which is a noble and lofty thing. It relates to understanding the speech of Allah, to our connection with Him, to attaining a pure heart and attaining His pleasure. It is the preserve of the Prophets and their followers, the pious people in every time and place. No disbeliever or corrupt person may come close to it, nor someone with arrogance or pride in their heart. It began with two people on the face of the earth: Adam and Hawa’ (Eve) and it continues to this day. If there were only two of us on the earth and we obeyed Allah’s commands in a state of truthfulness and sincerity we would be the khulafa’ of Allah on the earth, without anyone calling us a president or a minister or a leader. This is the khilafah we should seek. Many Muslims have no desire to attain it, although it is the greatest form of khilafah.

Sayyiduna `Ali combined the inward and the outward khilafah, and after him Sayyiduna al-Hasan, until he relinquished power. At this point the inward khilafah, which cannot be affected by evil, became separated from the outward khilafah, which is subject to oppression and misguidance. Those who possess the inward khilafah will intercede for others on the Day of Judgement, whereas those who possessed the outward khilafah will await judgement. If they were just, they will be saved and if they were oppressive, they will be destroyed. Shaykh al-Sha`rawi said that one of the wisdoms behind the existence of oppressive rulers is that they cause people to hate oppression.

If we study history we find that more often than not political power over the centuries has been in the hands of disbelievers and corrupt people. Many of the Messengers were sent to their people while political power was in the hands of disbelievers. Sayyiduna Nuh spent 950 years amongst his people as the khalifah of Allah while political power was in the hands of disbelievers.

The inward khilafah was in the hands of Sayyiduna Musa and the outward khilafah was in the hands of Fir`aun. Musa said to his people: seek Allah’s assistance and be patient, for the earth belongs to Allah, and He bequeaths it to whomever He wishes from among His slaves – whether they be believers of disbelievers. However, the end is only for the people of taqwa.2 So be someone who possesses taqwa and do not concern yourself with the outward khilafah. The tyrants may threaten you and try to kill you, but the people of the inward khilafah seek Allah’s assistance and rely on Him alone.

Look at the life of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, the master of the people of khilafah, and the imam of all people. For forty years before receiving revelation he was not in a position of leadership or power. He was, however, presiding over the inward khilafah and was known as al-Amin, ‘the Trustworthy One.’ People trusted him and consulted him in their affairs. After receiving revelation he spent thirteen years in Makkah, during which time power was in the hands of people like Abu Jahl. Outwardly he was under their rule but inwardly he was the greatest khalifah of Allah on the earth. In al-Madinah he was confronted by hostility from the Jews, the Hypocrites and the polytheists. It was only after eight years that he finally entered Makkah at the age of sixty-one. He only ruled over Makkah for two years before his death. This did not, however, detract from his khilafah. He is the greatest khalifah and every other khalifah from the time of Adam to `Isa will be under his banner.

How can people venerate political power when this is the example of the Master of the Prophets ﷺ? Leave the rulers to their corruption and their oppression. We do not condone their oppression or follow them in committing evil. We advise them if they are ready to accept sincere advice. Meanwhile we are in a position of khilafah, the pure khilafah mentioned by Allah: Allah has promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely grant them inheritance of power (khilafah) on the earth as He granted it to those before them; that He will make their religion firm, the religion which He has chosen for them; and He will replace their fear with security. They worship Me and do not associate partners with Me.3 We are allowed to make the call to prayer, to pray, to openly teach these lessons which are broadcast to the East and the West. We do not deserve any of this. It is only through the blessings of Muhammad and his steadfastness. Makkah was only opened to him in the final years of his life, but he opened up the whole world ﷺ. We used to teach and study in a state of fear but Allah promises: He will replace their fear with security.4 The years passed and the regime changed and now we find ourselves in a state of ease and safety.

They offer you political power and status but we have found something pure and lofty so why do they want us to enter into something filthy? When Imam al-Husayn, the son of Shaykh Abu Bakr bin Salim was offered political power he said: “Had it had been fitting to give authority to animals we would not be content for it to be given to our horses.” This is the perspective of the pious people on political power.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “You will greedily seek positions of leadership and it will be a cause of regret on the Day of Judgement.”5

We fear that anyone who seeks power and then attains it will be left to it (without Allah’s assistance) and then be destroyed. So if you have a position of responsibility have taqwa of Allah and rule by the Sacred Law of Allah and fear Allah in the way you treat people. If you heed this advice we hope you will be saved. If not, you have chosen your own fate. Sayyiduna `Umar would say: “I wish to leave power with the bare minimum – with nothing for me or against me.” He was not proud of his position. He also said: “It is enough that one descendant of al-Khattab be asked about his position. Do not make `Abdullah bin `Umar the Khalifah after me.” This was his understanding of the outer khilafah and the responsibility it entails.

The hadith inform us that the inward and outward khilafah will not be combined until the end of time. Prior to this there will be a period in which people heart’s and states with Allah are rectified which prepares the way for the coming of al-Mahdi. The foundation of his rule will be pure hearts. Without the presence of these hearts he will not be able to achieve anything. Someone once asked Sayyiduna `Ali why problems had arisen during his rule, whereas there had been stability during the time of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr and Sayyiduna `Umar. He replied that it was because Abu Bakr and `Umar ruled over people like me, whereas I am ruling over people like you.”

It is possible for any individual to reach the highest of ranks whatever situation they are in and whatever government they are under. Why miss out on these opportunities? We say we want to rule, we want power. Let your Lord rule. The hadith states: “If you seek it you will be left to it, but if you are sought to rule, you will be assisted in it.”6 Even when the people attempt to put al-Mahdi in power, he will refuse until they force him to do so. Even though he is worthy of assuming power, he does not desire it and does not attempt to gain people’s votes. Rather he is sought out and placed in power and then he receives Allah’s assistance.

Merely speaking about this issue has taken a long time, which tells you how much harm is done by entering into these struggles. So much time is lost and so much blood is spilt. So do not get involved with struggles which lead to harm and bloodshed.

May Allah unite the Muslims and remove these tribulations. May He not allow their enemies to take advantage of them by giving them weapons and then watching them kill each other. May Allah awaken the hearts of this Ummah. Let them not place their trust in anyone in the East or West. Let their trust be in You. If this is the case then everything in the East and the West will be made subservient to them.

Allah has decreed that power be in the hands of disbelievers and corrupt people. This is the way of Allah in the past and you will find no change in the way of Allah.7 We, however, have the opportunity to establish the rule of Allah and the Law of Allah in our homes, in our dealings with our families and friends and our neighbours. We shall shortly meet Allah and we shall return to Him. Nothing on the face of the earth will benefit us other than that which we have performed truly for Allah.

1 Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and al-Hakim

2 Al-A`raf, 7:128

3 Al-Nur, 24:55

4 Here Habīb Umar is referring to the years of socialist rule in South Yemen, during which time the regime attempted to eradicate Islam from society. Scholars were persecuted and religious institutions were forcibly closed.

5 Narrated by al-Bukhari

6 Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim

7 Al-Fath, 48:23




On Spreading Good Traits

Hb Umar Indonesia

Advice from Sayyidi Habib `Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him).

The things which you wish for Allah to make a reality in the world – make them a reality among yourselves. According to your perseverance and the degree to which you do this, you have a guarantee that Allah will make them a reality in the world.

We wish that there be harmony in the world – make it a reality among yourselves.

We wish that there be purity in the world – make it a reality among yourselves.

We wish that people prefer Allah over everything else – make it a reality among yourselves.

We wish that there be co-operation in the world – make it a reality among yourselves.

We wish that there be humility in the world – make it a reality among yourselves.

We wish that the Ummah venerates the religion – spread this trait among yourselves.

We want the Ummah to love prayer, remembrance of Allah and the Qur’an – make this a reality among yourselves.

If you make anything a reality among yourselves, Allah will make it a reality in a far greater way in the world, in the Ummah of His Prophet. This is not by us or by our efforts but His pre-ordained mercy dictates this. For that reason He says (to the Messenger of Allah):

You are only responsible for yourself, but encourage the believers.1

This is all you need to do – the rest is not your responsibility – transcendent is the All-Powerful! The attributes that we wish to spread in the Ummah must be extremely firm among you. If they are, Allah will quickly and easily spread them. Take account of your steps and how you move forward – do so with firmness and tranquillity, with ambition and with resolve.

It is Allah’s concern that will be the cause of rectification.


1 Al-Nisa’, 4:84



On The Root Cause of Tribulations

Advice from Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah preserve him and benefit us by him)

Allah says:

Let those who disobey his order beware lest tribulation befall them or a painful punishment be inflicted upon them.1

I swear by Allah that every tribulation that befalls any part of the Ummah in any place and at any time or any punishment that is inflicted is the result of disobedience to the Beloved ﷺ. Likewise the only cause of receiving the mercy of Allah and experiencing bliss in this life is following him, loving him and sacrificing everything in support of him.


1   Al-Nur, 24:63


On the Foundational Problems of the Ummah

Answered by Sayyidi al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Hafīẓ (may Allāh preserve him and benefit us by him).

What are the foundational problems of the Ummah?

Ignorance, heedlessness and turning away from Allah are the foundational problems. The solutions are knowledge, remembrance and turning to Allah.

On Accusations Levelled against People of Tasawwuf

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

The people of tasawwuf have gained a reputation for being far removed from reality. It seems that they are not concerned about the state of the Muslims. People are being killed in a number of places, but we do not see the people of tasawwuf involved in the fighting, whereas we see a good number of other Islamic movements participating. What do you say about this?

It is the duty of all sincere and truthful Muslims at all times to keep away from places where dubious things and dissension are taking place. As for the issue of fighting, we say: show us fighting that is taking place today between believing Muslims—whose only objective is for the Word of Allah to be transcendent[1]—and between disbelieving people who are preventing them from establishing the Sacred Law of Allah the Exalted. Where can they be found? If you find it then you will see who will race to it and who will be in the front ranks. It is not for anyone whose head is filled with worldly motives to claim that he is making jihad for the sake of Allah.

Has the struggle for political power turned into jihad in your view? As the hadith states: “When two Muslims clash with their swords, then both the killer and the one killed are in the Fire.”

The best thing for a Muslim is not to be present when this takes place. In fact, it is praiseworthy for him not to be present! The killer and the one killed will end up in the Fire and you are asking: “Why are you not participating?” The answer is, because I do not like the Fire. If you like the Fire, then by all means participate.

We hear the Prophet ﷺ saying to us: “There will be times of dissension during which the one who is sitting is better than the one who is standing; the one who is standing is better than the one who is walking, and the one who is walking is better than the one who is running.”[2] Now people are saying that the one running is better than the one walking; the one walking is better than the one standing, and the one standing is better than the one sitting. We say to them that they have got things the wrong way round. The statement of the Prophet is correct and your statement and understanding are wrong.

Do you want the best people to be in the worst category? The pious people and the people of tasawwuf always know what is the best and most appropriate stance. In whatever situation they are in, you will find them taking that stance.

Today people are fighting each other on the basis of different ideologies and false judgments which have no basis in the Sacred Law. They are fighting each other with egotistical motives for worldly gains. So if you like the Fire, go and fight on either side. Leave those who do not like the Fire and fear it. They look for the best place in which to sit just as the Prophet guided them to do so.

As for the issue of reputation, it is not the way of the people who are truthful with Allah, nor for the people of tasawwuf, to seek fame or reputation. It never crosses their minds what their reputation is among people. They seek status in the sight of Allah. They do not care what people say. Someone who wishes to be known and loves fame is not truthful with Allah. Ignore what people say and think and seek, along with the pious people, status with the Lord of people. Allah is enough for us and He is the best One in whom we place our trust.


[1] This is the definition the Prophet gave of true jihad in the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

[2] Meaning that the less actively involved a person is, the better.




When will Allah give victory to the Muslims?

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

When will Allah give victory to the Muslims?

We have to ask ourselves: when are we going to truly obey His commands? We should do what we can to rectify our own situation and reflect on how Allah tested the believers of previous nations and how he tested our Prophet ﷺ.

On Causes of Current Weakness and Abasement of the Ummah

Answered by Sayyidi al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Hafīẓ (may Allāh preserve him and benefit us by him).

What are the causes of the weakness and abasement of the Ummah in the present time?

The roots of any kind of weakness and abasement in reality lie in the following: people’s contempt for the affair of Allāh; their showing disobedience to Him; their being content to leave what He has made obligatory or to do what He has forbidden; their being content to have a weak connection to this religion such that the minimum amount of effort is sufficient for them. An example of this is performing the prayer without even knowing its pre-conditions and its integral parts or ignoring the directions of the Sacred Law in one’s business transactions. Other root causes are the weakness of people’s connection with Allāh, their concern with their own issues which leads some to be intolerant of others, their differing amongst themselves and their division into groups and sects. These are the causes of our present state of weakness. In summary, the root cause of weakness is people showing greater veneration for ephemeral things than they deserve which causes them to ignore the affair of the Almighty. When people give anything priority over the affair of Allāh, Allāh will abase them. This is the general state of the Ummah but there is no doubt that good remains and the means of repairing the damage remain. The solution is for people to sincerely return to Allāh and to venerate the injunctions of Allāh and His Messenger (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace) at all levels. People must strive to purify their hearts and must truly show mercy to others because the “All-Merciful shows mercy to those who show mercy to others.”1 By showing mercy to those around them Muslims will be shown mercy by Allāh and they will never be weak or defeated. They will have the support and might of Allāh and they will be raised by Him.

1An authenticated hadith narrated by Imam Aḥmad


On the Position of Scholars on the Arab Spring

Answered by Sayyidi al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Hafīẓ (may Allāh preserve him and benefit us by him).

What is the position of the scholars on recent events in Arab states? How should we respond to these events? Is it not true that: “He who does not concern himself with the affairs of the Muslims is not one of them?”

Concern for the affairs of the Muslims was a duty before these events, it remains so during them and continues to be so after. Whoever does not expend efforts in praying to Allāh and pleading with Him (to rectify the affairs of the Muslims) in the day and the night has fallen short in this duty. The one who is capable of offering assistance to relatives or friends or anyone else in the country which he lives and fails to do so is lacking in his concern for the for the affairs of the Muslims.

The scholars offer guidance to all – to those who demand their rights and likewise to those from whom such rights are being demanded. They direct people to that which the Messenger of Allāh (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him and his family) directed Sayyidunā `Umar. He said to him1: “Request that he asks in the best way, and request that I give him what is due to him in the best way.” They emphasize to all the sanctity of people’s blood, property and honour, as the Messenger of Allāh clearly emphasized this. They stress that no-one, whether they are the rulers or the ones being ruled, has the right to harm anyone else. No-one has the right to permit the spilling of another’s blood, the damage or wrongful taking of his property or for his honour to be violated under any circumstances.

The Muslims should know the true station of the scholars in Islām. It is not for the rulers or the ruled to use the scholars on a whim when they feel the need to do so. The scholars are bearers of a sacred trust, bearers of the legacy of Prophethood. What they say must be respected in all situations. It is not for the rulers to constantly go against the guidance of the scholars and then to use them when they need them. Nor is it for those being ruled to live in heedlessness of them, ignorant of their station and then when they need them to ask: “Where are the scholars?” The scholars are not an item that can be chosen at a whim by either party.

There is no doubt that this a time of tribulations and that there are more tribulations to come. We have been informed about them by the Prophet. We have been warned against taking sides and contributing to these conflicts. We have taken a covenant to clarify to all what their duty is. People may then accept this advice, in which case they are then set to receive the mercy of Allāh, or they may reject it. Allāh will in the end call everyone to account.

In spite of all this, beyond these severe troubles we know that Allāh will bring relief and salvation to the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him and his family). We ask Allāh that the end result is good and that He rectifies the affairs of the Muslims wherever they are.


1Concerning the man who rudely demanded that the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) repay a debt the time for whose payment had not yet come.



The Situation in Syria and How We can Help

Answered by Sayyidi al-Ḥabīb `Umar bin Hafīẓ (may Allāh preserve him and benefit us by him).

What is happening to our relatives and people in Syria? What can we do to help?

We must be certain that Allāh causes these things to happen for a purpose. We should remember that the oppression that these people are suffering only increases them in elevation in Allāh’s sight and it is a cause for their sins to be forgiven and expiated. We should remember our own transgressions and the fact that we are a cause of these things happening in our time. These events should also give us hope that the future will be better, since it is the pattern in Allāh’s creation1 that ease and goodness follow hardship.

Imam al-Haddad said:

If adversity continues for a long time

It is a good sign that the good which is awaited will last for a long time

There is no doubt that Shām2 and Yemen will be safe havens at the time of discord in the world, for the Truthful One’s prophecy will no doubt be realised. However this may be after those places suffer some tribulations for a period of time. We must pray for them abundantly and assist those suffering in whatever way we can.

1Literally, Allah’s sunnah.

2“Greater Syria” or the Levant. It includes present day Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon.


Rectification of the Ummah

Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) discusses the problems the Ummah is currently facing and offers solutions to those problems. A summary of a Friday khutbah delivered in Masjid al-Rawdah, Tarim, on 10th Jumada al-Ula 1434 / 22nd March 2013. These words come in the wake of the shocking murder of Shaykh Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Bouti (may Allah have mercy upon him) in Syria the previous night.

O believers in Allah, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, the one entrusted with guiding us and rectifying us, taught us how to respond to calamities and hardship. He taught us that the founding principle is returning to Allah and calling upon the One Who has control over all affairs. We need to realise our slavehood to Him and to realise our complete subjection to His power and authority. Continue reading Rectification of the Ummah