Imamship is a big issue in most Muslim communities. It is discussed in every sector and at different levels in the society. Why has it become a problem in society which needs urgent solution? Almost every sect in Islam or every community has its own methodology in electing or appointing the Imam. However, what does the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W) says about Imamship?
The Qur’an states that, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was made an Imam for humanity by Allah. Qur’an 2:124 states that, ‘And (remember) when the Lord of Ibrahim tried him with (certain) Commands, which he fulfilled. He (Allah) said (to him), “Verily, I am going to make you an Imam (a leader) for mankind.”’ This discusses some important trials or tests in the life of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), which he successful passed.
Some of these tests are when he was thrown into fire (Qur’an 21:59-70), when he was ordered by Allah in a dream to sacrifice his son (Qur’an 37:105-108), and when by the command of Allah, he left his wife and infant son in the dry valley of Bakka where there was neither food nor water (Qur’an 14:37).
Through this, Allah tested his faith, loyalty, and obedience. When he passed them, Allah rewarded Prophet Ibrahim (AS) with the prize of Imam of humankind. In order for this Imamship to continue in the progeny of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), he pleaded saying “And of my offspring?” which Allah replied and said, “My covenant includes not Zalimun (unjust, polytheists or wrong-doers)” (Qur’an 2:124).
Although, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was a Prophet of Allah, he still went through these trials to become Imam of Mankind. It is also clear from the above verse that, Allah only places the responsibility of Imamship on those who are believers and just in their dealings with other creations of Allah and those who obey Allah’s commands.
In the Sunnah, the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) is reported to have said, “Whosoever dies without recognizing the Imam of his time dies the death of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance).” This emphasis the point that, paying of allegiance to a legitimate Imam is incumbent upon every Muslim in his/her lifetime. One must recognize the leadership of the Imam of his/her time. Most Islamic scholars refer to the Imam in this instance, as one in succession to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) who must enjoy total obedience from the believers.
This conclusion is drawn from the Qur’anic statement “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from amongst you” (Qur’an 4:59). Others however, explain that any Imam at any level, be it the Caliph in charge of the Ummah or the Imam at the community level must enjoy absolute obedience of the believers they are responsible for.
In another tradition, Imam Muslim reports that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) said,
Whosoever gave a Bay’ah to an Imam, giving him the clasp of his hand, the fruit of his heart shall obey him as long as he can, and if another comes to dispute with him, you must strike the neck of that man.
Abdul Qadeem (1996) in explaining the tradition above emphasizes that, obeying the Imam/Caliph as commanded is an order to appoint him. It also stresses the need for believers to establish and maintain the institution of Caliphate or Imamship. This means that in the community level, the Imam must enjoy the support of all Muslims within that particular locality and there should not be any division regarding his leadership.
According to Ibn Khaldun, leadership is part of religious law in Islam which serves and oversees the interest of believes (Muslims) in their worldly and religious affairs. This makes it paramount in every Muslim community to have a leader, who would promote and protect their interest and direct them towards the Divine presence of Allah.
What do you think is the best prescription for the leadership problems in our communities? Kindly you leave your comments below.
To Be Cont…