Nadeem Gul

The Controversial ‘Khilafat o Malookiyat’

The Controversial ‘Khilafat o Malookiyat’
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Moulana Syed Maududi's book 'Khilafat o Malookiyat' again trends on social media after someone set it ablaze somewhere in Pakistan. In this piece, Nadeem Gul comments on the different criticisms given by some scholars and reminds what exactly was the motive of Maududi behind writing the book and how misleading the criticism stands.

A picture of the burning of the book Khilafat o malukyat has gone viral on social media reflecting the intolerant mindset of a section of our society. Though the authenticity of the incident could not be verified but the incident in itself did not come as a surprise. The Maslaki bias or the ‘sectarian conflicts have plagued our society for years now, so much so that we did not even spare the Quran, calling it the ‘Maududi Quran’ that was burnt in the aftermath of the execution of Bhutto in Pakistan in April 1979. In this piece I will talk about the subject matter of the book Khilafat o Malukiyat, its critique and praise, nature, and the basis of criticism.

Maulana Maududi’s interpretation of Islam as a complete and comprehensive way of life necessitated him to draw the principles of polity and society from the Quran and Sunnah. On this specific line, his work starts from Quran ki chaar bunyadi Istilihaein and spreads across a number of big and small works including Isalm ka siyasi nizam, Islami hakumat kis tarah qaim hoti hai, Islami dastur ki tadwin with the crystallization of his views in Islami riyasat and Khilafat o Malukyat. Besides these, the noteworthy contribution of Maududi has been his exegesis, Tafheem ul Quran, a commentary on the Holy Quran comprising of six volumes, which is very popular among the religious as well as literary circles. Khilafat o Malukyat (KM), another popular book by Maududi received its share of popularity but not necessarily for all good reasons. It has been widely debated by scholars like Mufti Taqi Usmani, Salah ud din Yusuf, Malik Ghulam Ali, Dr. Israr Ahmed, Amir Usmani, Engineer Mirza, Hafiz Zubair, etc- some in defense while others in opposition. These are the academic discussions and rightfully belong to the scholars. However, all things considered, one has to concede to the fact that Maududi’s position on the issue at hand has been somewhat marginalized rather criminalized for allegedly not being in consonance with that of mainstream Muslim scholars. Moreover, the discussions have not remained truly academic (as they deserved to be, given the sensitivity of the issue). This has largely been used by the people as an excuse to vilify Maududi.

Moulana Syed Abul A’la Maududi (Source:

What is ironic about the discussions/polemics pertaining to Khilafat wa Malukyat is that people have mainly focused on the chapters (subchapters) which are not part of its central theme and form only a minuscule part of a 300 pages book. What is then the main theme of the book? Maududi, in his own words, explains that this book relates to the nature of the Islamic caliphate and its makeup. How did it actualize itself in the first century of Islam? What were the causes that led to its shift to the monarchy? And finally, when the change did take place, What was the Ummah’s reaction to this change¹? Barely any critique of KM has bothered to discuss these things as if they carry no weight and importance. No one has been generous enough to appreciate the relevance and importance of these questions. It remains a matter of debate of how far Maududi succeeded in answering these questions but it is intriguing that the central theme of this book has generally been overlooked. The readers need to understand that it is not a purely historical document as is perceived. It is not concerned either with ‘Mushaajrat (infighting) or ‘Manaqib‘ (virtues) of companions of Prophet (PBUH). That is not the gayah (purpose) of this book and if there is a mention of historical events, it is for some other reasons. It rather attempts to answer the above questions in the light of the Quran, Hadith, Fiqh, and of course the Islamic History. Remember it starts with the chapter ‘the political teachings of Quran’ which is a collection of Quranic verses with translation (without any tafsir) that talk of the nature of Muslim polity and ends at three chapters dedicated to Abu Hanifah’s and his disciple Abu Yousuf’s approach towards caliphate and its related issues which are purely jurisprudential discussions. And it would be naïve on part of a reader to read this from seerah perspective. People interested to read the biography of Hazrat Uthman, Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Mu’awiyah, or any other Sahabi for that matter, should consult seerah books. As I said, the mere mention of the political life of these companions is to explain a point as to what led to this ugly transformation of Khilafat to Malukyat not the life history per se. Keeping this in mind, the complaint that why only the problematic events of the glorious first-generation epoch have been highlighted in this book would be of and by itself addressed given the nature of the title of this book.

Mufti Taqi Usmani (Source:

Pertinently, Mufti Taqi Usmani in his rejoinder to Maududi’s KM, starts with the fundamental question that what was the need to even discuss an issue that was not new and something which had not been debated in the past. He continues that people like Ibn Khaldun have praisably discussed this issue some five hundred years ago.² But then the question that comes to one’s mind is that if it has been thoroughly discussed in the past by our scholars, why and when has it become Adam’s forbidden fruit for the contemporary scholars? If Ibn Khaldun was authorized to give his reflections on the issue some 5 centuries ago, why should Maududi have been denied the agency to have his word on the issue in the modern times especially when it concerned the thought and ideology that he espoused? Was this chapter closed at Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun once for all or did people write about it after him as well?

Autograph of Ibn Khaldun (Source:

Mufti Taqi Usmani in his critique of KM has also claimed that many references that have been cited by Maududi are actually missing in the original sources. This would definitely be a source of anxiety and uneasiness for any readers of KM. However, Justice Malik Ghulam Ali, in his defense of KM, has brought forth the pieces of evidence (excerpts) from the original texts. This confusion probably may have been created by the difference of book editions and publishers which consequently lead to a change of page numbers. Therefore, it is recommended to read the books of these three authors in succession, Maududi followed by Taqi and Ali.

Hafiz Salah ud din Yousuf has argued that this book has come into existence due to the political atmosphere at that time in Pakistan. It was not to fulfill any religious or academic need .³ He has indirectly referred to the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan who specifically targeted Maududi and his Jamaat. But this simplistic reductionist approach is not so convincing to any reader of KM and seems to be only a half-truth. If opposing the military dictatorship of Gen. Ayub Khan was the sole purpose of the book, one fails to understand why there is not even a single direct or indirect reference of him? Maulana did not need to write such an exhaustive book which then had to conceal its objective. Maududi would explicitly criticize Ayub by his name, he had nothing to fear, even the death penalty was not a potent enough deterrent to stop him criticizing the military dictators. The half-truth, however, in the statement of Hafiz Salah ud Din is that the most of the works of Maududi (and not just KM) are a systematic response to the socio-political changes that Muslim Ummah faced after the disintegration of symbolic ‘Uthamani Khilafah’ and the resistance against the British imperialism. So in that sense, KM may have come hard on people who were providing religious legitimacy to every despotic authoritarian including Ayub Khan, and comparing his so-called ‘bloodless revolution’ with the precedent of Hazrat Usman. But that does not mean that Ayub Khan became the raison d’être of the book. Maududi is explicit on this that it was to fulfill an academic need.

Hafiz Salah ud Din Yusuf (Source: Google)

As for the issue of Ameer Mu’awiyah which has become a primary bone of contention, it seems true that Maududi in his analysis of the reign of Ameer Mu’awyiah fails to see him beyond a ruler, of what he was a faqih, and that there is a scope of some things falling in the domain of ‘Ijtihadi- miscalculation – say for example Muawiyah allowed Muslims to inherit from a non-Muslim relative but denied the inheritance to a non-believer- this could be pleaded as a case of Ijtihad although none of the four pious caliphs or even prophet PBUH allowed it, yet invoking ‘Ijtihadi errors’ in every matter that concerns people who are not infallible is being naively generous in the words of Shah Abdul Aziz Dehalvi. Shah sb, says this in context of the debate whether (sab o shitam of Hazrat Ali in the Mua’wiyah’s tenure) be taken for its literal meaning (abuse) or the concealed one (criticism of Judgements). He puts his weight behind the literal meaning only. He argues that when Qitaal took place, this (sab o shitam) should not come as a surprise.⁴ So Ameer Mua’wiyah’s tenure has remained a matter of serious debate throughout the Islamic history taking nothing away from his status of being a blessed companion of Prophet (PBUH) besides a capable and disciplined administrator.

While Hafiz Salah ud din seems to agree with Maulana Maududi on the point that Sahaba, despite being the best of the generations, were not immune to the mistakes and there were some mistakes they actually committed (thankfully he does not use the jargon ijtihaadi) but he complains that the mistakes have been exaggerated especially in the case of Ameer Mu’awiyah and not presented in the same measure as they were. (5) He also finds Maulana’s approach discriminating between Hazrat Uthman and Hazrat Ali. Maulana Maududi seems to have taken this general query in the appendix of KM; he argues that people fail to appreciate that I am not writing history in this book but attempting an answer to the question of factors that became the basis for the deviation from the predecessors. So naturally, from the chronological point of view, Hazrat Uthman’s policy of appointing individuals from Ummayads into top slots would become a point of discussion and not Hazrat Ali’s, although the later adopted the same policy. (6) Nevertheless, taking a broader look at Hazrat Uthman’s caliphate, Maududi in KM is on record; apart from this particular policy error, Uthman’s caliphal role was exemplary beyond doubt. Islam made such a great stride in his era that despite dissatisfaction with some of his policies the common Muslims never thought of rising against him. (7)

Moreover, the debate has given rise to the two extreme approaches. One is that of the west influenced secular intellectuals, who claim that the Islamic state founded by prophet PBUH was so fragile that it fell upside down in only a span of thirty-odd years. So this integration of ‘religion’ and ‘state’ is a futile pursuit. Probably in reaction to this school of thought, the others assumed a position that there was no fundamental difference between what is known as Khilafat Rashidah and the later kings of the Ummayad dynasty and Islamic state continued to function in the same way as it did in the first 30 years. But Maududi draws a line that falls in the middle of these two parallel paradigms. He points out that the Islamic state was not exposed to a sudden collapse or breakdown after 30 years with the end of Khilafat Rashidah and that there was a total distancing from religion and state. The fact of the matter is that the state continued to retain its Islamic character even in the reign of monarchs, the supremacy of Shariah was upheld, the courts continued to function as per the Islamic law, and Judiciary enjoyed a certain degree of independence. Nonetheless, it represented a qualitatively different system with serious deviations from the merit-based, consultative, publicly accountable mode of governance which was the trademark of Khilafat Rashidah.

Moving on to Dr. Hafiz Muhammad Zubair’s criticism of the book, one finds it highly reactionary. He calls the book rubbish (agar apkae pass hou tou raddi walay ko dai dain) [8], yet has in the same breath claims that his criticism of this book is not emotive but research-based. His contention is that Maulana has not subjected the historical narrations to the Usool-check (principles) by which their authenticity could have been ascertained. While he acknowledges the fact that Tareekh(history) cannot be judged by the same scale as employed for checking the authenticity of hadith but then he fails to elaborate on what usool are that Maulana did not use. Also, while on the one hand, Dr. Zubair claims that the term Khilafat e Rashidah is vague and was not popular among salaf but was introduced later on yet in the same breath he insists that Ameer Muawiyah be included in the list of Khulafa e Raashidoon (rightly guided Caliphs) and that the list cannot be restricted to four pious caliphs only. [9] To support this argument, he says that there is a consensus regarding Umer bin Abdul Aziz and Imam al Mahdi about being among the Khulafa e Rashidoon, which proves that there are not just four caliphs in its domain. But what one fails to understand is that if Dr. Zubair acknowledges this consensus of Umer bin Abdul Aziz, who came much later than Ameer Muawiyah, popularly being counted among the rightly guided caliphs, why has the consensus excluded Ameer Muawiyah? In short, see this approach appears distasteful not just to the revered caliphs Hazrat Uthman and Hazrat Ali (May Allah be pleased with them) but to the very principles of Islamic teachings. The unnecessary defense of Hazrat Muawiyah should not blind a person to his mistakes so that he does not take the argument to this level. These extreme approaches probably stem from the infamous book of Khilafat Muawiyah wa Yazeed by Mehmood Ahmad Abbasi who says on record:
“If there is any person in the Islamic history who, for the first time, was elected by the general consensus of Ummah, it is Ameer ul Moomineen Yazeed.” [10]

Dr. Hafiz Muhammad Zubair (Source: Facebook)

Lastly, it is alleged that Maulana has relied too much on the Shia sources while quoting historical events in his book. This question is again answered in the appendix of KM itself. Maulana explains that there are two kinds of sources on which he has based his thesis. The major sources which cover most of the discussions mentioned in KM include; Ibn Saad,al-Tabaqat; Ibn Abd al-Barr, Al Istia; Ibn al Athir, al-Kamil; Al-Tabari, Tarikh; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayyah. Maududi has challenged that none of these people could be even doubted for being among the Shiah. He has dismissed the speculations that Imam Al-Tabari had any inclinations towards shism. The second, minor sources (in the sense that they are rarely quoted) include; Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balagah; Ibn Qutaybah, al-imamah  & Al-Masudi, Muruj al-Dhahab. Except for the first one who is a Shia, the other two persons do not belong to the Shia sect. There are other miscellaneous sources like Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Hajr, Ibn Hazm, Al Jassas, Al-Qari, etc quoted in the book. Moreover, in support of some events, Maududi has also taken authentic narrations from Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawud.

To conclude, Islamic scholarship thrives on the criticism because the critical spirit has been central to Islam right from its inception. The Quran is full of references to thought and learning, reflection and reason. It denounces those who do not use their critical faculties in the strongest terms: The worse creatures in God’s eyes are those who are [wilfully] deaf and dumb, who do not reason (8:22). Yet criticism for improvement and not criticism for the sake of criticism should be the way of a believer. Moulana Moududi’s work needs to be seen and read afresh in this light.

1 Maududi, Khilafat wa Malukyat p.9
2 Usmani, Hazrat Mu’waiyah aur Tareekhi Haqayiq p.14
3. Yusuf, Khilafat wa Malukyat , Tar’eekhi Wa Shar’ie Hasiyat pp.13-14
4. Dehalvi, fatawa azeezya’h p.413
5 Yusuf, Khilafat wa Malukyat, Tar’eekhi Wa Shar’ie Hasiyat pp.46
6. Maududi, Khilafat wa Malukyat p.285
7. Ibid p.96
8. Zubair, Mukalmah vol 1, p.154
9. Ibid. p.165
10. Abbasi, Khilafat Mu’awiyah wa Yazaeed , p.38

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