неделя, 20 февруари 2011 г.

Bay`ah in Islam - concept, significance and conditions

The Islamic civilization has distinguished itself from other human civilizations with what it invented and made accessible to Muslims and non-Muslims. It is the system of Bay`ah. Remarkably the past civilizations had never known the Bay`ah system. If the Bay`ah means "pledge of allegiance and obedience"[1] it is on the other hand involving the masses in the ruling system, even in a less manner shown in some eras of the Islamic history. However, it was one of the most important features of the Islamic political system.

The concept of Bay`ah

Bay`ah is a pledge of allegiance and obedience from the ruled to the ruler and carrying out the tasks of the ruler at the best possible manner. The most important aspect of the Bay`ah is political leadership of the religion and the worldly life according to Shari`ah (Islamic law). Surprisingly the Bay`ah in Islam did not differentiate between men and women, or between the old and the young. And this is sense of education to the nationals, where Islam teaches Muslims the necessity to be involved in improving their community and nation.

The Companions' Bay`ah to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)

Bay`ah was known since early dawn of the Islamic civilization. The Prophet's Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) gave Bay`ah to the Prophet (peace be upon him) more than once, such as First `Aqabah Bay`ah, Second `Aqabah Bay`ah, al-Ridwan Bay`ah, and the Bay`ah of different Muslim communities to the Prophet (peace be upon him). The number of men who gave Bay`ah (pledge of allegiance) to the Prophet (peace be upon him) is countless, in addition to a large number of women. Imam Ibn al-Jawzy put the number of women who gave Bay`ah to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to 457 women. When taking Bay`ah from women, the Prophet "did not shake hands with a woman to take her Bay`ah; rather this was done by words." The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) also took Bay`ah from the children. It was narrated that `Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr (may Allah be pleased with him) gave his Bay`ah when he was seven years old![2]
In this sense we realize that the Islamic civilization was constructive, highlighting the value of its sons and their involvement in the surrounding events. The example of Muslims, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), established the principle of Bay`ah since the first day of the Islamic state. For the importance of Bay`ah from the Islamic civilization perspective, the Holy Qur'an refers to it in several verses. In Surah al-Fath, Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) says: "Verily those who plight their fealty to thee do no less than plight their fealty to Allah: the Hand of Allah is over their hands" [al-Fath (Victory, Conquest) 48:10]. In the same Surah, Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) says: "Allah's Good Pleasure was on the Believers when they swore Fealty to thee under the Tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down Tranquillity to them; and He rewarded them with a speedy Victory;" [al-Fath (Victory, Conquest) 48:18]. The Holy Qur'an also referred to the women's Bay`ah, in an indication of the importance of their effective role in building the Islamic civilization. Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) says: "…then do thou receive their fealty, and pray to Allah for the forgiveness (of their sins): for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." [al-Mumtahanah (She That is to Be Examined) 60:12].

`Umar ibn Al Khattab's keenness on Bay`ah

Muslims followed the example of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), and so the Bay`ah became an inescapable element in the Islamic political system, reflecting the participation of the masses in showing loyalty to the leader. `Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) was keen on Bay`ah and condemned who claimed that Bay`ah could be held by one person without consultation with the community. On hearing this opinion during his Hajj (pilgrimage) he intended to make a clarifying statement on Bay`ah in front of the pilgrims to show its prerequisite consultations. Some reminded him that many peoples from different walks of life, including some who had less understanding, attend the season of Hajj and then return to their provinces and inform them of `Umar's statement without understanding. They argued that he should postpone this statement until he comes back to Madinah, where he could deliver his speech before the scholars and notables. `Umar accepted their opinion and did what they demanded.
When `Umar came back to Madinah, he stood on the Messenger of Allah's Minbar (pulpit) and said: "I have heard that someone amongst you say: "If `Umar dies I will give Bay`ah to so and so. None of you should be deceived by arguing that Abu Bakr's Bay`ah (may Allah be pleased with him) was unexpected and it was done. Yes it was so, but Allah protected (us) from its evil. Unlike Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) none of you is looked forward to. Do not pledge allegiance to someone who is given Bay`ah without consultations of Muslims; otherwise both may be killed."[3] Then he related the story of giving the Bay`ah to Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) and Fitnah (trial, turmoil) that was feared between the Muhajirun (Migrants) and the Ansar (Helpers). Thus, this immediate pledge of allegiance to the trustworthy Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) established the rule: the permissibility of giving Bay`ah to a trustworthy man and acceptance of other Muslims. The community of the Prophet's Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) approved of `Umar's act. Therefore, it was consensus among the Companions, establishing a rule. So the general rule is that Bay`ah should be given to the ruler after consultations with the Muslim masses and selection of the influential people or those charged with authority, and that the Bay`ah given by other people is not taken into account unless it comes second.[4]

`Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz's keenness on Bay`ah

Some other caliphs, such as `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz (may Allah have mercy on him) was remarkably keen on the Bay`ah. Although he had been entrusted by his cousin, Caliph Sulayman ibn `Abdul-Malik and that the majority of the Muslims had pledged Bay`ah to Sulayman on his selection of `Umar, the latter insisted on the need for people to give their Bay`ah to him; if they accepted him he would accept caliphate. This was evident in the first speech `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz (may Allah have mercy on him) gave upon receiving the news of his accession. He said: "O people, I have been ravaged with this matter without prior consultation with me, a demand from me, or consultation with Muslims. I therefore free you from your Bay`ah to me. So choose for yourselves." At this moment, the people shouted in one voice: "We choose you and are pleased with you, O Commander of the Faithful. Be in charge of our affairs with blessings and prosperity."[5] This incident, which reflected `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz's disinterest, revealed the awareness of the sons of the Islamic civilization in their choice of those who were suitable for their worldly affairs.

Conditions of Bay`ah

For the importance of Bay`ah, Muslim jurists have set five necessary conditions, namely:
The person who is given Bay`ah must meet the conditions imamate, which we stated in the chapter of the caliphate conditions.
Those in charge of taking Bay`ah must be from the influential people or those charged with authority from scholars, chiefs and other notables.
The person who is given Bay`ah should react in a positive manner, otherwise his Bay`ah is null and void and he should not be compelled to accept it.
Seeking witnesses for Bay`ah in case it is individual, but no need to witnesses in case it is collective.
The person who is given Bay`ah must pledge not to give it more than one.[6]
There is no doubt that these conditions, which were approved of by the scholars of Islam, are considered prominent civilization landmarks in the ruling Islamic establishment, because the purpose of these regulations is to bring good to the Muslim community.


Written by Dr. Ragheb Elsergany



[1] Ibn Mandhur: Lisan al-`Arab dictionary, 8 / 23.
[2] Al-Kittany: al-Taratib al-Idariyyah (Management Orders), 1 / 222.
[3] Ibn Taymiyyah: Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah, 5 / 330, 331.
[4] Muhammad Rashid Rida: al-Khilafah (Caliphate), pp. 20, 21.
[5] Al-Aajurry: Akhbar Abi Hafs `Umar Ibn `Abdul-`Aziz (Biography of `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz), p. 56; Ibn `Asakir: Tarikh Dimashq (History of Damascus), 45/357.
[6] Ahmad ibn Abdullah al-Qalqashandy: Ma'athir al-Inafah fi Ma`alim al-Khilafah, 1/20-23.

"Whoever guides [another] to a good deed will get a reward similar to the one who performs it." Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)[Sahih Muslim]
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