Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, has taken decisive positions to refute the allegations of the Islamic groups that claim that the Caliphate is an origin of the Islamic religion and has responded with a number of evidence that prove the contrary. However, some scholars who belong to this institution had a different view. It is necessary to install a successor to Muslims.
Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyeb, Sheikh of Al-Azhar, acknowledges that the Caliphate is not a text in the Holy Quran, but rather jurisprudence, subject to conditions that do not allow for the formation of an Islamic state. Muslims no longer have their only geographical country, but they are separated in different countries. Every country has its own system of governance. Islam has left Muslims to choose the style that suits them.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar said: “If Islam has restricted us to a certain pattern and the world has changed, what would we do now?” He stressed that this flexibility is considered a miracle of Islam. If it came in a specific way and the time changed, we would be between two things: either to reject and doubt your Islam, or to live disconnected from reality and life.
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar admitted that some of the Islamic caliphate systems were not fair, but the best example is the Rashidun Caliphate (Abu Bakr, Omar, Osman and Ali). He pointed out that Sheikh Ali Abdul Razek challenged the caliphate and said that it was tyranny, excluding the period of the Rashidun Caliphate because it is a wonderful model that cannot be repeated. It is still the model and example that we dream of and we do not dream of the other models because many of the caliphs were oppressing and unjust.
In a section entitled “Suspicions and Responses,” the Al-Azhar Observatory for the Fight against Extremism refuted the lies of terrorist groups calling for the establishment of the Caliphate. The Observatory stated that the system of government in Islam is subject to the circumstances and customs of the people, provided that there is no legislation that contravenes the law of God.
The Observatory pointed out that there is no single explicit and true text that requires Muslims to establish a particular political system. Rather, it is stated that justice and caring for the interests of the people and the country should be observed, indicating that every regime coming after the Rashidun Caliphs cannot be called a caliphate except for the language but in reality they were different systems. This proves that the systems of government vary in Islam according to the cultures, customs, conditions and the situations.
The Islamic Research Complex affiliated to Al-Azhar has also issued a book entitled “New Legal Responses to Violations of Daesh Organization and its Examples in Islamic Law” by author Mohamed Mahmoud Habib. The book includes legitimate responses from the Qur’an and Sunnah to 40 religious offenses committed by members of Daesh organization, including in the foremost the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate.
According to the book, which Al-Azhar agreed on its printing and circulation, the modern Islamic Caliphate is false and fabricated. It reads:
Al-Azhar’s division over Caliphate
Eighty-three years ago, Al-Azhar scholars were divided over the issue of the Caliphate. The book “Islam and the Foundations of Government” was published in 1925 by al-Azhar scholar Sheikh Ali Abdul Razek. Abdul Razek acknowledged that the Caliphate was not a rule of government in Islam, but it came to it in later times, and that the Qur’an and the Sunnah did not address the subject. It is a political thing and has nothing to do with religion.
The theory of Sheikh Ali Abdul Razek was contrary to what Al-Azhar stressed about the importance of the existence of a successor to the Muslims; which led to the Council of Senior Scholars in Al-Azhar leveling accusations against the Sheikh, and demanding his trial after being accused of deviation.
After some controversy that took place because of the book “Islam and the Foundations of Governance” among the intellectuals and scholars of Al-Azhar, some of the supporters and dissidents criticized and analyzed the ideas of Sheikh Ali Abdul Razek. They included Sheikh Muhammad Al-Khaddar Hussein, who took over the post of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar following the July 1952 Revolution, such as the Islamic and political trend prevalent in that period.
Sheikh Al-Khaddar objected to the denial of the theory of the caliphate, and he issued the book of “Revoking the Book of Islam and the Foundations of Government”, in which he highlighted the foundations of Islamic political thought rooted in the Prophet’s Covenant. For Al-Khaddar, the book includes a lot of flaws that are denied by the shari’a and history. He tackled the ideas of the book, refuting it with evidence. He objected to its denial of the theory of caliphate, stressing that it was one of the pillars of the Islamic political system established by the Prophet. He also rejected the idea that Islam came as a religion without a state. He took many proofs from the Qur’an, Sunnah and history. The book is an episode in the context of the conflict of ideas and beliefs at that time.
In May 1926, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Muhammad Abi al-Fadl presided over the Caliphate Conference, which was held in Cairo in the presence of a number of representatives of the Muslim countries to demonstrate the truth of the Caliphate and the conditions of the Caliph in Islam. It came up with the conclusion that it is a general authority for religion and the world and that one of the first purposes of religion is uniting the Islamic nation, taking care of its common interests and considering Muslims in all other countries of the earth as one body, which has only one heart.