Classical Text Series

A key aspect of ummatics is the theorization of politics and the political in a way that reflects Islamic normative theory and incorporates the empirical insights of modern political theory and science. Focusing on the former element, this series intends to compile and collate various relevant articulations by classical Muslim scholars. Given the vastness of the classical tradition, the four juristic madhhabs are used as a starting heuristic device to organize different parts of the tradition. The papers linked below—a list we hope to lengthen over time with regular additions—comprise passages that are selected, translated, and annotated by people with relevant expertise in the focus area of each paper. Annotations are primarily exegetical to allow for the passages to speak for themselves, as much as that is possible. 

While the selected passages do include mention of peripheral matters that are subject to difference of opinion and sometimes require critical engagement—left for other papers outside this series—their focus is on foundational points, such the importance and relative priority of politics and governance in Islam; how this governance ought to be guided and constrained by the sharia in its forms, norms, and ends; the nature of the communal obligation of the imamate or caliphate; and the religious imperative of political unity and power. Among other things, this series aims to highlight not only the consensus of the classical tradition in affirming the ummatic mandate and draw scholars’ attention to these references, but also to invite further investigation of their subtleties and presuppositions with an eye on their lessons for the present.

Shāfiʿī Jurists and Legal Theorists on the Imamate

Shaykh Yousef Wahb

This short piece presents five translated excerpts from authoritative Shāfiʿī works in the fields of positive law (fiqh) and legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh). These excerpts represent the school’s broad perspective on imamate, or caliphate,1 and the communal obligation to maintain leadership, which plays a vital role in ensuring political and social stability, access to justice for all, and preserving the higher objectives of religion.

Early Ḥanafī Authorities on the Imamate

A word loaded like no other, “caliphate” summons deep memories and desires for some and ominous fears for others. For some fourteen centuries, notwithstanding some discontinuities, the Muslim world had been synonymous with the caliphate. 

Ḥanbalī Authorities on the Imamate

Massoud Vahedi

This article presents a number of legally and theologically centred passages from early, middle, and late-era Ḥanbalī authorities1 concerning the imamate. These excerpts demonstrate that ever since the inception of the Ḥanbalī school of thought, the imamate, or the caliphate2, was deemed a necessity for maintaining unity, upholding the social order of the polity, enforcing the morals and norms of the Sharī’a, protecting the common interest of the general Muslim population, as well as ensuring the implementation of public religious ordinances. 

Late Ḥanafī Authorities on the Imamate

This article presents four annotated translations of excerpts on Sharīʿa governance from “late” (post-7th century Hijri) classical Ḥanafi works in rational theology (kalām) and spiritual psychology (taṣawwuf).1 A previous piece was dedicated to earlier authorities in the school. Collectively, these excerpts are representative of the Ḥanafi position that the imamate, or caliphate, is a communal obligation of utmost importance. They express the reasoning for this—including an assessment of opposing heterodox views—as well as articulating the roles, benefits, and significance of the imamate.

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