November 9, 2012
Caliphate [al-khilāfa] means the system of government based on the choice of the people. It differs from the western democratic systems of governments in the sources of its laws. While western democracies rely on man-made, positive laws, the Islamic system of government draws its laws from the Qur’ān and the sunna, using the tool of ijtihad to adapt their universal prescriptions (text) to the everchanging realities (context). The leader of this system of government is called caliph (successor). He draws his legitimacy from the free choice of the people. Ever since Mu’āwiya’s coup, despotic rulers misused this noble epithet to legitimate their hold on power. As a matter of fact, Mu’āwiya was fully aware of the distinction between caliphate or successorship and kingship. He candidly declared that he was the last of caliphs and the first of kings.