Caliphate, Ruling

Executive Branch of the Caliphate


Executive powers of the Caliph

The executive branch of government is responsible for the day-to-day management of the state. Islam does not believe in collective ruling where the executive powers are shared among a cabinet of ministers. In parliamentary democracy the Prime Minister is ‘first among equals’, having limited powers of interference in his cabinet minister’s departments. Sharing executive power among government ministers with separate portfolios (departments) leads to immense bureaucracy and lengthy delays in resolutions to problems. It also leads to political infighting and rivalry between government departments. Normally the head of the treasury emerges as the second most powerful minister since he must approve the budgets for all other departments which he can use to wield political influence. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s fractious relationship in the UK is an example of this.

In the Caliphate all executive powers are held with the Caliph. Although he will appoint Assistant Caliphs (Mu’awin ut-Tafweed) to manage various areas of the state, these Assistants are not independent but rather under the supervision and responsibility of the Caliph.1

The executive powers of the Caliph are listed below.2

  1. It is he who adopts the divine rules (Akham Shari’a) necessary for managing the affairs of the ummah, which are deduced through viable ijtihad from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger. Thus they become a binding law that must be obeyed and not objected.
  2. He is responsible for the domestic and foreign policies of the State; he is the supreme commander in chief of all the armed forces and he has full powers to declare war, concludes peace treaties, truces and all other treaties.
  3. He has the powers to accept foreign ambassadors and to refuse them, as well as the powers to appoint Muslim ambassadors and to remove them.
  4. It is the Caliph who appoints and removes the assistants and governors; they are all responsible before him and before the House of Representatives (Majlis ul-Ummah).
  5. It is he who appoints and removes the Chief Justice (Qadhil-Qudhat), as well as the other judges excluding the judge of Mazalim Court, where he appoints him, but he is restricted regarding his dismissal as is explained in the chapter on judiciary. He also appoints the managers of the administration departments, army commanders, chiefs of staff, and the commanders in chief; they are all answerable to him and not to the Majlis ul-Ummah.
  6. It is he who adopts the divine rules, in the light of which the State’s budget is drafted, and he who decides the details of the budget and the funds allocated to each department, whether concerning revenues or expenses.

The Caliph is not above the law

Islam firmly believes in the rule of law. No one in the Caliphate including the Caliph himself is above the law or has immunity from prosecution. Benefit and harm are not excuses the Caliphate can use to violate this principle as we find western democratic states doing. America’s suspension of all legal and international norms for suspects held in Guantanamo Bay is a prime example of this. US President Bush defended the CIA’s rendition programme and torture of terror suspects as an extraordinary measure justified by the extraordinary circumstances of the fight against terrorism.3 British Prime Minister Tony Blair after the 7/7 bombings in London said, ‘Let no-one be in any doubt, the rules of the game are changing.’4

The Prophet ﷺ firmly established this principle of rule of law in the following hadith.

Narrated ‘Aisha: The people of Quraish worried about the lady from Bani Makhzum who had committed theft. They asked, “Who will intercede for her with Allah’s Messenger?” Some said, “No one dare to do so except Usama bin Zaid the beloved one to Allah’s Messenger.” When Usama spoke about that to Allah’s Messenger he ﷺ said: “Do you try to intercede for somebody in a case connected with Allah’s Prescribed Punishments?” Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying, “What destroyed the nations preceding you, was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah’s Legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.”5

For example, former Pakistan President Asif Zardari managed to escape justice while in office through his immunity which could never occur in a Caliphate.

Assistant Caliphs

While the executive power is not shared among a cabinet of ministers the Caliph cannot run the state on his own. He therefore needs to appoint assistants to aid him in ruling. The Assistant Caliphs or Delegated Assistants (Muawin ut-Tafweed) perform this task. Historically this post was called Wazir. They are not assigned permanently to one department but oversea multiple departments or provinces depending on how the Caliph wishes to structure his government. The Assistant Caliphs have the same powers as the Caliph in the context of assistants and their post has the same conditions as the Caliph.

Deputy Caliph

One of the Assistant Caliphs (Muawin ut-Tafweed) will be appointed as a deputy who acts a provisional leader (amir) when the Caliph is incapacitated for some reason. If the Caliph is ill and undergoes surgery, then the Deputy Caliph will take charge on a temporary basis. The Deputy Caliph also acts as the interim leader during the elections when the Caliph dies or is no longer in office. Historically during the Ottoman period this post was called Grand Vizier.

Cabinet Secretaries

The Office of the Caliph will contain Cabinet Secretaries or Executive Assistants (Muawin ut-tandidh). Historically this post was called a kaatib. These secretaries are senior civil servants with many years of experience and are the most trusted in the service. They are intermediaries between the Caliph and the various institutions of state. Unlike the Assistant Caliphs their powers are limited to executing tasks only and they cannot formulate policy or appoint and dismiss officials.

Department Heads

The department heads in the Caliphate are administrative only and not headed directly by an Assistant Caliph. They are not called Ministers or Secretaries of State but rather Director-Generals (mudeer) indicating their administrative nature. These department heads will be overseen by the Caliph and his Assistants.

Removal of the Caliph and Assistants

The Assistants are accountable not only to the Caliph but also the Majlis. They can be removed if the Majlis passes a vote of no-confidence in them. This applies also to the provincial governors and mayors.

The Caliph is the state and is the pillar keeping stability. His removal has huge political and economic implications to the society. Therefore, his impeachment cannot be performed by the Majlis but by the Supreme Court which is the Court of Unjust Acts (mazalim). That is the only institution within the state that has the power to remove the Caliph. The Caliph has no power to remove any judge which is investigating him. His removal must be because he contradicted one or more of the seven contractual conditions mentioned earlier leading to the Bay’ah contract either becoming void (batil) or defective (fasid). If the Bay’ah contract is still valid then no impeachment will take place and the Caliph will remain in office.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ gave Uthman bin Affan a prophecy. That he would be given a cloak and when the people come to take it off he shouldn’t. Uthman was the third Caliph and in the last few months of his successful 12 years rule faced a rebellion who wanted him removed from office for malicious reasons. The Bay’ah contract remained valid and the reasons given for removing him were invalid. Unfortunately, the rebels assassinated Uthman when he refused to break the Bay’ah leading to years of civil war and unrest.



1 Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’ translation of Nizam ul-Hukm fil Islam, Khilafah Publications, Fifth Edition, p. 144

2 Ibid, p. 103

3 Michael A. Fletcher, ‘Bush Signs Terrorism Measure,’ The Washington Post, 18 October 2006,

4 Tony Blair, Downing Street Press Conference, 5 August 2005,

5 Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 681