Let us look, first of all, at how the Muslims were organized in their collective lives in the life-time of the Prophet (SAW).
The life of the Prophet (SAW) is divided into two distinct and separate historical phases. The first may be described as the pre-Hijrah, and the second the post-Hijrah stage. The basic difference between the two is as follows: in the post-Hijrah phase, the Prophet (SAW) and the Muslim community were in control of the territory in which they possessed freedom to submit to the Supreme Authority of Allah, Most High, in their individual and collective lives, and to enforce the Commands of Almighty Allah (SWT) upon the public order. This was called Dar Al-Islam.
During the initial phase after the Hijrah, when the Muslim community did not have exclusive control over territory, a constitutional agreement known as the Meethaq of Madinah provided the basis for an initial “plural” model of Dar Al-Islam. The Meethaq regulated matters between the units of the State — Muslim and non-Muslim — pertaining to defense, foreign affairs etc., which were critical to the security of the Muslim community. All parties to the agreement, Muslim as well as non-Muslim, were supposed to honor their obligations under the agreement.
At a later phase, however, after the collapse of the Meethaq, and the emergence of a Muslim community powerful enough to exercise exclusive control over the territory, that “exclusive” model (in contrast to the pervious “plural” model) of Dar Al-Islam emerged which was destined to survive until 1924.
The pre-Hijrah stage, of course, was characterized by the lack of control over territory. And so there was no Dar Al-Islam in the pre-Hijrah stage.
The basic similarity, on the other hand, between the two stages is that in both stages the Muslim community was organized by the Prophet (SAW) as a Jama´ah under the leadership of an Ameer. In other words, in both stages the sheep were organized as a flock under the direction and control of a shepherd. And the shepherd tended to the flock in accordance with Divine Guidance. It was, therefore, a Sunnah for the Muslims to be collectively organized as a Jama´ah, for the Jama´ah to be led by an Ameer, and for the Ameer to conduct the affairs of the Jama´ah in accordance with the Qur´an and the Prophetic example. And obedience of the Ameer was a religious obligation.
It was the pre-Hijrah period that the Prophet (SAW) was taken one night on a miraculous journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and into the heavens (called Al-Isra and Al-Mi´raj). During that journey into the heavens a remarkable event occurred, insofar as the revelation of the Qur´an was concerned. It was during the Mi´raj that Almighty Allah (SWT) revealed the last two verses of Surah Al-Baqarah (second chapter of the Qur´an). All the rest of the Qur´an was revealed to the Prophet (SAW) here on earth. In those two verses (Al-Baqarah 2:285-286) Allah, Most High, described the believers as a people who:
...all had conviction in their belief in Allah, and His angels, and His (revealed) Books, and His Messengers…
The Qur´an then went on to place on the lips of the believers the following statement:
…we make no distinction between any of His Messengers. And they (go on to) say: We (are a people who) listen and obey…
The implication of these two verses being revealed to the Prophet (SAW) during the Mi´raj, and of the above statement being placed on the lops of the believers by Allah Himself, is that listening and obeying forms part of the very essence of the faith of a believer. Additionally, it is through listening and obeying that the discipline can be established which protects the Jama´ah and its members from internal and external attacks and guarantees the integrity and survival of the Jama´ah.
The Kuffaar of Makkah once proposed a compromise formula which would, if accepted, have restored the unity of Makkan society, but would have had the effect of dismantling the Jama´ah of Muslims. “If you will worship our gods, we will worship your God.” That was the formula which they offered. It was rejected. Almighty Allah (SWT) responded to that formula by sending down Surah Al-Kafiroon in which he commanded the Prophet (SAW) to declare to the Kuffaar:
Say: O you who reject faith (in Islam), I worship not that which you worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which you have been wont to worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your way, and to me mine (Al-Kafiroon 109:1-6).
Almighty Allah (SWT) thus made it clear that the Jama´ah of Muslims in pre-Hijrah Makkah had to be preserved, and that the purity of the Jama´ah should not be diluted or corrupted through the secularization of the Islamic social order. Had the offer of the Quraiysh been accepted, not only would the Truth have been compromised, but also the exclusively Muslim Jama´ah would have been diluted and eventually absorbed into Makkan Jahiliyyah.
The purity of the post-Hijrah Jama´ah was also preserved in Madinah because the Meethaq regulated matters between the Muslims and the non-Muslims pertaining to defense, foreign and strategic affairs and this in no way compromised the integrity of the Jama´ah or its freedom to submit to the Supreme Authority of Allah (SWT).
And so our conclusion is as follows:
- The organization of the collective body of Muslims as a Jama´ah under the direction and control of an Ameer/Imam is an integral part of the perfected model of the Prophet (SAW).
- The Ameer is obliged to conduct the affairs of the Jama´ah in accordance with the Qur´an and Sunnah, and indeed, to apply and enforce Islam. In this connection we recall the parting words of the Prophet (SAW): “I leave behind me two things — so long as you hold on to them you will never go astray — the Book of Allah and my Sunnah.”
- The Ameer has to be a male Muslim with an adequate knowledge of the Qur´an and Sunnah. That Jama´ah will cease to be an authentic Jama´ah which admits of the possibility of a woman being the Ameer. This is so because of the Qur´anic statement that men are guardians over women (Al-Nisa 4:35), and also because the Prophet (SAW) established the Sunnah of appointing only men to all positions of authority over the Jama´ah.
- The Ameer has to be someone who is applying that Divine Revelation and Prophetic model in his own life and in the lives of his family members.
- The Ameer would be called upon on the Last Day to answer to Almighty Allah (SWT) for his conduct of the affairs of the Jama´ah.
- 3. The members of the Jama´ah have a religious obligation to obey the Ameer so long as it requires no disobedience to Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (SAW). “Listening and obeying” is located at the very substance of the Islamic way of life. Disobedience of the Ameer would constitute a sin!
Now let us look at the implications of these findings for Muslims resident in North America and, indeed, in other parts of the world as well.