This is one of the Islamic terms to be revisited on Truth-Seeker Website aiming at shedding light on some problematic Islamic terms through “deconstructing” and then “reconstructing” them in a way to clarify their meanings, denotations and connotations as far as Islam, Muslims, and the whole world are concerned.
The term ahl al-hal wal `aqd (Those Who Have Binding Authority) refers to those who have power and are influential in terms of decision-making in the Muslim state. They have the power and authority to elect the ruler and to depose him.
Ibn Taymiyah (d. AH 728) describes them as “the influential people who can motivate and direct the masses. They can be of two categories: (1) Those who have power and authority; (2) Those who have knowledge. Hence, ahl al-hal wal `aqd are either scholars or political and military leaders.”
Ibn Khaldun (d. AH 808), on the other hand, holds the opinion that ahl al-hal wal `aqd should enjoy the power of `asabiyah (i.e. partisanship), which would enable them to do whatever they deem right or like.
As for the qualities of ahl al-hal wal `aqd, they should enjoy knowledge, justice, righteousness, wisdom, discretion, power, and loyalty. In fact, the assembly of ahl al-hal wal `aqd is not in any way honorary or without valid functions. It has five major tasks to carry out:
- To appoint or elect the Muslim ruler
- To renew the pledge of allegiance to the appointed ruler
- To call for an absentee who is entitled to rulership upon the current ruler’s demise
- To appoint a vice-ruler if the ruler is absent and does not have a deputy
- To depose the ruler
As for today, ahl al-hal wal `aqd can be seen as shouldering two main responsibilities:
- To perform legal reasoning, codify Shari`ah-based rulings in a way that makes them suitable to the modern age, and ensure that these rulings are properly applied
- To represent the Ummah in its legislative and consultative bodies
Finally, the majority of jurists hold the view that the number of ahl al-hal wal `aqd should not be restricted or predetermined as long as the required qualifications can be found in the Ummah.
– As-Salahat, Sami M. Mu`jam Al-Mustalahat As-Siasiyyah fi Turath Al-Fuqahaa’ [Dictionary of Political Terms in the LegacyofFaqihs]. Cairo, Egypt: International Institute for Islamic Thought and Shorouk International Bookshop, 2006.
– Ibn Khaldun. Al-Muqadimah (The Introduction). Beirut: Dar Al-Fikr, 1979.
– Ibn Taymiyah. Al-Hisbah fil Islam [The Islamic Duty of Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil]. Verified by Sayyed Abu Si`dah. Kuwait: Dar Al-Arqam, 1983.
Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST); Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.