Skip to main content

Al-Mawardi's Theory of Imamate

having vast knowledge on global issue writer have written different article in global issues


The full name was Abul Hasan Ali bin Muhammad bin Habib-al-Mawardi he was the first writer on political theory in the history of Islam. All the political philosophers, jurists, and theologists followed him except ibn-e Khaldun, and nowadays, they have hardly made any development upon his thoughts. He was born in Basrah 972 AD and died in 1058 AD 11th-century jurist with a distinguished career. Al-Mawardi was regarded as one of the valuable and most learned jurists of his age, and his opinions emphasized the world of law and jurisprudence. He received traditional education of Quran and sunnah from home town and wrote on many topics except law. He did a Commentary on the Quran, a treatise on prophecy, and several works on Ethics.

His family was involved in selling and manufacturing rosewater (which translates into his name Al-awards) (Muhammad Qamruddin khan, 1961), He belonged to the orthodox Shafii school of jurisprudence but at the same time well versed in all significant Mudhahib school of thought. From his, all writings, Government, and administration was his primary concern. He studied Islamic jurisprudence and literature under scholar Abu Al Qasim Al-Saimari, who died in 996AD. After that, he continued his study under the scholar Sheikh Abdul Hamid and Abdullah Al-Baqi.

He started his career as a professor and appointed judge in Basrah and Baghdad, and last, he appoints as a judge in Baghdad by caliph Qaim Bi-Amr Allah (reigned 1031-1074). He supports Abbasid caliphs. There is two Abbasid Caliph, first Qadir Bi-llah (reigned 991-1031) second Qa'im Bi-Amr Allah (1031-1074), during his lifetime. He is described in various positions like a philosopher, a social analyst, a skillful mediator (he acts as a mediator for Abbasids), a political theorist, and a political advisor.

His students give remarks on his personality, which are given bellow

"The most virtuous jurist"

"Commanded great respect."

"Gentle defined and man of letters


Mawardis published work

He did not publish his work in his lifetime due to the doubt on the purity of work that may Allah almighty like his work or not. He advised his subordinate after his death if his body is soft, it means his work can publicize, but there is criticism. If his work is not published in his life, then how another writer named Abu Ya'la Al-Farra wrote a book with the same title of Al-Ahkam Al-Sultaniyah not only the same title but also the same topic, theme, language, argument, pattern, and the same subject of concern. There is no proof about this and relation between both authors.

Historical context

It is the period of rising and fall of Buyid Emirs and Abbasid, respectively. Al-mawardi came when the Abbasid caliph significantly lost their adequate political power and faced many challenges from different quarters. (A.K.S, 1981) The relationship of power between Abbasid Caliph and Buyid Emirs. Abbasids gain to regain some of their political power in the era of Caliph Al-Qadir (99-1031), which draws a line between a subservient caliph and an assertive one. (baghdadi, the political thought of abu hassan al mawardi, 1981)

His Books

1.Al-Ahkam at-Sultaniyah (Ordinances of Government)
2. Nasihat-ul-Muluk (Advice to Kings)
3. Qawanin-ul-Wazarat (Laws of the Ministry)
4. Tahsilun Nazar fi Tahsil-uz-Zafar (Control of Sight for facilitating Victory)

5. kitab Al-Hawi Al-Iqna

6. Adab Al Dunya w Al Din

Introduction to his works

Many scholars work on Government, but the works of almawardi on Government and administration give shape to the Government. (D.Plittle, 1974) his book (Al Ahkam Al-sultaniyah) is considered the first book on Islamic jurisprudence with political jurisprudence and government dedication.

Political thought

Al-Mawardi's contribution gave a detailed account of the administrative machinery of Government. He portrayed not only what exists but also what ought to exist. This romantic touch made his work familiar with every regime and every group that came after him.

Scroll to Continue

Theories of Al-Mawardi

  1. Theory of Rebellion
  2. Theory of Wizard
  3. Theory of Imamate

Theory of Imamate

Al-Mawardi's work and his theory of the Caliphate saved the Muslim people for a long to come from the extravagant and illogical claims of the Shiahs, the Khawarij, the Mutazilah, and other extremist sects in Islam. His immediate aim of emancipating the Sunni Caliphate of the Abbasids from the Buwayhid tyranny. He was providently realized in his lifetime that it must be counted as one of his notable achievements.

Al-Mawardi says that Allah almighty made some laws for the issues of humans to maintain goodness on earth. He has also entrusted the control of His creatures to various governments so order and peace in the world may be maintained. Al-Mawardi describes that the fundamental objective of the state is the rule of justice and truth and to bring equality and stability to its people. He further explains that the real motive of the Imamate is following the straight path and establishment of the political bonds. Imamate is not only an institution sanctified by tradition and history but can be proved to be necessary. According to pure reason, wise men entrust their affairs to a leader able to keep them from being molested and adjudge between them in mutual quarrels and disputes.

Requirements of Shariah

The institution of Imamate is the need of Shariah and not of reason by Al-mawardi. Through the Institution of Imamate, Allah almighty wants to run the early administration properly.

According to Al-Mawardi, Imamate or Caliphate represent the mission of the prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). This institution is to save Islam from destructive propaganda. Caliphate is the institution, which is the result of the Quranic verses. Quran stresses an ideal society where it is good over evil and general obedience to Allah's laws.

Need of Imamate not answered by Quran According to Al-Mawardi, the need is proved either by consensus or reason. Quranic Verses give us general principles i.e.

• "Obey Allah, obey the prophet (PBUH) and the ruler from amongst you" (surah 4: verse 59)

• "The Muslims should settle their affairs by mutual consultation" (surah:42 verse:38)

With the conclusion of these verses, Quran does not discuss Imamate but supports consensus. There is flexibility in Islam, and this issue has been left to the Muslim community to decide

Election of Imamate

There are two methods to elect Imam which are given bellow

1. Succession

2. Election

Election or Electoral College

The first method to elect Imam is the election through the electoral college. According to Al-mawardi. If the people take the chance to point Imam, they may select a corrupt person. They can elect an excellent suitable best imam only by the limited numbers of voters. The members of the Electoral college consist of some persons with specific qualification like

1) Justice with all the conditions about it

2) Knowledge of religion and the interests and policy of the nation

3) Wisdom

Sherwani said Al-Mawardi bases his arguments on the precedent of the choice of Abu Bakr by-election and that of Usman by nomination.

2.Right of franchise

Khawarij believed that there should on complete democracy and universal franchise. All enjoy the right of frenchise because the death of Caliph is first known by capital, and there is a need to appoint Imam immediately and all the qualified person present there.

3.The Quraishyte Descent

Almawardi was incredibly stressed on this point during the appointment. Suppose a person belongs to quraishyte descent. More importance was given to him because Abu Bakr presented it as an argument for preference in the election of Saqifat Bani Saidah. This flimsy emphasis on the Quraishyte descent is a problematic hit on the claims of Fatimids.

4.Presence of two Imam

According to al-mawardi, two imams cannot exist simultaneously. Still, Al-Ashari opposed this view and said that two Imams are possible if their territories are separated by an ocean and at a great distance which hinders accessible communication between them.

5. Election for more & less qualified person

According to the al-mawardi, the election for Imam is possible if two persons are more or less qualified. At the same time, the Shiahs group is against this point because they believe that less capable can be superior to others.

6.Need of election for one Imam

According to al-mawardi, there is no need for the held election in the presence of only one suitable person because he automatically becomes Imam. At the same time, other scholars believe that election is essential for the legal charge of the office.


Succession means the nomination of Imam by ruling Imam like Abu Bakar nominated Hazrat Umar. After that, Hazrat Umar made the electoral college consisting of five members; it is the obedience of Imam by people. They only obey the orders of the Imam, but the interest of a nominated person is value able.


Nomination can only be effective when a person shows their consent to it. The Imam can never withdraw the nomination until there occurs in this heir apparent some meaningful change which invalidates him legally.

Imam can appoint an electoral college or a person who may contest for Imamate. It means the limited shura appointment.

Appointment of more than two heirs

The Imam can nominate two or more heirs apparent to succeed him one after the other. This argument is derived from the battle of Mutah, in which the prophet appointed Zaid bin Harithah as the Commander of the Muslim forces and told that if he fell in fighting, he was to be prospered in command by Ja' far bin Abi Talib who was to be succeeded by 'Abd Allah bin Rawabah. After that, If ibn Rawabah also fell, then the Muslims can choose anyone from among themselves as their Commander.

Designation and Privileges

1. If a person is elected as Imam, then people have to obey him unquestionably. It is the will of Imam may he consult or not with people in the matter of affairs.

2. khalifate Allah or khalifate al-Rasul Allah

According to al mawardi, no one can represent God on earth. Only humans can only describe the prophet on earth. He supports the concept of khalifate Rasul Allah.

Functions of Imam

1.Good policymaker

Suppose Imam genuinely understands the domestic affairs of the state. In that case, he can make a good national policy for the state and protect the interest of the state and avoid indulging himself in the luxury of life and religious devotion.

2.Appointment of honest officials

The Imam should appoint a suitable legal person in the government offices to better finance on merit. The person who is honest with their duties should be selected.

3.Collection of zakat

The Imam should ensure the collection of kharaj and zakat taxes in unity with the Shari' ah laws and the jurists' interpretation, without resorting to extortion by pressure.

4.Security of people

The Imam must ensure equal security for Muslims and non-Muslim in an Islamic state.

5.Freedom and peace

The Imam must ensure the free movement of people in-country and provide law and order in society for peace.

6.Criminal code of law

The enforcement of the criminal code of the Qur'an ensures that the people do not disgrace the prohibitions of Allah and that the fundamental rights of men are not violated.

7.Supremacy of Islam

The organization and trial of religious war against those who oppose Islam or refuse to enter the protection of the Islamic State as non-Muslim subjects. The Imam is bound to be the promise of God to establish the supremacy of Islam over all other religions and faith.

8.He should ensure the establishment of principals and their defense for a religious state.

9.Sanction of allowances

The sanction of allowances and stipends from the state treasury to those who are needy, sick, and poor and cannot afford to get their wards educated.

Qualities of Imam

According to al-mawardi, these qualities are essential in a person to become an imam. If anyone did not have one of these qualities, he could never become an imam.


It is compulsory for a candidate of Imam that he is a man. No women have the right to become Imam by al-mawardi.


It is compulsory for a candidate that he is a free man, not a prisoner, and in the past, never be prisoned in any case.

3.Man, of character

a man of high character with a soft and clean heart should work as Imam. His character must be exemplary.

4.Man, of justice

He should maintain justice in all cases of state. He should act justly with every man.

5.Not miser

A miser person can never develop his state, and he is always a coward, which is the bad quality of any person, and Imam can never be a miser.


He should be brave to handle all the domestic and national affairs of the state.


The Imam should be mature because an immature person can never handle his state.

8.Neutral temper

Imam always suits with neutral temperature. He can never be too sensitive or emotional with any case.

9.Deep sighted

A person who can solve issues with deep sightedness and thinking. He can solve problems with a depth understanding of matters

10.Firm opinion

The person who wants to become Imam should have firm, mature opinion on all matters he is discussing.


The ruler must be Alim and Faqih and the preacher of Islam. He should preach Islamic law.

12.Quraishyte descent

A person who belongs to quraishyte descent can attain more importance than others.

13.Physically fit

He should be Physically and sensually fit; otherwise, his weakness inversely influences administration.

14.Like by the majority

People unconditionally obey Imam, so it is better to appoint him by an electoral college or people like him.


Mumm means obedience of Sharia. a person decimated from Shariah of Muhammad (PBUH) cannot become a good ruler. So, he must be a moment.

Concept of rebellion

If Imam acts the following action, the concept of rebellion is given by al-mawardi. He is considered a rebellion.

  • If the rebellion became the enemy of Islam and preached un-Islamic ideas in a state against the rule of Islamic laws.
  • In the case of Imposition of laws that quite contradictory to Shariah.
  • If Imam ignores provisions of opportunities to his people for worship.
  • Violation of human rights in a state by Imam can never be tolerated.
  • follow un-Islamic practices and crosses the boundaries of Islam
  • If the ruler or violation of justice crushes justice.
  • If he enters into agreements with the enemies of Islam.

The holy prophet (PBUH) says,

"Obey me as long as I obey Allah, but Quran and hadiths discourage tyrant imam."

Removal of Imam

According to al-mawardi, when Imam is elected, no one can disobey him, and nobody has the right to remove him. Al-mawardi did not explain the method of removal. He describes the reasons for the removal of Imam. Once Imam is elected, he is for a lifetime. But in some specific cases, Imam can be removed, which are given

Moral degradation

If he becomes morally degraded and his immoral acts are dangerous for the collectible interests, he should be released.

Interest in worldly affairs

It is the duty of the Imam of an Islamic state that he works for the state and humans, but if he did not pay attention to his duties or take more interest in worldly affairs or be involved in luxuries, he should be removed.

Due to the change in his Islamic ideology

Good Imam preaches the Islamic laws in an Islamic state. Still, if Imam disturbs the Islamic ideology, he becomes the enemy of Islam, and the Islamic state should be removed.

Criticism on the theory of Imamate

There is excellent criticism by many scholars on the theory of Imamate of al-mawardi due to the following main points conception of sovereignty

Sovereignty is the part of any state, and in the Islamic State, sovereignty belongs to Allah almighty, which Mawardi does not touch.

2.Completely ignorance of the constitution

The constitution is the essential factor of all types of states. According to which all the rights duties are described in it. It also defines the relations with people and the masses. Still, in al-mawardi theory, there is no concept of constitution.

3.No conception of democracy

Al-mawardi did not like or support the concept of democracy in his theory of Imamate. Only the limited member with specific qualities can appoint Imam because people appoint a corrupt imam. The idea of election deal only with the appointment of the Caliph is wholly undemocratic.

4.Less focus on people's right

He is very particular about the rights and prerogatives of the Caliph but pays little attention to the rights and obligations of the people.

He was not a political thinker, and he did Not evolve a philosophical conception of the state. Also, in his theory, he did not discuss

  • the scope
  • jurisdiction
  • responsibilities
  • obligations of the state

which are essential for any state.

Related Articles