Ahl Al-Hal Wal `Aqd (Those Who Have Binding Authority)

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By Ali Al-Halawani
Deputy Editor in Chief — English IslamOnline.net
The term ahl al-hal wal `aqd 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:

1. To appoint or elect the Muslim ruler
2. To renew the pledge of allegiance to the appointed ruler
3. To call for an absentee  who is entitled to rulership upon the current ruler's demise
4. To appoint a vice-ruler if the ruler is absent and does not have a deputy
5. To depose the ruler

As for today, ahl al-hal wal `aqd can be seen as shouldering two main responsibilities:

1. 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
2. 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 Legacy of Faqihs]. International Institute for Islamic Thought, Herndon, Virginia and Shorouk International Bookshop, Cairo, Egypt, 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.

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