Article 35: The Ummah is the one who appoints the Caliph (Khalifah). However, it does not possess the right to remove him once the pledge of allegiance has been concluded according to the Shari’ah method.
This article has two halves; the first that the Ummah is the one who holds the right to appoint the Caliph (Khalifah); the second being that the Ummah does not possess the right to remove him.
As for the first half, the proof for it is the narrations regarding the pledge of allegiance, since no one possesses the right to undertake the position of the Caliphate (Khilafah) except through the pledge, because the pledge is the method to appoint the Caliph (Khalifah). This is established from the pledge of the Muslims to the Messenger and from the command of the Messenger for us regarding the pledge, and that the righteous Khulafaa’ only undertook the Caliphate (Khilafah) through the pledge of allegiance.
With respect to the second half, its evidence is the order to obey the Caliph (Khalifah) even if he commits something reproachable, or is oppressive, as long as it is not a clear disbelief. It is narrated by Muslim from Ibn ‘Abbas that the Messenger of Allah said
«مَنْ رَأَى مِنْ أَمِيرِهِ شَيْئًا يَكْرَهُهُ فَلْيَصْبِرْ، فَإِنَّهُ مَنْ فَارَقَ الْجَمَاعَةَ شِبْرًا فَمَاتَ فَمِيتَةٌ جَاهِلِيَّةٌ»
“One who found in his Amir something which he disliked should hold his patience, for one who separated from the main body of the Muslims even to the extent of a handspan and then he died would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya.”, and the word “his Amir” is general, and the Caliph (Khalifah) falls under it since he is the Amir of the believers. And in the narration of Yazid b. Salamah Al-Ju’fi in Tabarani in which he said: “O Prophet of Allah, what do you think if we have rulers who rule over us and demand that we discharge our obligations towards them, but they (themselves) do not discharge their own responsibilities towards us? What do you order us to do? The Messenger of Allah avoided giving any answer. Salama asked him again. He (again) avoided giving any answer. Then he asked again-it was the second time or the third time-when Ash'ath b. Qais pulled him aside and said:
«اسْمَعُوا وَأَطِيعُوا فَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْهِمْ مَا حُمِّلُوا وَعَلَيْكُمْ مَا حُمِّلْـتُمْ»
Listen to them and obey them, for on them shall he their burden and on you shall be your burden”.
Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported (with the wording here from Muslim) through ‘Ubadah b. Samit who said:
«دَعَانَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ فَبَايَعْنَاهُ فَكَانَ فِيمَا أَخَذَ عَلَيْنَا أَنْ بَايَعَنَا عَلَى السَّمْعِ وَالطَّاعَةِ فِي مَنْشَطِنَا وَمَكْرَهِنَا وَعُسْرِنَا وَيُسْرِنَا وَأَثَرَةٍ عَلَيْنَا وَأَنْ لاَ نُنَازِعَ الأَمْرَ أَهْلَهُ قَالَ: إِلاَّ أَنْ تَرَوْا كُفْرًا بَوَاحًا عِنْدَكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ فِيهِ بُرْهَانٌ»
“The Prophet called us and we gave him the Pledge of allegiance for Islam, and among the conditions on which he took the Pledge from us, was that we were to listen and obey (the orders) both at the time when we were active and at the time when we were tired, and at our difficult time and at our ease and to be obedient to the ruler and give him his right even if he did not give us our right, and not to fight against him unless we noticed him having open Kufr (disbelief) for which we would have a proof with us from Allah” And it is narrated from Abu Dharr that the Messenger of Allah said,
«يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ، كَيْفَ أَنْتَ عِنْدَ وُلاَةٍ يَسْتَأْثِرُونَ عَلَيْكَ بِهَذَا الْفَيْءِ؟ قَالَ: وَالَّذِي بَعَثَكَ بِالْحَقِّ، أَضَعُ سَيْفِي عَلَى عَاتِقِي فَأَضْرِبُ بِهِ حَتَّى أَلْحَقَكَ، قَالَ: أَفَلاَ أَدُلُّكَ عَلَى خَيْرٍ لَكَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ؟ تَصْبِرُ حَتَّى تَلْقَانِي»
“O Abu Dharr, how would you act with those governors who would take sole possession of this booty?” He said “By the One who sent you with the Truth, I would place my sword over my shoulder and then fight until I meet with you (die)”. He said, “Should I not tell you what is better than that? Have patience until you meet me” (reported by Ahmed and authenticated by Al-Zain, and it is also reported by Abu Dawud).
In all of these narrations the Caliph (Khalifah) acted in a way that would mandate his removal and despite that the Messenger ordered obedience to him and to be patient over his oppression, which indicates that the Ummah does not have the right to remove the Caliph (Khalifah).
Additionally, the Messenger refused to allow the Bedouin to cancel his pledge of allegiance. It is narrated by Jabir Bin ‘Abd Allah that a Bedouin gave the pledge of allegiance to the Messenger of Allah and then became ill and so said, “Cancel my pledge”, so he refused. Then he returned and said, “Cancel my pledge”, so he refused. So the man left. The Messenger said
«إِنَّمَا الْمَدِينَةُ كَالْكِيرِ تَنْفِي خَبَثَهَا وَيَنْصَعُ طَيِّبُهَا»
“Madina is like the blacksmith's furnace. It removes the impurities and purifies the good.” which indicates that if the pledge is given it is binding upon those who gave it and which means they do not have the right to remove the Caliph (Khalifah) since they do not have the right to cancel their pledge of allegiance to him. It cannot be argued that the Bedouin wanted to leave Islam and not just the obedience to the ruler through his cancellation of the pledge of allegiance. This cannot be justified since if he did that then his action would have been one of apostasy and the Messenger would have killed him, because the apostate is killed. Also, the pledge is not a pledge upon Islam but rather a pledge upon obedience. Accordingly he wanted to remove himself from the obedience and not from Islam. Consequently, it is not correct for the Muslims to turn away from their pledge and so they do not possess the right to remove the Caliph (Khalifah).
However, the Shari’ah clarifies at what point the Caliph (Khalifah) removes oneself without a need to be removed, and when he deserves to be removed, and none of these mean that the Ummah has the right to remove him. Rather they account him with the powerful word of truth against oppression and fight against him if he announces clear disbelief. The power to remove him when he deserves it is held by the Madhalim court.