“The leaders are from Quraysh…” – Sheikh Walîd b. `Alî al-Husayyin, professor at al-Qasîm University
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The leaders are from Quraysh. The righteous among them are the leaders of the righteous, and the wicked among them are the leaders of the wicked.” The hadîth is recoeded by al-Hâkim in his Mustadrak. It is supported by narrations in Musnad Ahmad, Sunan al-Nasâ’î al-Kubrâ, and Musannaf Ibn Abî Shaybah. It has been graded as authentic by al-Albânî and Shu`ayb al-Arna’ût.
Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalânî writes in al-Talkhîs al-Habîr: Al-Nasâ’î relates it from Anas. Likewise al-Tabarânî cites it in al-Du`â, as well as al-Bazzâr and al-Bayhaqî, with chains of transmission going through Anas.
I have written a short treatise on the subject of this hadîth’s various narrations from roughly forty different Companions.
Al-Hâkim, al-Tabarânî, and al-Bayhaqî relate the hadîth from `Alî. Scholars disagree whether it is his personal statement or the statement of the Prophet. Al-Dâraqutni, in al-`Ilal, deems it more likely to be `Alî’s personal statement.
Abû Bakr b. Abî `Asim narrates the hadîth from Abû Bakr b. Abî Shaybah from the Companion Abû Barzah al-Aslamî. Its chain of transmission is good.
We also have, in Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim, a hadîth related by Abû Hurayrah which reads: “The people follow Quraysh.” In Sahîh Muslim, this is also related from Jâbir.
Then we have in Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim, by way of Ibn `Umar: “This matter will remain with Quraysh as long as there are two of them alive.” This comes in Sahîh al-Bukhârî by way of Mu`âwiyah with the wording: “Indeed this matter is with Quraysh.”
In Sunan al-Tirmidhî and Sunan al-Nasâ’î, we have `Amr b. al-`As relating: “Quraysh are the leaders of the people in good and evil until the Day of Judgment.”
Its Legal Implications:
Scholars have differed as to whether the supreme leader of the Muslims must be from the tribe of Quraysh. The majority of scholars considered it to be a condition for eligibility to the position. They derived their view from the hadîth under discussion.
Al-Qâdî al-`Iyâd goes so far as to deny that there is any disagreement on this point. He says:
Being from the tribe of Quraysh is regarded by all scholars as a condition for being the supreme political leader. They have considered it a point of consensus (`ijmâ’). No disagreement about this has been related to us from any of the Pious Predecessors, nor from any of those who came after them the prominent scholars of the provinces.
This conforms to the practice of the Companions and those who came after them up until the time of al-Nawawî
The scholars who hold this view that the supreme political leadership of the Muslims is for someone from the tribe of Quraysh disagree among themselves as to whether the office is open to all the people of Quraysh, or only to certain clans, like Banû `Abd al-Muttalib or Banû Umayyah. Some have taken the chauvinism for Quraysh so far as to limit the office to member of this tribe, even if he does not possess the necessary qualifications for the office and is incapable of governing the Muslim’s affairs.
In truth, the most that the hadîth “The leaders are from Quraysh” indicates is that is that a person from the tribe of Quraysh is more suitable for the position of supreme political leader if he is one among other qualified candidates. The hadîth does not mean that a person from Quraysh who is unqualified for the job should be appointed.
If a person who is not from the tribe of Quraysh is appointed to the office of supreme political leadership, his appointment is valid. All scholars agree about this. There is no sin on those who appoint such a person, as long as that person is most qualified to hold the office.
Ibn al-`Uthaymîn, in his commentary on this hadîth, writes:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) meant this only for a case where there is a choice between candidates. When we want to choose a supreme leader for the Muslims, we should choose someone from Quraysh. Yet, who from Quraysh should be chosen? He should be someone who adheres to the faith. It is not just a mere question of ancestry, of being able to trace your lineage back to Quraysh as a tribe or even to the Prophet (peace be upon him). There is no special distinction in this without true piety. If a iniquitous man from Quraysh comes forward and says he is entitled to the office, we would not appoint him. We would say to him that the primary consideration of a leader is that he must be just.
It would seem that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that the leader should be from Quraysh because a head of state needs to be able to command respect and have the power to mobilize people to action. He needs to possess this ability in order to work towards the welfare of the nation. This will not be possible for a leader regarded in his society as being a person of ignoble status. In Arabia at the Prophet’s time, only Quraysh had the necessary political clout.
We should certainly not understand the Prophet’s statement as meaning that there is some special blessing in that lineage that we are seeking to attain by making a political appointment form within that lineage.
This is the reason why a good number of Islamic scholars throughout the ages have ruled that the condition of being from Quraysh does not apply except in the first era of Islam. In later times, there is no benefit to be had from upholding such a condition. The necessity of the leader being from Quraysh was a political reality at the Prophet’s time, but it did not remain so.
Ibn Kaldûn discusses this matter in his Muqaddimah:
Abû Bakr al-Bâqillânî* was among those who did not consider being from the tribe of Quraysh a condition for holding supreme political office. He realized that in his day, the tribal chauvinism in favor of Quraysh had all but vanished and that non-Arab kings were actually the ones to possess political power over the Qurayshi “Caliphs”. He therefore saw no need for this condition – in spite of the fact that he was agreeing with the opinion of the Khawârij in this matter – since he could observe the state of the Caliphs in his time.”
And Allah knows best.
* Abû Bakr al-Bâqillânî’s was a scholar of the fourth century AH. He lived from 338 AH to 403 AH.