Amīr al-Mu'minīn (Arabic: أمير المؤمنين), usually translated "Commander of the Faithful" or "Leader of the Faithful", is the Arabic style of some Caliphs and other independent sovereign Muslim rulers that claim legitimacy from a community of Muslims. It has been claimed as the title of rulers in Muslim countries and empires and is still used for some Muslim leaders.
The use of the title does not necessarily signify a claim to caliphate as it is usually taken to be, but described a certain form of activist leadership which may have been attached to a caliph but also could signify a level of authority beneath that. The Ottoman sultans, in particular, made scant use of it. Moreover, the term was used by men who made no claim to be caliphs.
It is also translated as "Prince of the believers" since "Amir" or "Emir" is also used as a princely title in states ruled by the royalty or monarchies.
Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz asked Abu Bakr ibn Sulayman ibn Abi Hathamah what was the reason that it used to be written, "From the Khalifah of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace," in the time of Abu Bakr, then later Umar used to write at first, "From the Khalifah of Abu Bakr."? Then who was the first to write, "From the Amir al-Muminin (the Commander of the Believers)"?
He said, "Ash-Shifa, who was one of the women of the Muhajirun, told me that Abu Bakr used to write, "From the Khalifah of the Messenger of Allah", and Umar used to write, "From the Khalifah of the Khalifah of the Messenger of Allah," until one day Umar wrote to the governor of Iraq, to send him two strong men whom he could ask about Iraq and its inhabitants. He sent to him Labid ibn Rabi'ah and Adi ibn Hatim, and they came to Madinah and entered the mosque where they found Amr ibn al-'As.
They said, "Get permission for us (to visit) the Amir al-Muminin." Amr said, "You two, by Allah, have hit upon his name!" Then Amr went in to him and said, "Peace be upon you, Amir al-Mu'minin." He said, "What occurred to you about this name? You must explain what you have said." He told him and said, "You are the amir (commander) and we are the muminun (the believers)." Thus letters have continued to be written with that from that day.
An-Nawawi said in his Tahdhib: Adi ibn Hatim and Labid ibn Rabi'ah named him thus when they came as a deputation from 'Iraq. It has been said that al-Mughirah ibn Shu'bah named him with this name. It has also been said that 'Umar said to people, 'You are the believers and I am your amir,' and so he was called Amir al-Muminin, and before that he was known as the Khalifah of the Khalifah of the Messenger of Allah, but they changed from that expression because of its length.
Mu'awiyyah ibn Qurrah said: It used to be written 'From Abu Bakr the Khalifah of the Messenger of Allah,' and then when it was 'Umar ibn al-Khattab they wanted to say, 'The Khalifah of the Khalifah of the Messenger of Allah.' 'Umar said, 'This is lengthy.' They said, 'No. But we have appointed you as amir over us, so you are our amir.' He said, 'Yes, and you are the believers, and I am your amir.' Then it became written Amir al-Muminin.
Shias view that Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad and the progenitor of his only continuing lineage, was given the title during Muhammad's era.
Shias believe the title is exclusive to Ali bin abi Talib. Being called the commander of the faithful does not entail only political authority, but spiritual and religious authority as well.
Current positions that officially use this title
- The Ahmadiyya Muslim Caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
- According to the Moroccan constitution the King of Morocco is also Amir al-Mu'minin.
- The Sultan of Sokoto
- The supreme leaders of the Afghan Taliban
Others who have used the title
- Abdelkader El Djezairi assumed the title in 1834.
- Dost Mohammad Khan was conferred the title in 1836 by the ulama of Kabul, granting legitimacy to his Emirate and his jihad against the Sikh Empire.
- Mullah Mohammed Omar was conferred the title in April 1996 by a Taliban-convened shura (assembly) of approximately 1000-1500 Afghan ulama in Kandahar, when he displayed the Cloak of the Prophet before the crowd. The title granted legitimacy to Omar's leadership of Afghanistan and his declared jihad against the government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani. Omar was still referred to as Amir al-Mu'minin by his followers and other jihadists, notably al-Qaeda leader Ayman az-Zawahiri.
- Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, the successor of Mullah Omar, was conferred the title in July 2015 upon his appointment as the new leader of the Taliban. He was killed in a US drone attack in May 2016.
- Molavee Haibatullah Akhunzada, the successor of Mullah Mansoor as the Taliban supreme commander, was also conferred the title upon his election in 2016.
- Abu Umar al-Baghdadi was conferred the title after his appointment in October 2006 by the Mujahideen Shura Council as the first Emir of the newly declared Islamic State of Iraq.
- Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was conferred the title after his appointment in May 2010 by the Shura Council of the Islamic State of Iraq as successor to Abu Umar al-Baghdadi. Following the declaration of the Islamic State's caliphate in June 2014, al-Baghdadi claims to be the leader and caliph of all Muslims.
A similar (but not the same) title was afforded to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth's monarch as the Grand Duke of Lithuania by the Lipka Tatars, who used to speak a Turkic language. The title of sire was used "Vatad", as in "homeland" ("Vatan"), which meant "defender of the rights of Muslims in non-Islamic countries". The Grand Duchy was viewed as a new homeland. Vatad was viewed as variation on the name Vytautas in Lithuanian or Władysław in Polish, which was known in the diplomatic notes between the Golden Horde and the countries of Poland (Lechistan) and Lithuania (Lipka) as "Dawood". One can claim that, since Casimir the Great, the Polish-Lithuanian monarch as the King of Poland was tasked with the protection of the rights of the Jews and other non-Christians.
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