Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

Location: London, United Kingdom

Friday, December 30, 2005

Reflections On The Idea Of A Caliphate

Firstly for those wanting facts about the Caliphate, Thabet examines the significance of 1924 here.

Some of my comments are on his blog, but I'd like to reflect on this point. Considering that Yazid's reign as Caliph of the Ummayad Dynasty included the illegitimate slaughter of Imam Husayn and his family at Karbala, was the Caliphate legitimate and if so what was it that gave it authority?

On the one hand you have the grandson of the Prophet who following the agreement between Muawiya and Imam Hasan had a legitimate claim to be the Caliph. On the other hand you have someone attempting to inherit the Caliphate which in itself is antithetical to Islamic values.

The person with the legitimate claim is murdered and yet people continue to pledge allegiance to the usurper. The essential point for those who regard 1924 as a cataclysmic moment is that just because someone has the title of the Caliph does not grant him moral legitimacy. The fact that there have been so many Caliph's has had as much to do with power and the use of the title to win popular acclaim then with religion.

This is why modern claims to create a Caliphate are ill founded - they completely ignore that whoever is the Caliph will be in control of a disproportionate amount of unaccountable power. As I said in my earlier post, Muslims in Muslim-majority countries tend to see this and have patriotic as opposed to pro-Caliphate feelings.

A Caliphate state as envisioned by those who currently promote it would most likely be a USSR type entity with an autocratic centre subjugating many in the name of ideology. I would suggest that if there ever was to be a pan-Islamic Caliphate, the only plausible system would be a collection of democracies somewhere along the lines of the EU.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that a large section of the essay is just to make the word 'Madrassa' a non-bad word. For people from within the region - and me who take 'Madrassa' the muslim form of Gurukul - nothing more or less - this is largely humdrum.

From the perspective of a policy maker within the region, the first question should be whether Madrassa education can indeed be considered a substitute for primary/secondary education - I believe this is not always the case. The lack of regulation is actually more problematic - policymakers in Pakistan dont even know the numbers, let alone what is being taught - as an education policy itself that is quite unforgivable. If there is an added problem of extremist miliant teachings - then this problem becomes even more pressing.

I think his argument about the terrorists being middle-class western educated is a bad one - its not incorrect, but its incomplete. What he is not saying is that 'Terrorists who affect us, the west, and who are famous in the west are all western educated middle-class people'. The madrassas make terrorists who are more foot-men than grandiose-scheme-hatchers, but they are terrorists none the less.

5:08 pm, December 30, 2005  
Blogger Tony said...

Why have a Caliphate at all, unless one believes that it is religiously mandated? I see the Caliphate is a feature of the historical Arab Empire and not a religious requirement of Muslims.

6:12 pm, December 30, 2005  
Blogger DA said...

I agree on that score, Calabash. I don't think there's anyone who can legitamitely be the leader of the entire Ummah right now. If, in fact, the Mahdi is coming (and I have doubts), he (or she) would be the exception. For now, at least, we're just part of the world we live in.

5:59 pm, December 31, 2005  
Anonymous Osama Saeed said...

Your vision is exactly the one I outlined in my Guardian article,,1605653,00.html

I'm not fit to comment on the historical point, but much like the sunni-shia divide I think a lot of time has passed, there's not much we can do about it, there are sundry more issues of urgent priority right now, and it's time to move on.

3:56 pm, January 02, 2006  
Blogger reformist_muslim said...

Anon, I think Dalrymple's argument is quite balanced. He acknowledges the negative impact of Madrassah's on local populations but recognises that one can not generalise and underestimate the positives especially when the state system does not exist.

I think it is important because a lot of the debate especially in America does not take this perspective into account and is therefore not as nuanced.

Osama, your piece is very interesting. I would make a couple of points though.

Firstly the historical argument is important because it puts the current discussion into context.

Secondly the EU works largely because of how regional trade functions. So it would make more sense for Indonesia to be part of ASEAN, Pakistan and Bangladesh to be part of SAARC, the North African countries having their own block etc.

Having said that if this idea can be used to encourage the reform and development within the Muslim world that you envision then I would look at it with an open mind.

6:55 am, January 03, 2006  

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