Should We Bring Back the Caliphate?
The feeling of euphoria on winning parliamentary elections in several countries in the Arab world has resulted in spokesmen for political Islam recommending the possibility of reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate.
How should this idea be considered?
To begin with, according to Islamic traditions, the Caliph holds two authorities: temporal and spiritual. Obeying him is incumbent upon clergymen and politicians alike.
These temporal and spiritual authorities go beyond borders and nationalities, and in their political and geographical characteristics are above "nationalism" and the "nation state."
Such characteristics contain problems that need innovative and new solutions. Problems include: the nationality of the Caliph, the mechanisms of choosing him, the manner of establishing his authority and ensuring its sustainability, the method of applying his policy and submitting to his decisions, the manner of "deposing" him if he goes beyond the will of the "Ummah" [nation of Islam], and the procedure to transfer powers from one successor to another, whether through inheritance or elections.
Further, the issues of the Caliph's nationality and the mechanisms of choosing him fall under what in modern times we call "legitimacy," now controlled by elections, ballot boxes, transitions of power, and mechanisms for financial and administrative monitoring.
The Caliph's nationality is a complex issue. In some traditional Islamic schools, the Caliph should be of "Quraysh" (the tribe of the prophet) and from "his family or bloodline." This tradition has been subject to different interpretations, resulting in sectarian divisions and in the past, igniting the flames of countless civil and tribal wars.
Suppose, however, that the representatives of political Islam succeed in finding a righteous "Qurayshi," will the Egyptians, Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans, Tunisians, Palestinians, Lebanese, and Algerians agree to submit to his authority? What about the Turks and the Iranians?
If they do agree, then what are the potential mechanisms to express this agreement: through ballot boxes, or through their representatives in elected parliaments? What about the Indonesians and Malaysians, and what about European, American, Chinese and Indian Muslims? What about the issue of dual loyalty, which is rejected in American, Asian, and European systems?
To consider the problem in a different way, suppose an Egyptian of the Muslim Brotherhood or some other Islamic group earned this honor. Would the Saudis, Qataris and Emiratis accept this, especially as the Caliph's authorities are earthly and spiritual, and obeying him is part of the Shariaa ["The Way": Islamic law according to the Qu'ran]?
If we assume that the Caliph is accepted, regardless of the way, and that he becomes interested in the Muslims' well-being and therefore decides to seize the revenues of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and UAE for three years to lift Egypt out of its economic ordeal, would the Saudis, Qataris, Kuwaitis and Emiratis agree to divide their oil revenues with the Egyptians?
What if a country defied the Caliph's orders, would the solution be negotiations or war? Would the Caliph have the right to decide on oil policy, for example, and review the contracts for armaments and trade with the United States? Would he have a sovereign view that eclipses the existing Arab and Islamic nations' considerations regarding Israel, Jerusalem and the peace treaties?
Suppose again that they accepted the Caliph, regardless of how, will Pakistani generals agree to put their country's nuclear capabilities under the command of a ruler from outside their country? And if they did, would the Chinese, Americans, Europeans, and Indians agree?
In addition, as the Caliphate is a Sunni institution, would the Caliph be accepted by the Shias in the Arab and Islamic countries?
Setting aside the ideas of political authority, political science and sociology in modern times, what would the Caliphate look like from a historical perspective?
The Caliphate in its latest manifestation, during the Ottoman Empire, fell for internal and external reasons: Internal due to the rise of nationalism among its peoples, and external because the Western countries wanted to divide its spoils. This nationalist tendency, responsible for the fall of the Caliphate, is presently a thousand times stronger than it was a hundred years ago: it has succeeded in establishing institutions of statehood and local identities within defined and recognized boundaries.
Throughout most of the history of Islam, regional, tribal and ethnic tendencies have transformed the authority of the Caliphate into a symbolic one. While local rulers established kingdoms, sultanates and states, which in their administrative and political sense do not fall under the authority of the Caliph, he has become a hostage to strong rulers in one state or another.
In the same context, the presence of the same party, or of the same ideology, in two different countries does not, in any manner, guarantee success in uniting two countries under one authority. The Baath party in Syria and Iraq failed to accomplish this despite the rhetoric about the "one Arab nation" and its "eternal message." Marxism in the Soviet Union, China and Cuba also failed, despite all the internationalist, working class, and anti-imperialism rhetoric.
Is it possible to establish "supranational" identities in modern times? The Soviet Union was a multinational empire with different nations, languages and culture. Yet it collapsed not only because it was insolvent, which many of the Arab nations are not, but also because the Soviet ideology and state could not reshape nationalities, languages, and cultures into one single identity. The United States also is an "empire," but the American "Caliph" does not have the right to remain in power for more than eight years.
The Caliphate will not heal divisions, it will cause them; as a way of unifying dissimilar groups, it will not work. Presently we have the model of Nabil al-Arabi, general secretary of the Arab League, as well as the model of Ehsan Oglu, general secretary of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Is it advisable to overpower these two models?
Comment on this item
by Denis MacEoin
"No religion condones the killing of innocents." — U.S. President Barack Obama, September 10, 2014.
"Islam is a religion of peace." — U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, September 13, 2014.
"There is a place for violence in Islam. There is a place for jihad in Islam." — U.K. Imam Anjem Choudary, CBN News, April 5, 2010.
Regrettably it is impossible to re-interpret the Qur'an in a "moderate" manner. The most famous modern interpretation by Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, leads the reader again and again into political territory, where jihad is at the root of action.
If they deviated from the true faith -- as we are seeing in the Islamic State today -- "backsliders," like pagans, were to be fought until they either accepted Islam or were killed.
In India alone, between 60 and 80 million Hindus may have been put to death by Muslim armies between the years 1000-1525.
by Yaakov Lappin
Hamas's long-term ambitions are indistinguishable from those of Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
Hamas will now focus on its next goal -- trying to strengthen its presence in the West Bank and eventually toppling the Palestinian Authority from power there, just as it did in Gaza. If Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank, Hamas would certainly find such a goal easier to accomplish.
Nothing keeps the flames of jihad alight, and Hamas's popularity secure, like frequent wars.
by Alan M. Dershowitz
by Timon Dias
"Arab leaders are a reflection of their people. Arab leaders don't come from Mars or the sun, they emerged from among the people and share the same beliefs... I challenge any Arab citizen who may become a ruler to do anything beyond what current Arab leaders are doing." — Anwar Malek, Algerian author.
If anyone was trying to commit "genocide" during the Gaza War, it was clearly Hamas.
What the protestors in the Netherlands also revealed is that a killed Palestinian is only worth demonstrating for when the blame can be pinned on Israel.
The normalization and common approval of slogans that actually call for the destruction of the entire Jewish State, Israel, contribute to an atmosphere of hatred, violence and anti-Semitism that now seems as acceptable as it is overt.
by Anne Bayefsky
Why couldn't the UN... sponsor a conference on combating global antisemitism?
In theory the UN Charter demands equality of... nations large and small. In reality the UN mass-produces inequality for Jews and the Jewish nation.
The UN has launched a "legal" pogrom against the Jewish state. A "legal" pogrom is a license to kill.
Modern antisemitism targets Israel's exercise of the right of self-defense because self-defense is the essence of sovereignty.