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December 26, 2005


Osama Saeed

Thanks for the feedback on that article. My short response would be that any caliphate needs critical mass. I'm no fan of the one established in 1924, as impotent as it was, but it was looked upon by a majority of the ummah as being a focal point. With all due respect to the one in Moroccan leadership, they still aren't.

Any future caliphate, would be no less of a caliphate, if Morocco or anyone else decided to stay out. If you had 99% of the other Islamic nations backing it, one or two on the sidelines poopooing it doens't take away its legitimacy.


assalamu alaykum

I've never questioned legitimacy of having a caliph. That's a fiqh opinion and I'm not a faqih :-) There are questions, however, over the legitimacy of the Ottomans as caliphs (not as a legitimate Islamic form of government), which is also well-grounded in classical Islamic political theory.

My main concern is the abuse of history which sadly occurs at the hands of many proponents of the caliphate. For example, I am highly sceptical as to whether the main focal point of the ummah was on the Ottomans; they happened to be the most powerful Muslim empire of that period -- but Islam and Islamic societies and civilisation didn't die in 1924. The Khilafat Movement aside, I don't recall reading anything about people rushing to defend the Ottoman sultans. Indeed, some Muslims opposed the Ottoman sultan taking the title of khalifah.


Well said Thabet, I've been meaning to post on this for a while so i've linked your piece on my blog.

Osama, was it seen by the Ummah as a focal point or as an imperialist? As Thabet points out it was only really the Khilafat movement which rushed to defend it. Even then it is interesting to note that those Muslims weren't under Ottoman rule and it probably had as much to do with questions about Muslim identity following the rise of the British rather than loyalty to the Ottomans.

As for the point that it was destroyed after 1350 years, that is historically incorrect. Just looking at it chronologically you had the Ummayyads, Abbasids and Ottomans, not to mention rival claims such as those pointed out by Thabet.

Finally, I think it is worth reflecting on the fact that the Ummayad 'Caliphate' included the massacre at Karbala . In your opinion was Ummayad rule under Yazid legitimate or not? It may seem like a trite question but I think it is an important one.

Osama Saeed

I'm not a historian or a scholar - your questions would best be directed to someone more qualified. These points are not related to the thrust of my article - I was not waxing lyrical about the Ottomans or Umayyads. Indeed one of my points was that these historical models are irrelevent. We need to discuss the future.

Yusuf Smith

As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

What's of more concern to me with regard to 1924 is not that people give that as a date when the Khilafa was abolished, but that some people insist that the Khilafa be restored as it was - to Istanbul, even under Ottoman leadership - rather than to wherever else the Muslims are able to re-establish it. I have even seen a British Muslim writer claim that the "imperial family" still exists, and the Ummah should find him an office, and refer to the Sultan as "HIM" (His Imperial Majesty), a tradition (to my knowledge at least) entirely borrowed from European monarchy whereby nobles are called "Your Lordship", "Your Highness", etc. Also people don't seem willing to recognise that the wrong actions carried out on the later caliphs' watch (the kidnappings from coastal villages in countries like England, the slave trade and so on) were major contributors to their being brought down. I'm with br. Osama on this; we need to learn from the past rather than just talk of returning to it.

Yusuf Smith

Salaams, with regard to the king of Morocco, the fact that they call him amir al-mu'mineen and stand on ceremony with him (and mix this with the your-majesty tradition borrowed from Europe) does not mean he is genuinely respected by the people. I've met many, many Moroccans who have nothing good to say about Hassan II and not much more about his son Mohammed. The last few years in particular have seen secularist politicians grow in power, to the extent that they were able to pass an anti-Shari'a marriage law last year. I have also heard from one brother that some universities there have been making life difficult for women in hijab (such as his sister). One other thing, the Alawites are a relatively recent dynasty - they are certainly post-Ottoman in terms of their rise to power in Morocco.

George Carty

The Muslim world has never been politically unified since the 'Abbasid putsch. The kind of monolithic pan-Islamic state advocated by Hizb ut-Tahrir seems ridiculous to me. You only have to look at the map!

Pre-1971 Pakistan failed, because West Pakistan ended up treating East Pakistan like a colony. A pan-Islamic state would have the same problem, as Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia are separated from the great contiguous block of territory stretching from the Atlantic to the Indus and Pamirs.

Yusuf Smith

George: in my opinion, the idea of a country of two halves hundreds of miles away could not have been dreamed up by anyone except (a) a western colonial power or (b) someone influenced by them. The British empire was a naval power, and the army was secondary to the Navy (which still is sometimes called the "senior service"). Pakistan, on the other hand, had two parts across hundreds of miles of hostile territory, or at the end of a very lengthy sea voyage at any point during which their vessels could have been intercepted. That it was doomed to failure is not in dispute, I don't think; it would not even have been considered if it had not been for the British (and other western empires such as the Portuguese) which made such a model seem normal.



Didn't Syria and Egypt try something similar; a Pan-Arab state? I read that it failed due to economic disparities.


George Carty

Yes, it was Nasser's idea. I think he was hoping to combine Syria and Egypt against Israel, much as Saladin did against the Crusaders...

George Carty

On the colonial empire issue, I think it was important that both the British Empire and the Portuguese Empire in their own times had close-to-absolute naval supremacy. If they had been seriously challenged at sea (either by native states, or by rival colonial empires), then they may have been more concerned with securing contiguous blocks of territory.

Fayyaz Khan

Salam ... Yes, West Pakistan did treat East Pakistan like a colony. But that doesn't mean they weren't compatible. Today, the Sind province of Pakistan (former West Pakistan) is being treated somewhat like a colony by the Punjab province, which constitutes 56% of the Pakistani population and is superior in agriculture and economy to the other provinces. I believe that East and West Pakistan were essentially compatible, but what made one the colony of the other was the fact that West Pakistan was hijacked by politicians who did not represent the masses but represented their own vested interests. These politicians were feudals and capitalists who took on to indulge in corruption like never before. Their stranglehold in Pakistan is evident even today: the members of the National and Provincial Assemblies are mostly the sons or close relatives of the members of these assemblies in the nineteen-fifties.

This talk about pan-Islamism is fruitless if we will continue to be subjects of rulers who do not represent us.

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