In this post I simply want to look a few key ideas presented by some groups, notably Hizb al-Tahrir. These beliefs are emotive mantras which are thrown at Muslims if they show scepticism towards their ideology.
Myth #1: Muslims have always been ruled by a single caliphate for "1400 years".
This idea forms the bedrock for much of the Party's vacuous propaganda; but this was never the case. At times there were numerous claimants to the caliphate (e.g. the Spanish Umayyads, Abbassids and Fatimids all claimed the caliphate). At other times, the caliphate was merely a symbol of power, for real power resided with the sultans (e.g. Seljuks or Mamluks). And there were Muslims living under empires and dynasties for hundreds of years where the khilafah was never really claimed or even existed (India, Safavid Iran and West Africa, where, incidentally, the Sokoto Caliphate was formed); yet no one disputes these as being 'Islamic' forms of governments, even if they might only be considered nominally Islamic. Lastly, even the Ottoman Empire, although considered an Islamic form of government by their subjects, did not use the formal title of caliph until 1774, when they lost to the Russians at Küçük Kaynarca. That’s over two centuries after the Ottomans destroyed the last vestige of Mamluk authority.
Myth #2: The year 1924 marked the end of Islam as it was meant to be: an ideological system which defines the social, cultural, educational, and legal aspects of Islam and Islamic societies through the khilafah system.
So all those Muslims in China from close to the year dot (using the AH calendar) have never actually lived a true Islam? The year 1924 marked the end of the decrepit Ottoman Empire and the ushering in of the secular republic of Turkey. Nothing more, nothing less.
Myth #3: The Prophet (upon whom be peace) and his close companions ruled by something called the khilafah system.
Maybe on Planet Hizb. The Prophet (upon whom be peace) and his close companions ruled by something called "Islam", surprisingly enough. Not only that, his companions, faced with such an enormously expanding empire, introduced a variety of features, and kept much of the bureaucracy in the places they conquered (it was the Ummayads who made Arabic the language of government). What would be interesting is a closer look at Byzantine and Persian ideas of kingship and government and how these might have influenced Muslim empires (for better or for worse).
Myth #4: The caliphate, under Ottoman stewardship, collapsed due to foreign inteference.
The Ottomans, like the British, French, Spanish, Russians, Germans, Austro-Hungarians, were an imperial power whose interests were in Europe as much as the 'Islamic' east. They were interested in gold and guns as much as godly activities (note, I do not doubt the faith of the Ottoman sultans; their status in the next world is not for me to judge at all). They played the same game as these other empires and ultimately lost (in the end all the others lost too in their own ways and some transformed themselves). It wasn't "foreign intereference" that cost Ottomans, but ultimately their own policies. Note, that according to some historical accounts, the latter-day caliphs may even have coluded with foreign powers. From the Turkish nationalists' point of view this was treacherous.
Myth #5: Democracy necessarily means voting in what we like (i.e. with no consideration for some higher principles, e.g. halal/haram)
This idea is pushed heavily by Tahriris (it's part of their ideology). However, it is based on a nonsensical understanding of democractic forms of government. Democracies must adhere to the rule of law. They must adhere to bills of rights, charters, constitutions, international agreements and conventions.They simply can't make up laws off the cuff. Will a Muslim democracy neccesarily look like a Western democracy? No. Note, I am not saying that democratic governments are the only method of governance available to Muslims.
Also see the following perspectives:
- "The History of the Caliphate" (PDF) by Khalid Yahya Blankinship (author of The End of the Jihad State: Reign of Hisham Ibn 'Abd Al-Malik and the Collapse of the Umayyads)
- "The Ironies of History: Contradictions of The Khilafat Movement" by Hamza Alavi
- "Pluralism and Civil Society" by Abdelwahab El-Effendi
- "Modern Islam and the Search for a Humane Political Order" by S. Parvez Manzoor
- "Islam and democracy: contention 1" by Baybers of Austrolabe
- "Islam and democracy: a discussion" by Thabet, my own discussion based on reading Baybers' post