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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Caliphate : the question of Muslim Leadership

In recent weeks we have seen the rise of an insurgency within Iraq, in particular a militia known as ISIS [The Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant ] { Ad Dawlah al Islamiyyah fil 'Iraaq wa Shaam}. ISIS has been able to capture large areas of Sunni Iraq. This group, deemed so radical that even Al-Qa'ida broke links with them{ http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/al-qaeda-disavows-any-ties-with-radical-islamist-isis-group-in-syria-iraq/2014/02/03/2c9afc3a-8cef-11e3-98ab-fe5228217bd1_story.html], having had some military setbacks in Syria, have brought their attention to Iraq, taking advantage of the general discontent with Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki [a Shiite] and his government, and have felt so comfortable in their position that they have even proclaimed their leader, known as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, as Caliph [Khalifah] of all Muslims, soliciting support. The brutality of their actions, as well as acts of other similar groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, raises concerns as to what exactly is "Islamic state" or "Islamic leadership".

Caliphate in Islamic history

Upon the death of the Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam], the political and administrative duties fell into the hands of successors. The successor is called Khalifah [Caliph] . The period of Khilafat [Caliphate] immediately following the Prophet's death [i.e. the first four Caliphs] is seen traditionally as setting the pace or standards of high conduct and wise rule that should be emulated by the Muslim political leadership.

Eventually, the Muslims expanded, and our history saw administrations such emerge such as the Ummayyads, Abbasids, and Ottoman empires. Despite the flaws and character defects of some rulers and policies, nonetheless Muslims worldwide saw the Khilafat as a symbol of unity. This state was finally abolished in March 1924, by the official founding of the Turkish Republic.

Is there wide appeal for a revival of Khilafat?

The emergence of the nation-states, as well as nationalism, Capitalism, Communism and the like, with its epic failures, has generated in the eyes of many Muslims a nostalgia for times gone by, where there was unity, strength, and a feeling of justice. Indeed, this reading is also true in light of the Zionist annexation and continued oppression of Palestine.

Some movements have emerged which called for the return of the Khilafat and a Khalifah to rule all the Muslims. Harakat-e-Khilafat rose in British India [led by Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar] not long after Khilafat was abolished, and of course there is the Hizbut Tahrir, a group with membership worldwide, which, despite the fact it does not advocate violence and believes education is a needed prerequisite before Khilafat can come, is banned and persecuted in many countries.

Khilafat in the Qur'an

The word Khalifah itself is used twice. In one place when Adam is designated Khalifah [Q 2:30], the context suggests that humanity itself is being given the job of making decisions in this world. To help in this job, Allah taught 'Adam' the potential to understand all that man will encounter in the physical world [ Q 2:32, also see 55:3-4 and 96:4-5] . Dawud [David] is also called Khalifah, and is told to conduct his rule with justice and to avoid following whims in his administration [ 38:25].

Peoples who have succeeded previous societies are called Caliphs, or Khulafaa'. They succeed those who have died out either naturally or as a result of Divine punishment [Qur'an 7:69, 27:62, 35:39, also see 6:165, 10:14 and 10:73]

Islam does not mandate a particular system

Too many observers reduce Islam to "simply" things like hand-cutting, amputations and exemplary executions. This superficial reading does not give justice to a topic of this nature. In reality, Islam can work in any time or place, and should not be seen with limited eyes. The Qur'an does give some direct rulings on things, such as amputating the hand of a thief  [5:38], but this is simply the maximum allowance for a response to this crime. It does not require that this particular Hukm be followed every time this crime is prosecuted. Criminal and financial laws and their application has to be carried out in a just, fair and comprehensive manner, otherwise more injustices will follow, and not less. Thus, Taliban in Afghanistan may have cut off people's hands, but did little to address poverty.

What does Islam advocate

Muslims are not to impose their opinions and beliefs on others. What It does teach is universal justice [2:256, 4:135] and the removal of exploitation of all forms, including that of usury, prostitution, usurping of the rights, property and dignity of human beings. These broad principles can work anywhere.

We do not absolve the current system of government of its crimes and its flaws. Perhaps it should be replaced, but it can't be changed in exchange for a bigoted so called Khilafat. This is one of the pitfalls of ISIS. They vent their anger, mostly, at other Muslims. They are just like the Kharijites of the past, a brutal sect that also emerged in Iraq, who declared any Muslims who disagreed with them to be Kuffaar.

May Allah save us from these types of people and their thinking patterns. May Allah deliver us guidance based on a comprehensive understanding of the Qur'an and the Prophetic model. Ameen!

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