Khilafat Again?

Revival of Muslim empire

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is it not a wild idea to assume that the radical Islamist fantasies of the neo-Ottomanists of the dissolution period of the Ottoman Empire or the mostly Egyptian Arab forefathers of jihadist Islam or the restoration of the Caliphate movement might have a minute chance of coming true?

If we are to take out the fundamental difference between the neo-Ottomanist ideology, which was centered on the creation of a united “Caliphate State” something like today’s European Union, with the caliphate remaining in Istanbul – and the Egypt-centered Arab jihadist or the restoration of the Caliphate movement, that was obsessed with Arabs taking back caliphate to the holy Mecca, there was a common cause: To achieve the united state of the nation of Islam, or the “ummah.”

Creation of the modern, democratic and secular Turkish republic and the March 3, 1924 abrogation of caliphate was a setback to both the neo-Ottomanist and pan-Arabic caliphate movements or aspirations of a united caliphate state of the ummah. [This is a complex discussion as according to many researchers caliphate is not indeed abrogated; its functions were ended while the institution and its powers were transferred to the Turkish Parliament.] The obsession of reviving the state of Islam – like the state that existed during the lifetime of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad and the succeeding first four caliphs – never ever died out and indeed has been one of the fundamental pillars of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, which this way or the other, under many names, exists all through the Arab geography today. Interestingly enough, though with some slight, yet very meaningful differences, the movement exists in non-Arab Muslim societies, including Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Of course, no one can claim that al-Qaeda and the Nationalist View Movement in Turkey, or the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, are one and the same, though both come from the same tradition of political Islam. No one can claim either that both Hamas and the al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun of Egypt are one and the same. There are national and cultural divides between all these parties, which irrespective whether they officially declare it or not, aspire for the creation of the united caliphate state of the ummah, where shariah or the rule of Quran would strictly prevail.

Could the “Arab Spring” – as is so far said – succeed in creating democratic nation states in the Arab geography and beyond in the lands populated by Muslim people? Or, is there a possibility of the states of Middle East and North Africa turning into Sunni alterations of the Iranian theocracy? Or, as Newsweek asked in its June 20 edition, would the Greater Middle Eastern neighborhood eventually turn to Turkey and help the governance of political Islam there revive the Muslim Ottoman Empire? Though this last scenario was branded as “nightmarish” by the Newsweek and though very few Turks would object utopia of a Turkey-based revival of the caliphate state, it would not be at all easy either for the Turks to forget the “Arabs stabbed Turks in the back” rhetoric or for the Arabs not to remember what was it like for them to live under Ottoman rule. Definitely, there would not be a need for a new “Lawrence of Arabia” for the peoples of this geography to remember the recent history and the strong animosities coated with modern-day political interests.

Political Islam throughout this geography may wish to see their ultimate goal of creation of Muslim empire realized but if that target was so easy to attain it would have been achieved long ago, perhaps when there was still an Ottoman Empire. Like the Greek Megalo Idea, having utopias might help maintain integrity, but putting them into action might bring about farfetched disastrous consequences.

Leave a Reply