Friday, August 31, 2007

Islamic Caliphate Unnecessary

Islamic caliphate revival unnecessary, unrealistic Friday, August 10, 2007

Muhamad Ali, Hawai, Manoa

Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) will host an international caliphate conference on Sunday in Jakarta, inviting speakers from various Islamic organizations. It remains to be seen the extent to which the idea of an international caliphate gains support in Indonesia and the Muslim world, but the revival of the world Islamic caliphate is neither a religious obligation nor a realistic endeavor.

According to the HTI, the caliphate is a form of leadership aimed at unifying all Muslim people around the world, with the objective of implementing Islamic sharia and conducting Islamic proselytizing (da'wa) throughout the world. The Islamic caliphate is a political system with a caliph or imam as the head of government with his deputies and functionaries.

In their reading, the last Islamic caliphate had to end in 1924 when the Ottoman Empire fell during the World War I. For them, the Muslim community today is no longer under the true Islamic leadership that is the caliphate, and they have lived under a secular political order which appears to have failed to meet Islamic needs.

According to them, it is not the existing presidents, monarchs or prime ministers of the nation-states that should lead, serve, and protect the Muslim people. Only one world Islamic leader, a sort of Muslim papacy, should lead Muslims; the caliph has to be trustworthy and should base his policies upon Islamic sharia only.

The goal of this modern caliphate movement remains the unity of both sentiment and politics, which has been a compelling but unrealized dream. Hizbut Tahrir was intellectually founded by Taqiyuddin al-Nabhany (1905-1978) in Lebanon.

He produced a number of works, including Nizham al-Islam (Islamic government) in which he promotes the ideas of Islamic unity, male leadership, of Arabic as the only Islamic language, the punishment for Muslim conversion to other religions.

He also proposed the prohibition of political parties not based on Islam, the unlimited period of the caliph, the definition of jihad as the military force, the shu'ra as the right of Muslims and not the right of non-Muslims, and other ideas.

There is some appeal to unite all Muslims when they feel under siege and they see they are subjugated by "foreign" forces. There is a strong spirit among its leaders and followers to pursue an Islamic order they believe is not being achieved within the existing political order.
The above observation seems to make sense among desperate and utopian Muslim scholars and leaders. However, there is no instruction to create a political caliphate system in the Koran and in the Hadith. The term khalifah in one verse of the Koran denotes vice regent in its general term.

The history of Muslim rulers, imams, sultans, or caliphs, is not a perfect history; Islamic history is not a history without dark sides of its actors; it contains glories and weaknesses, rises and falls, justice and exploitation, successes and crises, integration and conflicts. There is no guarantee that having caliphs solve all problems.

It is misleading to believe that to revive an Islamic political caliphate is a religious obligation for every Muslim. This argument is not based on a sound interpretation of the Koran, the Hadith, and complex Muslim history.

It is also misleading to view Western civilization as the opposite of an Islamic civilization. It is historically untrue to believe that there is one unified Western civilization and that there is only a destructive Western civilization.

There is no such thing as an Islamic civilization without interaction with other civilizations and cultures. There is no such thing as a unique Western civilization without interactions with various cultures. A shared civilization is the rule rather than the exception when Muslims and non-Muslims lived together and protected their common countries.

The caliphate system is more historical than normative; it cannot be seen as a universal practice to be applied today and in the future. A political system has changed and will change according to time and place. To strengthen the ties of the Muslims wherever they may be does not demand such world political unity as caliphate.

It is historically wrong to blame that all rulers in the West were corrupt, despot, and anti-Islamic. Muslim societies had different experiences under non-Muslim rulers. Many Muslims lived peacefully and could be good Muslims under different religious and non-religious rulers. A more objective reading of both Muslim and non-Muslim histories is crucial.

Today the rulers of Muslims as well as others are the presidents, the prime ministers, the governors, the regents, and other titles within different strata. There is no necessary conflict between the Islamic ummah and the nation-state. The meaning of nation varies and changes, but it has a soul or spiritual principle.

It is a community of people who feel that they belong together in the double sense that they share significant elements of a common heritage and that they have a common destiny for the future. The scope of an Islamic ummah can be international, but can also be national, regional, local, and organizational.

The real challenge facing Muslims today is not the unified political leadership such as caliph, let alone with characteristics promoted by scholars unaware of diverse local histories, cultures, and political systems of Muslims, such as in Indonesia.

Strong, clean and good governance, improved education, cleanness and health, law and order, and other more fundamental issues can be achieved within the existing nation-state system. The real challenges for Muslims today include law enforcement without the formalization of sharia, cultural empowerment without changing the basic political system of the Indonesian nation-state. Other challenges are how to strengthen civil society, and the consolidation of civilized democracy with strong and good governance. Muslims today do not need a caliphate to solve their real problems.

Criticisms against the revival of the caliphate are usually attacked as cynical, secular, anti-Islamic, Islamophobic, and given other labels. If this still comes from some people, they need to reread and reexamine their interpretations of the Koran, the Hadith, Muslim history, and world history, by developing more objective and contextual interpretations.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Asalamo Alaykum



Dr. Ali,



I appreciate your articles published today (August 10th) in the Jakarta Post. Although I agree with some of your points, I disagree with your general assumptions. I will be attending the conference in Jakarta Sunday, and I will hear out what Hizb ut Tharir has to say in this regard, and I have attended conferences of theirs in the past.



The concept of Islamic Caliphate does have a basis in the Qur’an and the Hadith. The direct reference to the vice-gerent in Al-Bakharah is not the only probable reference to this system, but I am not prepared to embark on a discussion on justifications of the system in the Islamic sources, what I am prepared to discuss is the fact that current systems of management in the Islamic world are insufficient.



The nation-state, a concept developed wholly in Europe, developed as an anti-thesis to the Catholic Church hegemony in the 17th century also following the wings of the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent religious wars. Although I agree with Dr. Ali’s conclusion that there is no such thing as a Western Civilization or Islamic Civilization immune from each other, I do believe that there have been certain developments in the Western Civilization that have corroded the people who subscribe to Islam. The nation-state concept is one of them. The nation-state created nationalism, it also created the World Wars, it also dissected the Ottoman empire and led to the concept of Ottomannica as an alternative to the Caliphate and thus to the rise of Attaturk. Attaturks rise gave inspiration to other Islamic leaders and thus our present-day fiasco. The fact is that there are two very opposing forces in the Islamic world that will never give it peace unless one is killed off, that is nationalism versus Islamic world order. No doubt, the West has spent a great deal of time emphasizing one over the other because if an Islamic world order is established, the “Turks will march again”. I must point to the fact that tribalism or its present-day nationalism are things greatly disapproved of in the Islamic sources as inspiration from the ‘Days of Ignorance’.



Aside from this, one must recognize that terrorism will not stop unless there is a central Islamic figure that can focus the community against such forces as many of the Caliphs did against the Kharijite movement and others of a similar nature. So long as the snake has no head it will fling from side to side violently unless by a miracle it gets its head back or dies altogether, again one alternative is better than the other from the Western perspective.



I also agree with Dr. Ali’s assertion that such a resurrection seems against the odds, although so was the mission of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). One can almost hear the words of Abdullah bin Ubayy in his doubts cast at the Prophet’s mission every time there was a tight space. I have spoken with many members of the Hizb ut Tharir and have emphasized that if Shariah were to be implemented it must be gradual and pragmatic as the mission of the Prophet (s.a.w.) was. That is why I advocate for a Caliph, but a Caliph that is not political and not sectarian, like you said, a sort of Pope, where people can listen to him or not, but he represents the central figure of the religion. The only sticking point is that some sects of Islam have diverged so far off the course that they have to be considered outside the sphere of Islam and thus we return to the problem of Munawiyya and the Party of Ali. Many things have to change in the Islamic world before a Caliph returns, but if you consult your Hadith you will know that the Mahdi will represent such a figure and that the person of Jesus, as Christians themselves believe, will also be a part of this central leadership. The point is that don’t discount something that we know has worked and should work and doesn’t work because of the state of the Ummah. I give Hizb ut Tharir all the room to communicate as far-sighted people who people will look back on as being the first of a future revolution.



I hope I did not offend you in my response and I hope my facts are sound. I look forward to your response.



Salam.

Anonymous said...

Hai Mas Ali,

Baru saja saya baca tulisan anda diharian The Jakarta Post.
Tulisan yang sangat bagus sekali dan setidaknya dapat membuka pikiran bagi setiap orang yang malas untuk membaca ulang teks.
Saya juga bingung mengapa teman-teman dari Organisasi Islam yang selalu berjuang untuk penegakan syariah islam the way of thinking nya kok tidak logis. Padahal banyak diantara mereka yang berpendidikan tinggi juga yah.
I dont know why? atau itu hanya masalah psikologis atau semacam traumatis yah.

Well, selamat berjuang dengan tulisan.

Salam,


Anta Kusuma
Student

Anonymous said...

Dear Pak Muhammad Ali,

There are several opinions and news in the coming of HTI International conference in one local news paper (at least at Banjarmasin Post the one I subscribe).
Of course the opinions were very one sided opinion, promoting the caliphate implementation, and I believe that not all of them are true. Because there will be no life without pluralism and democracy. Islam must be promoted by showing how it could be able to create harmony and peace instead of fear, fights, war, and conflict which always see others as enemies!

So would you please, put your arcticle as you put on Jakartapost on August 11, on Banjarmasin Post, so there will be a camparative view for the readers, because Banjarmasin and South Kalimantan people are very religious and fanatic.

Your academic and prefessional backgroud would be able to convince the readers.

I would be very glad if you respond my e-mail soon. I will help you to submit the writing to Banjarmasin Post if you like.

Best Regard,

Dr. Hary Supriadi, MA
(a Moslem, living in Banjarbaru South Kalimantan)

Anonymous said...

Assalaamou 'Alaikoum
An advice from a brother.
Imaam Bukhari rahimahullah used to make ablution, pray 2 rakaats they write one hadith. Follow the same and this will prevent you from writing such silly things.

The real challenge facing Muslims today is not the unified political leadership such as caliph, let alone with characteristics promoted by scholars unaware of diverse local histories, cultures, and political systems of Muslims, such as in Indonesia.

Strong, clean and good governance, improved education, cleanness and health, law and order, and other more fundamental issues can be achieved within the existing nation-state system. The real challenges for Muslims today include law enforcement without the formalization of sharia, cultural empowerment without changing the basic political system of the Indonesian nation-state. Other challenges are how to strengthen civil society, and the consolidation of civilized democracy with strong and good governance. Muslims today do not need a caliphate to solve their real problems.

The earth belongs to Allah SWT and has to be ruled by Allah SWT laws. Even if the khilafah will not solved alle the problems, it can at least solve many of them. When the Khilafah was present, even weak, Al Aqsa was control by the muslim. What about now? Can the different muslim rulers stand to defend the muslim?
This is just a few not to write a long article as yours full with nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Assalaamu alaikum



I am a producer for Islam Channel and read with interest your article published in the Jakarta Post. Would you be interested in participating in a live show to discuss the contents of the article?



Wasalaam



Casa Sharif
Executive Producer

Ummah Talk

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Ali,

Assalam ‘alaikum. Thank you for your insightful article. I am an ordinary Muslim from Bangladesh serving in an investment bank having no Islamic scholarship. However, your article complicated my rudimentary conception to some extent. I would appreciate if you crystallize the following issues:



Is it not obligatory upon Muslims to solve all their disputes according to Shariah only?
How will you implement the limits (hudud) of Allah without having authority?
How can Muslims implement secular laws when they are the vice regent of Allah (swt)?
What is our obligation – is it not to transform our reality according to Qur’an? Or should we to reinterpret the Qur’an in light with present context?
If we subscribe to the idea that Qur’anic teachings are confined to the context of the ear of Prophet (saw), then the whole Islamic discourse becomes invalid. We will be diminishing the knowledge and authority of Allah (swt). The heritage, practices, psychic setup all will take precedence to wahy. By doing so, will you believe we will still be achieving the state of complete submission (sallim taslima)?


Ma’-assalam,

Mahmudul Bari

Anonymous said...

Prof. Muhamad Ali

Greetings

I represent CNSNews.com, an online news service. We are reporting on the Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in Indonesia on Sunday, and we hope you may be able to give us a brief comment today for use in our news story.

We are interested in knowing your view on Hizb ut-Tahrir and its activities in Indonesia and elsewhere, and particularly your view on its call for the reestablishment of a khalifa. How significant a force in Indonesian society do you think the group is?

I hope to hear from you soon, and thank you.

regards

Patrick Goodenough
cnsnews.com

Anonymous said...

Morning sir,
I am a student in London and currently study on the side pre-Islamic poerty of the Mu'allaqat amoungst others. I wish to know more about your criticisms of the Caliphate (An ideal I do not believe in) and how it is not reflective of true Islam as portrayed in the Koran. I simply wish to learn more.

Peace
-Lu

Anonymous said...

Hi Ali, Congratulations on your fine column in the Jakarta Post on the 10th -- andI am delighted to see that you are resuming writing for the Post. EndyBayuni was at our Senior Policy Seminar last week and he told me he hopedyou would be contributing again. I sent a news article (also from the Post) to the members of the SeniorJournalists' Seminar from 2006 ande 2007. They of course share my concernthat the forces of intolerance are making another run at the headlines inIndonesia (and that Din Syamsuddin is among the cheerleaders, even if hedid not endorse the Caliphate concept). At least Bashir did not attend,Habieb Rizieq was apparently also scared off by the police, and a coupleof radicals from outside Indonesia were denied entry. So the governmentis doing something, even if still unwilling to speak out directly againstsuch open rejection of Pancasila. (Of course, if Suharto had not socompletely politicized and thus cheapened Pancasila, the radicals mightnot have such an easy time today violating it.) Anyway, it is really good to see you fighting the good fight as eloquentlyas you are. You have my full support in that effort. I saw Neneng at some of the opening events of the school year over thepast week, and she seems to be settling smoothly into the role of a degreefellow in her own right -- although of course she is lonely for you. All the best, Dick

Profile of Mike Ghouse said...

One of the comments read "The earth belongs to Allah SWT and has to be ruled by Allah SWT laws."

No doubt the earth belongs to Allah, the question at large is whose brand of Allah? Shia, Sunnis, Hizbut Taher or who? If it is Sunni -then you are basing on the numbers, remember, when prophet started, he was a minority and he was right. Decline Shia because they are few in numbers?

Let people rule themselves, they will figure out the checks and balances and the democratic societies have been better of on human rights records than any other form of governance.

As the world shrinks and exclusive socieities fade, the pluralistic Democracies would do well as the system honors all of God's creation.

Let there be no compulsion in religion..

Mike Ghouse
World Muslim Congress

Anonymous said...

Aslamulaikum to you all

In regards to the discussion about the Caliphate being unnecessary.

Firstly you cannot consider a system that worked over thousands of years as a system which is 'unnecessary'. Let me be clear on one point I do not agree with the radicals of hizb ul thakrir, frankly I feel that they are extremists who are brainwashed in the name of Islam.

The Caliphate system, is a system which enables Sharia Law. Sharia law, does not only apply to muslims but also to non muslims. If followed and applpied correctly it does not opress women, non muslims or any other being. It encourages Islam as a faith but it does not force it upon you.

It gives equal rights and the freedom of choice to non muslims and muslims, despite what we are told by the taliban, the media or the so called Islamic Scholars of today. Islam strongly opposes the killing of another for no reason. If someone chooses another religion, according to the Quran and Sunnah, they should not be killed, but advised to follow Islam. The reasoning behind this; imagine all the reverts to Islam which is over 10,000 a day in USA alone, imagine if they were to be murdered for being a non muslim, would this be right? Imagine there is an army fighting against you, which would you prefer, the army to join you or for you to kill them. Its the best way I can explain this. If a Caliph was appointed today and followed the Sharia Law fully and applied it according to the Quran and Sunnah, then it is neccessary and would be succesful.

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