Friday, 18 January 2013

The Caliphate

I have changed my mind about the Caliphate, which was abolished by Ataturk in 1924. In my book, Unfolding Islam, I wrote: 'Islam could exist without this venerable institution, which had long since ceased to perform any real religious function'. The trouble is that without it there is nobody with the authority to expound the teaching of Islam on terrorism, the mistreatment of hostages and the killing of innocent civilians. The Caliph was the one person who stood above all the four traditions of Sunni Islam. He was also respected by most Shia and Ibadi Muslims. The abolition caused a great outcry all over the Muslim world, and for a while there was a lively Khilafa Movement for its restoration. The events unfolding in the Sahara now show what a dangerous vacuum exists. The Koran says 'The Arabs [of the desert] are the worst in unbelief and hypocrisy and the most disposed to ignore the limits that Allah revealed to his Apostle' (sura 9, verse 97). Until the advent of nationalism, 'the Arabs' meant the nomads, and the settled people of Mecca, Medina, Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem and Cairo regarded the Wahhabis of the Arabian Desert as barbarians. Around the Sahara, the townspeople thought the same of the Touaregs. The British made it possible for the Wahhabis to take over Mecca and Medina, and with their oil wealth they have exported their version of Islam around the world. Now we must pay for the absence of a Caliph.

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