Which political system suits Muslims
The unity, prosperity and well-being of Muslims as individuals, groups and countries is so important that by the time we come to the end of an article we realise that far more has remained unsaid than what has been said. The political order in most Muslim countries is not appropriate to their requirements, their worldly aspirations, their material growth, political freedom and spiritual fulfillment. There is something grossly amiss.
It is often debated as to what kind of a political order will suit the Ummah. To answer this satisfactorily, we will have to keep in mind that the Ummah does not consist of a single racial, national, ethnic or cultural group located in a single geographical area. It consists virtually of people from all racial, ethnic, national and cultural groups spread over a vast and diverse terrain, globally.
To accommodate such diversity, Muslims all over the world will have to decide what kind of a political order will satisfy their needs. A section of Muslims (mostly Islamists) believe that Islam allows only one political system, that is caliphate. That, at best, is a debatable assertion. The fact remains that both caliphate and something resembling monarchy, was existing within years of the passing away of the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet’s surviving companions and later ulama recognised the legitimacy of both Hazrat Ali’s caliphate and Amir Mu’awiya’s non-caliphal rule, which has been described by some as mamlikat (kingdom). This position holds even today among Sunni Muslims who cite the efficient and powerful rule of Amir Mu’awiya, which led to great expansion of Islam. In mainstream Sunni Islam, both models of state are recognised from the time of the last rightly guided caliph, Hazrat Ali.
However, those who insist that caliphate is the only legitimate model should keep in mind that Islam has flourished under every system of government, from caliphate to sultanate, emirate to imamate, different kinds of dictatorships to some imperfect, poor version of democracy. It is not basically a matter of the survival of Islam, but the well being of the people, because Islam (the deen of Allah) is capable of surviving in all kinds of conditions, but people cannot live happily under a bad government.
The fact remains that Islam has been resilient enough to survive and prosper in all times and climes, including in the wake of the rise of nationalism when national sovereignty does not allow supranational authority. That is,
The Muslim experience of caliphate has been extremely difficult. Three out of the four first caliphs, the “rightly guided” ones (Khulfa-e-Rashidun) were assassinated. To have a clear picture of the enormity of the situation, imagine the
With the demise of the Turkish Ottoman caliphate at the end of World War I the institution practically ended. The fears of Indian supporters of the Turkish caliphate, that with the end of this institution, Islam’s survival would be endangered, did not come true. The fervent appeals to the British to save it were at best nonsensical because the British had no interest in saving it, and at worst futile, because the Turkish revolutionaries were determined to sack the Turkish king, who was also the caliph.
The most significant, however, is that the caliphate had not come to the Ottoman Turks in a recognised, legitimate manner. When the Ottomans captured Arab lands, the Ottoman king simply removed the Arab caliph and declared himself the caliph. The caliphate that ended at the end of World War I was acquired thus. Even when it was alive it had no authority or influence over Mughal
The point here is that the idea of khilafat (caliphate) in the present context is a mere abstraction, with little substance. The problem still remains as to how the Muslim world should rule itself to ensure maximum representation of the people in corridors of power, how can people get their fair share of the economic cake, how can they enjoy maximum social, economic and political freedom. At present most of the Muslim world is not getting it. People have a right to representation, to be masters of their own destiny. Most of the Muslim world is not getting any of it. All this has to be ensured for Muslim nations and societies to function smoothly. Badly governed states are their own worst enemies. People in such states and societies do not see themselves as one. Political reform is a must for the Muslim world on an urgent basis.
To understand some of the content of khilafat, one has to remember that in the Quran God calls the first man, Adam, His khalifa (caliph), which means “deputy”. God being the King of all creation, Adam was the vicegerent of God on earth. But the caliphs of caliphates are different. The first caliph, Hazrat Abu Bakr, was designated Khalifatu Rasulillah (the Prophet’s [PBUH] caliph, or deputy). Abu Bakr took over the reins of the nascent Islamic state on the death of the Prophet (PBUH). Hence, he was Khalifatu Rasulillah. When he died, Hazrat Omar took over as Khalifah Khalifati Rasulillah (the deputy of the Prophet’s [PBUH] deputy). In short, khalifah. However, Omar chose the title Ameerul Momineen (the chief of believers). This was a more reasonable choice as the caliph next to him would be called Khalifah Khalifah Khalifati Rasulillah. And this title would go on protracting.
A point to be noted here by the proponents of khilafat in
Without making a definitive choice of a particular form of government for the Muslim world one has to assert that the forms of government under which the Muslim world has been ruled since World War I have served them poorly, oppressed the people, denied them representation and often worked in the interests of Western powers rather than the interests of their own people. Such unrepresentative governments must be done away with at the earliest.
Mulukiyat (kingship) came early in Islam. Amir Mu’awiyah, who was the founder of the Umaiyad dynasty, was the governor of Syria when the third caliph Hazrat Osman, married consecutively to two daughters of the Prophet (PBUH), was assassinated by self-claimed supporters of Hazrat Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet (PBUH). The assassins were roaming freely in
He rightly feared that he would be assassinated like his kinsman if he went to
There are people in the Muslim world who still want to establish a caliphate (not being sure where). There are extremists among them who use objectionable language for the companions of the Prophet (PBUH) who were with Mu’awiyah. One such person was Hazrat Mughira who was one of the most revered ten companions (Ashrah mubashsharah) who were proclaimed by God in their lives as residents of
Advocates of caliphate today (like
For peace and unity, we need an appropriate political order, which allows choice, representation, equal opportunity, peaceful (periodic) transfer of power, not mutual mass annihilation as we have been witnessing over the centuries.(iosworld.org)