NOTE: Ḥizb ut-Taḥrīr (The Party of Liberation) is a Sunni pan-Islamist movement whose goal is to unite the Muslim ummah (community) and reinstate the Caliphate (al-khilāfah). Once the Caliphate is reinstated, the government would be ruled by Islamic law (sharī’ah) with the Caliph (khalīfah) being the head of state elected by a shūrā (consultation) council. Ḥizb ut-Taḥrīr was founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by Taqī ad-Dīn al-Nabhānī who was an Islamic scholar (‘ālim). Currently, Ḥizb ut-Taḥrīr is located in more than forty countries and is especially active in the United Kingdom and maintains a branch in the United States. The essay is unedited below.
By ‘Ābid Muṣṭafā
“They talk about wanting to re-establish what you could refer to as the Seventh Century Caliphate. This was the world as it was organized 1,200, 1,300 years, in effect, when Islam or Islamic people controlled everything from Portugal and Spain in the West; all through the Mediterranean to North Africa; all of North Africa; the Middle East; up into the Balkans; the Central Asian republics; the southern tip of Russia; a good swath of India; and on around to modern day Indonesia. In one sense from Bali and Jakarta on one end, to Madrid on the other.”
— Former US Vice President Cheney
In December 2004, The National Intelligence Council of the CIA predicted that in the year 2020 a new Caliphate would emerge on the world stage. The findings were published in a 123-page report titled “Mapping the Global Future”. The aim of the report is to prepare the next Bush administration for challenges that lie ahead by projecting current trends that may pose a threat to US interest. The report is presented to the US president, members of Congress, cabinet members and key officials involved in policymaking.
What is striking about the report is that it is full of references about political Islam and the various challenges it poses to US interests in the foreseeable future. There is even a fictional scenario depicting the emergence of Caliphate state in 2020 and its impact on the international situation.
However, the report is predicated on assumptions which undermine the validity of the report in various parts, especially the section on the Caliphate. Below is a critique of some of the arguments postulated in the fictional scenario: –
The report asserts that the strength of the new Caliphate will be borne out of the efforts of a global Islamic movement taking power. While it may be true that a global Islamic movement may instigate civil disobedience or initiate a coup to bring about the Caliphate, its strength and longevity is dependent upon something entirely different.
Intellectual conviction in a common set of values amongst the citizens of a state is the measure of the state’s strength and not the movement, which founded the state. The Soviet Union collapsed not because it was deficient in technology, but because its people abandoned communism and the communist party was powerless to convince them otherwise.
An accurate appraisal of the convictions of the Muslim masses for the resumption of the Islamic way of life through the re-establishment of the Caliphate is the single most important factor in determining whether the Caliphate will succeed or fail in the 21st century. This is more important than technology and resources, both of which can be quickly gained as long as the Caliphate is able to defend itself and base its progress exclusively on the Islamic ideology. Whenever Islamic movements are taken as the sole gauge for estimating the extent of Islamic revival in Muslim countries, a skewed picture will always emerge. The CIA is not alone in employing this false standard. The practice is wide spread and has tainted the analysis of respected think tanks and the writings of some notable commentators such as Francis Fukuyama and Samuel P. Huntington.
This flaw is not the result of their malice towards Islam, but is due to their adherence to the philosophy of individualism, which has marred their understanding of society and reduced it to a collection of individuals.
A proper understanding of society reveals that it is composed of individuals, which are bonded together by common thoughts and emotions, and live under a specific system. The degree of support amongst people towards the existing system of governance or for an alternative system of ruling can only be ascertained through the evaluation of these common thoughts and emotions.
The attachment to individualism has led the West to grossly underestimate the penetration of Islamic thoughts and sentiments in the Muslim countries, and also to miscalculate the wide spread support for the re-establishment of the Caliphate.
Another point of contention in the report is the claim that the emergence of the Caliphate will not cause the regimes in Muslim countries to collapse one after the other – the domino effect.
Again this understanding is derived from an incorrect understanding of society. A cursory study of the Muslim world shows that there exists strong polarisation in viewpoints between the regimes and the people they govern. Before the collapse of the Baath regime, Saddam an atheist was delivering speeches laced with Islamic terms. He did this, because he realised that the people were no longer motivated by Baathism, secularism or Arabism and only responded to Islam. Similarly, when Musharraf sided with America’ s war against Afghanistan he had to quote lengthy passages from life of the Messenger (SAW) to justify his stance.
The conflict between maintaining the secular order and preventing political Islam from assuming power is a daily occurrence in much of the Muslim world. The regimes in the Muslim world are viewed as the custodians of western interests and antagonistic towards Islam. Muslims simply loathed these regimes and are eager to extinguish their existence. The only reason these regimes survive is because of the dogged support from western governments.
Today, the Islamic Ummah stands on the cusp of a monumental change, just as the Warsaw pact countries stood some 18 years ago. The iron curtain came down because people had changed their viewpoint from communism to capitalism. Likewise the Muslim Ummah has abandoned both communism and capitalism, and is waiting for the emergence of the Caliphate, which will cause these regimes to collapse in spectacular fashion, only to be absorbed by the Caliphate.
Finally the report claims that Muslims would find the temptations of western materialism too much to bear, causing them to flee the shores of the new Caliphate. This view is obviously founded on the prevalent western notion that the Caliphate is the antithesis to modernisation.
Another factor that enhances this perception amongst westerners is the current exodus of Muslims from the Islamic world to the west. Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, the Caliphate that Muslims want to establish is the rightly guided Caliphate, which was at the zenith of human civilisation. A historical fact widely recognised by several eminent experts on Islam- most notably Bernard Lewis.
Second, the mass migration of Muslims to the West is a consequence of western foreign policy ventures in the Muslim world and not because of Muslim infatuation with western values. Most migrants, if not all are either economic migrants or political asylum seekers escaping the tyranny of regimes often supported by western governments. Even those Muslims, who have settled in the west, have yet to embrace secular values for fear of corrupting their Islam.
The recent endeavour by Europe to coerce its Muslim population to adopt western values speaks volumes for Europe’ s obsession with secularising Muslims and runs counter to the stereotyped image projected by the western media that Muslim countries are pleading to be westernised.
The typecasting of Muslims is based on the erroneous understanding of anti-western feeling that pervades the Muslim world. Often in western circles, anti-western sentiments are equated with the total rejection of western civilisation and attributed to the fundamentalist camp.
To make matters worse, the desire amongst Muslims to own western goods are interpreted as a craving for the western way of life. Westerners often classify those who display admiration for western goods into the moderate camp.
To pigeonhole Muslims into the two camps based on such interpretations is wrong. This is because the anti-western rhetoric found amongst Muslims is a denunciation of western culture and not of western goods. Likewise, the expression for the admiration for western products is an acknowledgement of the superior quality of the goods and is not an affirmation for the wholesale acceptance of western culture.
For the first time in many years, the Muslim world has undergone a radical transformation in reconciling which aspects of the western way of life can be accepted or rejected with Islam. Muslims today accept western goods such as DVDs, Satellites Dishes, and TVs only because such items do not contradict their Islamic viewpoint. On the other hand western concepts such as freedom, democracy and individualism are discarded because are deemed to contradict Islam. Previously, the Muslim world was torn between two factions i.e. the modernists who wanted to adopt everything from the West and the traditionalists who were keen to rebuff all aspects of western civilisation. This mentality stifled progress and allowed the West to establish their hegemony over Muslim lands.
Today, it is not Muslims who are holding themselves back from human advancement and meeting the demands of the 21st century, but rather it is the West that chooses to suppress these developments and insists on imposing its values upon the Muslim masses in connivance with the regimes of the Muslim world.
This attitude has not only contributed to the West’ s misunderstanding of Islam, but has encouraged the West to define an inequitable relationship with the Muslim world.
Furthermore, the mindset has prompted the West to shun everything to do with Islam. West’ s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has already highlighted the abuse of the Muslim people, the pillage of their land and denigration of Islam.
If this attitude is not reversed then the West will find itself in a precarious position on two fronts.
First, the Caliphate will be a strong, progressive state charting a new destiny for the Muslim people after liberating them from the political, military and economic hegemony of the West. The West weakened by this abrupt loss of control will struggle to maintain its dominance in world affairs.
Secondly, the Caliphate will swiftly harness the synergy between Islam and science, thereby surpassing the West in terms of inventions, technologies and new scientific discoveries. Given the West’ s negative attitudes towards all things Islamic, it will find itself closing the doors to knowledge and shielding its people from progress and challenges of 21st century.