The Express Tribune in Pakistan ran an opinion piece on 23rd March by Pervez Hoodbhoy: “On choosing popes and caliphs” which criticized Hizb ut Tahrir’s work to revive the caliphate as “impossibly difficult.” Before refuting this claim, we object to three words that are so out of place in the writer’s introduction to his argument that they cannot be left without contention: “Today, several Muslim groups are marketing the idea that restoring ancient glories is contingent upon reviving the caliphate”.
1. The word “ancient” is rejected when referring to the Islamic caliphate! That word, according to the dictionaries of English and the historians of antiquity, refers to the period from the beginning of recorded human history to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, a full two centuries before the birth of Islam and the establishment of the righteous caliphate. If, however, a figurative meaning is intended, then the word “ancient” is used mischievously to distance Muslims from their very recent past. A past that was not only glorious, it was abiding and dominated the world stage for thirteen centuries; its demise was an aberration of history, a disaster for humanity and a humiliation for the Muslims, while its return shall render our current subjugation to the crony rulers of the capitalist west, a fading memory as from the time between sleep and wakefulness.
2. The word “idea” is rejected, because here it implies either an uncertainty or an alternative where none exist. It is ironic that, in addition to Hizb ut Tahrir, Osama bin Laden was mentioned as a proponent of the caliphate, and yet there is no mention of Pakistan’s inglorious impotence as American forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and unmanned drones continue to kill and main thousands of civilians, with impunity, on either side of the British-drawn Durand line. Wherever we turn, under Western hegemony there is disgrace and defeat; only the caliphate could reverse this and bring glory, hence our rejection of the word “idea” in this connection.
3. The word “marketing” is likewise rejected, because its misuse places the caliphate on a par with a product and those who work for it on a par with those who twist words to deceive and belittle the truth.
Revival of the caliphate is an Islamic duty, and, as Allah does not oblige the impossible upon Muslims, we persevere with this noble task in adherence to the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم.
Pervez Hoodbhoy, in order to adduce the “impossibility” of reviving the caliphate, enumerates many sources of difference between Muslims: too many sects, schools of thought, location of the caliphate’s city, individual rivalries, race, colour, ethnicity, and adoption of a language of state; to which we say: “So what!” Indeed, we insist upon reminding the writer that the caliphate is not only for Muslims, it is also for non-Muslims!
The writer’s contention of impossibility appears to stem from his overextension of the comparison of popes and caliphs. He writes: “the new pope speaks for 1.2 billion Catholics” and then asks: “Who should speak for the 1.5 billion Muslims today?” “The problem” he says, “is that the caliph is generally understood to be both the spiritual as well as temporal leader.” However, that which is “spiritual” about the caliphate is not its leadership, but the simple realization by Muslims of the source of its legitimacy: it as an Islamic obligation upon the ruler and the ruled. As for the caliphate’s global leadership, it is neither pontifical nor spiritual, rather, it is intellectual. The enlightened Muslim thinkers and politicians will share the caliph in propelling Islam to the centre stage of world affairs and debate.
The caliphate will govern the territory it controls and impose rules for organizing life’s affairs, as do all states; so why the scaremongering? And who, except for those who pant after the West, would imagine that a caliph from a ‘different’ school of thought or colour of skin could be less acceptable than the vile and corrupt cronies and despots that now rule Muslim lands by the dictates of America?
The caliphate is a political and executive authority; it follows the axioms of politics, and is understood easily by the politicians and statesmen, and the only ones that should fear it are its enemies. And fear it, they certainly do.