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The Islamic civilization quest

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Mustafa Salama

As Islamic discourses become mainstream in several Muslim countries, one wonders what is there to make out of it? After all practically all modern Islamic movements came about with the objective of reviving an Islamic society, polity or both.

The Islamist movement as a whole has come a long way since the demise of the last collective governing entity, the Ottoman Caliphate. Sure the sick man of Europe as once called was no longer strong enough to protect all lands and interests under its governance, but it still maintained institutions which could be improved or restructured to function better and served to protect Muslims from foreign greed.

A Muslim Arab Bedouin, in the first days of Islam was once invited to the Emperor of Persia. Ribei Ibn Amer was asked by the Emperor what has brought you? Ribei was then to answer with words to be immortalized by history; “Allah has sent us to take you out of worshiping people to worshiping Lord of (all) people, and from the constriction of this world of to the vastness of this world and hereafter, and from the oppression of religions to the justice of Islam.”

Almost all Islamists quote this saying today, even “Liberal Islamist” Abdl-Moneim Abu-AlFutuh, while running for presidency in Egypt and being interviewed on a TV show watched by millions in Egypt.

Worshiping people as Ribei mentioned is not restricted to the literal meaning rather it includes servitude, submission, dependence upon and accepting legislation of kings (or dictators) who challenge Allah’s dominion.

This is why when Prophet Muhammad (P) once invited a tribe in Iraq to Islam one of its leaders replied: “Oh Muhammad what you call us upon is what of Kings hate”

The first Caliphate as espoused in early Islam did not last 100 years before disintegrating into the dynastical rule of Umayyads and others which witnessed revolts and resistance against to bring about governance based on popular choice and acceptance of governing authority.

There are plenty of prophetic narrations that mandate the following of the customs the “rightly guided Calphis” governed with. The very fact that they were all elected- in one form or another- is a sufficient condition to show the neglecting of political aspects of Islam that came later on.

Caliphs later took power against popular will and thus not only corrupted governance but also the very founding discourses that created the original Muslim political model to legitimize the arising conflicting monarchies.

Plenty of prophetic narrations again discuss the decline of the first Islamic political model before its final return. Paraphrasing a long narration; “Prophethood will remain amongst you till Allah wishes to remove it, then it will be a Caliphate on the way of prophethood…then it will be a constricted reign… then it will be a tyrannical reign, then it will come back as Caliphate on the way of prophethood”

Almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, all Muslims believe that one day this will happen one way or another, Islamists are actively trying to bring this about. However while it may be far-fetched to a distant observer it is going on a relatively fast historical pace.

There are however challenges for a modern manifestation of a Caliphate or Islamic governance, challenges that are similar to any rising state or group of states wishing to have a stand in the global scene. However, there are also considerable modern advantages over the conditions the first Muslims laid the foundation of their system on.

Today there are modern institutions that create checks and balances between different functions of the state which in principle ensure that they do not lie in the hands of one or an exclusive group. This is much better than depending entirely on the piety of individuals and their sincerity not to abuse power.

In an information age where news is driven as it occurs and censorship is becoming increasingly more difficult, there is no monopoly over information. Furthermore, it becomes more difficult to exploit information shortages to harness illegitimate power or create unnecessary conflicts as happened in the first Caliphate which considerable weakened it.

This idea can be further developed into globalization which has made Muslims from different corners of the globe more aware of each other and better able to cooperate and coordinate.

Another advantage is that Islam is already the religion and culture of Muslim people unlike the first Caliphate which was newly inviting people to Islam who may have not particularly accustomed to the idea of choosing leaders and rather monarchy was the norm. Today democracy or choosing political leadership along with freedom is the norm and expected, and Islam is not foreign.

There are plenty of quality Islamic discourses around from various scholars and thinkers; it seems more than ever that all there is to it is implementation.

About the author

Mustafa Salama

Mustafa Salama

Mustafa Salama is a Political Researcher and a Freelance Journalist. He has an extensive academic background on Islamist movements and Middle East Affairs. Salama holds a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Political Science from the American University in Cairo.


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