Sometimes towards the end of last week, I received an email from a friend of mine who currently resides in the United Kingdom. He had emailed a piece that he had written on the anniversary of the decline of the Khilafat the Islamic empire as he termed it, which more popularly in modern history was known as the Ottoman empire. For the general knowledge of those unaware of the demise of the Ottoman empire, it happened at the end of the first World War. The Ottoman's had allied themselves with Germans in the first world war and as defeat was met by the German's, it was also met by their ally the Ottoman empire. Upon the German and Ottoman defeat in the war, the land which once made up the proud empire was at the disposal and mercy of the allied forces particularly Britain and France, which would go about dividing the land of the former empire, particularly the Arab lands of the present Middle East and North Africa amongst themselves. Britain ended up establishing a mandate over Egypt and Palestine, while the French mandate extended over present day Syria and Lebanon. A lot of us are familiar with the mess, that the British created as they made their hasty exit out of the Middle East, particularly the mess their mess in the Mandate of Palestine, which they time after time overlooked. Coming back to the Khilafat and its practicality in today's Arab and Islamic world. Many friends, peers and colleagues of mine are strong advocates of the need for the Khilafat in today's world, which they see as the cure for the revival of the Muslim world, the Ummah as they like to call it. Particularly Pakistan, where they all hail for him. Even though I do not disagree with them that Islam plays a role in bonding its followers around the world creating a bond of brotherhood and sisterhood on an emotional level, I do not see the re establishment of the Khilafat and the enforcement of the Islamic law as a solution for the Muslim world today.
My critics will argue I am being naive in making this statement and I fail to fully comprehend the glorious change the Khilafat would bring to today's world and how it will begin a process of revival of the Ummah. For those that do not remember their history, internal weaknesses had become a common phenomena within the Ottoman empire. Internal weaknesses arose not only from corruption at all hierarchical levels, but most importantly was a result of a very centralised state of affairs and administration of the empire. An empire as vast as the Ottoman required a decentralised structure with sufficient regional and territorial autonomy to sustain and prevent an atmosphere of resentment amongst citizens of the empire. When regional and provincial autonomy is overlooked, it becomes the source of widespread discontent and resistance towards authority. If we look at the case of the Ottoman empire, the Turks failed to take into consideration the needs and requirements of their citizens in the Arab lands of the empire. A sort of a Turkisation process had been widely adopted and promoted within the empire and the customs,culture,norms,traditions and values of the non Turkish had not been in taken into consideration. Like many nations around the world, the Arabs too are proud of their history,culture,traditions and heritage. Their resentment towards their rulers in Ankara, sparked off widespread Arab resistance towards Ottoman rule, which was later exploited by the British in an effort to defeat the empire in the first world war, but that is a different issue altogether. The divide and rule policies have always been a hall mark of European imperialism. Britain in particular has left a lasting legacy by their partition blunders in India and Palestine.
The world we live in, is no longer a homogeneous world. Human kind has come a long way, and there is an ever lasting legacy of migration as well. The so called Ummah is no longer restricted to just their countries of origin, but have formed substantial minorities in the form of a diaspora. At the same time, religous minorities continue to live on in the Muslim world, despite persecution and oppression from the ruling majority. Muslim countries around the world are not fully able to practise decentralisation and provision of regional autonomy in their countries and has often become the cause of conflict and lack of harmony. Merely based on religion, it can not be expected that people from a certain culture or back ground with harmoniously merge together to live in a homogeneous manner. People place significant importance also to their national or regional culture, as well as customs and traditions passed on to them by their forefathers. Now here comes my real criticism why I seriously feel that the re establishment of the Khilafat is not a workable concept. Firstly as I mentioned early, a centralised Khalifat regime as it has done so in the past, failed to provide sufficient regional autonomy to territories within the empire and enforced a consistent set of laws and rules, which might not have universal applicability and acceptability. For example, a law drafted in Ottoman era Constantinople might not be welcomed by the subjects of the empire in Damascus or Jerusalem, as it might undermine the values, beliefs and norms of people in those regions. Apart from that regardless of how one might argue that religous and cultural minorites are awarded full protection under an Islamic state, the reality is far from it, this has been the case in the Muslim world as well as the Western world, where religous minorities have often been persecuted, oppressed and in some case they have faced extermination and ethnic cleansing. The practicality of the matter is that minorities will always face some form of discrimination and persecution under a regime based on religion by the over bearing majority, as every religion also has its share of right wing religious extremists that promote racism and xenophobia towards minorities within their borders.
A very prominent crises also plaguing most of the Muslim world along with a lot of countries in the developing world is that off corruption. Muslim nations often feature very high on the scale of corruption, while countries which have been low on religiousness and high on secularist ideologies have proven themselves to amongst the least corrupt, such as Norway and New Zealand. In such countries, the religion of the majority of the population, does not decide what law should exist within its jurisdiction, and the same law is enforced applicable to all its citizens, without having a separate law for each religious and cultural group. A very important point also worthy of consideration is that there is no compulsion in religion and individual morality can not be controlled or dictated. Punishing or penalising an individual for not being religious is not in any case justifiable and should not form the corner stone of law. Matters of religion and spirituality are a personal thing for each and every individual, and the morality of the people can not be scrutinised over this. You can force some one to practise symbolic rituals and gestures, but what does that really achieve, it ignores basic human rights of non religious individuals and creates further resistance and feelings of powerlessness amongst such individuals. The feeling of powerlessness amongst is the foundation for many civil problems and disorders. It can also be attributed to the brain drain experienced by some Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Iran, where a lot of bright and educated young minds are becoming part of the diaspora to escape religious persecution and mistreatment for not being religious.
For my friends and readers who strongly advocate the Khilafat, and also those reading this article, I urge attention should be given to more important issues in the Muslim world. Issues such as human rights, literacy and social development should be those that receive our attention. We should focus on creating tolerance in our societies for social diversity as well as understand the need to learn from each other. We the youth of today especially from the Muslim world, should also strive for an end to corruption which plagues so many of our countries, we the next generation should make a stand and set an example that we will not follow in the shoes of of those before us, we want change and we can bring about the desired change. Collective change is not an overnight process, it all has to start with us as individuals and us as individual nations to set examples for each other, so that we can learn from each other and look forward towards a better future.