Friday, March 11, 2011

Islamic Caliphate Redux

March 11, 2011

Okay, that last post was written on the basis of logic. Now, let's do some research. First of all, what is an Islamic Caliphate? Does that phrase even make any sense?

To say Caliphate is to refer to the political religious state which lasted between 632 A.D and 1258 A.D. It is sort of like talking about the Holy Roman Empire. The caliphs held temporal, and some spiritual authority. 

After Muhammad passed away, the society he had built needed a new ruler. The word caliph is from the Arabic Kalifa, or successor. Abu Bakr  was selected by a group of elders of Medina. If you are a Christian,  think of Abu Bakr the way you think of Saint Peter, the first pope.

The first four Caliphs were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali. Their reign was considered the Golden Age of Pure Islam. They expanded the Islamic state into new regions, including Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, and Egypt. Raids were made into Persia and Armenia, as well as North Africa. (See, the comparison to the Holy Roman Empire is becoming more obvious!) Al Mutassim was considered the last Caliph, but he was defeated when the Mongols sacked Baghdad. 

Now, what exactly might Glenn Beck be driving at when he says that an Islamic Caliphate wants to take over the Middle East? I think he may be basically suggesting that an Iran type theocracy will become the dominant form of government in the region. This is fear-mongering, plain and simple.

Ironically, it amuses me that Mubarak played the same game. As his government faced collapse, Mubarak warned ominously, "apres moi, le deluge," playing on the West's fears by suggesting that if he left, the only alternative would be radical Islam.1. 

I predict that in Egypt, Islam can be compatible with democracy. The Egyptian state will emerge with a range of views, a range of religions, a range of parties. 

A reader has pointed out that I need data to back up my views. The data I have right now is gathered from the two classes I teach. That is less than 60 students, so is not statistically acceptable as a sample. Also, the sample is skewed. because it is a highly educated population. However, this is a good subject for a research paper. I will look into it. 

1. This quote is originally attributed to King Louis the XV, King of France and Navarre. The French Revolution came 15 years after his death.


  1. The old regime used the image of the "frightening ghost of the Muslim Brotherhood" just to say "don't let us out, otherwise the MB will seize power … we are the only guarantee for you that this does not happen".

    I guess that the people of Egypt have grown too politically mature to let this happen!!

    I liked this article which says: "The Muslim Brotherhood won't seek the presidency now. It's a way of saying they won't try to take what they can't possibly get." And I would like to add to this … "and what they won't possibly get".

    I guess your last two lines summed up the idea .. "In Egypt, Islam can be compatible with democracy, and that a state will emerge with a range of views, a range of religions, a range of parties."

  2. @Hoda. Thank you so much. I am glad you liked the last two lines.

  3. OK, let me be a bit of a spoilsport here. Don't forget the old maxim, "In G-d we trust, everyone else bring data."

    So, are there data that suggest that the Egyptian people want, and will fight for, a pluralistic society?

  4. The last Caliphate was the Ottomans, which fell after World War I, when the Muslims fought each other under the slogans of nationalism.

  5. Thanks V. I appreciate your update. What was the name of the last caliph? Also, can you give me some insight into how muslims view caliphs? Thanks, wmb.

  6. If you would like to have a relatively comprehensive understanding of the Caliphate there is a Western production called "Empire of Faith" you can find this in youtube @ this link:

    It is 3 parts: Fisrt part is about "the Golden Age" as you mentioned, the third part is about the Ottomans, the second part is everything in between; including Salah Ad-deen (Saladin).

  7. @V, thanks so much. I will check into this and write more.