April 27, 2007
The Muslim Mainstream and the New Caliphate
Writing in 1916, C. Snouck Hurgronje, the great Dutch Orientalist, underscored how the jihad doctrine of world conquest, and the re-creation of a supranational Islamic Caliphate remained a potent force among the Muslim masses:
...it would be a gross mistake to imagine that the idea of universal conquest may be considered as obliterated...the canonists and the vulgar still live in the illusion of the days of Islam's greatness. The legists continue to ground their appreciation of every actual political condition on the law of the holy war, which war ought never be allowed to cease entirely until all mankind is reduced to the authority of Islam-the heathen by conversion, the adherents of acknowledged Scripture [i.e., Jews and Christians] by submission.
Hurgronje further noted that although the Muslim rank and file might acknowledge the improbability of that goal "at present" (circa 1916), they were,
...comforted and encouraged by the recollection of the lengthy period of humiliation that the Prophet himself had to suffer before Allah bestowed victory upon his arms...
Thus even at the nadir of Islam's political power, during the World War I era final disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, Hurgronje observed how
...the common people are willingly taught by the canonists and feed their hope of better days upon the innumerable legends of the olden time and the equally innumerable apocalyptic prophecies about the future. The political blows that fall upon Islam make less impression...than the senseless stories about the power of the Sultan of Stambul [Istanbul], that would instantly be revealed if he were not surrounded by treacherous servants, and the fantastic tidings of the miracles that Allah works in the Holy Cities of Arabia which are inaccessible to the unfaithful. The conception of the Khalifate [Caliphate] still exercises a fascinating influence, regarded in the light of a central point of union against the unfaithful (i.e., non-Muslims). [emphasis added]
Nearly a century later, the preponderance of contemporary mainstream Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia, apparently share with their murderous, jihad terror waging co-religionists from al-Qaeda the goal (if not necessarily supporting the gruesome means) of re-establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Polling data just released (April 24, 2007) in a rigorously conducted face-to-face University of Maryland/ WorldPublicOpinion.org interview survey of 4384 Muslims conducted between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007-1000 Moroccans, 1000 Egyptians, 1243 Pakistanis, and 1141 Indonesians-reveal that 65.2% of those interviewed-almost 2/3, hardly a "fringe minority"-desired this outcome (i.e., "To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate"), including 49% of "moderate" Indonesian Muslims. The internal validity of these data about the present longing for a Caliphate is strongly suggested by a concordant result: 65.5% of this Muslim sample approved the proposition "To require a strict [emphasis added] application of Shari'a law in every Islamic country."
Notwithstanding ahistorical drivel from Western Muslim "advocacy" groups such as the Muslim Association of Britain, which lionizes both the Caliphate and the concomitant institution of Shari'a as promulgators of "a peaceful and just society" , the findings from the University of Maryland/ WorldPublicOpinion.org poll are ominous.
The Prototypical Caliphate
Umar Ibn al-Khattab (d. 644), was the second "rightly guided" caliph of Islam. During his reign, which lasted for a decade (634-644), Syria, Iraq and Egypt were conquered. Umar was responsible for organizing the early Islamic Caliphate. Alfred von Kremer, the seminal 19th century German scholar of Islam, described the "central idea" of Umar's regime, as being the furtherance of "...the religious-military development of Islam at the expense of the conquered nations." The predictable and historically verifiable consequence of this guiding principle was a legacy of harsh inequality, intolerance, and injustice towards non-Muslims observed by von Kremer in 1868 (and still evident in Islamic societies to this day):
It was the basis of its severe directives regarding Christians and those of other faiths, that they be reduced to the status of pariahs, forbidden from having anything in common with the ruling nation; it was even the basis for his decision to purify the Arabian Peninsula of the unbelievers, when he presented all the inhabitants of the peninsula who had not yet accepted Islam with the choice: to emigrate or deny the religion of their ancestors. The industrious and wealthy Christians of Najran, who maintained their Christian faith, emigrated as a result of this decision from the peninsula, to the land of the Euphrates, and ‘Umar also deported the Jews of Khaybar. In this way ‘Umar based that fanatical and intolerant approach that was an essential characteristic of Islam, now extant for over a thousand years, until this day [i.e., written in 1868]. It was this spirit, a severe and steely one, that incorporated scorn and contempt for the non-Muslims, that was characteristic of ‘Umar, and instilled by ‘Umar into Islam; this spirit continued for many centuries, to be Islam's driving force and vital principle.
During the jihad campaigns of Umar's Caliphate, in accord with nascent Islamic Law, neither cities nor monasteries were spared if they resisted. Thus, when the Greek garrison of Gaza refused to submit and convert to Islam, all were put to death. In the year 640, sixty Greek soldiers who refused to apostatize became martyrs, while in the same year (i.e., 638) that Caesarea, Tripolis and Tyre fell to the Muslims, hundreds of thousands of Christians converted to Islam, predominantly out of fear.
Muslim and non-Muslim sources record that Umar's soldiers were allowed to break crosses on the heads of Christians during processions and religious litanies, and were permitted, if not encouraged, to tear down newly erected churches and to punish Christians for trivial reasons. Moreover, Umar forbade the employment of Christians in public offices.
The false claims of Islamic toleration during this prototype "rightly guided" Caliphate cannot be substantiated even by relying on the (apocryphal?) "pact" of Umar (Ibn al-Khattab) because this putative decree compelled the Christians (and other non-Muslims) to fulfill self-destructive obligations, including: the prohibition on erecting any new churches, monasteries, or hermitages; and not being allowed to repair any ecclesiastical institutions that fell into ruin, nor to rebuild those that were situated in the Muslim quarters of a town. Muslim traditionists and early historians (such as al-Baladhuri) further maintain that Umar expelled the Jews of the Khaybar oasis, and similarly deported Christians (from Najran) who refused to apostasize and embrace Islam, fulfilling the death bed admonition of Muhammad who purportedly stated: "there shall not remain two religions in the land of Arabia."
Umar imposed limitations upon the non-Muslims aimed at their ultimate destruction by attrition, and he introduced fanatical elements into Islamic culture that became characteristic of the Caliphates which succeeded his. For example, according to the chronicle of the Muslim historian Ibn al-Atham (d. 926-27), under the brief Caliphate of Ali b. Abi Talib (656-61), when one group of apostates in Yemen (Sanaa) adopted Judaism after becoming Muslims, "He [Ali] killed them and burned them with fire after the killing." Indeed, the complete absence of freedom of conscience in these early Islamic Caliphates-while entirely consistent with mid-7th century mores-has remained a constant, ignominious legacy throughout Islamic history, to this day.
Unto the Ages
During the long twilight of the last formal Caliphate under the Ottoman Turks, Sir Henry Layard, the British archeologist, writer, and diplomat (including postings in Turkey), described this abhorrent spectacle which he witnessed in the heart of Istanbul, in the autumn of 1843, four years after the first failed iteration of the so-called Tanzimat reforms designed to abrogate the sacralized discrimination of the Shari'a:
An Armenian who had embraced Islamism [i.e., common 19th century usage for Islam] had returned to his former faith. For his apostasy he was condemned to death according to the Mohammedan law. His execution took place, accompanied by details of studied insult and indignity directed against Christianity and Europeans in general. The corpse was exposed in one of the most public and frequented places in Stamboul [Istanbul], and the head, which had been severed from the body, was placed upon it, covered by a European hat.
Salient examples from within the past 25 years confirm the persistent absence of freedom of conscience in contemporary Islamic societies, in tragic conformity with a prevailing, unchanged mindset of the earliest Caliphates: the 1985 state-sponsored execution of Sudanese religious reformer Mahmoud Muhammad Taha for his alleged "apostasy"; the infamous 1989 "Salman Rushdie Affair", which resulted in the issuance of a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini condemning Rushdie to death; the July 1994 vigilante murder of secular Egyptian writer Farag Foda-supported by the prominent Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali, an official of Al Azhar University, who testified on behalf of the murderer, "A secularist represents a danger to society and the nation that must be eliminated. It is the duty of the government to kill him."; and the recent (March, 2006) tragic experience of Abdul Rahman, an unassuming Afghan Muslim convert to Christianity, forced to flee his native country to escape the murderous wrath of Muslim clerics and the masses they incited in "liberated", post-Taliban Afghanistan.
An even more alarming and utterly intolerable phenomenon was on display just this week in the United States when a Johnstown (western Pennsylvania) area imam Fouad El Bayly openly sanctioned the punishment by death of former Dutch Parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali-born and raised a Muslim in Somalia-for her open avowal of secularism.
Individualism and Freedom of Conscience
Ibn Warraq has observed aptly that the most fundamental conception of a Caliphate, "...the constant injunction to obey the Caliph-who is God's Shadow on Earth", is completely incompatible with the creation of a "rights-based individualist philosophy." Warraq illustrates the supreme hostility to individual rights in the Islamic Caliphate, and Islam itself, through the writings of the iconic Muslim philosopher, jurist, and historian, Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), and a contemporary Muslim thinker, A.K. Brohi, former Pakistani Minister of Law and Religious Affairs:
[Ibn Khaldun] All religious laws and practices and everything that the masses are expected to do requires group feeling. Only with the help of group feeling can a claim be successfully pressed,...Group feeling is necessary to the Muslim community. Its existence enables (the community) to fulfill what God expects of it.[A.K. Brohi] Human duties and rights have been vigorously defined and their orderly enforcement is the duty of the whole of organized communities and the task is specifically entrusted to the law enforcement organs of the state. The individual if necessary has to be sacrificed in order that that the life of the organism be saved. Collectivity has a special sanctity attached to it in Islam.
In contrast, Warraq notes, "Liberal democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom and attaches all possible value to each man or woman." And he concludes,
Individualism is not a recognizable feature of Islam; instead the collective will of the Muslim people is constantly emphasized. There is certainly no notion of individual rights, which developed in the West, especially during the eighteenth century.
Almost six decades ago (in 1950), G.H. Bousquet, a pre-eminent modern scholar of Islamic Law, put forth this unapologetic, pellucid formulation of the twofold totalitarian impulse in Islam:
Islam first came before the world as a doubly totalitarian system. It claimed to impose itself on the whole world and it claimed also, by the divinely appointed Muhammadan law, by the principles of the fiqh, to regulate down to the smallest details the whole life of the Islamic community and of every individual believer....the study of Muhammadan law (dry and forbidding though it may appear to those who confine themselves to the indispensable study of the fiqh) is of great importance to the world today.
The openly expressed desire for the restoration of a Caliphate from two-thirds of an important Muslim sample of Arab and non-Arab Islamic nations, representative of Muslims worldwide, should serve as a chilling wake-up call to those still in denial about the existential threat posed by the living, uniquely Islamic institution of jihad.
Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (2005), and the forthcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism (2007), which can be previewed here.