Thought Archive

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Last Caliph

On the blog which linked to Riri's I have found a damning injuctions against the destruction of Khilafah.
On the 28th of Rajab 1342AH, corresponding to 3 March 1924CE, the Khilafah was destroyed at the hands of the colonial powers with the assistance of collaborators such as Mustafa Kemal. Allah (swt) has obligated us to rule by His Law and ordered us to shield the Ummah with the Khilafah state.
I have an amblivalent attitude to the Califate as it has been destroyed by Ataturk, but I do want to come to his aid. He has done the unthinkable and in order to save the heartland of Ottoman Empire from the Western Domination stood against the alliance of Sultan and Allies to preserve independence of the Turkish State in the time of peril. The alternative was a foreign domination under a Western protectorate with monarchies of the type created or propped-up in Iraq, Jordan and Egypt.

The Turkish national movement, as the details explained in Turkish War of Independence forms a Turkish Grand National Assembly, secured formal recognition of the nation’s independence and new borders on July 23, 1923 through the Treaty of Lausanne. The National Assembly declared Turkey a republic on October 29 and proclaimed Ankara its new capital. After nearly 700 years, the Ottoman Empire had officially ceased to exist. However, under Allied direction and diktat, the Sultan pledged to suppress such movements and secured an official fatwa from the Sheikh ul-Islam declaring them to be un-Islamic. But the nationalists steadily gained momentum and began to enjoy widespread support. Many sensed that the nation was ripe for revolution. In an effort to neutralize this threat, the Sultan agreed to hold elections, with the hope of placating and co-opting the nationalists. To his dismay, nationalist groups swept the polls, prompting him to again dissolve parliament in April 1923. The National Assembly abolished the Caliphate on March 3, 1924. Abdul Mejid was sent into exile to France along with the remaining members of the Ottoman House, marking the official end of the "Ottoman Caliphate".

It is interesting to note that the last "Caliph" Abdulmejid II was an urbane and an intellectual.
He served as Chairman of the Ottoman Artist's Society. He is considered as one of most important painters of last period Ottoman art. His paintings of the Harem, showing a modern musical gathering, and of a woman reading Goethe's Faust were displayed at an exhibition of Ottoman paintings in Vienna in 1918. His personal self-portrait can be seen at Istanbul Modern.

For Turkey Ataturk did a right thing, destroying a poweless institution which had become an instrument in the hands of would-be colonizers. The effects of what this decision for a long time for other Sunni Muslims were minimal; this was until now when people living in a historical warp want to return to a political equation which did not exist for many centuries. Some Sunnis feel that re-creation the Caliphate will give Muslims a purpose the so lacked in the past.

41 comments:

Riri said...

To be honest, saying that all Islamists want the Caliphate is not accurate. Only the Wahabis/Salafis want that, they want time not only to stop, but reverse itself. Nobody falls for their madness anymore, they lost massive popular support when they turned violent.

Islamists have evolved and some of them are making more and more sense, but there are still lots of issues that need clarification in their political proposals. I suspect that the word Caliphate is a problematic word because it is associated with archaic concepts. But some Islamists use that word to mean something quite modern, an economico-politic alliance between Muslim States like the US or the EU. I see nothing wrong with that, but this should be a long term aim, we first need to focus on creating strong individual States.

Some Islamists support the notion of the Caliphate for other reasons. They think that it would somehow dampen the sectarian conflicts and act as a sort of a central religious reference organisation, or a uniform religious standards agency like the FDA for example. I can see where they're coming from, such an institution would have a stabilising effect, but it won't come easy, huge work and effort will need to be deployed to reach an agreement. Maintaining credibility and reputation of such an organisation will be another Herculian task.

NoolaBeulah said...

Nazim, I don't know very much about this, but I have a question. You seem to be saying that the only motive for Kemal's actions was anti-colonial. Now, I'm sure that was part of it. However, given that his great (and so far, unique) achievement was to re-found an ancient Islamic state by importing (on his terms) many of the ideas of the would-be colonisers, surely an equally important motive was modernisation. This would have been much more difficult with vestiges of the old order still in place.

I'm not trying to get the colonisers 'off the hook'; it's just that it makes more sense to see Kemal and the nationalists as more than just reacting or protecting what had been. They must have had a clear idea of what the future should be, and acted accordingly.

Hazar Nesimi said...

Exactly, - strenght of the Kemalism was not in the protecting of what had been at alll but modernizing for the future. The modernization of Ottoman TUrkey was always the plan of Young Turks and reformers before the Revolution, but they could not reform the monarchy. It was immense project like in Russia, but much less severe and infinetely more sensible.. THis is what Allies where against, as they had much preferred pliable traditional and conservative monarchies to rule over.

Ataturk never intendted to turn Turkey into European democracy with european values - otherwise he would not have expelled and ethnically cleansed Greeks and other remaining Christians, closing down many churches - , but towards set of modern ideas, borrowed from Europe and re-dressed for Turkish audience.

Insidentally it is the same project that crackpot Turkmenbashi has tried to imitate.

NoolaBeulah said...

Why did it work in Turkey? What were the most effective measures that he took? Could it be copied elsewhere in the Middle East?

Hazar Nesimi said...

You know my answer. Turkey was the seat of Ottoman empire, with all the years of reform behind it starting from 1830s and pretty modernized beauracracy. It had a relatively modern civil service. By 1856 all the subjects of empire had equal rights (on paper)and old millet sistem was abolished. The bloodshed that followed the demise of the empire was not the result of religion but of nationalism of westernized elite clashing with nationalism of its multiethnic subjects. This was the background for Ataturk. Arab countries did not exist, they were either provinces of the said empire or colonies of the West. None of this was very useful to create a sense of modernity untainted by guilt of association. If values of colonialism could be debated for other reglions, for Muslim Arab countries my verdict is a sound failure. Civil adminstration by British and French who treated the countries they ruled with disdain collapsed in 1940-50s, supplanted by populism of Baath or other socialists and grievous Palestine disaster. Turkey by that time was insulated from both West and East, before finally joining the West during Cold War.

The answer is what works for Turk does not for Arab.

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