The Caliphate: Islam’s Challenge to Global Order?

A divine belief by the radical Islamic movement in the institution of the Caliphate as a fortress to restore Islam’s power and a vehicle to challenge the primacy of Western civilisation is gathering storm in the Islamic world and beyond. Sourced from the Koran and Islamic history, the Islamic movement may differ as to whether the methodology of revival should be jihad, reformist or political, but the goal of restoring the Caliphate is now uniformly agreed upon.

The Western response to the Islamic movement has been to link the Caliphate with global jihad and by extension the war on terrorism. The evolution of language in Western capitals from generic terrorism to Islamist terrorism to evil ideology and finally to the Caliphate has endorsed what the Islamic movement has long been advocating for some time, that the war on terror is essentially a war against Islam.

As further evidence, the Islamic movement has capitalised upon a remarkable series of statements on the Caliphate by political leaders in Washington and Europe. In a speech to the Heritage Foundation on October 6, 2005, British Home Secretary Charles Clarke said, “…there can be no negotiation about the re-creation of the Caliphate; there can be no negotiation about the imposition of Sharia (Islamic) law…” President George Bush in a speech to the nation on the 8th of October 2005 stated, “The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.” On December 5th 2005, US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld in remarks pertaining to the future of Iraq at John Hopkins University said, “Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic Caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East and which would threaten the legitimate governments in Europe, Africa, and Asia. This is their plan. They (radical Islamic movement) have said so. We make a terrible mistake if we fail to listen and learn”.

The Caliphate as defined by the Sunni Islamic Movement is the total leadership for all the Muslims aimed at implementing Islamic law and carrying the Islamic message to the entire world. It is the successor to the Islamic Caliphate which spanned at one time from Indonesia to Spain through a period of fourteen hundred years. It has not been defined as a monarchy, democracy, dictatorship or a theocracy. Rather a contract of leadership between an elected Caliph and the citizens to apply complete Islamic law within internal and external policy.

The Sunni school differs from the Shia in that it endorses the immediate restoration of Islamic rule by any Muslim meeting certain criteria. The Shia school on the other hand dictates that only a person from the lineage of the Prophet Mohammed has the authority to implement Islamic rule. This lineage having been broken by the disappearance or concealment of the twelfth Imam in 941A.D means that only through his reappearance can the Islamic rule continue. Thereby, the Iranian revolution was never declared or accepted by the majority Sunni or even the Shia in the Islamic world as a Caliphate.

In this article I will argue that the Western position of avoiding an open confrontation with Islam and resisting the popular move towards the resumption of the Caliphate is becoming unsustainable. Armed with the Koran, the Islamic movement continues to win every battle in the war of ideas. The patronage of moderate Islam as a mirror of Western Liberalism in the Islamic world is rapidly collapsing in light of superior scholarly authority from the Islamic movement.

The Islamic movement has been successful in presenting to the Muslim masses an alternative ideological model to Western secular Liberalism consistent with the Koran. The reproduction of the Caliphate forms the apex of this model as a means of challenging the Western dominated global structure.

If the West is going to challenge this model it has no alternative but to openly battle Islam along with the Koran. This is not a deliberate precipitation of the clash of civilisations, rather a clear identification of the doctrinal incompatibility between Islam and secular Western Liberalism.

It would be folly to argue that the West is going to change its policy towards the Islamic world. The perpetual conflict between energy security, global Capitalism, promoting secular democracy and accommodating political Islam will continue to bedevil its behaviour. Hence, a Western mood swing in the Islamic world towards controlled democracy by force and occupation only strengthens the Islamic movement. Continued support for dictatorships and monarchies intent on wiping out the Islamic movement and opposing the Caliphate only confirms in the minds of the masses that the West is intent on continuing a crusade against Islam. These conditions have secured an environment for the inevitable collapse of local regimes, the entrance of the Caliphate and a consequential upheaval in global order.

Roots of Islamic Revival

The ideological vacuum left by the collapse of the Communist experiment in Russia quickly focussed international debate on whether Islam would fill the void and present the next challenge to a triumphant secular liberal global doctrine lead by the United States and Europe. Basking in the unexpected ideological defeat of Communism, academics cultured in the Western secular liberal tradition were quick to pronounce the Islamic revival as a reaction to Western ideological supremacy, a strategic conundrum, but not one which was capable of challenging Western universalism. This thinking has tended to dominate the literature in the West, leading to a fundamental error in the understanding and explanation pertaining to the basis of Islamic revival and its challenge to revolutionise global order.

Western academics and policymakers have made the critical mistake of analysing the source of Islamic revival and the conditions which stimulate it as one and the same. The spring of ideas have not been separated from the political, economic and social environments which foster its growth. The foundation of the Islamic movement which aims to revive the totality of Islam through the Caliphate is securely rooted in the inspiration of its source, the Koran.

In the Islamic world it is the Koran which is considered the utopia of thought and considered to have ended history twelve hundred years prior to Francis Fukyama’s dialectic benchmark of the French revolution. The belief in the perfection of the Koran and by default God’s laws ensuing from it shape the roots of Muslim rage and render the clash of civilisations between Islam and secular liberalism inevitable.

Western academic discourse on the stated failure of political Islam is so overtaken by Western globalism that it constructs a hypothesis of Islam in its own image far removed from the Koran, the vast heritage of Islamic jurisprudence and by default the power of the Islamic movement. The belief in the Koran’s universalism and the compatibility between material and spirit render paradigms of an Islamic reformation impotent.

The Western secular dictum ‘render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and unto God’s what is God’s’, is powerfully disputed by the Islamic movement through verses of the Koran and their jurisprudential understandings as having no parallel in classical or contemporary Islamic discourse.

The argument that political Islam has failed because it has been unable to adapt to Western modernity and hence to Western political structure is not a prosecution for political Islam’s failure. Rather it is further evidence that Islam and Western political architecture are doctrinally and systemically incompatible. Moreover, the Islamic Movements construction of the Caliphate as the political and systemic alternative to the Western secular model actually represents the success of political Islam.

The social, political and economic condition in the Islamic world no doubt feeds the cause of the Islamic movement, but contrary to Western assumptions, the solution to the malaise is identified not in secular liberalism or its Capitalist derivative but in the Islamic deficit. This conclusion is inevitable considering what the Islamic world has had to endure in terms of decades of Western interference ensuing from colonialism, super power conflict and brutal friendships with non-Islamic dictatorships in the name of stability and the interests of oil security. Continued Western occupation, humiliation and intervention only confirm in the minds of the Muslim masses that the West and not Islam is the cause of their suffering. The consequent helplessness has motivated them to seek an alternative in Islam in the hope of providing dignity, power, protection and stability through a system for the individual, state and society. The linkage with the Koran, the Islamic heritage and by extension the Caliphate is thus natural and inevitable. Western attempts to pre-empt the revival and the Caliphate through forced military, political, cultural and economic intervention only fuel Muslim rage.

The Resurrection

The call for the Caliphate by the Islamic movement transcends the artificial and colonial Westphalian constructs carved out of the ashes of the Ottoman Caliphate. Today, every regime in the Islamic world faces a threat to its existence from a trans-national Islamic movement. The rejection of nationalism as a destructive and disuniting force is supported by references to the Koran, jurisprudence and history, forming a powerful weapon in its quest to overturn the existing nation state order in the Islamic world and establish a unified Caliphate. The collapse of the Soviet order has further resulted in the rapid expansion of the movement, filling the vacuum in the Caucuses and Central Asia, in turn completing the arc of Islamic revival.

The conviction in Islam as a comprehensive source for the regulation of the individual, state and society, along with the global movement in immigration, ideas and information has enabled the Islamic world to overcome its sense of intellectual, technological and political inferiority to Western civilisation. The wealth of mineral, strategic, intellectual and human resources existent in the vast geography of the Islamic world provides intellectual confidence in the ability of a Caliphate to challenge and overcome Western military and technological primacy. It is thus of no great surprise that highly educated members of the Islamic movement operating from the crucible of Western civilisation in Washington, London, Paris and Rome successfully spearhead the global marketing of the Caliphate.

A series of political events from the creation of Israel to the invasion of Iraq has radically altered the political landscape and atmosphere in the Islamic world. Due in large part to mass culturing by the Islamic movement and aided in no short measure by Western policy, the political maturity of the Islamic world is far removed from the impotence exhibited during the last phase of the Ottoman Caliphate. Projects developed by the Western powers in partnership with the local regimes to divert and crush the Islamic revival in the last eighty years have been increasingly threatened by a heightened political awareness. The war on terror and the invasion of Iraq are overwhelmingly analysed in the Islamic world as a war against Islam and a policy to pre-empt the Caliphate. As a result the Islamic movement has removed the distinction between Western policy and local governments. With effective political culturing, the move towards regime change has more of a reality from the Islamic movement than from the Western powers.

Challenging Global Order

Fourteen hundred years of Caliphate history in the realms of scientific, military, economic and political thought bear witness to a coming upheaval in the US and European dominated international structure. Just as Western civilisation reverted to and continues to revert to the classical sources of ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration, the Islamic movement has also gone back to the future.

The distinctive accomplishment of the Islamic movement in resurrecting the classical sources of Islam into a modern paradigm to challenge Western ideologies formed the nucleus of its resistance towards Communism as a political doctrine and a system. The same paradigm now thrusts against the global secular/Capitalist order.

In applying the paradigm, the Islamic movement has gone to some length in detailing distinct and alternative economic, social and political models. Comprehensive rules derived from the Koran and classical sources pertaining to economic transactions, social relationships, penal code, judiciary, ruling and foreign policy have provided confidence by the Islamic movement to the Muslim masses that Islam and the Caliphate can provide solutions to modern problems.

Western powers will have little problem with the ruling or social structure of a Caliphate as evidenced by their foreign policy towards successive dictatorships. It is in the principles and policies towards economics, military and foreign relations that Western interests and global Capitalism will be directly challenged.

The Islamic movement’s fundamental definition of the economic problem being that of distribution as opposed to the Western model of production will form the basis of the Caliphate’s economic policy. The division between state, public and private ownership will be an alternative to the privatised economic model. The rejection of the market as the sole distributor of wealth and basic commodities will strike a powerful note in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, where liberal economics and international Capitalism despite the promises of globalisation and multilateral trade have failed to overturn the economic poverty and slide into chaos.

The mineral wealth including oil and gas will be regulated according to the Islamic economic principle of the commodity being a share of the citizens held on trust by the State. This rule outlines the foundation of eliminating Western oil interests in the Islamic world. Cheap Western access and squandering by supported regimes of the oil wealth in the Islamic world already projects a powerful magnet for the resumption of the Caliphate.

Backed by oil power and political confidence, the Caliphate will turn (as it did in history) to the gold standard to instil financial discipline and stability in the domestic and international economic environment. The oil weapon is likely to be key for the procurement of sufficient gold to support the currency. The projected stability is expected to act as catalyst to re-internationalise the gold standard with the rapid dumping of the dollar in light of plummeting confidence from heightened political upheaval.

The Islamic movement’s rejection of the idea of international law on doctrinal and Hobbesian philosophical edifice will precipitate an enormous threat to the United Nations. Unlike the pragmatic stance of the Soviet Union, the Caliphate will resist the idea of international law and the United Nations as a vehicle for Western secular hegemony, a charge already popular in the Islamic and developing world. As an alternative, the Caliphate according to historical precedent and Islamic sources will revert to conducting international relations through treatise, custom and the force of international public opinion.

The military ascendancy of the Caliphate is likely to be rapid. The immediate removal of Western military bases will deny the accessibility to strategic waterways, airspace, land routes and logistics for any short or medium term military response from the West. Furthermore, the availability of the nuclear option will make this impossible.

The Caliphate will have no shortage in the availability of brilliant minds as well as access to the same international market for scientists open to Washington and Europe. Furthermore, the enormous pool of sympathetic Muslim minds working deep in the Western and former Soviet military-industrial complexes will naturally be capitalised upon leading to a critical but predictable brain drain in the West.

As in history, the quest for military supremacy is likely to dominate in order to strengthen the Caliphate’s march towards global ideological leadership. However, military supremacy did not prevent the ideological rot of the Ottoman Caliphate. The cause was political, as was the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Islamic movement seems to have learnt its lesson from history by demonstrating sharp political skills in its ability to survive and maintain momentum in the Islamic world. No doubt the same political acumen will be a formidable force applied to the Caliphate’s quest for a revolution in global order.

Accepting the Caliphate

It was former British Prime Minister William Gladstone, whilst in the final phases of dismantling the Ottoman Caliphate, who held up the Koran in Parliament and predicted that as long as the Islamic world remained attached to the book, the West could not prevent its revival. Gladstone’s prediction has come true with the resumption of classical ijitihad (orthodox methodology of extracting Islamic law) which has radically energised the Islamic movement into sourcing the Koran for modern problems as an alternative to Western secular liberalism.
In facing this challenge, Western policy can no longer sustain a battle with Islam through the back door including the War on Terror. Islam means ‘peace’, but a peace only on its terms, through full submission to God’s law. Hence, despite politically correct adulations of Islam by Washington and Europe, there can be no co-existence between Islam and Western Civilisation.

A Reaganite inspired and neo-conservative influenced American policy seems to be moving more openly by attaching the vague label of “evil ideology” to the Caliphate. However, as with Communism, Western policy needs to be bolder in correctly defining Islam as the main threat. A continuing state of public denial as regards a conflict with Islam in Washington and Europe only breeds more confusion, frustration and contradiction amongst its academic and policy circles cognizant of the incompatibility between the two doctrines.

The Islamic world’s position on the other hand does not suffer such confusion. Western policy is clearly considered to be directed at Islam and pre-empting the Caliphate in the heart of the Middle East, as viewed by the American invasion of Iraq and the refusal to accept Islam as its sole source of legislation and the Caliphate it’s the political structure.

The essence of violent global jihad and its response by the West as a War on Terror sidesteps the underlying causes and dynamics of anti-Western sentiment in the Islamic world. Global jihad is a frustrated and mutated response to the Western policy of backing regimes which torture its citizens and obstructs the Islamic movement in its goal of establishing the Caliphate.

Washington and Europe are deceiving themselves if they think they can reassure their societies that the Islamic movement will simply fade away because of the War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq. Or that the Islamic world will follow their lead with a revised neo-colonial outlook. The political constituent of the Islamic movement goes from strength to strength, while the jihadi element raises the stakes by prolonging and expanding the violent attacks on Western society.

America and especially Europe foster sizeable Muslim populations which have strong connections to the global Islamic movement and support the re-establishment of the Caliphate as a serious objective. This phenomenon marks a failure of the West to gain doctrinal leadership over the Muslims within its own realm. This situation will only intensify as the Islamic movement perpetuates its global call.

The clash of doctrines between Islam and Western civilisation predates the asymmetrical declaration of war between the West and the Islamic movement and will continue for generations to come. The war on terror on the other hand does have an end. Global jihad’s alteration of expanding the struggle from the regimes in the Islamic world to attacking targets in the West will cease upon the birth of the Caliphate. The conflict will then transform to the more conventional.

A policy of attacking the idea of the Caliphate by linking it with the political violence of the jihadi movement cannot eliminate its Koranic authority. The Islamic world may not totally agree with the armed method of the jihadi movement, but the Caliphate’s linkage with the Koran is not in dispute. The political and non-violent aspect of the Islamic movement, considered the godfather of reviving the Caliphate idea, has deeper and wider appeal. An attack on the Caliphate is in effect considered an attack against Islam.

A fundamental transformation needs to occur in Western academic and policy circles as regards Islam. Western discourse needs to move beyond the dogmatic position of attempting to remould Islam according to the tenets of Western civilisation without Koranic authority. This attempt has failed in the Islamic world. The opium of linking the Caliphate and viewing radical Islam through the prism of the war on terror fogs the reality of understanding the dynamics of Islamic revival. There needs to be a clear appreciation that the Koran is the nuclear reactor of the Islamic world providing energy for the restoration of the Caliphate and its consequent challenge to global order. The West has no option but to accept the inevitability of the Caliphate and formulate a clear, distinct and explicit position towards Islam which identifies its doctrinal incompatibility. With the increasing success of Islamist groups in increasing the vote bank from the masses, the Islamic world seems already to have adopted its posture towards the West.