Imagining our life in an Islamic State

Javed Ahmad


None of us, not even anyone from the past few generations had the opportunity to live under the rule of Shariah. The Caliphate that we had was officially closed in Turkey in 1924 following WWI.


Rule of Islam based on Shariah actually left us long time ago. And we never got to have the taste of living in it. When we were born, secular systems were dominant around the world in many different forms and norms.


There have been attempts around the predominantly Muslims countries to bring back Caliphate without any success. Even in the Indian sub-continent there have been a united political movement of both Muslims and Hindus called the “Khilafa Andolon” meaning ‘movement for caliphate’ in the 1920s that utterly failed when the Ottoman Empire was demolished in 1924.


Later came several attempts for establishment of independent Islamic states of secular nature. One such example is the Islamic Republic of Iran of the Shiai sect. The Muslim majority countries we see today are either a kingdom ruled by a king or Western styled secular system with political or social governments.


In 1947, Indian Muslims established an independent state by breaking up of the continent into three major components – India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Majority of the Indian Muslims chose to migrate to either of the Pakistan’s following Hindu-Muslim riots and political unrest after WWII. The outcome was two major independent secular states, one ruled by the Hindus and the other by the Muslims.


In 1971, the East Pakistan on demand of autonomy ended up getting full independence from the West Pakistan rule following a nine month long civil war with the West Pakistan based army. War ended after the direct interference of India; thus resulting in birth of another independent secular state rule by Bangalee Muslims - now known as “Bangladeshis”.


The continent that was once ruled by the governors assigned by the Ottoman Empire under the rule of Islam got fragmented into three major secular states with political governments. Therefore, politics became the norm for power and governance in the Muslim majority countries that is foreign to Islam.


Muslims today no longer knows the real Islam that was once practiced by our forefathers. They no longer know Arabic language that was once commonly spoken by the Muslims in this sub-continent. As a result we have moved far away from the core Islamic knowledge that are mostly preserved in Arabic literatures and have not been translated.


There have been hue and cry for re-establishment of Caliphate in many different countries, strangely enough even in some Western countries (e.g., UK). But all of those attempts just made the news headlines for sometime and could not go beyond slogans. The only nation that came closer to caliphate was Afghanistan when it was under the rule of Taliban government after a long war with the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). But that possibility has been crushed by brute force by the US invading army that is still occupying the country with a renewed war with the ousted Talibans.


Even today, many Muslims passionately discuss about caliphate but do not fully understand the concept and how it actually worked in those days. In order to understand the matter a Muslim must consider the historical records of caliphate during the first four caliphs.


Through readings from the history of Islam and the traditions of the Prophet (S), we get a strange picture of an Islamic state and a lifestyle that was quite different from the state system and lifestyle we have today. At times, it is very difficult to even imagine the system when we try to compare it with the present one in terms of economics, finance and governance.


From what we understood so far, all we can say at present that life under the rule of Islam in those days was extraordinarily simple and uncertain (in worldly secular sense). The first Islamic state evolved in Medina with handful of devout Muslims under the leadership of the Prophet (S) (which is termed as Prophet Hood) and then gradually grown at a much faster pace during the rule of four caliphs (nominated representatives of the Prophet (S)). As the empire grew they were handled by deputed governors of the caliph representing him in far away conquered lands that submitted to Islam. The empire spanned from Africa to as far as part of Burma (now known as Myanmar) and Indonesia in Asia covering the known empires of Europe of the time. In other words, pretty much the whole known world of the time was under the empire of Islam.


We find in the hadith references that life under Islam was so simple that Muslims at that time voluntarily chose to live in poverty day after day giving away everything they had in possession for the sake of Allah. They did not even have enough food to go around feed all the mouths. Even the Prophet (S) often starved and had to tie a stone in his stomach to make his tummy appear full under the garments. His wives once complained to him under extreme unbearable poverty to do something, as a result Allah permitted them to leave the Prophet (S) if they were unable to bear it. But off course, none of them left as they knew it was test and trial from Allah.


There were not enough jobs in the country to make a living, they hardly had any savings. Yet, in that condition they managed to keep their faith level extremely high minding accuracy of their worships. Their obedience to the Prophet (S) was so sincere that they responded to his calls instantly when it came to them.


They made no difference between life and death. Always ready to die on demand considering death for Allah as an honor. Their faith in afterlife was so strongly implanted in their faith that they did not hesitate to head for the wars and battles when the call for jihad to defend their existence came to them. Amazingly their women folks too never stopped them in their zeal and in fact did the opposite by fully supporting them. The entire state used to become empty of men as all the men went to the battle fields when an external threat came. Their brave fathers, husbands, brothers and sons took martyrdom in the battlefields with smiles on their faces and never returned, yet they had no complaints. This shows that despite all the poverty and uncertainties around there was a sense of security and support available to them on which they had a lot of confidence. First and foremost of which was their complete dependence on Allah and then on their Prophet (S) who never ate before feeding others. When they starved, they all starved together and when they ate they shared what they had.


There were no standing armies as we have today. Preparation for war used to be taken up by the civilians with no training whatsoever fighting against well trained well armed powerful enemies, yet become victorious! The widows of the fallen braves used to get married to surviving men who used to take care and look after them and their children. Therefore, there was no concept of orphanage and adoption. A destructed family was replaced by creation of another family. Polygamy was a social norm and was widely practiced in the society with full recognition as a mechanism of social welfare. The war booty was equally distributed to the surviving fighters who used to use it to support and maintenance of their families.


They engaged in trades where they had to travel out of home for days, months even years to make a living. The Prophet (S) was a trader himself before becoming a prophet. The main income source for the state was the zakat fund that was officially collected once a year at the rate of 2.5% (generally speaking) over the minimum amount (nisab) on the total usable wealth. The collectors were salaried and the collection used to go entirely to the state treasury and later spent on the poor as per the laid down criteria in the Qur’an.


The Prophet (S) himself took no salary or remuneration for his services to the state nor did any of his deputies. All the services toward the state were voluntary. They worked or engaged in business or trades for their living and family support while handling state services. There were no palaces and guards as we have for our politicians and government officials today. From top to bottom, no matter what role they played, they were all enjoyed equal status in the society respecting one another. Crimes seldom happened.


Their old folks (parents and grand parents) used to be taken care of as senior members of the family with dignity and honor. They were never abandoned either by the family or the state. Children were brought up with a sense of high morale and ethics that ensured the continuity of the Islamic society and state.


One of the most important ideal of the Islamic society back then was the sense of identity and unity. They took pride in their identity and were open-hearted and supportive to each other at a time of crisis – all for the sake of Allah’s pleasure. They managed to denounce the glitters of this world to achieve the prestige and honor of the other life, which is permanent. As a result, greed and lust in the society was almost absent.


There were no false promises and conspiracy due to absence of politics. Crime was next to nil due to hard implementation of the punishments. No police forces were present.


People enjoyed an absolute freedom in absence of governmental interference, control and regulations. There were no judicial courts as crime cases and conflicts were resolved by the Prophet (S) himself either at his residence or at the masjids. There were no courts of law and no lawyers. All cases were judged on the basis or commandments of the Qur’an interpreted and implemented by the Prophet (S). In later days during the caliphate, all matters were decided upon Qur’an and traditions of the Prophet (S) as he himself demonstrated during his lifetime. Some state administrative mechanism was however developed at much later period during caliphate.


There were no eve teasing and insecurity for women as they used to mostly remain in their homes and when they had to come out they were veiled with hijab and nikab from young to old regardless of their age. People could hardly recognize them when they went out in public due to their coverings. They used to keep their gaze and voice low, including the men.


Having said all that, if we now try to picture ourselves in that condition how it would feel? Will it be a realistic scenario we would like ourselves to be in knowingly? Is it possible or practical to have a caliphate like that again? Will it work today in the same manner in our present day complex world and environment?


First of all, our beloved Prophet (S) is no longer with us. Nor any of his nominated four caliphs are present today. Our faith level in Islam is all time low and we hardly understand the religion. Muslims today are divided into many different boundaries, nationalities, cultures, languages, environment, economies and political systems. Then how can we unify without a major global revolution? Who would lead the Muslims to such a magnitude? Why would the Muslims around the world support and join that leader even if we find one such person? Will he be an Arab or non Arab? Why would he be an Arab when majority of the Muslims (out of total Muslim population only 20% are Arabs) today are non Arabs? What would be the criteria for such a leader? How would we recognize him if an when a person claims to be a caliph?


It is not an easy matter to settle. A major worldwide revolution and demand for a change will be required for caliphate to return. The prediction of the Prophet (S) says about the return of caliphate is as follows:


Hadhrat Huzaifa narrated in reference to Prophet (S) saying, “Prophet hood will remain among you as long as Allah wills. Then Caliphate (Khilafah) on the lines of prophet hood shall commence, and remain as long as Allah wills. Then corrupt / erosive monarchy would take place, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. After that, despotic kingship would emerge, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. Then, the Caliphate (Khilafah) shall come once again based on the precept of prophet hood."


What is find in this particular hadith is, a} Prophet hood is gone; b} Caliphate is also gone; c} Corrupt governments and kingships are currently ruling; d} Caliphate will return once again on the percept of prophet hood.


In other words, it is now clear that a prophet like individual will be needed to revive caliphate; and that person is Prophet Issa (A) who is scheduled for a return. After his reign (i.e., predicted percept of prophet hood) the successor would result in caliphate later on.


The way it seems, that turning point is probably very close now as the world is undergoing a tremendous shake up in politics, economics, governance at a global scale under the trumpet of New World Order for world governance. This would probably lead to some wider scale conflict resulting in a global revolution enticing the scenario for the prophet to come to fulfill the remaining part of the prophecy.


As the global economies are going bankrupt and facing out of control inflation; there is another growing threat around the horizon which is food shortage due to climate changes around the globe. Sea food and crops are dying in cold weather in the countries that used to produce the highest food. Industrial wastes have damaged much of the world land mass affecting farming, agriculture and polluting our waters. Population boom in some countries are beyond all carrying capacities. And to top them all off, the trumpets of world war is now beating with many regional wars across the globe with end in sight.


It would indeed take a total collapse of the existing system – economic and political to make it possible for a prophet hood like situation and environment to return. When Albert Einstein was asked on what the WWIII would be like; in his reply he said that he is unable to perceive it as it would be a thermo-nuclear war, but he is certain that the WWIV would be fought with sticks and stones. From the developing world scenario, it seems like that would exactly be the case. After WWIII, people would be left with nothing paving the way for Islam to return once again triumphantly.