By Mshari Al-Zaydi - Asharq Alawsat - There was nothing new or surprising in last week’s Friday sermon given by Sheikh Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas Government in Gaza, during which he said that the Muslim Brotherhood reaching power in Egypt and Tunisia represents the beginning of the "Islamic Caliphate."
During this sermon, Haniyeh considered the meeting that took place between Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and Hamas Political Bureau chief Khalid Mishal – both of whom were brought up in the Muslim Brotherhood under Hassan al-Banna’s ideology – as being the result of the Arab Spring, which "will open the chapter of the Caliphate."
Prior to this, Hamadi Jebali in Tunisia issued a rousing speech on 13 November 2011 at the Ennahda movement summit in Sousse during which he announced the dawn of the sixth Rashidun Caliphate.
As for Sheikh Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, one of the symbols of the political Islamist movement in Yemen, he waxed poetic about the mass protests in Sanaa against Ali Abdullah Selah’s regime, saying this represented the dawn of the Islamic Caliphate across the Muslim world. Al-Zindani repeated this in a subsequent interview with Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper, saying that Mursi’s election win in Egypt portends the rise of the Islamic Caliphate.
Less prominent symbols of the Islamist movement have followed suit, such as Muslim Brotherhood intellectual Kamal al-Hilbawi, who in recent weeks has repeatedly called for an alliance of Arab Spring states ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically Tunisia and Egypt. I think al-Hilbawi was betting on Libya joining this list before the latest election results there. Al-Hilbawi is also calling for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, even if he is explaining this in a modern manner in order to reassure the general public. Al-Hilbawi is saying that this alliance would be along the lines of the European Union or the Union of South American Nations, despite the fact that we already have an organization for Islamic cooperation, namely the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC]. Al-Hilbawi does not hide the fact that Iran would be a principal party in this Muslim Brotherhood union; moreover, he has also reproached the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt for failing to “rush” into the arms of its ally of yesterday, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Therefore, we are facing something that goes beyond a civil or democratic revolution against tyranny, corruption, and bequeathal of power. Nor can this be described “merely” as a civil movement. In fact, we are facing a movement or trend that has epic historical dreams, and its danger lies in its vagueness and manipulation of historical and religious sentiments in order to cling to power. Who would dare reject pledging allegiance to the "Caliph," or oppose the “Caliphate” project, when Mursi – as his follower Safwat Hegazi previously said – in in the position to be the president of the United Islamic Arab States, whose capital would be Jerusalem, not Cairo! This Muslim Brotherhood thinking about a “United Islamic Arab States” is very dangerous, as it indicates a lack of belief in the current established borders, and that these are only being accepted and dealt with out of necessity. During an interview with Al-Jazeera, al-Hilbawi also previously stated that Egypt is merely a subsidiary province in the grand guardianship state, i.e. the Caliphate. Whilst is true that al-Hilbawi said this within the framework of justifying women assuming some governmental posts in Egypt, as the guardianship that prohibits women from assuming such posts under Islamic Sharia law is based on the grand guardianship. However, this justification has had grave results and impact beyond the “soft” jurisprudential stance regarding the guardianship of women in Egypt. I truly wish we had been spared this booby-trapped jurisprudential gift!
Thus, the dream of establishing the Islamic Caliphate is a dream that has been in the blood of the Muslim Brotherhood from the beginning, and it is the "sacred spear", which they raise against their opponents, and via which they attract supporters who are moved by such imperial dreams. This is precisely the way that dreams of the “Third Reich” moved Hitler’s supporters, or the Roman dreams of Il Duce Mussolini moved the public in Italy.
The Muslim Brotherhood movement started in Ismailiyah in Egypt in 1928, i.e. six years after the official announcement of the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1922, and the establishment of the Turkish republic in 1923. The psychological, jurisprudential, intellectual, and political impact of this is something that continues to affect us today. The Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir and many other movement and organizations are the result of this fragmentation.
One of the essential reasons behind the establishment of Hassan al-Banna's movement is the restoration of the Caliphate, which is "sacred" in the Muslim Brotherhood’s view. This is not to mention the Brotherhood seeking to ascend to power and gain “mastership” of the entire world, as well as impose Hassan al-Banna’s ideology on the international community at large. Last year, during the year of revolutions, Muslim Brotherhood General Guide, Dr. Mohamed Badie, said “we have moved closer to achieving our greatest aim, as identified by Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, namely to gain mastership of the world.”
We are facing an epic revolutionary trend that is haunted by historical delusions. At the very least, this is the ideological rhetoric that has justified their survival all these years, and it is also the essential raison d'etre of this group. Thus, let those good people who chant innocently about democracy and civil society, and those who subscribe to the policy of “wait and see”, have mercy on us! The issue is far more dangerous and complicated than this fleeting understanding of the situation.
In 1924, when the opportunistic political dreams of inheriting the throne of the Ottomans started to emerge, there were rational and enlightened men in Egypt and elsewhere, who put the issues on the right course and exposed the secret ambitions hidden under the cover of religion and [historic] delusions.
The contemporaries of the Ottoman, Abbasid, or Umayyad states, and all the Islamic sultanates did not view them as possessing a divine glow or romantic symbolism. This is something that the new writers of history, including television preachers and so-called “story-tellers” have tried to promote.
Those who lived under these caliphates considered them a temporal, not spiritual authority. They had the right to agree or disagree with them, and even rebel. The irony is that most of those who rebelled did so in the name of God and Islamic Sharia law, at least superficially, and then when they themselves ascended to power and tasted the sweet fruits of authority, in turn became liable to criticism on the pretext of lacking religious authority. This was a state of affairs that was repeated over and over again, this is our never-ending story.
Among those who tried to break these intellectual shackles, and expose the delusion with valid questions, was the courageous and enlightened Al-Azhar-educated Sheikh Ali Abdel-Raziq in his important book, "Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm [Islam and Foundations of Governance]. This book became the subject of fierce attack from all directions, from Al-Azhar itself which withdrew Abdel-Raziq’s postgraduate degree, to the allies of the King of Egypt, who aspired to inherit the title of Caliph after the sun had set on the Ottoman Empire, to the scholars and theorists of the Caliphate illusion. However, Sheikh Ali Abdel-Raziq’s questions remained unanswered until today. He said, “The messenger of God, peace be upon him, was sent as a mercy to the people, and he is a Messenger of guidance and blessings whom God sent to the entire human race, he was not a King preoccupied with establishing a state.”
In his distinctive book, Abdel-Raziq stated that: "the Message is different from Kingship, and there is no correlation whatsoever between them. The Message is one thing, and Kingship is another; there are many kings, who have not been prophets or messengers, and God Almighty has sent many messengers who were not Kings; moreover, most of the messengers we have known have been only messengers [not kings]."
However, ambitious politicians can always find those who will protect them, as well as those willing to imbue politics with [religious] sanctity and purity. This is precisely what the Muslim Brotherhood’s orators, preachers, writers and their ilk are doing in their escape to the fore from the worldly question to the slogan of religion. Therefore, there is nothing new under the sun!
Mshari Al-Zaydi - A Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page Editor, where he also contributes a weekly column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others. He has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.