Metropolitan Digital

The Conversation

  • Written by Ken Chitwood, Journalist-fellow, University of Southern California's Center for Religion and Civic Culture / Lecturer, Concordia College New York, University of Florida

Just days after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi[1] on Oct. 27, the Islamic State named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi[2] as the new “caliph.”

In 2014, IS conquered vast swaths of Iraq and Syria[3] and declared itself to be the “caliphate.”

Defined and applied in different ways over the centuries, the fundamental idea behind the caliphate is the just ordering of society[4] according to the will of God.

The Islamic State’s caliphate was never widely recognized among the global Muslim community and no longer has significant territory. But the Islamic State still uses the history of the caliphate to push their claims.

As a scholar of global Islam[5], every time I teach my “Introduction to Islam” class, questions about the caliphate come up, in part because of IS’s claims.

Caliph conundrums

The leader of a caliphate is called the caliph, meaning deputy or representative. All caliphs are believed to be the successor to Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was not a caliph; according to the Quran[6] he was the last and greatest of the prophets.

That means no one can replace Muhammad as the messenger of God. The caliph, for example, is not always seen as holding special spiritual authority. But he is meant to preside over the caliphate in the absence of Muhammad.

The debate over who was the rightful representative of the prophet began immediately after his death. While the majority supported Abu Bakr[7] – one of the prophet’s closest companions – a minority opted for his young son-in-law and cousin, Ali.

Abu Bakr’s supporters would come to be known as Sunni Muslims[8], who believe that Muhammad did not leave instructions regarding his successor. Those who felt Ali was appointed by the prophet to be the political and spiritual leader of the fledgling Muslim community became known as Shiite Muslims.

Abu Bakr was the first caliph and Ali the fourth.

The second and third caliphs were Umar and Uthman[9]. Under Umar, the caliphate expanded to include many regions of the world such as the lands of the former Byzantine and Sassanian empires in Asia Minor, Persia and Central Asia. Uthman is credited with compiling the Quran.

That al-Baghdadi adopted the name of the first caliph was no coincidence. Together, Sunni Muslims call the first four caliphs the Rashidun, or the “Rightly Guided Caliphs,”[10] because they were close companions or relations of Muhammad. They are also believed to be extraordinarily pious. This period lasted about 30 years.

The complex history of the caliphate

After rebels assassinated Uthman in A.D. 656, Ali was elected caliph. However, a civil war soon broke out between Ali and Muʿawiya ibn Abi Sufyan. The civil war ended in Sufyan’s victory and the formation of the Umayyad caliphate in A.D. 661.

The Umayyad dynasty lasted 89 years[11].

The Abbasid dynasty descended from Muhammad’s uncle, Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib, and succeeded the Umayyads.

These two caliphates oversaw the continuing expansion of the empire. Under them architecture, the arts and sciences flourished[12].

For example, the “Dome of the Rock,” a shrine in the Old City of Jerusalem, was built under an Umayyad caliph as a monument[13] to the rising supremacy of their empire.

The Grand Library of Baghdad, also known as the “House of Wisdom,” was supported by Abbasid patronage. The “House of Wisdom” is credited with being a center of translation, scientific study and academic exchange. This period of flourishing, from the eighth to the 14th century, is often referred to as the “Islamic Golden Age[14].”

What is a caliph? The Islamic State tries to boost its legitimacy by hijacking a historic institution Dome of The Rock, in Jerusalem. Ray in Manila, CC BY[15][16]

Both before and after the fall of the Abbasids in A.D. 1258, a succession of various empires made overlapping and competing claims[17] to the caliphate. These included the Mamluks of Cairo and the Umayyads in Cordóba, Spain.

In 1517, the Turkish Ottomans amassed enough land and power throughout Asia Minor, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Eastern Europe to claim the title “caliphate.” Ottoman sultans, however, were not universally recognized as caliphs. Many Muslims believe[18] that the caliphate effectively ended after the Mongol conquest of Abbasid Baghdad in A.D. 1258.

Nonetheless, the Ottomans effectively held on to that title until 1924, when the Turkish nationalist and secularist Kemal Ataturk abolished the caliphate[19].

Resurrecting the caliphate?

The idea of the caliphate, which the Islamic State has forcefully promoted, recalls a time and a place when Islamic states flourished politically, economically and socially. It also summons up a spiritual vision of a supposedly more devout and dedicated Muslim community than exists today.

Other modern-day Islamists have called for a resurrection of the caliphate,[20] or at least its ideals, as a way to recapture the vibrancy of the past. However, only violent extremist groups such as al-Qaida or the Islamic State have tried to make it a tangible reality.

Killing al-Baghdadi has not quashed the Islamic State’s version of the caliphate. The idea lives on and continues to motivate[21] its members in enclaves across the globe. It is worth mentioning that the name of their new caliph is an honorific title for a member of Prophet Muhammad’s family – “al-Qurashi.” This prophetic lineage is one more way IS is trying to resurrect the history of the caliphate for its destructive purposes.

[ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day.[22] ]

References

  1. ^ death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (www.theguardian.com)
  2. ^ Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi (www.bbc.com)
  3. ^ IS conquered vast swaths of Iraq and Syria (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ just ordering of society (www.hachettebookgroup.com)
  5. ^ a scholar of global Islam (scholar.google.com)
  6. ^ according to the Quran (quran.com)
  7. ^ While the majority supported Abu Bakr (books.google.de)
  8. ^ Sunni Muslims (theconversation.com)
  9. ^ The second and third caliphs were Umar and Uthman (books.google.de)
  10. ^ the Rashidun, or the “Rightly Guided Caliphs,” (onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
  11. ^ The Umayyad dynasty lasted 89 years (www.metmuseum.org)
  12. ^ Under them architecture, the arts and sciences flourished (link.springer.com)
  13. ^ a monument (www.researchgate.net)
  14. ^ “Islamic Golden Age (books.google.de)
  15. ^ Ray in Manila (www.flickr.com)
  16. ^ CC BY (creativecommons.org)
  17. ^ made overlapping and competing claims (teachmideast.org)
  18. ^ Many Muslims believe (www.mei.edu)
  19. ^ abolished the caliphate (books.google.de)
  20. ^ resurrection of the caliphate, (academicworks.cuny.edu)
  21. ^ lives on and continues to motivate (cisac.fsi.stanford.edu)
  22. ^ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day. (theconversation.com)

Authors: Ken Chitwood, Journalist-fellow, University of Southern California's Center for Religion and Civic Culture / Lecturer, Concordia College New York, University of Florida

Read more http://theconversation.com/what-is-a-caliph-the-islamic-state-tries-to-boost-its-legitimacy-by-hijacking-a-historic-institution-126175

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Phish’s 2018 Fall Tour to Conclude with Four Performances at MGM Grand Garden Arena

LAS VEGAS (May 15, 2018) – Phish, the American rock band known worldwide for its dedicated fan base, recently announced a 14-date Fall tour which will conclude in Las Vegas with four performances at...

Blane Ferguson - avatar Blane Ferguson

Dave Damiani and The No Vacancy Orchestra are “Bending The Standard”

Tina Sinatra, Dave Damiani & Landau Murphy Jr. celebrate 100 years of Frank Sinatra in Los Angeles There have been stories about independent filmmakers, but how about the independent big band...

Tom Estey - avatar Tom Estey

Billboard Chart-Topping Saxophonist VANDELL ANDREW Returns With New Single

From the vantage point of 30, his age and the name of his infectious, sensually grooving new full length album, Vandell continues to be fueled by the impressive roar of accolades and achievements th...

Metropolitan Digital - avatar Metropolitan Digital

Metropolitan Business News

Office Cleaner Takes Ownership of the Neglected Dishwasher

In an office that a dishwasher is being used communally, it is pretty difficult to set rules on how a certain appliance needs to be taken cared of. A dishwasher is a responsibility of no one until you...

News Company - avatar News Company

Amazing tips to become a successful trader

Everyone is working very hard to secure their financial freedom. Most of the people find it hard to support their family even after having a 9-5 day job. For this very reason, people often look for ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Best Practice For Young Professionals Working Through HR Internships

The industry of human relations is vitally important to the health and prosperity of a business.   Whether they are operating in textile manufacturing, accounting, sports, IT development or hospit...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Easy Steps To Gaining SEO Momentum For Your Business

SEO (search engine optimisation) does not have to be a tiresome and overbearing exercise that diverts attention away from the core functions of a business.   SEO Shark affirms this as a smart and ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Manage An SEO Project On Limited Funds

SEO operators don’t need thousands upon thousands of dollars to become successful.   What SEO practitioners needs more than ever is the skills and diligence to identify problems that are acting a...

News Company - avatar News Company

An Introduction To Coworking For Australian Business Owners

Advancing technology is bringing with it great advantages in communications and networking, and to survive in business you need to keep up. With the rate at which everything changes these days, that...

News Company - avatar News Company

Holidays

New Baggage Regulations to Help Aussie Parents Travel with Infants

Travelling around the globe has never been easy, especially when infants tag along for the trip. One of the main issues that parents often have to deal with is the need to bring extra item...

News Company - avatar News Company

Maya Beach Opens to Tourists

Despite recent reports that Southern Thailand's famous Maya Beach will close for three months this year, in fact no decision to this effect has been made by Thai authorities. Phi Phi Nati...

Maevadi Rosenfeldt - avatar Maevadi Rosenfeldt

SKYN LAUNCHES GUIDE TO THE BEST PLACES TO GET INTIMATE

SKYN®, Australia’s best-selling condom*, today launches its very first SKYN® Places of Intimacy Guide.   Curated in partnership with GQ Magazine and Conde Nast, the Guide features 30 lux...

SKYN - avatar SKYN