Monday, February 02, 2015

The Schism within Islam: Is Dar-es-Salaam a realistic goal?

There is a state of existence regarding the Muslim world called Dar-es-Salaam or the ‘House of Peace’. When that comes to be, all of humanity will be of the One True Religion. How exactly will this be achieved when the strife within their ranks is constant and unrelenting? Even if this state came to be, how will Islam heal the schism within its own ranks?

As long as there has been organized religion, strife within its ranks has never failed to appear human nature being what it is. The Catholic Church suffered several of these (The schism of 1054 eventually gave rise to the Orthodox religions while a papal incident lasted from 1378 to 1414. The rise of Protestantism in the sixteenth century could also be called a schism, but the permanent change that it invoked lives on to this day. The fundamentalist Christians in the modern age are Protestant for the most part (Evangelicals, Apostolics, etc.) and while some of the events had a lasting permanence upon society, other such events were resolved.

Islam exploded across the world based on the teachings of The Prophet Muhammad. Far from being a peaceful expansion, it was a military conquest born of the fervency of the believers in Islam. All was going well until the reign of the Caliph Ali from 656-661. An adopted son of The Prophet, his ascension was immediately challenged by a rebellion which he put down, but that rebellion was the first of many others. A civil war erupted in Islamic lands when the cousin of the last Caliph revolted against Ali’s rule. After a battle that resulted in a draw and inconclusive negotiations afterwards, the cousin of the last Caliph before Ali was made Caliph and Ali was murdered shortly after that event. The murder of Ali caused a split in the ranks of Islam: Those who stated that the Caliph must be descended from The Prophet (Mir) became the Shi’a while those who stated that the Caliph should be the one with the best capability of rule became the Sunni.

To this present day, the split has never been healed for several reasons:

Though the Caliphate so to speak survived in some form after the murder of the last formally named Abbasid Caliph in 1258 by the Mongols, it only came back into political use under the Ottoman Empire and even then, the power was in the actual sultan that ruled the country versus an actual named Caliph.

In March of 1924, Kemal Ataturk essentially ended the use of the term Caliph when he constitutionally ended the Caliphate with all of its trappings. An attempt to revive the title in the area of the Hejaz ended when it was conquered in 1925 and made part of Saudi Arabia.

A meeting was called in 1926 in an attempt to revive the use of the title, but by then, nationalism had begun to take over in the occupied lands where Islam was the predominant religion. With independence and the taste of real political power, the concept of a Caliph fell by the wayside.

The reason that this is so important in the scope of things is because that it was the death of an actual Caliph that provoked the split and the only conceivable way the rift could be healed would be to once more have a Caliph that would be agreeable to both Sunni and Shi’a alike, but even then, the matter still wouldn’t be that simple.

The world is a lot different now than it was in 1926. A major war plus a large number of nationalist movements have drastically altered the landscape. With the advent of large scale oil exploitation, oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia, The UAE, Iraq, Iran and Kuwait and many others have a level of power disproportionate to their actual populace and GDP. Another aspect of the situation is a population shift of sorts. Though Egypt has the largest Arab population in the world, (ca. 80 million), they are dwarfed regarding the total number of Muslim adherents they have. Pakistan (180 Million+) and Indonesia (250 Million+) comprise almost half of the Muslims in the world and chances are they would want proportional representation in selecting a Caliph. There is also the economic factor I mentioned earlier. While places like Yemen and Algeria and Morocco and Mauritania (the Islamic have-nots) might welcome a Caliph, places like Saudi Arabia, The UAE, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait (the Islamic haves) would lose much more than they would gain by having such a personage.

In order to possibly mend the schism, the Caliph that would have to be chosen would not only have to be scholarly regarding the Qur’an, they would need to prove their descent from The Prophet. This would probably result in an Arab personage gaining the title, but would Pakistan and Indonesia agree to that? Would the Shi’a also be amenable? Shi’a Muslims are not accepted very easily; in Saudi Arabia, the official consensus is that Shi’a are infidels and they are shunned and excoriated and legislated against at nearly every opportunity. The concept of Al-Taqiyyah (dissimilation) originally came to be so that a Shi’a could hide his or her faith if it became necessary. This is an ingrained practice amongst the followers of Islam and is not so easy to unlearn.

In conclusion, there may never be a healing of the rift in Islam unless massive concessions are made from all parties involved. Meanwhile, all you have to do is pick up a newspaper or watch the news as yet another omnicider kills the innocent in the name of peace…Dar-es-Salaam is the term for a ‘house of peace’ but where is the peace?

A Jaded Bard