The 3rd of March is a date that should be saved in the diaries of every Muslim across the world. It’s the day in 1924 when Muslims lost their unity and serves as a reminder of the great history we share as an Ummah. On 3rd March 1924, the greatest Islamic institution, established by the Prophet ﷺ over 1400 years ago, was brought to its end and abolished.
The Khilafah state formed the centrepiece of Islam since its establishment in Madinah and until 1924 it erased the borders of racism and nationalism that we divide ourselves by today.
But why is the 3rd of March relevant for us in 2018? How does this issue affect Muslims across the world?
Impact of 1924
The Khilafah state was the embodiment of the Sharia, which under the Ottoman leadership, unified the Muslims in one state spanning from Indonesia in the east to Morocco in the west. Since the fall of the Ottomans in 1924, the Muslim Ummah has witnessed unprecedented change. Gone are the days when we were unified under one leader by the bond of Islamic brotherhood. Today we are divided by the man-made borders of nationalism into 56 separate states each with their own flag.
The dire situation of Muslims today is a direct result of the destruction of the Khilafah and the disunity that ensued. Has it not become the norm to find our Ummah suffering countless disasters? Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma and now Ghouta, Syria; the list goes on.
Without an Imam to dispel our division and protect the Muslims, we find that the Ummah is unable to defend herself and will continue to do so.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet ﷺ said:
“only the Imam is a shield, behind whom you fight and you protect yourself with, so if he orders by taqwa and is just then he has reward for that, and if he orders by other than that then it is against himself.” (Sahih Muslim).
Post World War 1
After the defeat of the Ottomans in WWI, the British and French enforced their policy of divide and rule, carving up the Muslim world through the Sykes-Picot agreement into the nation states we see today. The West occupied the lands of the Ottoman State, reducing its territory until it became merely a symbol of Islamic unity rather than an actual world power.
They were not merely satisfied with occupation and division, rather they worked to ensure that unity would never rise again by destroying the Ottoman State in its entirety.
To maintain this disunity, they planted an entity in the heart of the Muslim land, the Zionist state of Israel. The profound statement of Sultan Abdul Hamid below demonstrated the fact that the Muslim land cannot be protected without the existence of an Islamic state. In response to the Zionist request for Israel in 1901, the Sultan wrote:
“I cannot give away a handful of the soil of this land as it is not my own; it belongs to the Islamic Nation who have fought for the sake of this land and watered it with their blood. The Jews may keep their millions; if the Islamic Caliphate is one day destroyed then they would be able to take Palestine without a price. While I am alive I would rather push a sword into my body than see the land of Palestine is taken away from the Islamic State.”
Evidently, the Khilafah is central to the lives of the Muslims. This was clear even to those who opposed the Ottoman State. The Arab Revolt, led by Sharif Hussein, looked to establish an independent caliphate for the Arabs in the early 1900s, which was promised to them by the British. Sharif Hussein even declared himself as the Khalif of all the Muslims shortly after the deposition of the Ottoman Khalif on 3rd March 1924. However the British reneged on their promises and the intention was never to allow the rise of another Islamic state, as demonstrated by the statement of Lord Curzon, British Foreign Secretary:
“We must put an end to anything which brings about any Islamic unity between the sons of the Muslims. The situation now is that Turkey is dead and will never rise again, because we have destroyed its moral strength, the Caliphate and Islam.”
Attempts at Re-Establishment
In contrast to the Arab Revolt, the Muslims from the Indian subcontinent never wanted the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate. We find that there was huge support for it through the Khilafat Movement. British rule in India attempted to crush all resistance to the regime, yet the Muslims continued in their persistence to live their lives according to the Shariah.
In 1919, a delegation from the Khilafat Movement, which included the Ali brothers, met with the British Prime Minister Lloyd George. They demanded that the British government prevent Mustafa Kemal Atatürk from overthrowing the Sultan of the Ottoman Caliphate. Despite the fact that these Muslims lived under British occupation, they still saw the importance of the Khalifah remaining in power and campaigned for this cause. The British refused to comply and continued with their plans to depose the Khalif.
After failing to prevent the downfall of the Ottoman State, the Khilafat Movement continued its work through the All India Muslim League.
In 1947, Pakistan was formed with the desire to establish an Islamic state. Muhammad Ishaq Sandelvi, from Nadwatul Ulema, was tasked with advising the government on producing an Islamic constitution for Pakistan. In his book ‘Islam Ka Siyasi Nizam’, Sandelvi claimed at the outset that his document of recommendations had two objectives. First, he wanted to demonstrate that the world’s political problems could be solved by Islam. Secondly, he wanted to provide a constitutional draft to Islamic societies to help them in formulating their political systems. Sandelvi made it clear that the political system of Islam was the Caliphate, which he claimed was built on purely religious foundations, unlike the secular state that separated religion and politics. The sovereign, the centrepiece of this system around whom the whole constitution revolves, is God. To implement His laws so that the common man could come close to God was the duty of the Islamic state. Citing various verses from the Quran, Sandelvi argued that establishing an Islamic state was obligatory for Muslims and they were expected to acquire the necessary means to achieve this end.
The scholars of the time understood the importance of the Khilafah state and the consequences the Muslim world would face should it be abolished. Thus they worked for a Khilafah state to remain a reality for the Muslims. However, the quest for Khilafah did not stop here.
In the late 1920s, there were several conferences held in Cairo and Makkah by Ulema across the globe discussing the issue of Khilafah and how to re-establish it. The importance of this call continues even today with Muslims around the world calling for the unification of the Ummah under a single banner, the Khilafah.
The reality of the 3rd of March is pivotal to all Muslims and the effects of the abolishment of the Khilafah has had resounding reverberations on the lives of every single Muslim. Since the destruction of the state, the Muslims have experienced chaos and disorientation. We find growing disunity, wars, political instability, economic deprivation, poverty, insecurity and apostasy in our lands. This situation was experienced momentarily by the Muslims at the time of the death of the Prophet ﷺ as Ibn Ishaq stated:
“When the Messenger of God ﷺ died, the Arab tribes seceded. Judaism and Christianity became arrogant and hypocrisy spread. The Muslims became like sheep in the rain on a winter’s night at loss of their Prophet ﷺ, until God united them around Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him.”
The situation we face as Muslims today is unprecedented in our history. Never before have we had so many Muslims yet have the absence of a state implementing the lifestyle of Islam. The state was so central to the lives of the Sahaba that the absence of a state was an unforeseen reality. The scholars of the past talked about the importance of Khilafah, but never addressed the re-establishment of the state as this was never an issue before. In every realm of society, we are facing challenges from political to social. In the absence of Islam, we find sectarian issues. In the absence of Islam, we find economic deprivation. In the absence of Islam, we find widespread social and mental ills in society.
There is no temporary or partial fix to our situation. The reality is that they are all interlinked: personal, social, economic and political issues. We are unable to fix one without addressing the rest.
Therefore, we must look for an ideological solution. This is the re-establishment of Islam holistically in the form of a Khilafah state to solve our problems. This is evident from our history and from the first state established by the Prophet ﷺ.