As with many terms associated with ISIS, “Khilafah” is a word that requires neither introduction nor translation. Al-Khilaf on the other hand is a word that describes the Arab world bitter reality. It simply means deep and irresolvable differences.
Islam is the one factor that should be the unifying force for the Arabs but is presently doing the exact opposite; it is causing unprecedented bloodshed with no end in sight. Why have Arabs failed to use the banner of Islam to unify themselves!
The majority in the Arab world don’t agree with ISIS’s approach in applying Islam and indeed most believe that the Islamic State is actually maiming Islam’s image irreparably. But that is unfortunately the end of their agreements.
Differences in the Arab world are across the board. There are secularists who purely wish for Western-type democracy. Then there are those who prefer to keep Islam around but on the sidelines. Also are those who would like Islam’s way of life to dominate but allow room for Western-type lifestyle. The relationship between the three views is characterized by soft friction that could eventually boil over in areas where peace still survives if, as expected, democracy moves towards moral anarchy as is the case in the West. Sizable number of Arabs do want “democracy” but not one in which everything goes.
The other sizable section wants Islam but not the one which is prohibitive of some aspects of lifestyles that true Islam rejects; Malls, beaches, movies and all.
The disagreements regarding the applicability of Islamic law are also a problem that faces the proponents of stricter Sharia application. Namely, the increasingly physical confrontation between ISIS-type approach and the likes of Jabhat Al-Nusra; the world considers both to be unacceptably harsh but interestingly the latter considers itself more moderate. So the spectrum on acceptable level of religiosity within the Arab world is notably wide.
Somewhere in the spectrum there are the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood who are yet to be given a long enough mandate to demonstrate where they stand as far as religious strictness is concerned. The one year that Mr. Morsi spent in power was too boiled up that his true intentions were not given a chance to be fathomed.
Apart from the differences on the level of religious strictness, there are ideologically-fueled differences. These have thus far proven to be the bloodiest differences that have claimed most lives and whose end is nowhere near.
Thanks to Iran’s relentless support to Shias and Saudis counter measures as is the case in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, this is likely to go on for quite some time. Both are well armed, well financed and with fanatic followers willing to carry the guns to the bitter end.
In a world where some want only the world, others want a mix of the two worlds, and others who want nothing to do with the world it is difficult to see a way out any time soon. In a world where people are pulled in different directions by faith depth and sectarianism at the same time, finding a balance is a highly complicated undertaking.
There is one irony that the world, specifically the Western world, must come to terms with. What have led the Arab world to this massive breakdown of law and order has much to do with the decades’ long ill-calculated efforts to subdue Islam. The first step has to be to promote the very thing the West has been hard at work to eliminate, Moderate Islam. So the first task is to figure out what is moderate Islam?. Is it the one that co-exists with Western dominated thought and lifestyles or one where Islamic laws such as lashing and dress code is allowed to sneak back in?
In any case, the Arab world cannot fix its current problems if it continues to sideline Islam as has been the case for decades. Islam must have a bigger says in the affairs of Arabia in order to pull the rug from underneath the truly die-hards like ISIS. The question that needs answering here is whether the current bloodshed, poverty and injustices have been the result of too much of applied Islam or too little?
Forces that are most potent on the ground at present are the extreme ones. ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra and Iran-backed militias are capable of recruiting because there is a portion of Muslims that has been excessively sidelined and muted for a long time. This is the portion that aspires for moderate interpretation and application of Islam and as such must have a major say in how the Arab world is governed. The “moderate” I am alluding to is not the CNN or Al-Jazeera version. The moderate I am talking about is one where sections of the Quran and Hadeeth that have been effectively made obsolete to be reintegrated.
Sharia that takes into account the true application of Islamic criminal and social laws must be an option on the table in order to deprive the ultra conservatives of recruitment source. The total disregard for what Islam is and what it stands for and the continuing watering-down of its laws have left a significant portion of practicing Muslims very little options; Either be with the hard-line secularists or the hard-line Islamists. The number of people in this segment of Muslims might be proportionally small but what they lack in numbers is compensated by determination and as such ignoring them is futile and quite risky on the long run.
I end by giving an example that might make my main point clearer. Before the spread of Islamic banks, a good chunk of Muslims who wished for financial services without stepping on their faith were practically left out but Islamic Banking provided them with an option. Same needs to be done in other areas so that people who are committed to their faith have moderate options.