There use to be a Caliph in Islam, a supreme religious and political leader regarded as the successor to the Prophet. Claiming moral and religious authority over the entire Muslim faithful, the Ummah, and aiming to bring the entire world under political Islam as the driving force of this theocratic authority, the Caliphate was the core leader concept of Sunni Islam for a long time after the inception of the Arabic religion. Come what may, there would be no separation of political authority from the religious one was the cardinal principle.
Unlike with Pope, there was no ‘secular’ challenge to this authority. When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first President of the Turkish Republic and an ardent supporter of modern state instead of religious one, formalised the process initiated by the British, by abolishing the theocratic authority and constitutionally transferring the powers to the National Assembly, one was hoping it would mark the end of the idea of a monolith ‘Muslim Umma’- Because, though Caliphs of different factions within Islam still existed, there was no pan-Islamic leadership. The self proclamation of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a factional leader of Al-Qaeda, as the Caliph of the new Islamic State on June 29th, 2014 has stunned the world.
On July 2, 2014, Caliph Ibrahim gave a clarion call to the Muslims that they should unite to capture Rome in order to “own the world” under his leadership. This resurrection of the Caliphate not only transformed the already fluctuating geo-politics of West Asia but is set to create chaos for the existing global order in three ways.
Capturing vast landmass in Iraq and Syria has fuelled the Shia-Sunni strife. Around 90000 Iraqi troops are believed to have deserted their posts under the onslaught of Islamic army. Shia’s are regrouping worldwide to fight against this Sunni assault. With the pronouncement of marching on to Baghdad and Shiite holy places of Najaf and Karbala by the Caliph, millions of Shias are registering to fight against the Islamic State. Reports of 17 Indians, including 4 youths from Thane-Bhiwandi region is indicative enough.
Another oscillating aspect of this conflict is the possible confrontation of the new Caliph with another self-declared Islamic leadership of Taliban. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Takfiri militants are not only capturing territories and destroying religious places but are brutally killing innocent citizens, who are also Muslims, as per the Amnesty International report. The repercussion of this clash within the Islamic civilisation has the potential to create chaos all around the globe.
The second dimension of this possible instability is the economic dimension. Many countries are struggling to revive their economies. Controlling of vast mineral and petroleum resources by the Islamic State is set to jeopardise energy security of many countries, including India.
The third most important repercussion of this turmoil is the renewed animosity among Muslims towards US, Israel and India which is more worrying. The possibility of these non-state actors creating and controlling state resources can be catastrophic for humanity, especially for India, where the largest minority of the world is Muslim. With large number of Indian diaspora working in the conflict region, ensuring their safety and security is another challenge for India.
This challenge can be tackled at three levels- tactical, strategic and ideological. Tactically Muslims all over the world should be brought in the national mainstream through dialogue, counseling and legal means. Strategically, all major powers, instead of catering to their short-term interest, should come together to control further escalation-s their real battle is for power and hence is ideological. Unless this idea of ‘Muslim Umma’ and global Islamic state is countered with pre-Moses arrangement of respecting all faiths without imposed institutionalisation, the possible chaos created by the Caliphate cannot be countered. – Prafulla Ketkar