Monday, November 2, 2009

The Caliphate System of Government

With voter registration currently underway in New York and the general election only days away, I wanted to briefly discuss a form of government that is not widely known today but was highly effective during a period in history known as the golden of Islam - I am referring to the Islamic Caliphate, a form of government based on absolute rule. In theory, the Caliphate system could potentially govern diverse masses across several nations and perhaps, the entire world. This is very akin to monarchies in Europe where kings and queens reign with a mighty scepter over the land but their power and influence too has diminished over time but should be respected for its historic integrity. Why is democracy so vastly different from glorified forms of government? Perhaps, it caters mostly to majority rule - but we know that majority rule is never always right. My film version of An Enemy of the People, addresses this topic quite convincingly. Dr. Stockmann is singled out for his views and rises as a hero in the story and opposes the town government over a water purification act. It is a perfect context for a discussion on majority rule and governance and how one man can stand up for the truth despite overwhelming opposition. Thus, it gives credence to more monarchical, religio-centered forms of government and also, alludes loosely to the Caliphate system discussed here. We vote today for our elected officials who are appointed to oversee matters of social importance both large and small. But the most fascinating part of the Caliphate system to me is undivided allegiance to a single man - a man chosen by God to rule the earth as his divine birthright. This is unthinkable for many of us today. How can a single man be expected to hold so much power. Well, in the Islamic world - government is more symbolic and in many ways prior to the Balfour Treaty that broke up the last known Caliphate, again a single man controlled a vast Islamic region. We can also discuss how power corrupts and the Machievellian view of government. It's important to know that a Caliphate does not necessarily denote a hierarchy. There are many flaws to the Caliphate such as overcentralization and mismanagement and other abuses that I have closely studied as an educator. Further, the breakup of the last known Ottoman Caliphate was a historic moment in the long, gloried history of Islam, where societies thrived under the flag of a supreme Vicegerent. Allegiance to the Caliphate has lived on and we can still recognize its vestiges throughout the Islamic world or whenever we see someone wearing a fez. To a large extent, my book The Shadow of God, is mostly inspired by my intense fascination with the Caliphate system - a chosen ruler by the will of God to rule the earth holds for me a profound and special intrigue. We wonder now how democracy has evolved over time and how it compares to other forms of goverment. We shun dictatorships, Communism and military rule and praise democracy above all. But to be truly democratic, one must always know the history of governance that has preceded it.

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