Guide The Caliphate, The Hijaz and the Saudi Wahabi Nation State

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One of the essential characteristics of the religion of Islam is its insistence that when a people recognize Allah Most High as 'sovereign'.
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The weakening of the Caliphate destabilized theentire structure of the Ottoman Islamic Empire. It eventually collapsed. In British troops, under the leadership of General Allenby, capturedJerusalem. It is significant that Allenby, upon entering the Holy City,proclaimed that "the crusades are now finally over".

If there was anydoubt whatsoever of the extreme danger to Islam posed by Britishdiplomacy in the Arabian Peninsula, this statement of Allenby should haveput those doubts to rest. What Allenby meant was that Islam was now a tiger without teeth. Its fatewas to remain permanently powerless and, therefore, incapable ofresponding to the loss of Jerusalem in the manner in which SalahuddinAyyubi Saladin had responded when Jerusalem was lost to theCrusaders.

Arabs had fought with Allenby to wrest Jerusalem from the rule of theOttoman Caliph. Those Arabs were now waiting to ravage the carcass leftby the British victory over Istanbul. They coveted local rule over theHejaz, but it was still necessary to wait and see whether the OttomanCaliph would ever be able to regain the strength necessary to seek toreimpose his rule over the Hejaz.

When, on March 3, , the OttomanCaliphate was abolished, it became clear that no such threat existed. And itwas precisely on that day that the clients of Britain began their fight overthe carcass left by their betrayal of the Ottoman Islamic rule. His most important credential was that he exercised de factolocal control over the Hejaz. He also boasted of being Hashimite i. In fact this weighed so heavilyamongst the Ulama that the Chief Qadi of Transjordan promptly acceptedthe claim and recognized Husain as Caliph.

His other credential, which was of dubious value amongst the Muslimmasses, but which weighed heavily in the power-politics of the peninsula,was that the Sharif was an ally of Britain, the super-power of the day, andhad received considerable financial, diplomatic and military support fromBritain in his successful rebellion against Ottoman authority in the Hejaz.

In claiming the Caliphate for himself Sharif Husain committed themonstrous blunder of not first seeking the permission of the British to actas he did. It is the essence of the client-State status that freedom iseffectively curtailed. Sharif Husain had violated the basic rule of conductfor client-States.

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How would the British react? Now British diplomacy in Jaziratul Arab i. There was, first of all, the objectiveof wresting control of the Haramain from the Caliph. This was meant toweaken his legitimacy, and thus his influence and control over the rest ofthe world of Islam, and so facilitate the defeat of the Ottomans in theworld war. Secondly Britain wanted a friendly regime in control of theHejaz so that it could better be able to manipulate the politics of thepeninsula. Finally, the politics of the peninsula and the defeat of the 18 And this integrated diplomacy was finallymade clear with the Sykes-Picot Agreement of and the BalfourDeclaration of The objective of the integrated diplomacy was to dismantle the entireIslamic Public Order so as to render Islam powerless to prevent Zionismfrom achieving its goal.

But so long as the institution of the Caliphateremained it was always possible for the Islamic Public Order to linger onand, eventually, be revived. The attack on the institution of the Caliphatewas, therefore, a vital necessary if the ultimate Euro-Jewish goal was everto be achieved. It was also quite clear to the British and the Zionists that a Jewish NationalHome, - the Jewish State of Israel, could not be established in MuslimPalestine, and could never hope to survive so long as the world of Islamhad a Caliph capable of mobilizing its formidable resources and religiousfervor and directing it to military ends.

And so the control over the Hejaz, 19 But the claim to the Caliphate by the Hashimite, Sharif al-Husain, wasincompatible with British diplomatic objectives because it was alwayspossible that the claim could have succeeded. Sharif al-Husain could thenhave mobilized the world of Islam to such an extent as to re-establish theIslamic Public Order and Pax Islamica in the symbolically powerfulheartland of Islam, and so pose a threat to Britains influence and controlover large parts of Dar al-Islam.

A revitalized world of Islam would alsohave made Jewish control over Palestine and Jerusalem quite impossible.

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And so Britain gave her blessings to the other British client in thepeninsula, Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud, to move against Husain and to wrestcontrol of the Hejaz from him. This was the perfection of the art ofdouble-crossing and of hypocrisy. One client was used to eliminateanother client. Britain had cultivated Ibn Sauds friendship and alliance during the warand, as usual, had employed financial diplomacy i. Ibn Saudreceived a monthly sum of pounds sterling from the British Treasuryin return for his benevolent neutrality in Husains rebellion against theCaliph, the imposition of Hashimite rule over the Hejaz, and Britainsdiplomatic and military efforts in the peninsula directed against theOttoman Islamic State.

He diabolically rationalized this manifest violationof the command of Allah Most High and His Prophet by explaining itaway the bribe as Jizyah. Ibn Saud had a fargreater potential that Britain now moved to exploit, consequent on SharifHusains claim to the Caliphate. The Saudi power in the Nejd, which had re-emerged with the capture ofRiyadh in , was the product of an old alliance between a tribal chiefand the religious leader of the puritanical fanatical Wahhabi religious sect.

That alliance ensured that while the descendants of the tribal chief wouldwield political power over territory ruled by the alliance, religious affairswould be subject to the authority of the descendants of the religious chief.

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As a consequence it was inevitable that the Najdi Saudis would be underpressure from the Wahhabis to seek to force the submission of theheart-land of Islam the Hejaz to the Wahhabi perception of the true faith. Britain was only too pleased to give the green light to Ibn Saud to movehis forces against Husain four days after the Hashemite had claimed theCaliphate for himself.

Ibn Saud was impatient to move against Husainsince, as strange as it may appear, both Jewish control over Jerusalem andWahhabi control over Hejaz faced a similar threat. Neither could either beachieved or could hope to survive if the world of Islam had a Caliph. By supporting Ibn Saud the British were now ensuring that so long as theSaudi-Wahhabis ruled over the Hejaz the Caliphate could never berevived.

The British further calculated that without the Caliphate the 21 Britain also knew that the Wahhabis,themselves, could never claim the Caliphate since a Wahhabi Caliphwould always be totally unacceptable to the overwhelming majority ofMuslims the world over. And so, by withdrawing support from Husain andsupporting Ibn Saud, Britain was in fact pursuing her relentless attack onthe institution of the Caliphate and the theocentric Islamic Public Order.

The British eventually intervened to remove him physicallyfrom the peninsula by offering him a comfortable exile in Cyprus.

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Andsoon Madina and Jeddah were also under Saudi-Wahhabi rule. More than a century earlier, however, the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance hadsucceeded in overcoming the defenses of Taif and Makkah and thereensued a blood-bath of truly astonishing proportions. The Wahhabis, intheir fanatical zeal, considered the Muslims resident in the Hejaz to beMushriqoon i. TheSaudi-Wahhabi warriors were unceremoniously driven out of Hejaz andinto the desert. A century later, however, there was no Caliph and all thepowerful Muslim communities were under western colonial rule.

Inaddition, Ibn Saud enjoyed the protecting friendship of Great Britain, thesuper-power of the day. There was, therefore, no immediate possibility 22 Although Ibn Saud was safely in control of Hejaz he was still confrontedwith a truly formidable problem at the commencement of his rule over theHejaz in Namely, he had to devise some strategy that could avert thelong-term possibility of a repetition of the disaster that visited the previousSaudi-Wahhabi rule over the Hejaz.

It would appear that he first thoughtof a policy of conciliation with non-Wahhabi Muslims and of using hiscontrol over the Hejaz to further the cause of the unity of the Ummah. Thus shortly after gaining control over Makkah and receiving from itsinhabitants their recognition of him as Sultan of the Hejaz, he issued aproclamation to the entire world of Islam to the effect that the Hejaz, withits Haramain, belonged to the entire world of Islam and that he, Ibn Saud,held control over the Hejaz as a trust only, and on behalf of the entireworld of Islam.

This important announcement was entirely consistent with the provisionsof the Islamic Public Order. The Hejaz was still the Dar al-Islam that hadbeen established by the Prophet. The rightsof the Muslims in the territory of Dar al-Islam were being publiclyrecognized and respected.

Al-Azhar proposedto convene an International Islamic Caliphate Congress Mutamaral-Khilafah in Cairo which would, among other things, attempt to appointa new Caliph over the world of Islam.

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Had the Wahhabis been genuinely devoted to Islam they would havewelcomed this Al-Azhar effort to achieve conformity with an essentialrequirement of the Shariah, i. The Wahhabis had long argued that the post-Rashidoon Caliphate wasinvalid because, among other things, the Caliphate was not constituted in amanner that conformed with the requirements of the Shariah.

Now that theinvalid Caliphate had been abolished and the leading center of Islamiclearning was convening an international Islamic congress to discuss thequestion of the Caliphate and to effect the appointment of a new Caliph,the Wahhabis should not only have welcomed this initiative but shouldalso have extended every possible cooperation and should haveparticipated in a serious way in the Congress in order to ensure that thegenuine Caliphate was restored.

Their attitudewas essentially one of selective religiosity, expediency, opportunism andparochialism. The Wahhabis knew that the world of Islam would neverhave accepted a Wahhabi Caliph and, as a consequence, they found itexpedient to repudiate an essential requirement of the Islamic PublicOrder. They marshaled all their energies to sabotage the Cairo CaliphateCongress. Their strategy was to organize a rival congress in Makkah at thetime of the Hajj of That meant that the Makkah Congress wouldtake place within a month of Cairo Congress, making it difficult fordelegates to attend both conferences.

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Since the Makkah Conference wastimed to coincide with the Hajj, and since it had the active support of theBritish, it had a clear advantage over the Cairo Conference. Secondly they specifically excluded from the agenda of the MakkahCongress the question of the Caliphate. This transparent attempt tosabotage the Cairo Conference and to bury the Caliphate was more thanample evidence to expose the hollow credentials of the Wahhabis asso-called champions of the Shariah and of Islam. The response of the world of Islam to this rivalry, i. Howmuch British diplomacy was involved in ensuring, for example, that theimportant Muslim community of India which had supported the OttomanCaliphate to such an extent that they had established the formidableCaliphate Movement, would stay away from the Caliphate Congress ofCairo and, instead, attend the rival Makkah Congress from the agenda of 25 Very littleresearch has been done on this subject.

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What was clear, however, was that in this rivalry the Makkah Congressachieved a tactical victory over Cairo, - a victory that had enormousimplications for the very survival of the institution of the Caliphate and theorthodox Islamic Public Order i. Those who organizedthe Cairo Congress wished to ensure conformity with the orthodox Islamicsystem of political organization.

But they were intellectually incapable ofarticulating a conception of the Islamic Public Order Dar al-Islam andthe Islamic Conception of an International Order that could convince askeptical world of Islam.


Those who organized the Makkah Congress, on the other hand, wereunwilling, because of vested interests, to remain faithful to the orthodoxIslamic Public Order with its Caliphate, Dar al-Islam etc.