The First Islamic State was NOT a ‘State’

Did a ‘State’ as we understand ‘State’ even exist in the first Islamic ‘State’?


End of post.



O.K., let’s begin again.

Dr Khalid Blankinship wrote an article called ‘The History of the Caliphate‘. In this, he was actually responding to a question about whether the khilâfah (Caliphate) had a continuous existence till the office was terminated by the newly founded, modern, secular state of Turkey (1342 AH/1924 CE).

The short video (above) makes reference to Dr Blankinship’s article by way of explaining that in fact there never was an Islamic State at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the way we understand it to mean. The Islamic state was not a ‘state’…

1) in the modern European sense, clearly;

2) in the way we think of all those modern Muslim nation-states that were born from the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire in the twentieth century (repressive regimes in the style of dictatorships, theocracies or monarchies… or democracies… with tight central states, secret police and highly militarised);  or even

3) as a result of our exposure to some Muslim think-talks on this topic vis-a-vis presentations of a grand, thousand year unity, with systems whose reach was total and idyllic (free from significant controversy) versions of it.

Dr Blankinship concedes that the Prophet (saw) did have a city-state in Madina and the Prophet’s (saw) authority there was ‘solid’ by Year 6 AH. A “territorial state” only occurred in the last two years of his life, “so it didn’t exist long enough to establish a stable state.”

1:02: It was very rudimentary. It had very few institutions.

1:49: The Prophet had no chamberlain. There was no protocol.

2:25: What officials did the Prophet appoint? None. Except to leave a ‘Khalifah’ (someone in charge, like a deputy) when he left for an expedition.

2:52: When Mecca surrendered, he left a Governor there. That was the first post outside of Madina.

2:02: When Khyber surrendered, he sent an official, called the Kharras, there. He was not a governor and had no garrison.

3:50: Lack of (administrative?) organisation.

4:10: The question of the property of the state being separated from the personal property of the ruler was not ‘set in stone’ even by 100 AH (reign of Caliph Umar II).

5:18: “We modern people are incapable of understanding a situation where the state is so absent as it was there… We live here with our intrusive state. And the state is intrusive in intent, if not in reality, everywhere, today.

They were self-governing.

6:24: There was this kind of informality which existed which modern state-ised people can hardly imagine.”



So now the question shifts. In Islam, are Muslims supposed to have a state or not?

ANSWER: (0:03 – 0.14) “The Prophet (saw) did not say: “Don’t have a state.” But on the other hand he did not say: “Have a state.” He said neither.”

So what does that mean? Is it open-ended?

In Islam, the purpose of governance is the establishment of ‘justice’ (‘Adl)  for Muslims and non Muslims alike (as a sign of devotion to God).

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah , witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” (Qur’an 5:8)

The political question is topical. Surely a starting point is to look at the Qur’an, the example of the Prophet, and the earliest generation of Muslims to see how they approached this. And possibly to consider political models from other cultures and schools of thought to be in a better position to compare and assess the results. Others have considered this, but that is another post.



For Dr Blankinship’s full article ‘The History of the Caliphate’ please click here.

For Dr Blankinship’s follow-on article, ‘The Ottoman Empire… A True Caliphate?’ please click here.

For the FULL lecture on Vimeo, titled ‘Islamic Statehood’, where the short clip, above, came from, Please click here.




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