University of Cambridge > > Wolfson Research Event 2016 > Before the Caliphate – A Critical Historical Inquiry on the Origins of the Islamic Polity

Before the Caliphate – A Critical Historical Inquiry on the Origins of the Islamic Polity

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  • UserAzfar Anwar – MPhil Student, Islamic Studies & History, The Oriental Institute, St Antony’s College
  • ClockFriday 04 March 2016, 16:50-17:00
  • HouseLee Hall, Wolfson College.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Francisco Orozco.

Is the Caliphate an ex nihilo form of government of seventh century Arabia? Is it an Islamic doctrine where its institution is a religious duty? What system of governance should Muslims adopt? Is the Caliphate the only appropriate way to build and maintain an “Islamic” order? Such questions are some of which this presentation will address. While they may seem basic to some, and may not necessarily be new, already addressed by the likes of Ali Abdel Razek, Patricia Crone and Khalil Athamina, this presentation will go even further beyond their respective premises to invalidate on Islamic grounds the notion of an Islamic polity, headed by a qualified individual bearing the title ‘Caliph’, with specific particular features. Through textual analysis of Muslim sources, historical contextualization of traditional accounts, and critical revision of historical narratives and scholastic-juristic Islamic rulings, this presentation will argue that not only did the Caliphate start out as a tribal institution and only later given an Islamic identity, or ‘islamicised’, by the ‘Ulamā (Muslim scholars) particularly during the Islamic middle periods, its instatement is also thus not a religious duty. This presentation will challenge the very foundation of the theory of the Caliphate i.e. the Saqifah conference, by demanding a critical historical inquiry of this conference; asking questions that have not been asked before by scholars and historians on the origins of the Caliphate.This presentation is adapted from a paper, however due to the brevity of the presentation, focus will be given on the unasked questions.

This talk is part of the Wolfson Research Event 2016 series.

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