Muslim Societies in a World of Nation-States

Since the dissolution of the Office of the Caliphate by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1924, and the collapse of major Muslim polities including the Andalusians (711-1492), the Safavids (1501-1736), the Mughals (1526-1857), and the Ottomans (1299-1923) at the behest of unilateral interventions of Western forces, the whole Muslim civilization has never been the same again. Although, lest we forget, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community had established their own caliphate since 1908 in Lahore and London, and this also include the 2014 self-styled ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh), a hybrid of transnational terrorist organization with institutional state mechanisms, where several contemporary radical individuals and extremist groups have pledged allegiance.

Upon the establishment of political control by the colonial powers through the imposition and abrupt adaptation of their socio-political traditions and experiences, the territorial quasi-boundaries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia are still struggling with the notion of the modern (Westphalian) nation-state system. Numerous Muslim communities were divided based on multifaceted identities carved via colonial vested interests, and this is apparent because of their loss of power, subjugation to external forces, and lack of self-reflection and intellectual self-criticism.

The thesis asks how contemporary Muslim societies, particularly Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia adapt to the elements of nation-state system. This also includes selected thinkers’ contemplation or theorization of human polities. Comparative method is employed between two variables, i.e., Nation-State (NS) and Muslim Governance (MG), while cases of those mentioned contemporary countries are then analyzed where the comparisons between NS and MG are taken as the overall guiding framework.

It further finds compelling points of contentions in comparing both nation-state and Muslim governance in terms of the 1933 Montevideo criteria (citizenry, territoriality, authority, and sovereignty) including elements of history, constitution, and shari’ah’s predicament with the modern state (which is introduced by Hallaq). On the part of nation-state, it tried to answer the research inquiry on how those criteria and elements develop over time, while in Muslim governance it gave the Islamic perspective related to those criteria/elements. Overall, it collated and juxtaposed textual arguments within the parameters of selected elements in comparing nation-state and Muslim governance to show the onerous of what I call “thesis of comparative conundrum.”

To go beyond this thesis of ‘comparative conundrum’, the study recommends to theoretically look into selected worldviews of various Islamicate civilizational analyses (i.e. from Khaldunian sociological perspective to Şentürk’s Open Civilization thesis) as alternative insights to open up a dialogue between the dominant nation-state and Islamic civilizational lenses.