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Original Caliphs Were Probably Not Religious Fanatics

Reader comment on item: Bibliography – My Writings on the Caliphate

Submitted by Dave (United States), Apr 3, 2017 at 16:54

I have read that when the original Arab conquests took place, they were in the nature of conventional imperialism and were not designed to spread Islamic rule by jihad, that Islam was developed later, about 150 years after Mohammed's putative death, in order to justify and regulate the conquered lands. There is even scant evidence that Mohammed ever existed, although he could be a mythologized version of a real person. If these facts are true, then I would speculate that the early Caliphs were not "Islamists", in the sense of trying to impose Sharia in its entirety in a purely doctrinal sense. They probably were more concerned with collecting taxes and other mundane matters.

In modern times, with more widespread literacy, cheap book publishing, and now the internet, there has been a trend among some Muslims towards doctrinal obsession and literal interpretation, resulting in an attempt to recreate a past that never really existed in the first place.
Curiously, there seems to be a parallel trend among some Jews, the haredim, whose obsession with sacred studies probably predates the Muslim trend, but is similar in its dedication to literal interpretation, its obsessive nature, and its disconnect with actual life in ancient times which was doubtless more pragmatic.

In the Jewish case, one negative result is that constant Torah study has been so obsessive that it has become an end in itself and has led to an entire class of people being left behind in terms of practical education and employment. There are also doctrinal objections to Zionism, which has become a major internal security issue in Israel.

In the Muslim case, the dire consequences of fundamentalism, or Islamism, are well known in terms of terrorism and religious and political extremism. It would also seem that a modern putative Caliph of an outfit such as ISIS can only be a divisive figure.
In a sense, modern Islamism is a movement which is so lacking in tolerance, pragmatism or connection to reality, that a Caliph representing such an ideology is doomed to fail.

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