The term Caliphate refers to the first system of government established in Islam. In theory, it is a constitutional republic where the head of state (the Caliph) and other officials rule the people according to Islamic (Sharia) Law.
In the year 720 A.D., the Caliphate extended from Spain through North Africa and the Middle East and further eastward to what is now Iran and Afghanistan. In today’s world, Somalia, Sudan are ripe candidates for a new Caliphate—while Malaysia and Indonesia are less likely.
Is the idea of a borderless Middle East, known by some as the Caliphate, still viable? Is a new Caliphate more unthinkable than was the collapse of the Soviet Union?
The Arab revolutions have created possibilities in the region that would have been inconceivable only a short time ago.
The political, economic and social suffocation that the people of Tunisia and Egypt have endured, before popular revolutions swept the countries’ dictators from power, were near identical. The political, economic and social ailments suffered in Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, and now Saudi Arabia are of the same vein.
Seemingly stable Saudi Arabia has banned all protests and marches following recent anti-government protests by the Shias who account for 33 percent of the population in the kingdom’s Eastern Province where its oil production facilities are located.
The Shia present a real threat to Saudi Arabia’s oil production as they belong to the same sect as the Shia of Iran and Bahrain.
In fact, the Shia demonstrations come amid media reports of a huge mobilization of Saudi troops in the heavily Shia-populated Eastern Province in order to quell any possible uprising.
Protests were just held in the cities of Hofuf and Qatif, both near Saudi Arabia’s oilfields and its Dhahran oil facility.
The Saudi authorities are increasingly on edge following the anti-government protests sweeping through the Arab world.
Last week, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah returned to Riyadh after a three-month vacation and decreed $37bn in benefits for citizens in an apparent bid to quell the protests.
Obviously, the causes of political unrest across the Arab nation states are varied and cannot be reduced to generalizations.
However, the pent-up frustrations of the Arab youth, the economic inequalities, and the demands for better representation extend across the entire region.
A single political authority or Caliphate is certainly not about to emerge out of the current revolutions. However what may emerge is a 27-Arab nation political and economic union similar to the European Union. Such a union would be borderless in the sense that its people can live, work, and travel in member countries freely.
Borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant in the Arab world. The factors of language, religion, of mass communication, may all combine to form a new Arab union.
This union would replace the artificial borders imposed on the Arab world by the colonial powers of the past.
Are we seeing the return of the Caliphate?