A life in the Islamic movement: Dr Kalim Siddiqui 1931-1996

Developing Just Leadership

Iqbal Siddiqui

Jumada' al-Akhirah 19, 1417 1996-11-01

Occasional Paper

by Iqbal Siddiqui

This biography of Dr Kalim Siddiqui is divided into five sections. It is based on the commemorative booklet published by the Muslim Institute and the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain on the occasion of their ‘Kalim Siddiqui Memorial Conference’ in London in November 1996. It has been edited and updated by Iqbal Siddiqui, who also wrote the original booklet.

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Contents

Prologue: Dr Kalim Siddiqui before the establishment of the Muslim Institute

The Muslim Institute: setting out to change the world

  • The establishment and early years of the Muslim Institute
  • The impact of the Islamic Revolution in Iran

The Muslim Institute’s work for the global Islamic movement

  • The Crescent International
  • Muslim Institute conferences and seminars
  • The Muslim Institute’s overseas activities

Establishing the Muslim Parliament

  • The Rushdie affair and the Muslim Manifesto
  • The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain

Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s intellectual contribution and legacy

  • Dr Kalim’s writings and ideas
  • The way forward: Dr Kalim’s legacy

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Prologue: Dr Kalim Siddiqui before the establishment of the Muslim Institute

Kalim Siddiqui was born in British India on September 15, 1931. His family were small land-owners in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), but his father worked as a sub-inspector of police. He first became politically aware and active as a teenager at boarding school in Faizabad in 1944-45. At this time, he became a student activist of the Muslim League during the Pakistan movement.

The Islamic symbolism the Muslim League used to mobilise the Muslim masses of India was one of the major attractions to him. He had received a six-volume set of Seerat-un Nabi by Shibly Nomani and Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi as a gift from a teacher when he was 12, and considered the life and example of the Prophet as his inspiration from that time onwards.

He moved to Karachi in 1948, a few months after the partition of British India and the establishment of Pakistan. There his political maturity grew and he realized that the new State was little more Islamic than British India had been. As a student, he was active in a Khilafat Group dedicated to establishing khilafah in Pakistan, and founded and edited a popular political newspaper The Independent Leader.

He came to Britain in 1954 to study journalism. Other members of the Khilafat Group also came to London at about the same time. The idea was to learn skills which they could put to use for the movement back in Pakistan. But in London the group broke up as differences emerged between them and some members became more interested in developing their careers.

The young Kalim meanwhile was proving a natural at journalism. Starting at the Kensington News in west London, he gradually worked his way up the journalistic ladder through a series of local and provincial newspapers. In 1964, shortly after moving to Slough, where he lived for the rest of his life, he joined the Guardian as a sub-editor.

At the same time, he decided to build upon the limited education he had received in India and Karachi. He did O-levels and A-levels at evening school before going on to study International Relations at University College, London, and then completing a PhD in 1972. Throughout his student career, he also continued to work full-time to support himself and his family.

Throughout this period, however, he also remained involved in both Islamic affairs generally and Pakistani affairs in particular, and the thinking which was to form the basis of his future work was developed.

During the late sixties, he spent long periods in Pakistan, where he worked as a foreign correspondent for the Guardian and did fieldwork for his doctorate, which was later published as Functions of International Conflict — a socio-economic study of Pakistan(1974). Shortly afterwards, the East Pakistan war began and Bangladesh was created. It was during this period that he wrote his book Conflict, Crisis and War in Pakistan (1972), and that the first steps towards the establishment of the Muslim Institute were taken.

In hindsight, the establishment of the Muslim Institute in 1973 can be seen as the beginning of his main work; everything that led to this phase in his life was merely a prologue.

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The Muslim Institute: setting out to change the world

The establishment and early years of the Institute

The Muslim Institute was established in 1973-74, by a group of young Muslims that came to be known as the Preparatory Committee of the Muslim Institute. This group emerged from meetings of Muslim students and others in London University in 1972 onwards. The meetings began with an invitation to Dr Siddiqui to address a meeting of Pakistani students at University College, London, shortly after the publication of Conflict, Crisis and War in Pakistan. The invitation was from Zafar Bangash, then an engineering undergraduate, later one of Dr Kalim’s closest colleagues, and now Director of the ICIT.

Shortly after these meetings began, Dr Siddiqui was awarded his PhD and started teaching International Relations at the University of Southern California’s European teaching programme in West Germany. At the same time, he also remained on the staff of the Guardian. Nonetheless, the meetings continued, moving from London University to Dr Siddiqui’s home in Slough when Zafar Bangash graduated and left UCL.

The subject of these talks was initially the state of Pakistan, recently torn apart by the 1971 war and the creation of Bangladesh. The group’s initial idea was to establish a ‘Pakistan Research and Planning Institute’ (PRPI). But Kalim Siddiqui had always thought in broader terms than just Pakistan.

The Muslim Institute for Research and Planning

In July 1973, Dr Kalim was invited to attend an International Islamic Youth Conference convened by Colonel Mu’ammar Qaddafi in Tripoli. There Dr Kalim met Muslims from all parts of the world and discussed his ideas with them. Among them were two South African Muslims who were to remain life-long friends of Dr Kalim and supporters of the Muslim Institute. These were Abu Bakr Mohamad of Durban and Ismail Kalla of Pretoria, at whose home he was to pass away over 20 years later.

He was so inspired the experience that within weeks of returning, he had written a book about it. This book, Towards a New Destiny, was a critique of Qaddafi’s thinking and a plea for a new intellectual movement among Muslims. It provides a remarkable insight to Dr Kalim’s thinking at time of the establishment of the Muslim Institute. He also took the same ideas to the Preparatory Committee. The Pakistan Research and Planning Institute became instead the Muslim Institute for Research and Planning (MIRAP); the precise name was suggested by Amir Ahmad, a long-standing friend of Dr Kalim’s. From then on, the focus of discussion became the writing of the Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute.

This was written by Dr Kalim but discussed in detail at meetings of the Preparatory Committee. Zafar Bangash has described it as “perhaps the most thoroughly debated and discussed document I have ever known”. The writing of the Draft Prospectus took over six months; the text was finally approved and sent to press early in February 1974. Where Towards a New Destiny was an intensely personal work, the Draft Prospectus is a detached, crystal-clear presentation of Dr Kalim’s vision, understanding and ideas.

This can be summarised as recognising the need for Muslims to lay the intellectual and practical ground-work for a future generation to re-establish the civilizational power of Islam through a series of Islamic revolutions.

Among the insights in these works which were radical at the time was that the west was totally and irredeemably an enemy of Islam; that no solutions to the problems of Islamic civilization could be based on western ideas; that western-educated Muslims were not equipped to lead the Ummah and could only contribute by acting in partnership with traditional scholars of Islam, the ulama; and that no quick fixes could be found for problems which had been almost 1400 years in the making. One of the remarkable features of the ideas laid out in the Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute is that not one of them has been proven wrong by over 20 years of some of the most radical possible changes in the Muslim situation.

A few days after the Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute was finalized, Dr Kalim suffered his first heart attack. He was seriously ill for many months and was to suffer from heart trouble for the rest of his life. Even then, in 1974, doctors advised him to retire from all forms of work and accept a full disability pension.

Instead, he resigned from the Guardian and the University of Southern California and committed himself fully to the Muslim Institute. He was determined not to waste whatever time he had left, but to fit in as much work for the Islamic movement in as possible. This was the attitude to his health he was to maintain over the next 22 years – through two more heart attacks and two by-pass operations, in 1981 and 1995 – as can be seen in his foreword to his final book, Stages of Islamic Revolution (1995).

Dr Kalim’s work in the early years of the Institute

Over the next few years, he travelled the world, explaining and discussing his ideas with Muslims everywhere and promoting the ideas and work of the Muslim Institute. The Institute organised seminars and teaching courses, and published books and academic papers. By 1978, it was well-enough established to move out of Dr Siddiqui’s home into offices at 6 Endsleigh Street, in Bloomsbury, the intellectual heart of London.

The same year, Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui gave up his teaching career to join the Institute full-time as Assistant Director, and Dr Kalim became Director of the Muslim Institute. Dr Ghayasuddin was Dr Kalim’s right-hand man for the rest of his life and succeeded him as both Director of the Muslim Institute and Leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. (Unfortunately, for a number of reasons that are not relevant here, both the Institute and the Parliament were to decline rapidly following Dr Kalim’s passing. Neither now exists in any substantial or meaningful form.)

But Kalim Siddiqui’s main interest was still in political thought, and the Institute’s work remained predominantly in this direction. Two major papers prepared by Dr Kalim for conferences during the seventies remain important today. These are The Islamic Movement: A Systems Approach (1976) and Beyond the Muslim Nation-States (1977).

In these papers he developed major aspects of his political thinking. In The Islamic movement: a systems approach he hypothesised the existence of a global Islamic movement dedicated to re-establishing the civilizational power of Islam, and explored aspects of its work.

In Beyond the Muslim nation-States (1977), he critiqued both the existing political order in the Muslim world and Muslim attempts to emulate western social science, particularly political science. Both studies led him to similar conclusions: that, in the words of The Islamic movement: A Systems Approach, “the first priority… must be the development of integrated academic disciplines of economics, politics, and sociology, and alternative operational models for a future civilization of Islam.”

Both these papers were presented at Islamic conferences convened in Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, Dr Kalim did not hesitate to describe the existing Muslim states as illegitimate and un-Islamic. This is indicative of both Dr Kalim’s own personality (he once commented that it was a wonder that he ever got invited to conferences after what he did to Qaddafi in Towards a New Destiny!) and of the state of the Muslim world at the time, when Muslim governments felt totally unthreatened by such radical and far-sighted ideas.

Less than two years after Dr Kalim wrote that the challenge facing Muslims was to build a platform from which a future generation could make its escape, came the event which was to change both Dr Kalim’s own life and the course of modern Muslim history: the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The Impact of the Islamic Revolution

The Islamic Revolution in Iran surprised a lot of people. In September 1978, just four months before the Shah fled Iran, US president Jimmy Carter described his regime as an island of stability in a sea of turbulence . Dr Kalim had visited Iran in early 1978 and knew a number of active Iranian students in London. But he too saw little sign of a revolutionary movement with the potential to establish Islamic rule.

He later said that he realised that something very special was happening in Iran when he first saw Imam Khomeini on television. He realised immediately that this was no sham revolutionary educated in London, Harvard or the Sorbonne; this was a leader of Islam whose roots lay in the political traditions of Islam itself.

At the same time, he was shocked by the negative reaction to the revolution among many of the Muslims he knew on the Saudi ‘conference circuit’. These were men who had talked a good fight during the 1970s but then tried to ignore the Islamic Revolution in Iran for fear of losing their Saudi patronage.

Dr Kalim, by contrast, threw himself into both studying and serving the new Islamic state. He recognised that this was possibly the breakthrough in Islamic history that he had expected to come decades in the future. But he also realised, as he said later, that the breakthrough could prove transitory, and he was determined to capture as much of its light as possible in case it did not last.

At the same time, he was aware that academic study of the new phenomenon was not sufficient; as a Muslim, it was his duty to help the embryonic Islamic state to survive the massive pressures being put on it by its enemies.

As a result, Dr Kalim visited Iran several times to see and understand the Revolution. The Muslim Institute also arranged a lecture course in London by Hamid Algar, translator of Imam Khomeini’s writings into English. Dr Kalim and other Institute members also toured Britain, the US and other countries, addressing meetings to explain the true significance of events in Iran to excited but often uninformed Muslim audiences.

Dr Kalim’s developing understanding of the Islamic Revolution can be traced through his writings of this period. These include The State of the Muslim World Today (1979) and The Islamic Revolution: Achievements, Obstacles and Goals (1980).

At the same time, Dr Kalim’s insight into the broader historical situation was helping Iranians to understand the true depth of their own revolution. His insight into the nature of the revolution and the problems it faced can be gauged by his reaction to Imam Khomeini’s appointment of Abol Hasan Bani-Sadr as president. Dr Kalim’s comment: “The Imam will have to dismiss this man!”

Dr Kalim was to remain a close friend and supporter of the Islamic State of Iran for the rest of his life. He regarded this as the only possible relationship any Muslim could have with a genuine Islamic state. The relationship was often rocky; many Iranians did not like his regular criticisms of government policy, or his understanding of the Revolution as Islamic and relevant to all Muslims. Many Iranians would have preferred the revolution to have been purely Irani and Shi’a. But there were also many Iranians who held Dr Kalim in great esteem and affection, as was witnessed by the reaction to news of his death.

Dr Kalim always maintained that the limitations of Iranian functionaries and bureaucrats could be overcome provided the leadership remained committed to the global Islamic movement. He never met Imam Khomeini, but developed a personal relationship with Imam Sayyid Ali Khamanei, based on the Imam’s admiration for Dr Kalim’s last major paper, Processes of error, deviation, correction and convergence in Muslim political thought (1989). Dr Kalim considered this relationship the greatest possible honour in the last years of his life.

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The Muslim Institute’s work for the global Islamic movement

Crescent International and the global Islamic movement

Immediately after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Dr Kalim realised that one of its effects would be to give a tremendous boost to Islamic movement elsewhere, all constituent parts of the global Islamic movement whose existence he had hypothesised in the 1970s. Under the leadership of Islamic Iran, he hoped that this boost would prove sufficient to create a genuine, functional global Islamic movement rather than the theoretical one he had previously written about.

One of his immediate objectives, therefore, became to aid the emergence of this new, global Islamic movement. To do this, he teamed the Muslim Institute up with a Canadian Muslim newsmagazine, the Crescent International. This was a community magazine in Toronto, founded in 1972 by Lateef and Zahida Owaisi. Since 1975, it had been edited by Zafar Bangash, who had been a leading member of the Muslim Institute Preparatory Committee in London. Crescent was also writing in support and defence of the Islamic Revolution in Iran during this period, and in August 1980, it became a part of the the Muslim Institute.

The Crescent International has been the major newsmagazine of the revolutionary Islamic movement ever since. In the early years, the bulk of its copy was written by Dr Kalim. Later, editorial responsibilities passed to Zafar Bangash, who gave up his engineering career to run the paper. For a four-year period from 1987 to 1991, an Arabic edition was produced under the name Al-Hilal al-Dawli. The impact of these magazines has been far out of proportion to their circulation and readership.

Other Muslim Institute efforts to serve the Islamic movement included the Muslimedianews syndication service (1981-91) and a popular annual anthology series Issues in the Islamic Movement, seven volumes of which were published from 1982 to 1989. These brought together major writings on the Islamic movement and Muslim current affairs from Crescent, Muslimedia and other sources.

Because of financial and other restrictions, many of these publications have had to be closed down. But the Crescent International survives and is keenly read by Muslim academics and activists all over the world.

Muslim Institute Conferences and Seminars

The other main way in which the Muslim Institute worked to bring together and consolidate the new, global Islamic movement was by a series of world conferences and seminars in London during the 1980s. These were on difference themes relating to the Islamic movement and the contemporary Muslim situation.

The first of these, on the Political Dimensions of the Hajj, was in 1982. It was followed by seminars on State and Politics in Islam (1983), The Islamic Revolution in Iran (1984), What Future for Pakistan? (1984), The Impact of Nationalism on the Ummah (1985), Muslim Political Thought during the Colonial Period (1986), The Future of the Haramain (1988), The Implications of the Rushdie Affair (1989) and The Future of Muslims in Britain (1990).

These combined serious intellectual discussions on matters central to the work of the global Islamic movement, with unique opportunities for intellectuals and activists from the Islamic movement to come together. Among the many senior people who attended these conferences were Shaikh Fadhlullah of Lebanon, Shaikh Omar Abdul Rahman of Egypt, Shaikh Assad al-Tamimi of Palestine, Muallim Ibrahim Zakzaki of Nigeria, Shaikh Muhammad al-Asi of the USA and numerous senior ulama from Islamic Iran.

Following the establishment of the Muslim Parliament (1992), such seminars on global issues continued to be held, but under the Muslim Parliament banner instead of that of the Muslim Institute. The two major conferences held in this period were on Bosnia and the Global Islamic Movement (1993) and Hiroshima to Sarajevo: Fifty Years of the United Nations (1995).

It is, therefore, wholly appropriate that the two institutions should have come together to convene a Memorial Conference, In Pursuit of the Power of Islam, as a tribute to Dr Kalim in November 1996. Unfortunately, this proved to be virtually the last effectively project run by them before the new leadership, following Dr Kalim’s death, proved unable to sustain the institutions.

The Muslim Institute’s overseas activities

During the 1970s, Dr Kalim had established contacts, friends and supporters all over the world. After the Islamic Revolution, he found that many of these people shared his understanding of the vision of the significance of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and his commitment to serving the embryonic Islamic movement. As a result, the Muslim Institute established operations in a number of other countries, directly or indirectly, including Canada, South Africa, Pakistan, Malaysia and India. These have included publishing and distribution of Crescent International, Muslimedia, Al-Hilal al-Dawli and local newspapers reprinting material from them; publication and distribution of books and videos; and the holding of seminars and lectures.

The Muslim Institute was also been active in other countries where the political situation is such that details cannot be given. Dr Kalim Siddiqui, his books and theCrescent International were banned in some Muslim countries. The Institute’s work also included more direct assistance to Islamic movements, some of which are suppressed and underground in their own countries.

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The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain

The Rushdie Affair and the Muslim Manifesto

“The Rushdie affair,” Dr Kalim sometimes joked, “ruined my life.” Until 1989, Dr Kalim’s work, even in support of the Islamic movement, was primarily academic and intellectual. He was largely insulated from the gaze of the wider British community, except when he was invited by the media, as an academic expert, to give an Islamic perspective on current news stories. His defence of Imam Khomeini’s fatwa changed all that, making him a hate figure for the anti-Islamic literati and the populist media and politicians.

Before the Imam gave his fatwa in February 1989, Dr Kalim was not unaware of the Rushdie controversy, but had taken no major role in it. While it was undeniably serious, Dr Kalim took the view that campaigning for a ban on The Satanic Verses would be a major and pointless distraction from the main work of the Muslim Institute, and would serve only to give the book more status and publicity than it deserved. He would later recognise that this had been a misjudgement.

That assessment changed with the Imam’s fatwa. Dr Kalim was actually in Tehran when the fatwa was issued, leading to reports that he prompted it. This is an exaggeration of his role. In fact, he was at Tehran Airport when Dr Khatami, then the Minister of Islamic Guidance, later president of the Islamic Republic, came to meet him and asked what he knew about Rushdie and his book. Dr Kalim explained the situation to him and Dr Khatami left. Later the same day, back in his hotel as his flight had been cancelled, Dr Kalim heard that the Imam had issued his fatwa.

When he finally landed in London, the establishment, the literati and the media were up in arms. The British Muslim community, whose previous protests had been largely ignored, was under siege. This was a totally different situation to that which had earlier existed and demanded a radically different response. Dr Kalim became the community’s champion against hysterical media and establishment attacks. The controversy raged for years and continues, on a smaller scale, to this day.

Dr Siddiqui’s position remained precisely the same throughout. The fatwa had been pronounced by the Imam of the only Islamic state of the day and was therefore legally binding on all Muslims. However, Muslims in Britain had, under Islamic law, a prior and higher commitment to the law of the land in which they lived as a minority and therefore could not execute the fatwa in Britain. But such was Muslim anger at Rushdie’s offence that there remained the possibility that some over-zealous Muslim might execute the fatwa nonetheless; therefore Rushdie should not regard himself be safe on Britain’s streets.

Even as he was travelling from newsroom to studio, giving interview after interview representing the Muslim position on Rushdie, however, Dr Kalim was planning ahead as well. He had always taken a keen interest in community affairs. Now he put the considerable intellectual assets of the Muslim Institute to considering the situation of Muslims in Britain.

The result was The Muslim Manifesto. This was published in 1990, at a Muslim Institute conference on The Future of Muslims in Britain, this laid out both the problems facing Muslims here and the duties and responsibilities the Muslim community had living in a non-Muslim country. The Muslim Manifesto was to become the foundation document of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.

The Muslim Parliament – a minority political system for Muslims in Britain

The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain was inaugurated on January 4, 1992, after nearly 18 months of intensive groundwork following the publication of the Muslim Manifesto. Along with the Muslim Institute, the Muslim Parliament was one of the two major institutions which Dr Kalim established to pursue his vision and which he left as his legacy for the Muslim Ummah.

It is often said that the community work which is the main focus of the Muslim Parliament was a new direction for Dr Kalim. That this is not true can be seen by any perusal of his writings. The problems facing Muslims living as minorities in western countries is a theme from his earliest book on Muslim political thought, Towards a New Destiny (1973). In this book, he said that the challenge facing Muslim minorities was two-fold: to survive uncontaminated as Muslims in a hostile environment, and to contribute fully to the global Ummah’s struggle to re-establish Islam as a civilizational force for good in the world.

Precisely the same points emerged again in his writings on the Muslim Parliament, particularly Generating ‘Power’ without Politics ( 1990) and The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain — political innovation and adaptation, his opening speech at the inauguration of the Muslim Parliament (1992). Dr Kalim argued that to survive as Muslims in this country, the community must develop its own institutions capable of meeting its needs in every area without dependence on the British state or government. He particularly opposed direct involvement in mainstream British politics, saying that Muslims could only exercise influence in Britain by becoming strong outside the system and exerting pressure on it from outside.

Immediately after its inauguration, the Muslim Parliament set to work undertaking further research into the conditions and needs of Muslims in Britain, and established projects to improve their situation in important areas. These have included education, poverty, unemployment, anti-Muslim discrimination, the state of the community’s mosques, and the halal meat trade.

In 1993, the Muslim Parliament established a registered charity, the Bait al-Mal al-Islami, to finance and administer those parts of its work which are charitable under British law. The Bait al-Mal established welfare provisions for deprived families and those suffering from hardship, and assistance schemes for students from poor backgrounds.

Another major area of work was education. Dr Kalim maintained that education was the only way of breaking the cycle of poverty and social deprivation which has kept British Muslims poor and exploited at the bottom of Britain s socio-economic ladder. While the education debate among Muslims in this country concentrated on obtaining government funding for the handful of Muslim schools, the Muslim Parliament took the view that the immediate need was for Muslims to establish supplementary education facilities to help Muslim children in state schools.

The third major institution of the Muslim Parliament network has been the Halal Food Authority, which was established in 1994 to monitor and regulate the halal meat trade in Britain, which unfortunately was largely fraudulent. Muslim Parliament research indicated that less than 20 percent of meat sold as ‘halal’ really is halal. This was an area particularly close to Dr Kalim’s heart. The HFA established a network of approved abbatoirs and shops to provide the community with what was, at the time, the only independently certified halal meat in Britain.

At the same time, the Muslim Parliament worked to help Muslims and the global Islamic movement overseas in their struggles. Some Muslims argued that the Parliament should concentrate on local issues and that taking a strong position on international issues would make it more difficult to work in Britain, but Dr Kalim never accepted this position, saying that Muslims in Britain had a responsibility to the global Islamic movement.

Central to this work was the Muslim Parliament’s work in support of Bosnia, largely done through its Human Rights Committee. The Muslim Parliament’s World Conference on Bosnia and the global Islamic movement (November 1993) contributed greatly to the understanding of events there, and led to the establishment of the Arms for Bosnia Fund at a time when most Muslims were concentrating only on humanitarian work.

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Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s intellectual contribution and legacy

Dr Kalim’s writings and ideas

Dr Kalim was always a writer by nature. His first job in Karachi was as founder-editor of the student newspaper The Leader. In London, he moved rapidly up the journalistic ladder, until he was a sub-editor on the national paper The Guardian. Although he then went into academia, he was not averse to returning the journalism when the Muslim Institute took over the Crescent International. For some time after the transformation of the Crescent from a community paper in Toronto to a newsmagazine of the global Islamic movement, he was effectively its editor-in-chief and main writer. He continued to write regularly for it for the rest of his life.

He also wrote a large number of books and papers. His first published book was Conflict, Crisis and War in Pakistan (1972). His PhD thesis was published as Functions of International Conflict – a socio-economic study of Pakistan in 1975 . But by this time, his attention had shifted from Pakistan to the world of Islam as a whole; his first book on Muslim political thought was Towards a New Destiny (1973). From then on he produced books and papers on aspects of the global Islamic movement with remarkable regularity throughout his life. The most important of these have now been compiled by Zafar Bangash as In Pursuit of the Power of Islam (London: The Open Press, 1996).

The Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute (1974) presented the understanding of the Muslim historical situation with which he launched his work and, together with Towards a New Destiny, is essential reading to understanding his life’s work. After the Islamic Revolution, his understanding of it developed in a series of writings through the 1980s, including his papers to the Muslim Institute seminars and his introductions to the Issues in the Islamic Movement series (1982-89).

The culmination of his writings and political thought was the paper Error, Deviation, Correction and Convergence in Muslim Political Thought, written in 1989-90. In this, he presented his understanding of the process of Muslim history, how things had gone wrong after the Rightly-Guided Khulafa, why the initial breakthrough in Muslim political thought had come in Shi’a Iran, and what Muslims in other countries must do to establish Islamic rule in their own countries. The argument was warmly welcomed and endorsed by Ayatullah Khamanei, Rahbar of Islamic Iran following the death of Imam Khomeini.

The main idea which emerges from all his writings is that the civilizational power of Islam needs to be re-asserted at every level. However, he does not expect this to be an overnight development; the problems of 1400 years cannot be solved quickly. The basic requirement is for Muslim scholars and intellectuals to re-write Muslim political thought on the basis of Islamic traditions and scholarship rather than western ones, and use this new Muslim political thought as the basis for a new civilization of Islam.

He also hypothesised the global Islamic movement long before its emergence after the Islamic Revolution, and commented on its nature and development through the 1980s and 1990s. He was particularly interested in the practical aspects of a functioning, global Islamic movement in a world totally dominated by western mechanisms of control. This was the subject of his The Islamic Movement – A Systems Approach (1976), written well before Iran’s Islamic Revolution. He developed his ideas on the global Islamic movement in post-revolutionary writings, culminating in his final book Stages of Islamic Revolution (1996), which he described as ‘a handbook for Islamic activists’. The first edition of this was rushed into print in South Africa to coincide with the conference there in April 1996; he was thus able to see it before his death.

Any understanding of Dr Kalim’s work must start with his writings. Stages of Islamic Revolution is crucial for this. Zafar Bangash’s compilation of his major writings from 1973 to 1992, In Pursuit of the Power of Islam, is also of tremendous importance. Most of these writings are now available online, on this website and elsewhere.

The way forward: Dr Kalim’s legacy

Dr Kalim Siddiqui will be remembered as both an intellectual and an activist. In his own life, he was probably known best for his establishment of the Muslim Institute and the Muslim Parliament. The fact that both these institutions have disappeared under the leadership that took over after his death is a tragedy. The ICIT is committed, however, to continuing the work of the Muslim Institute, and ensuring at least that the principles of the Muslim Parliament are not forgotten.

But Dr Kalim’s ideas and writings as important as his institutions, and it may well prove that they will be better understood and appreciated the cool, calm light of hindsight than they were during his lifetime. Dr Kalim was never a man to sit back and merely contemplate the world around him. His commitment was to the Islamic movement and he understood that all his intellectual work must be such as to contribute to the ongoing work of the movement at the ground level.

His most important legacy, however, may well prove to be his example. Few people have ever demonstrated the sort of commitment and dedication to the work of Islam that he did. Through years of ill-health, and numerous other kinds of problems and pressures, he always kept his eyes firmly on the goal on the horizon and worked towards it. Nothing ever got in the way of his next important task, his next goal. He was also a man who inspired those around him to make similar sacrifices in pursuit of the same vision, and leaves behind him a team of people all over the world whose commitment is to exactly the same work.

The onus on us now is to ensure that the work that he began is maintained and provides precisely the sort of foundation for building a new civilization of Islam that he envisaged, insha’Allah.

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