Dr Kalim Siddiqui: His Life, Thought And Legacy

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Ramadan 22, 1445 2024-04-01


by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 54, No. 2, Ramadan, 1445)

Source @ http://kalimsiddiqui.com/

April 18 will mark the twenty-eighth anniversary of the passing away of Dr Kalim Siddiqui. He was in South Africa to attend the highly successful international conference on ‘Creating a New Civilization of Islam.’ The title of the conference was both provocative and bold. More on this shortly.

Following the conference (held from April 7–10, 1996 in Pretoria), it was customary for foreign guests to stay a little longer and participate in other events across South Africa. It is important to keep in mind that apartheid had ended and the African National Congress (ANC) had formed the government after elections. Informal meetings at people’s homes were often more productive because it facilitated the free flow of ideas and interactions.

Before the guests left South Africa, there was also a short trip to Botswana (April 14-15, 1996). Dr Kalim, as he was known to friends and colleagues, was warmly received by the Muslim community in Botswana. While he had a large number of friends and admirers in South Africa, this was Dr Kalim’s first visit to Botswana. Despite his poor health, he enjoyed the interaction with the community there.

He was a heart patient and had suffered multiple heart attacks, the last one in June 1995. He had to undergo emergency heart surgery—his second—following which he was in the Intensive Care Unit for five weeks and then in isolation for another three weeks. Any person in such condition would have stayed home to try and recuperate. Not Dr Kalim.

He was fond of quoting the Prophetic hadith about planting a date palm tree even if one knew the world would end tomorrow. He lived this hadith in his life.

Following his return from Botswana, his health deteriorated and the doctors advised rest. He was scheduled to travel back to London on April 16 but because of his poor health, his return flight was postponed to April 19. His wife Suraiya and son Iqbal had also accompanied him to South Africa.

After a couple of days’ rest, he seemed to feel better. In the evening of April 18, after making wudu for Maghrib prayers, as he was about to leave the house for prayers, he collapsed and passed away. Inna lil lah-e wa inna ilayh-e raji‘oon.

Before discussing Dr Kalim’s thought and legacy, a little bit more about the conference is in order. Prior to the conference, there was immense negative propaganda in the western media, especially the British press. Led by the zionist-owned Daily Telegraph they alleged that the conference would be attended by members of Hizbullah and Hamas. This, as far as the western press was concerned, was a major sin.

Those of us involved in organizing the conference, this writer in particular, were stunned at this allegation. We arrived in South Africa to a major media frenzy.

Western correspondents in South Africa even approached President Nelson Mandela asking him whether he would meet Hamas and Hizbullah representatives. To his credit, Mandela said if they were in South Africa and wanted to meet him, he would be happy to receive them. After such rebuke, the western media hounds backed off somewhat.

The allegation, however, gave a huge boost to the conference. The South African media, especially the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), invited Dr Kalim and this writer for primetime interviews. It garnered even more publicity for the conference and thousands of people attended.

In the early nineties, Dr Kalim was best known as the founder and leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. It was a master stroke of political engineering and created immense interest worldwide. While it dismayed the anti-Muslim western regimes, the Muslim Parliament idea mesmerised and motivated Muslims worldwide.

Not only in Britain where he was a frequent guest at television programs, Dr Kalim was also invited by Muslims in other parts of the world. His television appearances in Britain were brilliant. He held his ground extremely effectively, unlike the apologetic Muslims that the British press had become accustomed to.

This raised Dr Kalim’s standing among Muslims in Britain as well as Muslims elsewhere. Naturally, it caused dismay among the apologetic Muslims and puppet rulers in the Muslim world.

This became even more glaring with the Salman Rushdie fitna. Prior to Imam Khomeini’s fatwa of February 14, 1989, Muslims all over the world held rallies condemning Rushdie. The latter issued more provocative statements against the Muslims and Islam. After the Imam’s fatwa, they all went into hiding, including Rushdie.

Dr Kalim took up the challenge and mobilized the Muslim community in Britain to stand up for their rights. This led to the establishment of the Muslim Parliament to safeguard Muslim interests living as minorities in the west. Unfortunately those who usurped the affairs of the Muslim Parliament after Dr Kalim passed away, proved not only completely incompetent but absolute hypocrites, destroying the institution within one year.

What Muslims and their friends and allies in the west are witnessing today vis-à-vis the policies of western regimes regarding the Israeli genocide in Gaza should enable them to understand why it is important for Muslims to have their own institutions.

While the Muslim Parliament was a brilliant idea, its formation was underpinned by Dr Kalim’s clear articulation of Muslim political thought. This was encapsulated in the Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute. In this foundational document published in 1973 after much discussion among people that came to form the Preparatory Committee, Dr Kalim laid out the situation of the Muslim world.

He wrote that not a single Muslim country was truly independent. What was called “independence” was merely the handing over of power by the colonial masters to their Muslim puppets. Dr. Kalim insisted that the imposed systems in Muslim societies were totally alien and had to be uprooted and replaced by systems that were rooted in the values of Islam.

He rejected the nation-state structure as well as the political party approach, denouncing both as western imposed concepts that had resulted in the disintegration of Muslim societies.

So, how would the problems of the Ummah be solved? While denouncing the ruling elites as agents of colonialism, he called for the emergence of a new movement led by muttaqiulama (whom he described as the “traditional sector”) and the modern educated elite (categorized as the “modern sector”) to bring about change. He insisted, however, that western educated Muslims were too contaminated by western ideas to play a leading role in the Islamic movement.

Instead, he said the ‘ulama must lead these movements to bring about the total transformation of society. Looking at the situation of the Muslim world that appeared bleak at the time, he felt it might take 50–100 years before there was meaningful change.

Coming from a Sunni background, Iran was not on his radar screen. He did not foresee the Islamic Revolution breaking out within a few years of propounding his vision for the future but he was able to make a quick course correction.

Policy makers in the west as well as many Muslim intellectuals (barring a few notable exceptions—Sayyid Qutb had already paid the price with his life in August 1966 for such thinking) dismissed such pronouncements as being out of touch with reality. They had accepted the west’s supremacy and busied themselves with acquiring western education and mannerisms as the only route to progress. When western policymakers dismissed Islam, like any other religion, as irrelevant to the needs of the modern world, most Muslims accepted this view.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran not only confirmed Dr. Kalim’s analysis but also left the westoxicated Muslim intellectuals shell shocked. Under the weight of the earth-shaking events that had occurred in the Imam Khomeini-led revolution, all regimes in the Muslim world and many leading Muslim intellectuals were forced to issue statements in support of the Islamic Revolution. Such statements, however, were quite hypocritical as became evident soon.

Instead of supporting the Islamic Revolution against the west’s onslaught, they castigated the Islamic leadership in Iran for being too rigid. The position adopted by Muslim regimes was understandable since their existence depended on the west’s support and patronage, but the attitude of most Muslim intellectuals was not only disappointing, it was quite appalling. They, as well as most leaders of Islamic movements, had struggled against corrupt dictatorial regimes to establish Islamic governments in their societies.

They should have welcomed the Islamic Revolution and supported it. Instead, they insisted the Islamic Republic must conduct its affairs within the nation-state framework and not “interfere” in the internal affairs of other states even if Muslims were oppressed and persecuted there. The illegitimate Muslim regimes in the nation-states further exposed themselves when they all sided with the Iraqi Ba‘thist regime of Saddam Husain in his murderous assault on the Islamic Republic.

Dr. Kalim was ahead of his time. The Muslim world is only now catching up to the ideas he had propounded in the 1970s. His vision, put in writing, was that the only way out of the cages called the nation-state structure was through a series of Islamic revolutions. His book, Stages of Islamic Revolution, dubbed his last will and testament because it was published only a few days before he passed away, spells out this in very clear terms.

May his soul rest in eternal peace, ameen.

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