Kalim Siddiqui Memorial Seminar: legacy of an intellectual giant

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Hijjah 14, 1419 1999-04-01

Special Reports

by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 3, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1419)

It is fitting that the first Kalim Siddiqui Memorial Seminar to be held in London, on April 11, should discuss the theme: “The Global Islamic Movement - 20 years after the Islamic Revolution.” The movement and the Revolution were close to Dr Kalim’s heart; indeed, they were the essence of his life’s work which his colleagues and associates will discuss during the Seminar.

Through his writings and speeches, Dr Kalim (left) defined and analysed the concept of the global Islamic movement. He defined it as the “divine instrument of change”, its task in this era being to overthrow the present colonial- imposed order in Muslim societies through the process of Islamic Revolutions leading to establishment of Islamic States.

He postulated that the Islamic movement and the Islamic State are parts of a whole. The Islamic State, he pointed out, is the culmination of the struggle of the Islamic movement; it is the duty of every Muslim to strive to achieve it. Although the State can be destroyed, the Islamic movement cannot, for the movement, at its broadest level, consists of the Ummah itself, and all Muslims are its members and activist by definition.

Aware of his failing health, Dr Kalim described his last book, Stages of Islamic Revolution, as his ‘last will and testament.’ In it, he outlined the stages through which the Islamic movement must pass in order to establish an Islamic State. The Islamic Revolution he defined as that point in the struggle at which all forces converge to overthrow the previously established political order.

From Dr Kalim’s writings, two points stand out as essential for the Islamic movement: an intellectual revolution in Muslim political thought, and study of the Seerah of Allah’s Messenger from a power perspective. He devoted his life’s effort and writing to both. He was anxious to clear the fog of confusion that has engulfed Muslim thinking as a result of borrowing ideas of the west. He was unrelenting in his criticism of the nation-State structure, the political party approach and other accoutrements of western political thought. The consistency of his thought is striking. He did not have to adjust his postulates, because time and experience simply validated all of them. Kalim Siddiqui Memorial Conferences have been held regularly in South Africa over the last three years because that is where he passed away on April 18, 1996, shortly after attending an international conference on ‘Creating a New Civilization of Islam.’ He called South Africa his second home because of the respect and love that the Muslims of South Africa showed for him. Britain, where Dr Kalim lived throughout his adult life and where he did most of his academic work, has not had such conferences or seminars since his death. The only exception was the Memorial Conference jointly convened by the Muslim Institute and the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain in November 1996. Those familiar with events of the past three years in London would know the reasons for the lack of such activity since then.

Unfortunately, some of the institutions he left behind have become embroiled in disputes which remain to be fully resolved. The sorry state to which the Muslim Parliament has been reduced is perhaps the most depressing result of these disputes; it has had no session since 1996 and no meeting of members since 1997. Some institutions, like the Crescent International, have emerged unscathed; others are beginning to be nursed back to life. The important point is that at least some of the work has continued, alhumdulillah. The Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT) is a new vehicle establised to take up the work in the post-Revolution period. The new situation demands a fresh start. It takes up the development of Dr Kalim’s projects from where the Muslim Institute left off; the Institute’s work had, in any case, been largely overshadowed by the high-profile activities of the Muslim Parliament during the last years of Dr Kalim’s life. The 25-year history of Dr Kalim’s thought was dedicated to research into the contemporary, revolutionary Islamic movement, working in many different sectors all over the world. Essentially he wanted to generate an intellectual revolution in Muslim political thought as the foundation for Islamic revolutions which he expected would come decades later. Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1978-79 changed the timescale of Muslim history. Dr Kalim and his team threw themselves into studying and understanding the phenomenon of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, and explaining it to Muslims outside Iran in terms easily understood by all Muslims.

The intellectual interpretation of the Islamic Revolution apart, Dr Kalim also set out to practically serve the Islamic Revolution and the global Islamic movement. This was done through relaunching the Crescent International as a ‘newsmagazine of the Islamic movement’ as well as holding seminars around the world. The seminars and conferences have continued since his death. Apart from the annual conferences in South Africa, the ICIT and Crescent International have organised conferences in Pakistan as well. Journalism courses have also been held for the past two years in South Africa. Plans are underway to extend these activities to Pakistan as well.

The most important task to which urgent attention needs to be paid is the Seerah Project. Dr Kalim was working on a proposal to organise a World Seerah Conference before he passed away. He had outlined a tentative programme for such a conference. This is the challenge facing those who wish to pursue his work and to take it to the next stage.

The Kalim Siddiqui Memorial Seminar in London this month is intended not only to pay tribute to him but to relaunch his intellectual work. He always emphasised that the movement and its work were more important than individuals and institutions. Relaunching his work for the service of the movement and the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the best tribute that could be paid to him. The Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought and Crescent International invite all Muslims interested in any aspect of the Islamic movement, however broadly defined, to join us in this work.

[Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought.]

Muslimedia: April 1-15, 1999

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