by Waseem Shehzad (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 3, Rajab, 1437)
Colleagues, friends and admirers of the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui gathered in Toronto to pay tribute to this great son of Islam and a leading intellectual of the last century.
Glowing tributes were paid to the late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui on the 20th anniversary of his passing away. One of the leading intellectuals and activists of the late-20th century, his colleagues, friends, and admirers participated in a memorial conference on April 23 in Toronto to not only remember him but reflect on his works and life’s struggle.
Dr. Kalim Siddiqui is most fondly remembered as founder and director of the Muslim Institute in London as well as leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. This latter role overshadowed his more important intellectual contributions because he was in the media virtually on a daily basis. And this media attention was not confined to Britain where he lived. but the entire global media was fixated on the novel idea of the Muslim Parliament. It was also a major challenge to the hypocrisy of Western political systems that claim to guarantee the rights of all citizens but discriminate against minorities, especially religious minorities like the Muslims.
Dr. Kalim’s political activism was underpinned by his intellectual work. It provided solid grounding for his experiment in social engineering where the Muslim Parliament idea generated power without territory. He described it as a “non-territorial Islamic State,” much to the chagrin of the British establishment. The British were not amused.
Many of his colleagues, among them ICIT Director Zafar Bangash and Imam Muhammad al-‘Asi, as well as his son Iqbal Siddiqui, and social and political activist, Dr. ‘Ali Mallah highlighted Dr. Kalim’s extensive contribution to Muslim political thought as well as activism. Sharing anecdotes from the late scholar’s life, they provided insights into his great personality both at the intellectual as well as political level and shared many examples of his courage and determination.
His death on April 18, 1996 in South Africa where he had just attended the highly successful international conference on “Creating a New Civilization of Islam” left a huge void in the Ummah. As an academic, visionary, and activist, Dr. Kalim had created a special place for himself in the field of Muslim political thought through his writings and speeches. Such clarity unfortunately is lacking among many Muslim writers today many of whom have become mired in narrow sectarian polemics.
Dr. Kalim was far above such sectarian considerations as Imam al-‘Asi, pointed out. He always spoke about and wrote in terms of the broader goals of Islam and the Prophet’s (pbuh) Sirah and Sunnah. He exuded confidence where others spread pessimism.
His understanding of Western political systems and thought was profound and deep and he directed Muslims to seek solutions to their problems in the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the Sirah of the noble Messenger (pbuh). He insisted that the Islamic civilization would emerge only from within the roots of Islam and not through ideas borrowed from the West. He exuded great confidence and inspired others around him.
ICIT Director Zafar Bangash who was a close colleague and associate of Dr. Kalim’s from the very beginning (the two were closely involved in setting up the Muslim Institute), highlighted his eventful life taking the conference participants on a journey into Dr. Kalim’s activities starting with the establishment of the Muslim Institute in London. The Institute, as it came to be called, was based in Bloomsbury, the intellectual heart of London close to University College London (UCL) where both Dr. Kalim and Zafar Bangash were students. Dr. Kalim had just obtained his PhD in International Relations from UCL in 1972 while Zafar Bangash was an undergraduate at the same institution.
Dr. Kalim was also the author of numerous papers and books starting with his hard-hitting book on Pakistan titled, Conflict, Crisis and War in Pakistan (1972). The book not only traced the origins of the Pakistan movement and how the British-created landed aristocracy hijacked it but how the dream of Pakistan was turned into a nightmare resulting in the humiliating defeat of the Pakistan Army in December 1971 and the loss of half the country.
Thereafter, he produced a number of highly analytical books including Towards a New Destiny (1974), Functions of International Conflict: the case study of Pakistan (1974), The Islamic movement: a Systems Approach (1976), and Beyond the Muslim Nation-states (1977). These years were also interspersed with holding seminars at the Muslim Institute in London where leading academics and political activists from all over the world were invited to speak.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran provided the Muslim Institute with a new and unique challenge: how to communicate the success of this most remarkable achievement by one part of the Ummah to the rest, who happen to be from a different school of thought. Dr. Kalim, the driving force behind the Muslim Institute’s work, was uniquely placed to perform this role and he devoted his full energies to doing just that.
Throughout the 1980s, the Muslim Institute became the hub of activities where international seminars were organized to discuss the burning issues of the day. These included such topics as the Hajj, integration and disintegration in the politics of Islam and kufr, Muslim political yhought under colonialism, impact of nationalism on the Muslim world, and the Islamic Revolution in Iran, among others.
Leading Islamic scholars, thinkers, activists and leaders of Islamic movements from different parts of the world participated in these seminars. The London seminars provided these scholars a platform as well as an opportunity to discuss the hot topics of the day. They also provided an opportunity for Muslims from different schools of thought to interact with each other and discover how much they had in common.
Since Dr. Kalim was a heart patient having suffered his first heart attack as early as February 1974, he knew he did not have too much time in life. In the latter part of his life, he concentrated his intellectual energies on two areas: a deeper study of the Qur’an and a different approach to the study of the Sirah of the noble Messenger (pbuh). Dr. Kalim invited Imam Muhammad al-‘Asi to embark on the tafsir of the noble Qur’an and his (Dr. Kalim’s) paper on the Sirah, Political Dimensions of the Sirah, that was published posthumously (1998), was taken up by the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT) to produce a significant body of Sirah literature. Imam al-‘Asi’s monumental tafsir, The Ascendant Qur’an: Realigning Man to the Divine Power Culture, as well as a series of books on the Sirah of which Power Manifestations of the Sirah: Examining the Letters and Treaties of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) by Zafar Bangash are the best known.
Dr. Kalim’s son, Iqbal Siddiqui who flew in especially from London to participate in the conference had worked closely with his father, especially on the Muslim Parliament project, as well as in the preparation of Dr. Kalim’s last book, Stages of Islamic Revolution, whose first edition was published a few day’s before Dr. Kalim’s untimely death. His writings have influenced people far and wide and have contributed to clarifying many aspects of Muslim political thought that was hitherto mired in some confusion under the influence of Western political thought.
The fact that so many people still remember Dr. Kalim 20 years after his passing away and given the fast-paced changes in the Muslim world is a tribute to his great intellectual contribution. Dr. Kalim’s thoughts and ideas need to be more widely circulated and studied. They are as relevant today — or perhaps even more so — than they were 20 years ago.
He was a great scholar as well as an activist who while in poor physical health, never rested for a day and continued to struggle for the upliftment of the Ummah. He would not have wanted it any other way.
May Allah (swt) rest his soul in peace, ameen.