Caliphate? What an Islamic state means to British Muslims

August 14, 2014

When the extremist group Isis (now known as Islamic State or IS) declared a caliphate taking in parts of Syria and Iraq it reignited a debate over the role of an Islamic state. For many a caliphate is a political leadership, others a spiritual figurehead, and for some a combination of the two.

“What we’re seeing being carried out against helpless civilians like the Yazidis and other groups isn’t what an Islamic state is about,” says Yasmin Khatun, a journalist from London.

  • The institution of a caliphate (khilafah in Arabic) is how Muslims were led for centuries after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • The last widely recognised one was the Ottoman Empire which was abolished in Istanbul in 1924.
  • Caliph or khalifa – which means “successor” – is deemed by certain strands of Islam to be a leader destined to unite the Muslim “ummah” or community.
  • The position of caliph is often likened to that of a pope, a king, or head of state.
  • Many of those who want a caliphate today compare it to having an Islamic superpower – “an America for Muslims”.
  • It would also be a place to live that would be governed by Sharia law, the Islamic legal system.

Yasmin Khatun, 26, a journalist from London is a Sunni Muslim, Mina Topia, 29, a business development manager from Birmingham, is a Sunni Muslim, Joy Ahmed, 27, works in banking, lives in south London and is a Sunni Muslim, Zahra Abdeali, 31, is a recent graduate and a Shia Muslim, Fida Ul Haque, 23, is studying accounting and is an Ahmadi Muslim, Saif Ul Islam, 31, is self-employed and was born Hindu but converted to Sunni Islam offer their various opinions on what the Caliphate means to them.