in category Ottomans

Why did European powers refuse to call the Ottomans a Caliphate?

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In a Nutshell:
Britain, France and other powers avoided referring to Ottomans as caliphs instead referring to them as sultans, critical of Germany who once used this title for Khalifah Abdul Hamid II. They argued the Ottomans were illegitimate claimants to the khilafah as they were not from the tribe of Quraish. Ironically, when the caliphate ended, Britain and others specifically stated the "caliphate had been abolished". Effectively they sought to create a wedge between the Muslims and delegitimise the Ottoman rule over the ummah.

Colonial Politics

The Ottomans were a legitimate caliphate from 1517 onwards.

Britain, France and other major powers avoided referring to the ottomans as caliphs or khilafah, instead referring to them as sultans. This was particularly evident during Abdul Hamid II rulership. These powers were extremely critical of Germany who once used this title for Khalifah Abdul Hamid.

France housed a magazine ironically named "al khalifah" magazine in which it argued that the ottomans were illegitimate claimants to the khilafah as they were not from the tribe of Quraish. Further irony was that the editor for this magazine was a Christian Arab in the late 19th century.

However when the caliphate ended, Britain and other commentators specifically stated that the "caliphate had been abolished". Hence they had no problem in referring to it as the caliphate to push the point that an Islamic system of governance has now ended.

This showed they were seeking to create a wedge between the Arabs and delegitimise the rulership of the Ottomans over the rest of the ummah.

The ISIS Caliphate

Fast forward to the 21st century. I remember when Isis first claimed to establish the caliphate many western think tanks warned against using the word caliphate in describing ISIS. As this term has a positive connotation amongst Muslims and again may give Isis an air of legitimacy amongst the wider Muslim ummah. They recommended using the term Isis of Da'esh instead.

The name "Islamic State," as opposed to ISIS or Da'esh, is at its heart a propaganda tool. By claiming to be the caliphate, ISIS is implying that it's the only state true Muslims should obey: Around the world, they should pledge loyalty to the one and only Islamic State. This message is part of how ISIS recruits and thus keeps fighting.

Hence why British and French authorities are moving to the more derogatory Da'esh, which doesn't imply that the group is either a real government or an authentic representation of Islamic thought."


End of ISIS

Now in 2019 with the collapse of ISIS many Western politicians including trump and many news outlets (including the BBC) have been using the term "caliphate of Isis has ended.

Here's some examples...

"We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it's 100 per cent we just took over, 100 per cent caliphate," Mr Trump said on Thursday, while speaking to soldiers at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska during during a refuelling stop for Air Force One.

"Civilians leave Isis's final enclave in Syria as 'caliphate' nears end"


"After the caliphate: Has IS been defeated?"


"How the Islamic State caliphate was lost"



The point here is Western media and politicians want to cement in the mind of the Muslims that it wasn't just ISIS (militant group) that was defeated but the caliphate in order to create the idea that the caliphate is unrealistic, has had its day, can't be re-established, was a failure.

This doesn't mean Isis had any legitimacy to claim it was a caliphate in the first place. As many will know I used to have long debates arguing that it was fundamentally wrong that they claimed to be a state let alone the khilafah.

However the point here is the subtle propaganda we need to be aware of in order to not fall into the trap that the khilafah was defeated.

The khilafah was never established in the first place so how could it have been defeated?

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