The Taliban’s success in gaining full and everlasting control of the Afghan territory, ethnicities, sects, and various social segments that live there is a matter of great significance. However, more important than it is how the rest of the Islamists, with all their categories, are reacting to this extremely important development. Already, a part of them labeled it as “the mother of all conquests.”
The Taliban calls itself now the “Islamic Emirate,” and it is worth asking why it did not acquire the name of “the Islamic Republic” in line with its neighbor and friend, the Iran of Khomeini? Why did it not take the name of the “Islamic State” like ISIS? Why did it not proclaim itself as a caliphate and call its ruler Amir al-Mu’minin [commander of the faithful] which is synonymous in early Islamic history with a caliph, although an emir, sultan, or imam is not necessarily a caliph in an all-inclusive sense where he is in charge of all public and private affairs of all Muslims?
These questions are not raised for the sake of recalling the controversial pages of history or amusing ourselves with anecdotes of the ancient caliphs, sultans, emirs, kings, imams, and past states. Rather, these questions are meant to investigate the essence of the turbulent dilemma the Islamist movements are going through, and the core of that dilemma is the source of these movement’s legitimacy. In the same vein, what is this legitimacy and how do these movements claim to have acquired it? Who are these movements and who are we? Who is an infidel, a Muslim, a hypocrite, a loyalist, an antagonist? Besides, what is the Sharia law, and who are supposed to interpret it? What is jihad and who is entitled to command it? What are the limits of jurisprudence imposed on a particular location, and what should be the stance towards a national state with defined borders and a national flag – recalling that now the Taliban is punishing those who hoist the Afghan flag?
Meanwhile, how will the Taliban’s theatrical takeover of Afghanistan, which was portrayed as Saladin’s Holy Land reconquest, affect other similar movements who are carrying their weapons, or are willing to?
It is worth considering how the extremist religious armed movements in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Sinai have reacted to the recent developments in Afghanistan, as well as how the non-armed Muslim Brotherhood groups and institutions in Syria, Egypt, Morocco and elsewhere reacted to the same.
The one and only potential rival of the Taliban who is eager to win the caliphate’s materialistic and moral gains to itself are the gangs of ISIS, who already have a strong presence in Afghanistan. Otherwise, all other Islamist groups are happy and euphoric about what happened, and are looking forward to the year 2024, the first centennial of the fall of the Ottoman caliphate.
Now is the time of being fully alert, aware, decisive, and ready for action. What we already know about the Taliban gives a warning that the forthcoming actions of the movement will be even worse. This is an important wake-up call to everyone who is witnessing the current events. Eventually, the most important thing is to scrutiny the reactions of the Taliban’s peers among the Arabs and other nations, as this will enable us to anticipate their future actions.
I forgot to mention that the preparations to commemorate the first centennial of the fall of the Ottoman caliphate were mentioned by Cem Toker, former president of the Turkish Liberal Democratic Party, who, during an interview with a Turkish satellite channel TV in 2018, said that activities and functions will be held in Turkey in 2024 to revive the Ottoman caliphate.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.