Part 5 – Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s intellectual contribution and legacy

Dr Kalim’s writings and ideas

Dr Kalim was always a writer by nature. His first job in Karachi was as founder-editor of the student newspaper The Leader. In London, he moved rapidly up the journalistic ladder, until he was a sub-editor on the national paper The Guardian. Although he then went into academia, he was not averse to returning the journalism when the Muslim Institute took over the Crescent International. For some time after the transformation of the Crescent from a community paper in Toronto to a newsmagazine of the global Islamic movement, he was effectively its editor-in-chief and main writer. He continued to write regularly for it for the rest of his life.

He also wrote a large number of books and papers. His first published book was Conflict, Crisis and War in Pakistan (1972). His PhD thesis was published as Functions of International Conflict – a socio-economic study of Pakistan in 1975 . But by this time, his attention had shifted from Pakistan to the world of Islam as a whole; his first book on Muslim political thought was Towards a New Destiny (1973). From then on he produced books and papers on aspects of the global Islamic movement with remarkable regularity throughout his life. The most important of these have now been compiled by Zafar Bangash as In Pursuit of the Power of Islam (London: The Open Press, 1996).

The Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute (1974) presented the understanding of the Muslim historical situation with which he launched his work and, together with Towards a New Destiny, is essential reading to understanding his life’s work. After the Islamic Revolution, his understanding of it developed in a series of writings through the 1980s, including his papers to the Muslim Institute seminars and his introductions to the Issues in the Islamic Movement series (1982-89).

The culmination of his writings and political thought was the paper Error, Deviation, Correction and Convergence in Muslim Political Thought, written in 1989-90. In this, he presented his understanding of the process of Muslim history, how things had gone wrong after the Rightly-Guided Khulafa, why the initial breakthrough in Muslim political thought had come in Shi’a Iran, and what Muslims in other countries must do to establish Islamic rule in their own countries. The argument was warmly welcomed and endorsed by Ayatullah Khamanei, Rahbar of Islamic Iran following the death of Imam Khomeini.

The main idea which emerges from all his writings is that the civilizational power of Islam needs to be re-asserted at every level. However, he does not expect this to be an overnight development; the problems of 1400 years cannot be solved quickly. The basic requirement is for Muslim scholars and intellectuals to re-write Muslim political thought on the basis of Islamic traditions and scholarship rather than western ones, and use this new Muslim political thought as the basis for a new civilization of Islam.

He also hypothesised the global Islamic movement long before its emergence after the Islamic Revolution, and commented on its nature and development through the 1980s and 1990s. He was particularly interested in the practical aspects of a functioning, global Islamic movement in a world totally dominated by western mechanisms of control. This was the subject of his The Islamic Movement – A Systems Approach (1976), written well before Iran’s Islamic Revolution. He developed his ideas on the global Islamic movement in post-revolutionary writings, culminating in his final book Stages of Islamic Revolution (1996), which he described as ‘a handbook for Islamic activists’. The first edition of this was rushed into print in South Africa to coincide with the conference there in April 1996; he was thus able to see it before his death.

Any understanding of Dr Kalim’s work must start with his writings. Stages of Islamic Revolution is crucial for this. Zafar Bangash’s compilation of his major writings from 1973 to 1992, In Pursuit of the Power of Islam, is also of tremendous importance. Most of these writings are now available online, on this website and elsewhere.

The way forward: Dr Kalim’s legacy

Dr Kalim Siddiqui will be remembered as both an intellectual and an activist. In his own life, he was probably known best for his establishment of the Muslim Institute and the Muslim Parliament. The fact that both these institutions have disappeared under the leadership that took over after his death is a tragedy. The ICIT is committed, however, to continuing the work of the Muslim Institute, and ensuring at least that the principles of the Muslim Parliament are not forgotten.

But Dr Kalim’s ideas and writings as important as his institutions, and it may well prove that they will be better understood  and appreciated the cool, calm light of hindsight than they were during his lifetime. Dr Kalim was never a man to sit back and merely contemplate the world around him. His commitment was to the Islamic movement and he understood that all his intellectual work must be such as to contribute to the ongoing work of the movement at the ground level.

His most important legacy, however, may well prove to be his example. Few people have ever demonstrated the sort of commitment and dedication to the work of Islam that he did. Through years of ill-health, and numerous other kinds of problems and pressures, he always kept his eyes firmly on the goal on the horizon and worked towards it. Nothing ever got in the way of his next important task, his next goal. He was also a man who inspired those around him to make similar sacrifices in pursuit of the same vision, and leaves behind him a team of people all over the world whose commitment is to exactly the same work.

The onus on us now is to ensure that the work that he began is maintained and provides precisely the sort of foundation for building a new civilization of Islam that he envisaged, insha’Allah.


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