From Caliphate to Modernity A Historical Look at Islamic World Order

A Historical Look at Islamic World Order

From Caliphate to Modernity A Historical Look at Islamic World Order


The prophet Muhammad established the Islamic world order, and the caliphate leaders solidified it. Everything started with the first migration, and later on, the world saw the rise of multilateralism. when the prophet (SAW) first proposed the idea of treaties. Even though European writers claimed that the concept of multilateralism originated in the West, it had an Islamic roots. With the aid of treaties, Islam attempted to achieve peace with its adversaries. Moreover, Hazrat Usman’s reign saw the growth of the Islamic empire.

For many years, the Muslim empire flourished under the caliphate regime. However, the Ottomans took control of the Muslim world following the fall of the Abbasid monarchy. The first global war’s devastation caused the Ottomans to fall, ending the Muslim world order. Although the contemporary world order is Western, if we talk about the economy and political models but still Muslim countries are relevant due to their oil reserves. In a multipolar world Muslim countries are playing a crucial role in the decision-making of the world since they shifted their foreign policy from ideology to realpolitik. 

Historical Perspective: 

  1. 1st A.H-622 A.D
    In 622 A.D., the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his followers migrated from Makkah to Madinah. This migration also termed “Hijrah” was a significant turning point in the history of Islam, that led to the establishment of a new community based on Islamic Principles. There are many examples of social cohesion and unity in Islamic history and the Charter of Madinah was one of them that led to the growth of the Muslim community. 
  1. Rise of Internationalism 
    The Charter of Madina leads to the rise of internationalism as it provides the basis for a city-state between the Muslims and the Jews. Because of the sense of inclusivity and cooperation spirit of internationalism extended beyond the boundary of Madinah. Holy prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) engaged in diplomatic affairs and settled treaties with neighboring tribes. Principles and aims of the Islamic state like Conflict Resolution, peaceful co-existence, principles of justice, equality, and respect for diversity continue to influence the concept of Internationalism within the Muslim World. Islam divided the world into three parts I.e. 
    i. Daruslama 
    ii. Dar al-Sulh 
    iii. Dar al Harb 
    Daruslama (abodes of Islam), areas where Islamic Laws prevail. These were Muslim Majority areas and also governed by Muslims. Second, Dar-al-sulh (Treaty Relationship) was the region where Muslims and non-Muslims co-exist under a treaty or agreement and where both respect the treaty. Third, Dar-Al-Hrab (Abode of War) represents those regions ruled by Non-Muslims. Muslims opted defensive rather than an offensive strategy in these areas followed by No First Attack.
  2. Treaty of Hira: 
     It was the first treaty signed with the Christian tribe of Banu Bakar during the time of Hazrat Abu Bakar, the first Caliphate of Islam. This treaty was aimed at peace and cooperation between Muslims and Christians and also included the provisions of Mutual defense and non-aggression. The impact it casts on the Islamic world order was significant because it emphasizes the importance of diplomacy, tolerance, and respect for religious diversity. This approach helped in the expansion of Islam and the establishment of a broader Islamic world order.  
  3. Caliphate of Hazrat Usman (R.A) 633-644 A.D 
    Under the caliphate of Hazrat Usman, the Islamic empire expanded. Byzantine, Pursia, and Hijaz collectively formed the first Muslim empire that was Multi-linguistic, Multi-cultural, and Multi-religious. The central system was based on Islamic principles and it provides liberty to all. Administrative and judicial reforms were also established to strengthen the governance of the Islamic state. Embassies were also created for strong diplomatic ties, Rules for foreigners were also laid down that were inspired by Islamic principles of Justice, Fairness, and hospitality. 
  4. 644-1917 A.D
    This period witnessed significant changes and developments. It begins with the expansion of the Islamic empire under Rashidun, Umayyad, and Abbasid caliphates leading towards the Islamic golden age. Islamic golden age dates from the 8th century to the 14th century, traditionally understood to have begun during the rule of Abbasids. It was the point in Islamic history where scholarship thrived, Muslims all around the world, including poets, artists, philosophers, traders, and scholars all contributed to the economic, scientific, and technological advancements.

Decline of Abbasids and Rise of Ottomans: 

Abbasid empire disintegrated because the Muslim world faced internal conflicts, political divisions, and regional fragmentations led by the rise of new empires ruled by the Turks. The Ottomans and Safavids reshaped the political landscape of the Muslim World. Palestine witnessed its longest year of peace during 401 years of Ottoman rule from 1516 to the dawn of the British mandate in 1917. there were special arrangements made by Ottomans regarding land in Palestine that are as follows:

  “ whosoever would buy and sell the territory in Palestine shall have to keep 
   the Ottoman authority as the party of the Contract” 
Ottomans were the guaranteers to keep the authority neutral. 
Khalifa Abdul Hamid (1876-1909), the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire faced numerous challenges. He oversaw the Fall of Ottomans with territorial losses, and internal unrest, and also encountered pressure from Europeans. He handed over all the deeds and property record documents of Palestine to Shah Faisal of Iraq. He then handed over the documents to Shah Abdullah senior of Jordan. In the end, these property records were handed to the British mandate as a gift by Shah Abdullah of Jordan. 

Balfour Declaration (1917): 

It was a public statement issued by the British Government in 1917, and it was based on support for the formation of the “National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine”. This declaration turned the Zionist aim of creating a Jewish state in Palestine into reality. It is considered as the most controversial and contested document in the modern history of the Arab World. Tensions and conflicts sparked between Jewish and Arab communities which ultimately led to the fall of the Muslim world order with the establishment of an Independent Jewish state on 14th May 1948. 

Principle Of Islamic World Order: 

The principle of Islamic world order was based on the Qur’an and Shariah. Shariah is the Islamic legal framework derived from the Qur’an and it includes a wide range of aspects like Family Law, Criminal Law, and economic principles. Qur’an and Shariah played a significant role in shaping the Islamic world order providing a moral and legal framework for Muslims around the world. 

Contemporary World Order and Muslim countries

The Islamic world, once a flag-bearer of knowledge, thought, and civilization, has in recent centuries relapsed into weakness. Contemporary Muslim world order is complex and multifaceted. There is no single entity that is leading the Muslim world order. Organizations like OIC play a significant role in strengthening and promoting cooperation among Muslim nations. These regional and international organizations can highlight issues affecting Muslims globally, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This can create a sense of shared experience and potentially influence international politics.

The OIC advocates for the rights of Muslims facing persecution or discrimination around the globe. This includes socio-economic and socio-cultural issues. The OIC serves as a platform for Muslim-majority countries to coordinate efforts, advocate for their interests, and promote development within the Muslim world. While a singular Muslim world order might be complex due to internal diversity, the OIC contributes to a sense of global Muslim connection and collective action.  

In the current scenario, even though the modern world order is shifting towards multipolarity, Islamic nations nonetheless play a significant role in this new global structure. Although Islamic countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have increased their diplomatic influence in recent years. Muslim nations may contribute to a multipolar world, in my opinion, since they follow the pragmatist model and don’t put all of their eggs in one basket.

For example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia maintains strong strategic ties with both the United States and the United Kingdom and neighbors to the Eastern world. However, Turkey, a Muslim country, is attempting to rekindle its power. Under the United Nations auspices, Turkey’s Black Sea Port handles grain deals. Moreover, Turkey is a member of NATO, a Western defense alliance through which she blocked the membership of Finland and Sweden so one can conclude that Islamic countries are still playing a crucial role in the comity of nations.

Threats to the Contemporary Muslim World:

Today, the Muslim World, as a whole, faces several challenges as evidenced by the serious problems that beset individual Muslim countries. There are internal as well as external threats and challenges faced by Muslim countries. Internal threats include the rise of sectarian conflicts I.e. conflicts between Sunni and Shia Muslims, political instability (struggle with authoritarian governments, corruption, and weak institutions), and economic challenges (Poverty, unemployment), that can lead to social unrest and make some people more susceptible to radicalization. External challenges include Islamophobia, Extremism, the rise of non-state actors, Foreign intervention, and also non-traditional security challenges i.e. Climate change. Another important challenge is the Rise of Social media. Terrorist organizations are using social media platforms to spread their propaganda, promoting psychological warfare. 


The period of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the caliphate saw the global flourishing of Muslim ideals, standards, and principles. The Ottoman Empire expanded its influence over Islamic principles following the fall of the Abbasid Empire. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the World Wars rendered Muslim nations incapable, which contributed to the catastrophe of Palestine—a land of great religious significance to Muslims. In the contemporary Muslim world, no single state is leading the Muslim nations but regional organizations are playing an important role by providing a platform for the collaborations between the Muslim countries.

Atika Hassan
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Atika Hassan is a student of an Mphil in International Relations from University Of Punjab


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