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Sultan or Caliph? Erdogan’s Quest

President Erdogan of Turkey is trying to restore Turkey’s greatness in the Islamic world. Some of the things he has done reflect the Ottoman empire’s role as the Caliphate of Islam. Most recently, he has been intervening in the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict as Azerbaijan’s sponsor. If you remember, the Armenian massacre back in 1915 was a direct response by Turks to rid themselves of the Christian “problem.” Other recent escapades include interventions in Libya and Syria. On the home front, the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque was commissioned as a functioning mosque. It's a jab in the eye to surrounding countries with Christian populations. Built in 537 AD, the Hagia Sophia was the largest church of the Byzantine Empire and later converted into a museum in 1935 by the secular Turkish Republic. Russia, Greece and several other Balkan nations have complained of this affront. And one more thing that Erdogan is trying to do. There are three most holy places in Islam: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. Mecca and Medina are in Saudi Arabia, but Jordan is the curator of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Turkey is trying to usurp Jordan’s role by buying off Muslims in east Jerusalem with money for charity and upkeep. No other Muslim leader, other than the deceased ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi, has tried to be as outspoken, as involved and influential as Erdogan.

So, does Erdogan seek to be a sultan or a caliph? My guess is he seeks to be the Caliph. Caliph is the successor to the Prophet Muhammad as the religious head of the Muslim community. Muhammad exercised both religious duties as the head of a religion and head of state duties as the Muslim community's leader. Some Caliphs that followed Muhammad maintained both responsibilities, but some Caliphs did not. In some cases, the head of state duties passed on to a sultan. The Caliphs would run the theocracy, and the sultans deferred religious matters to the Caliph. Technically, a sultan would have been subservient to a caliph, much like the Pope and the early European Kings. If Erdogan were Caliph, he would have much influence on all Muslim nations and populations.

According to the unpublished manuscript, Jefferson Must Be Spinning in His Grave; one must meet several requirements for being a Caliph. First, a person must be an adult male of the Quraysh (Muhammad’s tribe in Saudi Arabia). He must be of good character, free from mental and physical defects, with administrative ability, knowledge of Islamic law, and the courage to defend Islam’s territory. When ISIS formed their Caliphate, al-Baghdadi claimed heritage to the Quraysh, and he had a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad. Supposedly, he had the qualifications to be a Caliph, but he had to be elected by a shura council. President Erdogan may or may not meet those qualifications, and if not, he would have to settle for being just a sultan.

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