What does ISIS’ declaration of a caliphate mean?

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Two photos put out by Washington and Baghdad of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (Photo: AFP)

By: Radwan Mortada

Published Monday, June 30, 2014

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has now officially become a global Islamic caliphate. It took 14 months for its leader, who is known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to set himself up as a ruler “by order of God.” He is not only the “commander of the faithful” now, but also the caliph-at-large, and the “successor” of Prophet Mohammad. The historical declaration took place on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan of the year 1435 AH (2014 AD).

On Sunday, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, spokesperson for ISIS, declared the creation of the Islamic caliphate, “the jihadis’ long-running dream.” This marks the first time the caliphate has been “restored” by anyone since Ataturk abolished it almost 90 years ago.

A few thousand ISIS fighters have ostensibly abolished the borders drawn by the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Meanwhile, ISIS has been rebranded as the global Islamic State (IS). Its black banner, once flapping over the land between Aleppo and Diyala, now sits above a borderless entity with absolute authority over all Muslim lands.

ISIS, or IS, believes that pledging allegiance to the new caliph is a duty for every Muslim, and those who fail or refuse to do so shall be deemed as apostates, and will be fought and struck down. This was clearly stated by Adnani, who said, “Beware of splitting the ranks. Those who want to split the ranks, strike their heads with bullets […].”

But what is the meaning of declaring an Islamic caliphate? A Salafi cleric says, “It means that borders and barriers among Islamic countries are now invalid. There will be a single Islamic economic system and currency, and an army to defend it.” He continued, “It also means there will no longer be any subservience to any country, requiring the establishment of universities and factories to make Muslims a major power in all fields.”

ISIS, represented by its senior leaders and notables, decided to declare the Islamic caliphate and to install a caliph for the Muslims, having in its view satisfied all the requirements to do so. These requirements are the same ones caliphs supposedly needed since about 1,400 years ago.

According to Salafi clerics, the caliph is required to rule a territory in every sense of the word, and not in a provisional manner. They argue that ISIS staked its claim to the caliphate on the basis that it controls vast swaths of territory, in addition to having funds, an army, and a population under its control, though ISIS did not take into account the fact that each era should have a different concept for what a state should be. Adnani had specified the role of the state as being to release prisoners, appoint governors and judges, collect taxes, and disseminate religious education, among other functions.

Some radical Islamists have criticized ISIS for declaring a caliphate without first obtaining the unanimous consent of the nation’s scholars of religion. If Baghdadi is to be a caliph for all Muslims, then is it enough for him to obtain the consent of all scholars of Iraq and Syria – assuming that even this could happen to begin with?

What is certain is that the declaration of the caliphate puts all militant Islamic groups in an awkward position. Addressing such groups, ISIS had declared, “The legitimacy of your groups is null and void. It is a sin for any of you to sleep this night without pledging allegiance,” adding that other militant groups delay victory because they are a cause for divisions.

One supporter of al-Nusra Front has questions about the meaning of this caliphate too. He said the move means that Taliban and various al-Qaeda-linked groups, in addition to jihadi groups active in different countries, would henceforth be committing a sin, and fighting them and killing their members is a duty, unless they accept Baghdadi as the caliph.

In turn, a member of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades weighs in. He told Al-Akhbar, “There is no good in declaring a caliphate under these circumstances; it is something that has evil consequences, which means it is invalid.”

The young Lebanese man, who is wanted by the authorities for his affiliation to a terrorist group, continued, “Its establishment at this time ruins everything that the mujahidin...have built everywhere. The declaration means that anyone who does not pledge allegiance to them will be declared an apostate and sentenced to die.”

When asked whether he was going to give his allegiance to the self-proclaimed caliph Baghdadi, he said, “I will not split the ranks, but I will definitely not pledge allegiance. I would rather be beheaded a thousand times than do so, because I cannot accept a law that makes it lawful to kill thousands of Muslims unjustly.”

In the same vein, a leader in ISIS’ rival al-Nusra Front said, “Baghdadi ruled that Sheikh Joulani was an apostate for reneging on his allegiance to the emir [i.e. Baghdadi] even though his allegiance was something recommended rather than compulsory.” He continued, “By declaring the caliphate, they are forcing all groups in the Islamic world to be with ISIS in everything, including in its war with al-Nusra, or risk be seen as rogue and as something that ISIS soldiers must fight.”

Another Salafi cleric says that declaring the caliphate is the “essence of folly,” adding that ISIS does not meet the real requirements for doing so. He said, “Does military might establish a state? What about economists and pedagogues? In my opinion, this is suicide that will accelerate its collapse.”

Now that the Islamic caliphate is a fait accompli, jihadis say that all eyes will be on Mecca and Medina next. They say that the caliph will move to appoint envoys to every “wilaya” – a historical term for the provinces of an Islamic state.

Who knows, the wilaya of Lebanon may have its very own emir soon (reports about the appointment of a man named Abdul-Salam al-Urduni as emir of ISIS in Lebanon are incorrect, according to security sources). Perhaps the answer lies with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Islamist party that has been calling for years for the restoration of the caliphate.

Follow Radwan Mortada on Twitter | @radwanmortada

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Adnani said, “Beware of splitting the ranks. Those who want to split the ranks, strike their heads with bullets […].”

Why do they need to kill? Men kill for men's will not God's. ISIS kill for “the jihadis’ long-running dream.”

Render to God the things that are God's.
Let God judge for only He can see men's hearts.
Let God kill guilty men for only He can proclaim men's guilt.
Let God seek justice for only He is just and has wisdom.
Glory be to the only one true God, our Creator!

i am the first person in the planet to say the group name I.S.I.S. whoever copy it from me is a sure thief, im surprise to see the word isis on tv, the word is copy exactly as i created it

It will be Interesting to see how this plays out. Keep an eye on Israel as I feel they will have a role to play in this in terms of being involved in battle further down the road. The people of Saudi Arabi are sick of the corrupt Kings and Princes who sleep with the prostitutes and do everything Islam is against.

If Isis do go in to Saudi then maybe things are going to script, Imam Ul Mehdi being sited in the Streets.......and we know how that story plays out. Who knows if this Caliphate will hold.

It would be interesting to see if the British Government offered safe passage to any muslim wanting to leave the U.K. who was willing to give up their British passport safe passage how many would take this offer?

I guess it would guarantee the British Government that if they saw these people as a threat then at least they would not be on u.k. land and be a potential threat.

ISIS and state are COWARDS and BULLYS. Only such people have a need to be seen as Mini Gods. Its only an excuse to bully, rape and kill ect ect. Then hide themselves behind their man made 'CLUB' and let their mentally programed Military do their fighting. It is nothing more than a Gang with several members as in Americas Street Gangs, or West Coast - East Coast bigger Gangs. ISIS is nothing and our Heavenly Father is Not a part of this New State!!

isis is trouble and war creator this is not from our heavenly father hasimisinimis and we are not an Islamic or muslim group we are a multicultural society we live to serve each other and we are not terrorist to start war on others now ibsi is blessings from heavenly father that's the differents.if you set up groups like this we will seek you out before the day of judgment and our heavenly father is saying this now I will reveal myself. you will never see the new dawn or the sunrise from your window son of binlardin.lewis McCarthy the antiterarist of the 1930s he will never resalt in the battle of the armigedon ever again. now we can ask my daughter to say as she chooses,the world was made in a short time for peace love hope and faith not for corruption or bullying others who pay money for your services of evil.black bettles.
thankyou for your knowledge brendas we ask lewist to say,we are not asking you either to ask me to add my name unless inful tranter dean,brenda leech.we are now asking you your name mine is winisuckmeintheflame,go evil serpent. your laughter is for the lake of fire its open to you whom do evil as my daughter from old mary magdelene had told you once before she was never a prostitute as you claim binlarden and you Brenda is the only one im coming for tonight is your night for a talk. we are now broadcasting this world wide binlarden you are black bettles for the last time. we are no more Brenda is right to say this before in her time she is my holy daughter and you whom set this up is lewis tranter the departed bye now its not a setup is it we see your intention now lets broadcast this as today we wait in silent to see if this ibsi or isis replies to what we have said bye now black bettles we have you in our heavenly fathers sight the dark has now taken you to the lack of fire. thank you Brenda for this we see now what he has been doing asking for the media to braod cast threats on the public. lets all go to the highest mountain when it strickes as this woman has been raped beaten abused in the name of mother mary whom has just arrived back from there visit she is annoyed that you did not call her with your flower I did the worm in you removed this it is now desolved by now,and you lewis tranter you are also as she was and has gone through this in the name of her fathers holy name.and the only one whom stood by her has waited long enough to take her home bye now Brenda love lewis tranter arise neil lees yasuria whom is yashuai in Hebrew year 2014 we are now over Brenda for making me give name Brenda we are over bye now I,m yashuawe she was right gods mothers mary Martha and mary madelene whom wanted rebirth now I,m back bye now your days are over you are himisimisiniminisiminimisinimisinimisinnimns, we are over all of us Brenda asked for nomore on the earth in her fathers name whom are evil and terrorist yet give welcoming coats to help others not to harm the spirit world whom are now on there way to thank her you see she is typing my every word so we can publish this in 2seconds starting now

The Khilafah is not an empire that favours some lands over others. It should have capability to defend the Muslims. The Khalifa should be given Bayah by an assembly of ulema. It should recognise differences of opinion and also difference of faiths being those of the Book.
There are many conditions that make this ISIS (Egyptian/Greek Goddess) a farce. It has made such an impact that the west is not even bothered and it has not called up any emergency summits of G7 leaders. No mention of any threat to Israel and its existence has been aired. No response of ISIS to the plight of the Palestinians has been made. etc etc etc. It is a phoney organisation and attempt.

Saudi Arabia is now exposed because the Islamic state will soon claim Mecca and Medina.
For the first time since its creation, Saudi Arabia is challenged and threatened not by Shia Iran or Moslem Brotherhood Turkey, as it was thinking, but by a group of its own Sunni brand. The danger in antagonizing them is much bigger as many of the Saudi population is already unhappy with the corrupted ruling of the Saud family and admire ISIS military achievement.
Saudi Arabia's rigid Islamic system is challenged by an Islamic system that appears military stronger and independent from the West, at least for now.

That is to the benefit of Syria, Iran and Iraq. Saudi Arabia has be recklessly allowed the funding of terrorist extremists to avoid engaging their own army or their "CIA" in countries they wanted to have control of .
Now they need to stop that and by doing so they may become the target of terrorist attacks.
Dark clouds hang on Saudi Arabia...

THIS IS STRANGE. A muslim state (caliph) will this mean that the rest of the states must become its waliya. if not then they can count on being crushed by the ISIS,besides Iraq and Syria have not yet accepted him and are still fighting ISIS/ISL. The whole issue is confusing I guess

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