ISIS Caliphate: Dream Over
The jihad will, of course, continue.
The Syrian town of Baghouz, the last redoubt of the Islamic State (ISIS), was reportedly liberated on Thursday, and that means that the Islamic State’s caliphate is now definitively a thing of the past.
On June 29, 2014, the group that had up to that point called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Shams in Arabic (hence the synonymous acronyms ISIL and ISIS) announced that it was forming a new caliphate – the single unified government of all the Muslims and the only government to which Muslims rightly owe allegiance, according to Sunni Muslim thought -- and would henceforth drop the second half of its name and call itself simply the Islamic State.
This claim to constitute a new caliphate became the basis of its appeal to Muslims worldwide, who traveled in unprecedented numbers to Iraq, Syria and Libya to join it: it attracted 30,000 Muslims from 100 different countries.
The reason for this was the appeal of the idea of the caliphate. The caliph is the successor of Muhammad as the military, political, and spiritual leader of the Muslims. From the time of the origins of Islam until 1924, there was always a caliphate somewhere in the world. The Umayyad, Abbasid, and Ottoman caliphates were, at their peaks, massive empires. The caliph is the only person authorized, according to Sunni theology, to wage offensive jihad, and most did.
ISIS, along with al-Qaeda and other jihad groups, considered the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate by Kemal Ataturk in 1924 to be the beginning of the troubles for the Islamic world: disunity, dominance by Western powers, inability to expand the domains of Islam in any concerted manner. All of them shared, and share, the goal of restoring the caliphate. Only the Islamic State ever managed to do so, albeit only for 57 months.
Once it declared itself the new caliphate, the Islamic State swiftly began to consolidate its control over the large expanses of Iraq and Syria that it controlled – an area larger than the United Kingdom with a population of eight million people. Blithely disregarding the world’s universal condemnation of its pretensions, it moved to assemble the accouterments of a state: currency, passports and the like. Its control of oil wells in Iraq quickly gave it a steady and sizeable source of wealth.
And contrary to the confident claims of Barack Obama and a host of non-Muslim leaders worldwide, it imposed Sharia in its domains, and strictly enforced it. It collected the jizya, the Qur’an-mandated tax on the “People of the Book,” from Christians. It severely punished women for not adhering to the Sharia dress code. Its scrupulous care to implement Sharia was part of its international appeal for Muslims, along with its pretensions to the caliphate.
That fact is also why we will see another caliphate, and it will be just as brutal and bloody as the Islamic State, because that brutality and bloodlust against non-Muslims were not eccentricities of a rogue non-Islamic group twisting and hijacking Islam’s peaceful teachings, as John Kerry and so many others insisted. In reality, the cruelty of the Islamic State – stonings, amputations, oppression of women and non-Muslims – is, as I have demonstrated many times from the Islamic texts, mandated in the Qur’an and the teachings of Muhammad.
Of course the Western intelligentsia knows that to say that Islamic violence and oppression is based on Qur’anic teaching is simply a manifestation of “Islamophobia,” and that the Qur’an is full of wisdom and peace. That’s why, when some group of Muslims founds another caliphate somewhere, and it looks very much like ISIS (and Iran and Saudi Arabia and other Sharia states, for that matter), they will be utterly bewildered. Why is this misunderstanding of Islam so widespread and persistent?
Anyway, the collapse of ISIS is due to President Trump. When Obama left office, it looked as if ISIS was here to stay, and was on the path to legitimization, a la the Palestine Liberation Organization. It was finding buyers for its low-priced oil. It had, it has just been revealed, an ambassador to Turkey. If Hillary Clinton had won the Presidency, there is no doubt that it would still be a significant force in Iraq and Syria.
The caliphate is over, but ISIS isn’t. Its dispersed jihadis are focusing on attacking civilians in the West. Unfortunately, few, if any, Islamic State jihadis will take the collapse of the caliphate as a sign that their premises were wrong; they will just go wage jihad somewhere else, which is why Western countries are suicidal to take back the ISIS jihadis who are their citizens.
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Screencap from YouTube
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His new book is The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.