PJ Media published my essay Monday, July 7, 2014, on the newly minted “ISIL Caliphate” in its unapologetic doctrinal and historical context, including current hard data on the popularity of the Caliphate “ideal” amongst the Muslim masses.
ISIL Has Caliphate Dreams: The Eternal Muslim Ideal
The jihad terror organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) formally declared a “re-creation” of Islam’s traditional solidary religio-political entity, the “Caliphate” in a pronouncement issued June 29, 2014.
Here the flag of the Islamic State, the flag of tawhīd (monotheism), rises and flutters. Its shade covers land from Aleppo to Diyala.
ISIL’s rhetoric extolled its triumph over all infidels, with a particular emphasis on non-Muslims, and the attempted imposition of the totalitarian Sharia, in all its liberty-crushing, and dehumanizing barbarity. The jihad terror organization also claimed ISIL’s rule was restoring not only Sharia-mandated Islamic “justice” (for example, the destruction of Christian crosses, and extraction of the humiliating jizya, per Koran 9:29), but also local “stability,” and Islamic pride.
The Muslims are honored. The kuffār (infidels) are disgraced. Ahlus-Sunnah (the Sunnis) are masters and are esteemed. The people of bid’ah (heresy) are humiliated. The hudūd (Sharia penalties) are implemented – the hudūd of Allah – all of them. The frontlines are defended. Crosses and graves are demolished.
The people in the lands of the State move about for their livelihood and journeys, feeling safe regarding their lives and wealth. Wulāt (plural of wālī or “governors”) and judges have been appointed. Jizyah (a tax imposed on kuffār) has been enforced. Fay’ (money taken from the kuffār without battle) and zakat (obligatory alms) have been collected. Courts have been established to resolve disputes and complaints. Evil has been removed. Lessons and classes have been held in the masājid (plural of masjid) and, by the grace of Allah, the religion has become completely for Allah. There only remained one matter, a wājib kifā’ī (collective obligation) that the ummah sins by abandoning. It is a forgotten obligation. The ummah has not tasted honor since they lost it. It is a dream that lives in the depths of every Muslim believer. It is a hope that flutters in the heart of every mujāhid muwahhid (monotheist). It is the khilāfah (caliphate). It is the khilāfah – the abandoned obligation of the era.
Despite subsequent dissatisfaction with ISIL, and its newly minted “Caliphate”—already emerging just 3-weeks after the regular Iraqi army and police forces of the al-Maliki central government were crushed, or fled—in the immediate aftermath of the Sunni takeover, 81.5% of Mosul’s predominantly Sunni residents felt more secure after the Sunni insurgents seized control of the city.
Hollow proclamations have followed suit from Muslim leaders claiming ISIL’s Caliphate “vision” somehow distorted this idyllic historical Islamic institution. Sheikh Khaldoun Oraymet, secretary-general of Lebanon’s Supreme Islamic Council opined
What ISIL is doing is in complete contradiction of the principles of the Islamic caliphate: a righteous caliphate which preserves the rights of all people, and respects all people and the opinions of others who are of different faiths, race, time and place.
Even the Jordanian jihad ideologist Issam Barqawi, known as Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi, claimed on jihadist websites, that ISIL’s leaders evidenced, “no manners,” voicing his main concern, “What would the fate be of other Islamist fighters in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere?”, before adding the obligatory disclaimer, that ISIL was “distorting religion.” Previously, ahistorical drivel from the Western Muslim “advocacy” group the Muslim Association of Britain, lionized both the Caliphate, and the corollary implementation of Sharia, as promulgators of “a peaceful and just society.” Moreover, Egypt’s current President al-Sisi—recently elected in a landslide victory—extolled the Caliphate in his 2006 U.S. Army War College “mini-thesis” as “the ideal form of government,” broadly
…recognized as the goal for any new form of government very much in the manner that the U.S. pursued the ideals of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” From the Middle Eastern perspective, the defining words governing their form of democracy [emphasis added] would likely reflect “fairness, justice, equality, unity and charity.”
Such warped apologetics are reminiscent of the equivalent protestations made to advance destructive Communist totalitarianism, “Communists, what have you made of communism?”
The prototypical Caliphate under Umar Ibn al-Khattab (d. 644), the second “rightly guided” caliph of Islam, merits summary examination. During his reign, which lasted for a decade (634-644), Syria, Iraq and Egypt were conquered, and Umar was thus responsible for organizing the early Islamic Caliphate. Alfred von Kremer, the great 19th century German scholar of Islam, described the “central idea” of Umar’s regime, as being the furtherance of “…the religious-military development of Islam at the expense of the conquered nations.” The predictable and historically verifiable consequence of this guiding principle was a legacy of harsh inequality, intolerance, and injustice towards non-Muslims observed by von Kremer in 1868 (and still evident in Islamic societies to this day, nearly 150 years later):
It was the basis of its severe directives regarding Christians and those of other faiths, that they be reduced to the status of pariahs, forbidden from having anything in common with the ruling nation; it was even the basis for his decision to purify the Arabian Peninsula of the unbelievers, when he presented all the inhabitants of the peninsula who had not yet accepted Islam with the choice: to emigrate or deny the religion of their ancestors. The industrious and wealthy Christians of Najran, who maintained their Christian faith, emigrated as a result of this decision from the peninsula, to the land of the Euphrates, and ‘Umar also deported the Jews of Khaybar. In this way ‘Umar based that fanatical and intolerant approach that was an essential characteristic of Islam, now extant for over a thousand years, until this day [i.e., written in 1868]. It was this spirit, a severe and steely one, that incorporated scorn and contempt for the non-Muslims, that was characteristic of ‘Umar, and instilled by ‘Umar into Islam; this spirit continued for many centuries, to be Islam’s driving force and vital principle….With a strong hand, he held the reins of spiritual and worldly power, commanded with unlimited full authority over the political and religious activities of Muslims, already many millions in number. Under him, the conquest of Syria was completed, Iraq and Persia were conquered as far as the Oxus and the borders of Hindustan, while in the west, Egypt obeyed him…
… The practical consequences of such a discriminatory system were summarized in A.S. Tritton’s 1930 The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, a pioneering treatise on the status of the dhimmis:
…[C]aliphs destroyed churches to obtain materials for their buildings, and the mob was always ready to pillage churches and monasteries…dhimmis…always lived on sufferance, exposed to the caprices of the ruler and the passions of the mob…in later times..[t]hey were much more liable to suffer from the violence of the crowd, and the popular fanaticism was accompanied by an increasing strictness among the educated. The spiritual isolation of Islam was accomplished. The world was divided into two classes, Muslims and others, and only Islam counted…Indeed the general feeling was that the leavings of the Muslims were good enough for the dhimmis.
…[E]ven at the nadir of Islam’s political power, during the World War I era final disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, Hurgronje observed how
…the common people are willingly taught by the canonists and feed their hope of better days upon the innumerable legends of the olden time and the equally innumerable apocalyptic prophecies about the future. The political blows that fall upon Islam make less impression…than the senseless stories about the power of the Sultan of Stambul [Istanbul], that would instantly be revealed if he were not surrounded by treacherous servants, and the fantastic tidings of the miracles that Allah works in the Holy Cities of Arabia which are inaccessible to the unfaithful. The conception of the Khalifate [Caliphate] still exercises a fascinating influence, regarded in the light of a central point of union against the unfaithful (i.e., non-Muslims). [emphasis added]
… Pooled findings from surveys conducted almost a century after Hurgronje’s 1916 observations (i.e., performed between 2006 to 2012), indicate that the vast preponderance of contemporary Muslims still seek the conjoined goals of re-establishing a Caliphate, and implementing the Sharia, Islamic law.
For example, polling data released (April 24, 2007) in a rigorously conducted face-to-face University of Maryland/ WorldPublicOpinion.org interview survey of 4384 Muslims completed between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007-1000 Moroccans, 1000 Egyptians, 1243 Pakistanis, and 1141 Indonesians-revealed that 65.2% of those interviewed-almost 2/3, hardly a “fringe minority”—desired this outcome (i.e., “To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate”), including 49% of “moderate” Indonesian Muslims. The internal validity of these data about the present longing for a Caliphate is strongly suggested by a concordant result: 65.5% of this Muslim sample approved the proposition “To require a strict [emphasis added] application of Shari’a law in every Islamic country.”
…Mary Boyce’s observations about the final Islamic decimation of Zoroastrianism in Iran are mirrored by the plight of Iraqi Christians. Although ISIL’s murderous anti-Christian depredations are only the most recent during more than a decade of continuous jihadist activity, they could result in the final extinction of Iraq’s ancient Christian community. Post-surge Iraq—the paragon of General David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine “triumph”—rapidly deteriorated, well before the emergence of ISIL, per se, into a hotbed of jihadism targeting Christians.
As reported December 5, 2011, in the Wall Street Journal, according to Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the northern provinces of Kirkuk and Sulimaniya, at least fifty-four Iraqi churches had been bombed and at least 905 Christians killed in various acts of violence since the US invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Noting that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled, the archbishop stated: “It’s a hemorrhage. Iraq could be emptied of Christians.” Archbishop Louis Sako’s assessment was confirmed by a Minority Rights Group International report, released at the end of November 2011…
… Mosul’s Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona, whose predecessor Paulos Farah Rahho was kidnapped and murdered outside his Mosul Church in 2008, has chronicled the impact of ISIL’s jihad on the indigenous Christians over the past month. He initially noted the attacks on churches, and a monastery, and Christian flight, observing,
We have never seen anything like this—a large city such as Mosul attacked and in chaos.
We received threats… [and] now all the faithful have fled the city. I wonder if they will ever return there.
Two weeks later Nona lamented, “the future for us is unknown and dark,” before conceding in a July 4, 2014 report, “My diocese does not exist.” Archbishop Nona hopes that at least a vestigial remnant Christian community might find shelter in an autonomous Kurdistan in lieu of being compelled to abandon the region altogether. The near extinction of Iraq’s indigenous, pre-Islamic Christians—steady erosions punctuated by mass flight during paroxysms of jihad violence—illustrates, tragically, how Islam’s Caliphate dreams are an eternal Muslim ideal, and non-Muslim nightmare