The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), or The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has officially declared the creation of an Islamic Caliphate – a state that will be ruled by Shariah (Islamic law). Along with this declaration, ISIS has renamed itself to “The Islamic State” (IS). They have named their leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, to be the first caliph in 90 years.
The statement released by IS says of al-Baghdadi, “He is the imam and khalifah (Caliph) for the Muslims everywhere…It is incumbent upon all Muslims to pledge allegiance to (him) and support him…The legality of all emirates [principality or political territory], groups, states, and organizations, becomes null by the expansion of the khalifah’s authority and arrival of its troops to their areas.”
The world has been very interested in this news. But most people do not know exactly what a caliphate is, or what it could mean for the future of the world. The “caliph” is the leader of Islam. The word “caliph” (Arabic Khalifah) means “successor,” that is, the successor to Muhammad. A good way for a Westerner to think about him is that the Caliph is basically a Muslim pope, general, and president all wrapped up into one position. He is the religious, military, and political leader of all Muslims worldwide.
There have been four major caliphates since Muhammad died in 632 AD. The first was the Rashidun Caliphate, which included the first four Caliphs and lasted from 632-661 (only 29 years). They were named Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Notice that the first caliph is named Abu Bakr. It is no coincidence that the current caliph has named himself after Abu Bakr, who was the father-in-law of Muhammad.
The next three Caliphates included the Umayyad (661-750), the Abbasid (750-1258 and 1261-1517), and the Ottoman (1517-1924). The Ottoman Empire collapsed in the aftermath of World War I, and the new nation of Turkey abolished the Caliphate. The fact that ISIS has declared a caliphate goes right in line with what al-Qaeda has intended to do for years.
The last Caliph of Islam, Abdülmecid II. Wikipedia.org
Why does all of this matter?
Charles Lister, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, noted the significance of what IS did:
“Whatever judgments are made in terms of its legitimacy, (the) announcement that it has restored the Caliphate is likely the most significant development in international jihadism since 9/11. The impact of this announcement will be global as al-Qaeda affiliates and independent jihadist groups must now definitively choose to support and join the Islamic State or to oppose it.”
Middle East and prophecy expert Joel Richardson says:
“The potential implications for the world are absolutely profound. First, according to Islamic jurisprudence, once a caliph has been declared, it is mandatory upon all Muslims to make a pledge of allegiance to the sitting caliph, known in Arabic as the bay’ah. The bay’ah [is] translated as follows:
‘I pledge my allegiance to the Commander of the Faithful [the Caliph], to hear and obey, in hardship and in blessings, to establish the religion of Allah, and to enforce Allah’s Shariah, and to expand the order of Allah, to establish the global Islamic state.’”
According to various hadith (which are Islamic traditions found outside of the Quran), if someone does not make the pledge of allegiance to the Caliph, he will be treated as a non-Muslim, and will die as one:
“[W]hen he stands before Allah on the Day of Judgment, and one who dies without having bound himself by an oath of allegiance (to an Amir) will die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahillyya [Non-Muslim].” (Abu Muslim 20: 4562)
We already have numerous jihadi groups that have pledged their allegiance to the new caliph. What will happen when groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank (there is already signs that ISIS is in Gaza and the Golan Heights – see here and here), and others begin to pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr? ISIS has also claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber in Lebanon and is telling the people of that country that more is coming.
A map released by ISIS. It is their plan to conquer everything in black within the next five years. I’m not saying that they will accomplish this goal, but they will at least try to. The legitimacy of the map has been questioned by some.
Richardson notes, “The dangers of a snowballing trend [are] profound. Rather than having an Islamic State spanning segments of Syria and Iraq, there could be smaller segments of the Islamic State in numerous other nations.” Muslims from other nations are already supporting ISIS, even in America and Britain.
Now that a Caliphate has been proclaimed, it is actually mandatory for them to engage in “jihad until there are literally no non-Muslims left throughout the world, or they submit to being subjected peoples:
’Allah’s Apostle [Muhammad] said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle.’ (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 24)
According to the Islamic State media, one of the obligations of the caliph is stated as follows:
‘He must strive in jihad against those who stubbornly reject Islam after being called to it, until they become Muslim or agree to live under Muslim protection and pay jizyah, so that the rights of Allah will be fulfilled and His religion will prevail over all others.’
Even beyond the official state jihad, it is also incumbent upon all Muslims everywhere to expand the rule of Islam through individual jihad. One of the significant debates that many Muslim jurists had with Osama bin Laden is that jihad is not technically legal according to Islamic Shariah unless there is a sitting caliph. Well, now there is one. As such, the potential for various lone-wolf terrorism attacks throughout the world has just absolutely ballooned.”
The Brutality of ISIS
The following is a list of just some of the horrors that ISIS has/is committing. Some of it reminds me of what I’ve learned about Nazi and Japanese atrocities during the Second World War. WARNING: some of the links below have extremely graphic material).
- Back in March of 2014, it was reported that ISIS was setting up slaughterhouses in Syria. What was going on in these wonderful sounding places? The extermination of Christians and any Muslims that stand in their way. There is now worry that the same may happen in Iraq. In fact, Christians in Iraq are now fleeing fearing that genocide is coming to Iraq. This reminds me of the Holocaust and the Rape of Nanking, both of which were some of the worst atrocities in human history in my opinion.
- ISIS is crucifying people.
- They are decapitating a lot of people.
- Shariah is to be the law of the land. This includes amputations, women to stay home and be covered, among other things.
- What they are doing to women is horrifying (a lot worse than number 4 above). ISIS has declared “sexual jihad” (see here as well).
- Committing mass executions of Iraqi soldiers.
- ISIS tweeted a photo of them kicking a severed head like it was a soccer ball.
- The pictures coming out of ISIS controlled areas resemble those from Nazi Germany and Japanese controlled areas during World War II.
- The way that they treat children is horrifying. Compare this to Nazi Germany and Japan (here and here).
- Take a look at where ISIS is dumping some of the bodies of the people they have killed.
The horrors of ISIS (and the Nazis and Japanese) foretell the coming horrors of the Antichrist. Jesus says in Matthew 24:21, “For then [the great tribulation] there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.” Just think of how horrible things have been in the past and are now, and none of this will compare to the Antichrist.
Does this have anything to do with the Islamic Antichrist?
I have argued before that the Antichrist will arise out of the Middle East and will rule a restored Islamic Caliphate. So when I heard that a Caliphate had been proclaimed in the Middle East, it naturally aroused my interest. However, as I have argued before (here and here) the Antichrist will come from Turkey, not Iraq, where al-Baghdadi is from.
So no, I do not believe that the current manifestation of the Caliphate is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. What it does show is that Muslims worldwide are eager and ready for the return of their leader and the reestablishment of an Islamic empire. It is possible that the events unfolding before our eyes could be a stepping stone of what will ultimately lead to the Antichrist
Right now, in fact, the current prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, looks at himself as the sultan of a neo-Ottoman Empire. Considering that the Ottoman Empire was the last place for the Caliphate, he naturally believes that he is to be the next Caliph. Please understand that I am not saying that Erdogan is the Antichrist. My point is that Turkey is becoming more and more interested in becoming the great superpower it once was.
What this could mean for the world in the future
Besides what I mentioned about the Antichrist and the obvious fact that this will lead to more terror in the Middle East (especially towards Israel), the new Caliphate could bring a lot of headaches to other parts of the world:
- What happens if Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh pledge their allegiance? This could easily spark a regional war with India. This is especially dangerous considering that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons.
- There is also the concern that ISIS will move into Russian and Chinese territory. Russia has its problems with Muslims in Chechnya and China its problems with Muslims in the region of Xinjiang. The map that ISIS has released (see above) includes parts of Russia and China, including Xinjiang.
- What about the Muslims in Africa? There are already a lot of issues here with the current Muslim population – especially in Nigeria, Sudan, and Somalia. What happens if/when they give allegiance to ISIS?
- Do not even get me started on the US-Mexican border. There is a high risk that ISIS will use our current crisis in immigration to come to America.
Of course, these are not the only issues. There are many more. Whether or not this current Caliphate will last is not certain. It may just be a short-lived pipe-dream of a terrorist, or it may be something much bigger. Only time will tell.
What are your thoughts? Do you think that the new Caliphate is the real deal, or is it something that will die out?
 al Sham and the Levant are geographic names for the area that includes Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the southern portion of Turkey.