Why I Reject ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ and His ‘Islamic State’

I grew up on the romantic version of the story of Islam. That was literally the name of the book I virtually memorised, ‘The Story of Islam’. It detailed the rise and fall of the Islamic empire. It was romantic, idealistic and galvanised a teenager who sought after his place in the world and religious heritage. It promised a nation in which there is perfect justice, brought about by the rule of saintly men (never women!) who were God’s representatives on earth. What Muslim youth would not be moved by such a story?

‘Caliph Ibrahim’ (the con artist formerly known as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi) has just delivered his first Friday sermon two days ago. He certainly dressed the part and that is the first clue of his anachronistic nature. The image is everything. Muslims watching this videos may then associate the ‘Caliph’ with the image of the Prophet and the early Caliphs found in thousands of drawings and TV recreations. Brilliant marketing on the ‘Caliphs’ part.

Next comes the rhetoric. You’ll find chopped up verses of the Quran (like most Islamofascist preachers) designed to both to legitimise the ‘Caliph’ as well as to support ISIS’ erstwhile acts. Ironically, the quotes themselves actually undermine what ISIS have done so far. The ‘Caliph’ for example quote Ch 97 Vs 5 which states that the descent of the Quran brings peace (salaamun hiya). This is quite the opposite of the coming of ISIS which has brought nothing but pain and misery to the people of Iraq. Another example is the quoting of Ch 2 Vs 193 which says ‘fight them until there is no more trials and tribulations’. Ask the displaced residents and those who have lost their loved ones who has brought them the present trial and tribulation’. My guess is that they would shout a resounding ‘ISIS!’. But we shall stop here before we digress too much. The objective of this essay is to analyse the Caliph’s claim historically, not theologically. The Quranists Network will produce a video for a theological conversation with the ‘Caliph’ soon.

For those who have been waiting for the Caliphate to return, they may feel that their time has come. This imagined utopia, as mentioned above, is the ideal psychological stimulant for the Muslim youth and ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ has duly stoked the fire once more. Of course in his uncritical equivocation of what constitutes’s ‘God’s law and religion’, the ‘Caliph’ forgot to consider one thing:

The story of Islam is a human story.

This realisation is of the utmost importance. For me, it was a pivotal point in the development of my worldview. As a youth, I was fed the idea (by Islamic scholars and books) that Islamic history was guided by God Himself. It was God who determined Islamic victories and establishment of empire. The laws they established were also God’s laws and hence cannot be questioned at all. Analysing this story historically however, would expose the fact human choices made this story and some of these choices were less than ideal. It should be noted that the history we will present below is from Islamic sources. The very same sources Islamofascists like ISIS would have us believe is divine.

It should also be noted that Islamic history is not easily proven. It actually was stabilised textually between 150-200 years after Hijrah. Therefore, the people who expedited its textual stability were the very same people who had an empire. One can hardly count on such folks to be objective.

At the very start of the story is Prophet Muhammad. He had been preaching in Makkah for ten years and had a failed emigration attempts before the tribes in Medina invited him to be their leader. What if they had not? What if Muhammad was stuck in Makkah and received the Quran entirely in Makkah (and not partly in Madeenah as Traditionalists believe)? Would the Quran be considered any less divine? Would the Prophet be considered any less of a Prophet? It is very interesting that the Quran says what is obliged upon the Prophet is the delivery of revelation (5/67). Establishing a kingdom is missing from this verse. The silence is deafening.

After the Prophet’s death, comes the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. Again, the moniker of ‘rightly guided’ shows an air of divinity to their appointment instead of a human history. The first caliph, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq was known to be a pious man – but only by Sunni Muslims. Ask the Shia and you will find that he usurped power from the future fourth caliph, Ali Ibn Abi Talib. The second caliph, Umar Al-Khattab is also known for his virtue but again by the Sunnis. Then came third caliph Uthman who was murdered in his home. There was a crowd outside his house waiting for a few days voicing disagreement towards his nepotism and corruption and they eventually got to him. Hardly a pleasant end. The fourth caliph, the cousin of the Prophet, had to go to war with fellow Muslims in which thousands of people were killed, including prominent companions and the wife of the Prophet herself having to retire from public life. This is a human story and human beings have conflicts.

Then came the Umayyad Caliphs who unabashedly established an empire. In the near century of their rule, there was hardly a time when Islamic imperialism did not occur. Were they doing it for the sake of Islam? One who says ‘yes’ would have to reconcile that with the fact that they were the richest kings on earth at the time. They also publically vilified the family of the Prophet during Friday sermons which was definitely motivated by political differences since they usurped power from the ‘fifth’ caliph, Hassan ibn Ali who is a member of the Prophet’s family.

The subsequent Abbasids and Ottoman Caliphs fared no better. They were never the single caliphate of the Muslims. In fact, during the time of the Abbasids, there was for a time when there was a rival (also Sunni) caliphate in Spain! The Ottomans had no compunction invading Muslim lands as well and strangely, never took on the ‘caliph’, preferring to use the term ‘sultan’. Of course, their internecine competition to attain that title was simply beyond evil. These are stories of murder among brothers and palace intrigue. Prophet Muhammad would be appalled.

In the UK of late 90ies, I experienced the preaching of Hizb ut Tahrir (or the ‘khilafa boys’ as we used to call them). They used to say that the Caliphate ended in 1924 with the Ottomans due to machinations of the West. It is sad that they accepted these delusional rhetorical statements so easily. One only needs to look to Muslims’ own history books to see that the Caliphate was simply an expedient institution. Prophet Muhammad was afforded it and ruled accordingly but it was never his eternal role, which is the institutionalisation of the Quran. The subsequent leaders all had their ups and downs and it is tremendously difficult to call this ‘divine history’.

And finally we have ISIS. Their idea of establishing a caliphate is to rampage across sovereign nations looting and murdering anyone who do not submit to them and even those who do if they happen to be Shi’ites. Not only that, holy sites and ancient landmarks are wiped out. The people of Iraq are unanimously against them. These includes Sunnis ( of whom they have also murdered), Shiites, Seculars and Christians.

No, ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ is no caliph at all. Muslims should wake up to the fact that our history is not divine. We do not need to cling to these archaic institutions. Neither do we need to institutionalise these ancient tribal laws claiming to be from God. We need to globally denounce the ‘Caliph’s evil and work against ISIS’ plan to expand its territories. The very heart of Islam is at stake.