Why Islamic State is no al-Qaeda Clone

By Mushreq Abbas for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With the public appearance in Mosul of Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and his self-proclamation as caliph of all Muslims, Baghdadi has declared a war on everyone inside and outside Iraq.

The way Baghdadi’s organization controlled Mosul and other cities reveals that the occupation of these cities was no accident, and that the preparations to take over the land and establish a state go years back.

Thus, the main message that can be deduced is that the appearance of Baghdadi came after he had proclaimed himself as the caliph of all Muslims. This title entails many deep religious considerations, as the caliph in many stripes of the Islamic religion combines two powers, one temporal (spiritual) and the other spatial (political). The caliph ought to be followed, even if the various Islamic groups have different standards as to his caliphate.

In the context of the Sunni-Shiite difference regarding the standards of the caliphate, one main point ought to be highlighted, which is the issue of descent, meaning the holy lineage that can be traced back to the Prophet Muhammad. The differences between Islamic groups on this issue are relative and not essential.

In the same vein, the Islamic State in Iraq was declared in 2006 under the leadership of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. The organization was keen on meeting as much as possible the specifications of a caliphate model that are common between the different Islamic factions. Although the organization back then did not officially proclaim the caliphate, it introduced its emir as being “Abu Omar al-Husseini al-Hashimi al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi.”

Every single title or description of the emir is a reference to his descent, paving the way for the caliphate project, knowing that al-Qaeda with all its branches as well as the Taliban did not pay much attention to the lineage of the emir.

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