What is a Caliphate?

By John Cookson. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq's extraordinary history has turned another page. Jihadists - who only 3 weeks ago swept into northern Iraq - have now declared thousands square kilometres between Aleppo jn Syria and the governorate of Diyala in eastern Iraq, as a caliphate.

In an audio recording distributed on the web, the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been appointed caliph and is now the leader of all Muslims wherever they are. The group then changed its name to the Islamic State.

So what is a caliphate?

The caliphate was the Islamic state established after the death of the prophet Mohammed in the beginning of the seventh century.

The caliph, a supreme religious and political leader was at its helm and deemed a successor to the prophet Mohammed - al khilafa in Arabic means the succession. Sunni Muslims believe the caliph should be elected by the people. Shi'ites think the leader should be an imam appointed by God.

Previous historic dynasties include the Rashidun, Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Sokoto and the Ottomans. Kemal Attaurk, first President of the Turkish Republic abolished the last one in 1924.

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