• Khalil Charles

Did the Islamic State Group achieve its objectives?

The Islamic State Group was no mere collection of psychopaths. It remains a religious group with carefully considered beliefs that are vastly different from the main stream understanding and practise of Islam.

Ignorance of the Islamic State group is in some ways understandable: it was a hermit kingdom; few reporters went there and returned. Its leader Baghdadi spoke on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s groups countless propaganda videos were placed online mainly to terrorise the world. The state group rejected peace with the disbelievers as a matter of principle; its hardline religious views made it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might have ensured its survival.

The Islamic State Group followed a distinctive variety of Islam believing the path to the Day of Judgment was through the strict unflinching adherence to the Qur'an and Sunnah. Its rise to power unlike the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) was spawned by the Sunni - Shia divide in Iraq and the disunity of rebel groups in Syria.

Although jihad was central to the Islamic State Group ideology it evolved, since al-Qaeda’s heyday 1998 to 2003, a disdain for the priorities and leadership of the group formerly led by Osama Bin Laden. The Islamic State Group's supporters still referred to Bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” as a title of honour, but saw Al Qaeda's sole focus on Western targets as narrow and restrictive.

Bin Laden viewed his jihad as a prologue to a caliphate that he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organisation was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, secured territory to gain legitimacy and operated a top-down structure to propagate its jihad. In fact, the purists in the group held a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilisation to a seventh-century legal environment.

The reality was the group attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derived from an incoherent interpretation of Islam. Although, it claimed to be using "The Prophetic methodology," in punctilious detail, it rejected the prior rulings of Islamic schools of thought and those of the Salafi movement.

The distinction between apostate and sinner may appear subtle, but it was a key difference between the Islamic State group and the rest of the Muslim world. Denying the holiness of the Qur'an or the prophecies of Muhammad (peace be upon him) is straightforward apostasy to all Muslims. However, the Islamic state group spawned the view that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates.

Unlike the body of Sunni Muslims, the Islamic State regards Shiism as apostates and innovators of the Qur'an which is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Qur'an or in the example of the Prophet.) That meant according to the Islamic State group roughly 200 million Shia became targets for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State committed itself to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggested that individual executions happened more or less continually, and mass executions took place every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, were Christians who do not resist their new government. and agreed to pay the jizya.

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Article adapted and corrected for factual inaccuracies from Article: What ISIS really wants? - The Atlantic Magazine: Published March 2015

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