As Muslims around the world start the month of Ramadan, ISIS, a group of Salafist militants have announced the re-establishment of Khilafah, the Islamic form of government as idealized by the orthodox Muslims.
One Abu Bakr Baghdadi has been chosen as the Khalifa (Caliph) who is in the process of accepting the Bay'ah, the pledge of allegiance from his followers. He is now the head of state and the undisputed religious leader of this new country being carved out of Iraq and Syria.
Baghdadi uses the same name as the first Khalifa of Muslims, Abu Bakr, who was elected as the leader of the faithful after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). He was followed by three more caliphs, Umar, Uthman and Ali. After Ali's assasination, Muslims could never agree on a single leader. Khalifa became a title used by various dynasties who ruled the Islamic world until the fall of the Ottomans in the last century.
It is no surprise that a Khalifa has emerged from amongst the militants. If anything, it has taken them two decades longer than it should have. Usama bin Laden was rumoured to be accepting the bay'ah from Al-Qaeda recruits in the build-up to his call to arms against the West. He was never proclaimed as the Khalifa. There must have been some theological expediencies as Al-Qaeda was trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of Sunni sects. ISIS have discarded all such shackles.
Political Islamism has always been fantasizing about Khilafah for a long time. Even Gandhi had joined the Indian Khilafat Movement in early 1920s. Qutb and Maudoodi, the two major 20th century ideologues for political Islamists saw Khilafah as the only viable solution for returning the Ummah to its glory days.
Hizb-e-Tehrir, the torchbearers for the return of Khilafah have also issued a statement defending their beliefs and mildly disagreeing with the violent group's methods of achieving what they have been dreaming for decades.
Regardless of the means of attaining it, or how they define the objectives of this institution, this caliphate will fail. As will any other which harbours the ambition of political leadership of the Muslim world.
The Holy Quran contains a verse called the Ayah of Istikhlaf. (the Verse of Khilafah) which describes the institution of Khilafah in these words
Allah had promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely make them Successors (Khalifah) in the earth, as He made Successors from among those who were before them; and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely give them in exchange security and peace after their fear: They will worship Me, and they will not associate anything with Me. Then who so is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious. (Surah Al-Nur, Verse 56)
According to this verse
a. Khilafah is a promise made by God for the Muslims.
b. It will be established amongst those who do good works.
c. It will be established for spiritual guidance
d. Khilafah will bring peace and remove fear.
e. Those who forsake this Khilafah will be the rebellious ones.
There are many more finer points which can be inferred, but I will keep my discourse to the most obvious ones stated in the verse. Islamic Khilafah is not a political institution. The first four Caliphs were also the political leaders for the nascent Muslim community as they had inherited it from the Prophet (Peace be upon him).
Those who are flocking to pledge their lives to Al-Baghdadi should reflect on this verse and seriously ask themselves these questions:
Is Al-Baghdadi claiming to be a Khalifah made by God Himself?
Are they doing the 'good works' as defined by the Holy Quran. i.e., charity, saving lives, serving mankind and above all, keeping away from all forms of rebellion?
Is their Khalifa guiding them on how to achieve spiritual excellence through prayer and contemplation on the deeper meanings of the Quran?
Is this Khilafah removing fear and establishing peace?
Obviously, the answer to all these questions is NO. This so-called Khalifah is nothing but a murderer who is gathering around him a bunch of killers to spread fear and terror in the name of Islam. Quran informs us of the fate of such rebels in these words
So when they deviated from the right course, Allah caused their hearts to deviate, for Allah guides not the rebellious people.