The Geopolitical Doctrine of the Islamic State: Caliphate


Today, the primary problem that the international public and global security face is, undoubtedly, the Islamic State. It no more acts as a terroristic organization and has turned into a quasi-state that endeavors to conquer the world.  The Islamic State plans to create a pan-islamic union that will include Northern and Central Africa, Spain, the Balkans, the whole Western Asia, the Crimea, Southern Russia, Middle Asia, Pakistan, India, Indochina, Indonesia and so on. To make their fantastic plan happen, the ideologues of the IS have decided to implement some really serious tools and institutions. In this analysis, we’ll try to give an idea about caliphate, the primary and the most dangerous of them.


The first state of Muslims was founded in the period when Islam originated. It was led by Muhammad (570-632) who was born in Mecca, the pagan center of Arabic tribes. Under his leadership, the tribal mode of governance turned into the community model where the basic principle was the attitude towards the new religion. The Muslim community, first established in Medina, later in Mecca, was totally concentrated on the prophet himself. The latter not only realized justice, but he also embodied it: the situation was the same in all spheres. The political, military, legal, social, economic and religious life of the community was thoroughly related to the prophet. By its nature, the governing system created by Muhammad was not new: this was a typical despotism, though it offered certain communal freedoms. But the peculiarity of this system was the concretion of spiritual and secular lives and their powers. After the death of Muhammad, the community fell into a severe crisis, as the basic anchor of power disappeared and power was not yet institutionalized. On the background of this, as well as the risks of quitting Islam and reverting back to polytheism, tribal hostility, resigning of the governing system and so on, it became necessary to create a strict hierarchic system of governance, and a position of its leader, the vicar of Muhammad on the Earth.

The word “caliph” comes from Arabic and it means “successor, vicar” who is the spiritual and secular leader of the Muslim community, as well as the head of the caliphate, the theocratic Muslim state. Originally, caliphs were considered to be the vicars of Muhammad in the name of Allah (God), and starting from the Ummayad Dynasty, they were regarded as the vicars of Allah with exclusive and sacralized empowerments. Abu Bakr as-Siddiq became the first caliph (572-634). Moreover, if originally caliphs were elected, under the Ummayad Dynasty caliphate acquired new qualities and it became monarchal (hereditary and absolute). Caliphate is a theocratic monarchal system that is based on the Koran, the Islamic Law and the theory of traditional law. As the head of the caliphate, the caliph held all the spiritual and secular power. As a state, classical caliphate existed between 632-1258, when the army of Hulagu Khan conquered and destroyed Baghdad, then killed Al-Musta’sim, the last caliph and his family. Two centuries later, in 1453, with the conquest of Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire was established, thus creating a new caliphate. Ottoman sultans began to carry the title of caliph, the spiritual and secular supreme leader of all Muslims. This allowed them to act as both the spiritual and the secular leader of the Muslim population. The Ottoman Empire declined in 1922, when Mustafa Kemal cancelled it. Until recently no one paid enough attention to this important pan-islamic institution and no one pretended it. To sum up, the power of caliph is based on religion, its commandments and laws that regulate all spheres of life. Due to its duplicity, the power of caliph is sacralized.

It turns out that Islam, that by nature is a totalitarian religion, can serve to maintain the power of a single person and the system established around his personality. In its turn, caliphate is a united, international pan-islamic state that thoroughly corresponds to the doctrine of Islam and its principles. It’s important to understand that only one caliphate can exist at a certain time. The meaning of its existence is the unification of all Muslims and gain of total, international supremacy. That is to say, if there is a caliphate, it will always seek for international domination and globalization of Islam.


Today, the Islamic State that is forbidden as a terroristic organization by some states and international organizations, openly declares its plans about creating a new caliphate. Its leader Ibrahim Awwad has already been proclaimed as the caliph, taking the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (it is remarkable that he has taken the name of the above-mentioned caliph and the cognomen of Baghdad, the Orthodox capital). He has also taken the title of Amir al-Mu’minin (meaning “the protector of the faithful”: after the decline of the Ottoman Empire this title has been used for the first time). Baghdadi has proclaimed himself as the successor of the prophet. This, with the title of caliph, gives him limitless spiritual and secular power among the Muslims. His attempts to legitimate and institutionalize his power are obvious. This is more than dangerous, taking into account the vast territories under the control of the IS and its imperialistic ambitions. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact religion has on society, especially on the Muslim society whose socially vulnerable strata are involved in the world’s most illiterate and backward frames. Religion compels them to obey the caliph who is one and only, so the crowd ought to obey him. This religious and traditional preachment has got greater effect on the youth that is illiterate and reveals extreme behavior. The institution of caliphate cannot be abolished any more just by killing Baghdadi, moreover, being killed, “the caliph” would become a martyr and a symbol for the next caliph to struggle with the faithless more severely.

Despite the present Islam criticism of theologians and spiritual leaders, sociological inquiries show that almost 11-14% of the population of certain Muslim countries already approve the concept of a new caliphate and caliph, and this is just the beginning.

Yet, it is possible and necessary to efficiently counteract The Islamic State and the Neocaliphate.

The following measures can be taken against the ISIL and its institutions:

  1. Large-scale military operations directed not to the destruction of a single person, but to the destruction of the whole organization, its staff and infrastructure.
  2. Large-scale international investigations to discover the forces that finance the IS and implementation of relevant punishments.
  3. Organizing preachments that will include imams and other spiritual authorities that will present the geopolitical endeavors of the IS and the irrational, illegitimate, illegal and imperialistic essence of the extreme concepts and ambitions of the state’s authorities (this is also beneficial to imams and other spiritual authorities, as the restoration of caliphate will make them dependent).
  4. Providing socially vulnerable classes of different Muslim countries with secular elementary education in the frames of the UN development programs that will greatly reduce not only illiteracy level in these countries, but, accordingly, extremism, too.
  5. Forbidding political and religious movements directed to the restoration of caliphate by norms of international law and qualifying them as seeking for totalitarianism and propagating terrorism, similar to Nazism, Fascism and other terroristic institutions. These are internationally banned as political and religious streams that want to gain global supremacy and seek for total and thorough control over people’s physical activity and society, as well as physical destruction of certain groups of people. All the above-mentioned endeavors are typical to the movements directed to the restoration of caliphate, too.
  6. Criticism of the IS and it՛s supporting forces in the frames of the UN and indicting them for crimes against humanity; organizing international tribunals against the authorities of the IS and its sponsors.

The Islamic State is a typical example of how to revive long forgotten tools and institutions without any legal or legitimate basis and to use them for one’s own political and other interests. Unfortunately, this example is directed against humanity and civilization, and without an equivalent response it can become precedential.


  1. Caliph
  2. Caliphate
  3. Caliphs
  4. Ottoman Empire
  5. ISIS,
  6. ISIS,
  7. Katherine, B. Lewis, The Cambridge History of Islam: Cambridge University Press, 1995․
  8. Юрчук В.В., Ислам, Минск, Современное слово, 2004․

Author: Areg Kochinyan: © All rights are reserved.

Translated by Yeranuhi Antonyan