Lebanon's Salafist leaders reject ISIS 'caliphate'

Prominent Salafist leaders in Lebanon have criticized the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s declaration of an Islamic caliphate.

al-monitor Sunni Muslim Salafist sheikhs attend Friday prayers at an open-ended sit-in in Sidon, southern Lebanon, June 29, 2012.  Photo by REUTERS/Ali Hashisho.

Topics covered

salafist, lebanon, islam, iraq

Jul 2, 2014

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and pledged its allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph for all Muslims. However, the Islamic currents and Salafist sheikhs did not respond to this step or show interest in it. They considered it media propaganda and a leap of faith that will only lead the Islamic nation into more conflicts and misfortunes.

Many Islamists follow the saying of Prophet Muhammad: “Whosoever rushes in reaping something before it is due shall be deprived of it.”

Some believe that this rushed step might abort the caliphate idea and render it far-fetched. Advocates of this opinion believe that an unknown group declaring an Islamic caliphate and obliging people to pledge allegiance to a so-called caliph is an act of modern dictatorship that contradicts the essence of Islam, according to which “there is no compulsion in religion.” This will only tarnish the image of Muslims even more.

Even though the leaders and sheikhs of the Islamic currents do not care much about the ISIS caliphate, they are very concerned that this declaration might excite already ardent youths who feel that the state is treating them unjustly. Many ISIS banners have reappeared in the recent protests against arrests in Tripoli [Lebanon], not to mention the related cheers and slogans involved. However, some sheikhs asserted that these were merely reactions to the excitement and feelings of injustice and that any reasonable person would not accept such a caliphate.

Islamic Endowment head in Lebanon, Sheikh Malek Jadideh, told As-Safir, “Such a declaration of the caliphate does not have a place in our book or mindset. It is completely wrong and these people are not the ones who deserve to declare something as great as the Islamic caliphate. Moreover, religious ethics do not impose a certain ideology on people and oblige them to pledge their allegiance to a certain person. This is a shift to modern dictatorships in a nation that is already lost in caliphates and needs to organize itself and unify its ranks and stances before declaring a caliphate.”

“Declaring the caliphate is just an illusion for some people who do not live in reality and have no clue about the rule of priorities. We do not acknowledge any academic value or jurisprudential, scientific or intellectual skill for these people. This declaration would lead the Islamic nation to bigger problems and conflicts and would bring upon it more catastrophes,” he said.

Jadideh is not afraid of the repercussions the declaration of the caliphate will have on the people. He said, “This might stir the feelings of some zealots, but no reasonable or educated person could like this idea or approve of it.”


“The ISIS declaration of an Islamic caliphate is a continuation of its attempts to target Islamic work. This declaration will benefit the regimes in place and allow them to keep confronting and oppressing their people under the pretext of the existence of another danger [ISIS],” said Azzam al-Ayoubi, head of the political bureau of Islamic Group [in Lebanon].

“The only way to convince international public opinion of the need to keep the existing regimes is through showing a bigger danger represented by Islamic extremism that ISIS best reflects. For that reason, we consider the declaration of a caliphate a main danger for Islamic work, in general, before being a danger for any other side,” he said.

He added, “The ISIS declaration of the caliphate is a delusional one because this alleged state does not have solid ground or components. The aim behind it is to scare the international community. We do not fear such phenomena, but we are concerned that some people who feel oppressed might have random reactions advocating ISIS or its declared caliphate.

“This goes against the preaching of Islam, which does not advocate this way and [since Islam] cannot be imposed on anyone. The prophet, peace be upon him, did not impose a state of Islam on anyone but presented Islam as a preaching that is adopted by the people and, when they believe in it and are convinced of it, they will establish their own state on the basis of truth and justice. The things that are happening today are therefore no more no less than a mere illusion.”

Dai al-Islam al-Chahal

Dai al-Islam al-Chahal, a founder of the Salafist movement, said: “The declaration of a caliphate is a rushed and unexamined step that may result in conflicts that we do not need in the region. I believe that as long as the Islamic state has been declared, we have the right to know everything about the caliphate — the shura council, government, advisers and influential people there — and not to keep things vague. Then, we can think seriously about how to deal with this state.”


Tripoli-based Sheikh Bilal Baroudi said: “What is happening is the start of a strife between the forged ‘velayat-e faqih’ and a fabricated caliphate. … The media are placing [the group] under a spotlight, a part of the revolutionary movement in Syria and Iraq, and the mistakes it is committing, to distort the image of Islam. Moreover, just as the ‘velayat-e faqih’ serves the American-Zionist project, ISIS serves the division of the region, and we are not learning.”

Baroudi considered it strange that there was no fuss when the Taliban swore allegiance to Mullah Omar or when people swore allegiance to Abu Musab al-in Iraq. He pointed out, “The highlight on the declaration of a caliphate and on the allegiance to Baghdadi today is a media bubble. This allegiance occurred some time ago now. Why is it focused on this way today?”

He said, “What is happening is a prelude to a sectarian [conflict] and a division of the region under the auspices of the United States, which took advantage of the stupidity of the Arab regimes and made Iran a policeman in the region.”


Sheikh Raed Hlayhel said: “The issue is not worthy of comment, promotion or examination. … We did not accept the state of ISIS from the beginning. Does it make sense to accept a caliphate or caliph by it?” He called on “resolving major problems at this level and then thinking about the issue of the state and caliphate.”

Hassan Chahal

Hassan Chahal, head of the Association of Faith, Justice and Beneficence, said: “The declaration of a caliphate is a rushed, proactive step that basically harms the idea of ​​a caliphate. This could lead to strife among Sunnis as a result of the objections coming from other Arab countries.” He said that any issue of this kind requires consulting with influential people and referring to all Muslims.

He added: “What happened in Iraq is an alliance between the tribes and ISIS against the injustice of [Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki. They were brought together by the catastrophe. Yet, it does not mean that they declare the caliphate without referring the Muslims in other countries. Today, there is a war in Iraq and when this war ends we will cross the bridge when we get to it. Therefore, this matter is not of our concern. We fear that it would result in bringing down the cause and the idea of ​​a caliphate.”


Sheikh Nabil Raheem said: “Taking control of a piece of land and acquiring oil [fields] with the presence of thousands of fighters does not allow anyone to declare the Islamic caliphate. The basic factors are still non-existent, the foundations of the state do not exist. Therefore, ISIS has made a leap into the air and [skipped] stages, which will negatively reflect on them. Those who rushed to get something will end up without it.”

Raheem expressed his concerns that “the feelings of some enthusiasts might push them to support what ISIS has done.” He said, “They are acting according to their emotions only, and any wise person cannot accept that.”

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