What is the Islamic State (ISIS)?

ISIS: A Brief Historical Background

The origin of the Islamic State (ISIS) can be attributed to the late Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian. In 2002, Zarqawi formed al-Jihad a year after American troops invaded Iraq and later established al-Qaeda in Iraq. In 2006, Zarqawi died, and al-Qaeda established an umbrella organization under the name “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS Fast Facts 1). However, ISIS was weakened by American troops and the Sahwa councils (Awakening) formed by Sunni Arab tribesmen who condemned its brutality. In 2010, Al-Baghdadi became the leader and fortified the group. This was witnessed in 2013 after dozens of attacks were reported in Iraq. In addition, they joined the rebellion against the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. In April 2013, Baghdadi declared the merger of Syrian and Iraqi militia forces and the establishment of ISIS.

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The Islamic State Movement

In Dec 2013, the group returned to Iraq and developed a political standoff between the Sunni Arab community, who are the minority, and the Shia government. Aided by tribesmen, the movement took over Falluja, the central city. In early 2014, ISIS conquered Mosul city and advanced toward Baghdad. By the end of June 2014, the group had consolidated immense military power. Many towns and cities fell under the group’s rule. Indeed, ISIS changed its name to Islamic State and announced the formation of the caliphate (What is Islamic State 1).

The Concept of the Islamic State

The group’s main aim is to establish a state ruled by a religious leader, which, according to Sharia or Islamic law, is also known as Caliphate State. In fact, the group is confident of crossing borders such as Lebanon and Jordan and freeing Palestine. They attract support from other Muslims worldwide, although it is not forthcoming. In addition, they demand all Muslims to swear allegiance to their leader as a sign of solidarity (Deeb 1).

The Anatomy of ISIS

The group has managed to avoid drone attacks in the past several years and survived the civil war. The militant groups have unified in Iraq and Syrian and raised jihadists across the world. They have also seized tracks of lands stretching from central Iraq to northern Syria. Indeed, the group has been declared an Islamic state controlling an area size of Pennsylvania (Thompson and Atika 1).

The group is organizing the governing structures to rule the conquered territory once the battlefield ceases. In fact, the group has mutated from just a militant group to a military force ready to provide basic amenities such as food and gas to its new citizens. The group’s bureaucratic leadership structure resembles Western structures, although without democracy.

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Thompson and Atika aver that the executive branch of the militant group includes their leader Baghdadi, two deputies, and the cabinet advisers. The two deputies served under the former leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, as military officials. The ISIS government is split into Iraq and Syria branches to make it governable. However, they run the government as two entities, but they consider the caliphate as just one state. Both deputies receive orders from governors in charge of Iraq and Syrian sub-states. Consequently, the deputies direct the local councils to implement the executive branch’s decrees.

Notably, the Shura council monitors religion in the caliphate and reports directly to the executive branch. The council is appointed to create order and ensure that governors and local councils adhere to the Islamic law stipulated by ISIS. Surprisingly, the execution of Western hostages Steven Sotloff, James Foley, and David Haines took place under the Shura’s purview. In addition, the Shura Council is mandated to censure any leader who is not strictly observing Sharia Law. Surprisingly, the Shura Council can oust Baghdadi if he fails to conform to ISIS religious standards.

Finally, the group uses a counter-insurgent mantra where they clear and hold. Eventually, they win territory, establish control, and govern the area with assistance from the locals. The group borrowed this from the operations of United States forces in Iraq.

The Islamic State as a Terror Group

Indeed, more than eight million people live under full or partial IS control of this group. The group has implemented a strict interpretation of Islamic laws, forcing non-Muslims to convert or pay special taxes. Additionally, they force women to wear veils and subject them to inhumane punishments, including executions and floggings.

In particular, the ISIS group members are Jihadists who profess extreme interpretations of Sunni Islam. They consider themselves the only true believers and the whole world full of unbelievers who want to destroy Islam. Therefore, their attack on non-Muslims and Muslims of the contrary religious standpoints is anchored on that premise.

Notably, the group is characterized by mass shootings, crucifixions, and their presumed enemies’ beheadings. The group justifies those heinous acts by quoting the Koranic verses such as “striking off the heads of unbelievers”. On the contrary, fellow Muslims have denounced them and warned them of their brutality to innocent people. In fact, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri condemned their aristocracy in Syria and stated that such cruelty should stop.

How Did ISIS Fund its Operations?

According to Calderwood, at its prime, ISIS was on the way to becoming the richest terrorist group or entity in the world. They had diversified their financial strategies, ranging from antiquities smuggling, kidnapping, and oil sales (1). Those heinous activities funded their caliphate ambitions and paid salaries to their members. Their money never got to the bank, but they circulated it through hawaladar. In fact, the method transfers the money through a network of brokers without any paper trail. Indeed, the method was convenient to them but difficult for any individual who wanted to track the source of the money.

The militants deposit their money with a local agent, who communicates with their counterpart abroad, and then the recipient collects the money instantly from an agent abroad. Later, the agents settle their transactions based on trust. Those agents are based on regional affiliations and family relationships, which makes it hard to track. In essence, the hawala money transfer is secure, anonymous, and convenient in evading the due diligence procedures set by banks.

In conclusion, the Islamic State does not represent Islamic principles in any way. They have defied the holy book, which states, “Whosoever performs good deeds, female or male, and is a believer, we shall surely make him live a good life. Allah certainly rewards them for the best of what they did”.(Qur’an, An-Nahl 16:97). This extract from the Holy Koran confirms that a good deed brings a better life. Therefore, the brutality performed by this terror group has only brought destruction to men and women, and no reward is expected from Allah (Deeb 1).


Works Cited

“ISIS Fast Facts.” CNN.com. Cable News Network, September 23, 2014. Web. 1 October 2014. < http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/08/world/isis-fast-facts/>.

“What is Islamic State?” BBC.com. British Broadcasting Corporation, 26 September 2014.Web. 1 Oct. 2014.


Caulderwood, Kathleen. Islamic State: How Terrorist Groups Move Millions Without A Paper Trail.

October 02 2014.Web. October 06 2014. < http://www.ibtimes.com/islamic-state-how-terrorist-groups-move-millions-without-paper-trail-1698544>

Deeb, Sarah. Islamic State? No, call it QSIS, says top Islamic authority in Egypt, August 25, 2014. Web. 1 October 2014.< http://www.smh.com.au/world/islamic-state-no-call-it-qsis-says-top-islamic-authority-in-egypt-20140825-107yhf.html>.

Selected Quotes from the Koran.” Selected Quotes from the Koran. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2014. http://urantia-book.org/archive/readers/doc030.htm

Thompson, Nick and Atika, Shubert. The anatomy of ISIS: How the ‘Islamic State’ is run, from oil to beheadings October 4, 2014.Web. October 6, 2014. <http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/18/world/meast/isis-syria-iraq-hierarchy/>


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