What is ISIS?

ISIS is the name given to a movement within Islam that is seeking to establish Islamic rule and help bring about the end times. ISIS is short for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The group is also called ISIL, Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Levant being an ancient name for the region along the eastern shores of the Meditteranean, including Turkey and Egypt) and the Islamic State. ISIS broke away from al-Qaeda over ideological difference and a couple months ago al-Qaeda declared war on ISIS. ISIS follows the teachings of the Quran and believes the world of infidels, those who reject Islam, must be brought under Islamic domination. ISIS believes violent means to coerce men to submit to Allah are the means prescribed in the Quran for the spread of Islam.

ISIS has as its goal a revival of ancient Islam under a caliph. Abu Bakr al-Baghadi is the caliph, a ruler who claims to be spiritual successor to Muhammad. Under Baghadi’s direction ISIS is seeking to expand throughout Syria and Iraq and then into the outlying nations. To accomplish this goal, warfare, terror and brutality are believed to be required of them by the Quran. Diplomacy and negotation with foreign power is considered apostasy. It appears that the Islamic State’s focus on expansion is limited right now to its closest neighbors. Unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS is not likely to attempt a massive attack on America. Their ideology requires them to spread outward from Syria and only when the nearby countries have been conquered can it then turn its attention to a major terror assault on America. (Though some individuals with ties to ISIS may attempt attacks on American targets)

ISIS believes its caliphate is the only righteous government on earth. ISIS is serious about obeying the Quran, following a very literal and narrow reading of the Quran. The Islamic State is attempting to return Islam to the religion it was in its earliest days and to bring the rest of the Islamic world under its control. ISIS also sees itself as playing an important role in the end times. They believe the Quran prophecies of the role ISIS will play in the end. To accomplish these apocalyptic purposes, ISIS is seeking military expansion in preparation for the great battles that will surround the end times.

It is important to highlight two things. First, ISIS is not representative of all Islam. Not every Muslim believes it is acceptable to force others to convert. Some groups loudly condemn the destruction of groups like ISIS and base their disagreements in the Quran. Some verses in the Quran condemn killing and advocate tolerance. “You have your religion and I have mine.” (Surah 109:6) “There is no compulsion in relgion.” (Surah 2:256) Second, groups that condone coercion and violence also do so based upon the teachings of the Quran. The one who dies in the cause of Allah is assured forgiveness and a place in Paradise. Groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda are offering a historically valid understanding of the Quran that has been promoted and supported from Islam’s own scholars throughout the centuries. Though some, possibly the majority, of Muslims disagree with the Islamic State’s interpretation of the Quran, the jihadists and the moderates are both historically legitimate expressions of Islam. ISIS is radical and terroristic, but none can honestly say that it is not an orthodox expression of Islamic teaching.

Tune in to 92.7 FM this Sunday morning at 9 AM to hear our pastors further discuss the question of Islam.