How Islamic is the ISIS?

Published: July 25, 2014

Different pictures of Prophet Younus's (AS) shrine in Iraq that was destroyed by the Islamic State.

ISIS can serve as a motivational boost to the militants fighting the army in Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS Different pictures of Prophet Younus's (AS) shrine in Iraq that was destroyed by the Islamic State.

A recent news story left me utterly shocked and angry. Yesterday, the Islamic State (formerly known as the ISIS), a militant outfit, blew up and levelled one of the most well known and revered shrines in Mosul, Iraq – the resting place of Prophet Younus (AS). The militants blew up the shrine in front of a large number of people.

The Islamic State (IS) has razed 15 mosques so far, belonging to both Sunni and Shia sects and, interestingly, this recent destruction of Prophet Younus’s (AS) shrine was done under the supervision of a proclaimed ‘caliph’.

In the middle of all this chaos, my questions are simple.

What sort of a caliphate is this that believes in annihilating our prophets’ resting places?

Is this what Islam preaches?

What twisted version of Islam does the ISIS follow when it blows up holy places and destroys nearly 30 shrines?

It is all beyond my understanding.

The IS aims to bring forward an anti-western political doctrine. Following a hard-lined extremist ideology, similar to that of the al Qaeda, and complying with the global jihadist principles, it is determined to establish an Islamic state of its own that will follow radical religious interpretation as deemed fit by the IS. Due to the sheer brutality of the IS, al Qaeda severed all ties with the rogue establishment in 2014.

After the joint militant rebellion in Syria halted, mainly due to inter-militant fights, the then so-called ISIS faced intense opposition from its allies, mainly al Nusra and the free Syrian army; limiting the ISIS’s control only to the borders of Syria.

In the beginning of April 2013, however, the ISIS militia made a fierce comeback, subjugating large parts of northern Syria, affecting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights to an extent that they labelled the ISIS the strongest militant group in the country. Not only Syria, the bloody group left its mark in Turkey as well, carrying out the deadliest act of terrorism ever to take place on Turkish soil.

Now the ISIS exploited the weakness of the Iraqi army and was quick to occupy Iraq’s northern lands. Call it the incompetency of the Iraqi civilian government or the corruption rampant amongst Iraqi Army generals, but the bottom line is, Iraq fell prey to such a group due to its executives’ ineptness. The prime minister as well as different influential clerics urged the nation to take up arms against the outfit, causing severe civilian unrest, allowing critics to label this a major failure on the governments’ part.

ISIS was on the rise, though they were unable to reach Baghdad, they conquered enough to call their occupied land an independent state, the Islamic state, and create a self-proclaimed caliphate of their own. But if the ISIS was a true representative of Islamic ideology, it would’ve been enraged at the atrocities being committed in Gaza. It would have confronted the Zionists to free Palestine from their occupation. Yet they remain silent.

The Gaza issue seems to have preoccupied Pakistani minds but what our people seem to have forgotten is that they are still being targeted – every now and then – not by the Jews but by radical Muslim militants. Are we so naïve that are willing to ignore the constant threat that lingers around us? Has our emotions overridden our rationale? Yes, Israel’s violation of human rights in Palestine should be strongly condemned, but is it not more important to save your land first so that you may be in a position to help those in need?

Pakistan is already infected with the disease of terrorism; the Taliban, al Qaeda, Jundullah, all operate here. With the operation, the Pakistani government has taken a bold step to fight the insurgency, but this is happening without an effective strategy to deal with the internally displaced people. The Pakistani army might be able to carry out the operation successfully, but the question is, is extremist insurgency the result of only a group of wild, militarily trained, blood thirsty individuals or is it the result of a provocative ideology? An ideology so powerful it promises the establishment utopia once the motives are fulfilled? This ideology aims to establish the promised land of Khorasan, the land which, when established, will mark the beginning of the supposed Islamic glory.

In recent years, al Qaeda has become weaker and the Pakistani Taliban has been disowned by the Afghan Taliban, but does this make our work any easier? Are we finally moving towards the end of extremism in this region? Even if this holds true, the rise of the ISIS poses a big threat to these ideas.

The Pakistani government’s inactive response to foreign militants has allowed them to grow, spread their views and expand their ideologies within the country. So much so, that they’ve been able to make a state within a state in the tribal areas of Pakistan, questioning and successfully undermining the government’s writ and authority in those regions.

Even as the military counteraction is in progress, the success of the ISIS can serve as a motivational boost to the militants fighting the army. Tensions between the al Qaeda and ISIS seem to be of a temporary nature. Sooner or later, the socio-political narrative that influences both these groups will cause them to reconcile their positions, and a unified al Qaeda-ISIS with a common agenda is a horrifying thought indeed.

As Pakistan has seen itself, militants do develop alliances with other militant groups to serve a joint purpose. The rise of the ISIS can serve as inspiration for militant groups or even stimulate them to form an alliance. The militias in Pakistan can serve as an ally of the ISIS and unless it is stopped, it won’t be long before the ISIS comes around knocking on Pakistan’s door – and eventually breaking it down.

The army’s operation in North Waziristan is aimed to destroy the militants’ strategic and operational ‘headquarters’. The degree of success of the Pakistan army depends on the level of back up the government provides. Reportedly, some of the militants have escaped into South Waziristan and the government has not done anything much to give the army a helping hand.

Government think tanks have to come up with ways to limit the spread of extremist narratives within the country. This malignant ideology has to be resisted, uprooted and removed. Islam is way more broad-minded and progressive, even in its fundamentals, than portrayed by these militant groups.

The misconception, misinterpretation, misplacement or rather cherry picking of religious narratives out of their contexts by pseudo-ulemas have dented the true Islamic ideology as a whole. Pakistan, as a people, has become a confused lot due to which people are unable to speak out against these militant outfits with full certainty. The masses still seem to have a soft corner for these outfits because of the manipulative facade they have disseminated; the facade that they are reviving and spreading Islam. The Islam they plan to ‘revive’ has little resemblance to the actual religion.

The government’s challenge is to provide the nation with a clear narrative, explain to them the dangers caused by these militant groups to our existence as a progressive nation and urge them to stand united against them.

This blog originally appeared here.

Muhammad Abu Talib

Muhammad Abu Talib

An A-levels student and an active social commentator. He dabbles in debate competitions, blog writings and sports. He blogs at and tweets as @ATNaqvi (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mehdi

    @author – this are a particular sect in Sunni school of thoughts who massacred the household of prophets 14 hundred years ago in Kerbala. This sect is also responsible for killing of Shias and ahmedis in Pakistan. They receive great patronage and support from many Pakistani Sunni Muslim. Please ET publish this comment because that’s a fact I am stating.Recommend

  • Asad

    i agree with every word in this article.Recommend

  • Feroz

    We are talking about a Caliph here, how dare a question be asked whether he is Islamic. Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    The logic of Indians on this site all the evil things TTP, ISIS and Let does are a result of Islam. To them Islam is violent and backward and has only created troubles. But when ever an Indian does some thing bad it is his individual act and he was most likely provoked by a muslim.
    @ Mehdi: Not all sunnis are followers of that particular sect.
    @ Feroz: I didn’t know that non-muslim Indians wee such fans of ISIS’s so-called Caliph but then again you must be attracted by his similarity to your Raja Modi. Both are sadistic killers.Recommend

  • Critical

    Maybe muslims should come up with a new ISO,Islamic Organization of Standardization…
    They should have a panel of learned mullahs who will analyse every terrorist organization and accredit the grade for how Islamic they are…Whats the purity of Islam in those organizations??

    This will help people recognize which is good Taliban and which is bad Taliban,whom to send ur donations for,whose message u need to update in ur facebook status….

    Nowadays,I can stand these Islamic extremists rather than these moderate aplogists who keep defending them sayin they are not “real” muslims and this is not what Islam teaches us….I sometimes feel both are part of a team while one attacks us,the other tries to divert the attention

    Why do u waste ur energy towards us??? Why cant you tell them directly???Why do u wait till a Western power sends an army and then preach to us?? If these people are given bad name to Islam,you should be the first ones to crush the rebellion…

    Why everyone talks of Gaza but never about ISIS or Boko Haram or Taliban???

    All of them write “You dont need to be a muslim but need to be a human to support Gaza”

    I want to ask “Are u really a good human or a good muslim?”Recommend

  • Oh by the way

    You might wanna change the title from “How islamic is the ISIS?” to some thing else.Recommend

  • Rafeeq

    Al-azhar denounces ISIS as UnIslamic in every sense of the word:

    Ironically even the Imam of Masjid Al aqsa denounced them as Unislamic:
    “Whoever wants to create an Islamic state on the expense of Muslim blood has neither a state nor a religion.” Imam Salah al-Din ibn Ibrahim Abu Arafa of al-Aqsa Mosque. One of the Imams of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Salah al-Din ibn Ibrahim Abu Arafa criticized ISIS clerics and their motives, stating that they are seeking power instead of the establishment of an Islamic state”

    Now add to this, the US move to provide $500 million worth weapons and cash to the ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria who are the brethren of the ISIS folks who have erased the Syria/Iraq border:

    It is now easy to connect the dots. These guys want to do with Syria what they did with Iraq back in the 80s. Create a Sunni Shia rift to weaken both the states. The citing security concerns swoop on them ( a la humanitarian intervention). The script is old and tired but the innocent blood spilled as a result of the power struggle of the larger powers is still hot and red. Don’t these people have any shame??Recommend

  • Nomad1412

    Why cry only over Muslim sites being destroyed? You destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem to build Al Aqsa mosque, you destroyed the Ram Janmsthan temple in India to build the Babri Masjid. Why cry now?Recommend

  • Pick a name

    Grave worshipping is prohibited in Islam.BTW ,author , how many Sunni mosques are there in Iran ?.What about the other side of the story ?Recommend

  • Genesys

    Is this what Islam preaches?…… It may not be what the religion preaches but this what the rest of the world comes to believe and can you blame them for this or complain that they are unfair. The vast majority of the co religionists are silent and mute,that is the strength of these extremists.Recommend

  • Moe

    Sounds like a Wahabi state.Recommend

  • Kolsat

    This so called tyrant Caliph has issued a fatwa ordering genital surgery of all women aged between the ages of 11 and 46. This what Islam has come to.Recommend

  • Mir

    They are destroying Islamic heritage and are tearing up the Quran and its teachings so all the future generation remembers is their demented ideology.Recommend

  • Faisal

    modi is the terrorist.india is a coward country having such a shameful prime minister. we should destroy indiaRecommend

  • Kolsat

    You are an ignorant peson because you compare this bogus Caliph and Modi. no Muslim was killed on Modi’s order as many Muslims are being killed on this tyrant’s orders in Iraq. Modi has ben cleared of any wrong doing by the Indian Supreme court. I do not think this Caliph will be declared by Iraqis as innocent of killings. He will face the death Saddam faced. Read what this Caliph has ordered for women. He wants all women between the ages of 11-46 years to undergo genital mutilation. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Talha- your logic and patriotism is misplaced. You don’t seem to grasp that your beloved country you envision in 1947 as a child is a country that is going down the drain. Whole world is embracing Modi. Shias will never accept men appointed Caliphs, this office belongs to God, he chooses who will lead his flocks. The guy who appointed himself as Caliph is a thug, terrorist and a petty criminal. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Year very well said. In their own interpretation of scripture a LAN phone line is a work a devil.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Very well Said. ISIS in Iraq won’t exist if there are no support from Sunnis of the southern Iraq. Even though they don’t support their hateful ideology but it is a marriage of convenience to end Shia dominance of Iraq. But they are forgetting Shias are in majority in Southern Iraq and due to number superiority they will never dare to venture the very oil rich southern Iraq. For Sunnis creating this civil will result in them having a waste land which they can call sunnistan. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Remember the event of Kerbala 1400 years ago.Recommend

  • Parvez

    You said it…..and said it well.
    Some time ago I said Islam is imploding on itself……..and it’s happening and everyone is standing around watching the tamasha.Recommend

  • cautious

    The problem is that many Muslims tend to have a shifting justice scale when it comes to evaluating whether other Muslims are good/bad. ISIS is obvious an example of Muslim extremist – even Al Qaeda couldn’t stomach them … but whether it’s TTP, ISIS, Haqqani, Al Qaeda, Boka Haram etc they all have supporters who seem to think they are good Muslims … doesn’t matter that these “good Muslims” have no qualms about massacring innocent civilians. Your own Red Mosque has a library named after OBL – that tells you something.Recommend

  • Sane

    There is no Sunni or any sect of Muslim who can raze any part of shrines of Allah’s messengers. There is no sect of Sunnis or any other sect of Muslims in which killing or harm any other sect is allowed or encouraged. If any individual or group is doing this, they must be anti-Islam elements. ISIS is now out of bag. They are planted agents of US and Isreal to tarnish the image of Muslims or fuel the differences among Muslims.

    Please do not mislead people. First, analyze before you say.Recommend

  • Syed Hussain

    And Destroying graves of Prophet very Islamic right ?Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Yes i completely agree with you for everything bad that muslim extremists do is not really muslims doing, THE AMERICA AND ISREAL makes us do these things to tarnish our image.
    they made the muslims attack the world trade center, it was the AMERICA AND ISRAEL which made the taliban shoot malala, and of course they are the ones who are MAKING the muslims murder thousands of other muslims every day.
    Such beautiful truth and no one believes it, i wonder whyRecommend

  • bigsaf

    So sympathize, excuse or support ISIL’s violent acts and make a deflection blaming the irrelevant nation you despise on anti-Shia sectarian grounds ‘oh they do it too’, when the author has not laid blame on any internationally recognized Sunni state but an Islamist terrorist organization.

    This is the prejudiced and twisted interpretation of Wahhabi, Salafi or other Sunni Islamist extremist beliefs against other Muslims and their sects. It does not give them right to violently kill other religious communities and blow up their places of worship, such as the Christians and other Iraqi ancient groups.

    There is no ‘other side’ of the story. This is Iraq. Were Sunni mosques not there, some of which also got destroyed by ISIL, along with other historical marked graves? BTW, What other holy places and historic graves do they plan to raze next in the Middle East? Saudi Arabia, perhaps?Recommend

  • bigsaf

    Its a hoax.

    But their religious cleansing, looting, killing, chopping heads, crucifixions, destruction of holy places, suicide bombing in public places with women and children, alleged rape, is still bad enough.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    I think its unhelpful to even ask whether ISIL is even Islamic, which just justifies their narrative. They’re an extremist terrorist group. They have a vicious but remarkable psychopath, who takes no issue in placing bombs in children’s ice cream carts, leading them and inexplicably resonates with a good number of sick minded sympathizers and supporters.

    Its clear their fundamentalism is a threat to not just non-Muslims, but us Muslims mostly and must continue to oppose – despite what anti-Muslim prejudicial bigots may like to portray otherwise. Also need to stop measuring their ‘Islamicness’ or ‘hypocrisy’ by their perceived lack of action on Palestine. Its like we want to redirect them to carry out the same brutal attacks against us on Israelis instead to ‘prove’ themselves.

    Canada lists top domestic and foreign violent threat is considered to be religo-political Sunni Islamist extremism, particularly of the Wahhabi/Salafi radical ideological kind, holding a monopoly over non-Sunni groups.

    This is what ails Pakistan mostly, and other parts of the world. Its just not realized or difficult to admit or there’s an affinity to these beliefs by the general public, unfortunately like in Pakistan, or the Pakistani diaspora. Its a global ideological crisis, that can’t be explained by simplistic anti-imperialism or concentration on local political narratives alone. There are exceptions and nuances with these groups or their religious political state backers, but on the whole its a collective issue or problem, otherwise you wouldn’t have such recurring common themes such as the anti-Shia sectarianism, be it small or large populations.

    Among some Canadian Sunni jihadist radicals who flocked to Syria/Iraq, there were a few of Pakistani origin from well off households, one of whom committed a suicide bombing that killed over 50 people and injuring 100’s more in Iraq at the end of 2013, when ISIL were still unknown but rising. I fear ISIL probably has captured the ‘imagination’ of some young Pakistani minds…Recommend

  • Mehdi

    Truth hurts or else ET editing team wouldn’t have published my comment. I am not misleading anybody but you are in denial. Stop blaming US, I am from there and a Shia too. First you introspect and come out of denial mode.Recommend

  • SaneVoice

    There is no central control of muslims problems.
    Anyone can stand up and call themselves anything.
    ISIS are nothing but heavily armed gangsters and they do what they like by twisting their justifications with mis interpreted holy scripts. It is clear they are ethnic cleansing their region. Like all wrong things in the muslim world there is no ‘police’, no higher authority to tell them they are wrong.Recommend

  • abhi

    ISIS is as islamic as one can be.Recommend

  • Concerned

    You complain that this group is not Muslim because it has destroyed shrines–what about all of the jihadist movement? Why don’t you look at the religious underpinnings of Jihadism and eradicate that underpinning? To a Westerner your dialogue is from another age. Recommend

  • marik

    Please read some history. The Jewish Temple and the holy city was destroyed by the armies of the Pagan Roman Emperor Vespasian in response to a major Jewish uprising that sought to end Roman rule and restore the Kingdom of Solomon. The Emperor’s son Titus personally led the armies to Jerusalem and LITERALLY wiped the city out fulfilling the prophecy of the destruction of the city as foretold by Jesus in the Gospels of the New Testament. The only thing left standing by the Romans was what is now called the ‘wailing wall’.Recommend