On Friday, July 4th, a 42-year-old Iraqi Jihadist leader who fights under the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in a mosque in the city of Mosul, which his group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) had seized weeks earlier, along with swathes of Iraq and Syria. Al-Baghdadi, dressed in long black robes delivered a sermon announcing that he would henceforth be known as Caliph Ibrahim, emir of the faithful in the Islamic state.
A caliphate is an Islamic state – and then some. In theory, a caliphate is more than just a country that happens to be officially Muslim; it is supposed to encompass every Muslim on earth. The last time that sort of caliphate existed was many centuries ago. But the word caliphate still evokes the idea of a glorious and unified Islamic civilization.
What does a caliph do, exactly?
Originally, the caliph was the person who took over Mohammed’s (1) rule over the unified Islamic state and (2) responsibility for all Muslims. Over the next seven hundred years, Mohammed’s memory obviously faded, but those remained the two defining responsibilities: rule over a unified Islamic state and bear responsibility for the community of all Muslims, or the ummah.
The present-day Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in declaring himself a caliph and his terrorist mini-state a caliphate, is communicating that he believes he is fighting on behalf of all Muslims worldwide (he does not count Shia Muslims in this, only Sunnis) and that he is the representative of God on earth. He is also sort of suggesting a desire to continue ISIS’s advance until he has conquered all Muslim-majority lands, which is an aspiration that’s hinted at frequently in jihadist maps of a unified Islamic empire – see map above.
Could this man lead the armies in the battle of Gog and Magog referred to in Ezekiel 38 & 39 which occurs about the middle of The Tribulation?