To us, Westerners, it does not seem like a particularly big deal that ISIS/ISIL had pronounced the terrirories it now controls as a Capilhate and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (whatever previous names he may have been know by) as a Caliph.
All right, let’s analyze this, one bit at a time…
Al-Baghdadi simply means ‘from Baghdad’.
So, what does Abu Bakr mean?
It is obviously not the man’s birth name but rather a name he adopted in order to fit/further/support/explain the role he perceives himself (and others perceive him) to play. Or, if you wish, the ‘mantle’ he had assumed.
Who was the original Abu Bakr?
The ‘original’ Abu Bakhr was the very first person outside of Muhammad’s family to become a Muslim – and he was the father of Muhammad’s child bride, Aisha.
To a person who is familiar with the history of early Islam, the above sentence is chock filled with meaning – so much so that a single little article may not do it justice…but, I will try!
The Early history of Islam is imbued with much meaning and allusions to it will convey many layers of meaning to those cognisant of it. In order to even scratch the surface, I will need to ‘back up’ to the time of Muhammad himself.
Muhammad was born to a pre-eminent Meccan family. His paternal grandfather was in control of the temple now know as the Kaaba. It is now the most sacred site in Islam – the direction in which every Muslim prays. Back then before Muhammad’s ministry, the Kaaba was a temple dedicated to many, many deities worshiped by the pagan Arabs – including the Moon God, Allah.
As the patriarch of the clan, Muhammad’s grandfather controlled access to the Kaaba temple – and much (if not all) of his income was generated from the fees paid by pilgrims who wished to visit the Kaaba.
Muhammad’s father was the son of this ‘gatekeeper’ of the Kaaba.
As a matter of fact, when Muhammad’s grandfather went to purchase Muhammad’s wife for his son, he saw another lovely woman in that family and purchased her for a wife for himself. Therefore, Muhammed’s father married Muhamed’s mother in the same ceremony as his father married her kinswoman….and it is from this tradition that the tales of Muhammad’s unnaturally long gestation period come from…
Whatever the truth of the story, Muhammad was born long after his mother’s husband’s death – so long, in fact, that some people have questioned his parentage. It seems that the worry about Muhmmed’s parentage was shared by Muhamed’s paternal grandfather….who refused to acknowledge Muhammed as being of his kin, prompting the teenage Muhammed’s excommunication from Mecca. It was not until Muhammed’s paternal uncle officially adopted him that Muhammed was permitted to return to Mecca.
Once in Mecca, Muhammed caught the eye of his uncle’s employer, a wealthy widow named Khadija – who eventually married Muhammed.
Prior to meeting Muhammed, Khadijah was in love with her cousin whom he believed to be the messenger from the one and only God. Once she saw the young and handsome cattle-boy Muhammed, Khadija realized she was totally wrong and, afer she married Muhammad, she realized that it was really Muhammed who was the true prophet of the one and only God.
It took a few years of persuasion, but, eventually, the young Muhammed believed his wife (the first convert to Islam) that he was, indeed, special and chosen by God to be his Messenger!
Abu Bakhr, a wealthy merchant, was the first person outside the family to believe this and to embrace Muhammed as the prophet of the one and only God – thus becoming the first person outside the family to convert to Islam.
When Muhammed told him that, in a dream, he was told that he is to marry Abu Bakhr’s six year-old daughter, Abu Bakhr first argued that she is too young, but, submitting to the will of God’s messenger, he eventually agreed.
Unfortunately, at about the time of the betrothal, Abu Bakhr’s daughter, Aisha, fell ill and all her hair fell out. So, Muhammed waited until she recovered and her hair grew back in before bedding her.
Aisha remained Muhammed’s favourite wife till his death.
Which is where the traditions ‘break path’, so to say.
BOTH traditions agree that Muhammed was ill, then felt better, lead Friday prayers, went to spent time with Aisha and then died.
According to Sunni Muslims, Muhammed had been poisoned by a Jewish woman who had served him a meal of poisoned mutton right after he had slaughtered her entire family and clan. The Sunni believe she did this to test if he was just another King (who could be poisoned) or a true prophet (who could not – by the grace of God). While he survived the immediate attack, the Sunnis believe Muhammed died as an after-effect of this poison.
The Shi’a Muslims, however, believe that being a true prophet of the one and only God, the poison given him by the Jewess as a test did not harm Muhammed at all. Rather, they believe that while Muhammed’s nephew and bodyguard was out of town, sent on a mission by Muhammed, Aisha killed him on the orders of her father, Abu Bakhr, so that he could assume the command of all the Muslims.
Indeed, there were many stories at about this time about faithful men in line to replace Muhammed as the leader of the Muslims being assassinated, one at a time, by the brothers of Aisha, so that her father could assume the reins of power and reign as the next Caliph.
Indeed, the very first war between the Muslims was about Abu Bakhr’s succession of Muhammed as Caliph…
Th Sunnis believe that Abu Bakhr was the rightful heir to Muhammed’s rule.
The Shi’as belive that Abu Bakhr was an usurper who had no right to power, but attempted to assassinate Muhammed’s rightful heirs in order to seize power for himself.
Whatever the truth may have been so many centuries ago is less relevant to today’s events than the traditions of these events, as told by both Shi’a and Sunni Muslims.
Today, considering the legends (and, perhaps, believing them to be true), adopting the name ‘Abu Bakr’ signals to Muslims that this person believes he is the rightful ruler of all of Islam (the Sunni bits, at least) who considers himself to he a true successor of Muhammed, with all that that implies.
Sure, it means death to all Shi’a Muslims as heretics – as well as all other non-orthodox Sunni followers of Islam. According to this ‘Abu Bakhr tradition’ - anyone who did not acknowledge Abu Bakhr as the rightful successor of Muhammed and all followers of the forms of Islam that sprung from this must be exterminated as heretics, even ore dangerous than outright infidels…
Which means war in the middle east…
So – why is this important to the people outside the middle east?!?!?
It has to do with the very concept of ‘Caliph’.
A ‘Caliph’ is not just the ruler of a particular geographic area.
A ‘Caliph’ is the spiritual and political ruler of every Muslim in the world!
That is agreed upon by all the schools of Sharia – Islamic jurisprudence.
Thus, a Caliph erases the differences between different forms of Islam – regardless of Shi’a, Sunni, Ahmadi or anything else, once there is a proclaimed Caliph, all Muslims owe HIM and ONLY HIM their allegiance and obedience.
Regardless where on Earth they live, what local jurisdictions they are living under: once there is a Caliph, Sharia dictates all Muslims must obey the Caliph before the laws of the land they happen to be living in.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may only control a small geographic area. But, by having had himself declared a Caliph, he now commands the loyalty and obedience of all Sharia-adherent Muslims everywhere on this Earth.
THIS is why we, in the West, must draw a very pragmatic distinction between the Muslims who are immigrants to our lands, hoping to escape Sharia (and whom we must protect from their co-religionists) and the settlers/invaders who came here to try to enact Sharia law in our lands and thus make us conquered by Islam.
Make no mistake: by having declared a Caliphate and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the new Caliph, militant Muslims have, in one move, turned Sharia-adherent Muslims in Western countries into enemy agents, whether they want to be or not!!!