Tuesday, 28 March 2017 00:00

Heirs of Abu Bakr: On the Ideology and Conception of History in al-Qaeda and Islamic State

Written by  Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen

This article investigates references to early Muslim history by al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and notes a remarkable difference. While al-Qaeda has traditionally referred to the battles of the early Muslims during the time of the prophet Muhammad, the Islamic State centers its references on the successor to the prophet, the caliph Abu Bakr. Hence, Al-Qaeda, in line with Sayyed Qutb’s notion of a “Qur’anic program,” evokes a mythical past as if it is relived today. The Islamic State, in turn, takes a somewhat more pragmatic line, arguing that events today, like those of the earliest caliphs, are merely the outcomes of human decisions in a post-prophetic and post-Qur’anic age.