Does an ISIS Caliphate Really Exist

What is a "Caliphate"? Does an ISIS Caliphate Really Exist?

The 2016 presidential race has been loaded with rhetoric about a so-called “ISIS caliphate.” But what exactly is a caliphate? And what does it mean to say that ISIS claims to have one? WNPR invited Dr. Feryal Salem to unpack these terms.
Listen to the full interview here.


Dr. Salem said the term “caliphate” refers to a monarchy or kingdom, which does not equate to a “theocracy.” The term “caliphate” has been appropriated by the Islamic State, she said, “to legitimize their way of thinking” and their “gross misinterpretation of Islam.”

The Rights of Religious Minorities

Dr. Salem referred listeners to the Marrakesh Declaration that a large group of Muslim scholars gathered to discuss in January 2016. The declaration confirms the rights of religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries based on the tradition of religious tolerance established by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

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Head Shot Feryal SalemDr. Feryal Salem is an assistant professor of Islamic Scriptures and Law and co-director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary. She received her Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
In addition, Dr. Salem has studied Islamic studies from various classically trained scholars in the Muslim World. She received her certification (ijaza) in Qur’anic recitation from the late Syrian scholar Abu al-Hasan al-Kurdi in 1998. She was also certified in recitation by Shaykh Kurayyim Rajih in 2013. She has studied a number of related Islamic sciences including: Shafi’i and Hanafi jurisprudence (fiqh), Islamic theology (aqida), early Islamic history, Arabic grammar, Muslim inheritance law, classical logic, Qur’anic sciences (ulum al-Qur’an), and Islamic legal methodology (usul al-fiqh).  In 2009, she received a degree in the hadith sciences from the Nuriyya Hadith Institute of Damascus attached to the ancient Umayyad Mosque complex and whose curriculum includes studying a range of classical Islamic texts along with their commentaries.
Committed to furthering Islamic scholarship, Dr. Salem has been actively working within the Muslim American community to establish the Nur Foundation for Sacred Sciences, which focuses on providing opportunities for education in the Islamic sciences for Muslims living in the West.

Does an ISIS Caliphate Really Exist?

Cover photo by Adrien Sifre