The International Union of Muslim Scholars, led by influential Sunni cleric Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, released a statement on Friday concerning the recent declaration of a "caliphate" by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIS). The union said that the caliphate declaration is "null and void" and "lacks any realistic or legitimate standards." It warned of serious consequences of the declaration on both Sunni Muslims in Iraq and the revolution in Syria.
The union defined the concept of a caliphate linguistically and religiously. The leader of the Muslim Ummah (nation) should be "a representative" of the nation, based on the people's choice of that leader, or their representatives. "The mere announcement is not enough to establish a caliphate," the statement added.
The scholars refuted ISIS arguments regarding its so-called "Islamic State", pointing out that, "All the affairs of the state and religious political practice should be based on Shura (consultation)." They cited evidence from the text of the Qur'an and Sunnah (example of Prophet Muhammad) to emphasise the concept of Shura, rather than coercion, in Islam. The union statement also referred to early Muslim caliphs, pointing out that they were selected by Shura, not self-appointed.
It warned that ISIS's announcement "serves the enemies of the Syrian and Iraqi revolutions" which advocate legitimate demands for their peoples. Furthermore, the union accused ISIS of "hijacking the Iraqi revolution", in which Sunnis of all stripes are taking part, adding that delegitimising all Islamic movements in the world by the caliphate announcement is "unacceptable".
"Linking the concept of caliphate to an organisation known to be extremist does not serve Islam," the scholars' said. They concluded by stressing that the concept of the caliphate is of "extreme importance" for all Muslims but requires "consensus among Muslims worldwide regarding its form and content."