Sheikh Hamza Yusuf to Cairo Review: Islamic State’s Caliphate is “Completely Bogus”

Leading Islamic scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf says in an interview with the Cairo Review of Global Affairs published today that the caliphate declared by the Islamic State group in 2014 is “completely bogus” because it fails to meet the criteria set down by hadith guiding Islamic jurisprudence. “The caliphate has to be agreed upon by Muslims,” said Yusuf, president of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, the first Muslim liberal arts college in the United States. But, Yusuf argued, the leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “have nothing to do with Islam. There are a lot of people who claim to represent something. They don’t represent anybody but themselves.”Speaking of ISIS’s declaration of a caliphate, in Mosul, Iraq, in July 2014, Yusuf said: “It’s completely bogus. In Al-Bukhari, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, says, ‘If anyone claims to be caliph, do not accept his caliphate until all the Muslims agree on it.’ That’s right in the text. I could declare California as the land of the caliph and I’m the caliph, come and take bay’ah with me. It’s bogus, it doesn’t mean anything.” Yusuf, ranked 36th in the 2016 Muslim 500 of the world’s most influential Muslims, said that traditional Islamic scholars have condemned ISIS, but “unfortunately, there is a war going on, a war of ideas, and the traditionalists have been losing it.” He blamed a “profound misreading of the Islamic tradition” for Muslim extremist violence. He said: “It’s a gross ignorance. Look at them, they’re all kids. There’s no old people there who have studied.” Yusuf criticized the media for being “egregiously derelict in their duty in the way that they’ve portrayed Islam.” He also blamed the neoconservatives of the President George W. Bush administration for creating the political vacuum that enabled ISIS to rise. But he said he opposed U.S. military intervention in the crisis, saying: “I think the Muslims have to deal with it. I think the Arab states do. They have armies. I think they should be intervening.” The interview with Sheikh Hamza Yusuf appears in the Fall 2015 issue of the Cairo Review, which features “Special Report: Islam and Politics.” To read the full interview with Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and “Special Report: Islam and Politics,” go to The Cairo Review of Global Affairs is the quarterly journal of AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP). The journal is available online at For further information, or to subscribe to the Cairo Review: Go to: and follow on Twitter @CairoReview.  

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