GUEST POST: The Different Functions of IS Online and Offline Plegdes (bay'at): Creating A Multifaceted Nexus of Authority

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The Different Functions of IS Online and Offline Plegdes (bay’at): Creating A Multifaceted Nexus of Authority
by Philipp Holtmann
The Islamic State (IS) wages a global battle, which aims at ideological hegemony over Islamic concepts of statehood and governance. An important part of this strategy is IS’ multipronged and interconnected bay’ah-campaign. Since the proclamation of the caliphate in June 2014, the Islamic State has been putting a strong focus on the marketing of plegdes (bay’at) of investiture and obedience to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Dozens of other jihadi groups and cells, as well as tribes and communities, locally and internationally, some of them formerly allied with al-Qaeda, have announced their obedience to IS. Also in the online world, there has been a viral competition among sympathizers and supporters to “virtually pledge” to IS, which, albeit, has met strong criticism from other Muslims, including Salafists and Islamists, who claim that virtual and physical pledges to IS’-caliphate contradict Islamic law. With the multifunctional use of integrated offline and online pledges IS aims to establish territorial, political, ideological, and virtual leadership, based on self-reliable re-enactment. IS uses offline and online pledges to create traditional structures of authority and leadership in local arenas under its control, to establish long-range command over far-flung affiliates, to enhance tactical performance, as well as to lead and radicalise individuals via the Internet.
Bay’at in classical Islamic political theory
The importance IS gives to the bay’ah or oath-taking ritual cannot be overstressed. Pledges are regulated by a special body of rules in Islamic law and distinctive mechanisms of the buildup of Islamic political systems. Pledges, first and foremost, regulate the delegation of power and creation of leadership. Although mostly referred to as “pledges of allegiance,” this expression is somehow misleading, for pledges are applied to a much wider variety of purposes. Some Muslim scholars argue that obedience to the caliph is identical with obedience to Allah, and a bay’ah given to caliph equals a bay’ah to Allah.1 The “caliphate” stands for god-focused rule in accordance with Islamic law.
In Sunni political theory, the pledge is a contract between the ruler and the ruled and the basis for Islamic governance. The caliphate, imamate or emirate is established by a bay’ah-contract between the leader and the jama’ah (community). Obedience is exchanged against good governance. Sub-contracts on leadership can be closed between subjects and subordinate leaders, as well as upon other aspects of Islamic governance (“smaller pledges”). The written or spoken formula of the “greater pledge” may be summarized as “to listen and to obey in hard and in easy times, unless the ruler commands a sin against God” and is accompanied by a handshake or a letter in return, and thus the confirmation of both sides to honor the contract. This establishes the triadic nexus of political-military-religious/judicial leadership, which is typical for the caliphate.
The caliph is the viceregent of Muhammad, the politico-religious leader, who heads the Muslim Nation (imam) and the supreme military commander (amir al-mu’minin) in personal union. However, only the first four caliphs (the “rightly guided ones”) fullfilled this condition. Past Islamic empires were often led by multiple factions, and real power was overtaken by internal usurpers. Some caliphs only served as puppets, who gave legitimacy to the political structure. They were appointed behind the scenes by powerful sultans. Already the ‘Ummayad rulers transformed the caliphate into a dynastic monarchy based on hereditary succession. But the caliphate remained an important office to lend symbolic legitimacy to the rulers and safeguard the “unity” of the Muslim community, and thus, the connected pledge-mechanisms (investiture and obedience) remained central to the legitimation of leadership as well.
Obedience to Muhammad and those in power is derived from Sura IV., 62. In theory Islam is an absolute theocracy; in fact it is an absolute monarchy limited only by the caliph’s dependence on the decisions of the ‘ulema, from the time of Mu’awiya onwards. According to Muslim tradition only the first four successors of Muhammad were caliphs in the strict sense; with Mu’awiya, mulk (absolute monarchy) arose. Yet some of the Abbasid caliphs came up to the standard required of the imam [provost in the sense of the highest politico-religious leader of the Muslim community] as the ‘Commander of the Faithful [highest military leader]’,”2
There are three ways to invest a caliph. An electory commission, the “people of resolution and contract (ahl al-hall wa-l-‘aqd) can agree upon (ijma’) and invest the caliph by a “pledge of investiture” (bay’t al-in’iqad), which is a non-public “special pledge” (bay’ah khassa). One faction of Islamic jurists, such as al-Mawardi (991-1031), says that the Muslim community has to confirm this election and the contract (ahd, aqd) publicly with “popular pledges” (bay’at al-nas), also called “general pledges” (bay’at ‘ammah) or “pledges of obedience” (bay’at ‘ala al-ta’ah). They are given in local mosques to representatives of the caliph. Other jurists, such as Ibn Jama’a (1241-1333) say that this condition is not necessary; on the contrary, a caliph may even usurp power to preserve the public interests. Both factions agree on a third way of investiture: The reigning caliph may designate his successor as heir-presumptive (wali al-‘ahd). In this case, agreement, investiture and public consens become mere formalities.3
The supreme Muslim leader has to fullfill several conditions, among them to possess ‘ilm, i.e. the necessary knowledge of traditions to make independent decisions based on Islamic precepts (ijtihad), be physically and mentally fit, posess courage and determination and be a descendant of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca (Muhammad’s tribal lineage). Pledges typically involve acceptance by the leader and are not just a one sided declaration by subordinates, although there are early Islamic examples of long-range bay’at through the writing and sending of pledges to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad from far-away tribes and monarchies, which jihadi-salafi groups have adapted to “online-pledges.”
In classical Islamic theory “the greater pledge” is strictly reserved for the caliph. IS has re-invoked this pledge in the summer of 2014.4 Al-Qaeda Central quickly tried to counter IS’ global ambitions and dug out an old recording, in which Usama Bin Laden gave a similar pledge to Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, in 2001. Al-Qaeda thus designated the Taliban as “watchdogs” of the caliphate – something between a caliphate and an emirate5 – and called upon all Muslims and AQ-affiliates to subordinate to their overarching authority.6 Members who are bound to al-Qaeda by a “smaller pledge” (limited emirship) are also bound by al-Qaeda’s “greater pledge” to the Taliban, the leader of the organization, Ayman al-Zawahiri, explained.
But al-Qaeda’s effort did not ring very true given its conflictual history with pledges (the organization refused to pledge to the Taliban in the 1990s) and its mismanaged and ambigous handling of the crisis between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS in 2013 (the former remained loyal to al-Qaeda, the latter developed into IS). Al-Qaeda’s claim also came a bit too late, for IS’ bay’ah campaign had just gained full swing.
The use of smaller bay’at in modern Islamic movements
Various other functions and mechanisms of pledges have become popular since the abolishment of the caliphate in 1924, influencing the use of bay’at by Muslims until today.7 These modern adaptations and mix of “smaller pledges” with “popular pledges of obedience” developed because the central and unifying Sunni-Muslim authority was missing; secular state ideologies and modern governance were introduced in the Middle East and often irreconcilable with the traditional mechanism. “Smaller pledges” became adapted to the investiture of monarchs, for example, in Morocco and in Saudi Arabia, and to elect leaders of modern Islamist oppositional groups, as well as Salafist and Jihadist organizations. But that said, already in early Islamic history, secessionist factions have pledgded bay’at to install alternative power centres, such as the breakaway Muslim faction “Khawarij,” or the rebellion of the governor Mu’awiya against Ali, which led to the Sunni-Shiite split.
The greater bay’ah – The election of the caliph al-Baghdadi
Even though IS exercises only regional control, and its resources and structure can at best be described as those of an “emirate,” the organization has used Islamic legal loopholes to declare itself a “caliphate.” IS has thought one step ahead to foster the legitimacy of the “greater caliphal pledge” against Muslim critique.
First and foremost, Islamic law allows that the vacant caliphate can be filled by an authority that musters the necessary resources and receives the consensus of a representative Muslim council. IS claims that it fullills this condition and thus rules legally. In order to meet the requirement of an expert council’s agreement (ijma‘) and thus create an investiture, which is harder to contest by Muslim critiques, al-Baghdadi’s predecessor between 2006 and 2010 integrated delegates of affiliated terrorist groups into the Islamic State of Iraq’s decision-council, according to their numerical strength and the extent of their operations. A similar structure was probably integrated into the Islamic State’s council. IS claims that such a representative expert commission invested Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi. In addition, IS claims that al-Baghdadi is a descendant of the Quraysh tribe, thus fulfilling one of the central conditions required from a caliph by some of the influential classical Islamic jurisprudents.
It should be noted that all experiments with governance and pledges by IS’ precursors in Iraq since 2003 were probably aimed at the caliphate in the long-run. Usama bin Laden was in favor of the jihadi developments in Iraq, until it became clear from 2010 on that al-Qaeda’s Iraqi franchise was developing into an ever more independent structure. Bin Laden allegedly once stated that avoiding the pledge of obedience to one of the emirs of al-Qaeda in Iraq was a shariatic crime, because it hindered the “establishment of the greater Muslim group under a single Imam.”8
Secondly, IS wants to satisfy the classical condition that the “greater pledge” of investiture is followed by popular pledges of obedience (bay’at ‘ala al-ta’ah). It seems that, according to some Islamic traditions, it suffices if only a local Muslim minority, for example, the citizens in the capital, confirm the investiture of the caliph. IS argues by analogy that not all subjects must know the caliph,9 especially since security conditions do not allow for public appearances.10 In order to appear as if it is nonetheless fulfilling the condition of popular confirmation and agreement (ijma‘), IS organizes public pledges of obedience in mosques in Syria and Iraq and continues to film and upload them on the Internet.
In reality, the mechanism, which brought al-Baghdadi to power, seems to be located somewhere between election (ikhtiyar) and usurpation of a void caliphate (taghallub), enforcing bay’at through coercion by the wielder of force (qahru sahibihi-l-shawka), which according to some Islamic law schools can take place without confirmation by the Muslim community (jama’ah). The medieval Shafi’i scholar Ibn Jama’ah even de jure recognizes usurpation of the office of the caliph, either by overpowering a ruling imam or by overtaking the vacant office. There is no need for a contract between the imam and the community. The bay’ah of investiture can be quasi-enforced and does not need to be sealed by a contract. “Self-investiture by armed force is lawful, and obedience is due to such a ruler ‘so that the unity of the Muslims is assured and that they speak with one voice.'”11 Yet, this classical condition does not allow to enforce public and popular bay’at, which is why IS puts such an emphasis on marketing its pledges as voluntary decisions.
In summary, IS exerts efforts to prove the legality of al-Baghdadi’s investiture. Some Islamic legal stipulations support the procedure and supply IS with considerable interpretational depth. The main thrust of Muslim critiques goes into the direction that they describe IS as an “emirate” with local control and criticize IS for enforcing bay’at by coercion (ikrah), including draconic punishments (collective punishment, mass executions, torture) against civilians who refuse to pledge. Influential jihadi ideologues and Salafi clerics have already initiated counter-debates into this direction, among them Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, ‘Adnan al-Arour, or the Islamic Body of Greater Syria (hay’at al-sham al-islamiyya). There are vehement Muslim online-discussions against IS-bay’at, for example on and But there still seems to be little coordination and networking in these counter-efforts.
IS-bay’at and local alliances: territorial expansion and indoctrination
IS’ uses bay’at to forge local alliances with tribes and force communities under its control. In IS-propaganda, newcomers seem to willingly consent, but incidences of horrific intimidation and violence suggest that many pledges are enforced. In Iraq and in Syria, IS-representatives take “popular pledges of obedience” (bay’at ‘ammah; ‘ala al-ta’ah) from tribes and communities in order to confirm or renew the contract (tajdid al-‘ahd) of subordination under al-Baghdadi.12 IS-affiliates in Libya and in Algeria copy this practice and try to drag communities under their control.13
Popular pledges on local levels knit a more cohesive area of governance out of the territorial patchwork under IS-control. For example, IS seeks the allegiance of tribes along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Syria and Iraq, a region, which it has to share with rival militias and alliances. Some of the tribes connect across the Turkish, Syrian, and Iraqi borders. In addition, IS continues to take pledges and establish bases in major cities, such as in Homs and al-Raqqa in northern Syria and in Mosul in northern Iraq.
A single Iraqi tribe can muster up to 10,000 armed men. Such coalitions not only boost IS militarily, but allow it also to indoctrinate a large number of people. The aspect of indoctrination is important, because the idea of IS “cannot be detected by spy drones.” It cannot be “blown out of existence by heavy bombers.”14 Thus, IS may not control more than a few dozen villages, towns and cities, but its ideological territory is steadily growing. Even in the event of territorial losses, IS seems to calculate leaving behind indoctrinated populaces and, therefore, focuses on the most vulnerable members of society, taking even from children bay’at “to fight until death.”15 Adults who may be able to escape IS’ ideological trap, because they subordinate under IS-control in a utilitarian and survival-oriented fashion, still fear that “IS focus on education and indoctrination of children is part of a long-term strategy to more closely link the group with the populations it governs.”16
Rival tribal coalitions use “blood pledges” (bay’at damm) to forge blood-based alliances against IS, such as the Shu’aytat in the Syrian governorate of Deir al-Zour. But punishment of deviators who refuse to pledge seems to be sadistically harsh. IS boasts in its online journal “Dabiq” that collective punishment is the “best way” to deter tribal societes and documents the arrests of Shu’aytat-members who are then herded to their executions. Pictures of other dead men, who were shackled, shot, and maimed in Syria and Iraq, resurface in social media and confirm terrible massacres over hegemony between rival tribal and organizational alliances, which bear seemingly endless conflict potential.17
IS-bay’at and international alliances: Enact terrorist deterrence and retaliation strategies
For the past two decades, al-Qaeda Central has demonstrated how to win new subordinates and to build international alliances through “plegdes of allegiance,” putting a hierarchy, strategic command, and obligations upon affiliate organizations. The geographical distance of these alliances did often not allow face-to-face bay’at between representatives of both sides. In order to separate strong from spurious alliances, al-Qaeda central started to confirm pledges of new affiliates via the media, such as the integration of al-Qaeda in Iraq under its command in 2004, or that of the Somali Shabaab al-Mujahidin Movement in 2012.
IS has done away with the feedback mechanism in many of its long range alliances. This method is too slow and not effective. IS wants to use popular plegdes to quickly forge international alliances, set up long-range leadership via the Internet, and to enact terrorist deterrence and retaliation strategies through these alliances. The addressees are not only larger groups, but also individuals, small communities and dispersed networks.
The new franchising to which IS puts pledges does not quite correspond with the older al-Qaeda paradigm described by Kévin Jackson that “assertions dubbing some al Qa’ida’s affiliates/franchises on the only basis that an oath has been sworn should be met with skepticism at the very least […] groups rendering their allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri cannot be labeled al Qa’ida in the absence of an official recognition from the Pakistan-based leadership.“18
The matter is more ambigous. Although all new IS-affiliates have sworn absolute loyalty to the mother organization, it is true that only a few have lived up to the command issued by IS in September 2014 to start terrorist-deterrence attacks against citizens of the U.S.-led coalition the world over.19 An example that one should regard the publication of bay’at by aspiring affiliates with caution is the Abu Sayyaf Group, which propagated a bay’ah to IS by one of its wings in a utilitarian fashion, but at the same time released two German hostages in October 2014 against ransom, instead of enacting IS’ deterrence command.20 Yet, other affiliates have behaved very differently and challenge the interpretation that bay’at must be confirmed in order to become effective.
Thus, it seems that IS’ confirmed affiliates are not necessarily more effective than “unrecognized, self-proclaimed” affiliates. The Algerian “Jund al-Khilafa” or the Libyan “al-Battar” groups, for example, both murdered and put in practice IS-strategic commands, however, without explicit recognition from the mother-organization.21 Neither did past confirmations of affiliates by al-Qaeda Central’s create stable alliances: Al-Qaeda in Iraq, today IS, has betrayed its bay’ah to al-Qaeda Central, and the Somali Shabaab al-Mujahidin Movement did not wait for a confirmation of its bay’ah by al-Qaeda Central to start attacks in the name of its separate alliance with the “Islamic State of Iraq” in 2010.22
Also a resource-centred focus on jihadi alliance-hubs fails to address the factor of ideological dedication on the side of some affiliates. Tricia Bacon recently argued that in order to become an effective alliance hub, a mother organization must be capable of providing resources and capabilities to its partner organizations. In addition, it must desire to act as a hub.23 IS fullfills these conditions. But this argument does not address the partner organizations’ level of dedication to the obligations that underlie jihadi alliances, which are forged by pledges. Pledges are – at least by legal definition – Islamic contracts, rather than mere “declarations of allegiance.” For some affiliates, who have enacted orders, commands, and guidelines issued by IS, neither confirmation of their bay’at, nor support or profit seem to have played a major role. The core factor was their ideological conviction. They seemed to honor their pledges as transcendental Islamic contracts.
IS’ new leadership concept is partly built on guidelines for intrinsic and self-reliable management-by-objectives: “if you cannot perform hijrah for whatever extraordinary reason, then try in your location to organize bay’āt (pledges of allegiance) to the Khalīfah Ibrāhīm. Publicize them as much as possible. Gather people in the masājid, Islamic centers, and Islamic organizations, for example, and make public announcements of bay’ah. Try to record these bay’āt and then distribute them through all forms of media including the Internet.
IS’ use of functional pledges
IS uses “functional pledges”24 to motivate fighters to fulfill specific tactical goals. Thus, IS takes fighting-pledges (bay’at qital) and “death-pledges” from fighters before battle or example, to enhance battle trance and further radicalization, but also from children in order to indoctrinate them.25 Another example of functional bay’at is that of German and other European jihadis who emulate the “pledge of emigration” (bay’at hijra), which the Muslim Prophet Muhammad allegedly took from the nascent Muslim community before their migration from Mecca to Medina. The emigration to IS territory is pictured as the peak-point of their processes of radicalization, which are crowned by pledges of obedience to the organization.26 They serve as role-models in IS-propaganda and call upon others to follow suit. These actors participate in IS-propaganda as jihadi role-models and call upon others to follow suit.
Online bay’at: between real and virtual control
This leads us to a further category of IS-bay’at. Online pledges are becoming an integral part of IS’ power structure. IS uses the frame and the mechanisms of the classical Islamic caliphate together with a diffused netwar-strategy to enhance its halo of authority and thus, to solidify and connect real with virtual power structures. IS integrates popular bay’at of obedience and sub-functional, tactical pledges with the marketing of pledges via the Internet. In the wake of IS-announcement of the caliphate, hundreds of supporters have pledged “bay’at” through social media. IS’ virtual bay’ah campaign is overflowing with new contributions by the day: Pictures of tribal elders and youngsters pledging bay’at in IS-online magazines; accounts of massacres against those who refused; written pledges in social media, flyers advertising local-community pledges, such as in Derna in Libya, videos of bay’at to IS by fighting alliances, such as in the Syrian town of Shuhail south of Deir al-Zour.
In IS’ vision, online bay’at, i.e. given or documented online, are supposed to stimulate rites of passage, which immerse IS-sympathizers ever deeper into jihadi ideology and increase a feeling of shared brotherhood, communality and obedience, eventually turning them into active supporters and actors. IS hopes that the feeling of obligation will create enough psychological pressure to lead to single attacks, such as lately in Ottawa, Canada. Other “role-models” of this paradigm are individuals who perpetrated attacks and were strongly bound ideologically, such as Muhammad Bouyeri (Netherlands, 2004) and Taimour al-Abdaly (Sweden, 2010).
IS has been experimenting with online-pledges since 2006. The precursor of IS, al-Qaeda in Iraq, formed “The Islamic State of Iraq.” ISI tried to popularise the online use of ”pledges of obedience” by taking an important part of the Islamic electoral process to the Internet, namely the popular confirmation that has to follow a leader’s election by the ”special, or binding oath” of an electoral commission. Towards this end ISI started a campaign on jihad online forums, calling for members to confirm the election of its leader Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi (k. 2010). The online campaign was supposed to complement the ISI ground campaign in Iraq. The experiment was relatively unsuccessful, because al-Qaeda Central was still the figurehead of jihad and ISI appeared like a rogue outlaw. But IS, the successor organization, has learned since then and is now approaching the task differently. IS’ goal is to make pledges appear as “so common to the average Muslim that he considers those holding back as grossly abnormal.”27
IS-pledges contain concepts of leadership and authority, which can influence supporters and increase their commitment to extremist ideas. IS’ goal is to use pledges to create a virtual nexus of legitimacy and long-range leadership around its brand-name. Real actors and events, online campaigns and discussions as well as social media marketing of pledges are carefully interwoven. The concept becomes inextricably connected to the strenghtening of IS ideological authority, as expressed in pledges to commit oneself “to jihad until death.” If radicalisation can be influenced this way, then this becomes part of the IS` extended virtual leadership paradigm, which may be less accurate than “true” leadership, but nevertheless psychologically very effective.
Dr. Philipp Holtmann is a research analyst, who has lived and worked in several countries of the Middle East. He conducts in-depth research on Muslim media and Islamic governance.

1 The foundation for this argument lies in the Quran, Chapter 6, Verse 62, which states that obedience to authority (amr) is a religious duty.
2 Erwin I.J. Rosenthal, Political Thought in Medieval Islam: An Introductory Outline (Cambridge: University Press, 1962), 26.
3 Ibid., 27-45.
4 Kljiuyh Dffiujru, “Kalimat al-shaykh al-mujahid Muhammad al-‘Adnani al-Shami bi ‘inwan: hadha wa’ada Allah: I’lan qiyam al-khilafa al-islamiyya,” accessed November 7, 2014,, 16:50 min.
5 “Yes, it is true that he [Mullah Omar] is not a caliph. But on the piece of land, which he governs, he has taken over the provisions of the caliphate, expressed in the conditions and the way he was designated, as well as the fullfilment of other representative, [caliph] status-like rules.” See “Bay’at amir al-mu’minin al-habib Aba ‘Umar al-Baghdadi fi mizan al-shar’,” discussion in 2008, accessed November 10, 2014,
6 “Bushriyat – Ma’ al-sheikh Usama Bin Laden – rahimahu Allah – Sadira ‘an Mu’assasat al-Sahab li-l-Intaj al-I’lami – Ramadan 1435 AH – July 2017 AD,” accessed November 10, 2014,
7 Abdullah bin Bajad al-‘Utaybi, ” “Baya’na ‘ala al-sam’ wa-l-ta’ah,” accessed November 7, 2014,
8 “Bay’at amir al-mu’minin al-habib Aba ‘Umar al-Baghdadi fi mizan al-shar’,” discussion in 2008.
9 Oriented at the precedent cases of the investiture of the fourth rightly-guided caliph ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib) and his predecessors. See this Muslim discussion: “In’iqad al-khilafa: Bay’atai al-in’iqad wa-l-ta’ah,” accessed November 10, 2014,
10 Usama bin Laden already supported this argument in favor of the Islamic State of Iraq and the election of its leader Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi in 2006. See “Bay’at amir al-mu’minin al-habib Aba ‘Umar al-Baghdadi fi mizan al-shar’,” discussion in 2008.
11 Erwin I.J. Rosenthal, Political Thought in Medieval Islam: An Introductory Outline (Cambridge: University Press, 1962), 45.
12 See the IS-publication “Dabiq,” issues 1-4.
13 „Video shows pledge of about 50 members of the Darna-community in Libya pledging to Islamic State of Greater Syria and Iraq – Organization,“, accessed November 2, 2014. The north-eastern Libyan town Derna is the stronghold of IS-affiliated group „al-Battar“, which probably organized this meeting. In late October 2014, at least 50 male pledged obedience to al-Baghdadi. The event was marketed with flyers and on the Internet under the slogan „Put the hands [upon each other] to pledge to al-Baghdadi.
14 Uri Avneri, Is ISIS coming? November 8, 2014,
15 See “Da’ish taqum bi-tajnid al-atfal wa ‘akhada al-bay’ah minhum li-l-Baghdadi,” accessed November 7, 2014, Also this YouTube-video: “Documentary – Meeting ISIL (PressTV goes deep inside the terrorist group),” accessed November 7, 2014,
16 Suggests an interview-based study of public opinion in the Syrian town of Manbih in the eastern Alleppo province, “Manbij and the Islamic State’s public administration,”
17 For example, and, accessed November 10, 2014.
18 Kévin Jackson, “The Pledge of Allegiance and Its Implications,” accessed November 7, 2014, Although all new affiliates
have sworn absolute loyalty to the mother organization IS a, only a few have lived up to the task and one should regard
the publication of bay’at by aspiring affiliates with caution. One example is the Indonesian Abu Sayyaf Group, which
propagated the bay’ah to IS by one of its wings in a utilitarian fashion, but at the same time released two German
hostages in October 2014 against ransom, instead of enacting IS’ deterrence command. Yet, other affiliates have
behaved very differently and challenge the interpretation that bay’at must be confirmed in order to become effective.
19 “Abu Muhammad al Adnani the Leader of Islamic State send a Message to the World – YouTube,” accessed October 10, 2014,
20 See Joseph Franco and Philipp Holtmann, “Pledges to Islamic State: Weak and Strong Alliances,” 12 November 2014,
21 In late September 2014, the Jund al-Khilafa group murdered the French hostage Hervé Gourdel, who had been on a hiking trip in Algeria. Shortly afterwards, the group issued a video that included excerpts of IS-call for deterrence operations, thus clearly indicating that it obeyed IS-command. In late October 2014, a Libyan jihadi leader of Ansar al-Shariah was beheaded by the jihadi battalion “al-Battar” because he had refused to pledge allegiance to al-Baghdadi.
See al-Wasat, “Al-Battar aqamat hadd qat’ al-ra’s ‘ala al-Zahawi li rafdihi bay’at Da’ish,” accessed November 7, 2014,
22 The 2010 suicide bombing by the Somali Shabab al-Mujahidin against African Peacekeeping forces in retaliation for the killing of two “Islamic State of Iraq” leaders in Iraq are clearly part of this paradigm (the Islamic State of Iraq, formerly affiliated with al-Qaeda Central, is the precursor of IS).
23 Tricia Bacon, “Alliance Hubs: Focal Points in the International Terrorist Landscape,” Perspectives on Terrorism 8:4 (2014), accessed November 7, 2014,
24 “Functional pledges” are a sub-category of “popular pledges,” which do not only regulate “listening and bedience,” but serve specific tactical goals within IS’ power-nexus. Functional pledges belong to the classical body of rules pertaining to pledges, such as pledges to memorize the Qur’an (‘ala hafz al-Qur’an). See “bay’ah”, on, accessed November 7, 2014,بيعة
25 See “Da’ish taqum bi-tajnid al-atfal wa ‘akhada al-bay’ah minhum li-l-Baghdadi,” accessed November 7, 2014, Also this YouTube-video: “Documentary – Meeting ISIL (PressTV goes deep inside the terrorist group),” accessed November 7, 2014,
26 They propagate the paradigm “iman-hjijra-jihad” (belief-emigration-jihad), See “Muhajir almani kuntu fi Jabhat al-Nusra,” accessed November 7, 2014, Also the bay’ah of the popular German jihad Dennis Couspert aka Abu Talha al-Almani: “Abu Talha al-Almani yubay’i al-Dawlah al-Islamiyyah fi-l-‘Iraq wa-l-Sham,” accessed November 7, 2014,
27 IS-online magazine “Dabiq,” issue 2, p. 3-4

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