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In this essay, I write about the ISIS movement in the Middle East and the legitimacy on revolutionary activities and in Sovereignty with jurisprudential perspective with reference to the legal philosophers namely John Austin's ' Theory of Legal Positivism' , Hans Kelsen's The Pure Theory of Law' and H.L.A Hart's 'The Concept of Law'

Emerging 'ISIS':

ISIS is an abbreviated form of 'Islamic state of Iraq and Syria' and, it is basically a self-proclaimed militant movement, and a fundamentalist Islamic group, which is coming up from the base of radical Islamic jurisprudence, and the organization adheres literally to the fatwas and dogma of radical Islamist scholars, mainly Sheikh Taqi ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328). expanding their territory (actually) without a border .The facts are that( ISIS ) was a Al-Qaeda's franchise in 2004 then the group has broken its relationship with Osama Bin laden and became rivals and this movement started in 2006 as a very small group, they did not have a financial stability as they have now, and they were unable to recruit fighters and then in 2009 it has turned to focus on the civil war in Syria from Iraq since it hadn't largely succeed in Iraq. And then the U.S. government supplied Syrian 'freedom fighters' with weapons, those weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS fighters.

At an Initial stage (2004) they were in allegiance with Al-Qaida , though ISIS' ideology is different from Al-Qaeda but their interests are quite same , but they got split afterwards and In June 2014, after seizing territories in Iraq's Sunni heartland, including the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, the Islamic State proclaimed itself a caliphate, claiming exclusive political and theological authority over the world's Muslims..ISIS aims to take territory, hold it, and build a state. That is, at a moment when much of the rest of the Middle East is moving toward chaos, the Islamic State is consolidating. Both Syria and Iraq have Shia governments. Sunni Muslims are not well represented in either system, and repressed. Legitimate rebel is often met with violence: Bashar al-Assad gunned down protesters in the year 2011 Arab Spring demonstrations, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reacted violently in 2013 and Sunni protest movement also took place.

So Sunnis understandably feel oppressed and out of options. Some, then, seem to be willing to wait and see if`, the life under their fellow Sunnis in - is any worse than it was before. ISIS, for its part, appears to be attempting to exploit this concern: that's why it's set up community, child care, and medical services in some of the Sunni communities it controls.

Ibrahim Awwad al-Badri, and also known as Abu- Bakr al-Baghdadi is the present self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS and majority of the supporters of ISIS are 'Sunni Muslims' (June 2014)

Principles of the movement:

It was founded in 1999 by Jordanian radical Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād, "The Organisation of Monotheism and Jihad'. This is not only applicable to Islamic State but for all the fundamentalist Islamic organizations and terrorists gangs such as Al-Quaeda and its branches , the Muslim Brotherhood , and some other similar organizations based on the radical dogma of Ibn Taymiyyah, their idialogy is that all the countries of the world are infidel states.And ISIS identifies its movement as 'holy war' they follow another fatwa that is the fighters of the holy war who indented to target infidels can kill another Muslim who stand as a barrier on their way of reaching the goal. ISIS acts and governs its territory in accordance with this principle, though it's an extremists' crucial movement, still it's a holy war and expanded its sovereignty in western Iraq and Eastern Syria.


John Austin, in his 'Theory of Legal Positivism' says that the sovereign receives habitual obedience from the bulk of the community and obedience to the sovereign authority must be continuous, regular, uninterrupted and undisturbed, and he has pointed out that where habitual obedience from the bulk of the society is not forthcoming there is no sovereign power. When the majority of people in a country are not satisfied and happy and therefore are not obeying and not following the sanctions of the sovereign then that sovereign should be deemed to have lost its support and popularity, in the same way ISIS also has a degree of popular support among some Iraqi and Syrian Sunni Muslims. People believe this says something about Islam: that the religion is intrinsically violent, or that Sunnis would support the group because they accept ISIS's radical interpretation of the Koran. But all Muslims reject ISIS's view of their faith, since it is a violent Islamist extremism and especially al-Qaeda `is deeply unpopular in` Muslim-majority countries. Only the Sunni Muslim community which is the minority group in Iraq``` are supporting and the fact is that bulk of ISIS's victims are Muslims — many of them Sunnis (ISIS is itself Sunni) therefore according to Austin's view ISIS supposed to lose its legitimacy but when he talks about sovereignty 'If a determinate human superior, not in a habit of obedience to a like superior, receive Habitual obedience from the bulk of a given society, that determinate superior is sovereign in that society, and the society (including the superior) is a society political and independent' if we consider ISIS in this point then it is a political and independent society , which is legitimate since ISIS is a movement by the extremist people including the present caliph, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi , there is no doubt that it's an independent organisation.

In other hand Austin's ‘Command Theory ‘says that the law is command issued by the uncommented commander—the sovereign; such commands are backed by threats of sanctions. Perhaps this ideology of Austin may apply to the ISIS because they have expanded their territory by giving sanctions to their fighters to do, to kill the people, and they basically threaten the people and their sanctions are either religious or political, backed up by threat . People follow the sanctions out of threat because they know they are the extreme forces who may attack them cruelly and they have killed a lot of people. It threatened the existence of the Yazidi community in Iraq, and it slaughtered at least 700 members of the Sheitat, a tribe in Syria, last month. It regularly employs the vicious hudud punishments to enforce sharia law in the areas it controls in Syria and Iraq.

Revolution and the legitimacy of ISIS: Hans Kelsen, a Jurist, legal philosopher and a political philosopher of 20th century, when he talks about legitimacy, says that, a norm remains valid until it is terminated by its own terms or by a higher norm , this is a principle of legitimacy according to Kelsen. And further , when one state conquers another and imposes its own sovereign power over the conquered state then the basic norm of the legal order changes, and it can happen means of violence also, this basically known as revolution. Now the analysis is that how Kelsen's view about 'revolution' can be applied to ISIS the emerging violent power who conquered Syria. The facts are that ISIS shifted its focus from Iraq, where it was largely unsuccessful in developing a foothold ,Kelsen says that a revolution in legal sense is about changing the basic norm of the legal order, not all attempted revolution succeed. And thereafter ISIS focused on the civil war in Syria in 2009 but initially the extremist group which is now known as ISIS struggled in Syria to put foothold since\ two larger groups fighting against the President of Syria , Bashar al-Assad already , they were al-Nusra Front / al-Qaeda – and the Free Syrian Army but the Free Syrian Army has lost most of the land that it ever claimed and it's entirely incompetent , Abu- Bakr al-Baghdadi took that as an opportunity and join Syria by force and violence, which already has Sunni population and named as 'Islamic state of Iraq and Syria' _ not only ISIS establishing its territory by force, even the American Revolution of 1776 , the French Revolution of 1789 or the Russian Revolution of 1917 used force and violence . Every oppressed group who would turn as rebels and fight to establish and stable them were historically known as revolutionist and this kind of changes in the society is legitimate.

For example ; The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 also brought about radical legal changed.

ISIS is the steadfast emerging organisation and trying to establish its territory without a border.According to Kelsen, that a revolutionary may last many months or even years, The Revolutionary group may even gain temporary control of the machinery of Government. There will be uncertainty during such periods as to what the basic norm
Is, and hence uncertainty about the validity of specific laws. Here when we see what is happening in the Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Syria, which is the legal norm to be followed, whether the norm created by the majority that is Shia Muslims who are in power or the norm created by the oppressed minority group of Sunni Muslim , who eventually emerged as ISIS.

When we analyse the movement of ISIS in H.L.A Hart, British Legal Philosopher, says it is an evil force where the people obeying its rule because of threat. Hart attacks the Austin's perception on 'command theory' that Austin says , sovereign sanctions are backed by threat , which is legitimate. Hart says that the idea of law as a command that people obey because of treat of sanction itself misses an important quality of law. ISIS making money by imposing taxes for the Christians and other Muslim people as well, they are following this sanction and paying tax only because of threat that they might be killed if they do not pay, therefore ISIS is compelling the people by threatening them which is evil. Hart says that a sovereign is no different from a robber if people obey their commands solely due to fear of sanction. ISIS compels the people to follow their commands, if they stand as a barrier or denied to follow then it kills the people and it justifies the acts by the concept fatwas of 'Muslim Brotherhood' . And the people who are following the rules lay down by ISIS because they are 'obliged' to follow those rules. Hart argues that the concept of law as sovereign command backed by threat overlooks the element of obligation that characterises law, that in some societies (such as Iraq and Syria) people are terrorized into obeying the commands of rules. ISIS fundamentalist Islamic group, which is the group of extremist, violent people who threaten other people and want to control them just to achieve their goal that Islamic States' territory.


ISIS is the terrorist organisation, which is the major threat to the Middle Eastern regions and to the U.S government and it has been predicted that ISIS will overtake Al Qaeda, which is well established terrorist organisation. The countries of the Middle East and U.S are playing a geopolitical and defence politics game which helps ISIS to emerge in a faster manner. The lack of relationship between the Shia and Sunni Muslim communities is the core issue which created ISIS and when the ISIS entered into Syria , the Sunni Muslims invited them , people who are the followers of ISIS think that it as a religious organisation but it has turned as a political organisation and they are violent radical Islamists. 'Terrorism' is that when the oppressed community or the rebels act against the government in a violent and brutal manner and showing their conflict by means of criminal activities such as threatening and killing the people. Revolution became a terrorism that what ISIS is.

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