The Structure of the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 8, 2016

On 6 July 2016, the Islamic State’s al-Furqan Media released its first video for over a year, which was in English and was entitled, “The Structure of the Caliphate“.

The video opened with a statement from Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), the first proto-caliph of the IS movement, to the effect that IS would not be undone this time in the same way they had been last time—”the believer is not bitten from the same hole twice”—and would “remain” (baqiya) no matter what.

The video then displayed the picture above, and began to walk through it.

At the head of the structure is Emir al-Mumineen (The Commander of the Faithful), in this case Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), whose roles include:

  • Upholding and spreading the religion
  • Defending the homeland and fortifying the fronts (i.e. the boundaries of the expanding statelet)
  • Preparing the armies
  • Implementing the hudud
  • Enforcing adherence to the shari’a

The Shura Council supports the caliph in these tasks.

The Delegated Committee then communicates orders once they have been issued and ensures they are enforced down the chain of command. To sit on the Delegated Committee, men must be compos mentis, administratively competent, knowledgeable, moral, and have leadership skills

The Delegated Committee oversees:

1) The Wilayat (Provinces)

There are 35 such regions: 19 in IS’s core areas of Iraq and Syria, and 16 outside that.

The core provinces are1:

  • IRAQ [10]: Baghdad, Anbar, Saladin, Fallujah, Diyala, North Baghdad, al-Janub (The South), Ninawa, Kirkuk, Dijla (Tigris)
  • SYRIA [8]: Jazira, Baraka (Hasaka), Khayr (Deir Ezzor), Raqqa, Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama
  • SYRAQ: Furat (Euphrates, straddles the Iraq-Syria border)

The external provinces are:

  • SAUDI [2]: Najd, Hejaz
  • EGYPT [1]: Sinai,
  • LIBYA [3]: Barqa (Cyrenaica), Tripoli, Fezzan,
  • ALGERIA [1]
  • NIGERIA [1]: West Africa
  • AFGHANISTAN [1]: Khorasan
  • RUSSIA [1]: Caucasus
  • YEMEN [6]: Abyan, Sanaa, Hadramut, Shabwa, al-Bayda, Ibb (The Green Province)

There are also some interesting omissions to the wilayat:

  • IS has a significant presence in six places—the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Somalia, Tunisia, and Ansar al-Tawhid in India—that have never been claimed as provinces and are not listed as such in this video.
  • There are also two provinces that IS has made reference to in its propaganda before now that are not mentioned in the video. First is Wilayat al-Bahrain, for eastern Saudi Arabia, and second is Wilayat al-Sahel for the coastal area in Syria, which was mentioned after the massacres in Tartus City and Jableh on 23 May 2016, and which was initially announced in 2013 but went dormant after the rebellion expelled IS from Latakia in March 2014.

Each “province” is headed by a wali appointed by the caliph. The wali refers any serious matters to the Delegated Committee.

2) The Dawawin (Departments)

There are 14, though there are discrepancies between the video and the documentary evidence because some departments appear under different names or not at all or have functions that have ambiguous jurisdiction and thus sometimes fall under one and sometimes under another:

  • Diwan of Judgement and Grievances: presided over by a sufficient number of judges, it is responsible for clarifying and upholding the shari’a in matters of blood, family, marriage, wealth, and between the people.
  • Diwan of Hisba: charged with population control and enforcing the shari’a, promoting virtue and preventing vice.
  • Diwan of Dawa and Masjid: proselytizes, appoints imams, holding public propaganda sessions, build mosques
  • Diwan of Zakat: Collects and distributes zakah to the needy
  • Diwan of Soldiery: Responsible for managing wars, protecting its frontlines/borders, planning and preparing resources for military raids/offensives, distributes troops, ensures trained individuals are supplied where needed
  • Diwan of Public Security: maintain public order and counter-intelligence
  • Diwan of the Treasury: protects and manages the state’s money
  • Diwan of Media: responsible for content released by IS
  • Diwan of Education: regulates curriculums, chooses teachers
  • Diwan of Health: providing healthcare, managing disease
  • Diwan of Agriculture: responsible for producing and safeguarding food and animal resources to keep the population supplied
  • Diwan of Rikaz (Resources): exploits oil, gas, and minerals
  • Diwan of Fay and Ghana’im1: Fay is the combined revenue of jizya and kharaj, which is a tax on agricultural produce; ghana’im refers to war spoils. This department counts and safeguards IS’s wealth after it is captured in battle, which will include slaves, and allocates resources to those who deserve them, i.e. provides a cut for the various levels of the leadership and then the rank-and-file in accordance with shari’a.
  • Diwan of Services: supplies water and electricity, paves and maintains roads, supervises and upholds public utilities

The Diwan are “places for protecting rights,” and are under the supervision of the Delegated Committee. Each Diwan has an office in every wilayat, where they are designed to protect the public interest, religion, and security.

3) The Offices and Committees: deal with miscellaneous matters, comprises specialized personnel:

  • Hijra Committee: Receives foreign volunteers, distributes them to the appropriate Dawawin
  • Prisoners’ and Martyrs’ Committee: resolves matters of captured IS fighters, looks after families of the slain
  • Office of Research and Studies (Maktab al-Buhuth wal-Dirasat): investigates religious questions and disseminates fatwas (legal rulings) resolving matters submitted to it
  • Administration of Distant Wilayat: oversees the provinces outside the core areas
  • Public and Tribal Relations Office: link between the IS leadership and the tribal leaders within its territory




[1] The reddit user “mindblues” produced this provincial map of the Islamic State’s caliphate:


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