The current leader of the Islamic State (IS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), was appointed as al-amir al-mu’mineen (the commander of the faithful or prince of the believers) on 16 May 2010, after his predecessor, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), was killed on 18 April 2010 in the company of his deputy and “war minister”, Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir). The official statement appointing al-Badri is reproduced below.
Al-Badri accession to office has been the subject of considerable interest because of claims by ostensible defectors from IS, “WikiBaghdady” and “Abu Ahmad”, that al-Badri was installed by Samir al-Khlifawi (Haji Bakr), a former intelligence official in Saddam Husayn’s regime who went on to be the leader of IS’s Military Council, planning its expansion into Syria, among other things. This version of events gained currency as part of a narrative that IS was really the Ba’thist “party of the return” using religious iconography as part of a political ploy. Quite a debate continues to this day on this point. In the case of al-Khlifawi, there is no evidence he manipulated IS’s executive committee, al-majlis al-shura (the consultation council), to have al-Badri made caliph, and on the broader matter of al-Khlifawi’s ideology, the timeline very strongly suggests he was among the Islamized military-intelligence officers of the fallen regime who joined IS early on.
The major point of interest about the statement itself, from this vantage point, is the mention of Abu Abdullah al-Hassani as al-Badri’s deputy. Al-Hassani’s name is intended to mark him as a descendant of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hassan (d. 670), the son of Ali, the fourth caliph, and the older brother of Husayn, who fell at Karbala in 680. It was also noted that al-Hassani was from the Quraysh tribe, a traditional qualification to be caliph.
After this statement, however, al-Hassani virtually disappeared. Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani), in his first speech as the official spokesman, “The Islamic State Remains” (Dawlat al-Islam Baqiya), on 7 August 2011, mentioned al-Hassani in passing, and in early 2015 Wael Essam reported that al-Hassani was on the IS consultation council.
The mystery is somewhat deeper, though, because al-Badri’s first deputy was believed to be the new war minister, Numan al-Zaydi, variously known as Abu Ibrahim al-Ansari, Abu Sulayman al-Nasser, and Al-Nasser Lideen Allah. In July 2010, when Usama bin Ladin wrote to his chief of staff, Jamal al-Misrati (Atiyya), this was the structure as he understood it. Al-Zaydi was killed in February 2011, as confirmed in Falaha’s inaugural speech that summer.
It is possible that al-Hassani was the deputy and al-Zaydi was the war minister between May 2010 and February 2011, even if this was unusual since war minister and deputy tended to be synonymous, and soon would be again with al-Khlifawi replacing al-Zaydi and restructuring IS’s military apparatus. Bin Ladin being mistaken about internal ISI arrangements is not surprising, and one can make an operational security argument for IS having kept quiet about the caliph’s replacement. But why has al-Hassani not shown up on a Coalition kill list? Why has no defector, honest or malignant, mentioned al-Hassani? As the IS movement reverts to insurgency mode with the collapse of its caliphate, these can be added to the list of questions.
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A Statement from the Consultation Council of the Islamic State of Iraq
Praise be to God, the Almighty, the Wise, who said: “Consult them about the conduct of affairs. Then … put your trust in God. God loves those who put their trust [in Him]” [Ali Imran (3): 159], and peace and blessings upon the Prophet, the epic and merciful, the illiterate Qurayshi, who said: “I am enjoining you to do five that God has commanded me [to propagate]: to listen [to your emir], to obey, jihad in God’s cause, hijra [migration], and remaining attached to al-jamaat [the group or body of Muslims], since anybody who separates himself by even a hand-span from the community has taken the rope of Islam off his neck [i.e. broken his connection with the religion], unless he returns; and he who preaches the call of ignorance, there is no doubt he is bound for Hell”.
As for what follows:
After the incident, which was destined by God to kill the two shaykhs, the commander of the faithful of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, and his first minister [al-wazir al-awal], Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, may God have mercy on them and accept them among the martyrs, the Islamic State Consultation Council was directly convened to resolve the issue of the Emirate of the State, which was made possible by God, according to that which the two shaykhs had planned for such special circumstances.
The Shura Council has been in constant session throughout the last period to meet with the ministers of the State and ahl hall wal-aqd and the other nodes of opinion. Our preachment is the nation of Islam, especially the most prominent of them, the mujahideen, the foremost of which are the shaykhs of the umma [nation] and the leaders of jihad everywhere, that the word has met to pledge allegiance to, the shaykh of the mujahid, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Husayni al-Qurayshi, the commander of the faithful of the Islamic State of Iraq, as well as the shaykh of the Mujahid, Abu Abdullah al-Hassani al-Qurayshi, his first minister and deputy.
The two shaykhs, virtuous people who were well-versed in the science and precedent of calling people to God’s religion and jihad in His path. We ask God to judge them well and reward them, and protect those who carry on what the two brave martyrs have started by raising the banner of jihad and seeking to govern by the shari’a and build a strong Islamic state.
“God always prevails in his purpose, but most men do not know” [Yusuf (12): 21].
The Consultation Council of the Islamic State of Iraq
2 Jumada al-Akhira 1431 [16 May 2010]