Baghdadi’s Final Humiliation: First the ISIS leader lost his state, then he took his life.

And now, like the Abbasids, he is dead—smashed to bits, according to Trump, by a self-detonated suicide vest. (His death was less tidy than that of his immediate Abbasid predecessor, al-Musta’sim Billah, 1213–58. The Mongols who deposed him believed that splattering his blood on the streets of Baghdad would bring bad luck, so they wrapped him in a carpet and stampeded their horses over it until his corpse was nicely tenderized.) Killing al-Musta’sim ended a dynasty. The Islamic State will likely name a successor to continue Baghdadi’s line. But the second caliph of the modern Islamic State will begin his reign in an even more impotent and pathetic state than Baghdadi left it.

When I began speaking with ISIS supporters five years ago, they parroted all the points of propaganda that the group has since made famous. But they included one point that the Islamic State has since de-emphasized. To be a valid caliph, they said, one must have control over territory and implement Islamic law within it. A pledge of allegiance to a caliph (called bay’ah, both classically and by ISIS), they stressed, is a contract, an agreement between parties in which each offers something to the other. The caliph offers an Islamic state; his subject offers obedience. The contract evaporates when the caliph stops providing a state.

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