The Islamic State is unique among militant Islamic movements in recent history. Born in the chaos that followed the American invasion of Iraq, its leaders moved to Syria and then stormed back, eradicated the border between Syria and Iraq, and declared the long-awaited caliphate, a khilafa, that had been absent from the Islamic world since 1922.
The overwhelming majority of the Muslim world has rejected the khalifa and his interpretation of Islamic law. Many have declared the beliefs of Islamic leaders as beyond the pale, as aberrant and inconsistent with Islam.
Graeme Wood challenges this interpretation. He has interviewed its recruits and its recruiters all over the world, and has spent many hours in conversation with both. Fluent in Arabic, he has steeped himself in the writings of its leaders and in the foundational texts of Islam. It is impossible to conclude, Wood argues, that the Islamic State is not Islamic.
Wood is the author of The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. He is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and teaches at Yale University.