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IS releases Baghdadi speech amidst leading cleric's denunciation

Yusuf al-Qaradawi joins a growing chorus of voices condemning the caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
IS released an unverified video on Saturday featuring leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (YouTube)

One of the world’s leading Sunni clerics has condemned the declaration of a caliphate by the Islamic State (IS) saying it violates sharia law.

Qatar-based Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi said in a statement on Saturday that  Muslims look forward to the coming "as soon as possible" of a caliphate.

But the IS declaration, he said, is “void under sharia" and has "dangerous consequences for Sunnis in Iraq and the revolt in Syria".

Meanwhile, IS on Saturday appears to have released a video showing its elusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ordering all Muslims to obey him.

The authenticity of the video of Baghdadi, of whom there are only two known photographs that have been made public, was not immediately verifiable. 

"I am the wali (leader) who presides over you, though I am not the best of you, so if you see that I am right, assist me," he said, wearing a black turban and robe. "If you see that I am wrong, advise me and put me on the right track, and obey me as long as I obey God in you."

The video - key highlights of which can be read here - is the first ever official appearance by Baghdadi, according to Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on Islamist movements, though the IS leader may have appeared in a 2008 video under a different name.

"God gave your mujahedeen brothers victory after long years of jihad and patience... so they declared the caliphate and placed the caliph in charge," he said.

"This is a duty on Muslims that has been lost for centuries," he added as he addressed a group of men from a mosque's pulpit.

Qaradawi said the declaration and nomination of Baghdadi by a miltant group "known for its atrocities and radical views" fail to meet strict conditions dictated by sharia.

The title of caliph, he said, can "only be given by the entire Muslim nation" not by a single group.

Religious authorities denounce IS caliphate

Qaradawi is just the latest among other leading Muslim figures have denounced the IS announcement.

While many Sunnis associate the caliphate with a golden age of Islam, the IS declaration has triggered indignation among many who see it as heresy.

On Saturday, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood denounced the caliphate on Twitter, also calling it "void":

[Translation: #Syria We are an organisation legitimately linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, and we consider this so-called caliphate worthless; we do not deem it legitimate]

Al-Azhar, a top authority of Sunni Islam, "believes that all those who are today speaking of an Islamic State are terrorists," senior representative Sheikh Abbas Shuman told AFP earlier this week.

Saudi Arabia’s al-Riyadh daily condemned the IS caliphate as being "no more than one person heading a terrorist organisation".

The paper, which is seen as close to the Saudi monarchy, said "it would be a mistake to exaggerate the importance of this initiative, by imagining it might eradicate borders... and give way to a great Islamic caliphate."

"We want a caliphate; it is at the core of our ideology," said Daii Islam al-Shahhal, founder of Lebanon's Salafist movement. "But such a state should be founded on several criteria, which have not yet been met."

Various IS supporters have praised the establishment of the caliphate - the hashtag #KhilafaRestored has been doing the rounds on Twitter.

Others berated Qaradawi for his announcement: