In August 2014, ISIS marked Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, with a 20-minute, high-definition video offering its greetings to the Muslim world.
Gauzy images of smiling worshippers embracing at a mosque cut to children passing out sweets to break the Ramadan fast. These scenes were interspersed with shots of the muhajireen (Arabic for “emigrants”)—British, Finnish, Indonesian, Moroccan, Belgian, American, and South African—each repeating a variation on the same message.
“I’m calling on all the Muslims living in the West, America, Europe, and everywhere else, to come, to make hijra with your families to the land of Khilafah,” said a Finnish fighter of Somali descent. “Here, you go for fighting and afterwards you come back to your families. And if you get killed, then ... you’ll enter heaven, God willing, and Allah will take care of those you’ve left behind. So here, the caliphate will take care of you.”
Hijra is an Arabic word meaning “emigration,” evoking the Prophet Muhammad’s historic escape from Mecca, where assassins were plotting to kill him, to Medina. Abdullah Azzam, the father of the modern jihadist movement, defined hijra as departing from a land of fear to a land of safety, a definition he later amplified to include the act of leaving one’s land and family to take up jihad in the name of establishing an Islamic state. For most Islamic extremists today, the concepts of hijra and jihad are intimately linked.