Well, it seems the title answers itself. At least that's the hope of members of the Islamic State (IS). Unfortunately for IS, the government continues to call the group the Islamic State of Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It makes sense; the government doesn't want to give credibility to ISIS. Neither does the government want a new state in the middle east causing even more problems in the region.
How about we question the government this time? Let's begin by defining the word itself. According to Max Weber, a state is an entity that possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The dictionary defines a state as "a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government."
Under the dictionary's definition, ISIS is likely a state. After all, it is is an organized political community in the territory of Syria and Iraq. The group has some support of the people in the territory due to the heavy resentment and anger with the Iraqi government. Many Sunnis - including Baathists of Saddam Husein's former regime in Iraq - have joined forces with ISIS because of the current Shia led Iraqi government (imposed by the U.S. government).
Fitting Weber's definition may be a little more difficult. ISIS does possess a monopoly of the use of force in the region. After all, they have seized a number of territories in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS has an all women brigade that is tasked with policing other women - using force - under the group's interpretation of Sharia law.
But is this monopoly legitimate? Well it depends on how one defines legitimate. Is the United States government legitimate? If so, under what theory? The social contract? Well, then, yes, ISIS is legitimate (I've purposely chosen not to discuss this theory because it's basically any support for a government, which is simply the default status of the people in any territory). However, if consent is the requirement, then neither the U.S. government or ISIS is legitimate (as not all people adhere to control by the state). So, in other words, ISIS is legitimate. After all, we can't question the social contract.
Maybe it would help to look at the acts carried out by the average state. Most states go to war with other states in the guise of protecting its people; raise revenue through taxation to pay for the state; and create and enforce rules within the state in order to maintain order.
Well, it would seem ISIS fits all three of these criteria.
First, ISIS is currently at war with Iraq and Syria. Most notably, ISIS recently seized Mosul, Iraq's second largest city (even though ISIS fought a military of 30,000 members with only 800 troops). It also has an established base in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Second, ISIS raises revenue from its territories through a variety of taxation schemes. ISIS earns millions of dollars every day from oil fields it controls in Syria. Additionally, in all of its controlled territories, ISIS has developed a tax system. In Mosul, ISIS enforces taxes on commercial activities. In Raqqa, it imposes a poll tax.
Third, ISIS has created and enforced rules within its territories to maintain order. ISIS runs schools, courts, and civil services. Sharia law is imposed on its people, including rules such as the prohibition of certain music and the separation of boys and girls at schools. But, similar to the United States, ISIS also has a welfare state - the dawa - that includes social welfare programs, recreational activities for children, and free clinics.
So, it would seem, ISIS is indeed a state. This doesn't necessarily give it the same credibility as the United States. But, it does show the world that it is legitimate (at least as legitimate as any other state).
What does that mean for the concept of the state? Will we begin to question either its usefulness or its duties? Only time will tell.