The rise of ISIS has drawn scholarly attention to militant Islamist movements as quasi-state actors, embracing governance as a core area of legitimation. Due to their commitment to conservative, literalist interpretations of Sharīʿa, jihādī movements have gained a reputation for being patriarchal, misogynist, and ultra-masculinist. This article seeks to qualify this perception, arguing that the social and political order established in jihādī proto-states is not based on norms and practices commonly associated with patriarchy. Although ISIS and other militant Islamist rebel rulers may outwardly have some of the trappings of a patriarchal order, especially in gender relations, they are first and foremost intensely religious-ideological communities, where blood ties and kinship play a minimal role. They are surprisingly bureaucratized and highly regulated, leaving little room for the traditional holders of power in patriarchal societies: the elders, traditional religious clerics, clan leaders, and heads of tribes. Instead, those who hold power are overwhelmingly young armed men whose authority rests on warfare skills and the mastery of extremist ideology. In the case of the ISIS “caliphate”, the most well-known jihādī proto-state, women also take part in a variety of roles outside the household, including operative and military roles, defying the image of women as passive victims.