This series of blogposts is the result of private conversations with a Dutch speaking Jabhat an-Nusra member in Syria, known as al-Maqalaat. The following text is not edited by myself in any way. Furthermore the views expressed in this commentary are the sole responsibility of the author, al-Maqalaat. I host this text for academic purposes only.
Second question: The Lasting Endurance
June 26, 2016
Pieter Van Ostaeyen:
“It is clear that Al-Qaedah disagrees with ISIS while both want to reinstall the Islamic Caliphate. Their method to reach this aspiration and their interpretation of it, in addition to their overall theological understandings, are at odds with each other. Why do you think that the strategy of Al-Qaedah will succeed in contrast to the strategy of ISIS, and could you give us a summarization of both strategies and their distinctions? The popularity of ISIS seems to decrease since they declared a Caliphate and at the same time they are loosing swathes of territory in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria. This indicates that their reinstallment of the Caliphate is already failing, leaving behind an incredible geo-political wreckage. How realistic would it be for Al-Qaedah to succeed, and at what cost? You also said that Al-Qaedah succeeded in exposing the conspiracies in Syria while ISIS wasn’t able to do so, despite their harsh campaign. Could you expand this topic?”
“I apologize in advance for the lengthy answer, paper is patient hopefully the reader will be too. The reason behind the inevitable collapse of ISIS was explained and predicted more than 1400 years ago by the Messenger of Allah (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam). The Prophet said “O people, beware of extremism in religion for those who came before you were only destroyed because of extremism in religion.” He also said “Religion is easy, whoever overburdens himself in religion will be overpowered by it.” This is exactly what we are seeing. The stubbornness and extremism of ISIS made them loose nearly everything they built. Their foolish policies empowered the enemies significantly over the Muslim Ummah. They should wake up immediately before it is too late, because the consequences are serious, for both ISIS and the Sunni Muslims under their protection.
The global conspiracies against the Muslim Ummah represented by the Sunni majority are undeniable. The federal state of the Kurdish militias in Syria is built on Sunni soil and the imperialist march of Iran is surrounding and pressuring the Sunni population in the Arabian Peninsula, from the south in Yemen and from the north in Iraq and Syria. All with the help of US coalition air strikes. While the Sunnis are held back from joining any Jihaad movement, all borders are thrown wide open for the Shia minorities, in different parts of the Muslim world, to join the murderous militias in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Kurds also travel from western countries to join the Kurdish militias in Syria and Iraq without any problems. The Arab puppet governments do not only stand by and watch as the Muslims get massacred and displaced by these militias, they even aid and empower the Shia militias in Iraq and Lebanon. As the puppet governments in the Gulf seek peaceful political solutions with the Shia Houthis, who still occupy the Yemeni capital Sanaa, they attack and bomb the Sunnis in the liberated cities of Mukallah and Abyan.
The US bombs the Sunni uprising in Iraq, and Russia bombs the Sunni uprising in Syria. As Iran, once archenemy of the US, stands with both Russia in Syria and the US in Iraq, in an unusual triangular alliance. The Shia militias and the Kurdish militias, once designated terrorist organizations, are now close allies, rather stooges, of the US. While these militias are advancing we are witnessing an unprecedented depopulation and displacement of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq. Let us also not forget the ongoing US drone program in Yemen, in favor of the Shia Houthi militias loyal to Iran. The burden and spoils are divided in the Middle East between ally masters and servants in a redistribution and redrawing of the Sykes-Picot agreement, as if we are witnessing Britain and France in 1st World War all over again. Add to this the intervention in Mali and the French forces in Libya in favor of the tyrant stooge Haftar Khalifah, in addition to the hesitant US boots that are slowly emerging in Somalia, since their reliant puppets failed to do the job. As if the clandestine US drone program in Yemen, Somalia and Waziristan wasn’t enough; a program which displaced two million and killed 4000 Muslims in Waziristan alone.
Unfortunately the overdone conspiracies against the Muslim Ummah do not stop there. Tens of thousands of Syrians were killed by the regime, but the Western European countries were convinced that the people in Mali were in more need of a military intervention than the Syrians needed to be rescued from the brutality of the Syrian regime. This continued until hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed by the regime, but the US and the rest of the Western and Eastern world were again convinced that a military intervention against ISIS in Syria and Iraq was more important. While the US led coalition strike selective ISIS targets, Russia and the regime bomb the Sunni liberated territories indiscriminately and relentlessly, suspiciously avoiding ISIS territories. Russia and the regime are bombing the Sunni held territories in especially Aleppo with all types of banned incendiary weapons, white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs and barrel bombs. While the UN and the international community keeps turning a blind eye.
ISIS has been used as joker card to aid the Syrian regime. This becomes evident if we were to look at the powerbase of ISIS. Their powerbase is situated in Iraq. But all the intervening countries, including several nuclear powers, have primarily focused their air strikes on ISIS territories in Syria. When ISIS carried out the Paris attacks, France took revenge by increasing its attacks in Syria. When ISIS burned a Jordanian pilot, Jordan took revenge by increasing its attacks in Syria. If they really wanted to take revenge it would have made more sense if they increased the air strikes against their powerbase in Iraq. So it is rather obvious that everyone is using ISIS as a ploy to aid the Syrian regime.
The US could not intervene in Syria, even when the regime committed massacres with chemical weapons, because Russia and China vetoed against it. Whereas they did not need anyone’s consent when they decided to intervene in Syria against the flashy beheadings of ISIS. Russia likewise did not wait for any consent in the UN Security Counsel to carry out air strikes against the Sunni held territories. Furthermore, not only does the US refuse to intervene against the regime, they openly aid the regime, despite its heinous war crimes. The US bombed numerous Mujahid bases right before their preparation to launch attacks against the regime, or right after they liberated regime held positions. The US still recognizes Bashar as the legitimate president of Syria until this very day, he is free to hold media interviews and political meetings. While they placed Jabhat Nusra on the terror list for confronting the war crimes committed by his regime.
The hundreds of massacred and thousands of displaced Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar did also not deserve any intervention, rather the sanctions on the oppressive government of Myanmar were lifted and the political ties were strengthened by the US as a reward for its oppression against the Rohingya Muslims. The same goes for the oppressed Muslims in the Central African Republic by the Christian Anti-Balaka militias. The ethnic and religious cleansing of the Muslim minority in the Central African Republic and their massive depopulation and displacement was not worth any intervention. The fate of the Uyghur Muslims in East Turkistan, oppressed for decades by China, is also ignored.
The West does not only refuse to intervene on our behalf against tyrannical oppression, rather they are the root cause behind it. The cause for all of this oppression lies in the treacherous attitude of the western backed and installed Arab puppet governments towards the suffering Muslims all over the world, especially in Palestine, and the solution lies in the complete removal of these western backed and installed puppet governments. When our countries are liberated from the occupying puppet governments we will not need nor complain about the West for refusing to intervene on our behalf against tyrannical oppression. As we ourselves will be able to support and rescue our peoples. This partially explains the reasons behind the Muslim uprisings in the Arab world.
The consecutive Muslim uprisings in the Arab world proofed that the Muslims form one strong community despite the many imposed borders that divide them. We can therefore not disconnect between the conspiracies against the Muslim uprisings in Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. The blueprints may differ but they share the same purpose. It is no coincidence that Haftar Khalifa in East Libya is a close ally of Abdel Fatah Sisi in Egypt, and it is no coincidence that Sisi supports the Russian intervention in Syria, and it is no coincidence that he refused to attack the Houthis in Yemen. It is also no coincidence that Saudi Arabia, the most loyal puppet of the US, supports the military coupe of Sisi with tens of billions of dollars, and provides shelter for the deposed tyrants of Tunisia and Yemen; Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali and Ali Abdullah Salah. All of these players are part of the same counter-revolutions orchestrated by the West against the Muslim uprisings; they are associates and can not turn against each other. Rather they are not even allowed to do so. The regional dispute of Saudi Arabia with the Shia Houthis at its borders for example was quickly extinguished by the US. So since we can not really disconnect between the varying conspiracies against the Ummah we have to search for one overall answer. Al-Qaedah as a global Jihaad movement provided this answer more than three decades ago.
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 they were forced to retreat ten years later. The war drained the Soviet Union economically to such an extent that they could not aid their loyal puppet governments any longer. Fifteen states were dissolved directly from the Soviet Union in Central and Eastern Europe, while their dominance over Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Palestine vanished. The consequent fall of the Soviet Union gave the Mujahideen the opportunity to build an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. So the Jihaad experience in Afghanistan in contrast to the Jihaad experiences in Egypt for example made the Mujahideen realize that they should focus on the commanding head instead of the regenerating tail. Fighting the local puppet governments in the Muslim countries seemed fruitless if the foreign hand that installed and financed these puppet governments is not cut. So they eventually came to the conclusion that the puppet governments in the Muslim countries will automatically fall if the US falls. The Zionist occupation will likewise end if the US is not able to aid and protect Israel any longer. Moreover, the fall of the US, which prevents any Islamic power from rising, will clear the way for the establishment of a righteous Islamic government. Thus weakening and exhausting the US became the very first priority, all efforts and energy should be focused on this goal, as they were and still are leading the new world order that emerged in the nineties after the fall of the Soviet Union.
This is the general strategy of the Mujahideen, unless they are forced to partially and temporarily diverge at times. The US wants to drag the Muslim Ummah in to battles against their proxies, avoiding a frontal war. The Mujahideen try to evade such exhausting confrontations unless necessary, while ISIS challenges these enemies of secondary importance. Hundreds of Shia and Kurdish militias are killed throughout Iraq and Syria on a daily basis, does the west pay them any attention? No, because they are indispensable. If multiple enemies could be eliminated with the fall of just one enemy, who is ultimately in charge, it is obvious which enemy you should prioritize.
ISIS however challenges and waists its efforts and energy on multiple expendable local puppets in the region who are cheaply bought and easily replaced. Focusing on multiple (local) enemies will dry up the resources of the Mujahideen instead of draining the prioritized enemy. Rather it is much worse as ISIS prioritized the infighting with other factions. Thousands of rebels and Mujahideen have died in fruitless secondary battles with the opposition in Northern Aleppo for example and against the Kurdish militias in Syria and Iraq. Imagine how much it would have benefited the Ummah if the thousands of Muslims who died in offshoot battles and infighting were trained and preserved to topple the Syrian regime and deployed to confront the superpowers of future battles.
The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) did not fight all the enemies at once. He did not fight against the Pagan Arabs, the Jews, the Byzantines and the Persians all at once, rather he fought them separately. He tried to lessen the enemies against the Muslims, not increase them. That is why he suggested buying off the tribe of Ghatafaan in the Battle of the Trench, to lessen the Arab-Jewish coalition against Medina with 4000 men. Al-Qaedah likewise tries to lessen the secondary- and the far away enemies instead of multiplying them, those who stay neutral should not be provoked in to battle. ISIS does not realize that Jihaad isn’t the only means we have. When there is fertile ground for Dawah we should exploit this opportunity, because sometimes it is more suitable to do Dawah and refute your enemies instead of waging Jihaad against them. Like Ansar Sharia did for example in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in the early stages of the Muslim uprisings. We should combine and balance between waging Jihaad, Dawah and Sharia politics.
To conclude, the conspiracies against the Muslim Ummah can not be foiled by ISIS, because they dilute and exhaust their strength by provoking- and busying themselves with infighting and opening multiple fronts against multiple secondary enemies. The reason for this mistake lies in the fact that ISIS only approaches Jihaad from a theoretical point of view, without looking at the actual reality on the ground. That’s why they fight against the rebels in Aleppo while they share cold fronts with the regime in the same region. As they are of the opinion that the rebels deserve to be fought first because they are apostates according to them, and apostates must be fought before the original disbelievers; in theory. But the war against the rebels is incorrect even if they were actual apostates.
Al-Qaedah on the other hand approaches Jihaad from a pragmatic view, combining theory and actuality. Shaykh Aiyatullah Libi, one of the senior scholars and leaders of Al-Qaedah, may Allah accept him, explained this very clearly with a striking example. Waging Jihaad is like starting a businesses, Allah even compared waging Jihaad with a business trade. When starting a business you research multiple aspects, you do not only look at whether the products you are buying and selling are Halal. This is only the theological aspect. You will also have to research whether there is a market for these products. Because you do not only have a divine goal, which is pleasing and obeying Allah in your trade, you also have a worldly goal, which is making a livelihood. So you have to ask yourself, how can I generate profit? You will have to look at commercial locations, target groups, marketing, distribution, etc. You can not ignore these aspects. The mere fact that your product is Halal, is not enough for a successful businesses.
The same goes for Jihaad, you can not only look at the theological aspects. Because you are seeking both a divine, and a worldly goal. You want to attain martyrdom and build a righteous Islamic government, but you also want to rescue and protect the Muslim people from oppression and you want to stop the transgression against them. So you will also have to consider aspects such a capacity, manpower, priority, finance, strategy, tactics, etc. This means that you will have to ask relevant questions like; why did the Islamic Caliphate fall; what is the current political situation of the Ummah; what are the reasons for our weaknesses and disadvantages; what are the obstacles standing in our way; which enemy forms the greatest threat and the greatest obstacle; what are the characteristics and power of this enemy; and what would be the most realistic strategy against this enemy?
You will have to look at the military, economical and ideological power of the enemies. Which enemy forms a military, economical and an ideological obstacle for the Ummah. You can list a couple of enemies on the basis of these criteria. You have for example the apostate puppet governments ruling over the Muslim countries in the post-colonial countries of North Africa and the Middle East, and you have many enemies throughout Asia like China in East-Turkistan, and India against the Muslims in Pakistan and Kashmir, and the Russians in the Caucus region. In addition to the European countries led by the US, and the Zionist dagger in the heart of the Ummah. All of these enemies form obstacles for our liberation and the establishment of a righteous Islamic government. All of these enemies occupy our countries, oppress our people and exploit our resources.
Looking at our current situation we cannot attack and fight all of these enemies at once with the same intensity. Our capabilities and manpower are restricted so we have to prioritize. Which enemy deserves priority? So that we can focus our power and capabilities against one principal enemy; the enemy that forms the greatest danger and obstacle; an enemy around which we could unite the entire Ummah in a popular Jihaad.
The local puppet governments are militarily strong but they are economically depended on their masters in the West. Russia is also strong but after their defeat in Afghanistan they will never seek a face to face confrontation with the Ummah. They are partially defeated and too exhausted, and they do not have the economical power to wage a global War on Terror against the Muslim Ummah. Furthermore, they do not form any ideological threat that could influence the Muslim doctrine. Communism is dead. As for China, they are not an imperial state, their aspirations are limited to East-Turkistan, and they do not have any fronts against the Ummah outside it. It is therefore considered a far away enemy, even though it is still a threat. As for Europe and Israel, they are two spoiled mama’s boys who do not have the independence to rely on their own militarily, economical and ideological capabilities to confront the Muslim Ummah on their own. Furthermore, Israel is too protected and isolated. Striking it would be a frustrating effort.
As for the US, the mother of capitalism, they are spread all over the world. Many enemies depend on it, and they control the world economy. They lead the wars against the Muslim Ummah, and they form an ideological threat to the Muslim doctrine. The US has much to say in the world, they are obeyed by foes and friends. Many enemies will automatically be eliminated if and when the US falls. Furthermore, waging Jihaad against the US is accepted by the whole Ummah, no one doubts their animosity. This is particularly important as popular support is one of the most crucial building stones for waging Jihaad. The same can not be said about waging Jihaad against the puppet governments, many Muslims still doubt their apostasy, treachery and animosity.
And the question is not what the cost will be to liberate our countries and establish a righteous Islamic government and justice system. The question should be, what is the alternative if we do not defend ourselves against the transgressing enemy; who wants to strip us from our honor and religion? Looking at the alternative we would realize that any sacrifice, to rid ourselves from this enemy, is more preferable. A war is not measured by its cost but by its achievements, the cost of scarifying lives and belongings is cheaper than the achievement of protecting honors and religion. If we stop defending the Ummah now we will betray generation to come. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union 27 million Russians died from a total population of 188 million, without counting the destruction, the wounded, and the war prisoners. Does Russia or the west regret all of their sacrifices in the 2nd World War? On the contrary, the western allies and the Russians are proud of destroying the Nazis, because no body wants to consider the alternative. Imagine if the Nazis were left to become the main ruling super power on the world? So if they are proud of their worldly sacrifices, then what about us Muslims who are making divine sacrifices for a noble cause in both this world and the Hereafter.
ISIS does not understand that there is a difference between theory and reality. A war could be theoretically correct from a theological perspective, but it could be wrong from a military strategic perspective. If you do not combine between the two, and keep your eyes exclusively isolated on the theological theory, you are bound to walk in to a wall.
Al-Qaedah has decades of war experiences all over the world, so they have reached this revealing strategic insight, unlike the relatively young and stubborn ISIS. When Umar ibn Khattab wanted to kill the leader of the hypocrites Abdullah bin Ubayy bin Salul, who pretended to be a Muslim, the Prophet prevented him from doing so and said “Leave him, so that the people will not say that Muhammad killed his companions.” Killing him was not forbidden from a strict theological point of view, but it would provoke strategic harms. Fighting against the apostate puppet governments means fighting against the sons and fathers of the Muslim Ummah. The army personal of the puppet governments have Muslim mothers and father, and Muslim sons and daughters. That is why such a war could be legitimate from a strict theological point of view, but it would be a mistake from a strategic point of view. That is why such a war should be avoided unless necessary.
ISIS however does not care about these specifics. Rather they even reached the extremist level of bragging about the fact that one of their soldiers has the guts to execute his own “apostate” brother in Iraq. Like their extremist predecessors did from the GIA in Algeria, who even bragged about the fact that their soldiers killed their own “apostate” parents.
Shaykh Usamah bin Laden explained the policy of Al-Qaedah in his correspondences with Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi when he pledged to Al-Qaedah. Shaykh Usamah bin laden also wanted to send the senior leader Shaykh Abdul Hadi Al-Iraqi to explain these views to the Mujahideen in Iraq, but unfortunately he was caught by the CIA. With him being caught and Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi being killed, the Mujahideen in Iraq lacked the necessary upbringing Al-Qaedah wanted to pass down. This opened the doors for many problems as we now know. Like the Awakenings Movement (Sahawaat) by the Sunni tribes in Anbar, who eventually picked up the weapons against the Mujahideen, after they had initially aimed them against the occupying US forces. This could have been prevented if the Mujahideen used wise Sharia politics and public relations (Dawah).
Shaykh Abdullah Khalid Al-‘Adam, a senior Al-Qaedah operative, explained this very well. Sometimes it is better to leave someone who actually deserves to be punished, if a certain harm can be avoided by leaving him. Even if someone is an apostate and deserves to be killed or fought. Especially if he has followers amongst the Ummah and people who obey him, and especially if he is neutral or his arms are aimed at the occupying enemy. His apostasy and treachery should be exposed first. His situation should be handled with wisdom. If he is killed or fought the Muslim community could turn against the Mujahideen out of fanaticism for him, especially if the Mujahideen are weak and did not reach firm establishment. They could even side with the occupying enemy against you, like it happened with the Sahawaat. That is why the Mujahideen in Afghanistan avoided the fight against Shah Masood for example, and kept their weapons aimed at the Soviets.
If the Mujahideen are able to solve the problems with such an individual in a public Sharia court, then this would be ideal. Lacking wisdom in these cases could push the people in to the hands of the enemy, this is a disaster. We must prevent the formation of an Awakenings Movement from its roots. Every group that gathers its powers against the enemies of the Ummah has mistakes. But it must be said that the major difference between the factions in Syria and ISIS, despite their mistakes, lies in the fact that nearly all of them accepted and agreed to resolve the many disputes in a Sharia court, unlike ISIS. There is hope as long as opponents accept the rule and judgment of Allah, and they are willing to resolve any dispute in a Sharia court. ISIS unfortunately closed this door.
Consider this. The Prophet predicted that Muslims will wage a victorious war together with the Romans against a shared enemy in the end of times right before Armageddon in Syria. So if we can wage a war together with the Romans against a shared enemy, then why can’t we wage a war against a shared enemy together with Islamic factions, groups or movements who could have mistakes in their Sharia politics and religious beliefs? Al-Qaedah and other groups are even willing to sign a truce and cooperate and coordinate with ISIS against the shared enemies, like they did in the beginning of the Syrian uprising. But ISIS unfortunately closed this door, and insists on senseless infighting.
We must prioritize and agree one shared goal and avoid the many differences and disagreements that divide and weaken us from reaching it. This shared goal should be a popular defensive Jihaad against the transgressing enemies, instead of wasting our energies on secondary battles and senseless infighting. The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) begged Allah and said “O Allah, strengthen Islam with whoever is more beloved to You of these two men, Umar ibn Khattab or Abu Jahl ibn Hisham.” So Allah guided Umar ibn Khattab to Islam, the second righteous Caliph, may Allah be pleased with him.
This shows us that Jihaad and Dawah is strengthened with people, especially if they are influential and strong, so we must win people over instead of pushing them away; if we truly want to strengthen our cause. The Prophet even used to give people who recently entered Islam a larger share of charity and spoils to soften their hearts and win them over. Jihaad flourishes when it is surrounded with popular support, as we can clearly see in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, and other blessed fronts and countries. That is why the Prophet sought the assistance and support of the tribes of Aws and Khazraj (the Ansaar), which made it able for the Muslims to build an Islamic government in Medina.
ISIS does not understand this, they did not learn from their previous experiences in Iraq and repeated the exact same mistakes in Syria. The Russian, Austrian, Hungarian, and Ukrainian population all welcomed and embraced the Nazi invasion and occupation during the 2nd World War. When people are oppressed by their governments they will welcome an occupier and view him as a liberator. This makes the enemy invasion and occupation a lot easier, instead of defending their government the population sides with the occupier. That is why we see the enemies wage a defaming propaganda campaign before they actually invade, because this creates an environment in which the population will welcome the invasion and turn against their government. This propaganda works a lot easier, or could be even unnecessary, if that population is oppressed. This is what we are witnessing in the ISIS territories that are being invaded and occupied by the Kurdish militias in Syria. The Muslim population welcomed the occupying Kurdish militias a lot of the time, and turned against ISIS, instead of defending their lands against these Kurdish militias. And the enemies of the Ummah love to use these images in their ideological propaganda. We all saw the images of women taking off their Niqaab and welcoming their occupier, after ISIS was pushed out of the region by Kurdish militias.
The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) said “Narrate to people only what which they can understand. Or do you want them to deny Allah and His Messenger?” We must consider the intellectual level of understanding of the general people, otherwise we would push the people away from us instead of winning their minds and hearts. The tyrant governments have kept the Muslims in ignorance for decades, their understanding of theological issues is very limited. ISIS however does not seem to take the general state of affairs in to account. That is why they force their power and will upon the Muslim population. They banned satellite dishes and internet connections for example in the territories they control. The people do not accept nor understand such drastic measures.
The Prophet also said that if it weren’t for the fact that the people just recently converted to Islam in his lifetime, he would have demolished the Kabah and rebuilt it on its original fundaments found by the Prophet Abraham, as the people in Mekkah would not understand nor accept this decision. From this perspective it is important to outweigh certain harms and benefits before taking any sensitive decision, even if that action would be permitted or favored in Islam, let alone if this deviant action is disliked or forbidden. One of the major differences between Al-Qaedah and ISIS lies in the fact that ISIS does not outweigh the harms and benefits of certain actions and decisions. That is why they took Yazidi women as female slaves for example without considering the repercussions. ISIS unlike Al-Qaedah underestimates the importance of popular support and does not stick to the Prophetic methodology of building popular support for their Islamic cause.
The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) said “Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and comfort them and do not push them away.” The enemies are putting a lot of effort in winning the Muslim population over in to their camp against the Mujahideen. We must not make it easy for the enemy. We are saving them time, money and effort if we ourselves push the Muslims in to their hands due to our harshness and reckless behavior. Winning the hearts and minds of the Muslims is one of the goals of Jihaad at this moment, the enemies are competing with us to win them over. The invasion and occupation of the enemies should easily push the Muslims in to our ranks. It would be foolish if we did not grab this chance and ruined this opportunity. We should try to get them on our side, and if not, then we should at least try to keep them neutral, and if not, then we should at least try to keep them out of the ranks of the enemy.
Look at the policy of Al-Qaedah in Syria, take the city of Ma’arat Numaan in Idlib for example. FSA loyalists have been demonstrating in it against Jabhat Nusra for months. Jabhat Nusra does not prevent them from speaking their mind, rather they are sacrificing their lives on the battlefield to protect these exact same Muslims. They do not want to escalate the situation, turning future friends into future enemies. This reminds us of the Caliph Muawiyah when a group of people were talking ill about him in public. This made a man ask the Caliph “Why don’t you cut their tongues?” Muawiyah answered “Because I am afraid that when I cut their tongues they will speak with their swords.” This is the wisdom of the righteous predecessors we must take as a leading example. Merely claiming that you are implementing the Islamic Sharia is not enough, you have to live up to your words by following the necessary Islamic wisdom and guidance. Muslims are not that easily fooled anymore by mere empty slogans and claims, the implementation of the Islamic Sharia should bring about noticeable justice, protection, safety, unity, etc.
Not only do Al-Qaedah and ISIS disagree with each other on the interpretation of an Islamic Caliphate and the implementation of the Islamic Sharia, in addition to its approach. The objectives with which they adopted this topic is also different. This topic should not be misused with the mere purpose of luring in recruits and supporters. There are several tyrant governments who also try to misuse the topic of the Islamic Sharia with the objective of misleading Muslims. They want to convince the Muslims that they are implementing the Islamic law to gain theological legitimacy for their authority, while in reality they only implement capital and corporal punishments on people who al lot of the times are innocent to begin with. Saudi Arabia also cuts the hands of thieves, stones and lashes the adulterers, and executes the blasphemers. Saudi Arabia has beheaded 158 people in 2015, and like ISIS they also claim to do all of this in the name of the Islamic Sharia. The topic of an Islamic Caliphate has been adopted before by the British High Commissioner Henry McMahon when he used and deceived Sharif Hussein to topple the Ottoman Empire and divide the Muslim countries in the Middle East. So the mere claim to an Islamic Caliphate is not enough, as even the British did this in the 1st World War.
ISIS claims to have established an Islamic Caliphate but they do not seem to show any care for the well-being of the Muslim Ummah. Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani said in his most recent speech “We will fight to the death, even if crops are destroyed, houses are demolished, honor is disgraced, people are killed, and blood is shed.” This clearly shows disregard for Muslim lives. Staying in cities until they are bombed to the ground without any consideration for the Muslim civilians in it, is not the objective of waging Jihaad. Al-Qaedah retreated from Al-Mukallah when the coalition against the Shia Houthis turned in to a coalition against the Sunnis. Due to their insight and experience they immediately realized that this was part of a conspiracy to drag the Mujahideen in a secondary battle in order to dilute and exhaust their strength, while diverting their efforts away from the principal enemy. The objectives of Jihaad were in conflict with this battle so they retreated. You should not let the enemy dictate, where, when, how and who you fight.
Jihaad is waged to protect and preserve Muslim lives and belongings. We do not fight just to die, we do not fight just for the sake of fighting. Jihaad has objectives, these objectives are more important than the battle itself. Jihaad is merely a means to an end, and not the end in and of itself. The goal of waging Jihaad is reaching peace, not the peace the enemy wants, but the Islamic peace we want. Nobody fights just because of the war, everyone fights for his own peace and stability. Shaykh Abu Firas Suri and Shaykh Nasr ibn Ali Al-Ansi explained these concepts very well. Allah said “Fight until there is no more corruption” but ISIS seems to fight until all their enemies are annihilated. This is impossible, it would be foolish to think that you can completely wipe out the Shia Rawafid for example. Even the Nazis were not able to completely wipe out the Jews.
Al-Qaedah however fights until the enemy is morally broken, this does not always mean that we strike targets that inflict maximum human causalities. We must strike sensitive, symbolic and strategic targets that will break the fighting spirit of our enemy and end his corruption. If we would compare the tactical operations executed by ISIS, in the Muslim countries or the west, with the operations executed by Al-Qaedah, we would see this difference very clearly. Compare the random Paris attacks of ISIS in November 2015 for example, with the targeted attacks on Charlie Hebdo of Al-Qaedah in January 2015. Or look at the random martyrdom operations ISIS executes on public markets in Iraq and Shia mosques in various countries. ISIS often chooses soft and easy targets that create a lot of noise in the media, unlike Al-Qaedah who select their targets very precisely.
Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri warned Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi about the random attacks on public places in Iraq against the Shia Rawafid, and he has outlined the overall strategic policy of Al-Qaedah in his “General Guidelines for Jihad”. And Shaykh Nasr ibn Ali Al-Ansari for instance said “The west and their puppets in the Arab world can not fight against us without each other, our war against them is one and the same. Using softness or harshness depends on the situation, it should be considered with wisdom. But softness gets the preference. Before an operation we must ask three questions: Is it permissible? Do we have the capability? And what are its benefits? The benefits of an operation could be either popular or just tactical, but the best is if they are both popular and tactical.”
If we were to look at the recent Orlando shootings carried out by ISIS, which killed 50 Americans in a Latino Gay bar, we would see that the message of this operation was not powerful, even though the attack itself was very successful and powerful; meaning the operation did not send the message we would like to convey despite its physical success. The message that was sent by this operation is that we are attacking the west because of their homosexuality. This is not true, we are attacking the west because they invaded our countries and installed oppressive puppet governments. Al-Qaedah agrees with the overall strategy of such attacks carried out in the west, but they need tactical perfection.
Shaykh Atiyatullah Libi has also advised Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi in the past to prioritize policy over militarism. ISIS possesses strong military capabilities, but they need theological, political, strategic and tactical guidance to benefit the Ummah. They need to understand that we must not let the enemy choose the battlefield. ISIS recently accused Al-Qaedah for their withdrawal from Al-Mukallah in Yemen. When Khalid ibn Waleed almost conquered Syria on the day of Yarmuk, he looked at the large army of the Romans on the battlefield and decided to retreat to the south, leaving the open field. He left more then 300 kilometers for the Romans, which he had conquered and turned into Dar Al-Islam. It was necessary to leave this area from a strategic point of view, and turn to the rear to wage war from there. He chose the place of the battle and conquered the Roman Empire until he reached Constantinople. He took back the territories he left and the territories behind it. So does ISIS accuse Khalid ibn Waleed and the senior companions for retreating? If they retreated while the Romans at that time did not even have air power, then how can you blame the Al-Qaedah for withdrawing in our current situation? The most amazing thing about this accusation towards Al-Qaedah is the fact that ISIS themselves have retreated multiple times. With mistaken priorities unfortunately, as they retreated and left dozens of villages for the Kurdish militias in Eastern Aleppo, only to conduct a full scale attacks on Sunni rebels in Northern Aleppo.
Al-Muthanah ibn Harith became angry with Abdullah ibn Marthad when he cut the ropes of a bridge in the battle against the Persians while he enthusiastically yelled “Oh people die for what your leaders have died!” He cut the ropes of this bridge because he wanted to prevent the Muslim army from retreating, but this hasty decision cost many lives. Many Muslims fell and drowned, while others were massacres. So Al-Muthanah became angry with Abdullah, he even slapped him and gave the orders to repair the ropes. When the ropes were repaired the Muslim army retreated. The live of a Muslim is of great value, it is not be thrown in to death with ease. Umar ibn Khattab would therefore not appoint a commander who was known for his hastiness, even if he would possess strength and bravery. That’s why Umar ibn Khattab said to Abu Ubayda At-Thaqafi, who he appointed as a military leader “Do not be hasty in your judgments, because leadership is only suitable for a calm person who knows when to seize an opportunity.” Bravery does not equal foolish stupidity, rather it is directed by strategic insight and wisdom.
The current balance of powers and strength does not allow the Mujahideen to wage a frontal war against their enemies. ISIS however seeks a frontal war as if they posses a conventional army waging a conventional war. We all saw how thousands of Mujahid youths were pushed to their inevitable death in the offshoot fruitless and meaningless battle for Kobani. The disregard for the lives of their own soldiers in Kobani is one of the key causes for their downfall. Seeking a head-on collision like a stubborn goat against a superpower like the US shows how bad your strategic insights are. They are blinded by temporary tactical gains. The war against the current superpowers requires patients and a long breath. You are doomed to fail if you do not have far reaching strategic insights. US officials have repeated multiple times that Al-Qaedah forms a long-term threat, while ISIS forms a temporary immediate threat; because Al-Qaedah is strategic of nature.
ISIS wants to wage a Blitzkrieg, while they are a mere guerilla group who are not firmly established yet. But even the Nazis with all their conventional military power and strength could not continue the Blitzkrieg method of warfare. Besides, seeking quick and fast victories is not one of the characteristic of this Ummah. Like the Prophet said “Deliberation comes from Allah, and hastiness comes from the Shaytaan.” The US war against the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 proofed that a conventional war against the current superpowers is fruitless. Especially if you do not even have a regular army, and you do not have any air defense nor naval strength. ISIS, in their illusionary self-glorification, wants to wage a conventional offensive elitist-exclusive Jihaad without any popular support base. While Al-Qaedah wages a defensive fourth generation asymmetric popular Jihaad that ought to burden the Muslim Ummah as little as possible.
That is the only realistic method of warfare in our current situation. The Red army gathered more than 100.000 soldiers against the Afghans, and the number of Afghan Mujahideen in the beginning of the war in 1979 was not even worth mentioning, until they reached a reasonable amount in 1985. The US led UNOSOM operation in 1993 reached over 30.000 troops in Somalia against 2000 Mujahideen. The amount of Chechen Mujahideen in 1994 did not surpass 13.000 against the 70.000 Russian troops in the First Chechen War. The Russians even besieged Groznyy with 50.000 troops in 1995 against merely 3000 Chechen Mujahideen. Not only did the Mujahideen succeed in breaking the siege at that time, they even succeeded in turning the equation to a counter attack against the Russians which pushed them to a retreat as the losses were pilling up. All of these experiences proofed that superpowers can be defeated with fourth generation asymmetric warfare. The Mujahideen of Al-Qaedah unlike ISIS learned from these rich experiences.
ISIS wages an incredibly disorganized Jihaad. They have mixed up the theological jurisprudence of a defensive Jihaad with the jurisprudence of an offensive Jihaad, by setting incorrect prerequisites for a defensive Jihaad. Ambiguous priorities, misplaces bravery, stubbornness, extremism, recklessness, lack of strategic insight, deficient Sharia politics, the unbalanced calculations of harms, all of these mistakes will bring about their inevitable fall. Al-Qaedah advised them numerous times, they advised them not to challenge any western powers in Syria, they advised them to return to their powerbase in Iraq to intensify their strength against the Shia campaign, etc. But regrettably to no avail.
They declared an Islamic State and even a Caliphate as if our countries are already liberated. If we really are able to establish an Islamic State or even a Caliphate, then why are we still waging war against the enemies who prevent us from building an Islamic State? What harm would it have caused if they waited patiently before declaring an Islamic State or even a Caliphate in Syria, until we liberated Syria and built a strong military foundation that would posses the minimum required strength to confront future superpowers? What wrong would it have caused if they would stick to the Islamic principal of Shura (mutual consultation) with the other Mujahideen in Syria? One of the major difference between the Mujahideen of Al-Qaedah and ISIS can be witnessed in the fact that Al-Qaedah sticks to the Islamic principal of Shura. Adolf Hitler did not consult this generals and ministers and he ignored their military advises when he declared war against the US and the Soviet Union. This eventually caused the downfall of his Reich. The Muslims are however a nation of mutual consultation, if even the Prophet, who received direct guidance from Allah, would consult other Muslims, then what about us?
Al-Qaedah did not want to launch any attacks on the west from Syria and did not want to provoke any western powers in Syria, because they wanted to discreetly build a strong military army that will change the balance of power on the world in the near future. Al-Qaedah preferred to fly under the radar in Syria, while ISIS wanted to catch every news headline without considering the consequences. But their mistakes were actually a blessing in disguise, as they cleaned the ranks by collecting all the extremist minds in to one deviant trench. Plus their attention seeking behavior drew all the headlights, which gave Al-Qaedah the wanted opportunity to maneuver and organize in their shadows.
To conclude, Al-Qaedah focuses primarily on long term strategy instead of hyped-up short term tactical victories. This is clearly reflected throughout their media publications. When the US was merely focused on raising the moral of the Americans with a tactical victory in Afghanistan, which did not last very long, Shaykh Usama bin Laden responded with video and audio messages spreading the long term strategy of Al-Qaedah amongst the Muslim Ummah, which eventually led to the Muslim uprisings in December 2010, and the global march of Jihad in different parts of the Muslim world. ISIS wants to claim the global Jihaad but they are not able to reach large parts of the overall Ummah in this way. Their bloody media propaganda generally only reaches the brainless gore junkies.
Here we can clearly see the difference in media approach. Al-Qaedah focuses on spreading messages that raise the awareness of Ummah. Many of their media publications feature scholars and leaders who give detailed lectures about a certain subject, sometimes explained throughout a series of publications. While ISIS focuses on shocking and impressing its audience with bloody torture scenes. Such gorish scenes work like drugs, its effects quickly vanish and each time a larger dose is required to reach the same high due to the increasing drug resistance. So ISIS needs to be more and more creative with each new torture scene. This formula will not last. We are already witnessing that the torture scenes of ISIS hardly draw any public or media attention.
The media propaganda of ISIS does not offer the audience any intellectual saturation. You cannot live on drugs, even the most addicted junky needs nutrition. The hype of addictive torture video’s will quickly pass. Unlike the intellectual satisfying publications of Al-Qaedah. Generation after generation will read, listen and watch these publications. Even if Al-Qaedah ends as an organization, and even if they lose all their territories. Al-Qaedah and their noble message will live on for decades in the history books. There are numerous dynasties that ceased to exist and biographies of Muslim leaders who passed away centuries ago, but their history is still read by thousands of people until this very day. ISIS however does not have this far reaching aspiration. The nonsensical delirious ravings of Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani will be forgotten within a couple of years, while the knowledge and message spread by Al-Qaedah scholars and leaders will live on for decades. Look at the works of Shaykh Atiyatullah Libi and Shaykh Abu Yahya Libi for example. If ISIS does not correct its overall strategy and Islamic methodology immediately, they will be very short lived. The signs of their end are clearly visible.
The Nazis won many battles with mere awe, nations would surrender to them without even firing a bullet. But you can not continue to wage prolonged war on mere awe. The awe and momentum of the once seemingly invincible ISIS has already been broken in Kobani. They did not recover from this setback, as they are still seeking to regain awe with their misfired media propaganda. Who could forget the Vitmo fiasco in Yemen for example. It would be wise if they finally began producing publications with meaningful content that raise the awareness of the Ummah concerning the solutions for our situation. If they however persist on this deviant and childish path they will end up as a pathetic laughingstock. Their deceitful media propaganda and bad leadership decision made them even lose credibility among their own supporters and soldiers, and you will definitely not last if your own supporters and soldiers lost their trust in your leadership and cause.”