A follow up with Al-Maqalaat – By Tore Hamming
The consecutive subject: Mutual target prioritization
“I would like to continue to discuss the Fitna between Al-Qaeda and IS. Overall, I would like to have your insights on why the Fitna broke out when it did with Al-Qaeda and IS breaking up on 3 February 2014. We know there were differences all along between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the Al-Qaeda leadership, but despite these differences in Manhaj they managed to unite and cooperate. Why was this no longer possible in 2013-2014?”
“The current turmoil in especially Syria does indeed have a history line dating back to the problems in Iraq. Unfortunately after the martyrdom of Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi much of the facts in Iraq were unclear and hidden, so the scholars and leaders gave the Mujahideen in Iraq the benefit of the doubt, while criticizing their mistakes and advising them. Shaykh Usamah bin Laden advised the Mujahideen in Iraq multiple times. He advised them for example in a lengthy message titled “To our people in Iraq” dating from October 2007. He called them to resolve their issues with other Mujahid groups in a Sharia court, and he warned them for fanaticism, favoritism and blind following. He warned them against infiltrations, and those who stir up strife among the Mujahid groups, and he warned against implementing corporal punishments (Hudood) when in doubt.
Many issues were hidden from the central leadership of Al-Qaedah in Afghanistan, as the pressure on the Mujahideen in the global war on terror was building up and the flow of information and communications was limited. Certain facts were also kept hidden deliberately by the leadership of Al-Qaedah to avoid turmoil. Shaykh Abu Sulayman Al-Utaybi, the chief judge of ISIS in 2007, tried to reveal some of the facts in Iraq to the central leadership of Al-Qaedah in his well known letter. We now known for example that the Islamic State in Iraq was announced without even consulting Al-Qaedah, like Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri explained in his audio message titled “A Testimony to preserve the blood of the Mujahideen in Shaam” published in May 2014 saying: “When the Islamic State in Iraq was announced it did not ask permission from the Al-Qaedah leadership under Shaykh Usama bin Laden nor was it consulted, they did not even get a choice in it. The martyred Shaykh Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir sent a letter to the central leadership of Al-Qaedah justifying the creation of a State and that its alliance was still to Al-Qaedah.” In this important audio message Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri also explained that Al-Qaedah did not know who Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was when he was appointed. Shaykh Usamah bin Laden requested his biography, and Al-Qaedah asked ISIS to wait with appointing a new leader until the leadership of Al-Qaedah knew who they were.
Shaykh Usamah bin Laden even admitted that he did not know their first leader Shaykh Abu Umar Al-Baghdadi in the message titled “The way to foil conspiracies” published in December 2007. In it he also rejected the reckless martyrdom operations, and advised them to be cautious saying “I stress on my brothers the Mujahedeen to be highly cautious in the operations at the army garrisons which are located among the Muslims, and to have their operations against the enemies disciplined by the legitimate rules away from Muslims as much as possible, without crippling Jihad for the sake of Allah.”
Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri also admitted in the fourth interview titled “A review of events” published in December 2007 that he could not say for sure whether ISIS was the wrongdoer or not concerning the infighting that occurred with other groups in Iraq at that time. So matters weren’t as clear as they are now in Syria. We now know that the turmoil and infighting in Iraq was mainly caused by ISIS like it was caused by them in Syria.
ISIS wanted to repeat the same scenario of Iraq in Syria. After the Mujahideen of different groups had almost crushed the Crusader invasion in Iraq around 2006, ISIS announced the Islamic State in Iraq and started to attack the other groups, forcing them to join their State. This kept on until the events in Shaam exposed this dark history. ISIS has fought against most of the groups in Iraq when they announced their state, including the Islamic Army in Iraq, the 20th Revolution Brigades, Ansar Sunnah later known as Ansar Al-Islam, Jaysh Al-Mujahideen, Jaysh Rashideen and the Hamas of Iraq. Most of these groups formed the Jihad and Reform Front in May 2007, a coalition against the Crusader-Rawafid occupation of Iraq and against the extremism of the Islamic State in Iraq.
ISIS killed many Mujahid leaders and scholars in Iraq which caused the weakening of the Jihaad in Iraq. They killed Harith Daahir the military leader of the 20th Revolution Brigades. This sparked the Awakenings Movement in Abu Grayb. They killed Shaykh Abu Qutaybah and Dr. Abu Haarith, leaders of Jaysh Al-Mujahideen. They killed Abu Bakr Al-Ansari the leader of the Army of Abu Bakr Salafi who was known for rescuing and protecting the Sunni people in Southern Baghdad. They killed the scholar Shaykh Dr. Muhannad Al-Ghareeri in the city of Al-Karmah in Al-Anbar. They killed the scholar Shaykh Khalid Al-Harbi, the Imam of the Shuhadaa Mosque, after Maghreb prayers in April 2007. This was one of the major reasons behind the Awakenings Movement. They also killed Shaykh Haatim Musa Al-Halbusi, the Imam of the central Mosque in Karmah.
They announced an exclusive State, forced others to join it, attacked the refraining resistance groups and killed their leaders and scholars with the excuse that they refused the Sharia of Allah, thus weakening the Jihaad in Iraq and empowering the enemies, by causing infights and pushing the Muslim population in to the hands of the enemies, while redirecting their weapons away from the enemies towards their own Mujahid brothers. They wanted to repeat this scenario in Syria, as they announced an exclusive State, forced others to join it, waged war against the groups and leaders who refrained, thus weakening the Jihaad in Syria and empowering the Shia-Nusayri enemies by causing infights.
Luckily the armed resistance groups and the Muslims in Syria did not repeat the same mistake as the groups and tribes in Iraq by laying down their weapons and joining their enemies against ISIS. This is the major difference between the holy land of Syria and the unblessed land of Iraq; known for its turmoil throughout history. This is why the Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) refused to send his blessings on Iraq unlike Syria. As Iraq gave birth to sorcery, it gave birth to many sects like the Shia and the Khawarij, and it will give birth to the Dajjaal. So it is not surprising that Iraq gave birth to ISIS. Although it does not really matter whether the armed groups keep their weapons aimed against the enemies of the Ummah or not. As ISIS labels all groups as Sahawaat apostates either way. There are groups in Iraq who did not join the Awakenings Movement, furthermore they even fought against them, but nevertheless they are labeled as Sahawaat by ISIS.
Jaysh Al-Mujahideen has openly rejected the Awakenings Movement, they even fought fierce battles against the Sahawaat of Rishah in Abu Ghrayb in 2007, and there are even videos of these battles. But ISIS labeled Jaysh Al-Mujahideen as Sahawaat apostates despite their stance and despite their battles against the Sahawaat. Furthermore, there are a lot of soldiers from ISIS who worked and cooperated with Jaysh Al-Mujahideen, and married with their family members and even prayed behind them. So why did they not label their own soldiers as Sahawaat apostates? Jaysh Al-Mujahideen even killed a number of Sahawaat leaders in Radwaniyah, Fallujah and Ramadi. The Sahawaat laid down their weapons and stopped performing Jihaad, while they took up arms against the Mujahideen with the help of the Iraqi government. Jaysh Al-Mujahideen however never laid down their weapons and did no stop performing Jihaad, they fought against the government and the Sahawaat, and they never raised their weapons against the Mujahideen. This while ISIS killed 12 members from Jaysh Al-Mujahideen including their leaders during 2007 in Arab Jubur Southern Baghdad, but they did not respond with any aggression. Rather they sheltered Shaykh Abu Musab Zarqawi. Furthermore, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was one of the students of their leader Shaykh Abu Saeed Al-Iraqi.
Despite all of this ISIS labeled them as Sahawaat. Because any group that does not does not join them, become Sahawaat apostates, like we have witnessed on all the Jihadi fronts throughout the world. Even the Taliban and Al-Qaedah have become Sahawaat.
The Fitnah in Syria was the straw that broke the camels back. When Shaykh Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani was sent to Syria in 2011 ISIS wanted to settle old scores with other Mujahid leaders who traveled to Syria. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi for example gave the order to Shaykh Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani to kill the scholar and Mujahid leader Shaykh Abu Saeed Al-Iraqi in Damascus, leader of Jaysh Al-Mujahideen in Iraq. Shaykh Abu Saeed was imprisoned by the US in Iraq and spent years in prison with Shaykh Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani, so hey knew each other very well, and Shaykh Al-Joulani saw nothing but goodness from him. So he refused to kill him and disobeyed the orders of Al-Baghdadi, as killing him was of no benefit for the Jihaad in Syria –on the contrary. Keep in mind that Shaykh Abu Saeed Al-Iraqi, who preceded Al-Baghdadi in Jihaad, was the previous teacher of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. This is how he wanted to repay him!
When the jurist and military leader of Jabhat Nusra Shaykh Abu Mariyah Al-Qahtani came to Syria in 2010, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi also ordered him to kill Shaykh Sa’dun Al-Qadi the leader of Ansar Sunnah in Iraq and Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Al-Jubayri, known as Shaykh Abu Sajad, the deputy of Ansar Sunnah in Iraq. Abu Muhammad Salih Al-Hamawi one of the founders of Jabhat Nusra and Shaykh Abu Mariyah Al-Qahtani also explained how Shaykh Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani refused the orders of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to send suicide bombers to the heartland of Turkey. The spokesperson of ISIS Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani came to Syria in 2012 and wanted to convince Shaykh Abu Mariyah Al-Qahtani to carry out operations against the hotel in which the Syrian National Coalition was residing in Turkey, but he rejected saying that this is not allowed Islamically nor rationally and it goes against the orders of Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri.
When Jabhat Nusra repeatedly refused to carry out these orders, Al-Baghdadi himself traveled to Syria because he wanted to depose Shaykh Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani of his position, and declare a State in Syria while dissolving Jabhat Nusra. Shaykh Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani opposed this as ISIS clearly deviated from the methodology and the orders of Al-Qaedah. This is when Shaykh Al-Joulani gave his pledge directly to Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri, and requested from Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri to resolve the dispute. Al-Baghdadi agreed with this proposal and promised that he would abide by the orders of Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri. But when the Shaykh responded and ordered that the Islamic State in Syria should be annulled and that they must return to Iraq, Al-Baghdadi and his henchmen refused. Soon after the arrival of ISIS in Syria the suicide bombs on the Syrian opposition and Mujahid bases started, in addition to the kidnappings and executions of Mujahid leaders. This increasingly reckless behavior forced Shaykh Ayman to cut the ties between Al-Qaedah and ISIS, he did not want any part in these crimes.
We learn a valuable lesson from these events which we can not ignore. When your strategy and methodology is well known and sound, it does not really matter if your leadership ranks are infiltrated by deviant individuals. Because they can not go against the general outlined strategy and methodology, and if they do, then they could easily be sidelined, expelled or disobeyed as they are clearly contradicting the strategy and methodology of the organization. This is important to mention because this is the major reason for the many infiltrations on high levels in ISIS within their media wings, jurists and military leaders. The Baathits generals of Saddam Hussein were able to infiltrate into ISIS with ease because it did not have a strong and clear strategy and methodology. Al-Qaedah however is a message before it is an organization, which is why it focuses on strategy and methodology, instead of materialistic gains and organizational expansions.
Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri explained these understandings beautifully when he answered the question why Al-Qaedah broke its organizational ties with ISIS, in his seventh interview titled “The reality between pain and hope” published in May 2014. He said:
“The considerations of this decision could be divided in two matters. The first, is the difference between the two methodologies. Our methodology is focusing on the modern-day idol America and its Crusader-Zionists allies and their treacherous agents, and gathering the Ummah and inciting it to wage Jihaad against them and to stay away from offshoot battles. And our methodology is carefulness with blood and refraining from operations which could spill blood without legitimate justifications; on markets and Mosques and public neighborhoods, rather even between the Mujahid groups. And we have published numerous statements about this from Shaykh Usama bin laden and Shaykh Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid and Shaykh Atiyatullah Libi and Shaykh Abu Yahya Libi, may Allah have mercy on them. I likewise talked about this subject several times. That is why we published the document “General guidelines for Jihaad procedure.” After consulting and sending it to all the brothers. And one of the reasons for us publishing this document was the fear for what is happening now. I hope that everyone now realizes, after this fire of turmoil has intensified, what the dangers are which this document sought to prevent. And our methodology is also keenness on mobilizing and uniting the Ummah around the proclamation of monotheism and working towards the return of the righteous Caliphate which is established on mutual consultation and compliance from the Muslims.
That is why we published “The paper for supporting Islam” to all those who work for Islam to unite them on one shared word. That is why we are not able to unite the Ummah if our image is that of an occupying force over them which takes away their rights or oppresses and subjugates them. As for the second issue, it is the lack of sticking to the principals of cooperation. Like announcing states without permission, rather even without choice, as the guidelines of the general leadership was that we must not declare any open presence of Al-Qaedah in Shaam and this issue was even agreed upon by the brothers in Iraq. So we were surprised by the announcement which gave the Syrian regime and America the opportunity they were longing for. And they made the general people of Shaam ask “What is wrong with this Al-Qaedah which is inviting disasters upon us? Is Bashar not enough for us? Do they want to invite America on us also?” And for example their lack of sticking to the decrees of the leadership concerning the division of interests, or concerning the halt of infighting. And one of the most important reasons for the known breakup (with ISIS) in the problem of Shaam, was our fear for the bloody turmoil which is eating up the souls of thousands of Mujahideen today. And perhaps everyone realizes that this breakup, if everyone endorsed it then the blood of thousands would have been preserved and the efforts would have increased in the fight against the enemies of the Muslims, instead of busying themselves with fighting against the Muslims.
Another issue which is of the utmost importance is that Al-Qaedah by the Grace of Allah is a message before it is an organization. Shaykh Usama bin Laden (may Allah have mercy on him) persisted on this and his brothers in Al-Qaedah were also very persistent on this. So Al-Qaedah is a message before it is an organization. If we distort this message we have lost, even if we would expand organizationally and materialistically. Because we would fail in our most important goal which is the mobilization of the Ummah towards Jihaad against its enemies so that they can judge with their Islamic law and regain its Caliphate. And if we were with ten who present the Ummah with a good example and a message in which the words are upheld with actions, it is better for us then being with tens of thousands which make the Ummah run away from them and from their actions and manners. If the Ummah witnessed us fighting over the war spoils before being established and race towards taking away the right of the Ummah and its nobles in mutual consultation and governance; and if they witnessed us participating in infighting in which the blood of our Mujahid brothers is spilled and their honors and belongings are violated; and if the Ummah witnessed us spoiling the fruit of Jihaad before it is ripe by actions which are not thought through and hasty individual decrees; then how will the Ummah trust us and how will they answer us? Rather we would present our enemies the greatest opportunity to distort our image and turn the Ummah away from us. And the secularist and the Americanized lackeys will say to the people: Look at what the Mujahideen are doing against each other so image what they would do with you?”
So the reason why Al-Qaedah broke ties with ISIS was because they did not share the same enemy, meaning they did not prioritize the same main enemy. One of the most binding factors between Al-Qaedah and other Mujahid groups, movements and rebel factions is their shared enemy. That is why Al-Qaedah has formed tactical alliances with many groups who could have different views and methodologies, even if they are deviants groups, as the Islamic principals of a defensive war allow such tactical coalitions. Like we have witnessed in Afghanistan against the Soviets. They formed tactical alliances with Rabbani, Sayyaf and Masoud against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan when they shared the same enemy, but they became opponents when they did not anymore. The same goes for the Mujahideen and rebel factions in Syria, as long as they share the same enemy Al-Qaedah is willing to form tactical alliances with them, as it is one of the most important criteria for cooperation and coordination. That is why the US focuses on breaking up the factions in Syria by destroying this binding factor. As they constantly try to reconcile a truce between the regime and the rebel factions, and they try to redirect the weapons away from the regime towards ISIS, like they did in Iraq.
The conflict between truth and falsehood exists since the very first divine revelation. Every Prophet or Messenger and believing nation had to fight against the falsehood that existed in their time. The Muslim Nation also has one main enemy which they will fight until the last hour. The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) predicted that we will fight against the Romans until the final battle of Armageddon in Syria. The Prophet said that the Romans have many horns, each time a horn is broken a new horn grows. This is exactly what happened, we have fought against the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire. We have fought against the Byzantines and the Crusaders, after that we fought against the imperialist Colonial forces and the Western capitalist coalitions. So to conclude: the West, led by the US, is our main enemy. This is not just the strategic view of Al-Qaedah but it is a divine prediction. When ISIS shared this strategy they were close allies of Al-Qaedah. This ended when they started to prioritize infighting against other Muslim groups and movements and sectarian secondary enemies.
There is a secondary point I would like to make because of its importance. Because some could say that ISIS also fights against western countries, they have executed multiple operations in the West, and they could also say that Al-Qaedah, like ISIS, fights against the Shia Rawafid and the Nusayriyah in Syria and Yemen. But there is still a difference between the motives of war, as Al-Qaedah sticks to the principals of a defensive war against them, while ISIS wages a (defensive) war with the principals of an offensive war.
When the Islamic State in Iraq was announced Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri explained that the Mujahideen in Iraq fought against the Shia Rawafid because they cooperated with the US invaders. He explained that the Mujahideen will stop their fight against the Shia Rawafid in Iraq if they stop cooperating with the US invaders. So Al-Qaedah did not fight against the Shia Rawafid simply because they were a deviant (apostate) sect, otherwise we would fight a long exhausting sectarian war of attrition, this is exactly what the US wants. However it became clear that ISIS does not fight against the Shia Rawafid or the western countries because these enemies wage a war against the Ummah. Rather ISIS fights against them simple because they are deviant (apostates) or disbelievers. That is why ISIS executes suicide bombings on public Shia gatherings and places of worship inside and outside Iraq, like the several Shia places of worship in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. And that is why they slaughtered dozens of Ethiopian and Egyptian Christian laborers in Libya. And that is why they execute very random attacks in the West without differentiating between their targets. So to conclude, it does not really matter to them whether the Shia Rawafid and the West or other enemies wage war against the Ummah or not, they will fight and kill them anyway, this is the message they send to their enemies.
This is a very important difference between Al-Qaedah and ISIS. Because if we fight against our enemies simple because they are deviant or disbelievers, instead of fighting against them to repel their transgression; then the enemy does not have any incentive nor motivate to stop his transgression. Because the enemy realizes that you will fight against him anyway, whether he attacks you or not. This is one of the major differences; Al-Qaedah fights against the enemies with the Islamic rulings of a defensive war. While ISIS fights against everyone with the Islamic rulings of an offensive war; in a defensive war.
Again, the motives for an enemy target are of course secondary to the prioritizing of an enemy. Our main objection is against the prioritizations and not against the motives. ISIS for example prioritized rebel infighting in Syria, the motives are secondary. Furthermore, we would not even have a problem, on the contrary we would encourage it, if the deviant sects or the apostate governments would prioritize the US as their target for example, no matter what their motives may be, because they are secondary. Shaykh Ayman Zawahiri also called upon the Rawafid to pick up arms against the US occupation in Iraq. We would not fight against them if they aimed their weapons at the US, rather we would endorse it. ISIS however does not understand the benefits for the Ummah from such a pragmatic approach, that is why they attacked the Kurdish militias in Iraq and Syria for example and other Mujahid groups in Iraq or the opposition rebels in Syria; while they all share(d) the same enemies. They should have benefited from this mutual interest like Al-Qaedah tries to benefit from such scenarios. The Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi wa Selam) and the Muslims in Medina benefited from the war between the Romans and the Persians. They rooted for the Romans, and when the Persians were weakened by the Romans they attacked them. After finishing with the Persians, they curved towards the Romans.
-I will stop here due to the length and continue further in the next episode.