[4:135] O you who believe, be upholders of justice - witnesses for Allah, even though against (the interest of)your selves or the parents, and the kinsmen. One may be rich or poor, Allah is better caretaker of both. So do not follow desires, lest you should swerve. If you twist or avoid (the evidence), then, Allah is all-aware of what you do.
The emergence of ISIS in Iraq & Syria took many by surprise. The declaration of Islamic Caliphate (IS) for many during Ramadhan 1435 (around 29th of June 2014) was equally unexpected, yet nostalgic. Generations of Muslims around the world having grown up without a caliphate were euphoric and joyous not knowing the background and emergence of this group. The euphoria even affected seasoned Scholars such as Shaykh Salman Husaini Nadwi (HA) who issued fairly positive messages of good will towards IS.
As we collate various opinions on ISIL (ISIS and now IS), the PR mask has slipped and the fangs are visible for all to witness. It is our hope that by collecting together the opinions of various Islamic Scholars and experts on IS the naïve amongst us would wake up and realise this brutal, hateful group for what it is.
The reality of this group can be summed up by the following well known English saying:
All that glitters is not gold!
The Shaykh (HA) originally issues fairly positive message regarding IS but his assessment darkened as he became more aware of the facts on the grounds leading him to his latest open letter:
In the Name of Allah (SWT) the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful,
All Muslims are informed that the ongoing public revolution against the oppressive regimes of Iraq & Syria had given us a beacon of hope in the form of liberated areas (within Iraq & Syria) from the likes of brutal oppressors (from the Government of Nouri al-Maliki) under the leadership of Abu Bak’r Al-Baghdadi leading an organisation Da’esh (IS). I had requested Al-Baghdadi in an open letter that he should strive to establish peace, justice and harmony and take active steps to bury the Shia-Sunni rivalry and to act with mercy and benevolence in the liberated areas.
I had written my letter on the 7th of July which was deliberately misrepresented by those who seek to inflame sectarian tensions and “Aag” in particular on its front page with a huge headline deliberately spew venom to stoke sectarian flames. I had to give several press statements in response, (Aag) set an example of worst form of Journalistic dishonesty. Message of peace, harmony and justice was deliberately trampled upon and Shia-Sunni unity was deliberately misrepresented to sabotage unity.
In any case, I kept a watchful on the proceedings but I must admit (with great disappointment) that IS not only didn’t fulfil any of our demands but their actions have resulted in us losing all hope (for good). Some of their actions have been as follows:
1 Murder in the name of religion or sectarianism
2 Extreme bigotry, Takfeer and apostasy based opinions regarding other Islamic groups and organisations
3Oppressive treatment of (Mosul) Christians when Sayyidina Umar (RA) had not only treated Christians of Jerusalem well but kept their Church and prayed outside (of Church premises). Sayyidina Amr ibn al-‘As (RA) after conquering Egypt didn’t destroy the mummies and idols (of the land). Sahaba didn’t break the idols of Afghanistan. In Short, the precedence was to treat minorities with compassions which resulted in them entering Islam while the activities of IS are not only against Islam but have resulted in defamation of Islam.
4 Their extreme actions also encompass destroying Mosques and shrines (instead of reformation) and they deem their actions (of destruction) to be Islamic (which is incorrect). Rasul-ullah (Sallallaho Alaihe Wassallam) had said أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أُقَاتِلَ النَّاسَ حَتَّى (I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until) regarding idolaters of Jazeeratul-Arab (Hijaz) particularly and this commandment was revealed in Surah At-Tawba (Chapter 9). The full Hadeeth as follows:
حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الْمُسْنَدِيُّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو رَوْحٍ الْحَرَمِيُّ بْنُ عُمَارَةَ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ وَاقِدِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبِي يُحَدِّثُ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ " أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أُقَاتِلَ النَّاسَ حَتَّى يَشْهَدُوا أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلاَةَ، وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ، فَإِذَا فَعَلُوا ذَلِكَ عَصَمُوا مِنِّي دِمَاءَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُمْ إِلاَّ بِحَقِّ الإِسْلاَمِ، وَحِسَابُهُمْ عَلَى اللَّهِ "
Narrated Ibn 'Umar: Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said: "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger (ﷺ), and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah." [Bukhari]
This is because Jazeeratul-Arab (Hijaz) was given a special distinction and Sahaba (RA) didn’t perform these actions in other areas (which were conquered). Therefore the actions of IS reveal their bigotry, extremism, and representation of (false) Salafi Islam!
After these facts have become apparent, I would like to warn the believers not to be misled by load slogs of IS until they (categorically) prove the benevolence, inclusive and justice of Islam.
Concurrently, I would like to request the Shias not to adopt a methodology of hurting the feelings of the Sunnees. Associate yourself with Islam, refer to the Qur’aan and don’t distinguish between the Sahaba and Ahl al-Bayt (family of the Prophet). I am from the progeny of Sayyidina Hussain (RA) and I am telling the history and actions our forefathers and our Ahl al-Bayt which is of respect and reverence (towards all). Sayyidina Hasan (RA) and Sayyidina Hussain (RA) are leaders of the youth of paradise and those who make peace with Sayyidina Hasan (RA) we make peace with them and those who fought with Sayyidina Hasan (RA), we have a fight with them! This joint (agreed upon) opinion should be adopted and then strive to unite the world of Islam and Muslims.
I appeal to all believers to stand firm with Hamas, al-Qassam and Ikwan and to assist them with all you can against Israel. Demonstrate your hatred and disavowment from policies of the (current) Israeli backed Egyptian regime and those of its supporters in the Gulf.
The news of IS preparing 500,000 soldiers to fight the Saudi regime (attributed to me) is pure hogwash! I thought that the English newspapers had a higher level of (honest Journalism) but this baseless absurdity has dashed my hopes.
It is hoped that this will be considered my last and final opinion of this matter and no more falsehood will be attributed to me.
(Shaykh) Salman Husaini (Nadwi) [HA]
1st of August 2014
The Jamiatul Ulama South Africa condemns the reported acts of brutality and mass murders of the people of the regions of Iraq and Syria where a group said to be led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has declared an Islamic state, and, hence a caliphate.
A caliphate is an aspiration of Muslims who reflect of the golden era of Islam that was characterised by sound rule of law, protection of rights of non-hostile minorities as well as the entrenchment of justice and equity.
Warfare does not absolve the members of any Islamic caliphate, state or entity from the responsibility of observance of human rights and the rules of engagement where women, children and the elderly as well as all civilian non-combatants, their lives and property, are never targeted but safeguarded.
It therefore comes strange to us that an Islamic state would be founded on atrocities, massacres and extra-judicial punishments that include summary executions of individuals suspected of crimes.
Many years of foreign policies that prop up client regimes and illegally wage imperial wars of occupation have resulted in alienation and radicalism. It is this phenomenon that has brooked groups harbouring a sense of humiliation, leading to vengeance and giving rise to militarism and the upheavals we see in the Middle East.
Regardless of this reality, we see no reason why the Islamic state can position itself as a political order with an attractive prospect for the masses when their record of governance is no better than those polities it seeks to replace.
E.I. Bham (Moulana)
(083 786 2859)
19 August 2014
The following is an approximate translation of a statement released by Hay’at al-Shām al-Islāmiyyah, the Islamic Sham Association. It is an independent body that carries out various relief and educational work which also includes a fatwa and research department to issue fatwas concerning Syrian affairs. Its members include a number of Syrian scholars and activists.
The official announcement from the Hay’at al-Shām al-Islāmiyyah of Syrian scholars on the ‘Caliphate’ of al-Baghdadi
All praises are due to Allāh the Lord of the worlds and there exists no enmity except towards the oppressors. May peace and blessings be upon Mohammad salla Allāhu ‘alayh wasalam who came with clear truth and may peace and blessings be upon his family, his companions and all of those who follow him until the last day.
Trials and tribulations continue to arrive in succession, afflicting the Muslims until the Muslim Ummah is purified just as the fire removes impurities from Iron. The most recent of these trials is the declaration of a ‘Khilāfah’ or an Islamic Caliphate, announced by al-Baghdadi’s group. This follows the countless wounds afflicted on the people of Syria; killing, Takfīr (accusations of disbelief), intended hindrance of their revolution and Jihād and breaking apart their unity.
We never thought that such a hollow and void claim would require a public statement in response, but al-Baghdadi’s group have mastered the art of public deception through magnifying their organisation in both status and number and by hijacking the victories of others. This has been exacerbated by the media, portraying the entire revolution as one led by ‘ISIS’ in a general attempt to discredit the sincere Mujāhidīn.
These events need to be leant the full consciousness of every individual, and bring forth new responsibilities on scholars and analysts wherever they may be. Remaining silent or looking for excuses is no longer an option, but rather it is now incumbent upon everyone to speak the truth like never before.
The invalidity of this ‘Caliphate’ can be seen from a number of angles:
1 The declaration of the ‘Caliphate’ was by a dissident group that practices Takfīr and sheds blood as religion in and of itself. This methodology is totally perverted from the example of the Prophet salla Allāhu ‘alayh wasalam who taught the Ummah true leadership and how to establish a noble and upright Khilāfah (Khilāfah Rāshida), exemplified by his companions.
2 The absence of the (necessary) elements that compose a ‘state’, both legally and by what is understood through custom. Even if they truly had authority in the land and prevalence they would have appeared in person, thus they are closer to being a gang than a state.
3 The unilateral declaration of Khilāfah without the consultation of scholars or the Muslims in general, due to al-Baghdadi’s group’s belief that they are exclusively the people of Shura while others are apostates or members of ‘Sahwas’. Such unilateral action totally disregards and undermines the authority of the whole Muslim nation. ‘Umar radiy Allāhu ‘anhu said: “Whoever gives the pledge of allegiance to a man without the consultation of the Muslims should not be given the pledge of allegiance, nor should the one who he gave it to out of deception, lest they will both be killed.” Ibn Hajar may Allāh mercy on him said in Fathul-Bāri: “this means, whoever does this, has deceived himself and his companion, subjecting both to the possibility of being killed.”
4 The forcing of people to give al-Baghdadi the pledge of allegiance while it has not been given to them in the first place. They said that “due to the declaration of the Khilāfah it has become incumbent upon all Muslims to swear allegiance to it and to give victory to Ibrahim…” and that “he has become the leader and Khalīfah of Muslims everywhere”! They added, “whoever wants to cause division should be shot in the head, whoever it may be without dignity.”
5 The appointment of a completely unknown ‘Khalīfah’ (apart from his name), not recognised by any scholar nor the masses of his own group let alone the majority of all Muslims, completely disregarding the conditions set out by the scholars that form a leader. This is a form of ridicule towards the Ummah, and is similar to the behaviour of dictatorships.
6 The overturning of al-Baghdadi’s original commitment of allegiance to his leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Previously al-Baghdadi had said: “We owe it to God that you are our governor and upon us is to listen and obey as long as we live.” Al-Zawahiri had long issued an instruction to abolish ISIS in Syria. Will treachery, betrayal and failed promises be the first thing the “Khalīfah” of the Muslims gets up to?
The following are some of the countless evils, calamities and tribulations brought about on the Muslims by this illegal declaration:
1 Announcing a Caliphate in this manner demolishes the real purpose of the Caliphate which is to preserve the sanctity of Islām and govern the land by it. It furthermore distorts the image of Islām by showing that its system revolves around killing, criminality and savouring the cutting off of heads and hands.
2 Considering that the whole Ummah has committed an offence by not pledging allegiance to the unknown ‘Caliph’, therefore permitting that it is fought and that its blood is shed if it refuses to subdue itself. Allegiance can only be for someone who is followed by the majority of people and by whom the matters of the general public are rectified. This is what is intended by the Hadith: “Whoever dies without having given bay’ah (a pledge of allegiance) has died in a state of ignorance.” This bay’ah cannot be imposed by a group that does not recognise the Ummah to start with, nor does it recognise its past or present scholars.
3 Weakening the Muslims and scaling back their victories in Iraq and Syria, creating dissension between them and preoccupying them from fighting their main sectarian enemy.
4 Disabling efforts in Da’wah, education, Jihād and aid carried out by the groups and battalions that do not fall under its banner.
5 Strengthening the enemies of Islām in Muslim countries and giving them the excuse to appropriate Muslim countries all over again. The policy of these people is to support this “Caliphate” model by facilitating its expansion, easing the delivery of weapons to it and helping it to surround territories held by other fighters. Their expansion will then be used as an excuse to demolish and split apart Sunni regions, before turning against the rest of the Muslims under the guise of fighting terror and extremism.
Sheikh al-Masry was previously a member of ISIS but withdrew from them on the basis of their ideology and methodology. He justifies his withdrawal by mentioning ISIS’ defamation of the people of Syria, claiming they were ideologically misguided, asking how this could be the case if the Prophet salla Allāhu ‘alayh wasalam said: ”If the people of Shaam corrupt, there is no good in you.” The Sheikh adds:
“The behaviour of many elements in ISIS including leaders consistently is offensive towards the people of Syria and its Mujāhidīn, accusing them of misguidance in belief and action.” He further said: “They moreover repeatedly accuse the people of Syria and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) of disbelief (Kufr).” The Sheikh also argued that ISIS cannot be theoretically classified as Khawārij although practically this may be the case since they throw around accusations of disbelief without evidence and without understanding the gravity of such a charge. Rather, they may indict someone as a disbeliever merely on the grounds of disagreeing with them. Many of them believe that the people of Syria are originally apostates before creating justifications to this effect, raising weapons in their faces for the most trivial of matters.
Sheikh al-Tarifi is a Researcher in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Riyadh. The Sheikh is deeply erudite in the sciences of Islam, known for his profound ability to retrieve evidences and issue meticulous verdicts. Among his teachers are Sheikh Abdul Aziz b. Abdullah b. Baz, Faqih Abdullah b. Abdul Aziz b. Aqeel and Sheikh Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shanqeeti. The sheikh has an extensive number of printed works. He states:
“It is impermissible for anyone to make his group or party a milestone against which loyalty and hostility are measured, such that he believes that allegiance and leadership should belong to him exclusively. Whoever believes that sole allegiance applies to him (or his party) from amongst all Muslims, then upon him apply the words of Allāh: “Verily, those who divide their religion and break up into sects (all kinds of religious sects), you (O Muhammad salla Allāh ‘alayh wasalam) have no concern in them in the least [6:159]. The Sheikh added: “it is incorrect that while in a state of fighting and factions that one group should request individual and general allegiance and all that it entails. The allegiance is to the Jihād, constancy, patience and reform. It is incorrect that one individual who leads a particular faction to call himself Amīr al-Mu’minīn (the leader of the Believers), rather he should call himself the leader of the army, the battalion or the battle. General leadership is determined by Shūrā (consultation) between believers, not for an individual to assume. Titles cause exclusivity that can lead to dispute, conflict, strife and evil… [Therefore], participating with ISIS so long as it does not agree with the law of Allāh, independent of it is impermissible.”
The Sheikh began pursuing knowledge at the age of fifteen. He has written comprehensive explanations of Hadīth books including Sahīh al-Bukhari, Jāmi’ Abū Issa al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Muwata’ Mālik among many others. He quotes:
“Al-Baghdadi is not the Khalīfah of the Muslims for him to do whatever he pleases; rather he is a leader of a faction. Requesting a pledge of allegiance, killing those who refuse is the action of an aggressor, not the action of a person of good and righteousness.” He further said: “If his own leader does not agree with his actions, how can he expect allegiance from others?”
Sheikh Mohammad al-Munajjid is a renowned scholar of Islam with an array of recognised works (including IslamQA.com). His teachers include Sheikh Abdul Aziz b. Abdullah b. Baz, Sheikh Abdullah b. Abdul Rahman b. Jibreen and Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Barrak. He is currently the imām of the Mosque of Omar b. Abdul Aziz al-Khobar. He says:
“If a group thinks, for example, that it has established the Islamic state, its leader is the ‘Leader of the Believers’, that he should be listened to and obeyed by everyone, that anyone not under his command has rebelled against him, that [this ‘state’] has the authority to draw up borders, elect leaders over towns, that it has authority over public wealth, petrol, wheat and so on, that others should forcefully submit to them while they can stop whoever they want, that they have the sole authority of establishing Islamic courts and judges and that every court besides theirs is void, it has deviated. This will no doubt create competition over control of regions and eventually lead to a great Fitnah and bloodshed.”
Sheikh Muhammad al-Maqdisi is considered the guide of the ‘Jihadist Salafist’ movement in Jordan. His name is Issam Barqawi but is famously known as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Far from siding with ISIS,he says in a letter to the Mujāhidīn of Syria after hearing of ISIS and their behaviour with other fighters:
“…and we do not feel ashamed to declare that we are free from the actions of those who dare spill the blood of Muslims whoever they may be.” He further added: “How can you be expected to accommodate all Syrians including Christians and other sects [if you cannot even accommodate other Muslims]?”
Dr. Hassan Saleh has a PhD in the principles of Fiqh and Sharī’ah, he is the Director of the Institute of Higher Islamic Education at the Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah and is a Member of the (Islamic) Advisory council.He says:
“No one going to Syria to fight is excused to be part of al-Baghadi’s faction for even a moment… they are a faction that brings Fitnah, whenever they are called to a court for religious arbitration they turn away and whenever a truce is declared, they reignite the war.”
Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Fawzan is a member of the Council for Human Rights, a Professor in Islamic Jurisprudence and the Head of the Department of Comparative Jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Imam Muhammad b. Saud in Saudi Arabia.He says:
“ISIS is a rogue, external criminal organisation. Whoever knows of what afflicted us in Iraq and Afghanistan and the blood that was spilled unjustly at the hands of some ignorant individuals in our nation will understand the gravity of what is happening in Syria.”
Dr. Abdul Karim Bakkar is one of the leading authors in the field of education and Islamic thought, who seeks to provide a deep-rooted analysis into matters concerning Islamic civilisation, renaissance and Da’wah. He has more than 40 books in this area. Dr. Abdul Karim Bakkar is a member of the Advisory Board for the Islam Today magazine (Riyadh).He says:
“I met a number of students of knowledge and Islamic jurists returning from Syria. I swear by the One besides whom there is no god that the only thing they spoke about were the repulsive actions of ISIS and their crimes. ISIS and the Assad regime are two faces of one evil.”
Dr. Al-Ajmi sought knowledge under the supervision of Sheikh Muhammad b. Saalih and Sheikh Yahya al-Yahya. He studied at the University of Imam Muhammad b. Saud and is now the Imām of al-Ghazali Mosque in Kuwait.He quotes:
“I have not heard of a single scholar inside or outside of Syria who has praised this faction, had good suspicion of them or defended them, rather they have unanimously agreed that they are aggressors. Al-Baghdadi’s aim, since entering Syria is to weaken the fighters and he has indeed weakened al-Nusra Front and Ahraar al-Shaam and continues to do so.”
Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi has played the effective role of the Syrian revolution’s Mufti. It is said that Sheikh al-Tartusi was the first Arab fighter to travel to Afghanistan in 1981, accompanying Abdullah Azzam on one of his trips. He has authored many books and is the founder of several of the revolution’s coordination groups. He says:
“The group known as ISIS are from the fanatical Khawārij, rather they have surpassed the Khawārij in many of their characteristics and actions, combining between fanaticism, aggression, hostility and shedding inviolable blood.” He further said: “We call upon all sincere individuals who have been fooled by them while still with this misguided group to severe their ties with it and to declare their freedom from it and its actions.”
The Sheikh and notable Muhadtih Abdullah b. Abdul Rahman b. Mohammed Al-Saad Al-Mutairi is one of those at the forefront of 20th and 21st century Muslim scholars. His teachers include, Sheikh Abdul Aziz b. Baz, Sheikh Mohammed b. Saalih and Sheikh Abdullah b. Abdul Rahman al-Jibreen. He has authored tens of books and has explanations of Bukhāri, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Jāmi’ al-Tirmithi and others.He says:
“I plea to whoever joined this faction (ISIS) to leave it and move away from it, and for its leaders to return to the truth and to repent to Allāh from the grave mistakes they have fallen into…”
Sheikh al-Mahiseny is a specialist in Islamic Jurisprudence, acquiring a PhD in Comparative Fiqh in the subject: “Rulings Concerning War Refugees in Islamic Jurisprudence.” He says:
“By Allāh, I have never witnessed the scholars who speak about matters of Jihād agree on criticising and opposing a Muslim movement as they have agreed on condemning ISIS.” Sheikh Mahiseny concluded by saying: “I implore you by Allāh O Baghdadi to allow a general Islamic court mediate to uphold the injunctions of Allāh.”
Sheikh Adnan al-Aroor is currently the Director of Research and Publishing in Riyadh. He grew up seeking knowledge in Syria under several scholars including Sheikh al-Albani and Sheikh b. Baz.He is one of the most notable scholarly icons of the Syrian revolution and has a multitude of published works. Sheikh al-Aroor says, directing his question at ISIS:
“Did Allāh set conditions that must be met before accepting that the Qur’ān arbitrate [in the affairs of difference]? Then where did you get these conditions [that you set] from? Why do you leave military fronts such as Homs and dedicate your efforts to the areas near the Turkish borders? … Who are the people of religious authority (ahl al-hal wal-’aqd) who you consulted before establishing your ‘state’? Do you aim to overthrow the sectarian dictator or to fight others [who want to achieve this]? … What is your Islamic proof that justifies your pledge to someone unknown?” He furthermore states: “ISIS are either Khawārij or infiltrated by the [Syrian] regime. It is composed of three groups of people: brutal Takfīrīs, wicked infiltrators and people deceived by them.”
The Scholars of Aleppo Front issued a statement encouraging the sincere members of ISIS to leave this faction and join the legitimate revolutionary forces in Syria for the crime that has been perpetrated by this group, including:
Accusations of disbelief (takfīr), their shedding of inviolable blood without a second thought, kidnappings and documented armed robberies of weapons and ammunition from other rebel factions, their refusal to allow the Sharī’ah to arbitrate between them and the other factions and sowing the seeds of discord between fighers. ISIS’ takfīr sometimes extend to the entire population of Syria. This includes takfīr boldly levelled at the Free Syrian Army, accusing Ahraar al-Shaam that they are misguided ‘Surūrīs’ and that al-Nusra Front have defied their alleged ‘Khalīfah’.
Including Al-Ghunaymaan, Al-‘Umar, Al-Mahmoud and Al-Jalali Al-Mahmoud
The joint statement asserted that it is impermissible and of tyranny for one faction to impose itself as the only holder of legitimacy and that it is necessary that all other groups pledge allegiance to it without consulting the Muslims, otherwise they become of the Khawārij and their blood becomes permissible. It argued that this is the main reason for divisions and internal fighting. Sheikh Hamoud b. Ali al-Omari added: “The reality of the matter is, every drop of blood shed between the (rebel) factions in Syria is due to al-Baghdadi’s refusal to allow the Sharī’ah to arbitrate while implementing his own innovated Sharī’ah.”
There is no act, the punishment for which has been mentioned more sternly than that of killing a believer intentionally where a collection of five severe retributions have been listed: “But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allāh has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.”[4:93]
DH: Bilal tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you born? Do you have siblings? Are you married? Do you have any children? Where are you currently living?
BAK: I was born and raised in New York. I have one brother and a sister. I’m currently living in Doha, Qatar. I have six “babies” who aren’t really babies anymore as they all want iPads and mobile phones now instead of dolls and play dough. Where did the time go!
DH: How far did you get with academia? Did you go to university?
BAK: I went to the State University of New York where I studied creative writing. I also studied studio composition as I was heavy into music at that time.
DH: What were you doing before you became a journalist and film-maker?
BAK: I was the Programming Director for Huda TV based in Cairo. Additionally I did some other work such as translation of religious materials from Arabic to English, and I did lots of sound recording of books. But if you mean what was I doing years ago before I became Muslim, then the answer would be very different. I used to do stand up comedy and some other stuff years ago.
DH: Why do you think so many foreign fighters have left for Syria to fight jihad in comparison to other conflicts that have or are currently taking place in the Muslim world?
BAK: Syria or “Sham” as it’s better known as has a special place in Islam. Additionally, it is a conflict that is easy to access through neighbouring countries.
DH: How do ordinary Syrians and rebels feel about foreign fighters joining the war against Assad? Are foreign fighters actually helping or just fuelling the flames of war?
BAK: Initially Syrians loved and welcomed foreign fighters. Many of the foreign fighters settled down and married Syrian women. This is how close the bonds was between the Syrians and the foreign fighters. They ate on one table and drank from the same cup. The regime was not in a position to resist. This union between foreign and domestic fighters was very potent and the results speak for itself. The encounters where much of the territory was taken from the regime demonstrated that foreigners were the fiercest amongst all the fighters. This takes nothing away from the Syrians mind you, but by all accounts the foreigners were the ones who were eager to liberate the country from Assad as much as the Syrians and were very willing to die while trying. Jabhat al-Nusra housed many but not all foreigners. Jabhat al-Nusra was the “darling” of the Syrian revolution much more so than the FSA could have hoped to be.
Then ISIS happened. They split from Jabhat al-Nusra after a fall out between Abu Muhammad Al Jawlani and Abu Bakr Baghdadi. They would claim territory that they as a group didn’t liberate and claim it as their own. Of course the local Syrians remember that it was other groups that cleared the area of regime forces and grumbled about it.
Many ISIS members do not see the majority of Syrians as Muslims and therefore they began to treat them as second class citizens. I am not saying ISIS as an entire group is people of takfir but many of them are, not due to malicious behavior but due to a lack of Islamic knowledge. This caused major friction between ISIS and the Syrians in general including Syrian rebel groups. ISIS consisting of nearly all foreigners were perceived as occupiers rather than liberators in territories they controlled.
ISIS began a series of kidnappings and assassinations of other group’s commanders such as Dr Hussein Sulayman of Ahrar Al-Sham and returned his badly tortured body to them. They also executed Jabhat al-Nusra’s commander, Al Hadhrami after kidnapping him. This began to turn public opinion against foreign fighters which was unfortunate. All foreign fighters had to pay the price because of ISIS’ actions. This hurt the revolution very badly and it has been backtracking ever since.
DH: How much has the rebel infighting affected the Syrian revolution and the march to Damascus?
BAK: It was a disaster. ISIS concentrates its forces on fighting the other Mujahideen. There are virtually no fronts with regime forces that ISIS participates in. So the other Mujahideen forces are forced to fight both the regime and ISIS. This has spread thin the resources of the resistance. The Islamic Front, Jabhat al-Nusra and the FSA amongst others seem to be united against ISIS.
DH: Who’s to blame for the infighting? The split between al-Nusra and ISIS, Al Qaeda or solely ISIS?
BAK: It is difficult to see all rebel forces on one side of the divide in relative unison and ISIS alone on the other side and not feel something is wrong. The coalition of Mujahideen forces has one major problem with ISIS (among other issues) and that is their refusal to have an independent Islamic judiciary to settle their disputes. ISIS believes that they are a state and thus have no reason to go anywhere to settle their issues outside of their group. The other Islamic fighters feel that the foundation they are fighting for is to make Islam the judge in all affairs and the best way to do that is for an independent council of scholars to settle the disputes. They feel they have been left with no alternative but to fight ISIS. There lies the stalemate. I think many of the fighters feel that Al Qaeda’s main leadership needed to do more to rein in their rogue commander in Abu Bakr Baghdadi as well.
DH: What implications does ISIS’ declaration of Khilafah have on the Syrian revolution and the Muslim world in general?
BAK: Its declaration has had some impact on the ground in Syria as its galvanized their fighters who are taking on the coalition of Mujahideen. Other groups who are resisting them seem to be adapting and continuing their resistance. Hassan Abboud, one of the leaders of the Islamic Front said that they are “continuing their struggle to save the Syrian people from all forms of oppression whether it is from the regime or from Baghdadi’s group”.
Jabhat al-Nusra came out with a statement few days a go stating that: “We are determined to unify ranks to face the dangers which threaten the jihadi front (in Sham), whether these threats are from the Nusayri regime or from the group of Khawarij and extremists.” Of courses this is a thinly veiled condemnation of ISIS. I think the other groups see the potential threat that ISIS poses to them and they are trying to increase cooperation in ways they never did in the past.
DH: Do you believe it’s a Khilafah?
BAK: My personal view is that this declaration of “Khilafah” is an insult to the Muslims of Syria, Iraq, and around the world. The global Ummah is not a puny or ignorant people. It is full of intellectuals, doctors, historians, scholars, you name it and those people are willing to help build a unified Khilafah.
How Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and those with him thought he would go from complete obscurity to leading this calibre of people without so much as even telling them who he was in advance and what his program was is beyond me. If he thought people would accept him as an unknown figure then that would mean by default that they would accept anyone who made that claim. He is unknown even to members of his own group. No one even knew what he looked like up until two weeks ago.
I think if he truly respected the people he wants to govern, he would have had more respect for their intellect. The Khalifah’s job is to look after the interests and affairs of the Ummah, which can be done in an infinitely better capacity if those being governed willingly accept you and thus they would lend to you their undying support even through difficult times. Is Baghdadi that naive to think that everyone was going to simply rally to his side? This is my opinion.
DH: Have you ever visited or stayed in ar-Raqqa or any areas under ISIS control?
BAK: I’ve been in many areas under their control but never Raqqa. ISIS areas are territories where the people are not in harmony with them. They may or may not be able to do anything about them, depending on the area, but I do not know of areas outside their control wherein the people are asking for their presence.
ISIS is not friendly to those who have dissenting ideas. I am constantly threatened by them simply because I don’t subscribe to their claim to the caliphate and thus many of them don’t recognise me as a Muslim anymore and have called for my execution. This is how Syrians are treated by them as well. How can this style of governance prevail and bring benefit to an already oppressed-weary people?
Abu Abdullah is a Sunni born and bred in Mosul. 5Pillarz made contact with him via a third party who was also his relative. He offers a first-hand account of the situation with ISIS in Iraq’s second largest city, including details of the Jummah Khutbah given by the leader of the “Islamic State.”
On Sunday 29th June, ISIS declared the territory under its control from Diyala in eastern Iraq to Aleppo in northern Syria as a Caliphate (Khilafah in Arabic). This announcement caused controversy around the Muslim world, resulting in wholesale rejection from veteran Islamic groups and scholars that have been working and fighting for the restoration of the Caliphate for decades.
The "Islamic State" has declared the restoration of the Khilafah
The “Islamic State” has declared the restoration of the Khilafah
Questions were raised by Muslims worldwide regarding the validity of Al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate, and whether it was truly a state with control over the security and resources of the land, or if ISIS were acting merely as a militia that has military control over a city without the necessary resources or capabilities of a state.
Speaking via one of the few functioning telephone lines in Mosul, Abu Abdullah speaks of both good and bad that has come from the presence of ISIS. He said: “The presence of Al-Maliki’s forces in the city was an oppressive presence hated by everyone in the city. It felt more like an occupation than anything else.
“ISIS has proven itself to be less oppressive than Nuri al-Maliki’s government, and most people agree. Although the people dislike the presence of ISIS, they disliked the presence of al-Maliki’s forces more.
“Additionally, the ISIS has removed barriers around the city that hindered movement within the city and travel out of the city, which has improved life.”
Whilst Abu Abdullah admits that life for ordinary Sunnis has improved in comparison to when Mosul was under the control of the predominantly Shi’a Iraqi government, he notes that these good things have come at a cost.
He added that, “After the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Mosul, the government cut all power, water, gasoline, and public-sector wages from the city. Most phone lines were also cut a few days later and have not yet been restored.”
According to Abu Abdullah, local residents (including him) have been told by ISIS to go home and not to work, as there are no wages to be paid. “The people are struggling to survive now,” he added. He told us that the people have no power, they are running out of water, they have no gasoline, which prevents them from travel, and people are not being paid for their work in the public sector. He indicated that ISIS had not announced any plans or shown any capability of restoring any of the services.
These findings have cast doubt on the capability of ISIS in their own Iraqi stronghold and the surrounding region. Are they truly an independent state, or are they simply occupying parts of Iraq? External political analysts would argue that one of the basic requirements of a state is to have physical control over its resources. According to Abu Abdullah, ISIS’ inability to prevent the disconnection of electricity and water by a neighbouring state, leaving their citizens without any services or utilities, indicates that it is anything but a viable independent state.
Abu Abdullah also relayed the frustration of his family members, friends and neighbours about the armed presence of ISIS. “They [ISIS] have little to no presence in the outskirts, and mainly exist in the centre of the city. People are frightened and do not feel secure.”
He also informed 5Pillarz that the majority of people of Mosul are not loyal to ISIS, but are tolerant of them for the time being because “they’re better than the oppressive sectarian army of Al-Maliki.”
We are told: “Many have a strong dislike for their behaviour towards local residents. People have complained about excessive religious policing, where people are threatened with 50 lashes if they do not attend the five daily prayers at the mosque.” He reminds us that the Muslims of Mosul are renowned for their religiousness, and that such threats are unnecessary.
The emir of ISIS led the Jummah prayers on Friday, the 4th July, at Jami’ Al-Nuri (Al-Nuri Mosque) in Mosul, the city’s largest mosque.
According to numerous media reports, the people of Mosul were not informed of al-Baghdadi leading the congregation, and Abu Abdullah confirmed this. The emir of ISIS’ appearance was “sudden and last minute.”
A curious piece of information that Abu Abdullah informed 5Pillarz of was that this was the day that phone lines were cut off throughout the city, that morning, hours before the Khutbah.
Abu Bakr al Baghdadi addressing the congregation at jummah in Masjid Al-Nuri, Mosul.
Abu Bakr al Baghdadi addressing the congregation at jummah in Masjid Al-Nuri, Mosul.
Regarding the Khutbah itself, we are told: “The Imam of Jami’ Al-Nuri was approached by ISIS officials just minutes prior to the Jummah prayer and was told to allow al-Baghdadi to give the Khutbah in his place. The front line was taken over by al-Baghdadi’s entourage,” which may explain why, in the video, the faces of the worshipers in the front row were blurred, whereas the remaining worshippers’ faces were left showing.
Media outlets stated that after the sermon and prayer, he left quickly, and the mosque was put on lock-down for fifteen minutes afterwards, preventing anyone from leaving for the duration, possibly as a security measure to allow al-Baghdadi to reach a safe distance before allowing the worshipers to exit.
This raises the question of why so much security was required to attend a Jummah prayer in his own state.
Abu Abdullah was afraid of discussing these details over the phone. We were told that “The people of Mosul are frightened to discuss what ISIS is doing in the area, and especially frightened to discuss the details of last Friday’s Jummah Khutbah.”