Adam Gadahn (Azzam al-Amriki) rahimahullah
Shaykh Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi (may Allah have mercy on him), leader of the Tawheed wal-Jihad Group in Iraq, pledged allegiance to the leadership of Qa’eda al-Jihad Group, and his group became known thereafter as al-Qa’eda in Mesopotamia. This group, both before and after the pledge of allegiance, was one of the most lethal and effective forces fighting the Crusader/ Rafidite Shi’ite occupation of Iraq.
After Shaykh Abu Mus’ab’s martyrdom in 2006, leadership of his group was transferred to Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (may Allah have mercy on him), a former member of the Egyptian Jihad Group, who soon announced (without consulting al-Qa’eda’s central command) the dissolution of the group and the formation of what was known as the Islamic State of Iraq under the leadership of Shaykh Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi (may Allah have mercy on him), which in turn declared its allegiance to al-Qa’eda’s central command, except that this time
the bay’at (pledge) was kept secret at the request of the brothers in Iraq.
The ISI was controversial from the outset and many in Iraq and elsewhere felt that the way it was declared and some of the policies it had were detrimental to the interests of the Jihad and Mujahideen, but despite this, the leadership of al-Qa’eda continued to support the ISI while at the same time providing advice and instructions and working for reform behind the scenes.
Then in 2010, Shaykh Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi and Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir were martyred (may Allah have mercy on them). Following their martyrdom, a new leadership of the ISI emerged, one largely unknown to al-Qa’eda’s central command. This new leadership (led by one Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) also pledged its allegiance to al-Qa’eda and stated unambiguously that it was at the beck and call of al-Qa’eda’s leaders. Almost immediately, signs began to appear that this new leadership of the ISI was not of the same caliber as the old leadership. However, al-Qa’eda was as patient as ever and continued its dual policy of support and advice.
In early 2013, following a dispute between the leadership of the Islamic State group and some of its commanders and fighters whom it had sent to help support the popular revolution in Syria and defend the Muslims there from the brutality of the Nusayrite and Rafidites, al-Baghdadi and his aides arrived in Syria and proceeded to “solve” their internal organizational problems by creating a new and much bigger problem with negative and far-reaching implications for the Syrian Jihad and the Ummah as a whole. Their “solution” was to declare a new “state” in Syria and Iraq called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (the Levant), also known as ISIS. This unilateral declaration of another “state” (again made without consultation with al-Qa’eda’s central command) was met with shock and outrage from almost all quarters in Syria, and was seen as both a gift to the enemies as well as an attempt by a single organization to hijack the Syrian Jihad and steal its fruits.
Almost as soon as al-Baghdadi and his commanders arrived in Syria—and especially after the announcement of ISIS—tensions ran high between them and the other groups of Mujahideen in Syria, most of which ISIS accused right off the bat of being Bughaat (rebels), deviants, agents of foreign powers or “Sahawaat” (“Awakening Councils”) like the ones formed by the Americans and their proxies during the occupation of Iraq to fight the Mujahideen; in other words, they accused them of being apostates! The situation on the ground soon deteriorated to the point of fighting and bloodshed, especially after the ISIS people began stealing weapons, ammunitions and supplies meant for the Mujahideen on the frontline of the war against the regime and taking over their bases, warehouses, and supply depots; killing and kidnapping commanders and fighters from the other groups on various pretexts; and targeting hundreds of local activists, relief workers and media personnel affiliated with the Syrian revolution for detention and disappearance.
Eventually, this low-level conflict exploded in January of 2014 into all-out warfare between ISIS on one side and many of the Syrian Mujahideen and revolutionaries on the other, who felt they had no choice but to defend themselves and their Jihad against the brazen aggression of ISIS, whose ranks were now swelled by thousands of fighters from other countries who had joined it after arriving in Syria, and who now, instead of helping the Muslims in Syria defend themselves against the murderous regime and topple it (and they will topple it soon, Allah willing), were now posing—through their behavior—an obstacle to the Jihad in Syria. As the number of Syrians in ISIS’ ranks was and is relatively small, ISIS was able to portray what was happening as an attack on the “muhajireen”, which was not the case; rather, it was a campaign meant to defend the Jihad in Syria and prevent it from being derailed, and the fact that ISIS was made up primarily of non-Syrians was incidental: i.e., if a 100% Syrian group had behaved the way ISIS behaved, it would have been met with the same response.
Even before the full-blown fighting started, numerous attempts had been made by third parties to prevent the strife from escalating further and have disputes settled in an independent Shari’ah court; and these attempts to bring the strife to a halt intensified after the major battles began in January. But everyone who intervened eventually came to the same conclusion: that one faction— ISIS—had no intention of ending the fitnah (strife) nor of abiding by the rulings of Shari’ah in its disputes with other Muslims and Mujahideen, prompting even some of those who had once been its biggest sympathizers to distance themselves from it after they realized the true nature of the group and its un-Islamic use of deception and deceit.
And so, due to ISIS’s evasiveness and unwillingness to compromise, the fighting raged on and thousands fell on both sides; and to give you an idea of the nature of the strife and the way ISIS has behaved during it, ISIS carried out in the space of a few weeks no less than 24 suicide bombings against headquarters and checkpoints of the other groups in Syria, as opposed to the mere 8 martyrdom operations it carried out against targets of the Syrian regime in the months between ISIS’s arrival in Syria and the strife that began in January 2014. Also, the indiscriminate killing and wholesale massacres have not been limited to rival Mujahideen, but have included even unarmed Muslims in areas where fighting is under way, such as the videotaped massacre of a group of Syrians—including children—in a village near Aleppo by a Russian-speaking unit of ISIS under the command of Abu Usaid al-Uzbeki, and the massacre of hundreds of members of a single clan over a period of weeks in the province of Deir-az-Zawr near the border with Iraq.
As for the leaders and commanders of the Mujahideen whom ISIS has admitted to killing (or at least not denied killing), they include Shaykh Abu Khalid al Suri—former deputy of Shaykh Abu Mus’ab al-Suri—Abu ‘Ubaidah al-Binshi, Muhammad Faaris, Dr. Abu Rayyan and Commander Abu Mihjan of the group Ahraar-ul-Sham; Abu Sa’ad al-Hadhrami and Abu Muhammad al-Fatih of the Nusra Front (al-Qa’eda’s branch in Syria) as well as al-Fatih’s brother and their wives and children; and others too many to mention here.
As for ISIS’s categorizing of the other Mujahideen in Syria as apostates, it is now official and no longer an open secret; see, for example, the communiqué of the ISIS Shari’ah Council dated 16 Jumaada al-Aakhar 1435, which declares the leadership and most of the members of the Islamic Front (one of the largest unions of Mujahideen in Syria) to be apostates, and legitimized fighting them like apostates are fought, all on the basis of classic Takfeeri logic and arguments. This labeling of others as apostates has also extended to the brothers in the Nusra Front and then to al-Qa’eda in general, after al-Qa’eda cut its ties with the Iraqi branch, made it clear that it wasn’t going to stand by it in this fitnah, and denounced ISIS’s baseless Takfeer of Muslims, its killing and fighting of them without right and its refusal to arbitrate by Shari’ah in its disputes. This, then, is the sad story of the Islamic State group in brief, and the story is still unfolding; and one of the most recent deviations of this group is its unilateral declaration of a “caliphate” (with its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi playing the role of “caliph,”) while at the same time calling on all other groups of Mujahideen to pledge allegiance to it and openly claiming that the bay’ats (pledges of allegiance) of other groups are baatil (null and void) wherever its soldiers are to be found!
Please sum up the most prominent or important deviations of the Islamic State group in as few words as possible.
Ok, but before I do so, I think it is important to emphasize to the readers and to our brothers in Iraq, Syria and everywhere else that it is not our intent today to belittle the Jihad and sacrifices of any person or persons or deny anyone their due or diminish
from any achievements they may have made or imply that they have no positive side, nor do we mean to portray them as having perished. No! “Allah does not let the reward of those who do good go to waste,” (Qur’an 9:120) and: “If someone says the people have been ruined, he is the most ruined of them” (Saheeh Muslim).
Allah knows that we do not like to focus on the flaws and shortcomings of any Muslim, much less a group which includes in its ranks hundreds if not thousands of Mujahideen. However, if we truly want to achieve reform and success, and if we truly want to do justice to the sacrifices of the martyrs and captives and complete the mission started by those Mujahideen who went before us, then we must call a spade a spade, a deviation a deviation and a mistake a mistake, and we must explain frankly and clearly the difference between right and wrong, and we must do what is necessary to stop the oppressor from his oppression and the wrongdoer from his wrongdoing, and we must warn our Ummah against helping him as long as he persists in his oppression and wrong doing.
Otherwise, we will be doomed to repeat our own mistakes and the mistakes of others over and over again, and lasting victory and success will continue to elude us, and Allah will hold us to account in this world and the next. As for the most prominent and dangerous deviations of the Islamic State group, they are as follows:
• First, committing murder, oppression and injustice against Muslims and Mujahideen.
• Second, refusing to stop fighting with other Mujahideen and agree to abide by
the rulings of Shari’ah in its disputes with them.
• Third, disregarding the rulings, opinions and advice of all the well-known ‘Ulama of the Mujahideen.
• Fourth, ghuloo (extremism) in Takfeer (this being perhaps the root cause of all the other deviations).
• Fifth, changing the direction of the fighting from the primary threats to Islam and Muslims in order to focus on conflicts with other groups of Muslims, or at
best, on secondary threats and enemies.
• Sixth, trying to force itself on the Muslims as their governing body and considering its ameer to be their legitimate ruler without consulting the representatives of the Ummah or getting their approval.
• And seventh, spreading fitnah and dissent within the groups of Mujahideen in the
various theaters of Jihad and attempting to split their ranks.
[Page 46-49, Resurgence]