The emir of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released an audio message on 14 June 2013, “Baqiya fil-Iraq wa-Sham” (Remaining in Iraq and Syria), rejecting al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s decision to send his group back to Iraq and to leave ISI’s Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, in Syria as al-Qaeda’s branch in that country. A translation of al-Baghdadi’s speech was released by his group and is reproduced below.
Al-Baghdadi publicly announced on 8 April 2013 that he was subsuming ISI’s secret Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, under his command. Al-Baghdadi abolished the names of both ISI and al-Nusra, and proclaimed they were now one under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). On 10 April 2013, the leader of al-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, rejected this proposal and swore his allegiance directly to al-Qaeda. ISI was believed at this time to be a branch of al-Qaeda, and the matter was submitted to al-Qaeda’s leadership for arbitration. Al-Zawahiri ruled on 23 May 2013—made public on 9 June—that ISIS was to be dissolved and ISI was to confine its operations to Iraq, while al-Nusra handled al-Qaeda’s file in Syria. The speech below is al-Baghdadi’s response, forceful but respectful. It was left to ISIS’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, to denounce al-Zawahiri’s ruling more sternly and systematically five days later. Tensions escalated for a year before al-Qaeda expelled ISIS from its ranks in February 2014.
Praise be to God, who glorifies Islam with His victory, who humiliates polytheism with His vanquish, who makes matters move with His command, who tricks the disbelievers with His cunning, who made the days turn with His justice, and who made the good end for the pious with His grace. Peace and prayer be upon he who raises the beacon of Islam with his sword.
From Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to his sons in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, to our people in Iraq and Syria, and to our beloved precious umma (Muslim community) that God dignified with Islam: Peace be upon you, and God’s mercy and blessings.
We have become accustomed to almost unbearable tribulations over the past ten years. As soon as we were freed from one tragedy, God the Almighty put upon us a similar one or a harder one, and this is the established way of God the Almighty in testing His mujahideen worshippers. We have become stronger in the face of hardships, so they break upon us without breaking us, and all praise is due to God. Our shaykhs who preceded us left us on the road in which they had the decisive word in matters, seeing the interests in the midst of what others would think are corruption, and so they would not pay attention, and this is only due to the specificity of the guidance that God the Almighty had given to them.
God the Almighty said: “And those who strive for Us, We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, God is with the doers of good” [Al-Ankabut: 69].
The days pass in an insightful vision for the long-term that the idlers, and the people of temptations, and the defeatists would not realize. So, the person who would deny, if he was not too arrogant, would acknowledge, and he who objects would accept, and he who condemns would bless, and praise be to God.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria shall remain in existence, so long as we have a vein that pulses and an eye that bats; it remains, and we will not bargain with it nor back down from it until God Almighty raises it above or we die without it. It is the state wanted by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and founded by the blood of our shaykhs, Abu Umar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir. This state will not abandon any spot of the territory it has gained, nor will it become smaller after its growth, by the permission of God the Almighty and with His granting of success. We crossed the borders that the evil hands had drawn in order to divide the umma and we vow to put the final nail in the coffin of what remains of the conspiracy of Sykes-Picot.
Concerning the document ascribed to Shaykh Ayman al-Zawahiri, may God preserve him, we have several methodical and shar’i (legal) issues with it. The worshiper was given a choice; either obeying God’s orders or a command that opposes God’s command. After consulting with the Shura Council of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, from the muhajirun (foreign fighters) and al-ansar (local jihadists), and after referring the case to the Shari’a Committee, I chose to abide by God’s orders as opposed to the command in the letter.
God says: “And hold firmly to the rope of God all together and do not become divided” [Ali Imran: 1O3].
Abu Hurayra, may God be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, said: “God likes three things for you and dislikes three things. He likes for you to worship Him, not to associate anything with Him, and to hold firmly, all together, by the Rope which He [stretches out for you], and not to be divided among yourselves. And He dislikes for you to pass on stories and gossip, to ask too many questions, and to waste money” (Sahih Muslim).
So rise, O lions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, cure the frustration of the believers and attack the hateful Rafida (Shi’is), the criminal Nusayris (Alawis), Hizb al-Shaytan (The Party of Satan, i.e. Lebanese Hizballah), and those who come from Qum, Najaf, and Tehran. Tear those cowards into pieces and let us see their blood flowing.
I also call upon you to defend the Muslim women, the elderly and the children and I will not accept any excuses if any harm is done to them. Defend them with your bodies, blood, and money. Beware of being happy to live in a day when the honour of a Muslim woman is transgressed, or the blood of a child is spilled, or an elderly shaykh is insulted, for what value can there be in life if this is in it or even a part of it? Link your night to your day, for if bullets of the night and arrows in the last third of the night come together then the throw of God will have been achieved. Give to your umma the tidings of victory and do not weaken. Pray and submit to He who holds up the heavens and the earth.
As for you, O youth of Islam, answer the call to the blessed land of Syria, the land of hijra, jihad and ribat. Go to your state to raise its edifice. Come, for the sleeves have been rolled up, and the battles are underway. And they, by God, are between two sides: the side of faith with no hypocrisy in it, and the side of disbelief with no faith in it.
O God, do not put upon us what we cannot bear, and forgive us and show us mercy. You are our master, so make us victorious over the disbelievers. And God has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not. Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds.
 The speech above was the beginning of ISIS using the slogan, baqiya wa tatamadad (remaining and expanding). That slogan originated many years before, in an April 2007 speech by Abu Bakr’s predecessor, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi). It was also in the title of the very first speech by ISIS’s official spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, in August 2011.