Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), publicly declared on 8 April 2013 that ISI’s secret Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, would be subsumed under his command and the common banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from that point forward. Within forty-eight hours, al-Nusra’s emir, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, rejected this proposal and swore his allegiance directly to al-Qaeda. The matter was submitted to al-Qaeda “central” (AQC) to mediate, since ISI was at this time believed to be a branch of al-Qaeda. The ruling of al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, made public on 9 June 2013, was that the ISIS announcement was voided, ISI was to return to Iraq, and al-Nusra was to be left as al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch. Al-Baghdadi rejected al-Zawahiri’s decision on 14 June 2013. While al-Baghdadi remained largely respectful—though he did include a jibe about “cho[osing] to abide by God’s orders” over al-Zawahiri’s—it was left to ISI(S)’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, to deliver a more aggressive statement on 19 June 2013, a transcript of which is reproduced below. Al-Adnani’s speech was entitled, “Fadharhum wa-ma yaftarun” (So Leave Them Alone With Their Devising).
God Almighty says: “Recite unto them the story of Noah, when he told his people: ‘O my people, if my sojourn here and my reminding you of God’s revelations are burdensome to you—then I have put my trust in God. So decide upon your course of action and [call upon] your partners. Let not your course of action be in doubt for you. Then have at me, give me no respite!” [Yunus: 71].
Subhanallah [Glory be to God] what made Noah challenge his people with this spectacular challenge and expose himself to his opponents, and their allies, supporters and gods? What made Noah have this trust, that he had from power, equipment, and followers?
It is the weapon of Ibrahim [Abraham], Musa [Moses], and Essa [Jesus] (peace be upon them) and the weapon of their followers; the weapon of our Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him), and the weapon of Abu Bakr, Umar, Othman, and Ali (may God be pleased with them all); and it is the weapon of the Islamic State and the reason for its existence and continuity, the source of its power and the aid that comes to it. Yes, it is nothing other than iman [faith] that provides power and equipment; the Islamic State doesn’t have any other agenda.
The enemies claim that we are aided by states and supported by governments and financed by political parties and that we have agendas. “Say: ‘Produce your proof, if you are truthful'” [An-Naml: 64].
Subhanallah, everyone far and close knows that we haven’t reconciled with any government nor their agendas. Isn’t the whole world united in fighting against us? Even the Arab rulers, who never united before and won’t unite after, have united on fighting us. They claim that we are a state of cardboard, an imaginary state that has no existence except on the world wide web. But when [the Islamic State] declares something new its enemies shiver and its enviers go mad! Subhanallah, are you all that scared from an imaginary state? Does it enrage you all that what you claim is only rosy dreams?
We didn’t declare the state except after we were empowered in Iraq and began to lift the injustices and restore the rights and implement the shari’a [law] of God. So the people targeted us with one blow, and that is a prerequisite for who comes with such.
We were subjected to severe seismic strikes and we resisted—by the grace of God alone—calamity after calamity and fitna [sedition or stife] after fitna. Seven years have passed since the declaration of the State and the fierce, raging war against it didn’t calm down for one day, a war in all aspects: military, economic, and ideological. Its ferocity increases whenever the State achieves advances or victories, and that is the condition of the State, though the Tawaghit of the world and their supporters in the media portray it as an imaginary state. This is how it is seen by the evil scholars who support the Tawaghit and the fuqaha [jurists] who are sitting at home and the prostrating preachers. The reality on the ground, if they only look at it, is as America and the West look at it, dealing with the Islamic State as a source of danger, concern, and panic for the Jews, crusaders, and their lackeys, the Tawaghit, and since insulting, distorting, slandering, offending, and fabricating are the easiest and fastest means to fight the State, our enemies and opponents hastened to it as soon as we declared the beginning of breaking the borders of Sykes-Picot by expanding the State to Syria.
The turbans of the evil scholars were mobilized to deceive the Muslims and confuse the mujahideen, the intelligence rolled up their sleeves, and the conspiracies were woven and knitted. The accounts twitted, the TV satellites drummed, the trumpets cawed everywhere, and the hatred and grudges appeared, so we were obliged to respond to some of the fabrications against us and what we have been accused of. I say “some” because we won’t be able here to respond to all the fabrications and accusations, since they are a lot. It will be enough for us to respond to the important things that touch our state, manhaj [methodology], and aqeedah [creed or ideology].
I will begin with what we believe will be raised against us after the recent speech of Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (may God preserve him), when he resolved the issue of expanding the State and it remaining in Syria, where he mentioned the letter attributed to Shaykh Doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri (may God preserve him). I begin with that for its importance and direct influence on the fighting fronts, and for the evils and disruption of conditions that will result from postponing its clarification.
So we say, seeking assistance from God:
It is not a secret to the Muslims, the painful recent event that shocked them and hurt every muwahid, and made the heart of every mujahid [jihadist] bleed, which is the split that occurred recently in the ranks of the mujahideen in Syria, and we have been informed about the latest of this fitna, which is the letter that was distributed in the mosques and checkpoints of al-Jaysh al-Hurr [the Free (Syrian) Army]. It was published in the media, and it contained rulings, orders, and misconceptions. It has been attributed to Shaykh Doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri (may God preserve him), and it contained criticisms and orders which can only bring evil consequences, as no two Muslims who witnessed the reality on the ground in Syria can disagree with us about.
These are some of our criticisms on it:
Firstly: In the letter there is an order that leads to a sin, which is breaking up the ranks of one of the biggest mujahid Muslim groups on the face of earth and dispersing its unity. This breakup will certainly occur [if al-Zawahiri’s order is followed] and will occur with the predominance of conjecture. As for our certainty [that this is the case], it is for two reasons:
First, the one jamaat [group], according to the ruling mentioned in the message, would be divided into an Iraqi and a Syrian group.
Second, several jamaat and brigades, who had refrained from joining the State because of deviations and shari’a criticisms of the decision-makers in the Front [Jabhat al-Nusra] and who joined the State after the deposition of some emirs on the Syrian side, have stated that they will secede once again if the issue of jihad in Syria is returned to those people. Other jamaat and brigades will certainly refrain from joining the State for the same reasons. As for the occurrence of the break up where uncertainty reigns, that is when division is done: some soldiers will form new jamaat, some of them will withdraw from the State to Iraq, some will sit in his home under the pretext of “keeping away from fitna,” some will join other jamaat, and some will join the defectors—and that has been said by them.
So, is it legitimate in the shari’a to divide the one mujahid jamaat [jihadist group] and split and disperse its ranks in this way? Is that a virtue or vice? Is that reform or corruption? Is it a salvation or annihilation?
It is known from the religion of God Almighty that the pure shari’a states clearly in the ayat [lit. “evidences”; the verses of the Qur’an] and Hadiths on gathering and unity of the divided, and preserving the unity of the united, there is no dispute that the division and disagreement is prohibited, and that after unity and alliance it [division] is more prohibited and more despised, and that is known from the religion by necessity. The Almighty said: “And hold firmly to the rope of God all together and do not become divided” [Ali Imran: 103].
Imam al-Qurtubi rahimahullah [God have mercy on him] said: “God Almighty calls to affinity, and forbids division, since there is loss in division and salvation in unity”.
Ibn Kathir rahimahullah said: “In His saying (and be not disunited) an order to them of unity, and forbids them from division”.
And from the sayings of the ulema of the umma [cleric of the Muslim community] about unity and its importance, and division and its danger, what was written by Shaykh Al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyya], rahimahullah, was: “From the great fundamentals of the religion is reconciliation of the hearts and uniting the word and conciliation.” God says: “So fear God and amend all matters of difference between you” [Al-Anfal: 1]. And He says: “And hold firmly to the rope of God all together and do not become divided” [Ali Imran: 103].
There are many similar texts, which call for unity and alliance and forbid division and disagreement. The people of this basis are the people of unity, and the ones who split from them are the people of division. He says: “If the people disperse they become corrupt and they perish, and if they unite they become reformed and get empowerment, since unity is a mercy and division is misery”.
It has been mentioned in al-Durar al-Saniya [a book collecting the works of followers of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab]: “The fundamentals of the shari’a also prohibit what leads to division and disunity and discord”.
The order mentioned in the letter provides for division and leads to it, and we have proved that with certainty. That’s why it will certainly lead to a ma’siya [sin] and annihilation, and it will lead to evil in politics.
Secondly: The recognition of a spatial authority, not separated in the reality except by the borders of Sykes and Picot that were imposed on our umma, is a corroboration of these unfortunate borders, which tore the body of the umma and divided its peoples, and portrays this geographical drawing like an inescapable part of the divine shari’a, while Islam doesn’t know drawn borders to confine it, and isn’t immobilized at these lines. Islam came for daw’a [proselytism] and spreading and that was the custom of this religion throughout history. Thus, dividing a jamaat into two jamaat, one Iraqi and another Syrian, and ordering each one to adhere to the cursed borders and not go beyond them contradicts our methodology and what believe in. Abu Bakr and Umar [the first and second Rashidun caliphs] (may God be pleased with them) used to move the armies and leaders between Iraq and Syria like there was no difference between the two armies, and this is what we are doing now, moving between our sectors and commands and not differentiating between them. Even the filthy Rafidah [Shi’is] are doing that and they are moving their sectors between Iran, Iraq, and Syria, and they do not differentiate between them. We learned from our religion and were raised by our shaykhs not to recognize the Sykes-Picot borders, and we should have no respect for them. So, on what was that letter based as regards this partition? And what did it depend on regarding this division?
Thirdly: It wasn’t enough for the letter to have an order that would lead to division and dispersion, but rather its rhetoric from the beginning was addressed to two separate groups, validating the split of the sinning separatists, describing them as an honourable, generous, noble group, and claiming that they are an independent jamaat. This is contrary to reality and is an abuse to the State, since everyone knows that it is one group, that the name of “Jabhat al-Nusra” was only a media-security cover for the presence and work of the State in Syria, and that its emir is one of the soldiers of the State. Nothing could be valid in the minds when you need to give proof for the daylight!
Fourthly: Approving the action of those who rebelled and caused disunity has set a bad precedent for Islam, and if it spread—God forbid that—then no jihadi theatre will be free from it and there will never be a unity for the Muslims. Maybe we will be surprised tomorrow by someone rebelling in one of the wilayas [provinces] giving a bay’a [pledge of allegiance] to someone else, demanding his right to independence and secession.
Fifthly: The letter conveyed a ruling of a judge between two parties he didn’t see and they didn’t see each other and without the witnesses being known; it is not known what they conveyed or wrote about the two opponents. Is it legitimate for a judge to issue a ruling through messages written by the two parties? Then a judgment is based on that without confirmation or proof! After that a judgment is issued against one of them without being informed about the frames of the judicial conviction or what the ruling was against him was based on, so he can neither approve it nor deny it and defend himself. Isn’t it his right to know the witnesses to prove to the judge that they are opponents or that their testimony isn’t valid? Tirmidhi narrated from Aisha (may God be pleased with her) in the traceable Hadith: “The testimony of a deceitful man and woman, and of one who harbours rancour against his brother, and the testimony of one who is dependent on a family is rejected”.
Sixthly: The judgment in the letter criticized both parties equally. The mistake of the first [al-Baghdadi’s announcing the expansion of ISI into Syria] was in a discretionary matter, which could be right or could be wrong. If he was wrong, he would have one reward, and if he was correct he would have two rewards. In the event, the timing of the declaration pleased the mujahideen, and the Muslims welcomed it. As for the mistake of the second party [al-Jolani refusing al-Baghdadi’s order and separating al-Nusra from ISI], it was heinous since it split the ranks and caused disunity and shocked the umma by declaring this in public, which gratified the enemies of the jihad and caused agitation among the mujahideen.
But what was the ruling on those two wrongdoers? The first was stripped of his authority and it was given to the second, which was a reward for his splitting the ranks and sinning and wrongdoing, approving him on this custom and confirming it, giving him the Emirate that he asked for and was so keen on that he monopolized power and split the ranks of the mujahideen. Subhanallah, what balance this ruling revealed!
Here I should clarify something that many are unaware of or have disregarded and about which the umma has been lied to. The situation has been portrayed contrary to the truth. Most people have come to think or believe that declaring the expansion of the State into Syria is the reason for the schism and rebellion and that is a lie and fabrication, to be added to the list of false accusations against the State. Let everyone know that the schism and rebellion occurred before the declaration of the State and it has nothing to do with the declaration, but the defectors took it as a justification and declared the breakup after the declaration of the State. They deceived the umma that the breakup occurred after the declaration, while the truth is the reverse of that, since the breakup was among the most important reasons that the State hastened its declaration [of expansion into Syria], to deter the secessionist movement and heal the rift. That, indeed, is what happened, Alhamdulillah.
Seventhly: How could there be a ruling dividing the jamaat at a time when the leaders of the mujahideen and all the ulema of the ummah and the Muslims are calling, day and night, for unity in the ranks and unity of the word? How could the ruling in the letter order the mujahideen to withdraw from Syria at a time when the leaders of the mujahideen everywhere wish to come to Syria? How could the ruling in the letter oust the Islamic State from Syria when the ulema of the umma are urging the Muslims—all the Muslims—to go to Syria? How does the judge in the letter accept that the lions of the Islamic State should sit behind the berm looking at the Muslims in Syria as their honour is violated and they are slaughtered and the Rafidah from everywhere gather against them? No! No one will stop us from aiding our people in Syria! No one will prevent us fighting the Nusayris and waging jihad in Syria! No one will prevent us from remaining in Syria! Iraq and Syria will remain one theatre, one front, one command, and they won’t be separated by borders. I swear we will demolish the berm and fill the trench and remove the barbed wire and erase the borders from the map and remove it from the hearts, after which car bombs will strike the Rafidah from Diyala to Beirut. I swear we will repel the Nusayris [Alawis] and Hizb al-Lat [The Party of Lat, i.e. polytheism, refers to Lebanese Hizballah].
These are some of our criticisms to the attributed letter and its judgment, and if it wasn’t published and distributed to the public we wouldn’t have mentioned it. But there is a big conspiracy against the Islamic State in particular and the mujahideen in general. As for applying that letter, and implementing its ruling on the ground: that is not possible. What can we do with the thousands from the army of the State who do not accept the new leadership [i.e. al-Nusra’s] in Syria? Do we withdraw them to Iraq, behind the Syrian borders, and will the Iraq arena absorb them? And who will fill their place in Syria if Iraq absorbs them? Who will carry the sin and burden if the aggressors overrun the liberated regions and violate the blood and honour of the Muslims? What do we do with thousands who do not accept to return to the rule of the Front and won’t comply with the new leadership? What of those who won’t accept the order to withdraw to Iraq, especially because the separatists have initiated a custom and authored books about the legitimacy and even the desirability of disobeying emirs? Will they form a new jamaat? And to whom will their loyalty and subordination be? Or will they declare an independent Emirate? And if anyone rebelled and gave a bay’a, as his predecessor did, will his bay’a be accepted? And how will the weapons, equipment, and headquarters be divided? Will both parties accept that or will there be trials? And when will these trials end?
We want an answer for this question:
How will we control our soldiers and fill our frontlines, and who will remain on the frontlines of Iraq, if we divide the jamaat into an Iraqi and Syrian one? …
The majlis shura [consultation council] of the Islamic State have met, and consulted with the walis [governors], emirs, and students of knowledge in the State, and the commanders and the elders, and the decision has been taken. There was the response to the letter in the speech of the mujahid shaykh, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (may God preserve him). The greatest accusations and fabrications against us are that we consider the blood of those who reneged on our bay’a licit and consider them Kharijites, and that is the policy of the State of Iraq. God forbid! Subhanallah, this is a great calumny. God forbid that we kill or license the blood of those who reneged on our bay’a or leave our jamaat; we repudiate this. That is the worst thing that has been fabricated against us, and I have been informed that some people from the foxes and hyenas of jihad are saying to their brothers who have been deceived and broke away with the separatists that State will legitimize the taking of your blood and spread fear among them, that silencers and sticky IEDs will be used against them. So, we say to them: do not believe these fabrications.
We remind you to fear God by rejecting disunity and return to the jamaat and unity of the ranks, to the arms of your brothers in the State and on that day the believers shall rejoice.
This is what we can say in this regard. God willing, we will continue the response later to the most important fabrications and accusations against us. La hawla wa la quwwata ilia billah [There is no will or power except that of God Almighty].
Abu Muhammad al-Adnani al-Shami
Spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
 Tawaghit is the plural of taghut, meaning rulers who have stepped beyond the bounds of Islam by committing shirk (idolatry or polytheism), setting up equals to God in worship—in other words, ruling by man’s law where God’s law ought to reign.
 As well as mujahideen, ISIS has a tendency to call its fighters muwahideen, meaning strict monotheists, a reference to the followers of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who carved out the First Saudi State from the Ottoman Empire, and those who succeeded him (the “Wahhabists”).
 In other words, al-Adnani says that because al-Nusra is in a state of sin (rebellion), their testimony should have been rejected out of hand.