How the Islamic State’s Caliph Responded to Defeat Last Time

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 21, 2017

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The first proto-caliph of the Islamic State (IS), Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), gave his fourth audio speech on 16 April 2007, “The Harvest of the Years for the State of the Muwahideen (Monotheists)”. An English version of al-Zawi’s speech was disseminated by IS’s al-Furqan Media and it is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration and syntax, and some interesting or important sections highlighted in bold.

After the caliphate was ostensibly restored in mid-2014, the Islamic State became known for its slogan, “remaining and expanding” (baqiya wa tatamadad). The phrase had first been used by the caliph, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), in a speech on 14 or 15 June 2013, depending on time-zone, which rejected the ruling of al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that the Islamic State—then considered the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda—should be confined to Iraq after announcing its expansion into Syria. The phrase’s ultimate roots are in this speech by al-Zawi, which was the major introduction of the slogan “remaining” (baqiya).

The speech came just as the American Surge, in tandem with the Awakening among the tribes and other Sunni insurgents, pushed the then-Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)—declared a mere half-a-year earlier—from its strongholds into the desert, apparently defeated and leaving it to be mocked even by other jihadists as a “paper state“.

The speech was read at the time as the Islamic State essentially seeking to redefine itself as a cause, decoupling its claims to legitimacy from an ability to hold and govern territory and instead claiming as victories things like converting large numbers of Iraqis, especially youths, to its ideology, and garnering a lot of media attention for the cause of jihadism. It also seemed like an effort redefine success to an absolute baseline: surviving—”remaining”. On this reading—which seemed in evidence in al-Zawi’s conciliatory references to other insurgents—the speech sounded like desperation.

As we now know the Islamic State was not nearly as badly beaten as its enemies believed and those things in the media and conversion realms that it valued were indeed important in riding out a calamity and finding an effective counter to a strategy we had imagined was a settled achievement rather than a process to be maintained.

The Islamic State’s rigidness with the tribes and insurgents it is seeking to co-opt has always been somewhat overstated, so the speech’s apparent “softness” in outreach terms is not that surprising. And the speech also contained a laying out of the Islamic State’s non-negotiable core ideology, which has not changed to this day. It was this combination—of unyielding ideology and adaptability to the Sunni community it sought to rule—that was the key to the Islamic State’s revival, which began as early as 2009 and was well-advanced by 2011.

For the Islamic State, the fact that this speech was made at its nadir and foreshadowed reality is proof-positive both that al-Zawi was sound in his belief and leadership, and that the Islamic State will rebound from times of trouble as long as it sticks with its methodology and ideology.

As the Islamic State put it, when it reproduced the closing section of this speech in its twelfth edition of Dabiq on 18 November 2015—an issue best-remembered for taking “credit” for the Paris attacks five days earlier—this speech was made in a moment when “the believers were shaken severely” and it “appeared … that the Islamic State would be a legend of the past”. But it turned out just to be a trial for the believers, says the Islamic State; a test to purify the herd, and expose those who did not really believe, before victory was granted in the form of a caliphate. (The Islamic State has already said the same thing about the impending collapse of that caliphate.) Al-Zawi’s “words touched the depths of the hearts, reminding them of Allah’s promise to His believers and keeping them firm for years to come,” Dabiq said.

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All praise be to Allah, we thank him we seek his guidance and forgiveness, we seek His refuge from our evils and bad deeds. Whosoever Allah guides is never led astray, and whoever is led astray by Allah, there is who could guide him. I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but Allah, alone; He has no partner and Muhammad is His slave and messenger.

To proceed: Allahu Akbar [god is greatest], Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allah if the Great greatest, a lot of praise be to Allah, He fulfilled His promise, honoured His soldiers and defeated the parties with His Might. Allah is greater than every tyrant, arrogant, and haughty person. Allah is greater than the enemies, their cunning, cowardice, and conspiracies.

Four years passed on this blessed jihad by Allah’s will. They were good, blessed, graceful, delighting and pride-boasting years. These years need us to stop, short stances thinking of our situation and expressing what we expect with Allah’s guidance: The gains and losses.

The gains are for the Sunnis of Iraq, the mujahideen, and Muslims in general. The losses are for the international kufr [disbelievers] with its three heads: The cross, the billhook, and the star [of David]

First: What did the Sunni people gain from four years of jihad?

A clear objective; Allah created heavens, earth, and people for him:

“And I [Allah] created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)” [51:56].

So, what are the gains on the tawhid [monotheism] side, manners and worship in general?

  1. Tawhid: is the head of all worships for which Allah sent His prophets, revealed His books and created Heaven and Hell for this purpose. So all praise be to Allah, in the beginning and in the end for easing things for us and the people of Iraq to be, today, the greatest people on earth to preserve tawhid. There are no calls for the polytheistic Sufism, no graves are visited, no festivals of bid’a [innovation outside the religion] are held for it; no candles are lit nor pilgrimages to idol-worship performed. The people of Iraq destroyed with their own hands those tombs so that Allah alone is worshipped and the role of the sharia of the faith’s origin came back—Allah’s law, instead of a hybrid beast, by which I mean the use of man-made, Western, infidel laws [alongside the shari’a in Arab states, including Saddam Husayn’s Iraq].
  2. Manners and general ethics: The jihad brought to the land of two rivers [Mesopotamia], the memory of the first conquerors Khalid and Muthanna, and the gentle breeze of the Rashidun [Rightly-Guided] Caliphate. So, search the land to see how many depravity and mischief shops are left, how many barefaced [women] are left to lure the youth, to tempt the elders, and to be snatched by the wolves and become like goods in slave markets. Dig to see if your ears can hear a dancing party that angers Allah from the above seven heavens, all praise be to Allah, nothing from all that.
  3. Worship and treatment among people: We praise Allah that people returned back to Him in the way of no return by Allah’s will. Yesterday, our mosques were complaining about the paltry numbers for prayers, and we only used to see the elderly people in them. But today their visitors include many youth who are the hope of tomorrow. And we saw the shepherd in the desert’s heart separates from his sheep zakat money [wealth tax] and gives it to mujahideen to dispense it in its legitimate places [such as among the poor], that shows religiousness from his part with love exactly as the merchandisers and farmers do. Before and after all this it is needless to say that ahl al-sunna waljama’a [the people of orthodoxy and community, i.e. Sunnis] in Iraq are the people of jihad and endurance. Jihad is the peak of worship in Islam. Every home betrothed a martyr to be intercessor for them on the Day of Judgment, or waited for an absent [family member] in the darkness of enemy jails, or treated the wounds of those injured by the cruelty of the infidel occupier. O our people Mesopotamia, a beggarly poor slave entering janna [paradise, heaven] is better and more loved by Allah than a tyrannical, rich, arrogant king entering Hell. The most important thing is to where we are going, to Heaven or Hell. And we promised you to shed our chaste blood before your blood, and present our necks [to be slaughtered] before yours, and push our sons before yours.

“Perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good” [4:19].

Sometimes the bodies may heal by sickness, and as mentioned in al-Bukhari: “You are the best umma [Muslim community or nation] that has been raised up for mankind,” he said. “The best people, to people those you come to them with the chains in their necks till they embrace Islam.” And even though we didn’t promise you with manna and quails, but Allah’s best is coming by Allah’s will.

Second: What did the mujahideen gain in four years?

The mujahideen’s status advanced noticeably in aqeedah [creed and ideology], organizationally, militarily, and politically.

  1. On the aqeedah side: In a short period of time, a large number of youth were trained on the forgotten aqeedah of al wala wal-bara [loyalty to Islam and Muslims, and dissociation from disbelievers and their ideas and practices]. While we read in the books of Sirah [biographies of Prophet Muhammad], including history, and get surprised when we see Ibn al-Jarrah killing his father and Abdullah waiting for a permission from his Prophet to kill his father, Ubay ibn Salul [the original leader of the munafiq (hypocrites)]. Today we see before our own eyes, and hear with our own ears, wonder of wonders from the sons of Mesopotamia, despite dubieties and desires. There is a father who killed his traitor son by his own hands, and this is a tribe which dismissed its son who works as a policeman for [the Nuri] al-Maliki government. And an astonishing and unusual thing happened with a woman deserting her husband because he became an apostate by supporting al-Maliki’s state and party. What is striking with wonder in all of this, and which didn’t come to Bush’s mind and to those who planned his empty war, is that the sons of Mesopotamia are competing not to present flowers and submission, but for martyrdom for the sake of Allah. Hundreds are awaiting death to live in Allah’s Heaven Why not, and they are the people of generosity and bravery which are the same. Even Iraqi women were pleading for martyrdom operations, but we forbade them from what men can do unless it is in special circumstances where men are unable to. Oh, what anguish, for those whom were less brave than women.
  2. On the organizational side: It advanced greatly, qualitatively and quantitatively. The land which the mujahideen rule by Allah’s shari’a is increasing, the unity is increasing between the mujahideen and the umma, which had started to get back to its normal state as a jihadi nation, and if you want examples look at al-Azamiya, al-Fadl, Haifa, al- Muqdadiya, Balad Ruz, Mosul, Tal Afar, and many others.
  3. On the military side: One of devils [enemies] spoke the truth when he said: “If Afghanistan is the terror school, Iraq is the terror university.” And here we announce the graduation of the largest class in the history of Iraq of jihad officers for the sake of Allah with the highest international degree. The study continues without stop, summer and winter, day and night, so all praise be to Allah for the success and accommodation. On the ammunition side, tell about it without hesitation, for in the electronics field, making explosives and IEDs, the testimonials of the enemy are enough. For the world saw, “The Hunters of Minesweepers“. About the warplanes, which were a worshipped idol and lethal weapon with which they terrorized the world, and used to end the atheist Ba’ath state, yes, the mujahideen shot down numbers of spying crafts, and choppers, and we give glad tidings, cheering up the chests of the umma and angering its enemies And in Equipment field, we are glad to announce to the mujahideen in general on this earth, and especially the people of jihad in Mesopotamia, that the “Jerusalem-1” missile has entered the production and manufacturing phase, and it is of high quality in regard to its length, weight, range, and accuracy, able to compete with what world countries have manufactured for the same military objectives. For Allah Almighty says: “And those who strive for Us—We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good” [29:69].
  4. On the political side: Four years ago, no one mentioned the mujahideen, except in negative terms. Now, the world awaits their surprises, statements, and the speeches of their leaders[1]—all this because of the pride of jihad, not by the ladder of peaceful solutions or from the halls of parliaments or the corners of Arab leaders’ meetings. Truly, any people who abandon jihad will be humiliated and, using the concept of opposites, any people who hold fast to jihad will be glorious. And really today, if the mujahideen talk, the whole world hears, and if they threaten they make them terrified, and if they enter into pacts they are obeyed. Such is the logic of politics nowadays, for the world respects only those who tread heavily.

Third: What did the Muslim world gain from four years of jihad in Mesopotamia?

  • Material and morale gains: If our war was only for morale, it is enough for us to gain the seclusion of the claimed American giant under the mujahideen strikes, day and night. The prestige of the Marines and American technology has fallen from the hearts of all the people in the world, and the mask of the so-called Western Civilization collapsed, and the animosity in the hearts of the sons of umma towards the malicious international system, including all of its organizations had been fixed and on the top of it the so-called United Nations Council on aggression and injustice. All of this was possible, after Allah’s grace, because of the mujahideen.
  • On the material side: The Iraqi jihad brought back the vitality to some jihadi areas that languished after being intense, and prepared for the invasion of the Jewish state and return of Jerusalem [to Muslim control]. I can see the Iraqi battalions going out from here to support the Mahdi, who is holding on to the Ka’aba The vitality came back; the numbers of the mujahideen doubled many times, reaching thousands despite being just a few after the fall of the infidel Ba’ath state.[2]

These are some of the fruits of the last four years of jihad, so what are the thorns that the occupation and its apostate supporters have harvested?

First, four years of slaps and humiliation from here and there drained them of honour, until this era’s idol and today’s Hubal [America] was mired under the leadership of the obeyed idiot Bush.

Second, exhausting the American budget is an advance against social security, health, and education. Even the collusion of the Gulf governments was unable to fill America’s needs.

Third, the fall of Bush government’s staff into the dustbin of history followed with Allah’s curses and the questions of the misled people. We may see them in the near future at trial, in the dock to be judged for their crimes, people like Rumsfeld, George Tenet, John Bolton, and Richard Perle, while little Bush stayed alone facing death.

Fourth, the collapse of U.S. army’s spirit and the increase of suicide attempts and desertion efforts among military servicemen, the physiological diseases, psychological disorders, i.e. Parkinson’s disease after two-thirds participated in the war. This portends a total collapse in the American military organization, and it is expected that American strategy will change from a volunteer force to mandatory enlisting to substitute for the abnormal death rates, after they realized that those who come to Iraq will be considered missing, and whoever gets out is considered a new born [got second chance], as they say.

Fifth, the American people lost trust in their historical leadership organizations in the White House and intelligence services, which always lied to them, about the reasons of their wars under Jewish guidance especially the war on Iraq.

Sixth, the failure of the American-Jewish project in the region and suppressing their octopus’s arms from invading and totally controlling the region, specifically its oil resources.[4]

Seventh, the exposure of the so-called world peace deceit, and debunking international capitalism.

These are the bold lines in the gains and losses in the four years of jihad. All this is because of two things, after Allah’s grace and help. First, taking jihad as the first solution to get infidels and apostates out of Muslims lands. Second, holding fast, all together to the rope of Allah and jama’a [the Muslim congregation or community].

The reasons to congregate are three:

The first reason: Submitting to the clear religious command in the Qur’an and sunna. Allah commanded al-jama’a and coalition, and forbade segregation and dispute.

Allah said: “And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (i.e. this Qur’an), and be not divided among yourselves” [3:103].

And said: “Verily, those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you have no concern in them in the least” [6:159].

And said: “And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path? [6:153].

And said: “And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength departs” [8:46].

The seal of the prophets [Muhammad] said: “Stay with the jama’a, the wolf eats up a solitary sheep that stays far from the flock”. And said: “Stay with al-jama’a and stay away from segregation. Satan is with one [alone] and from two he is away. He who wants Heaven should stay with al-jama’a”. And said, “Allah’s hand is over al-jama’a”.

Ibn Taymiyya said: “Segregation and dispute creates evil, corruption, and the negation of many shari’a rulings—the great things that are known but to wise and knowledgeable people”.

In Sahih Muslim’s authentic hadith books, it was narrated: “When the prophet broke his fast in the day of Hudaybiya and asked people to do the same, and was then told that some people continued their fasting, he said: ‘Those are the disobeyers, those are the disobeyers’.” So, he denied them their fasting, even though they were doing worship. However, it [defiance] harms the public interest and weakens jihad. So, which is more harming? Fasting or abandoning coalition? “The harsh saying may heal / What the soft saying can’t”.

The truth of the worship is that it’s a group mission There is no worship from worshipper in its total meaning except in jama’a. The first generation [of Muslims, the Prophet’s companions,] realized this fact and that it is a part of the nature of this religion. For jama’a was deep-rooted in their selves to the degree that if they reached a valley they would stick together; if I gave them a sheet it would cover them all. Moreover, the blessing of jama’a exceeded that of food, as it came in the hadith of al-Hassan: “The most loved food to Allah is the one that has many hands on it”. Moreover, the Messenger of Allah emphasized the importance of jama’a. He said: “Everything that becomes many [in numbers] is more loved by Allah”.

The second reason: The change [to correct Islamic life] duties cannot be carried out without jama’a. The compulsory [wajib] duty cannot be done without al-jama’a.

Allah Almighty said: “Co-operate with each other in al­-birr [righteousness] and al-taqwa [piety]; but do not help one another in sin and transgression.” [5:2]

Ibn al-Qayyim said: “Everyone helps his fellow on that [worship] with words and acts, because a worshipper cannot do alone and cannot know it [the religion] himself”. Because of that jama’a is the first word in the power dictionary to achieve preparation and victory: “The spears cannot be broken while together, but can break one by one”.

The third reason: al-jama’a is the practical embodiment of al-wala wal-bara in Islam. The believers’ linkage in a cohesive group, coming from one bow, after they were joined by tawhid, is what embodies this belief in real life.

Allah said: “And those who believed and emigrated and strove hard[3] for the sake of Allah, as well as those who gave asylum and aid [to the holy warriors]—these are the true believers” [8:74].

Because of that al-wala [loyalty to Islam and Muslims] is the most important to repel, as it is considered the practical answer to partisanship that forms Jahiliyya[5] loyalty.

“And those who disbelieve are allies of one another, [and] if you [Muslims of the world] do not do so [i.e. become one community under a caliph], there will be fitna [strife] and oppression on the earth, and a great mischief and corruption [namely the re-emergence of polytheism]” [8:73].

For that our Lord said: “And fight against the mushrikeen[6] collectively, as they fight against you collectively” [9:36].

Everyone should know that our goal is clear: To establish Allah’s rule [the shari’a]. And the way to that is by jihad in its broad meaning and this cannot be achieved without jama’a, as we explained.

Accordingly, I send calls:

The first call is to all Muslims on earth:

Allah’s Messenger said: “Anyone who disappoints a Muslim in a situation where his honour is derogated and his sanctity is violated, Allah will fail him when he loves to be patronized. And anyone who patronizes a Muslim in a situation where his honour is derogated and his sanctity is violated, Allah will patronize him in a situation where he loves to be patronized”

Muslim is the Muslim’s brother gathered by the believers’ brotherhood. “The believers are nothing else than brothers [in Islam]” [49:10].

Even if homelands were many and lands were separated, the Muslims are equal in blood and served by the lowest in rank And they are united against their enemy.

The second call is to the Sunnis of Iraq:

Know that America—this era’s idol—and its allies knew your power and your great might, so they wanted to take you to their side to leave your mujahideen brothers alone or at least to neutralize you. Without the mujahideen, the grandchildren of Ibn Alqami[7] would afflict you with dreadful torment and what is happening in their jails is not far from you.

The third call is to the tribal elders [shaykhs] specifically:

Know—may Allah ameliorate me and you—that everyone of you is a shepherd and he is responsible for his people. So every one of you should look into himself and determine what type of people you are, for, “Some people made a key for good and a lock for evil, and some people are a lock for good and a key for evil. Blessed is the person whom Allah has made a key for good, and woe to the person whom God has made a key for evil” [hadith]. And stand the stance of the sublime companion, Urwa ibn Masud al-Thaqafi. When the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) died, his tribe, Thaqif, decided to apostatize, Urwa ibn Masud al-Thaqafi, and he said, “O Thaqif, you were the last people to become Muslims, don’t be the first to apostatize,” and they desisted, so he was emir of good for them. “Be a man who, when people remember, they would say, ‘Here was his path’.”

And know my brothers that breaking the treaty between us is a great sin. Allah said: “And those who break the Covenant of Allah, after its ratification, and sever that which Allah has commanded to be joined, and work mischief in the land, on them is the curse [a denial of Allah’s mercy], and for them is the worst home [Hell]” [13:25].

So brothers, don’t follow those occupiers and their criminals tails. If you died holding a stump [away from people] it is better for you than following one of them. Don’t let the eagerness for a livelihood and to harvest fruits push you to disobey Allah. What is from Allah can be achieved only by obeying Him. What your chew on, it must be chewed. Woe to you! Eat it with pride and don’t eat it with humiliation. And I say to all of you, and all Muslims, what my master Abu Bakr al-Siddiq—may Allah be pleased with him—said: “Obey me, as long as I am obeying Allah; if I disobeyed Him don’t obey me”.

The fourth call is to everyone who supported the occupation and its helpers from our sons and our tribes:

Know that your Prophet said: “There is still a group of my people who fight for Allah’s command, defeating their enemy; they are not being harmed by those who oppose them, till the Hour [Day of Judgment] comes on them”. Do you know, O servants of Allah, who is in the worst position of people? The one who is in the worst position of people is the one who sold his hereafter for the interest of someone else’s life in this world, so don’t let your enemy prevail over your religion, by finding an excuse for every sin, and hunting a fatwa [religious ruling] for every disobedience: halal [permissible] is clear, and haram [forbidden] is clear. “If we patch up our life by tearing apart our religion, neither religion remains nor the life patches. Joy for a servant who chooses Allah, and scarifies his life for the hereafter”.

The chance is still in front you, O you who rebel against Allah’s law, against His worshippers and Awliya [Allah’s allies or servants], the mujahideen, who defend your honour, your land, your money, and before all that your religion. We are not the ones who violated the honour of your mothers, sisters, and daughters in Abu Ghraib and showed it on TV voluntarily to humiliate you. We are not the ones who raped the honourable pure sister Abeer al-Janabi and burned her corpse, and we are not the ones who raped the sister Sabrine (al-Janabi) in broad daylight. Those who did that are the law-enforcers and the occupiers, those who you are standing with. On the contrary, a few days after that we arrested thirty-nine apostates from those [law-enforcers] and executed them, revenging your honour and pureness, and launched a Ghazwa [battle or incursion] to avenge our honour, too, which continues until today and until Allah judges them in His fair judgment.

I remind you of what the poet said: “Every enmity might turn into love, except the enmity of one who hates you because of religion”. So turn to Allah in repentance. Allah said: “Verily, Allah will help those who support Him [and his cause]” [22:40]. But you are impatient, as the Messenger said.

The fifth call is to the mujahideen in general in Mesopotamia:

I remind you what Allah said: “And keep yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord, morning and afternoon, seeking His Face; and let not your eyes overlook them” [18:28].

If you will leave something for the sake of Allah, Allah will give you something better. And know that our Prophet said in Sunan al-Tirmidhi: “Do you want me to tell you what degree is better than the degree of fasting and prayer? They said: ‘Yes,’ the Messenger of Allah said: ‘Put down all matters of difference [between you]; failing to do so is like a blade shaving your religion. Don’t hate each other, nor turn your back to each other’.”

And Allah guided us to the reason of our weakness saying: “And do not dispute [between Muslims], lest you lose courage and your strength departs” [8:46].

Our Prophet forbade us from pushing animals to fight with each other—as it was mentioned in [the books of] al-Tirmizi and Abu Dawud. Isn’t pushing humankind to fight each other more forbidden, and pushing [discord] between Muslims even more [forbidden], and between the mujahideen even more [forbidden than that]?

And I remind you with the saying of my master, Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan (may Allah be pleased with him). It was said that Hercules had sent him an offer of help after he heard his discord with Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him). Muawiya sent him back words that should be written in gold: “O you dog, if you move one span you will find me a soldier under Ali’s banner”.

So stay in jama’a, for what you hate in jama’a and obedience is better than what you love in segregation, as Ibn Masud (may Allah be pleased with him) said.

O our brothers, in Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna and Jaysh al-Mujahideen, the amiableness between us is deep belief and devotion related to what is bigger and stronger and more robust than can be attained by harm. And O my sons in Jaysh al-Islami fil-Iraq [The Islamic Army in Iraq], know that my blood is [to be laid down] before yours and my honour is [to be sacrificed] before yours, and by Allah you will not hear from us but good, and will not see from us but good, so calm yourselves and be delighted, because what is between us is a stronger bond than what some of [your commanders] think, my Allah forgive them.[8]

And O soldiers of Kataib Thawrat al-Ishreen [The 1920s Revolution Brigade], yes, Satan insinuated between us, the Satan of the “Islamic” Party and its evils, but the wise people in your battalion surrounded the situation and sat with their brothers from Islamic State to remove the tumult and seed goodwill, and we hold their hands, by Allah’s will. By Allah, we believe in the sanctity of your blood and every Muslim as long as he does not commit clear kufr [disbelief] or shed impermissible blood, so observe your duty to Allah and don’t forget the noble goal of making Allah’s word the highest—not patriotism nor execrable [pan-Arab] nationalism, for it is only one soul you are responsible for on the Day of Judgment.

So O servants of Allah everywhere, know and teach that we are tied in blood to our Prophet’s guidance, for in his Farewell khutba Allah’s Messenger said: “Verily your blood, your property and your honour are as sacred unto you as sacred is this day of yours, in this city of yours, in this month of yours”. And (peace be upon him) said: “All things of a Muslim for another Muslim are unassailable and inviolable, his blood, his property, and his honour”. Abdullah Ibn Masud (may Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying: “The first [thing] that will be decided among people on the Day of Judgment will pertain to bloodshed”. Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), after he looked at the Ka’aba said: “How great you are, how sacred you are, but the believers’ blood is more sacred than you”. Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and his father said: “From the binds that a person cannot have exist from is shed sacred blood with no permissible reason”.

So we acquit ourselves before Allah and bear witness to you that we don’t shed the blood of a sacred Muslim on purpose—as long as he prayed our prayer, faced our qibla and ate our zabiha [animals slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law]. By Allah, if I knew something different than that, I will set to the law humble to Allah before the weakest Muslim in Mesopotamia until he gets his right even if it was from my blood. By Allah, we did not abandon the life of this world to enter Hell, because of a leadership where we don’t know what Allah will do with us in it tomorrow. So how about the mujahideen blood and the good people who are preceded in jihad, indeed it is dearer to us. Ibn Jurmuz asked permission to see Ali, as mentioned in [the book of] Musnad Ahmad. Ali said: “Tell the killer of Ibn Safiya he will go to Hell, I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: Every prophet has a disciple, and my disciple is al-Zubayr”. And I don’t exculpate my brothers from the State soldiers from something I don’t know, but I expect them to be the most careful people in this matter; we tested and we knew them, and I am myself only a soldier amongst them. And they are not better than Khalid [ibn al-Waleed] when he killed people who couldn’t express their Islam well, so our Prophet said: “Oh Allah I acquit from what Khalid did”. However, our Prophet did not dismiss or libel him. So fear Allah with those who moved to defend Allah’s religion We consider them to be so and Allah is their Reckoner.

My final call is to my sons in the Islamic State:

O mujahideen, be aware not to stop a river you ran with your blood, or demolish a palace you have built with your martyrdom. Be aware not to count those who oppose you [in opinion] as your opponent, or those who agreed with you as your friends, for it might be the [other way around]. So be like the sea, it is not disturbed by pails [buckets], and forgive generously, for Allah gives His servant more glory for his forgiveness.

Al-Alaa Ibn al-Hadrami (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

[Poetry]

If they showed you evil, forgive generously,

And if they didn’t tell you about something, don’t ask,

For that which will harm you is what you want to hear,

And for what they said behind your back, as if it did not happen.

And [the Messenger] (peace be upon him) said: “If someone cursed and mocked you about something that is not true, don’t mock him back, and be good to the one who did badly to you”. And that hadith of al-Mursal, quoted in al-Bayhaqi‘s book, says: “Visit who does not visit you and give gifts to the one who doesn’t give you a gift”. And the perfect treatment is to reconcile with the one who has cut ties with you, give who denies you, and pardon the one who has been unjust to you. So, O my brothers, accustom yourselves to do good if people do well and not to do wrong if they do evil. “So don’t write something unless you will be happy when you see it on the Day of Judgment”.

O ummat al-Islam [Islamic nation or community],

When we declared the Islamic State and declared it as a state of jihad and hijra[9], amd we were not lying to Allah or the people, nor were we talking about dreams. However, by the grace of Allah, we are the most capable of understanding the wisdom of this jihad. This understanding originates from the blood of the martyrs—the muhajirun [lit. “emigrants”; foreign fighters] and the ansar [lit. “partisans” or “supporters”; local fighters]—after we saw their manners and ideologies. When we declared the Islamic State, we were not trying to pick the fruit after ripeness. However, the fruit fell freely and we picked it—before it fell in the mud—with safe, clean hands. So what had happened after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Islamic nations scattered away from the Communist centre? They became an easy prey for Communism and secularism. And what happened after the mujahideen—emigrants and supporters—reached the capital of Serbia [i.e. Republika Srpska] in the Bosnia war? Simply, it is “Dayton Agreement” for alleged peace.

So, what happened after the fruit fell in Afghanistan, and the enemy was defeated in the days of factions? There were killings, ruination, and devastation, which is still a stigma of disgrace for everyone who took part in it. O ummat al-Islam, we are determined not to repeat this tragedy and not to lose the fruit again, for the believer is not to be stung from the same hole twice.

The Islamic State is baqiya [remaining or persistent]. Baqiya because it was built from the limbs of the martyrs and irrigated from their blood, and with it the doors of janna [paradise] were opened. Baqiya, because the success granted by Allah upon this jihad is more obvious than the sun in the sky. Baqiya, because it has not been contaminated with haram [illegal] income, nor distorted manhaj [methodology]. Baqiya, by the truthfulness of its leaders, who sacrificed their blood, and the truthfulness of its soldiers who built it with their arms. We consider them such and Allah is their judge. Baqiya, because it is the unity of the mujahideen and the refuge of the poor and the oppressed. Baqiya, because Islam began to rise and rise, and the cloud began to fade, and disbelief is being exposed and defeated. Baqiya, because it is the call of the oppressed, the tear of the bereaved, the cry of the captives [prisoners], and the hope of the orphans. Baqiya, because disbelief in all its forms and sects gathered against it, and because all deviant thinkers and bid’a-makers, cowards and traitors began to slander and defame it; because of this we became certain of the sincerity of the aim and the validity of the path. Baqiya, because we are sure Allah will not disappoint the oppressed muwahideen [monotheists] and will not let the oppressors rejoice over the misfortune [that has come] upon us.

Baqiya, because Allah Almighty promised in His Qur’an by saying: “Allah has promised those among you who believe, and do righteous deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession [to the present rulers] upon the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practice their religion, which He has chosen for them. And He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security” [24:55]

“And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not” [12.21].

Your brother,

Abu Umar al-Qurayshi al-Husayni al-Baghdadi

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

[1] Al-Zawi claims that the Islamic State’s achievements put jihad on the map, making its utterances worldwide media events. This is clearly true to an extent. The Islamic State’s orchestration of mayhem in Iraq under al-Qaeda’s banner helped make Usama bin Ladin’s release of a statement in October 2004 into an “October Surprise,” for example. But al-Zawi’s speeches actually received remarkably little attention outside of specialist circles in the whole time he was giving them. Nibras Kazimi’s effort to bring the speeches to popular attention, let alone understanding, such as that the group still being called “al-Qaeda” didn’t regard itself as such and was now claiming to be a state, was a lonely task.

[2] In the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Husayn, the Islamic State’s predecessor organization was a small, foreign-led organization amid a wider insurgency dominated by elements of the fallen regime. The Islamic State itself, however, has made it quite clear in the time since this speech that while its numbers relative to the Ba’athi-Islamist insurgents were initially small, it was not starting from scratch: the Islamic State’s leaders were in Iraq before the invasion and were able to draw on a significant jihadist infrastructure that had existed in Saddam Iraq. The reasons for the jihadi foothold in Iraq pre-2003 are many. The  re-alignment of the Ba’athist dictatorship’s foreign policy toward Islamism and the extensive internal changes that Islamized the government and restructure the society to empower clerics during the “Faith Campaign” of the 1990s played their role in setting the groundwork for the Islamic State. The collapse in the capacity of the Saddam regime to deal with the non-governmental Salafi Trend also did its part, as did Saddam’s viewing that independent religious trend as a complement to the one he was building, to be checked only when its members went too far and engaged in actions against the state. This left the Salafis free to gain significant purchase inside the security architecture, which also helped to shield their underground networks, since many of those charged with infiltrating and monitoring such networks became sympathizers. The devastation of the Saddam-plus-sanctions system that left religious solace—and determined religious organizations—as one of the few things to hang on to in Iraq was also undoubtedly a factor. Something like the Islamic State was building in Iraq during the Saddam years and would have been an important competitor for power once the Saddam regime collapsed, no matter what was done.

[3] The literal translation of jihad is “striving”.

[4] Abu Umar’s contention that the U.S. decision to end the Gulf War in the way she did in 2003 was a decision driven by Jews and oil barons is interesting for the fit it makes with many of the wars critics, then and now. To say mistakes were made in the conception of the Iraq invasion and its aftermath is hardly to break ground, especially at this remove, and there are reasoned ways to do it. It is simply notable how often this was the route not taken by the opponents of President Bush and the second part of the Iraq war. The notion that the United States had invaded Iraq under instruction or influence from the Jews (sometimes phrased as the Jewish lobby, Israel, the Israeli lobby, or a “cabal” of neoconservatives) became quite a staple of the debate over Iraq well beyond the Middle East. Critics of the invasion on the Western far-Left and far- or paleoconservative-Right held to this view, as did more mainstream figures on the “realist” Right. And the idea of the Iraq war as an oil-grab for Halliburton, schemed at by Vice President Richard Cheney, was believed well-beyond the fringes, particularly after Michael Moore’s mendacious film Fahrenheit 9/11 was endorsed by the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. To remember the atmosphere during the 2004 election, incidentally, is to be reminded that conspiracy theories do not belong only to one side of the American political quadrant, nor does “fake news” and an indifference to demonstrable facts; encouraging in its way, given that such forces are now lecturing (earnestly and defensibly) on the need for honesty in media.

[5] Jahiliyya refers to the period before Islam, when polytheistic religions dominated the Arabian Peninsula. The most usual translation is “ignorance”. Jahiliyya has also become an ideological concept in the hands of Sayyid Qutb, whose proposal for an Islamist revolution was based partly on the idea that most Muslims had gotten so far away from “true” Islam that the Muslim world was living in another era of Jahiliyya. This was the gateway to excommunicating the rulers of Muslim-majority states, licensing their murder, and in time expanding this use of takfir to the supporters of these governments and other opponents of the Islamists.

[6] Mushrikeen are those who commit shirk, idolatry or polytheism—the setting up of equivalents in worship to god. For jihadists, this often means democracy and other systems that don’t rule by shari’a because man-made laws have been substituted into areas that properly belong to god.

[7] Ibn Alqami was the vizier to Mutassim Billah, the final Abbasid caliph who was murdered as the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258. Alqami was accused of opening the gates to Hulagu. In 2003, just after the invasion of Iraq began, Saddam Husayn compared it to the Mongol invasion of Iraq, and sent out a public letter that claimed that “more than one Alqami” would help “the criminal Bush” enter Baghdad. Saddam was referring to the Shi’a, and the Alqami reference would become a recurring one in the sectarian propaganda of the Islamist insurgency that followed the fall of the regime. The use of the Shi’a as a foil was a deeply-held part of the strategic worldview of the Islamic State movement, which sought from the beginning to incite the Shi’a majority in Iraq by assassinating its leadership and bombing its members into an overreaction against Iraq’s Sunnis, who would then put themselves under the Islamic State’s leadership for protection.

[8] The break of the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI) with the then-Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) was one of the most important splinters in the insurgency early in the Surge-and-Awakening period. On 5 April 2007, IAI issued a communique, pointedly directed to “al-Qaeda”—grouping Usama bin Ladin and ISI under one banner, despite the latter’s ostensible split with its parent five months before. IAI demanded that Bin Ladin get a grip of his wayward Iraqi branch, which was sowing division among the jihadists in Iraq. (Interestingly, this was just a day after Hamid bin Abdallah al-Ali or Abu Salim—since sanctioned as a facilitator and financier of al-Qaeda terrorism—had issued a fatwa doubtful of the legitimacy of giving bay’a  to Abu Umar al-Baghdadi.)

[9] The original hijra (migration) was movement of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622. The Islamic State uses the word hijra to make its demands for Muslims to immigrate to its statelet a religious obligation with historic precedent.

6 thoughts on “How the Islamic State’s Caliph Responded to Defeat Last Time

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