When the Islamic State’s Founder Clashed with an Al-Qaeda Cleric

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 12, 2017

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [left] and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi [right]

Al-Qaeda’s expulsion of the Islamic State (IS) from its ranks three years ago did not come from nowhere. IS had always been problematic and the dispute in the months leading up to the decisive break was far from the first time that Al-Qaeda “central” had clashed with the Iraq-based group.

IS’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh, much better known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had been in Iraq for a year before the invasion and put together his insurgent infrastructure after the fall of Saddam Husayn in April 2003. On 17 October 2004, Zarqawi gave his pledge of allegiance (bay’a) to Usama bin Ladin, and Bin Ladin accepted this oath on 27 December 2004.

Zarqawi’s mentor, Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), had been in a Jordanian prison as Zarqawi made his name fighting the Americans in Iraq. But Al-Barqawi had become uneasy with the tactics of his old student, particularly the routine use of suicide bombers and the focus on sectarian atrocities against Shi’is. Al-Barqawi initially put these doubts down in writing in prison in July 2004, but it was in July 2005 that Al-Barqawi’s criticisms came to wide attention, undoubtedly as part of a scheme that the Jordanian intelligence services thought would redound greatly to their benefit. Al-Barqawi was allowed to appear on Al-Jazeera on 5 July 2005, where he gave voice to the opinions he had expressed in print a year earlier.

Near simultaneously, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Ladin’s deputy, wrote a lengthy letter to Zarqawi, dated 9 July 2005, which admonished the young upstart that all the praise he was receiving from Arab radicals on the internet forums was worthless next to the damage his recklessness and brutality was doing to the broader jihadi cause. (It seems Zarqawi received the letter before the end of July, and the United States released Al-Zawahiri’s letter to the public for strategic messaging purposes on 11 October 2005.)

[Shortly after this, as we known know, Al-Qaeda’s general manager Jamal al-Misrati, or “Atiya”, wrote to Zarqawi in a letter dated 12 December 2005—made public in late September 2006—warning that Zarqawi could take the Iraqi jihad down the destructive path of Algeria with his operations like the Amman hotel bombings.]

Zarqawi responded to Al-Barqawi’s critique with an open letter, released on Al-Hesbah message board, on 12 July 2005. Zarqawi’s response was translated and published on 15 April 2015 by a pro-IS blog; since this source has since been deactivated, the English translation is republished below.

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Praise be to God, whose Help glorifies Islam, irresistibly humiliates shirk [rejection of oneness, polytheism, idolatry], whose Command manages all affairs, whose Planning draws the kuffar [unbelievers] in little by little, whose Justice causes days of blessings and days of suffering to alternate, and whose Grace makes final victory belong to the pious. And peace and prayer be on the one that with his sword, God elevated Islam’s status.

Praise and Glory be to God, the Most High. He puts his servants through trials, days and nights, with all sorts of adversities and hardship in order to purge those that are true in faith and to deprive of blessing those that resist faith. God, the Most High said:

According to Saheeh Muslim, God the Most High said this to the Messenger of God:

“I have sent you [with the message] to try you and to test others through you.”

What we are witnessing now in the Land of the Two Rivers is just one form of trial. The crusaders invaded the land to sway people away from their religion and rip off their wealth, by force, in the biggest campaign against Islam in modern times.

With God’s blessing, we have chosen the path of jihad in His cause to defend His religion and establish the word of God, above all others. This stand has prompt people to slander us, to misrepresent our mission, and to drive Muslims away from us. But we continued on our mission as we were guided by this saying of the Prophet:

“They will not be harmed by those who oppose them or those who did not answer their call”

The fact that those who opposed us and disagreed with us were of corrupt ‘aqeedah caused us no distraction from our mission. And God has blessed His truthful mujahideen with a victory in the battle of Ahzab, the first Fallujah battle. God has disgraced and humiliated their enemies and made them (enemies) retreat in total defeat. But while the mujahideen were watching how the shadow of that victory turns around, an arrow aimed at their hearts came straight to spoil that victory.

However, this time, the arrow did not come from any of those whose ‘aqeedah is corrupt, but it came from a man who is considered to be a supporter of our path. I am referring to an article titled “Zarqawi help and advice – hopes and pains” [written in Jumada 1425 (July 2004)] by Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, may God preserve him. I will not forget how Shaykh Abu Anas, may God have mercy on him, started to cry when he saw sadness on my face as I was reading the article. Yes, I was saddened because the article misrepresented me and misrepresented the facts. Abu Anas said to me then: “Verily God will defend those who believe” (Qur’an 22:38)

I thought that the whole thing might have been a flop from which the Shaykh will recover. But Shaykh al Maqdisi, may God preserve him, affirmed his position in another article titled: “An Appraisal of the Fruits of Jihad” [dated July 2004] and then reaffirmed all that in his recent interview with Al-Jazeera Channel [watch or read]. During that interview, he made a point of saying that he was speaking freely and was not under undue pressure from anyone. At this point, I have concluded that what was supposed to have been sincere advice has gone beyond that and therefore has been misdirected and lost its legal bases. He appeared to have had ulterior motives, especially now that everyone can see the cross-worshippers military machine has crumbled under the intense pressure from mujahideen. Therefore, I felt compelled to clarify some issues and facts and correct some errors that were presented in both of Shaykh Maqdisi’s articles as well as his interview with Al-Jazeera.

I start by putting all my trust in God and realizing that success comes only from God.

Firstly: My response will focus on clarifying some facts about the path of our jihad in Iraq and any related matters.

I will begin by discussing what appeared in his (Shaykh Maqdisi) articles as a record of my relationship with him and things that we talked as these items do not serve anyone but the enemies of God.

Secondly: The Shaykh began his first article by indicating that he tried very hard to find a way to get the document or at least most of it to me before publishing it but he was not successful and therefore, he had to publish it. If that was true, what was then the reason for repeating his so-called advice during his interview with Al-Jazeera? If his primary concern has been to communicate an advice to me, well this goal has already been accomplished by publishing the article. I must not only ask why had the matter been repeated on Al-Jazeera Channel but I must also ask why now? Doing things of that nature now does not serve anyone but the cross worshippers and their apostate servants.

Thirdly: The Shaykh, alleged that I benefited from him, sought sanctuary in his Shaykhdom, and never said anything that contradicted his position. There is no doubt that the poor servant [i.e. Zarqawi] is indeed indebted to Shaykh Abu Muhammad, he was one of those whom I learned details of tawheed [monotheism] from, and my position with respect to many issues was similar to his.

However, he must have known that following him or being close to him was only because I believed that his views agreed with the Book [Qur’an] and Sunnah, and it was not blind following. If the matter was nothing more than blind following, we have blindly followed those who are far more knowledgeable and have higher status than him. The bases for our religion are the Book and the Sunnah. Therefore, we accept whatever is in full agreement with them [the Qur’an and the Sunnah] and reject whatever contradict with them.

So just as I benefited from Shaykh Maqdisi, may God reward him many times over, I have also benefited from other righteous scholars. This does not mean that I have to implement everything Maqdisi says, besides, he does not and should not have a monopoly on knowledge, and not everything he says is correct, especially when it comes to jihad and the current state of affairs of the umma [Muslim community] in view of the crusader’s campaign against Islam.

As I continue on the path of God and as I make decisions on matters of jihad, I do not take one step forward without consultation with reviewing the shari’a and certainly without consulting righteous, truthful, mujahideen scholars. God knows that I keep constant communication with some righteous scholars who are far more knowledgeable than Maqdisi to get their opinion on most of what I am faced with on daily bases. They (the righteous) scholars are behind bars and if it was not for their safety, I would have disclosed their names here.

Anyone who knows the poor servant and who is familiar with my relationship with the Shaykh (inside and outside prison must know that I disagreed with many of his positions, especially matters related to jihad and teamwork. When I was freed from prison and decided to do for active jihad, I did not consult Abu Muhammad. I believed that there is another way to effectively help the religion that is different from his.

It is sad and regrettable indeed that the article is written by Abu Muhammad whose way of inviting people to the path of God gravitates around total submission to God and to God belongs everything, but in his article he says things like: “My Shaykhdom … My shadow … They benefited from my name”. All I can say is God’s help is sought.

Have you come across a case in the Book, or the Sunnah, or the history of earlier generation of righteous people, in which a person becomes a slave to his mentor? Have you come across any case such as the one above in which a person is not supposed to disagree with his mentor and is not suppose to accept opinions from other scholars?

Fourthly: The Shaykh, may God preserve him, mentioned that I insisted that Shaykh Osama bin Laden, may God preserve him, teach the ideology of Shaykh Abu Muhammad in his training camps as a condition for working with him. This is totally false. I have never sat down with Shaykh Osama, may God preserve him, to discuss this particular subject. I would like to ask the Shaykh about his phrase “Manhaj Abu Muhammad” [Abu Muhammad’s Ideology/Methodology]. Is this a manhaj [methodology] that is unique to him and not one else has adopted before? Or is it the manhaj of righteous scholars of earlier generations that he chose to follow? If he answers yes to the first option, then we do not need his manhaj because our religion is one of following the straight path of God and His Messenger and not one of innovation. If he answers yes to the second option, we ought to ask him why is he crediting himself with this manhaj which has been preached and propagated by many of scholars of jihad and none of them claimed credit for it?

But what surprised me the most is how could the Shaykh allowed himself to make such statement without verifying it with me? Besides, why now?

This is a very sensitive time and I am now a soldier in the army of Shaykh Osama, may God preserve him, so what good would Shaykh Maqdisi’s allegations do and who is the real beneficiary?

Fifth: The Shaykh has mentioned that I was adopting his position regarding martyrdom operations but now I am expanding them in Iraq, contrary to an earlier position of disapproving them. The Shaykh did not accurately represent the stages and circumstances of my position. I disapproved of martyrdom operations when I was in Afghanistan. My position was based on opinion of respected scholars at that time under the specific circumstances that prevailed then. I had not yet met Maqdisi, at that time. Upon my return from Afghanistan, I met Maqdisi, and my position on martyrdom operations happened to agree with his. After we were released from prison, I went back to Afghanistan, and there I met Shaykh Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir [whose real name is Muhammad al-Saghir] and we discussed the matter of martyrdom. He considered it permissible, and I read an excellent paper written by him on the subject and I listened to some of his tapes as well. God has expanded my breast to accept his position on martyrdom operations. Not only did I see that they (martyrdom operations) are permitted but I was convinced that they are desirable. I proceeded then to arrange for Shaykh al-Muhajir to give a ten-day workshop in Herat Camp to explain the legality of these operation to the brothers there- this had a very positive impact on the brothers.

But the question is: why does Maqdisi object to changing my position while he himself has gone from prohibiting martyrdom to allowing it under certain conditions? Why didn’t he present the whole story including his own position which has also changed?

Sixth: The Shaykh has mentioned that I named the party of mujahideen working with me “The Party of Tawheed wal-Jihad”, same name as his website, “Mimbar at-Tawheed wal-Jihad”. Well the words “tawheed” and “jihad” are standard vocabulary in our shari’a. So, what is wrong with using them to name a particular group? Why would anyone claim a monopoly over these two words?

If I organize a group and name that group, “The Salafi Party of Preaching and Fighting” does that mean I need to operate under our brothers in Algeria?

Many of our scholars have given same names to books written by different authors and we have never heard anyone objecting to that. For example “az-Zuhd” was a title for books written by, Ibn Mubarak, Ibn Abu A’sem, and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal; “Fath al-Bari” was a title given to books written by Ibn Rajab, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, and others. The Shaykh will only have a point if we called our group “The Party of Tawheed wal-Jihad”, an off-shoot of Mimbar at-Tawheed wal-Jihad”, or if I used his name.

But the pressing question here is: what is it to gain by raising this matter over and over? Especially now that the “Party of Tawheed and Jihad” is a thing of the past. This group is now unit working under the leadership of the Central Al-Qaeda Organization.

Seventh: The Shaykh has shown his reservation about our decision to fight the rafida [derogatory term for Shi’is]. He further went on to say that the ordinary rafida is no different from an ordinary Sunni. As to fighting the rafida, we have indicated many times that we did not start any conflict with them, but it was them who started a campaign to liquidate all Sunnis, disperse them, confiscating their mosques, etc. Not to mention their alliance with the crusaders. Does he expect us to watch all this and do nothing?

As to equating the ordinary rafida with the ordinary Sunni, I swear by God that this totally unfair to the Sunni. Does the Shaykh really think a person who understands and practices tawheed is equal to a person who seeks help from Ali and Hussein instead of God? Don’t you know that their imams are thought to be infallible, know part of the unknown, and they manage events in the universe? Is that shirk or not?

They are no longer the ordinary, innocent citizens you think they are, but they have become soldiers serving the infidel kafir and spying on the mujahideen. How do you think [Ibrahim] al-Jafari got to be prime minister? It is also incorrect and inappropriate to use Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa, which was applicable to his time and conditions therein, and apply it to the rafida today without examining their current state of affairs. Furthermore, there are a number of righteous scholars, such as, Shaykh Hammod al-Uqla, Shaykh Sulayman al-Alwan, Shaykh Ali al-Khudair, Shaykh Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, and Shaykh al-Rashud, who pronounced the rafida, including their ordinary ones, kuffar.

Eighth: The Shaykh indicated that he does not support sending mujahideen from Muslim youths to Iraq as it is going to be “an inferno for them,” according to his statement.

I swear by God, this is a grave misfortune. Can anyone believe that such fatwa comes from Abu Muhammad? What inferno are you talking about? The real inferno awaits those who shy away from implementing the verdict of God and refuse to answer the call to jihad: “Go you forth (whether equipped) lightly or heavily, and strive and struggle, with your goods and your persons, in the cause of God. That is best for you if you but knew” (Qur’an 9:41)

The real inferno awaits those who ignore the consensus of this umma with regard to aiding and protecting the weak and ill-treated Muslims whose homes, dignity, and chastisement have been violated by the invading crusaders. God, the Most High, says: “But if they seek your aid in religion, it is your duty to help them” (Qur’an 8:72)

The real inferno awaits those who do nothing to free Muslim prisoners from Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other locations. The real inferno awaits those who betray our honoured sisters who are being raped day and night by the cross worshippers and the rafida.

Shaykh, didn’t you know that practicing this fatwa means abandoning jihad and surrendering Muslim lands to the cross worshippers? Didn’t you know that answering the call to jihad does not cause death to come quicker and does not delay sustenance? Death and sustenance have been determined by God before one’s birth, and nothing will change that.

Khalid bin Waleed, who has participated in over 100 expeditions, died on his bed. He was not going to die on the battlefield, no matter how hard he tried.

Therefore, I urge Muslims to ignore this fatwa in which the Shaykh believes that defending our religion, glory, and honour, is going to turn into an inferno that will ill burn all mujahideen. This fatwa contradicts the consensus of the umma. I urge Muslims to seek the scholars and leaders of mujahideen, such as: Osama bin Laden, who swore by God that if he knows of a way to get to Iraq to fight alongside of mujahideen there he would not have waited one minute, Shaykh Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is of the opinion that fighting the invading crusaders in Iraq is a duty of every Muslim, Shaykhs: Sulayman al-Alwan, Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, Abu al-Laith al-Libby, Abdullah al-Rashud, Yousuf al-Uyeyri, and Hamd al-Hamidi, all are of the opinion that jihad in Iraq is obligatory. Therefore, our source of knowledge must be the Book of God and the Sunnah. We will not accept anything that contradicts them.

O Abu Muhammad! I swear by God, if the entire umma told me that jihad in Iraq is going to throw the mujahideen into an inferno, I would not listen to them unless they bring forth an irrefutable evidence.

How could I take such fatwa, knowing that God says: “And why should not fight in the cause of God, and of those who being weak ill-treated and oppressed? Men, women and children, whose cry is ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town. Whose people are oppressors and raise for us from you one who will protect and raise for us from you one who will help!’” (Qur’an 4:75)

Isn’t this fatwa and its timing, especially now that only a blind or a hypocrite cannot see the American army’s defeat in Iraq, a way to save Bush and his mercenaries, whether we know it or not and whether we mean it or not?

I could not find an evidence to discard the Shaykh’s fatwa better than the Shaykh’s own words in an introduction he wrote for a book written by Shaykh Abu Qatada, may God preserve him. In this introduction, Shaykh Maqdisi wrote: “We should not come up with short-sighted fatwa that fail to take the intent of our shari’a and current events on Muslim land into consideration. Such fatwa would be an obstacle in the face of jihad and fighting the invading enemy.”

However, if you want to practice jihad that is totally free of any defects and if you decide not to sacrifice yourself for the cause of God unless your conditions are met, more power to you because in this case we are talking about one body and one soul, you that is. But I must caution you not to discourage others from jihad which is duty mandated by our shari’a. I will even go beyond that; I will caution you to discourage jihad even if those who are fighting the enemies of God are not following the way of the believers.

Finally: If we were to determine whether or not what you have said or written follow our Prophet’s hadeeth: “Ad-Deenu un-Naseehah” [religion is advice or counselling], I say to the Shaykh that what you have done as neither advice, nor counselling, nor help, nor support. You have mentioned matters that have nothing to do with advising or counselling; you have talked about events throughout our history of preaching tawheed, but regrettable, you were not fair and you failed to stick to the accuracies of matters. I want you to know that I am quite capable of exposing and discrediting many of your misrepresentation with vigour, but I prefer to save this vigour, force, and harshness for the enemies of our religion and not use them against my brothers.

This is what God commanded us: “Muhammad is the messenger of God and those who are with him are strong against the Unbelievers, but compassionate amongst each other.” (Qur’an 48:29)

I have news for you, Abu Muhammad: The cross worshippers, secularists, rafida, Islamic Party and all other deviant groups in Iraq are busy distributing printed copies of your interview with Al-Jazeera to all people in order to discourage any would be mujahid from joining the mujahideen caravan. Let me also tell you, our honoured Shaykh, after you gave your interview to Al-Jazeera Channel, the enemies of God had a very good night’s sleep.

There you see the tail of Al-Sulul [i.e. the Saudi monarchy], (Al-Awaji), making the following announcement, at the order of his masters: “Al-Maqdisi has reversed his position, a development that will create a rift amongst mujahideen.”

When you see or hear about this you may say that these people misquoted you, just as you did before. If that happens, I will have to say, may God forgive you Shaykh, since when those satellite channels and news media have been known to stand by the truth? Were you not one of those who have always warned us about their tactics? Why didn’t you wait until you hear directly from us about the exact situation we are in? After that, you could have chosen any of the legal (according to Islamic shari’a) ways to advise or counsel us. Our reaction would have been simple; we would have accepted whatever was right, and we would have rejected anything else, based on our current situation which we know and live in it and you do not.

Let me tell you this, our honoured Shaykh: this matter does not harm me personally but it does harm this jihad. I am only one man whose soul could be ordered back to its Lord any time. But the sad thing is that we now have jihad that is blessed by God and it bore fruits already but the enemies of God are working hard to dismantle it from its foundation. If that happens, I can assure you, Abu Muhammad, that in terms of who get credit for that, you will walk away with the lion’s share.

I ask you in the name of God to avoid following Satan’s footsteps and beware of plots of the enemies of God, and do not fall for their trap that is designed to use you to drive a wedge between the mujahideen.

Didn’t you notice the extraordinary attention paid and coverage given to your interview with Al-Jazeera?

Before I end my response, I would like to say that Shaykh Maqdisi, may God preserve him, is one whose services and sacrifices are known and should be credited to him, he is worthy of being given the benefit of the doubt and he capable of clarifying or correcting the mishap. Having made a mistake does not mean that we look down to him and to his knowledge. If it was not for the seriousness of the matters that the Shaykh opted to discuss openly to millions of viewers, and if it was not for its negative impact on jihad and mujahideen, I would have not bothered to write this response.

May God forgive us and him, and may God not allow His enemies to have a way to harm us.

Peace and prayer be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and his Companions.

Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi

6 Jumada Al-Akhiah 1426 AH

12 July 2005

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