Abu Mahmud al-Filistini (@battar2812) is a London-based jihadi cleric, one of those to whom al-Qaeda’s loyalists look for guidance. An essay by Abu Mahmud, “An Indispensable Though Imperfect Unity,” has been put out defending Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the restructured al-Qaeda presence in Syria. Abu Mahmud writes mostly against those who are attacking HTS “from the Right,” the jihadists who believe that the rebranding and merging with groups of distinctly imperfect jihadi-salafist credentials like Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi is a betrayal of the cause. Abu Mahmud writes specifically and harshly against Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), the Jordan-based cleric who is the leading light of the part of the jihadi world that did not go over to the Islamic State, without ever naming him. The essay is reproduced below with some interesting and/or important parts highlighted in bold, and some notes added.
“The group that is closest to the truth on the arena of a defensive jihad, which repels the transgressing enemy and is waging a battle of the umma [Islamic community or nation], carrying this enormous weight and accepted this heavy trust which is hated by the souls as Allah said “fighting is prescribed for you though hate it” and sacrificed dozens and thousands of martyrs and wounded. While the majority of the umma is observing and those whom Allah granted success support it by their words. It is obligatory for the umma to support such a group and dismiss their stumbles and forgive their mistakes as long as they are in the realms of jurisprudential exertion (ijtihad). And they must follow the manners of leniency and mercy in giving advice and correction. The scholars throughout history were supportive of the people on the fronts even if they were from the people of innovation and immorality. So let alone if they were from the righteous methodology (manhaj) and they belonged to the people of truth and upheld the principles. Do we not have patience with jurisprudential exertion made by them on the arena in which they are facing all kinds of executed conspiracies and the efforts of the disbelievers and the apostates are combined to bury this group after eradicating it?
Should we not be patient with the political manoeuvring carried out by them because of their strong presumption that this will rescue them from eradication and create disorder in the world government. Yes, the world government is quick in classification. So there is no harm in manoeuvring and gaining time to neutralize the opponents who can be neutralized. And prioritizing the enemies is from the Sunnah and the shari’a and it was done by the most noble of creation (sal-Allahu alayhi wa-salam) and his companions. We have a guarantee that this organized group has long years of history and experience on the land of jihad and we did not see anything from them except constant efforts to reach the truth and to achieve the goals of jihad.
Is it the instrument that counts or is it achieving the goals of jihad? If the goal of jihad is achieved with a certain instrument or with a certain name or by following politics which are allowed in the shari’a, then what is wrong with that? Or is it wrong for this group to gather the general people around them and those who are steadfast in fighting against the transgressing enemy, even if they were from the wicked people or innovators and people with a fogy doctrine?
Leave those who took on the command of repelling the transgressing enemy and the implementation of the shari’a. We have experienced their sincerity, they act accordingly to what Allah has chosen for them. And we should likewise act accordingly to what Allah choose for us. They are the people of the arena who hold guard and fight, and they know the merits of the battle. And we in all our categories, scholars, students, supporters of the jihad and its people, we are obligated to support them by the word and we must defend the honour of the mujahideen and we must advise them in a matter which meets the intent of advice and the attempt of correction. Because these people are the closest to the truth, and they are the people on the arena, and the umma has no other choice but to fight the battle with them. So toppling them and spreading internal problems among them equals a disaster for the jihad and ruining its goals. And this opposes the shari’a because the shari’a imposes the fight upon us with every pious and wicked person and with the innovator, to protect the existence of the umma and to achieve the goals of jihad. And the one who opposes this works towards defeat.
This is why the scholars of the Salaf stood with the Sufis against the Mongols and the Crusaders, moreover they even stood with the Mamluks while they would kill one and another for power. Because the umma did not have any other choice but to fight with the Mamluks or their existence would be wiped out. So here is where the jurisprudence of our scholars becomes clear and the balance between harms.
And advising this group does not happen by following every slip or rather every word which exits from those who have joined them recently and does not have the knowledge we have or the knowledge our brothers have. So that is why we should be patient with the slips as long as our brothers come with that which proves their adherence to the principles and a healthy methodology. And we must not forget that they are dealing with general people. They could likewise be speaking from military expertise or in the field of politics or a legitimate necessity which places someone in contradictions or mistakes. And our basis of what we know from our brothers is that they hold on to the uniting joints and not the other way around.
This is the reality, or we accept a unity with all those who accept the minimum shari’a requirement and we neutralize those whom we can neutralize politically. Or we crawl inside a bottle we scaled and scream inside it declaring our methodology and do not hear anything except our echo. As opening up to the umma comes with a price and it demands very great efforts, great minds and elite souls. Because opening up in a wilderness filled with diseases, problems, diversity, and intolerance—all of this comes with a price which must be tolerated to the achieve the goals of jihad.
Let us leave those alone whom we know are sincere and truthful to do their job and elevate the general people and recruit them for the sake of jihad instead of turning them into arrows against them, like the renegade Khawarij [the Islamic State] did in Iraq and Syria (Sham). Iraq and its people and religion are lost. What is sad and sorrowful is that the general people of the Sunnis in Ninawa and Mosul have started to accept the Rawafid regime [the Iraqi government] after it softened their stance against them and were paid their salaries and because of what they lived and saw under the Khawarij from extremism and crimes.
The battle now is to win popular support and enter the general people into your project and make the task of uprooting you impossible. This is what the Taliban has done. All the NATO allies were not able to uproot it for more than fifteen years in a row and it is still not abandoned by the general people. Popular support is what protects you from eradication and it prevents you from falling into civil ruin when the necessity arises to clean the arena from corruption and apostasy. And to win it they must uphold justice and establish the shari’a and increase the heat of jihad and strike the enemies severely.
Some were quick to accuse Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham after they published a statement responding to the American envoy, because the statement did not suit their fossilized Najdi minds concerning the terminology which did not satisfy their psychological illness and did not scratch their itch of fanaticism. Any statement which does not include the terms that satisfy the hotheads is not liked by them. Statements must be filled with the words “apostasy” and “apostates” and “sahwat” and “diluters”. As if the umma only exists of these people; the pure and infallible people of truth and the people of postponement and ignorance. As if the umma does not have any general people in it who aren’t deceivers; they are sincere, loyal and righteous, and among them you have sinners. It is necessary to address them with a speech that introduces them to the concept of jihad and mobilizes them under a general slogan.
When will these people understand that fanaticism and forcing people with their trapped minds into a specific mind with a specific methodology does not bring about anything except narrow-mindedness and the loss of gains and the revolt of people against you. Do they not learn from the experience in Benghazi specifically and Libya in general? And from the experience of ISIS, when they leave any territory how their influence and remnants leave completely as if there wasn’t any Islamic group present to begin with? When will we vilify the one who opposes the shari’a and the Sunna and not the one who opposes our methodology only. Is the methodology of some a decided matter and is not permissible for the umma to work except through it? The sideline is what awaits them because the umma will perform its duty anyway.
The problem is that our adversaries used to oppose us in issues of faith (iman) in the past, but now the problem is inside the current itself. And if these differences are not approached with knowledge, fairness, justice, reason and calmness, they will turn (into issues of) faith and disbelief, and monotheism and polytheism.
Because of the circumstances and conditions, especially after the events of ISIS, the jihadi current at the moment started to have differences, the majority of whom in jurisprudential and tactical issues. So, we must understand each other: it is not permissible to keep raising the banner of monotheism and disbelief between us and our opponents at this moment. If Imam al-Shafi’i raised it against Imam Malik, and Imam Malik raised it against Imam Abu Hanifa, then the issue would have become a disaster and a catastrophe in takfir (excommunication).
If I have a disagreement with someone which is personal about my rights, whether symbolic or material rights, then we still remain brothers in religion and the brotherhood in methodology remains. I could also disagree with you on the way you dealt with a case, this does not expel me and does not make me classified by you and others. The problem is also raising slogans without clarity and certain evidence—”diluters” or other such classifications—before it is proven and clear and a person is able to outline it scientifically in the mind of the listener.
It is deviation to turn any organizational disagreement to a theological disagreement. This was the beginning of the deviation of ISIS and them slipping towards extremism and takfir and spilling of blood. When the disagreement with some is organizational it is necessary that it remains within this point and the statements and refutations should stay within this point. And any objection and statements concerning an organizational disagreement should not be addressed with theology, and you should not use theology to pass your organizational point of view.
It is also deviation to hasten in launching terms against your organizational adversary which have a legal theological meaning. Using terms like “dilution” and “deviation” and “neglecting principles” and “fighting against the advocates of the shari’a”—all of these released statements indicate a haste towards hostility and raising an organizational dispute to a theological dispute and loyalty and disassociation (al-wala wal-bara). So they should fear Allah; those who hasten towards hostility and those who undermine the jihad by instigating strife and spread differences inside the ranks of those who are guarding the fronts and repelling the transgressing enemy. Jihad will continue and will not stand still at any methodology, and the inheritors are those who understood the reality and digested the changes and dealt with it with every available and permissible means.
If every speaker knew what the consequences are of what he is saying in reality on the ground, and especially if he was from the scholars or those who are followed, then he would not build any position nor judgment on any statement or act based on an opinion. And especially if this statement or act was within the boundaries of shari’a politics and what is permitted by the shari’a.
The mistake becomes more harmful if the circumstances have turned the dispute to the battle of iman and kufr, because this places the disputer in the field of monotheism and the one who is wrong is closer to the heat of kufr or even fallen into it. This consequence splits the ranks and spreads turmoil and disputes on the arena, which is repelling the transgressing enemy at the moment. Because the matter will not be tolerated any longer, and the youth fears that he is fighting under a banner which abandoned monotheism. So people become puzzled and rumours spread and disagreements creep in.
After that the situation will not be corrected by clarifications and comments, because the first statement was spread, and this remained hanging in the minds. And the dispute will also be received by the fanatics and the extremists and they will use it to proof their statements and opinions; that the group has walked the path of deviation and that they have started to dance around monotheism. And the phony shouts and cries rise which seek to increase the level of hot-headedness and nothing else.
The basis is that we have good suspicions about those whom are known for their piety and religion, and we know their methodology and history. So let us lessen our speech about them and let us give them a chance to work. We correct, we draw near, we advice, and we cure. And there is a vast gap between advice and treatment and toppling and destruction.
The fanatics are the hatches of ISIS. They have criticized [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdad and ISIS only because of his rebellion against al-Qaeda and because he denied his pledge to it. While Dr. [Ayman] al-Zawahiri and the senior leaders and scholars, and we follow them, have criticized al-Baghdadi and ISIS and fought them theologically and in the media—and the mujahideen military, though only after al-Baghdadi and ISIS followed the methodology of takfir and bombing and slaughtering the mujahideen—the disagreement of the fanatics with ISIS was only about the organizational relationship. If al-Baghdadi remained and killed and slaughtered like he was doing in Iraq since 2007—and he attributed himself to the methodology and established the organizational relationship [with al-Qaeda]—he would have stayed dear and a partner to these fanatics.
Our disagreement with al-Baghdadi and ISIS was about the relationship with the religion and the umma. When he started to follow the methodology of the Khawarij sect and turned against the umma with his sword, killing both its pious and wicked, we opposed him and we declared our innocence from him and his innovation (bid’a) and we fought him with everything made available to us by Allah, until Allah broke their horn and extinguished their turmoil. And here is where the difference becomes clear, between those who made their organization and group the end, and Islam and the umma a means; and those who made everything they possess a means, and Islam the end.
They say we follow the scholars. But if the opinions of the scholars reach them or they requested them what is contrary to their desires, they do not pay any attention as if they are struck with blindness. By Allah, you are a people of turmoil and you seek turmoil, as your market rises with turmoil, because turmoil is an opportunity for the ignorant and a satisfaction for the souls. But you will fall with turmoil like ISIS fell and everyone who entered their turmoil, while jihad remained standing.
The extremists likewise came out in Peshawar and ignited turmoil, one after the other. And they slandered the mujahideen and made takfir on them. But they fell and entered the world of forgetfulness while the jihad came out of Peshawar and its brightness reached the whole Islamic world. So turmoil will fall and you will disappear with it and jihad will continue with those who are present or those who will still come. And pathetic is the one who thinks that jihad will not pass except through him and will not be correct unless he blesses it.
For it is an Islamic jihad, obligatory upon every Muslim, not exclusive for Salafis or Asharis or Sufis. The one who prevents Muslims from fighting except through him or by setting a pledge of allegiance (bay’a) as condition, he has opposed the shari’a which imposes the repelling of the transgressing enemy on everyone present.
More than three years ago the control of the factions reached more than one third of the territory in Syria, as the driver was able to travel in his car from Latakia to Hasaka, and he was able to travel from Hasaka to Deraa. While military assistance was able to travel from Aleppo to Damascus, and al-Qalamun was completely under the control of the mujahideen. Vast territories were under the control of the mujahideen. When did the situation start to change and the regime regained its strength and the Iranian and Lebanese militias started to spread? Was there any American or Russian intervention? Who closed the road between the provinces, the regime or the Khawarij? Who prevented assistance from Damascus to Qalamun and insisted on continuous battles against the factions?
Now the reasons have become clear for the decline of the revolution and the jihad, and why more than one third of the territories which were liberated before 2014 were lost. This was the result of extremism and dilution, and dilution is a reaction to extremism, so we must not subject extremism to dilution. Nobody was able to pronounce the word negotiations or political solution before. But due to the blessings of extremism and the spilling of blood it gave rise to the diluters and they now have an audience. So learn the lessons and return to unity under the slogan of toppling the regime and ruling with the shari’a.
Defeat comes when you fail to mobilize the people and make our battle (the elite) their battle. Our methodology is inciting the umma to do its duty and work towards toppling the tyrants who replaced the law of Allah with man-made laws, and placed the land and people under colonialism and created regimes which protect the state of Israel. Our methodology is making the umma wage a battle for the shari’a and escape the clutches of colonialism. Our methodology is to make the umma raise its awareness and learn that it is fighting for its creed and not for its wealth and resources. And the theft of wealth and resources is done only to keep them under the weight of the tyrants as they suffer from poverty and their worries and thoughts become exclusively occupied with how to collect the bread of the day, so that they will not pay any attention to the call of Islamic doctrine of monotheism; the doctrine of superiority. Thus, the umma stays humiliated and weak under the weight of the treacherous tyrants. So it is necessary to ignite the fire of jihad in the straw of the umma after drying it.
And those who stand in the face of the fire of jihad when it is lit with ideologies and deviates it towards psychological battles: he will extinguish this fire and make it burn in an incorrect place. When the revolution was the battle of the umma, everyone was fighting to topple the regime, and everyone was competing to liberate the land; the liberation of the territories did not stop. But when the people of methodologies jumped, and the battle turned into the battle for Shaykh so and so, and group so and so, and the methodology of so and so, and the school of so and so; the situation changed. At the beginning of the revolution many areas were liberated daily, and today many areas are lost. So is there anyone who will learn? I doubt it because “each faction is happy with what it has,” and everyone wants to impose his battle and people must follow it while he is the father of dismissal. (As if they are saying) A happy new revolution and our grandchildren will avoid our mistakes with the will of Allah.
The problem is when criticism becomes a method for everything which contradicts the ideas that some think is the literature of the jihadi current. While if we read what the leaders stated of the current and the original scholars we will find that they are on the opposite end of those ideas. Shaykh Usama bin Ladin and Shaykh Abu Musab al-Suri as intellectuals represent these ideas, which some want to impose on every jihadi arena, and Shaykh Abu Qatadah [al-Filistini] and Abdullah Azzam and Atiyyatullah [al-Libi] and Abu Yahya [al-Libi]—all of their literature pushes towards turning the battle of jihad to the jihad of an umma, to push the nation to what is has been entrusted with.
We did not see them turn the battle to a battle of methodology or a battle of Salafism against Sufism. The issue of excuse due to ignorance is not the issue of jihad, nor the Names and Attributes of Allah, nor the Imams of Najd. The jihad today is a battle to topple the tyrants and trying to re-establish Dar al-Islam, and this battle must not be confined within a certain school or within ideas of a particular methodology. Whoever wants confinement in his methodology should withdraw from this battle because his role will come after the fall of the tyrants and the establishment of an Islamic state, so he can practice the hobby of imposing methodologies or certain schools of jurisprudence or engage in fighting media battles.
Intellectual terrorism is unfortunately the weapon of those who complain about it themselves. And there is no one who practices intellectual terrorism like them, because the accusations of deviation and misguidance are ready to be opened and used. Leave the back of the nation and let it fights its battle. Do you not comprehend, are your eyes blinded? The Rawafid have occupied the Arab world. Iraq has gone, due to methodologies and ugly disagreements practiced by the schools of taghalub (dominating factions by force), from the fanatics and the extremists and the diluters. Yemen and Syria are about to be occupied by the Rawafid. Syria is being lost while some have busied themselves with overthrowing Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Some of them want to topple it with the accusation of dilution and the other with the accusation of extremism, and both of them are sitting by and have abandoned jihad. His only function is harassment and discouragement and dropping mines on the land of jihad.
Is there any greater misery than a Muslim who claims to be on the truth and that sudden wisdom has ascended on him while he is sitting at home not taking part in repelling the transgressing enemy and he does not ride his horse to answer every scream or scare? If they were wise they would know that they are in a very dangerous situation so jihad is to be waged with the righteous and immoral. The harm of dissolving the bay’a is smaller in front of the harm of creating turmoil and breaking the ranks and causing defeat and the occupation by the Rawafid. Some are fighting the battle of Erdogan and claims that he is fighting the battle of Syria. They made Erdogan into Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, sometimes with their ignorance and sometimes with their hypocrisy and sometimes with their deviance. Evil people who destroyed the wall of the shari’a and distorted the doctrine of al-wala wal-bara and they claim that they are mujahid revolutionaries, while they are abhorrent hypocrites.
The battle in Syria is a battle for existence, and whoever comes with any excuse to justify his backwardness, using issues that are present in Syria, is wrong no matter how beautiful the devil makes the legitimacy for doing it. As repelling the transgressing enemy is the most obligatory duty after having faith in Allah, and leaving it is the greatest evil after disbelief in Allah. Put aside your methodologies and leave your partisanship and raise the level of your awareness, and be the fuel of the battle for the existence of Islam in Syria. And remember that history deliberately forgot the injustice of some Sultans when they achieved victories for Islam, while history completely ignored to mention the insignificance of those who adhered to the methodology or took part in creating turmoil or stood in the ranks of the disbelievers. So take heed and fight the battle of the umma and follow the path of patience with some of the injustice for the interest of the umma.
When we see Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham negotiate about the type of government and constitution, and negotiate about the role of Bashar [al-Assad] in the transitional period, and negotiate about the status of the Russians and reach agreements with it, and negotiate about the rule of the shari’a, and see them follow the Turkish and Qatari intelligence services and implement the orders of the backers and open fronts in the benefit of the backers: Then we will say that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham has become like the rest of the factions.
But if we see Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham still perform its duty of repelling the transgressing enemy and seeks to unite the arena, and rules with the shari’a in its courts, and spreads da’wa, and carries more than two-thirds of the military efforts against the regime and its militias, while the U.S. airplanes are still assassinating their leaders, and the Russian bombardments turn the cities into ashes. Despite that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham is still grasping on to their weapons with the mission of toppling the regime and ruling with the shari’a. And it still is better than the Taliban in its theological doctrine and methodology. But these tongues which are backbiting Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham swallow them when it concerns the Taliban, just because al-Qaeda has a pledge to the Taliban. And soon you will hear these tongues backbite the Taliban and they will follow the footsteps of their brothers from ISIS in making takfir on them or at least they will topple it.
It is from religion and justice that we do not topple a group or person unless it is based on real and legitimate violations which clearly oppose the religious principles of the religion. While everything that is broadened in the shari’a politics, which does not oppose something from the religion, stays exclusively in the field of ijtihad, or expansion at times or leniency at times and shari’a politics at times. And the one who follows the Sunna of our Prophet (sal-Allahu alayhi wa-salam) will find expansion and leniency which is excused because we are aware of his piety, his religion and the righteousness of his methodology.
The campaign is fierce and the plot is great and the changes are quick. In every moment there are new facts and fluctuations in alliances. It is from the shari’a obligation on those whom Allah entrusted with the leadership over this jihad to do his duty and do what is in the interest of the jihad and rescue it from these twists that are put on his path. For the leader is responsible in front of Allah over his leadership and his subjects entrusted on to him by Allah. If he did not do what is in his reach he will be held accountable, there is no escape from it. And his fear for the methodology of so and so will not be of any benefit for him, nor his fear for the fanatics who are not pleased except with slogans filled with takfir, threats, thunder and foaming.”
 The point being made here is that gaining popular credibility can allow jihadists to do unpopular things. A classic case is al-Qaeda in Syria attacking other factions to reshape the environment in the north ahead of its announcement of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in January. Opponents of AQ/HTS were eliminated and this move was probably a final confirmation that the Idlib insurgency was bound to HTS’s fate. Still, it left many activists and rebels deeply displeased—until HTS struck at senior regime war criminals, remining people of the military capacity they had lent the insurgency, which built up their political capital in the first place, and the public narrative swung back in HTS’s favour.
 This is a rebuke to Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), the leading jihadi-salafi cleric, who is in many ways the godfather of IS, though he has been against them—their leadership, in any case—and sided with al-Qaeda during their schism.
Al-Barqawi supported al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, when it ostensibly broke ties with al-Qaeda and rebranded as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) last July, but al-Barqawi quickly soured on the move. The formation of JFS was widely interpreted as an information operation to allow al-Nusra to further integrate with, and to co-opt, the Syrian insurgency. By November 2016, when that didn’t happen, al-Barqawi was already lamenting the ostensible break with al-Qaeda.
Al-Barqawi clashed publicly if indirectly with senior JFS cleric, Abdallah al-Muhaysini, in early January, and, as Cole Bunzel has written, essentially reached the end of the road by early February, demanding “clarity” on any number of issues from the newly-formed HTS, publicly fretting about the influence of “diluters [of monotheism]” within the organization. This triggered a quick response from Abdelraheem Atoun (Abu Abdullah al-Shami), the General Judge of JFS and now the most senior shari’a official in HTS, because, as Atoun flatly stated, al-Barqawi’s views could lead to defections, showing the influence al-Barqawi has over HTS.
In his counter-response, al-Barqawi—unsatisfied with Atoun’s answers—claimed that al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had not been in agreement with the JFS rebrand and al-Nusra had promised to revert to being publicly affiliated with al-Qaeda if the information operation did not work quickly. While al-Barqawi said he was more concerned with HTS’s methodology—particularly accepting certain groups under its umbrella—the major news was that, if al-Barqawi was correct, HTS really has split from al-Qaeda.
There are echoes in HTS’s formation of what happened in 2006 with the creation of the Islamic State from al-Qaeda in Iraq, where public messaging and private intent are difficult to unravel to this day. There is also no doubt that an ultra-extremist faction of al-Nusra broke away as soon as JFS was formed and continued publicly under al-Qaeda’s command, led by Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman (Abu al-Khayr), al-Zawahiri’s deputy who was struck down in late February. Quite what this means is unclear.
It is possibile that HTS and al-Barqawi are honestly representing their private views and intentions in public. The possibility does have to be entertained, however, that the public dispute between al-Barqawi and Atoun is mere theatre meant to provide weight to HTS’s claims to have separated from al-Qaeda. It is also possible that HTS is running this information operation with so few people in on it that al-Barqawi is not one, and therefore those HTS officials telling al-Barqawi of their displeasure with HTS’s direction are telling what they honestly believe is the truth.
If either of the latter two options is the case, it would suggest that Hassan Hassan was correct last year in comparing the JFS/HTS situation with its al-Qaeda splinter to creation of Black September by FATAH: it absorbs the hardliners who cannot accept the new posture—preventing them working against the group—and it enables the old group to be dissociated from the dirty work.
 There is no doubt this is aimed squarely at al-Barqawi.
 This transition by al-Qaeda from an elite movement—the name can be translated as “vanguard”—to a mass-phenomenon in Syria has been written about in the most detail by Charles Lister.
 A current emerged within the Islamic State, known as the Hazimi faction, named for the imprisoned Saudi Wahhabi/Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Hazimi, which contends that ignorance of a religious obligation is no excuse for a transgression, and those who excuse people on grounds of ignorance are themselves infidels—and therefore should be killed. IS’s populist ethos dismisses all hierarchies and vests authority with its own battlefield operatives; the Hazimiyya are an inevitable product if this thinking, which was turned back on IS when it began establishing its own institutions and hierarchies. IS has now largely purged such people from its ranks.