It was announced on 25 October that a unity proposal had been formulated to resolve the dispute in Syria between Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), its former command organization, al-Qaeda, and the jihadi splinter faction from Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Ahrar, which has broken between the two. The initiative was backed by major jihadi-salafist clerics, Issam al-Barqawi (Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi) and Umar Othman (Abu Qatada al-Filistini), and invited the support of all jihadi “scholars”. The text of the proposal, translated by Al-Maqalaat, is reproduced below, with some editions to transliteration and syntax.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful,
All praises are due to the Lord of the worlds, and we testify that there is no God but Allah alone, we ascribe no partners to Him, and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, may Allah’s blessing be upon him and his relatives and all of his companions.
As for what follows,
Allah the Almighty said, “And do not dispute [with one-another], lest you lose courage and your strength depart, but be patient and persevering. For Allah is with the steadfast” [Al-Anfal (8): 46]. And the Messenger of Allah, may the blessing of Allah be upon him, said “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”
From our duty of responsibility and the trust that Allah the Almighty bestowed upon us to bear concerning the issues of our umma (Muslim nation), which suffers from all kinds of disasters and different kinds of suffering from its enemies. We see the situation worsening day after day in Syria in terms of the enemy gaining the upper hand and the division between the mujahideen, whom Allah guided to be the hopes of the grieving Muslims, whose homes were destroyed and wives were widowed, their children orphaned, their limbs cut, and thousands of them killed, imprisoned, and displaced so that they can be liberated from the oppression of tyranny and so that they can enjoy worshipping Allah the Almighty with sincerity without ascribing any partners to Him.
We stand today to unite our wounds and to restore the Islamic brotherhood that binds between us and our brothers. For it is the most trusted link which belittles all parties, groups, organizations and bodies. It is the brotherhood of faith, which leads us to support, solidarity, cooperation, integration, and obedience. The brotherhood of faith which rejects the causes of disputes and closes all its doors, even if it means absolving personal rights and partial issues. The brotherhood of faith, which breaks all the arrows of satanic hatred and jealousy, grudges, ill-thoughts, whispers, and disputes.
Oh mujahid brothers in the Syria of the Prophet (peace be upon him): Our strength in front of our enemy is nothing but we do not rely on it, we were never supported by our numbers and strength. Rather we derive victory and help from the One in Who’s Hand the kingdom of everything lies. And the victory of Allah is not derived by disobedience to Him, so beware of sins for it is the real destroyer, beware of injustice for it destroys the greatest of powers, beware of forbidden blood for its sin is very severe in the Sight of Allah. And a drop of forbidden blood spilled unjustly will take away the blessing and it will accelerate the punishment in this world before the Hereafter.
Oh mujahid brothers in the Syria of the Prophet (peace be upon him): Do you not see your enemies, despite their different religions and different beliefs, how they ally against you and mobilize all their strength and weapons to eradicate you, while it is more befitting for you to unite your ranks than them: “Verily, Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” [Al-Saf (61): 4]. For what unites you is greater and stronger than what divides you, so why are you divided despite all of this?
Our beloved ones in the Syria of the Prophet (peace be upon him): Allah gave us an appropriate solution in His Shari’a for all dilemmas from which we suffer, and the legal solution which breaks through the ordeals and gives a way out of the crisis is what Allah the Almighty Stated in His book when He said, “When there comes to them a matter concerning [public] safety or fear, they spread it abroad [among the people]. If only they had referred it to the Messenger, or to those charged with authority among them, then the proper people of knowledge could have solved it” [Al-Nisa (4): 83].
We call on upon all parties to return to the scholars and give them the authority to resolve the dilemmas and resolve the issues of dispute, and especially Hay’at Tahrir Shaam, Jaysh al-Ahrar, and the brothers who are loyal to al-Qaeda in Syria, and all the factions and groups who are persistent in ruling with the shari’a and its sovereign authority. We call all of them and every Muslim with zeal for his religion in our beloved Syria to reorganize our affairs correctly and build ourselves and our strength to become worthy to carry the trust bestowed upon us by Allah the Almighty to bear about which we will be asked on the Day in which we will stand between His hands.
And to remind you, oh our beloved ones in Syria, of [the need for] ribat and jihad. The entire umma is waiting for you to delight their eyes with restraining the tide of turmoil and uniting the ranks and word and to strike the enemies.
We urge all the scholars and preacher and activists with zeal in our beloved Syria to translate this statement into reality with action, and urge everyone to answer this initiative to become a door for good and the start of a bright dawn leaving behind the darkness of division and disputes with the permission of Allah the Almighty.
Finally, we remind all our brothers to forgive and overlook and reconcile in the hope that Allah the Almighty will forgive us, for the souls and belongings are sacrificed. “Let them forgive and overlook. Do you not wish that Allah should forgive you?” [Al-Nur (24): 22].
We ask Allah the Almighty to forgive us our sins and our trespassing in our dealings, and to grant us victory over the people of oppression.
Peace and blessing be upon our Prophet Muhammad and his relatives and all of his companions.
Shaykh Abu Qatada al-Filistini
Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi
Shaykh Abu al-Fadl al-Hadoushi
Shaykh Abu Abdullah al-Hashimi
Shaykh Abu Abdurrahman al-Makki
Shaykh Abu Mahir al-Malahim
Shaykh Abu Hudayfa al-Sudani
Shaykh Abu Mahmud Naail Masran
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Sami al-Uraydi is one of the leading al-Qaeda operatives in Syria and a close ally of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s. Having left HTS, al-Uraydi has been among the most vocal in condemning the course the group has taken, and began, on 15 October, releasing a series of “testimonies on the split between Jabhat al-Nusra and Tandheem al-Qaeda”. Al-Uraydi responded to this initiative on 26 October with a statement on Telegram, “And Settlement is Best”. Al-Uraydi accepted the initiative, while placing blame for the initial problem firmly on Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. That statement is reproduced below.
Praise be to God alone, and peace and blessings be upon the one after whom there is no other Prophet.
As for what follows:
These are abbreviated remarks in response to the initiative on reconciliation sought by a group of blessed scholars—God reward them—after it was insisted upon us [al-Qaeda’s loyalists in Syria] to write a comment so we were not thought bad, although our position on this matter is famous and does not need a statement or comment.
1) We thank the honourable shaykhs who seek reconciliation between the mujahideen. This is entrusted to them as the people of advice, peace, and the good—God bless their efforts and accept them.
2) We, thanks be to God for our success, strive to resolve the problems we face by legitimate means, including reconciliation, and we are careful to refer to the people of knowledge and experience [scholars and experts] to solve them. …
3) One of the problems we faced was the problem of disengagement [i.e. HTS breaking its oath to al-Qaeda]. We tried to solve it from the first day, by referring to the people of knowledge and know-how within and outside the community, which we thought might help solve this problem. …
4) We have continued to engage with a number of scholars and people of knowledge from within and outside the group, including some of the elders, the noble signatories to this initiative who well advised us (God reward them).
(Continuing the jihad against the aggressors and leaving this matter to the organization to resolve it is an organizational matter)
The two Shaykhs, Abu Muhammad al-Masri and Shaykh Sayf al-Adel—God save them—then transmitted through some brothers, and spread it to the media, advise to the brothers to continue to fight against the aggressors and spare the arena fitna [strife].
5) We responded to the advice of the scholars, the people of knowledge and experience, and left it to these people to unravel.
6) We continued as we mentioned until Shaykh Abdul Rahim Atun [Abu Abdullah al-Shami]—God forgive us and him—issued a statement in the response to the [4 October] speech of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri—may God preserve him—“we will fight you so as to avoid sedition, God willing”. It was published on a number of chat rooms and visited on the [HTS] soldiers, and then spread it to other channels and pages … [Note: Atun’s statement was a leaked conversation, though what was actually said remains somewhat mysterious—KO]
His words contained many falsehoods, which we know are invalid and ill-advised, and the brothers communicated with us to inquire about him after he spread this statement. It was necessary to show the most important falsehoods in it. …
7) It is necessary to state and confirm that we were not the cause of this problem and did not seek it. We have sought since the first day to resolve this matter in secret.
Summary of the above:
We seek to solve the problems we face through legitimate methods, including reconciliation and return to the scholars and people of knowledge and experience and honesty, which has been the problem of disengagement we sought God’s help to resolve, while relying on the scholar’s advice to continue the jihad of the aggressors and leave it to those who have to take the decision to solve it.
We seek to avoid sedition in the arena and to help in the support of jihad and its continuation. We thank all who sought to carry this out and to cooperate on the path of righteousness and piety.
In the name of God, the elders and brothers seeking reconciliation and reform and support for the jihad and the mujahedeen …
Written by: Dr. Sami al-Uraydi (may God be pleased with him).
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Abu Qatada al-Filistini revoked his support for the initiative on 27 October 2017, as did Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who claimed never to have been consulted about it. The same day, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) endorsed the initiative and—rather inconveniently—praised the shaykhs who had sponsored it.