On Sulayman al-Alwan’s Latest Speech about the Syrian Civil War
المحاور: شيخنا، ما تعليقكم على الهجمة الشرسة الأخيرة على المجاهدين وخاصة في الشام وما نصيحتكم للمشايخ وطلبة العلم ولعامة المجاهدين وللجماعات الجهادية هناك؟
العلوان: النصر من عند الله وحده، لا تمنعه قلة عدد ولا عُدَد ولا مخططات أهل المكر والخيانة. وقد بدأت مسيرات أهل الشقاء والبغاء والعار في الطعن في أولياء الله في قلب الإسلام اليوم وازدرائهم وخذلانهم وبهتهم. وقد افتضح قوم منهم بسرقة أموال الدعم والتبرعات للمجاهدين، وقوم بالتهييج على قتل المجاهدين، وقوم بتمويل الجماعات المنادية بالديموقراطية، وقوم بالتنظير للتفرقة، وقوم للعمالة للطغاة وصنائع الغرب: فيمكرون ويمكر الله والله خير الماكرين ولا يحيط المكر السيء إلا بأهله. ولن يفلح هؤلاء القوم وسيكونون وقود فتنتهم. وأناشد المتورطين بعمالة أو صحوات أو تبديع بغير حق وسط المخالفين بالغلو ومذهب الخوارج أو قتل المسلمين وأو تحريض على ذلك بالتوبة إلى الله والاعتذار للمسلمين عن هذه الخيانات والقاذورات، ومن لم يتب منهم فقد تثبت تورطه في هذه الجرائم تحققت بليته وجريرته. فإني أرى على رجال الصدق ضرورة كشف العملاء والمفسدين والقيام على مشروعهم التخريبي وصد حملات العدوان والنميمية. فهذا جهاد من أعظم أنواع الجهاد والحذر من الوثوق بهم أو دعمهم وقد تكشفت الحقائق: فأموال المسلمين التي تكون عن طريقهم تذهب لجهات مشبوهة ومشكوك في أمرها وقد تكون لقتال الموحدين تحت مسمى قتال الغلاة والمصلحة ودرء المفسدة. وأدعو أهل العلم والمشايخ إلى الوقوف في صفوف المجاهدين ومناصرتهم وتوجيههم وأن تكون أحكامهم على أهل الثغور عن معرفة وبصيرة بالواقع، وتواصل مع قياداتهم، لا عن سماع من خصومهم والجاهلين بهم. وإن أهل الثغور لفضلهم وعظيم منزلتهم وكبير فعالهم من أولى الناس بعدلكم وتثبتكم في المنقول عنهم ولا سيّما أن القوى العالمية قد أجمعت على حربهم وتشويه صورتهم وسمعتهم وتلفيق التهم عليهم. وأدعو الكتائب المقاتلة للتوحد على الكتاب والسنة ومفاصلة الدعوات الجاهلية من علمانية وديموقراطية. وقد قال تعالى: “واعتصموا بحبل الله جميعاً ولا تفرقوا” واتحاد الفصائل الجهادية قوة واليوم أحوج ما يكونون إلى ذلك. وإذا لم تتوحد صفوفهم فلتتوحد كلمتهم حتى لا يكونوا لقمة سائغة لأعداء الإسلام. والمسلمون إذا لم يجمعهم الحق شعّبهم الباطل، والخيط الرقيق إذا انضم إليه مثله أصبح حبلاً متيناً.
Interviewer: Shaikh, what is your comment on the recent vicious attack on the mujahideen especially in the Levant? And what is your advice to other sheikhs and scholars, and to the general populace of the mujahideen?
Alwan: Victory is ultimately decided by Allah, and is prevented by neither a scarcity of fighters nor by a lack of arms, nor by the plans of cunning and treacherous agents. The cursed agents of injustice have started an attack aimed at the heart of Islam and its people, and is carried out by mocking them, letting them down, and making false statements under their name. It has been proven that a faction of those agents has been stealing support money and donations intended for the mujahideen. Another factions has been shown to be provoking the public to kill the mujahideen; a third to be supporting groups calling for democracy; a fourth to be justifying dissent and atomisation; and a fourth to be clients of tyrants and the West. ‘But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners’ [Quran 8:30]. ‘[T]he evil plot does not encompass except its own people’ [Quran 35:43]. Those agents will not prevail and will become fuel for the fire of fitna [sedition] they are trying to start.
I implore those who have worked as agents; people implicated in the Sahwa [Awakening] movement; and those involved in initiating or perpetuating heretic novelties; all of whom are found among those extremist dissenters who follow the school of Khawarij or who actually kill Muslims or encourage the same; to repent to Allah and apologise to the Muslim community for their treachery and for that filth. The guilt of those who refuse to repent will become apparent, and they will suffer the consequences. I think that people who are honest should work to reveal those agents and corruptors and should stop their destructive project and stand against the scandalous campaigns of aggression. This is one of the highest forms of Jihad. It should also involve great care in whether to trust them or not or whether to support them or not. New facts have emerged: funds that pass through them reach questionable parties and might actually be used to fight monotheists [Muslims] under the pretext of fighting extremism and preserving the general interest of the public.
I call on Islamic scholars and sheikhs to take the side of the mujahideen, to support them and direct them. I urge them not to pass judgment and make decisions regarding those who are fighting on the frontlines without first-hand knowledge and without communicating with their leaders. These judgements should not be based on hearsay from their enemies and those who do not know them. The merit, excellence, and great deeds of those who fight on the frontlines is all the more reason to deal with them in a just manner and to check the validity of statements and actions attributed to them, especially considering that all global powers have colluded to fighting them, carrying out a smear campaign, and falsifying accusations against them.
I call on the active brigades to unify under the Quran and Sunnah and to sever themselves from the ignorant calls to secularism and democracy. Allah says: ‘And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided’ [Quran 3:103]. The unification of Jihadi factions results in power and that is badly needed today. If their ranks cannot unite then, at least, let them issue joint statements and allow their discourse to unite so that they do not turn into an easy target for the enemies of Islam. If Muslims do not gather around what is right, they will be divided by falsehood. If a thin fibre is joined by its likes, they turn into a strong rope.
Shaikh Suleiman al-Alwan is a known Saudi Jihadi ideologue who spent 9 years in prison for his active support of militant Jihad but without, apparently, being officially charged with anything. He was released on 5th December 2012, only then to be charged, tried and indicted while still being allowed the benefit of an appeal. The main charge against him was ‘money laundering’. In practice, it amounted to his financial support for radical Jihadi groups to the sum of SR (Saudi Riyal) 3 million, SR 600,000 of which were given to Abu Musa’ab Az-Zarqawi head of al-Qaeda in Iraq – a precursor of today’s Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). He was arrested again on 16th December 2013 to serve his newly passed sentence of 15 years, nine of which he had already served.
This makes the dating of the statement transcribed above problematic. It was uploaded to youtube.com on 30th Jan 2014, but the first few seconds of the video show the title ‘al-Alwan Archive’ – implying that it might not be new. Pro-ISIS accounts on social media sites have been circulating this statement for the past few days and have been describing it as Alwan’s comment on the recent intra-rebel fighting in Northern Syria and Muhaysini’s attempt to put an end to it. They call it مبادرة المفاصلة (Mubadarat al-Mufasala) – the severance initiative, and pit it against Muhaysini’s own initiative. The name is derived from Alwan’s appeal to the rebels to ‘sever themselves from […] ignorant calls to secularism and democracy’.
Although unlikely, it is still possible that Alwan could have made the recording from prison. However, he does not directly mention any faction, nor does he refer to Muhaysini’s initiative. Even more troubling, for those who want to read it as Alawn’s declaration of support for ISIS, is his call to ‘extremist dissenters who follow the school of Khawarij or who actually kill Muslims or encourage the same; to repent to Allah and apologise to the Muslim community’. Among the different propaganda narratives, the word ‘khawarij’ has been used exclusively as a pejorative reference to ISIS. As if to dole out his criticism in equal measure to both sides, Alwan also implores people ‘involved in the Sahwa movement’ to follow the same path of repentance. The Sahwa movement started in Iraq, when various Sunni tribes collaborated with the US army to fight al-Qaeda. The word has been used by ISIS to describe its enemies among the rebels.
If we, however, control for the above mentioned variables, Alwan’s main message, it would emerge, is his worry the effects intra-rebel fighting might have on regional donors to Jihadist movements in Syria. He is indirectly urging prospective donors to be careful whom they fund, lest their money be used to fight ‘monotheists [Muslims] under the pretext of fighting extremism and preserving the general interest of the public’. Apart from being driven out of Western rural Aleppo, and Aleppo itself, ISIS’ fight with other rebel factions has actually resulted in it emerging as the only power on the ground in Ar-Raqqa, Tal-Abiadh, Jarablus, al-Bab and Manbij – i.e. Ar-Raqqah governorate and Eastern rural Aleppo. Their control of Deir Azzour has increased, where they have been winning the support of one local tribe after another. Whereas before they had to share control of the above mentioned locales, now they can apply their interpretation of Sharia there without any checks.
From ISIS perspective, then, the infighting presents not so much a military problem, as much as a PR issue. As Aron Lund notes, with most Jihadi ideologues (including head of al-Qaeda Central: Thawahiri) taking the side of the Islamic Front (IF) and supporting Muhaysini’s initiative, ISIS comes out as the recalcitrant party who is against putting an end to the fitna (civil strife). ‘For a group dependent on foreign fighters and Islamist fundraisers, this [is] no trivial matter’. The split between ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ rebels has already made donors less enthusiastic about supporting Assad’s combatants in general. This new, partially intra-‘extremists’ strife could cost them another group of supporters.
To conclude, Alwan’s message is too ambiguous to lend itself to being easily appropriated by either side. His concern, however, over the expected gradually diminishing funding to Jihadists is valid.
 A radical, militant and archaic Islamic school.
 It is still possible, but highly unlikely, that Alwan is actually describing ISIS’ enemies as Khawarij. The original Khawarij were chiefly known for their extremism, low threshold for excommunication, and for their refusal to accept repentance – none of which charges can be easily levelled at, or can be found apt to describe the ‘moderate’ rebels who are fighting ISIS.