My Summary of and Thoughts on Muhaysini’s Latest Speech

by danielabdullah

Although over 3000 words in length, Muhaysini’s speech can be summarised in a few words. It is a passionate plea directed first at Baghdadi – whom he still calls his ‘brother’ – to accept arbitration by a neutral court; and second at Baghdadi’s soldiers to consider why almost every Jihadi authority has taken the side of Baghdadi’s enemies in the dispute. An implicit call for them to break rank and join other Jihadi groups whom ‘people love’[1] and who are practising a truer version of Jihad. He even gives his own suggestions – Jabhat an-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham.

Muhaysini opens his speech by listing his own credentials. He comes from a rich family, is married and has a family and has left all that behind in service of the true path to God. His current initiative, and the ones that have preceded it, were never meant for personal gain or to favour one group over another, but to establish what is right and make it prevail over falsehood. He asks his readers to suspend their prejudices, and weigh his argument by its adherence to Sharia laws alone.

He recalls how his first initiative – the Islamic Court Initiative – to resolve some disputes between Ahrar ash-Sham and Jabhat an-Nusra, on the one hand, and ISIS on the other, came to a miserable failure because of ISIS’ recalcitrance. When two ISIS members mistook Ahrar member Muhammad Fares Marroush for a Shiite, decapitated him and displayed his head in public; Muhaysini offered to mediate but ISIS refused all attempts to resolve the matter.[2] ISIS, however, Muhaysini reports had no problem with him being a mediator when the matter concerned was the lost life of one of their soldiers on the hands of some other faction. ‘Why do they accept me as a judge when they foresee a ruling in their favour, and refuse me when they do not?’, Muhaysini asks.

By the evidence of the speech, Muhaysini emerges as a first-tier “war correspondent” – risking his life to go to conflict zones to reach his own, firs-hand conclusions about what had happened. ‘I had intended’, Muhaysini says, ‘to make my own judgements based on what I saw and heard’.[3] When the intra-rebel fighting broke out, it so happened that he was present in al-Atareb – its epicentre. He went into the town where the local people fired several rounds in his direction, mistaking him for an ISIS member. He inquired about what had happened, and the town people told him: ‘ISIS came in wanting to arrest one of us. We refused and said he can only be arrested by an order from the Islamic court, and so they left. On the following day, we found the dead body of the person ISIS had wanted to arrest’.

Fighting then spread to the “46 Regiment” where several armed opposition brigades were stationed. ISIS went in killing 10 Nusra members and several people from other factions. While hostilities deepened, several factions attempted to prevent back up convoys from reaching the conflict zone, which only led to more escalation.

‘This was not a war against Islam, or against the establishment of an Islamic state’, if it were, Muhaysini tells us, ‘why were not Jabhat an-Nusra fought?’ If this were the case, Jabhat an-Nusra would have been a more appropriate target, since it ‘belongs to al-Qaeda whom the entire world opposes’. This argument appears to be direct at ISIS’ lower ranks, because ISIS’ internal propaganda stresses its own victimhood.[4] A high number of enemies is no ‘proof you are on the right path’. If it were, Muhaysini argues, ‘Qadafi would have been not a tyrant, but a wronged man, since the entire Libyan people were against him’.

Muhaysini continues to list a few other transgressions by ISIS among which were the killing of women and children. He then moves on to talk about his current effort to solve the crisis – the Umma Initiative, which was well received by many Jihadi ideologues and all the parties concerned except ISIS. ISIS had not technically refused but had presented a forbiddingly conditional approval. It had demanded that all parties publicly state where they stand with regard to secularism, democracy and most Middle Eastern regimes.[5] Muhaysini says that although one should always distance himself from these things, they are not valid conditions for accepting arbitration as they are not found in the Quran as such. ‘Should thieves, transgressors, Jews and Christians – if we prevail – present their positions vis-à-vis core Islamic theology before arbitration?’. It is not that what the two conditions demand is reprehensible, far from it, but that they are presented as conditions for accepting arbitration. ISIS has a right to demand this from the prospective judges, since their positions will obviously affect their judgments, but not from the other parties.

According to Muhaysini, ISIS had not made its own position clear about the other armed factions in Syria. ‘I found considerable variation among my brothers in ISIS with where they stood regarding the other factions’. Does ISIS think they are Muslims or Infidels? ISIS had also employed fear tactics and propaganda to encourage their members to fight the other factions. They claimed that the wives of many foreign fighters had been raped. ISIS had also sent suicide bombers to areas with civilian presence: in Darkoush where they had killed a man and wounded four children; in Kafr Naha where it had killed one child; and in Kafr Joum where the only casualty was the bomber himself. It had also sent suicide bombers to Ahrar ash-Sham and Liwa al-Tawheed centres.

Al-Muhaysini is worried that after this speech, the ISIS propaganda machine might dig up some of his old tweets and use them to assail his character. At one point he says ‘I did not compose them, and I oppose everything that was in them’. At another: ‘Some of them I have written, but I now recant what I said in them’.[6] Such an attack is to be expected, as bigger Jihadi figures and theologians have been attacked by ISIS for their positions. ‘I have never witnessed or seen an Islamic project so assailed and opposed as that of ISIS’. Muhaysini is careful not to extend his argument to ISIS’ operations in Iraq as he has not been there. ‘Everyone has seen how many enemies of God they had killed in Iraq, how they have brought the Americans and Rafidah [Shiites] to their knees, and how they have liberated Muslim prisoners’, he proclaims praising ISIS forces in Iraq.

If his ‘brother’ – Baghdadi – does not agree to sit in a court with mutually agreed on judges, he should go back to Iraq so that Muslim blood can be ‘spared’. Muhaysini concludes by asking the soldiers of ISIS – indirectly – to join Jabhat an-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham or other Islamic factions ‘whom people love’.

Having become the sole power in most of Deir az-Zour, all of Raqqa and most of Eastern Aleppo – a stronger positions than the one it was in before the fighting began – ISIS has now started its attempt to regain some territory in Aleppo.[7] The infighting does not appear to have cost ISIS much militarily, but it has had a considerable effect on its standing in the Jihadi community.[8] Its biggest worry now is that this virtual consensus among Jihadi theologians opposing its actions could have a considerable effect on prospective donors. ‘For a group dependent on foreign fighters and Islamist fundraisers, this would be no trivial matter’, as Aron Lund notes.[9] This can serve as a potential reason to explain ISIS’ recent fight with Jabhat an-Nusra over an oil field in Deir az-Zour.[10]


[1] http://mhesne.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=172 all subsequent quotes from Muhaysini are from this link.

[2] http://halabnews.com/news/42816 (WARNING: Graphic content).

[3] See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rPke7ELaCo&list=UUK7tYDmsIQwbqNUtv3egPIw&feature=c4-overview where Muhaysini is seen at ‘ground zero’ of suicide bombing. Thanks to @NoahBonsey for posting the link.

[4] ISIS first public response to the infighting, by its second-in-command al-Adnani, was titled ‘God is with You, O Wronged State’. See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug4oIRbRUKA

[6] I apologize but I did not have the stamina to go through his old tweets. Perhaps someone else can explain what they were about.

[7] Two ISIS suicide bombers have attacked the infantry school in Aleppo – a Liwa al-Tawheed (Islamic Front) stronghold. See https://twitter.com/search?q=%23%D9%85%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%A9_%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%A9&src=hash

[8] After Muhaysini published his speech a hashtag was created on twitter that lists claims of people defecting from ISIS. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF_%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86_%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%86%D9%8A&src=hash

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