Islamic State Biography of the Spokesman: Abu Muhammad al-Adnani

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on November 8, 2014

Picture of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani from the second edition of Dabiq magazine (July 27, 2014)

A Bahraini jihadist ideologue, Turki al-Binali, who has become a cleric in the Islamic State, put out a profile of the Islamic State’s official spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, on November 1. By this account, al-Adnani took up jihadism in 2000 and was among a small cadre of people who joined the Islamic State’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh, the infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, when he journeyed through Syria on a recruitment-drive in 2002. Learned in Islamic jurisprudence and rigid in doctrinal literalness, al-Adnani was associated with some of the titans of the Islamic State’s legend like Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani and Abu Anas al-Shami. Appointed as emir of a small town in Anbar, Haditha, the first leader after the declaration of “the State” in 2006, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), worked under al-Adnani’s command. Al-Adnani then moved on to be an ideological instructor. Such was al-Adnani’s status, he did not have to consult al-Zarqawi before ordering operations; he only had to brief al-Zarqawi afterwards. Al-Adnani was arrested by the Americans in Iraq in May 2005, thereafter spending six years behind the wire, though never giving up his missionary activity. Indeed, the profile says al-Adnani developed the first full training program, academic and physical, for jihadi inmates. Upon release, al-Adnani took the post of official spokesman and has maintained it ever since. This profile is reproduced below with some minor editions for transliteration, syntax, and spelling.

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Biography of Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani al-Shami


Alhamdulillah, the one who gives guidance, and salatu wa salam alal sadiq al-amin, and his family and companions.

As for what follows:

The likes of the Shaykh al-Mujahid Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, may Allah preserve him, does not need an explanation or definition. As the people of ilm [knowledge] say: “The well-known does not need to become known!”

Despite this, recent times bear testimony to much of the abuses and infringement the icons of the umma [Islamic nation or community] and its’ prominent individuals face, the heroes of the millat [straight path] and its’ horsemen. We heard the uneducated and refuted Hani al-Siba’i, attacking our shaykh with fabrications, forgery, and vile adjectives, degradation from every angle. And, As the Arabs say: “Repeated again and again, it comes forth as true!”

So, I desired to propagate a brief explanation, a brief statement, to Faris and Sanan, Tunis and its people, and to enrage the enemies!

Muslim narrated in his Saheeh from Ibn Sirin, rahimullah [God have mercy on him], that he said: “They did not ask us for a valid chain of narration, when they sowed the fitna [strife, discord], they said, we have seen your men narrate, and we narrated as we understood ahl al-sunna wal-jama’a [the people of orthodoxy and community, i.e. Sunnis] to narrate hadith, and to the people of innovation their hadith is not taken.”

Part One: The Demand for Knowledge

The shaykh grew up with the love of mosques and with attending them frequently in his youth, and his hobby was reading upon reading from when he was a young boy. This was to the extent that when his family desired to buy him gifts he was more impressed with stories and brochure that conveyed knowledge and he held them with passion with a preference to them over toys! Something stood out about him from the norm from a young age, as he was reading whatever he could lay his hands on, including books on language and the principles of language, amongst others.

Then the Qur’an passed from his throat, may Allah preserve him, as he began qira with those who recited the Qur’an. He memorized the Qur’an as a young man, may Allah preserve him, and became proficient in its’ recitation in less than a year!

The insatiable shaykh, may Allah preserve him, began to expand his reading — to al-ulum al-shari’a [the scholarship of the holy law]. He began books on tafsir [interpretation], and fell in love with “Tafsir ibn Kathir,” which he read repeatedly. He then moved on to “In the Shadow of the Qur’an”,[1] and on to “In the Shadows of the Shadows”.[2] He then began the writing and studying of al-hadith, with the most important being the two sahihs “Bukhari wa Muslim” and as he was fluctuating between them, he also read the books of fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence]. Our leader has a passion for books by Imam [Muhammad] al-Shawqani, rahimullah, especially “Nayl al-Awtar” and books on the fiqh of jihad, which he read,  for example  “Mash’ra al-Shawaq” more than three times! This is beside the books of sira [biographies of the Prophet Muhammad] and history which held great importance for him, especially “Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah”, which he read six times, and the study of the written Arabic language.

His reading of literature was endless. He went on to read Shaykh Jal’s book of adab [good conduct, morals] known as “Al-Bayan wal-Tabiyeen” and “Al-Aqd al-Fareed” amongst others. He read the collections of the speech of the Arabs and their sharh [explanations (of the Qur’an)], alongside memorizing much of their poetry, and I believe it was the musta’har of the court of Mutanabi that said about al-Mutanabi, “I don’t know what I’m seeing, but it is as if I am seeing the greatest Arab poet in al-jahiliyya [the age of ignorance before Islam] and in [the time since the advent of] Islam!” And he read dars [grammar books], such as “Al-Ajrumiyyah” and after it “Qatr al-Nada” and then “Al-Fiyat ibn Malik” and their explanations. He pursued “The Tongue of the Arabs” [(Lisan al-Arab), by Ibn Manzour] and saw multiple perspectives.

It is accredited to the people of ilm that they are upon the guidance of those guided by guides. The weight and worth of each man is decided by the good which he has wrought, and the ignorant are enemies to the people of ilm.

Part Two: His Prominent Shayukh

The shaykh drew from the ilm of books, as well as deriving it from the breasts of men. He studied under a number of shayukh in al-Sham [Syria]. As the conditions of Syria were insecure due to the severe grip of the tawaghit,[3] the shaykh, hafidullah [may God preserve him], and his peers met privately to receive and administer lessons on a regular basis for several years. It was from these conditions that Allah, the exalted, caused the shaykh to travel to Iraq to complete his search for knowledge and to draw from the shayukh there for knowledge.

Among the most prominent people from whom he [al-Adnani] benefited:

  1. Shaykh Abu Anas al-Shami [real name: Umar Yusef al-Juma], rahimullah. The shaykh and his family took full advantage of him and his knowledge. The shaykh [al-Adnani] said in two verses of poetry: “The Lion of Iraq, Abu Anas, forgot the hardship [of war] and was at ease. He was a sea of knowledge: in war an engineer [planner] and in hadith an expert.”
  2. In the ink of hadith, and in politics, few surpass the Shaykh Abu Maysara al-Gharib.[4] The strange thing, rahimullah, is that the companions of the shaykh [Abu Maysara] benefited from him whether in captivity [i.e. prison] or freedom. And the shaykh, in captivity or freedom, benefited from them.
  3. Al-Emir al-Mumineen [The Prince of the Believers or Commander of the Faithful], Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, hafidullah. Upon hearing al-Adnani recite the entire Qur’an from memory, al-Baghdadi said: “I have never seen such memorization, except to save ones’ life!”

Do not take ilm except through the bastions of ilm: “Through knowledge we live and with the soul we thrive.”

Those who are jahil [ignorant] offer their councils but they have strayed from guidance and are blind.

Part Three: Some of His Writings

There was a time where the shaykh, hafidullah, was accused of being narrow and they continue to accuse him of being so, yet most of what he wrote is complex versified poetry! Among the most prominent things he wrote, weaved from that versified poetry:

  • A matn [corpus] in Fiqh al-Jihad [the Jurisprudence of Holy War] and Associated Principles.
  • A manthoom [treatise] on Fiqh al-Jihad, which the Americans took away from him in captivity.
  • “Golden Chain in the Deeds of the Heart”, a series of versified poems relating to the actions of the heart and related matters. (A recitation of it can be found here, albeit not by al-Adnani himself:
  • “A System of The Memorization”, a series of versified poems in assisting the memorization of the book of Allah, the exalted, and related issues.
  • A poem in Remembrance of the Second Battle of Fallujah, which exceeds more than two-hundred verses.
  • A poem, entitled, “Al-Qaed’ee [Of Al-Qaeda],” in response to the critics of the first, honourable al-Qaeda [i.e. not the present al-Qaeda that the Islamic State says has gone astray].

Part Four: Lessons and Teaching

The shaykh, hafidullah, cared especially for the education and teaching of the mujahideen in the cause of Allah. On some days fourteen lessons were given, by day and night. His efforts were dedicated to the study of shari’a in general, and the teaching of aqeeda [creed], the Qur’an, the [Arabic] language, and the jurisprudence of jihad in particular.

The mutun [doctrinal summary texts] studied most for aqeeda were:

  • Al-Usool al-Thalata (The Three Fundamental Principles) [by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab]
  • Al Qawaa’id al Arba’ah (The Four Rules) [also by al-Wahhab]
  • Sharoot wa’ Nawaqid La Ilaha illa Allah (The Conditions and Nullifiers of No God But Allah)
  • He was also interested in teaching the matters of faith and disbelief in regard to these serious pathways.
  • The Qur’an: halaqat [memorisation] was taught to ensure correct recitation and the shaykh was keen on teaching those who do not know how to read or write more than others.
  • As for the [Arabic] language, it was taught upon the following matun
  • Al-Ajrumiyya [a book of Arabic grammar]
  • The shaykh, hafidullah, has a special nahw [manner] of teaching in six stages, taken from some of those he benefited from.
  • In the Fiqh al-Jihad, he taught: Kitab fi Fiqh al-Jihad wa Masalat and Al-Umda fi Adad al-Adat, amongst other books and texts.

Part Five: His Most Important Positions

The shaykh, hafidullah, entered work in jihad organizations from the beginning of the two-thousandth year by the Gregorian calendar. He swore allegiance to shaykh Zarqawi, rahimullah, in Syria with thirty-five others, and set off to prepare for the start of fighting the Nusayri regime before the Americans entered Iraq and travelled to it. Then left shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Lubnani [real name: Mustafa Ramadan Darwish], rahimullah, to Iraq. With the blessing of Allah, he is still struggling in Iraq and Syria since then, and the most important positions the shaykh has had:

  • Instructor, in the early days, at a camp of [Jamaat] al-Tawhid wal-Jihad [The Group for Monotheism and Jihad].
  • Emir of Haditha, inaugurated by Shaykh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, may Allah have mercy upon him.
  • Instructor at a camp in Al-Jazeera.
  • Unsurpassed Shar’i in Western Anbar.
  • Head Official spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq.
  • Head Official Spokesman of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
  • Head Official Spokesman of the Islamic State (Dawlat al-Khilafah).

Part Six: Some Difficulties and Tribulations

The road to al-Tawhid wal-Jihad was fraught with afflictions and tribulations, it was not safe from breakage or amputation or squeezing difficulty! However, the victor is the one proven to have patience, and it has been said: “If the beginning is incineration, the ending is not brightness!”

Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, hafidullah, was but one of sons on this road and suffered what Allah wrote for him to suffer, and to Allah is his account:

  1. He was summoned by the Nusayri state security agency repeatedly from early on in his youth and was interrogated.
  2. He was arrested three times by the Nusayris on the pretext of preaching jihad, once in al-Bukamal on his way into Iraq for the first time. He was jailed for months and was let go after refusing to disclose information, despite the injuries sustained due to torture.
  3. He was imprisoned by the Americans twice, and was once jailed for nearly six years. He was put in a tent with Zarqawi and other prominent individuals who knew the first line of fighters with Zarqawi, rahimullah.
  4. He was wounded in much of his body, and fragmented many bones in the path of Allah, the Almighty. I ask Allah the Almighty, the Lord of the Throne, to protect him from all evil, bless this umma in this age and by his work.

Part Seven: Some Situations in His Life

Abu Muhammad al-Adnani alongside Abu Muhammad al-Masri, c. 2011

Here are some chosen examples of the shaykh’s, hafidullah, academic life, da’wa [missionary work], and influential positions in jihad,

In an early halaqa for recitation of the Qur’an, it occurred in the heart of the shaykh that he would be the best reciter from among his peers, as he had a hobby of reciting. When it came his turn, it happened that his recitation touched the heart of the older shaykh [the teacher]. Shaykh al-Adnani insisted upon the mastery of the Qur’an, recitation of it, memorization, and he was soaring above his peers.

“Whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are kafirun [unbelievers]” [al-Maida (5): 44].

The shaykh prompted one of his peers, as the ayah [verse] shook him to his depths, for knowledge, “What are the sources of the Constitution of Syria?”

He [his peer] replied that “it is secular”.

Then the shaykh [al-Adnani] said: “What of the legislative branch? What is the judicial authority of the executive branch?”

The peer answered him as he had learned in school, the shaykh said, “O, so our entire government is kufr!”

So then his friend said to him: “As-salamu alaykum [peace be upon you]!” and he ran away! Such was the principle of the shaykh on such matters [i.e. immediate obedience to the words of Allah upon hearing them].

On another occasion, when he was summoned by the by the Nusayri intelligence service early in his youth, a taghut soldier said to him: “Why do you grow the beard?”

The Shaykh replied: “Because I read several hadith about the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa ala alihi wa sahbihi salam [blessings of God be upon him and his family and peace], in urging it,”

The taghut soldier said: “Were these hadith disclosed only to you, then?”

They also confronted him about the shortening of the thawb (to sunna length above the ankles), and then a taghut soldier said to him: “You did not move your finger in the tashahhud.”

The shaykh would only move it occasionally, and he replied by saying that he abides by the prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa ala alihi wa sahbihi salam.

Then a taghut soldier said, “The problem is that you are like this during the night,” and he made the indication of a finger of tawheed [monotheism], “and during the day like so” and he made the indication of a finger committing zina [unlawful sex]!

The shaykh said, “The one who performs jihad does not feel such vile desires!” [UPDATE: The shaykh then said: “He motivated me, the sly, to engage in jihad, without realising he did.”]

He went out one day, in Iraq, accompanied by three of the brothers to Akmen’oa. He was uncovered by apostates and was chased for a nearly eight-kilometre drive. It even happened that an accident occurred because of the intense speed. They were chased by two groups, and the shaykh went down, followed by Abu Bakr al-Kuwaiti, behind a rock. They clashed with the apostates from 9 AM to the twelfth hour, and they were displaced a distance of three kilometres into the desert during this engagement. Then they descended into a valley. The apostates withdrew after they told the Americans a small group of militant terrorists were in the valley, so the Americans came with tanks and six aircrafts.

The Americans began by firing two missiles, killing Abu Bakr al-Kuwaiti directly in front of the eyes of the shaykh. The shaykh suffered serious injury, but had not lost his weapon, and continued fighting and getting wounded until he became tired, bloody, and out of ammunition. The groups left during the afternoon, the fourth quarter of the day, and praise to Allah is before and after.

Part Eight: Some Subtleties in His Life

Some of the blessings of Allah on the shaykh during his career in the search of knowledge, da’wa, and jihad, are that:

  • He memorized Surat al-Maida [the fifth book of the Qur’an] in its entirety in just one day.
  • He was the first to begin jihad, working with thirteen others, in Haditha, and its fall [to the jihadists] was on their hands.
  • The first emir [of the Islamic State], whilst under al-Adnani’s command [in Haditha], Shaykh Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, rahimullah, said, when consulted by Shaykh al-Adnani at the time, “The whole affair of jihad will be for this man!”
  • He was the last to withdraw from the city of Falluja in the second battle of Falluja [in November 2004] with Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, Abu al-Ghadiya [real name: Sulayman Khalid Darwish (d. 2005)], Abu al-Rabi, Abu Jafar al-Maqdisi, and Abu Asem al-Urduni.
  • He spent much of his life on ribat, and during so, he would have competitive games between himself and Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, rahimullah, competing with lines of poetry!
  • His status was so privileged that the Shaykh, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, rahimullah, of whom none knows his status but Allah, the emir of the martyrs, said: “Do not consult me [beforehand] on matters, just brief me [afterwards].” (He trusted al-Adnani so much that he allowed him to make executive decisions independently.)
  • From his hands graduated a large number of students who have taken prominent positions in the Islamic State, including the narrator, Shaykh Manaf [al-Rawi], Allah’s mercy upon him.
  • He was the first to develop a comprehensive program for prisoners that covered all aspects: shari’a, physical strength, and military tactics. This was taught to all youngsters in all areas.

Final Part

Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani) stood beside Abu Muhammad al-Adnani [blurred] near the Syria-Iraq border, June 2014

These are some of the facts in introducing the spokesman of the Islamic State, the mujahid Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, hafidullah. We did not rely on hearsay, but what we know originally and what we have a valid chain of narration for. “We testify only to that which we know; we could not know the unseen” [Yusuf (12): 81].

We ask Allah to prolong the life of the shaykh, to purify his deeds, to make straight his words, and to prove him to be upon [the path of] truth until his time on this earth is finished.

And the last of our call is alhamdulillah rabb al-alamin [praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds], and may salat wa-salam [God’s peace and blessings] be upon His prophets and messengers.

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UPDATE: Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, whose real name is Taha Subhi Falaha, was killed on August 30, 2016. The Islamic State released the 45th edition of their newsletter, Al-Naba, on the same day, which contained the first clear and up-to-date picture of Falaha for many years:

UPDATE TWO: Islamic State released a video on June 2, 2017, which showed an uncensored version of the picture above, were Taha Falaha is stood next to Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani):

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[1] The book’s title, Fi Zilal al-Qur’an, is also translated as “In the Shade of the Qur’an”; it is a seminal Islamist tract, first published in 1952, written by the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb.

[2] UPDATE: As Hassan Hassan has pointed out this book, also called “In the Shade of the Shade”, refers to commentaries on Qutb’s commentary on the Qur’an.

[3] Tawaghit is often translated as “tyrant” and it does refer to an illegitimate ruler, but the basis is not a dearth of plebiscitary authority. It means a ruler who governs by other than the holy law alone and in doing so sets up partners to God in realms that are properly God’s. This constitutes shirk (polytheism or idolatry) and as such takes the offender outside the bounds of Islam.

[4] UPDATE: Maysara al-Gharib, a.k.a. Abu al-Bashair, was a Syrian theological advisor to the Islamic State leadership, specifically its military emir, Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir), until Maysara was killed on 17 November 2007. (Another Abu Maysara, Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, was an Iraqi citizen and the first official spokesman of the Islamic State movement.)

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