Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham Gives Its Version of Its Own History and Ties to Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 5 December 2017

Abdurraheem Atun

Abdurraheem Atun (Abu Abdallah al-Shami), the leading cleric of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), released a statement on 29 November 2017, dated 13 October 2017, laying out the history of HTS, its evolution from Jabhat al-Nusra to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham to HTS, and its relationship with al-Qaeda. Atun’s statement was a response to a speech a day earlier by al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, which said that HTS remained bound to him and al-Qaeda through a bay’at (oath of allegiance) and HTS’s attempts to get out of this were un-lawful manipulations of the kind used by the Islamic State. Atun’s statement was translated by Al-Maqalaat and an edited version is posted below.

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In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the most Merciful. All praises are due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. The best prayer and most complete blessings be upon our messenger, Muhammad, and his relatives and all of his companions.

As for what follows:

It hurts me a lot to take a position in which one might think that I am refuting Shaykh Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, may Allah protect him. I have preferred with previous messages from the Shaykh—may Allah protect him—not to clarify matters in the [public] media. So I wrote an explanatory article of the stages through which we passed to explain the matter, warning in it that I am not refuting the Doctor, may Allah protect him. However, one of the brothers—may Allah forgive them—sent my article to Dr. Sami al-Uraydi, despite my warning stressing the necessity to refrain from publishing it outside the room so that we would not be forced into refutations.

Shaykh Sami then narrated a list of witness reports [publicly]. I was not prevented from refuting this because of weak evidence or insufficient rhetoric. Rather, I did not want to enter the maze of refutations and I was hoping we would not reach a discussion about bay’a [oaths of allegiance] and its circumstances in the media, as I was keen on protecting the reputation of the jihad and the mujahideen in general and al-Qaeda in specific.

However, since Shaykh Ayman—may Allah protect him—has now published a public message talking about the Syrian arena in general and about us specifically, it has become necessary to explain our side and we hope that it will be the last explanation in the media. Because the sensitivity of these types of problems is exacerbated by the media, and the media is not the venue in which this should be resolved, according to our opinion, and Allah knows best.

I will begin with a summary of my previous explanation that I have already published internally, following the previous speech of the Doctor. And I will explain the stages through which we have passed during the course of our journey, in order to deal with the subject of our disengagement [from al-Qaeda], followed by a commentary on most of the latest statements of the Shaykh.

Firstly: Did Jabhat al-Nusra break the bay’a?

Note: I will narrate what I previously wrote in the private room with a few names and pseudonyms.

In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the most merciful. All praises are due to Allah and peace and blessings be upon the messenger of Allah and his relatives and companions and his followers. As for what follows:

Many of the brothers have been confused by the words of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, may Allah protect him, in his previous message, which carries the title “We Shall Fight You Until There Is No More Persecution“. And here we will explain what has caused confusion to our brothers in order to clarify the matter, so that some of the violators will not exploit the statements of the Shaykh for their own purposes. Because it is their explanation of the purposes and the meanings of the words of the Doctor that will create confusion in some of our brothers. Thus, the matter requires a response and clarification to their suspicions, with our complete respect and regards to Shaykh al-Zawahiri, may Allah protect him.

I will divide the discussion on this subject, according to the historical context, as follows:

[Number One] The stage before the arrival of Shaykh Abu al-Khayr (may Allah have mercy on him):

Within this:

  • A quick overview of the establishment of Jabhat al-Nusra
  • The declaration of the Islamic Front and the position of Shaykh al-Zawahiri concerning it.
  • The audio statements of Shaykh al-Zawahiri and his messages to us in that period, especially the last message after the letter of separation

[Number Two] The stage after the arrival of the Shaykh Abu al-Khayr (may Allah have mercy on him):

  • The letter of extraction
  • The correspondence between Shaykh Abu al-Khayr and the senior leaders in Iran, and the formation of the Tripartite Committee and the Consultative Council
  • Our position concerning the Committee and the Council

[Number Three] The stage of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham:

  • The reality of the project
  • Steps to establish the project and the positions concerning it ([including] the 65 signatures and the positions of the senior leaders in Iran)
  • Exchange of messages
  • The round of integration talks before the fall of Aleppo (the end of the round and the 25 signatures)
  • The merger attempt after the fall of Aleppo, when Ahrar [al-Sham] signed and then they abstained

[Number Four] The stage of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham:

  • Within this stage: The formation of the Hay’at and the meeting of Shaykh Abu al-Khayr (may Allah have mercy on him) with its Shura Council

[And Finally] Summary and Conclusion.

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1.) The stage before the arrival of Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr (may Allah have mercy on him):

All our brothers know that Jabhat Nusra was an undisclosed branch of al-Qaeda since its establishment, but trough their branch in Iraq “The Islamic State of Iraq”. Then happened what happened between us and ISIS when Al-Baghdadi announced what he called “The Islamic State in Iraq and Shaam”. This was the matter we rejected at that time, and Shaykh Al-Jolani, may Allah preserve him, then announced the subordination of Jabhat Nusra to al-Qaeda and he presented the matter to Shaykh Zawahiri to judge between us. What the Shaykh did at that time was the mere announcement of allegiance (renewal of allegiance) but it was not the initial pledge of allegiance. So the one who want to stab us with the latest (previous) words of Shaykh Zawahiri “a forced pledge” must know that we weren’t forced to the pledge during the disagreement with ISIS. Rather we were only forced to announce it, and there is a difference between the initial pledge and its declaration.

The judgment of Shaykh Zawahiri came in the matter of the dispute, as everyone knows, through a written message. The security situation was difficult for the Shaykh so he sent a message informing us that he may enter into a state of interruption of communication for a period of time because of the security situation. Among the subjects that were included in last messages before entering into the period of interruption were:

– The appointment of Shaykh Abu Basir al-Wuhayshi (may Allah have mercy on him) as the deputy. In case there were any new developments in the matter between us and ISIS. And this assignment will benefit us in the coming context.

– His consultation with us to change the name of al-Qaeda entirely. As Shaykh Zawahiri proposed the idea of changing the name of al-Qaeda entirely, because the enemy succeeded in distorting its image and keeping people away from it. The Shaykh at that time recalled that this idea (changing the name) was an old idea from the days of Shaykh Usama (may Allah have mercy on him). And that which was narrated concerning it in the Abbottabad documents is true. We told the Shaykh that the idea is correct but its timing is not appropriate; in the light of the emerging project of the Khawarij. And that the postponement of it to an appropriate time is better. What can be concluded from this, is that if we wanted that which is rumored about us now then we would have taken this offer (changing the name) as an opportunity to achieve what we want.

– The sending of messages to Shaykh Abu Khalid Al-Suri (may Allah have mercy on him) Shaykh Al-Jolani and Shaykh Abu Abdullah Al-Hamawi (may Allah have mercy on him) after the announcement of forming the Islamic Front. And the idea surrounding the messages was the desire of Shaykh Zawahiri for Jabhat Nusra to join the Islamic Front, and that Shaykh Abu Khalid should work towards this matter. Shaykh Zawahiri heard about the Islamic Front in the media and he saw it as a project worthy for Jabhat Nusra to join it because it was a good project in the media especially its nice looking charter. However Jabhat Nusra had its rational reasons to refrain from entering this project and its most important reason being that this was an exclusive media project which will take the shape of a front without really merging. Explaining this matter has a different context, but the purpose of mentioning it here is to show that if Jabhat Nusra wanted to break its ties it would have taken this as an opportunity, especially considering the mandate given to Shaykh Abu Khalid (may Allah have mercy on him).

And before we enter the next stage we would like to mention that the general nature of the Doctor’s numerous audio messages published by As-Sahab Media Foundation, in addition to the messages which used to reach us. They were all orientation towards unity and integration, and that the organizational ties will not prevent unity, and that which the people of Shaam will choose, will also be the choice of al-Qaeda, and that al-Qaeda will sacrifice its organizational ties for unity and assembly.

2.) The stage of the arrival of the deputy Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr (may Allah have mercy on him):

A deal was reached between the brothers in Yemen and the Iranian government after the mujahideen in Yemen captured an Iranian hostage. Shaykh Abu al-Khayr (the deputy; the first successor) was released under the deal, as was his companion, the brother Abu al-Qassam. Also released from the Iranian prison, while being prevented from leaving the country Iran, were the two Shaykhs: the second and third successor [later confirmed as Sayf al-Adel and Abu Muhammad al-Masri].

The deputy Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr (may Allah have mercy on him) and his companion, and Abu Al-Qassam and his companion, reached Shaam. And the Shaykh presented us his first written introduction which showed that Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr was the successor of Shaykh Zawahiri may Allah protect him. And he explained his succession as substitution.

And explaining it as substitution is correct linguistically, customary, rationally, logically, legally and organizationally in particular; in the light of the interrupted communication and messages with the general leader which lasted more than a year at that time. And explaining it as substitution is what we ourselves understood at that time, and this is what was understood and explained to us by Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr himself and his companion and Abu Al-Qassam and the third and fourth successor, and this was circulated by the committee over all the branches after that, which will be mentioned later on.

And one of the evidences which proofs that we did not differentiate between succession and substitution is that we were confused coming to know that Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr was the deputy with the presence of a letter from Shaykh Zawahiri in which he appointed Shaykh Abu Basir (may Allah have mercy on him) as the deputy, like we mentioned previously. But Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr explained to us at that time that Shaykh Abu Basir was assigned as a deputy when Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr was imprisoned but after his release he became the general deputy.

And based on our understanding of this matter and its implications Shaykh Al-Jolani requested Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr to take over the leadership of Jabhat Nusra considering he is the general deputy of Shaykh Ayman, may Allah protect him, but the Shaykh refrained. Shaykh Al-Jolani asked him to define the powers of both the deputy and the leader (Al-Jolani) of the branch considering that both of them are in the same place (Shaam). But Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr refused and laughed saying there won’t be any disagreement between us.

It is worth mentioning that it was the Shaykh may Allah have mercy on him who requested us to open an office of communications and relations with countries like Turkey so we do not resemble a closed black box which frightens countries because they do not have any knowledge about us, like he mentioned.

And he did not see benefit in foreign operations launched from Shaam and was keen on convincing the Mujahideen in Yemen to leave foreign operations and preoccupy themselves with repelling the transgression of the Houthis. And he used to say, it is impossible to gather a people in an organization, and it is unreasonable to sit with a doctor at a university or with a physician and an engineer and say to them come and give your pledge.

The Shaykh may Allah have mercy on him started getting to know Jabhat Nusra and the arena and the factions and everything related to the revolution and jihad in Shaam. We saw a compassionate father in him in every sense of the word, and we ask Allah to accept him and reward him with the best reward for us.

At that time Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr may Allah have mercy on him used to communicate with the two Shaykhs (the third and fourth successor) regarding the formation of a leaderships committee in light of the absence of Shaykh Dr. Zawahiri and the interruption communications with him. After deliberations lasting nearly seven months the three agreed to form a leaderships committee or command council and an advisory board.

The leaderships committee consisted of the three successor Shaykhs, and Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr was its president. This committee takes its decision by a majority of the three members in a binding way. And beneath it is an advisory board which includes: Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr, Shaykh Abu Faraj may Allah have mercy on him, the leader of each branch, the deputy of each branch, and the consultation accepted by Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr from the Muslims because he is the chairman of the board. However this board does not carry any binding power, its role is strictly advisory.

And the three Shaykhs agreed amongst each other that their committee ends as soon as the communication with the general leader Dr. Ayman may Allah protect him is established again.

When the deputy Shaykh presented to us what led to the deliberations between him and the two Shaykhs, we refused for many reasons, the most important being:

– The fact that the binding majority is in the tripartite committee and not in the (advisory) council.

– The fact that two of the members of the binding committee and its decisions are in an enemy state (Iran). They are excused because they are being held there against their will, but for them to hold the majority in the binding decisions is not correct.

– The fact that the opinion of the bound branch is not considered in anything even in regards to taking the decisions in respect to the arena on which they operate. For example, if the branch of Shaam adopted an opinion then it is not entitled to do so unless it is approved by at least two of the three Shaykhs, knowing that two of them are not present on any arena, rather they are even detained in an enemy state. Detention: meaning not being able to leave.

– The fact that the regulations of al-Qaeda itself state that a person does not have any powers unless he is in one of the branches

We then offered the Shaykh, may Allah have mercy on him, a number of satisfying alternatives such as:

– The decision must be made by the deputy from his capacity as a deputy.

– That the decision must be binding on the level of the tripartite committee and the advisory counsel as a whole, thus bringing them together in one single binding counsel or they both remain non-binding. But one of them being binding without the other, then this is not good.

– That the tripartite committee must be restricted to an advisory decision who authorize the president of the committee to take a final decision.

– That the members of the committee or command counsel must be increased by more than three if the decision is made based on a majority. Such as the increase of the Shaykh Abu Faraj may Allah have mercy on him and the companion of Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr. And regarding the branches; its leaders and their deputies must enter in a binding consultation.

When none of this was realized we informed Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr that we are not bound by what the committee decides based on what has been mentioned above.

3.) The stage of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham

The idea of changing the name of the group (JFS) came to birth for several reasons, which in its general context are the same reasons which pushed Shaykh Ayman and before him Shaykh Usama may Allah have mercy on him towards the idea of changing the name of al-Qaeda Central. And none of those who abuse our words came out at that time to say to the two Shaykhs that they intend to change the name to please America or out of fear from them; like some of those who differ with us accuse us with.

Shaykh Al-Jolani met with the two Shaykhs, Abu Al-Khayr and his companion, in the presence of a number of the Jabhat Nusra Shura council members, and at their head was the president of the follow-up committee Shaykh Abu Faraj may Allah have mercy on him, and the topic was discussed from all aspects.

The idea of the project was to change the name of the group -as it happened later on- and announce what would be understood in the media as breaking the ties with al-Qaeda. While there would remain a secret undisclosed allegiance to them, in a state which would resemble the situation before our dispute with ISIS.

And Shaykh Al-Jolani, who was dealing with Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr as a deputy, said “The matter is in your hands, if you agree we will go on with it, and if you disagree we will stop.” He further said “But if we go on with this matter, then this new reality will pave the way for a real merger, so when this merger happens the break away will be real and not only in the media.”

The Shaykh and his companion agreed to the project after they understood its reality and motives. Based on that we initiated the first practical steps, at the head of those steps was presenting the project for discussion and circulation between 65 leaders from the first, second and some from the third rank in leadership in the group. The circle of consultation was expanded to this number despite the fact that the number of Shura members in the group was much smaller, due to it being a crucial decision on the group level. So expanding the consultation was more likely to achieve success if agreed to by the majority. And indeed the greater majority agreed to the project, around 60 of the original 65 members agreed to it, and it was preceded by the consent of the two Shaykhs Abu Al-Khayr and his companion and also Shaykh Abu Faraj.

When we presented the matter to brother Qassam, after a conversation and asking for guidance, he agreed. On the next day we presented the project to the two Shaykhs (the third and fourth successors) but they refused, so Qassam retracted his consent based on their refusal.

We then sat with Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr and his companion again and said “What is the next step now that the two Shaykhs in Iran have refused?” Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr said “Let’s try to convince them.” So we tried in all possible attempts to convince them but to no avail. The deputy Shaykh then said “Continue with the matter and do not be concerned with the internal matters of the committee. I as the deputy am allowing this matter.” He then recorded his well known message regarding this issue.

During this period we received news of the restoration of communications with Shaykh Ayman. We tried to confirm this from the deputy Shaykh but he said that nothing has reached him regarding this. After that it turned out that the restoration of communications was correct, as confirmed by the third successor. We then asked about the contents but he did not say anything more than that which was mentioned to us by Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr, that it were only greetings and assurances, nothing more. So with the restoration of communication the task of this committee ended like it was agreed to between the three Shaykhs.

Shaykh Al-Jolani then sent a long message to Shaykh Dr. Ayman explaining many matters especially after the interruption of communications which lasted nearly three years (two years and ten month). His message also spoke about the project of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, its motives, reality, etc.

After that we took the step and announced Jabhat Fatah al-Sham through the process which was shown on the media; a speech by Shaykh Al-Jolani, following the speech of Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr which was meant to be understood as consent and blessing for this step.

In the mean time the third successor Shaykh also wrote a message from his side to Shaykh Ayman. And the third successor Shaykh used to communicate through the internet with quite a few people in Shaam, mainly those who are in dispute with us. And he got a lot of his information about us from them, despite his communication with us.

His message reached Shaykh Ayman but our message however was delayed or held for months. So a message arrived to us from Shaykh Ayman based on the vision he understood about the project from the message of the third successor. Likewise a message or two arrived from Dr. Ayman to Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr.

Among the most important points in the letter addressed to us are:

– The project of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is considered to be a real break away and a violation of the pledge.

– Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is considered to be a merger to get rid of the ties with al-Qaeda. While everyone knows that Jabhat Fatah al-Sham was not a merger with any of the factions.

– His request to resolve the problem away from the media and other issues unnecessary to mention here.

And one of the most important points in the messages from Shaykh Dr. Ayman to Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr was him saying “You are not a deputy but a successor, however now I am appointing you as a deputy.” And he also asked him to participate in resolving the problem.

We were shocked by the message because we did not commit any legal Sharia or organizational violation. Shaykh Ayman distinguished between the authorized deputy and the authorized successor, while everyone had another understanding of it. If the communications allowed it, it would have eased the matter. But for the communication to remain disconnected for nearly three years and then coming to know that it is not allowed for the successor to take any decisions, this is truly strange. Even stranger is the fact that a branch must pay the price for this matter which does not have any connection to these matters to begin with. For he accuses its leaders of violating the covenants and pledges and that they are walking in the footsteps of Morsi and are seeking to please America with this.

So we sat down again with the deputy Shaykh and his companion in the presence of Shaykh Abu Faraj and Shaykh Al-Jolani and a number of brothers, and we said to the three Shaykhs -the deputy, his companion and Shaykh Abu Faraj “You know the Doctor from a close for you have accompanied him for long periods and you lived with him. What do you think?” They confirmed to us their astonishment about the unusual nature of the letter from the Shaykh. And they said “A wrong image has reached Shaykh Ayman about the project, we must write a clear explanation in which we tell the Shaykh about the nature of the project, its realities and motives, etc.”

When the opinions agreed on this Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr wrote an independent letter. Shaykh Abu Faraj did the same. As did the companion Shaykh of Abu Al-Khayr, whom we asked “Are you currently a subordinate- and do you submit to Shaykh Ayman?” He said: “Yes, shall I write that you still abide by the pledge but in secret?” We said “Yes write that.”

Shaykh Al-Jolani also wrote another letter, while the first letter did not yet arrive. And we then sent four letters with the signatures of all the 65 brothers concerning the consultation of the project Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, thus including those who agreed from them and those who did not.

I want to pause here and go back a little to the internal reality of the arena:

The step of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham indeed cleared the path for renewed rounds of merger attempts and the most important of these rounds was the one that preceded the fall of Aleppo. The last official session of which took place on the 9th of Dhul Al-Hijjah (the day of Arafah last year). Where we agreed with most of the factions, and at their head Ahrar al-Sham, on a formulization (present in the archives). But there remained some other points which needed to be resolved especially in regards to the nature and shape of the relationship with countries such as Turkey.

It was during this time that the first letter from Shaykh Ayman reached us -as I recall- and the atmosphere was ready for internal strive. For the proceeding of the merger was interpreted by those who disagreed as cornering al-Qaeda or manipulating it and the like. So Shaykh Al-Jolani consulted and signed a Shura including 25 brothers to take a final decision to proceed with the merger or to slow down for a period. So 23 out of 25 answered with proceeding on. My answer and the answer of Shaykh Abu Faraj (may Allah have mercy on him) was that no one was able to stop the merger or object to it because it is a legal Sharia obligation. Pardon me for using this example but even if the leader prevented us from it, theoretically, then even he should be disobeyed.

During this Shaykh Al-Jolani then wrote a brief letter in which he explained to the Shaykh that he preferred to slow down in the matter of the merger until the image was clear to him, fearing sedition and turmoil, even though the majority did not share this vision (23 of 25), and he sent it with the 25 signatures.

We should take a pause here: It is true that the Shaykh slowed down in the matter of the merger but this does not mean that we abandoned what we have committed to with the others previously. So only the rush to a merger was slowed down in that period. Although we were blamed for this delay, it did not last long, and we tried to finish were we left after that.

It was during this time that Aleppo fell and the demonstrations came out calling the factions to unity and many called for a new round of merger talks. And according to us we should complete what we previously built and what we almost agreed to. So this round ended with our signature and that of the most important faction which we were keen on integrating with us in the project of a merger which is Ahrar al-Sham. The Zinki faction also signed, and likewise all the factions of Jaysh Al-Fath. And we talked about gathering the arena as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham would commit to calling some factions to the next session and Ahrar al-Sham would commit to call some and likewise Zinki for some others.

A second message was received from the Doctor may Allah protect him responding to our first letter in which he explained that he repented from the secret pledge after the issue of the Khawarij. This is something we did not know at the time, and none of the Shaykhs who know the Shaykh from a close knew this as well. He likewise stresses the importance that those who would resolve the problem should be restricted to three people; the Doctor himself, his deputy, and Al-Jolani. And he explained that if a merger were to result from the breaking of ties the problem would end from its origin; without us forgetting that he considered that Jabhat Fatah al-Sham actually broke its ties while this was not the case from our side. He also added that he may bless the merger in the media if it happened in addition to other matters.

The signature of Ahrar, and those with them, on the project of a merger after the fall of Aleppo represented a real merger conform the specifications which permit the breaking of ties by Shaykh Ayman in such a case. And we promised everyone to proceed with this merger in word and signature. The position of Ahrar then began to change so we tried to insist one side not to step back, but despite all our attempts we did not succeed. So Ahrar stepped back from what they have signed, thus the split and defection from them by Jaysh al-Ahrar occurred. And Jaysh al-Ahrar made deliberations to join the project in case the leadership of Ahrar al-Sham insisted on retreating. However this was accompanied by the Astana talks, we therefore fought against some Astana factions seeking to sabotage the agreement. Until it ended with the formation of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, with the participation of the division Jaysh al-Ahrar, and not all of Ahrar al-Sham.

4.) The stage of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham:

We mentioned that the origin of the HTS project is the expression of an idea agreed upon by most of the factions especially the factions of Jaysh Al-Fath. Ahrar retreated from its signature but we will not retreat because we are committed to that which we signed to, thus the project of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham was established.

During this time the deputy Shaykh, who was very pleased with the project, requested that he sit down with its Shura council and listen to them, and this indeed happened. Shaykh Abu Al-Khayr then started to write a letter during this period to Shaykh Ayman and the Shaykh sent it. This was the very last letter from him for he was martyred within a few days after it may Allah the Almighty accept him.

It should be noted that Shaykh Abu Faraj was also martyred within days after the letter, may Allah have mercy on him and accept him amongst the martyrs.

With the formation of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham the ties were officially broke based on what we initially said to the deputy Shaykh, and based on what Shaykh Zawahiri he himself explained; that if a merger were to result from the break then this would end the problem from its origin. And this is the path we walked on.

So based on the above: We did not violate the allegiance or the covenant, and we walked legally and organizationally in line, and what happened of problems can not be carried by us. The most important problems being; the organizational problems in the structure of the organization, delays in decision making due to the lack of communication, and the presence of a few individuals who cause chaos and confusion in every decision we take and they cast doubts on it and defame them, as they interpret them in a way which contradict our goal and intention. And they find attentive ears from some of the leaders, and this is the most important factor in the problem.

If they disagreed with us on the basis of the issue of al-Qaeda then the matter would be easy. However the reality is that they found a cloak and a garment in their attachment to the subject of al-Qaeda in which they have wrapped themselves to achieve what they want. Some of them have accused us of serving the global powers of disbelief through breaking our ties. They likewise accused Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham of standing at the threshold of disbelief. While he does not know that Shaykh Al-Turayfi may Allah hasten his release sent us an advice before he was imprisoned to work towards breaking our ties with al-Qaeda, so was the Shaykh also in service of the global powers of disbelief according to him?

One of the things worth mentioning here is the issue of the way of communication: Since the delay in the arrival of messages and the answers were one of the most important causes of the problems previously. And it is not suitable in an arena of accelerated events such as the arena in Shaam to leave a decision hanging on a message which requires months to arrive and its answer needs months as well. Unless the leaders of the arena, who see that which is in favor of the jihad and its people, are delegated.

There is also a problem in the way of communication itself, as there are some corresponders who open messages and send copies or keep them, and this is a big issue. Because it is not allowed for this corresponder to open letters because he is entrusted, so if he opens it he is betraying the trust, whomever he may be. Likewise it is not allowed for him to send a copy of it to other than the one whom it has been sent to. Nor is it allowed for him to keep a copy for himself after knowing that it has reached its destination.

And so that some do not think that I am making things up, I remember that the first message which arrived from Shaykh Zawahiri to Shaykh Al-Jolani reached Abu Julaybeeb and he read it before Shaykh Al-Jolani did. The second message likewise reached the brothers in Daraa days before it reached Shaykh Al-Jolani. And this problem is an old one and we have warned about since the days of the dispute with the Khawarij but it has not been solved since. There is no need to say more about it here.

One of the problems is also the issue of the grand pledge from Shaykh Ayman to the Taliban for al-Qaeda and all its branches. This is an issue we know nothing about, and there is no need to go into further details. In addition to others problems which we do not need to mention here.

Before concluding I say: Let us assume that all the accusations of the disputers are correct, and let us assume that all the images painted by their distributors which reached the leaders of al-Qaeda are correct. The reality of the jihad in Shaam is that the enemies are fiercely attacking its people and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham is the Jihadist faction which still maintains the principles of continuing the jihad and possess the willpower to continue. It is the hope after the success of Allah in the continuance of the flame of jihad, and it represents -in the world of universal laws- the last bastion of the jihad in Shaam. This requires from the Mujahideen to protect its coherent strength without affecting it with confusions, defamations and doubts. Because it is the enemy who will benefit from any internal turmoil which might strike the ranks -if we do not rise to the level of responsibility- without differentiating between those who want to keep the ties and those who want to break them.

There is a lesson for us in history: When Rukn Dine Baybars killed Al-Muzaffar Qutuz -the destroyer of the Mongols in Ain Jalut- and it is without a doubt a grave act. However the Ummah at that time -in the shadow of encircling dangers- followed him waging jihad for the cause of Allah for more than a quarter of a century, facing the Mongols and the Crusaders.

I say this to consider, assuming the validity of all that is said, but the truth is very far from it! And it is enough for you oh Mujahid brother that you are in a Sunni group which did not change or alter and it is still marching on the path of jihad. We ask Allah steadfastness for it; its leaders as well as its soldiers.

Steadfastness on the path of jihad and its goal and methodology is the criterion on which a group is founded, and not the individual endeavors which could be correct or wrong at times, as is the fate of human beings. And may Allah forbid that we lie or manipulate. And we did not do what we did because we wanted to dissociate ourselves from al-Qaeda or because we hate it. Rather it is our assessment of what we see to be of benefit for the jihad and the Mujahideen in the arena of Shaam which seeks to encompass the whole Ummah despite the slanders against the Mujahideen accusing them of waging a regional jihad. And regionalism is another subject which we will not linger on for now. However there is a big difference between the methodology of the Mujahideen and the methodology of those who call towards regionalism.

Finally, we ask Allah to forgive us, and to have mercy on us, and to pardon us, and to aid us, and to hold us steadfast until we meet him. For he is the warrantor of every beautiful thing, and we turn to Allah and He is the best of protectors. And all praises are due to Allah the lord of the worlds.”