Inducement and Terror: How the Islamic State Deals With Sunni Social Leaders

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 March 2021

Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir), the then-leader of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM), released his fourth audio statement on 28 September 2006. The speech was entitled, “Come to a Just Word” (تعالوا إلى كلمة سواء); an English transcript was released by the jihadists and is reproduced below.

At the time he gave this speech, Al-Badawi had taken over command of AQM, the forerunner to the Islamic State (IS). AQM/IS’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), had been killed three months earlier, in June 2006, and two months later, in November 2006, Al-Badawi dissolved AQM into the first formal iteration of IS, taking the role of deputy to Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), despite AQM being the dominant faction within the nascent IS.

Al-Badawi’s speech is very considerably aimed at the Iraqi mainstream Sunni ulema, the religious scholars and clerics, who interpret the Holy Law and the faith to Muslims. By the end of Saddam Husayn’s regime, the “Faith Campaign” had restructured society in western and central Iraq, where the Sunni Arab populations are concentrated, so that clerics were playing a role as social leaders in their communities that they previously had not. This Islamization program and its empowerment of mid-level clergy, making mosques the focal point of Sunni Arab authority, in combination with the sanctions and the quasi-institutions set up to evade them, the sectarian-tinged coup-proofing measures after the 1991 Shi’a uprising, and the steady extension of the burgeoning Islamist and Salafist movements into the Ba’th regime’s security forces in the 1990s, meant the post-Saddam insurgency was destined to be an Islamist one. These instruments laid the groundwork, ideological and practical, for IS, but IS’s annexation of them was not immediate and IS could not do it entirely on its own terms. Hence Al-Badawi in this speech trying to set terms for the ulema to come on board with the IS project.

Al-Badawi argues to the ulema that the IS movement is on their side, both theologically (that IS is neither too lax nor too extremist in its interpretation of Islam) and physically (that IS is the shield for the ulema against threats, not specified but understood to be the Shi’a and the Americans). What Al-Badawi offers is that the ulema should embrace IS, instituting and spreading IS’s ideology among Iraqi Sunnis, and IS will ensure the ulema’s status and position as the ones overseeing this implementation within the community. Concluding on a rhetorical flourish, Al-Badawi notes that the ulema would surely prefer that they guide Iraqi Sunnis, rather than the state clergy of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Asad’s Syria.

Closely related: Al-Badawi offers an amnesty to tribal shaykhs who have worked against IS that lasts for the month of Ramadan; so long as they repent before IS gets to them, they will be forgiven for any jihadist blood they have shed, says Al-Badawi, but the offer expires at the end of the month and if they fall into IS’s hands before that, and are still a declared enemy at the moment of capture, then they will be slaughtered. This dynamic would become central in the months after this speech as the “Awakening” among the tribes was joined by the American “Surge”.

Among the interesting morsels in Al-Badawi’s speech is his claim that by this point, 4,000 foreign jihadists had died in the ranks of the jihadi insurgents and the number of dead among the local jihadists was higher again.

There is a significant section devoted to the “blind shaykh”, Umar Abdurrahman, who organised the World Trade Centre bombing in 1993. Al-Badawi calls on IS operatives during Ramadan to capture Coalition soldiers so they can be used in a hostage exchange to get Abdurrahman out of prison.

Al-Badawi calls for scientific and technical specialists, particularly those who have experience with weapons of mass destruction, to join IS because the group is “in dire need of your experience” and “American bases serve as the best test sites” for their expertise.

The final announcement in the speech is a new military campaign, Al-Fath al-Mubin or Al-Fatah al-Mubeen, variously translated as “Operation Manifest Victory” or “Operation Great Conquest”.

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Praise be to God, Lord of power and rule, who is the far above inequity, and far from injustice, the alone and forever eternal, the hearer of every complaint, the one who removes every affliction. And peace be upon he was sent with clear signs and decisive evidence, bringer of glad tidings for those who believe and warner for those who disbelieve, and as one who invites to God’s path by His will, and as a lamp spreading light.

As for what follows:

In observance of Ramadan, the blessed month of jihad and martyrdom, I felicitate the umma (community of Islam) in general, and the mujahideen on the frontlines in particular. I pray to God for it [Ramadan] to be the height of victory and empowerment for our umma.

My first message:

First, I would like to address the chosen people of God, whom he commended in His precious Book and honoured by associating them with His Almighty Name and that of His angles. God Almighty said: “God witnesses that there is no deity except Him, and [so do] the angels and those of knowledge—[that He is] maintaining [creation] in justice. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise” [Imran 18].

To those who were endued with knowledge and who fear God, God Almighty said: “Those truly fear God, among his servants, who have knowledge” [Fatir 28].

To those whom God have selected to guard in the Book and religion in the hearts, God Almighty said: “Rather, the Qur’an is distinct verses [preserved] within the breasts of those who have been given knowledge” [Al-Ankabut: 49].

To those who stand guard the goodness of our umma by meeting the condition mentioned in this aya (verse), God Almighty said: “You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You al-amr bil-maruf wa-nahee an al-munkar (enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong), and believe in God” [Imran: 110].

To those who got their share of the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad; to those who were ordered to lay out charity and to enlighten, solidify, and unite people, God Almighty said: “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you should believe in God and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result” [Al-Nisa: 59].

To those whom God set an example of to be the first to answer to the call of the jihad, God Almighty said: “And how many a prophet fought [in God’s cause] and [along] with Him [fought against] large bands of learned religious men” [Imran: 146].

Ibn Abbas and Hassan [ibn Ali] said: “It means ulema (scholars, clerics) and fuqaha (jurists, legal scholars)”.

Where are you from the fighting and killing in the cause of God? Needless to say that the scholars’ main task is to guide people in good times and in times of distress, God Almighty said: “And their words were not but that they said, Our Lord, forgive us our sins and the excess [committed] in our affairs and plant firmly our feet and give us victory over the disbelieving people” [Imran: 147].

O, our respected ulema, your sincere role and the character of your work should stem from the covenant God has taken on you, God Almighty, said: “And when God took a covenant from those who were given the Scripture, you must make it clear to the people and not conceal it” [Imran: 187].

O, fellow ulema, today we are faced with issues relating to our survival and honour that otherwise in previous times, would have challenged the great four Imams [of the Rashidun Caliphate]. A fatwa is urgently needed in such issues. The [second] caliph Umar al-Faruq was the voice of the truth, according to the Prophet, yet he feared that his judgments were wrong. If this is the case with Umar, what would an ordinary Muslim refer to in times where ignorance prevails?

O, our honoured ulema, O dignified masters, hear us well. We are coming. We are victorious. We are victorious. And may be it will be quite soon. And may be it will be quite soon. And perhaps in the lives of many of you, and then, we will never abandon you, for you are our fathers and brothers, the pride of our umma, glory of our religion, and the heirs of our Prophet.

If you are to give up on us, we shall not. And if you elect to desert us, we shall follow your footsteps and cling to you because you are the source of enlightenment and guidance. If any of you are to stumble on or slips to lust or a suspicion, we shall hold our tongues and guard his honour unless in doing so would guide others to wrongdoings.

O, our honourable ulema, we are not Kharijis and we are not ahl al-bid’a (people of innovation), nor are we advocates of such. We are men, who have witnessed the humiliation of our religion as a sweeping flood descending our umma, taking us forth to the abyss of ignorance. With our skulls and bones, we have walled off your honour and religion [from these threats].

Today, we are witnessing the growing strength and firmer resolve in the face of infidels’ waves, which are smashing to diminishment. And then, we are back to settle in the land of the tree of Islam and to nurture it to fruitfulness. We shall then say to you, take it [fruitfulness] and enjoy it with right good cheer.

The birds of evil are circling above the lands and we are afraid that they might snatch off our struggle and toil. Our stream of blood in Iraq is great, more than 4,000 of the muhajireen (foreign fighters) have been killed and many more ansar (lit. “partisans”) of goodness and blessings (i.e. local jihadists).

Our dear ulema, today, we are at a crossroads and we ask you to assume responsibility. Don’t fail us. By God, don’t fail us because we need you. We promise you no security but jihad for the sake of God and to be at the limits God has set for us. We have nothing more precious than our blood, which we lay down at will to keep the ship of Islam sailing. We ask you to guide us and enlighten our way and to take control of [the ship] according to the Holy Qur’an and the Sunna of our Prophet. If you are to decline taking control, then you are not to blame us if we are to answer to the present challenge and take control of it and move on to our establishment [of an Islamic state] in land, God willing.

Dear true ulema, let’s arguably assume that the Shaykh of al-Azhar and the Grand Mufti of the Hejaz are the ones instructing the mujahideen, and that the Grand Mufti of Syria is serving as a check on error, would you think our umma would be better off? O revered ulema, leadership should be spearheaded by an individual of correct perception and knowledge, and that is the role God has bestowed on you, ahl al-ilm (people of knowledge). A good, cohesive and strong society is the one in which scholars prevail and in which individuals know their rights and duties.

“And when there comes to them information about [public] security or fear, they spread it around. But if they had referred it back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who [can] draw correct conclusions from it would have known about it” [Al-Nisa: 83].

I seize this instance to remind you of the blind mujahid shaykh, Umar Abdurrahman [the spiritual leader of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Group) in Egypt]. He is detained in the U.S. and being subjected to various physical and psychological torture for no other reason than that he rejected the taghut and believed in the tawhid (oneness) of God.

To our shaykh [Abdurrahman], I say, have no fear, and verily, with every difficulty there is a relief. O our dear beloved shaykh, those who stand firm on the covenant are plenty. Your loyal sons are still with you and remain as you have left them, unchanged, but they have become more certain and insightful about the taghut.

Do no grieve for those who have retreated in defeat, may God forgive them for some of their past and present other good deeds. He Almighty is the Most Merciful.

I also appeal to all free mujahid in bilad al-rafidayn (the land between the two rivers) to work hard in this holy month (Ramadan) for the sake of God. May God grant us the opportunity to capture some of the Roman dogs [Crusaders, Christians, i.e. Coalition soldiers] to serve as prisoners to be exchanged to set free our shaykh [Abdurrahman] and save him from the darkness of imprisonment, as a confirmation of our allegiance, loyalty, and love [to him].

My second message:

To those who sacrificed so much, and endured the agony, which only God knows: to the tribal shuyukh (elders) who have stood with us, privately and publicly, and provided us with money and men. I say: May Almighty God reward and requite you for us with all good. You are people of generosity, courage and daring. If one is to take oath that you are most revered people on earth, one would not perjure. There will be a day, O dear revered shuyukh, that we shall carry you on our shoulders and heads and call upon people: “These are our pride fathers, bring forth like thee men”.

And for those traitors who stood alongside with and became the spying eyes and mouthpieces of the occupiers and their aides, and who have betrayed their land, people, and beliefs, and who ended up in despair in military bases and some have fled the land leaving behind their families and properties, reviled by God and cursed by their people, to those I would like to say:

In this holy month of Ramadan, the month of the amnesty and pardon: today we declare a general amnesty. For each of you, we have waived our right to avenge our blood that was shed at your hands. Our hands reach out to you in forgiveness and our arms are stretched out in welcome to you again, so come back, do come back once again, to your land, your people, and your religion. We grant you safety as long as you repent before you fall into our grip and on the following conditions:

  1. That you announce your sincere repentance publicly before a gathering of your tribe and to inform us (by any means) of your repentance for the fear of error and slippage on our part;
  2. And that you work hand by hand with your brothers, the mujahideen, so we can liberate our land and enjoy peace again.

The duration of this amnesty is the month of Ramadan and will expire at the end of it. May God be our witness that we are honest and sincere, with love.

My last message:

To the people of distinctive competencies, and highly experienced scientists in all fields and disciplines—chemistry, physics, management, electronics, information technology, and in particular nuclear scientists and explosives specialists—we say to you: we are in dire need of your experience. The battlefields of the jihad will satisfy your ambitions. American bases serve as the best test sites for your non-traditional bombs, such as germ warfare and so-called dirty bombs.

In the end and with pleasure I am announcing the launch of a new military campaign, Al-Fatah al-Mubeen. With it, we shall eradicate the infidels, apostates, and the hypocrites—with the help of God, the Exalted in Might, The Wise.

“God has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not” [Yusuf: 21].

Servant of the mujahideen, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

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