Al Qaeda ideologue justifies Shabaab’s war with the Islamic State in Somalia
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Bilal Khuraysat, an al Qaeda ideologue in Syria, has issued a religious justification for Shabaab’s fight against the Islamic State’s arm in Somalia. Khuraysat’s treatise, which is filled with references to Islamic texts, was first published in written form by Bayan Foundation for Media Production late last year. Then, on Jan. 20, Bayan posted an audio version, with an English translation, on its website and Telegram channel.
Khuraysat (also known as Abu Khadijah al-Urduni) has become a prolific al Qaeda thinker, as he regularly comments on current affairs and hot button topics. Bayan promotes his work, as well as the statements and messages of various other al Qaeda actors.
In mid-November, the Islamic State declared war against Shabaab, al Qaeda’s East African branch. The two sides have clashed in the weeks since. But the intra-jihadi conflict isn’t new. Shabaab has sought to contain the self-declared caliphate’s expansion in East Africa since 2015, if not earlier.
And Khuraysat wants Shabaab’s men to know that, in his view, it is imperative for them to continue fighting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s loyalists. His tract is titled, “So the Way of the Criminals Will Become Clear.” Bayan’s audio version is accompanied by various images of Islamic State figures, including Baghdadi, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani (the group’s deceased spokesman) and Turki al-Bin’ali (a deceased Islamic State cleric). All three played instrumental roles in the conflict with al Qaeda.
“My brothers of tawheed and aqeeda in the beloved land of Somalia, Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, made clear to us in his Noble Book the obligation of fighting against certain sects from amongst the Muslims, from those who testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and how to deal with those groups and sects,” Khuraysat argues. “These sects are many and varied. Perhaps in this brief message we can clarify something of their rulings.”
Khuraysat then offers various texts to support Shabaab’s war with the “transgressors,” meaning the Islamic State.
He begins with a quote from the Quran (Surat Al-Hujurat): “And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make peace between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the Command of Allah. Then, if it returns, then make reconciliation between them justly and be equitable…The believers are but brothers, so make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah that you may receive mercy.”
Khuraysat explains that “[t]his noble verse dictates the obligation of fighting against the transgressing sect, keeping in mind that Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, described this sect as believers, however, so long as it remains in transgression then it is an obligation to fight them until they return to the Command of Allah.”
“Likewise,” Khuraysat adds, “this noble verse dictates the obligation of fighting whoever refuses to perform a right from the obligatory rights of the Sharia or refuses a law from the manifest laws of Islam such as the call for prayer, for example.”
Khuraysat builds his case against Baghdadi’s followers, arguing that the holy texts confirm the necessity of countering the “assailant, the oppressor who transgresses without right” and the “one that assaults against the wealth, self and sanctity (of the Muslims).” Islamic “scholars are unanimous that the evil of this assailant,” including Muslims who betray their coreligionists, “must be repelled even if it means killing them.”
Allah has also “made it obligatory to fight” the “(highway) robbers, those who sow corruption on the earth, causing chaos, spilling blood, looting wealth, disgracing the sanctities (of the Muslims) and destroying the crops and livestock.”
Khuraysat cites another Quranic verse (from Surah al-Ma’idah) to underscore the severity of the punishments that can be meted out: “The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and his Messenger and make mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.”
The al Qaeda ideologue cites other Quranic verses and hadith to justify his position – stressing that it applies to other Muslims who transgress, even if they “fast and pray.” That is, Khuraysat argues that the texts he cites apply to even outwardly observant Muslims.
In reality, however, al Qaeda has often taken a more pragmatic approach when it comes to implementing its draconian legal code. Al Qaeda realizes that its severity can alienate local populations.