The latest statement from Iraqi jihadi group Jamaat Ansar al-Islam (JAI: which expanded into Syria once unrest broke out there), extending tribute to the leaders of Ahrar al-Sham recently slain in a bomb attack, actually comes as no surprise, especially when one considers my prior scoop on the life of Abu Muhammad al-Muhajir- one of the founders of JAI's Syria branch- and the close ties he is said to have forged with Ahrar al-Sham in particular. The fondness of JAI for Ahrar al-Sham should be noted despite the latter's more recent attempts under the deceased Hassan Abboud to exhibit a more 'moderate' face in the face of fragmentation and declining outside support. Considering that JAI's Syria presence has now been reduced to Idlib and Aleppo provinces, ongoing coordination seems likely. One should also note that Ahrar al-Sham, like other Islamic Front groups, was keen to show it was not anti-muhajireen in general when infighting broke out with ISIS in January of this year, and the relationship with JAI is likely to have figured in the rationale for such a public stance.
Translation (statement here)
Condolences from the JAI leadership to the Islamic Ummah in general and the brothers of Harakat Ahrar al-Sham in particular on the death of the star of the noble leadership- may God accept them.
The Almighty has said: "And do not reckon that those who have been killed in God's path are dead but rather alive with their Lord and being nourished; rejoicing in what God has given them from His preference, receiving good news about those who have not yet joined them and that they will have no fear nor sadness."- Qur'an 3:169-70.
With hearts content with the judgment of God and His power, we have received the news of the martyrdom of the star of the noble leadership of the dynasties of the glorious ones, the vanguard of the mujahideen in a time of ordeals and trials.
Sheikh Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi [Hassan Abboud], Sheikh Abu Yazan al-Shami, Sheikh Abu Sarya, Sheikh Abu Yusuf, Sheikh Abu Zubayr al-Hamawi, Sheikh Abu Abd al-Malik, the commander Abu Talha, the commander Abu Hamza and their brothers from among those who bore the banner of jihad and da'wah for God in the blessed land of al-Sham. They were with the right of imams of guidance and lamps in the darkness. Their deeds attested to the truth of their words (reckon them thus and God is their reckoning) just as the Almighty said: "Among the believers are men who have attested to the truth of what they have promised God: among them is he who has fulfilled his vow, and among them is he who awaits: and they have not altered their promise in any way"- Qur'an 33:20.
We came to know them when they accepted us on our entry into the blessed land of al-Sham for they were the best of the helpers for Ansar al-Islam and the best of the helpers for the good muhajireen. They opened their homes to us and preferred us over themselves, embodying the word of God the Exalted: "Those who had settled their home in Medina and converted to the faith before them. They love whosoever emigrated and do not find in their hearts any need for what has been given to the emigrants but prefer them over themselves, even if in a state of deprivation. Whoso guard their soul from miserliness, they are the successful ones"- Qur'an 59:9.
We witness that they were lions in the battles unafraid of destruction, competing to see which one could excel his brothers and protect them. Whenever they heard the war-cry or cry of alarm, they flew to them desiring to kill them or die fighting in defence of him [in alarm/panic etc.], so they are among those who fulfilled their vow and among those who await.
We say to their brothers who have succeeded them in the leadership of Harakat Ahrar al-Sham: be patient, endure with patience, take up positions, be aware of God, remain firm* in what they remained firm, and embody the words of God the Almighty: "And how many a prophet fought, and with him many religious scholars, but they did not lose hope because of what had afflicted them in the cause of God, nor were they weakened, nor did they submit. And God loves those who endure. They only said: 'Forgive us, our Lord, for our sins and our excesses in our deeds. Plant our feet firmly and give us victory over the disbelieving people'"- Qur'an 3:146-7.
We ask God Almighty to give them and you the raiment of the world and the goodness of the raiment of the Hereafter and that you be the best of the successors for the best of the predecessors, that He strengthen you on the upright program, fortify your strength, and compensat you in your misfortune as best as possible. And know...that our consolation is that this Ummah is a productive Ummah...the killing of its leadership only increases the determination to emulate them and march on their steps.**
19 Dhu al-Qa'ada for 1435 AH
14 September 2014.
*- The concept of 'thabaat' ('remaining firm/steadfastness') is a key strand in JAI thought: indeed their forum bore this name.
**- The notion of emulation of the past is a notable aspect of the jihadi narrative: the Ummah has been in decline because of moving away from a glorious past system of Caliphate supposedly implementing Islamic law to the totality an infiltration of foreign ideas, therefore we must return to the original system.