Previously on this site I have featured an interview I did with Sheikh Abu Anas al-Masri (an independent jihadist cleric/Shari'i of Egyptian origin based in northwest Syria) as well as an essay by him on the operations that Turkey and its Syrian rebel clients launched against the Syrian Democratic Forces last year. In a new guest essay for my site, Sheikh Abu Anas al-Masri writes on what he sees as the roots of the failure of the project of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and what he expects to be the group's collapse. He has written this essay amid the ongoing infighting between HTS and the factions of the jihadist 'So Be Steadfast' operations room, at the root of which lies what HTS (the dominant faction in the area) sees as an unacceptable challenge to its authority in northwest Syria.
This essay was written on 24 June 2020 and solely reflects the views of the author.
Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham
And the roots of failure and collapse
Praise be to God. We praise Him, seek help in Him, seek His forgiveness and seek refuge in God Almighty from the evils of ourselves and the evils of our deeds. Whomsoever God guides, there is nothing to mislead him, and whomsoever He misleads, there is no guide for him, and I bear witness that there is no deity but God alone with no partner for Him, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger. Then as for what follows:
The rise of the nations, stations and ruling systems has its foundations and components upon which it arises and the most important of them is justice between the people and realizing justice on the ground takes many forms.
And we the Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama'a are an Ummah of the divine Islam of the middle road. We have a particular place among the nations because only divine justice derived from the Book and Sunna is right for us and establishes our states and societies.
And regrettably many of the states that have claimed affiliation with Islam have contravened this fundamental principle so they have failed and the pure image of Islam has been distorted: that image which our enemies have always tried to prevent the people from seeing and living by.
And among these distorting and distorted images is 'Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham' and its 'Salvation Government'.
Let us condense many of the details and introductions for their abundance and length. And let us focus on the prominent, important and distinguishing signs in the history and roots of the establishment of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, so we may understand something of what is going on today from events in the field of al-Sham. Then we can after that predict the near future and very near for the situation in the liberated areas.
Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham has purported itself to be the sole legitimate authority responsible for the heritage of the revolution and bearing the responsibility of the Ahl al-Sunna in the Shari'i Islamic sense in what is called the liberated areas which must have the right of hearing and obeying.
And at the same time it has portrayed itself to the international community as being the strongest faction capable of controlling matters and implementing the international decisions and subjecting all to its influence and authority on the basis that it is the factions that bears the elastic and flexible ideology proceeding with the global system and aspiring not to be within the negative classification and negative lists.
And in truth, both the matters do not concord at all and no side can bring about success between the two in any way and one must lean towards one of the two.
And the Hay'a [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] has leaned towards the international community, the side capable of realizing the ambitions of Jowlani and whomsoever he has chosen, in order to be an instrument for him next to him in Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.
And in truth also each of the two portrayals has its multiple claims, obligations and responsibilities.
The matter that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham has failed miserably in undertaking, for since its rise it has been proceeding on a descending slope, inevitably resulting in failure and collapse- something whose features have become clear to the observer both near and far.
And we in this article will expound on the reasons for this failure and this expected collapse, through our Islamic creed and point of view deriving from the fact that we are Muslims of the Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama'a.
What is the foundational component for Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham?
The foundational component for Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is Jabhat al-Nusra with its being fed by some of the personalities that have had the negative role and have contributed to a degree in the current deviation in the course of the Jabha. And they- that is, those personalities- have completed the factors of deviation that lie in the leaderships and heads of Jabhat al-Nusra from the foundation.
And the matter has been a planned contrivance for the circle of evil, corruption and plotting against the Ahl al-Sunna on the land of al-Sham to be completed in this new entity (Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham).
For Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham is a faction that was inaugurated by the Islamic State in Iraq and sent by it to support the people of al-Sham in late 2011. So the establishment of Jabhat al-Nusra was through its coming out from the womb of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq: that brittle entity or if you like imaginary or gelatinous, which was supported by the al-Qa'ida leadership in Khorasan- at the time of its rise- without consideration.
For the State of Iraq was an evil upon al-Qa'ida before being an evil upon others besides it from the mujahid factions and before being an evil upon the enemies. So Jabhat al-Nusra in its leadership that the Islamic State of Iraq sent was bearing in its insides the factors of failure and collapse since the establishment. And it never represent Qa'idat al-Jihad in any of the fields or any of the levels. And we are witnesses from the inside to the details of that.
And when Jabhat al-Nusra in al-Sham was divided into two factions, one of them led by Jowlani and the other that returned to Baghdadi's leadership, the two factions did not differ for the most part, but rather part of the pillars of the distorted picture, apparent in the distortion to the follower.
For at the head of Jabhat al-Nusra was an unknown man, whose lineage, religion and truth of the school or environment in which he was raised or brought were not known.
As soon as the most important features of this personality began to appear to all near to it from those we reckon to be upon religion and honesty, for their descriptions of this man resembled each other: this man who was distinguished in his intense love for amirship and leadership even if his clinging to that led to compromise on anything. And he was able to play with the leverages around him in a calculated manner, then he was able to burn all that stood in front of him from these leverages as an obstacle impeding his complete control of the leadership.
While the one content with being a direct servant for his persona and then his project was maintained. And he was helped in that by the international coalition through removing all who were difficult for him to remove from his way, with a strike directed from the drones.
And the greatest example of Jowlani's playing with leverage is the announcement of his joining al-Qa'ida and his benefiting from that leverage in a way all could see, then when his affiliation with al-Qa'ida conflicted with his ambitions, whose thread became among the Americans, he burned his relation with al-Qa'ida,
And when the men of al-Qa'ida around him were a bond he could not break, the coalition helped him with drones. And here we note that the first step that showed the failure and was a strong factor among the factors of collapse was the announcement of the breaking of ties from al-Qa'ida.
'The announcement' per se: and we mentioned before that the Jabha did not represent al-Qa'ida at any time.
And we note that we issued two audio files the night of the breaking of the ties, advising and warning about the breaking of ties and we made clear at the time the black outcome- 'the one connected with the Sunan of fate'- to which the Jabha would arrive if it broke the tie with a class of the believers to please the disbelievers. And it was what we entirely expected because God's cosmic Sunan of fate do not change and are not replaced.
By announcing the beginning of 'Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham' after 'Jabhat Fatah al-Sham', then by the rest of the components of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham leaving Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham in anger, except some of the personalities previously mentioned, Jowlani felt very much secure in his mind about the factors that could push him forwards to undertake his personal project, and he thought that he had reached the ideal level that should make things suitable for him to achieve what he wanted.
And here began to appear the features of Jowlani's ambitions and here began the line of rapid descent. The factors of the failure of the Hay'a and its collapse have been embodied after that in multiple apparent forms but all of them derived from what we have mentioned and presented.
The first and most important factor lies in the nature of the personalities who head the leadership in the Hay'a, beginning with Jowlani, devoid of principles, religion and ethics 'even if he tries to show the contrary of that': and the evidence of all that is his concealing of his lineage throughout this time, for the one of good lineage is not embarrassed about his lineage at all and he does not hide it at all, but rather he is proud of his lineage and the meanings of elevation in it, and this is intuitive grasp.
Then in the instrument of Jowlani and the one who relies in all his farce on his nearness to his leader: that is Atoun, the one nicknamed the wavering person of many colours, whose principle is to make change and altering colour the foundation, and steadfastness and principles the derivative!! And that is so when he established a principle for his corrupt choice in the preference of the manhaj of Hamas to be a path for the Hay'a of Jowlani, so a faction whose first Shari'i is Abd al-Raheem Atoun can come to any transformation and any nonsense.
Then the personality all consider corrupt and the sower of corruption and it is truly surprising that this personality was at the head of the Shari'i Committee in the Jabha, whose tomfoolery, corruption, deviation and pragmatisms have become apparent to all in all the matters and likewise Jowlani's clinging to him despite that has become apparent to all. That person is Abu Mariya al-Qahtani who is widely believed to have been the chest of wealth coming the petrol in Deir az-Zor.
Then the one who entered the Jabha or if you like the Hay'a 'all the same' after that from personalities whose roots, the corruption of their characters and whose paths deviating from the manhaj of the Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama'a prior to that are well-known: like all the Egyptians, the likes of Abu al-Harith and Abu al-Yaqdhan and al-Farghali (and others besides them, but known persons).
(With our apology to the honest Egyptian soldiers who have never been contaminated with deviation).
From these personalities, all of them in the beginning of the authority, the factors of failure and collapse have all come out one after the other.
If we take into account the fact that all the people honest in their orientation towards their Lord or even in their orientation for the interest of their community have fled from the Hay'a, and at the same time the coming together of all the scum elements whose zeal is to gather money and desire of whim, then these two latter factors have only increased deviation, fitna, feeling of power, authority and influence in the deviant leadership- this has led them to plunge into falsehood.
So ranging from a naiveté of thought and mind that has made them believe they are the sons and beloved ones of God, this thought has made them fall into the likes of what befell the Banu Isra'il, for it has made them always take the offer of the lower, abandoning behind their backs the desire of God, thinking that they are in the contentment and care of God so long as they have not fallen into kufr.
So they have replaced the law of God with arbitrary whims, out of the desire of the soul for wealth and rank, and they have given preference to the desire to please the international community and implement its decisions over the interest of the jihad and the interest of repelling the enemy and cleansing the lands of the Muslims whether of the apostates or disbelievers.
In the time in which all that likes of these people, the international community is never pleased with them, even if they were to remove all their clothes for the international community.
And to the faction's partisanship in truth and falsehood, there have arisen confrontation and enmity with all the parties because they see themselves as the most right in sovereignty, authority, rule and exercising disposition in wealth.
And to exercising dominance over men with love of wealth, rank and authority- something that whenever any deviation arises in them, makes them gather wealth and authority from what is lawful and forbidden, in truth and falsehood.
And something that has made them clash with and compete with all, even with the simple masses of the people, for they have waged war on them in their livelihoods, dwellings, security, stability, and daily means of living.
. And to looking for influence and rank even if it is by pleasing the enemies and enraging the mujahideen monotheist allies of God.
Their ambition has even blinded them to the point that the people have seen them handing over lands and villages occupying important place in the souls of the Ummah, without opposition and generously so, as long as their living sustenance, positions and wealth are handed over to them.
They hand over to the Turks complete disposition and strive to clear the way for them to occupy the liberated areas militarily and what the military presence entails.
They establish checkpoints on the routes to protect the Russian patrols and there has heard from them the one who has heard their threat against the one who thinks of attacking the Russians during their passing on the M4.
And as they obtain what pleases their materialistic souls, the masses of the people see from them great deeds to be condemned, many and multiple.
Trangression against all with imprisonment without accusation and taking wealth without Shari'i or realistic justification and low regard in killing and gathering taxes.
With that, the masses of the people have not seen from them what they perceive as their being interested in the affair of the people from providing services. To the contrary, the people see- all the people see- that the businesses and wealth and all the goods and real estate have become into their hands and the hands of their amnis, who lack religion, manners and chivalry: people who have entered into the Hay'a for the sake of wealth while the Hay'a has brought them into it for their competency for these contemptible tasks that the one of religion, manner or chivalry it not content to undertake.
Jowlani and those around him do all that while feeling secure or assurances come to them that the international community is content with them, even if partially, and needs them in the greater mission that is destroying the terrorists or even suppressing them and besieging them with poverty, weakness, division and fear.
But only the believers know that this matter is like the clinging of the tenacious one to one of the houses of the spider and the weakest of the houses is the house of the spider, if only they knew.
For if only they knew, they would know that among the most important reasons for their fall is from the eye of God, then from the eye of the people, ad among the reasons for their failure and collapse is they have taken the enemies of God as allies, from whom they have sought security, and from whom they have sought wealth and influence.
All that and much else have been a reason for the miserable failure and expected collapse of a faction that has not established a weight for any of the factions for the rise of the nations, states and societies.
Abu Anas al-Masri.