Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
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Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog

Some Evidence for the Islamic State's Presence in Yemen (Part 1)

In November 2014, the Islamic State's [IS] leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the acceptance of pledges of allegiance from Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Sinai to herald the creation of new IS 'provinces' (wilayat) ostensibly on the model of administration in the wilayat of Iraq and Syria, which have seen regulations from education to sanitation and real estate. Of these external 'provinces', Libya has thus far shown the most promise for the growth of the IS brand abroad, foremost exemplified in the IS presence in the eastern city of Derna. The 'Sinai' province has some potential too on account of the pledge of allegiance of Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. In contrast, the IS presence in Algeria is limited to a small and rather insignificant break-off from al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb known as Jund al-Khilafa, whose only notable act to date has been the murder of a French hostage. In Saudi Arabia, the tight security apparatus that has hindered al-Qa'ida activity means that open manifestations of the IS presence would be difficult to realize.

Yemen presents a more interesting case. The country is in total chaos with the collapse of the central government, the growth of the Houthi rebel movement's power, the southern separatist movement, and long-term environmental and overpopulation pressures. Yet Yemen has had a very well-established and powerful al-Qa'ida brand for years in the form of al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), together with its front group Ansar al-Shari'a. AQAP more recently has been drawing further popular support in playing on concerns about Houthi expansionism. This thorough grounding of AQAP in the local milieu provides a natural hindrance for the growth of the IS brand in Yemen, regardless of the sympathies expressed for IS' predecessor the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) by AQAP figures like Ma'mun Hatem and the solidarity for IS declared by AQAP in the face of the U.S.-led coalition.

Indeed, there has been hardly any evidence until recently of an IS presence in Yemen. The signs that have just emerged point- unlike Sinai and Libya- to the IS brand as primarily activist in nature, not IS as a viable military force. For example, below is a photo of propaganda material distributed in support of IS in the Hadhramaut area.


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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Mon, March 2, 2015 10:52 AM  |  Permalink

Readings from Anglo-Saxon Prose: Ælfric's Preface to the Latin Grammar

Following on from my post on Anglo-Saxon medicinal recipes, here is another small excerpt from the corpus of Old English/Anglo-Saxon literature. Ælfric was an abbot of the late 10th century who produced numerous works in Old English, including a translation of a Latin grammar by the Late Antique writer Priscian. Below is my translation from the original Old English of Ælfric's preface to that work, including commentary notes.


I Ælfric wanted to translate this little book into English concerning the science that is called grammatica [grammar]. Then I translated the two books on the 80 discourses,* because grammar is the key that unlocks understanding of the books. And I thought that this book could help young children for beginning the science, until they should become of greater understanding.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Wed, February 18, 2015 9:30 AM  |  Permalink

Naqshbandi Army Statement: Condemnation of the Burning of Muadh al-Kasasbeh: Translation & Analysis

Intro and Analysis

This latest statement from the Ba'athist-Sufi Naqshbandi Army [Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqat al-Naqshbandia: JRTN] condemning the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh follows the usual pattern of condemning Islamic State [IS] excesses without mentioning IS by name: compare with the destruction of religious sites in Mosul and attacks on minorities in Ninawa province like the Yezidis and Christians, also condemned by the Naqshbandi Army without explicit mention of IS. Implicitly, JRTN is portraying the IS phenomenon as an agent of Iran.

But perhaps of greater interest in the statement is the glowing tribute paid to the pilot and to Jordan as a nation by JRTN. Note in comparison the condolences the group paid to the deceased Saudi king Abdullah, hailing his supposed role in "anchoring ties of the Arab brothers and connections of Islamic faith and humanity," bringing about great changes through his actions in the "interest of the protected kingdom and the interest of our Arab and Islamic Ummah and all of humanity." Clearly, the JRTN leadership views both Saudi Arabia and Jordan as allies even though they are actively participating in the U.S.-led coalition against IS. In contrast, the 1920s Revolution Brigades- another Sunni insurgent group of nationalist orientation that is quite close to the Naqshbandi Army, hence the front group run by the two groups ('General Military Council for Iraq's Revolutionaries')- has openly condemned the coalition for supposedly waging war on Islam and Sunni areas, and has questioned Arab states' participation in the coalition.

That JRTN might view Jordan as an ally is understandable, given that the country provides host to Iraq Sunni insurgent leaders (witness the Amman Conference held in the summer of last year), but the relationship with Saudi Arabia is more unclear. It is possible that beneath the group's constant re-affirmations of the necessity of 'revolution' and bombastic claims of coalition desperation is a realization of how badly things have gone for the group's fortunes in losing out to IS in all major cities and towns outside of Baghdad's control, with fear of sliding into complete insignificance as all notions of coordination and 'alliance of convenience' with IS quickly vanished in Mosul, Fallujah and elsewhere. Hence maybe a hope that Saudi Arabia and Jordan- as members of the coalition- can empower the JRTN with appropriate financial and logistical support and push for the group to have relevance in being recognized as an actor for Sunni interests with whom the Baghdad government may even have to negotiate. Indeed, talk of including JRTN members in the 'National Guard' formations [Update 16 February: denied by U.S. government in correction to report linked to] may be one such avenue for the group to maintain relevance, even as that means working- at least temporarily- within the post-Saddam order the group has vociferously rejected so many times in its official discourse.

Of course, for JRTN and the central government to reach any kind of understanding is hugely problematic when JRTN is portraying IS and the 'Safavid' government as agents of Iran. In a similar vein notions of U.S.-Iran cooperation in Iraq to push back IS are hindered by Iran and its proxies' portrayal of the IS phenomenon as an American conspiracy.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Sat, February 14, 2015 7:49 AM  |  Permalink

New Nasheed from Islamic State's Ajnad Media: "Soon, soon"

Click here for original. Translation by me below. Both the threatening lyrics and sound effects of this nasheed produce a terrifying effect, perfectly in keeping with the terror tactic employed in the latest video of the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot (for analysis, see this great piece by my colleague and friend Shiraz Maher):

Soon, soon, you will see the wondrous sight,
A fierce conflict. And you will see,
There will be battles in the heart of your abode.
To destroy you, my sword has been sharpened.
We have marched by night, to cut and slaughter,
By the knife of revenge is a road for whoever is suitable,
With the specters of night and the young men of terror,
And an explosion of woe, that he may be defeated.
You have begun to fight me with the ally of shelter,
So taste my curse when it has fired up.
You will remain for a while, and you will suffer in my war.
With what will you meet a youth made mighty?
When the horse has roamed, raised its head, and leaped forth,
Thus it has become a lighted blaze,
The bullets blaze, the revenge has come.
So where is the escape from the sparks of the mortals?
We will come to you with slaughter and death.
With fright and silence we will tear the bonds.
You have failed publicly, so taste loss.
And return in flight, under cover of night.
When disbelief has agitated, frothed, and stirred up,
We have filled the roads with red blood.
With the darkness of bayonets, with the striking of the necks,
To heap up the dogs when they marshal.
We have come, we have come, we have marched with determination.
In earnest we have striven to ascend the peaks.
We embark on the deaths, we close ranks.
We die standing, as lions of courage.

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Wed, February 4, 2015 4:16 PM  |  Permalink

Islamic State Justification for Burning Alive the Jordanian Pilot: Translation and Analysis

Below I have translated the document circulated by the Islamic State's al-Eftaa wa al-Buhuth committee on the subject of the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot. This committee is responsible for providing Islamic textual justifications for various decrees on the acceptability of certain acts. This latest example is perhaps the most notorious. It is important that these documents be brought to light because as the corpus of Islamic texts- whether verses of Qur'an, the ahadith and acts from early Islamic history- is so vast, the Islamic State will likely find some reference that can justify its actions and make its supporters and members feel more sure of themselves. My friend Hassan Hassan has already noted this problem, and it presents a significant challenge to those who wish to counter the Islamic State on interpretation and counter-interpretation grounds.

Question: What is the ruling on burning the kafir [disbeliever] with fire until he dies?

Answer: [...] The Hanafis and Shafi'is* have permitted it, considering the saying of the Prophet 'Fire is only to be administered as punishment by God' as an affirmation of humility. Al-Muhallab** said: "This is not an abslolute prohibition, but rather on the path of humility."

Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar*** said: "What points to the permissibility of burning is the deeds of the Companions, and the Prophet put out the eyes of the Uraynians with heated iron...while Khalid ibn al-Waleed**** burnt people of those who apostazied."

And some of the Ahl al-'Ilm have been of the opinion that burning with fire was prohibited originally, but then on retaliation it is permitted, just as the Prophet did to the people of Urayna, when he put out the eyes of the Uraynians with fire- in retaliation- as is related in Sahih [reliable] tradition, and this brought forth the words together among the proofs.



*- Two of the four main schools of Sunni jurisprudence, the others being Maliki and Hanbali.
**- Early theologian in Islam- died c. 702 CE.
***- Fifteenth century imam and jurist from Egypt: bio here.
****- Companion of Muhammad who participated in early Muslim conquests in the Levant.

(5 February 2015): For clarity, 'retaliation' is in the literal sense of 'eye for an eye'. Consider this explanation on the burning of the Jordanian pilot from an IS source in Ninawa province:

"They say that IS burnt Muadh the apostate alive, and have forgotten that Muadh is the one who was burning children of the Muslims alive. [This is when] he was bombing them with heat missiles."

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Wed, February 4, 2015 10:29 AM  |  Permalink

Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents

My recent series on IS administration in Ninawa province focused on education, public services and religious life using numerous specimen IS administrative documents from that province. This post aims to provide an archive of similar translated IS documents in other provinces, and will be continually updated.

Specimen A: Childbirth Operations in Deir az-Zor Province

Islamic State
State of the Caliphate
Wilayat al-Kheir
Medical Administration

In view of what the land is going through from difficult circumstances including the debilitation of souls from the exploitation of their Muslim brothers, in order to assist the believers from the sons of Islam who are working in the medical corps to support their brothers from the poor and others besides them from the Muslim populace, and with the desire to keep the course of medical work removed from arbitrary whim, the Diwan al-Siha [health administration/department], after consideration and examination of medical work in the field concerning women [gynaecology etc.] has decided on the following:

1. Fixing of the price of Caesarean childbirth operations to 15000 Syrian pounds.
2. Fixing of the price of normal childbirth operations to 10500 Syrian pounds.
3. This includes keeping the child in the hospital for 12 hours after birth only.

Note: This is to be considered as tantamount to a written order and all who contravene it will be held accountable in the Dar al-Qaḍa [IS judiciary] with attendant consquence.

2 Muharram 1436 AH
26 October 2014

General Medical Official

Specimen B: Landline Telephone Subscriptions in Deir az-Zor Province

Islamic State
Wilayat al-Kheir

Islamic Administration for Public Services

Phone connection: Number 035
Date: 14/11 [14 November 2014].

The sum receipt has been completed: 400 Syrian pounds [per month]*
And that is to meet support for connections' services.
Name of subscriber: ...
Subscriber's number: ...
Register's number

[Signatures]: Office official; Service official

NB: For comparison, landline subscriptions according to Northern Storm's spokesman [Azaz area] cost $2 a month (around 365 Syrian pounds). The landline subscription generally only works for local landline connections.

Specimen C: Fishing Regulations (Agricultural Department): Deir az-Zor Province


As a result of the lack of oversight over the abundance of fish, paucity of awareness, and the greed and ambition of some of the fishermen and their audacity in carrying out fishing in ways that are illegal and harmful to the life of the people, the fish and the river environment.

The Islamic State has decided on the following:

1. The use of electric current in hunting fish is forbidden because it leads to extermination of many river/water creatures as well as congenital disfigurement for small fish and other river creatures.

2. No fishing with use of explosive materials, dynamite and the like.

3. No fishing with use of toxins and other chemical substances because that leads to the death of all the creatures of fish and others besides them, as well as poisoning people who obtain food from them.

4. No fishing at a time of proliferation of the fish and river/water creatures because that leads to the prevention of the proliferation of the fish and the killing of their eggs, which constitutes a threat to the abundance of fish.

We ask all who come upon this decision to be bound by it for it is in the interest of the Islamic State and the Muslims in the totality.

Specimen D: Regulations for Pharmacies in Deir az-Zor Province (only preserved in indirect testimony)

Da3esh [IS] insists that all pharmacies operating in Deir az-Zor province must provide the medical administration in the province (Wilayat al-Kheir) with a number of statements including the provision of a degree for the pharmacist; further, it is required that anyone who works in the pharmacy must have a degree of a medical/health institute (pharmacy division) and he is responsible for any mistake that happens in the pharmacy with no provision of anaesthetics, menstrual drugs or prohibited medications except by doctor's prescription.

Further, it has been imposed on pharmacy owners that their profits cannot exceed 20%. They must also bring a document from the Diwan al-Zakat to indicate that payment has been fulfilled. Whoever does not possess those statements will have his pharmacy shut for a period of a month from the date of the decision. Whosoever contravenes will be held accountable in the Dar al-Qaḍa al-Shari'i with attendant consequence.

[5 November 2014]

Specimen E: Prayer Times in Deir az-Zor City (Diwan al-Awqaf wa al-Da'wa wa al-Masajid)

Islamic State
Wilayat al-Kheir
City area

(Diwan al-Awqaf wa al-Da'wa wa al-Masajid)

We remind the Muslims under the shadow of the Islamic State that the time standard authorized for the call to prayer, prayer and the rest of the proceedings is the old time standard ('summer') so please observe this directive by order of the general committee for the Islamic State.

[statement emerged in late November 2014].

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Tue, January 27, 2015 12:25 PM  |  Permalink

"Qālū 'innha wa'ad"- Jihadi Nasheed

A popular jihadi nasheed also used by more mainstream Syrian rebels. Preliminary translation:

They said it was a promise: We are the league of the lion.
And our march left them in defeat, withdrawing forever.
Then they made their call. It had already been finished. Indeed it had been ordained.
For our response rendered them not only stunned but also defeated. [chorus]

Indeed we are the soldiers who burn disgrace with fire,
Your fraudulence has truly vanished in the winds of victory.

We will demolish your throne, we will destroy your dominion.
So depart forever. Indeed we see an abode for malice.

League of evil, depart forever. Hear the resolve from me.
Head to your abode forever, we are the knights of the day.

Depart without returning from endurance of the veil.
Drink a cup of humiliation, and take all the lowly ones.

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Fri, January 23, 2015 9:00 PM  |  Permalink

"The Land of Sinai"- New Islamic State [IS] Nasheed from Ajnad Media

Concomitant with the transformation of Jamaat Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis into 'Wilayat Sinai' ('Sinai Province') following the allegiance to IS in November 2014, here comes an official IS nasheed to add further recognition to the extension of the IS provinces. Here is my preliminary translation:

"Oh soldiers of God, go forth and defeat the damned kufr [disbelief/disbelievers].
Oh soldiers of God, indeed we have built an edifice of tawheed.
We have dwelled in the land of Sinai, we have rejected non-Islam.
We have protected the banner of the religion, we have lamented the wound of Islam.
Oh soldiers of God, go forth...

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Fri, January 16, 2015 8:39 PM  |  Permalink

Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib: Intro and Interview

To give a brief introduction, Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib ('The Absent Imam Battalions'- the 'Absent Imam' referring to Imam al-Mehdi in Shi'a messianism) is one of dozens of Shi'a militias that have emerged as part of the 'Popular Mobilization' (al-Hashad al-Sha'abi) trend in response to the wave of Islamic State [IS] gains in northern and western Iraq in summer 2014. Like a number of militias (e.g. Hezbollah the Mujahideen in Iraq), Kata'ib al-Imam al-Gha'ib- led by a man known as 'Abu Dhir al-Fiqar', advertises itself as a 'Hezbollah brand', using Hezbollah's symbols in its insignia in particular.

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Mon, January 12, 2015 3:20 PM  |  Permalink

The Twitter Wars Between Jamaat Ansar al-Islam Syria's Factions

As I documented in my previous post, Jamaat Ansar al-Islam's Syria branch, whose parent Iraqi branch came to an end in August 2014 after most of its members gave allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) with the remainder quitting the field, appears to have had a two-way split reflected in a war between Twitter accounts. The Syria branch's previous official Twitter account- @ansarulsham- is claiming the dissolution of the group and allegiance to IS following the real example of Iraq, while @ansarulislam_sh claims to be the new official Twitter account of the Syria branch and denies allegiance to IS, saying that @ansarulsham has been hijacked. The question is which account represents the majority, and if it's @ansarulsham, whether that means the end of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam in Syria too. My conclusion so far has been that some serious defections have likely occurred but the schism is not fatal to those wanting to retain the group's separate identity. This post will document the ongoing evidence emerging from the Twitter wars between @ansarulsham and @ansarulislam_sh, and will accordingly be updated when necessary.

As of today, the latter account is promising a statement on how @ansarulsham got hijacked. @ansarulsham has just responded:

"Expect a visual release of the 'Ansar al-Khilafa' camp for the group before the blessed pledge of allegiance. No one has remained from the group except those who followed their preference and wanted to separate from the group [i.e. the bulk that pledged allegiance]. So they have begun to stir up lies and doubts such as Abu Khateeb who fled to Turkey from the lands of the Dawla [IS] with its banner, and with the thinnest hope is the one who left the land of Islam and escaped to the land of kufr [disbelief] and makes attacks and curses. He and others whom we do not wish to mention by name assert that the group is its own thing. We assert that the group with its amir and amirs of its divisions have given allegiance...And whoever venerates names, adopts them and adopts them as a goal, we did not come to this state of affairs previously for reason of these closed minds. And we thank God that he has guided us to this state...It suffices and satisfies us that we are based in the land of the Caliphate and see the Shari'a of God ruling over our necks. We also bear arms, head out with might, and fight the enemies of the religion to the objection of the cursers and doubters based in the shadow of the Tawagheet [forces of idolatrous tyranny] and tweet and curse the upright manhaj [direction/program]: the manhaj of implementing the rule of the law of the Lord of the Worlds."

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By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  |  Sat, January 10, 2015 2:49 PM  |  Permalink

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