Today the main epicentre of the remaining insurgency against the Syrian government is the province of Idlib and its environs. Within that milieu are multiple minor jihadi groups that have foreign fighters (muhajireen) in their ranks. Fursan al-Din (Knights of the Religion) is one such group. Fursan al-Din was founded by Turkish muhajireen, but it also has members from central Asia and Europe as well native Syrians. The group has most notably fought in the Latakia and Sahl al-Ghab areas.
Recently I was able to interview the amir of Fursan al-Din, who is himself Turkish, about the history of Fursan al-Din and the current situation. Note this interview was originally conducted in Turkish and the questions and answers have kindly been translated by an anonymous friend. Any explanatory insertions are in square brackets.
Q: When was Kata'ib Fursan al-Din founded and on which principles? Other than Turkey, from which nationalities does it have muhajirs? Is the majority of the brigade made up of mujahireen or ansars?
A: Kata'ib Fursan al-Din is made up of ansar [local Syrians] and mujahireen and was founded in 2014 in accordance with the Qur'an and sunnah, and in line with the ahl al sunnah and jamaa [Sunnis] to support the oppressed people of Syria.
Q: As Kata'ib Fursan al-Din, in which parts of Syria have you fought?
A: Since the Kata'ib was founded, we continue our fight particularly in the northern part of Syria.
Q: What is your stance in political manhaj [program]? In your opinion, which group is the closest to your stance? What do you think of the political projects of HTS [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham]? Has the Kata'ib pledged bay'a [allegiance] do any individual? For example, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri?
A: We look at the political actions of the mentioned group or other groups from the perspective of accordance with the manhaj of the ahl al sunnah and jamaa and surrounding ulama [scholars], as well as in line with the wala and bara [loyalty and disavowal] rules and also keeping in mind the general maslahah [interest] of the Islamic ummah. It is important to repeat that we consider the political actions of the mentioned group or other groups in accordance with the opinions and statements of the contemporary ulama who have gained legitimacy from the majority of the ummah and notable mujahids (ahl al hall and al aqd, which generally includes the pioneers across the world who are struggling for the religion of Allah). We would also like to note that we have not pledged any bay'a to any person. If the goal is to follow the path of legitimate jihadi leaders of the ummah, since we were founded, we have made this path our path.
Q: Some commentators believe that all the groups must unite in order to fight against the threats against Syria. What do you think of this? What is the reason you have not joined groups like HTS?
A: In the book [the Qur'an] God Almighty and Exalted is He has said: "Hold on tight to the rope of God. Do not separate." (Al Imran 103) Thus our attitude toward the jamaa who endeavor to make the sharia of Allah govern is built on religious brotherhood, cooperation in goodness and taqwa [piety], the exchange of advice and unification of efforts. Till the day our common goal of achieving unity and the establishment of sharia [Islamic law] is realized.
Q: What is your opinion on the Turkish Armed Forces' (TAF) monitoring points in the Lattakia, Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo provinces? Is the TAF preventing you from conducting an operation on the Hmeimim airbase where the Assad regime and Russia are deployed?
A: As the Kata'ib, we do not agree with the decision of the groups who are active on the field to use the best interests of the Muslims as justification to allow the TAF to enter Syria and establish monitoring points. The faulty ijtihad [line of reasoning] done by these groups does not constitute a barrier to exchanging advice on the field, or the operations we do based on goodness and taqwa. We do not have any verified information on the TAF preventing operations on the mentioned areas. We would not want to mislead people through unverified information.
Q: What are your long-term goals to continue jihad in Syria? Do you have hope that the administration in Syria will fall as a result of guerrilla warfare?
A: Our goals in the name of continuing jihad in Syria are to base the bond between the ansar and muhajir on the morals of the sahabah [Companions of the Prophet] (may God be pleased with them), to strengthen this bond and improve ourselves, to don the cloak of patience and taqwa and spread this jihad over a long period of time. Even if it may take a long time, we hope that we will eventually see the results of guerrilla warfare just like the mujahideen of the Taliban in Afghanistan have started to see results.
Q: Which are the largest groups fighting against the Syrian regime on the Latakia front?
A: Just like other fronts, there are many groups conducting joint operations on the Latakia front. And these groups are known by everyone.
Q: If the Syrian regime were to fall, what kind of administration would you want? At the same time, what are your goals after the Syrian regime falls?
A: Our goal is for all superstitious orders to disappear and for God's religion to rule over the world.
Q: Some activists believe that the Syrian revolution was hampered by the muhajireen who came to Syria. What is your opinion on this?
A: The Prophets and their supporters have also had to make hijrah [migration] from their lands as demanded by the sunnah of God and become mujahireen. And having to continue their struggle in other lands as mujahireen has not hampered their blessed cause.
Q: What do you do in the field other than military activities? For example da'wa, etc...
A: Other than our military activities, we participate in da'wa efforts in the Syrian field.
Q: Do you pay your fighters salaries? Do brothers outside of Syria provide economic support?
A: Within the constraints of our limited resources, we try to ensure that our brothers do not struggle. The funds we receive have not been enough to provide for our needs due to the international pressure that has recently increased. Through you, we call on all responsive Muslims to contribute.
Q: What is your opinion on what might happen in Idlib in the near future?
A: "As they are planning, so is God. God is the best of planners." (Anfal 30) In light of this ayah we are aware of the trap they are setting for Idlib and we are relying on God and taking precautions. Many groups are aware of this situation and we are coordinating with them. "For God is predominant over His affair but most of the people do not know it." (Yusuf 21).