Turki Binali, a Bahraini cleric and one of the most well-known Islamic State scholars, was regarded as representing a more 'moderate' trend in the organization that was wary of the influence of 'extremists' in concepts like takfir (declaring people to be disbelievers: more controversial when applied to those who profess affiliation with Islam).
This leaked letter Binali wrote in January 2017 as head of the Maktab al-Buhuth wa al-Dirasat (Research and Studies Office) to Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reflects the scholar's dislike of the 'extremists' and his concern about their influence in the Islamic State.
In this letter, Binali criticizes what he describes as the 'theory of balance' espoused by two senior Islamic State officials with whom he interacted. According to these two officials, the idea is that there should be the appointment of certain 'extremists' to some positions, partly in order to neutralize any threat the 'extremists' as a whole might pose (i.e. a policy of containment of the 'extremist' threat) but also to serve as a counterbalance to any trends of irja' that might become manifest and dominant. For context, irja' is a term referring to an early trend in Islamic thought. In this discourse, irja' is synonymous with any trend seen as too lax in issues like takfir.
According to Binali, this 'theory of balance' contravenes both Islamic law and the situation in reality. For example, from the perspective of the law, it results in a leadership that is at loggerheads with itself and issuing contradictory orders. In addition, the 'extremists' are guilty of innovations, and the example of the rightly-guided successors (Caliphs) who came immediately after the Prophet Muhammad shows that they rejected innovators.
From the perspective of reality, Binali most notably claims that past experience has shown that elevating the 'extremists' does not accomplish anything, but rather harms the Islamic State. For example, there is no evidence the 'extremists' mollify their views by being elevated into positions of power.
In the letter, Binali mentions some individuals by name. For the understanding of the reader they will be noted here:
. Zayd al-Iraqi: likely Abu Zayd al-Iraqi. He is mentioned unfavourably in the work of dissent entitled 'Hashimi Advice'.
. Abu Ishaq al-Iraqi: another Islamic State official mentioned unfavourably in 'Hashimi Advice'.
. Abu Muhammad al-Furqan: he once headed the Islamic State's media and had become involved in these disputes over doctrine and the influence of 'extremism' within the Islamic State. The Islamic State announced his death in October 2016.
. Abu Muhammad al-Adnani: the official spokesman for the Islamic State killed in August 2016 in a coalition strike in northern Syria.
. Abu Ja'afar al-Hattab: a well-known 'extremist' who was at one point responsible for the Diwan al-Ta'aleem (education department) of the Islamic State.
. Abu Omar al-Kuwaiti: another 'extremist'.
Stylistically, this letter's gentle tone in addressing Baghdadi is in stark contrast with the scathing nature of the 'Hashimi Advice'.
Below is the letter translated in full. Any insertions of my own are in square brackets.
Maktab al-Buhuth wa al-Dirasat
No. correspondence 443
Date: 22 Rabi' al-Akhir 1438 AH [c. 21 January 2017 CE]
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
To: the Amir al-Mu'mineen (may God make him mighty)
Subject: about the matter of accommodation of the extremists
To our dear amir and our lofty sheikh Amir al-Mu'mineen and the Caliph of the Muslims Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (may God protect him and guide him, and make right his steps to good and truth). As for what follows:
The Almighty has said: "And when a matter of security or fear comes to them, they disseminate it, and if they were to refer it to the Messenger and those of authority among them, those who draw correct conclusions about it among them would know it. And were it not for God's grace upon you and His mercy, you would have followed Satan, except for a few"- al-Nisa' 82. A matter has befallen us and an affair has come upon us, that we can only refer to the Caliph (may God make him mighty) who occupies the place of the Messenger (SAWS) and succeeds him in making mighty his religion, applying the Shari'a and protecting the abode. We ask God to grant him success in his words and deeds.
Our dear sheikh, I heard months ago from our brother the distinguished Zayd al-Iraqi (may God grant him success), then after I heard from our brother Sheikh Abu Ishaq al-Iraqi (may God grant him success), a matter in which I disagreed with them, and I advised them as far as I could in the hope they would go back on it: namely what has been known as the theory of balance.
This is whereby some of the extremists who had a precedent [previous experience] for some of the positions are appointed, and their positions are distributed in the wilayas [provinces], commissions and Diwans [departments], so that the matter of irja' does not become serious if it becomes manifest [/dominant], and likewise the extremists' side is secured [i.e. its threat neutralized] by accommodating their heads.
And the poor servant, like others besides him from the mass of students of knowledge in the Islamic State (may God make it mighty), thinks that this is a false theory in law and reality.
Making that clear from the perspective of the law
1. The Almighty has said: "God has given as an example a man owned by quarrelling partners and a man owned by one man only. Are they equal in comparison? Praise be to God, but most of them do not know" (al-Zummar 69). So it is not allowed for there to be in the place of leadership- whether religious, material, Shari'i or military- those who disagree and are incompatible, for those concerned with the matter will quarrel, for this one will command and that one will forbid. This one will oblige, and that one will prohibit. And this one will deem Islamic, and that one will declare takfir, etc.
Therefore it has come in the two authentic collections on the authority of Sa'id ibn Abi Burda on the authority of his father, on the authority of his grandfather, that the Prophet (SAWS) sent Mu'adh and Abu Mousa to Yemen and he said: "Be easy and not difficult, and give good tidings and do not alienate, and cooperate and do not disagree."
2. God Almighty has said on the qualities of those He loves and they love Him: "And they do not fear the blame of a blamer. That is the grace of God that comes to whoso He wills. And God is encompassing, knowing" (al-Ma'ida 54). So these are the people whom our Lord (Almighty and Exalted is He) loves even as He is not in need of them: they do not fear the blame of a blamer, whether of friends or of enemies, whether of soldiers or amirs. We ask God to make us and you among those He loves.
3. The Almighty has said: "Oh you who have believed, do not take as intimates those besides you. They will not spare you any ruin. They have wished for you to suffer. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths and what their breasts conceal is greater. We have made clear the signs to you, if you will use reason" (Al Imran 118). And this verse, even if it comes down as revelation in totality against intimacy with the disbelievers, it likewise comes down in part against intimacy with the innovators and people of whims, for perhaps the innovator would be more harmful than the disbeliever.
4. It has come on the authority of al-Irbadh bin Sariya (may God be pleased with him): that the Prophet (SAWS) said: "The one among you who lives after me will see much disagreement, so you must follow my Sunna and the Sunna of the guiding, rightly-guided successors. Cling to them and bite them with the teeth. And beware of new inventions of matters. For every new invention is an innovation, and every innovation is error" (narrated by Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi).
And on reviewing the lives of the rightly-guided successors, we find they marginalized the innovators and did not bring them near. And they lowered them and did not honour them. And their state of affairs with the preachers of the innovators is clearer than that with the masses of innovators from the non-preachers.
Making that clear from the perspective of reality
1. The numbers of the extremists, even if many, are nonetheless not more than the people of truth in soldiers and amirs, and they do not equal them: not only is this the case in al-Sham and Iraq, but also in all the wilayas of the Islamic State in the length and breadth of the Earth.
Even so, they do not have heads who are to be followed. So it is wrong that we make for them a head and confer Shari'i legitimacy on him, for an interest deemed predominant.
2. However much the Islamic State tries to accommodate the extremists, the extremists in exchange for that will only be more determined and going forth on what they are on by being brought close.
And you remember, our dear sheikh, that when I told you in the past about Abu Omar al-Kuwaiti, you said to me: "We are trying to accommodate him, but he is trying to accommodate us."
3. The Islamic State has tested elevation of some of the extremists, promotion of them and honouring of them in the utmost way, as it did with Abu Ja'afar al-Hattab.
So that became a fitna [source of strife] for the people, such that the masses of the extremists said: "There is no one of the Shari'i officials closer to al-Baghdadi than al-Hattab, and this shows that al-Baghdadi is on the creed of al-Hattab." Thus they would say as I heard it by my ears multiple times.
And Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Furqan (may God accept him) had a commendable role in advising that the extremists should not be promoted, and you told me our dear sheikh at the time that the two sheikhs Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and Abu Muhammad al-Furqan (may God accept them both) advised you to marginalize al-Hattab and not bring him near or strive to accommodate him.
4. The experience in recent history has shown that the extremists' side cannot be secured, especially with the intensification of the battle and nearness of the line of fire with the enemy, for whenever one of the campaigns of the disbelievers launches, the manner of their voices rises in suggestion, discussion, affirmation or allusion to takfir.
Days ago one of them arose in one of the mosques of al-Tabqa (may God protect it) arose and spoke to the crowd. And among the things he (may God mute his mouth) said: "And this idolatrous tyrant Abu Bakr al-Baghdad," with all boldness and insolence, while the enemy are at the peripheries of al-Tabqa [town in Raqqa province in northern Syria].
This is their state if they are in the masses of the soldiers, so what then of their state if they are amirs and heads? We ask God for soundness and sufficiency.
This is what has been possible to affirm and not conceal, implementing the obligation of nasiha [good will/advice] for God, His Messenger and Book, the Imams of the Muslims and their general masses, and in order to preserve the course of the blessed state of the Caliphate, whose manhaj [program/methodology], although we may all perish, should not be damaged: nor should its doctrine deviate. And we, our people, sons and wealth are merely fuel for Tawheed [monotheism], and God is the one behind the intention and He guides the path, and the last of our calls is praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds. And God's peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the prophets and those sent.
Maktab al-Buhuth wa al-Dirasat
Maktab al-Buhuth wa al-Dirasat