As Aaron Zelin noted in a recent piece on Jihadica, it became customary to describe Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (Aasim al-Barqawi) as the 'most important jihadi ideologue alive.' But as Zelin also convincingly argues in that piece, Maqdisi's relevance as a source of authority has sharply diminished in recent years. Not only is the Islamic State decisively against him, but from the other side he has also become disliked in the eyes of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, which is the most prominent insurgent group in northwest Syria and has now come to represent a 'third-way' in the jihadist world as a group that evolved out of an al-Qa'ida-affiliate (Jabhat al-Nusra) and now represents a more 'moderate' path following the breaking of ties with al-Qa'ida.
I will leave the reader to review some of the examples Zelin brought forth regarding the spats between Maqdisi and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, but now Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham has issued a statement from its general Shari'i council declaring an organisational position on Maqdisi. In short, the group asserts that he is not to be used as an authority on anything related to jihad, Tawheed (Islamic monotheism) and manhaj (direction/methodology). Rather, Maqdisi is denounced as an individual with a deviant manhaj of innovation, whose sympathies lie with the Islamic State group (dubbed 'Kharijites'). He is also accused of corrupting the fields of jihad through causing fitna (strife), and is derided as an individual with no practical experience of jihad and accordingly not qualified to comment on matters relating to it. The statement lays repeated emphasis on the true understanding of Tawheed as opposed to Maqdisi's distorted view of it: a clear jab at his claim to uphold Tawheed (after all, his Telegram channel is called 'Tawheed First').
Below is the statement fully translated.
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Statement Regarding 'Aasim Barqawi' nicknamed 'Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.'
Praise be to God who has established for this religion a group of the people of 'Ilm who ward off from it the distortion of the extremists and the charlatanry of the falsifiers, and the interpretation of the ignorant, and prayers and peace be upon our beloved example who left us on the white ways whose night is as its day, from which only one doomed to perdition deviates.
God Almighty has said: 'And do not be as those who have separated and differed after the proofs have come to you. For those people is a great torment'- (Al Imran 105).
Indeed the reality through which our Muslim Ummah is living gives rise for the people of Islam in general and the people of 'Ilm in particular the obligation of arising to defend it and defend its honours, so the responsibility placed on the necks of the 'ulama and the mashayakh and the students of 'Ilm is crucial. And the mission is great, through da'wa, directive, guidance, education and fatwas, and tying 'Ilm with work and jihad, fulfilling the obligation and confronting the challenges and the incidents, especially in the fields of jihadist work that are witnessing in many instances complications and entanglements, in the shade of the multiplicity of orientations and the spread of weapons and the leadership assumed by the contemptible and ignorant, whom their supporters have taken as heads for themselves so they gone astray and have misled.
And to make matters worse, many of those who are outside the borders of the field have intervened through fatwas crossing the borders that have torn what has been torn and have increased the fracture, through characterisations of betrayal and collaboration from one side, or characterisations of Kharijism and extremism from another side, without the slightest consideration for the mashayakh of the field who witness the events and circumstances, and have more insight than others besides them regarding the state of affairs, reality and circumstances.
For it is well known that of the conditions of the mufti is to have knowledge of the law and reality as the 'ulama have mentioned. Ibn al-Qayyim (may God have mercy on him) said in 'Ilam al-Muwaqq'in (1/69): 'And the mufti and the ruler cannot issue the fatwa and ruling in truth except through two types of understanding:
One of the two: understanding the reality and having insight into it and deriving knowledge of the truth of what has happened through qara'in, indications and signs such that he is knowledgeably informed of it.
The second type: understanding the obligation in the reality, and it is understanding the ruling of God by which He has ruled in His Book or on the tongue of His Messenger in this reality, then one of the two is applied to the other. Then one of the two complements the other. For the one who expends his effort and expends his capacity in that has not lacked two rewards or one rewards. So the knowledgeable one is the one who reaches- by knowing the situation and understanding it- to knowledge of the ruling of God and His Messenger.'
And among the personalities who have had a negative impact in the field of al-Sham: Aasim al-Barqawi well-known as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi of Jordanian nationality. And despite the fact that his influence has vanished and come to an end more or less and praise be to God, we nonetheless have wanted in this statement to clarify our position on the man.
This is so in order to fulfil the duty, and fulfil the trust of history and in order to advise the Ummah, and to excuse the one who still does not know the state of affairs of a man by whom falsehood and attacks have reached a great level that requires from us this position. In this we ask for the contentment of our Lord and the cleansing of our field from the remnants of his fitna and doubts, and the purification of the manhaj of Tawheed that we learn and teach and for which we strive, from his opinions and whims.
And in the following we demonstrate the most important notes on the manhaj of the man:
1. Applications of takfir: and al-Bukhari (may God have mercy on him) narrated from the Prophet (SAWS) that he said: 'And whoso curses a believer, it is like killing him, and whoso charges a believer with kufr, it is like killing him.' And as recorded in Muslim and others SAWS said: 'Whichever man says to his brother: oh disbeliever. One of the two has incurred it if it is as he has said, otherwise it goes back on him.'
As for the case with Barqawi, how easy it is to find him applying expressions of takfir, collaboration and betrayal in a clear resemblance with the manhaj of the innovators of the Khawarij. And he does that merely for imaginary suppositions and deep deductions and news of news agencies that transmit the thin and the fat and mix the truth with falsehood, and intend to rouse the follower and not investigate the truth. And the state of affairs has got to point that he cites as evidence fake unknown identities for his pronouncements upon which the gangs of takfir and ihtitab rely to commit their crimes.
And it is well known that the ruling of takfir- indeed and even its premises and principles considered in law- cannot be subjected to these random pronouncements, but rather should be subject to foundations of 'Ilm, interpretation, jurisprudence and judicial procedure. It is applied by the specialists in accordance with the regulations of investigation and caution. And Barqawi through his frantic applications has fallen into clear inconsistency between his compilations and tweets, for were we to interrogate him for one of his books- according to what is in them- the other books, tweets and new fatwas would result in disproving it for him. This shows his inconsistency and disturbance.
2. His apparent inclination to the Khawarij group: he showed on one of the occasions a type of criticism of the Dawla group when they attacked him personally and contravened him on the one hand, and in accordance with the policy of his country on the other, and especially after his mediation for the release of the Jordanian pilot 'Muadh al-Kasasbeh.' But soon enough he turned to defending them and protecting them without applying the ruling of Kharijism against them, as he has covered for many of their crimes and caused the mujahid youth to abandon repelling their aggression. This is so not to mention the many accusations he has made against those who wage war on them claiming that they are agents of the coalition without clarification, explanation or distinction. And his disagreement with them has been confined to the policy of operation, considering them of the people of pure Tawheed and disbelief in the Taghut. And let us not forget his stance towards 'Turki Binali'- one of their heads and their lieutenants in error and Kharijism. And that is only due to his personal and manhaj nearness to them and the way of their thinking, and his position on 'Liwa al-Aqsa'- the arm of the Dawla group in the liberated areas- is not far from us, as he defended them and supported them and protected them with all his power.
3. Stirring up fitnas in the fields of jihad, as no field of jihad has been safe from his fitna. So in the beginning in Afghanistan which he reached after the first jihad ended, such that he was in the guesthouses of Peshawar splitting the rank of the mujahideen and confusing them, and attacking the senior 'ulama of the jihad like Sheikh Abdullah Azzam (may God have mercy on him). And after this he returned to Jordan. Then his fitna appeared subsequently in the jihad of Iraq that he saw as an incinerator, and suddenly he appeared on the al-Jazeera channel to split the rank of the mujahideen there and to strengthen the power of their enemy on the pretext of offering some advice.
And as for in the field of al-Sham, his fitna has had the greatest lot, as the truth about him has appeared and his picture has become plainly manifest through his tweets on social media sites of Twitter, Telegram and the like. And naturally let us not forget his bad impact on the Libyan jihad in the pinnacle of the attack of the tyrant Haftar and his militias on the mujahideen there.
And there has appeared to all the means of his approach, intervention and trying of cases in a naïve way sometimes, and a confused and disturbed way at other times. The result is his account has turned into a platform from which the odours of extremism, takfir and causing of failure emanate, and likewise no one of the mujahideen in the multiple fields of the contemporary jihad- from the Taliban in Afghanistan, to Iraq, Libya and al-Sham- has been safe from his harm, and God is the One whose help is to be sought.
And from this we know that he is not the sheikh of jihad or even a jihadist theorist and reference authority as some describe him, especially as he has not participated in the jihad in a notable sense, and many of the veteran mashayakh of jihad have not conceded to him in his priority for that. In fact it has been established in our view that he brings about forsaking of the jihad in the path of God, and disperses the power of the mujahideen over issues upon which it is not necessary for there to be separation, for unity and clinging under the roof of the manhaj of the Ahl al-Sunna that brings together is one of the principles, while separation in religion is one of the principles of the people of innovation, especially when it has been built on issues in which it is possible for there to be disagreement. So what then if it has been built on ignorance?!
And what we have said about his not being the sheikh of jihad, we say it regarding Tawheed likewise, for the manhaj of Tawheed is the manhaj derived from the principles of the Ahl al-Sunna not of the principles of the innovators and their chirpings. And Barqawi in this consideration is not the sheikh of Tawheed nor its exclusive trustee nor its reference authority. For the Tawheed with which our sayyid Muhammad (SAWS) was sent and which we understand from the Book of our Lord and the Sunna of our Prophet (SAWS) and the manhaj of our just predecessors (may God be pleased with him), is completely distant from the innovative manhaj of Tawheed that Barqawi brings forth in hiss books and publications.
4. Immorality in quarrel and not observing the jurisprudence of disagreement or its etiquette. For it is well known that the one who claims affiliation with 'Ilm cannot monopolise the truth in his words in addition to contracting the banner of loyalty and partisanship upon it, while attacking the contraveners and charging them with every shortcoming and especially when they are of the people of 'Ilm. And we have seen how the conceit and arrogance in the man- for God's sake- has reached the point of his monopolising the truth and Tawheed in his opinions and whims, far above which is the aspect of Tawheed and the manhaj of truth. Also he narrows the disagreement, and he brings every jurisprudential issue of ijtihad into the principles of the religion and Tawheed so from his way of innovation are begotten that enmity and hatred and accusation of the one contravene in his religion, and this manhaj itself- and it is of the Sunna of the people of extremism- has of acts of corruption that of which God is aware. So how many bonds have been cut off because of it, and ranks have dispersed because of him, and blood has been shed through him!
And Barqawi at one point in time gained sympathy among many of the youth as a result of his exposure to prison for a number of years, and he was inflated in the media through the description of him as a theorist for what is called in terminology Salafi jihadism.
And the man exploited the preceding, just as he exploited the beginning of the spring of revolutions to ride its wave, and the door was open at the time to all. And thus he promoted his personality and manhaj in a true practical way, as the motto of the stage was that all benefited from the past, and it is necessary to work in a way that overcomes the past and its mistakes. But the reality- regrettably- made clear that the man has wallowed in his deviation and revealed in a way that leaves no room for doubt his false manhaj in 'Ilm and manhaj and direction, such that he has attacked the monotheist mujahideen whose feet have been covered with dust in the path of God as they lived in the shadow of the jihad for years, striving and still striving to make supreme the precious word of Tawheed.
And they offered huge sacrifices and they still so, and they arise on implementing the Shari'a in word and deed. So how can a man, whose feet were never covered with dust in the fields of jihad and who never had the experience of the process of implementing the Shari'a (with selectivity arising on the whim of the souls) make himself a counsellor and imam and balance for the truth!!? So this man is of the wondrous people of this age, for how can one who sits in his home and among his people attack the one who undertakes the jihad against his enemy and expends his effort in establishing the religion in the life of the people?! He does so by lying against them, belittling all their efforts, describing them as collaborationists, charging them with kufr at one time or with what can only be understood as kufr at another from his premises and wrongdoing and ignorant pronouncements!!
Indeed the Ummah today has been burned by the fire of these deviant ideas and has been burned by the blaze of these disturbed personalities, and is in need of lordly 'ulama to cleanse its wounds and discharge it of its stumbling and correct its course within the etiquette of 'Ilm and the fiqh of the four madhhabs and the school of the Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama'a, who have mercy on creation and know the truth as is their sign, and that the most prominent way for that is the interpretation of 'Ilm at the hands of the educated 'ulama, to whose knowledge and fairness the Ummah has borne witness, in accordance with the manhaj of 'Ilm, upon which the Ummah has gone during its preceding centuries.
And in al-Sham are people of 'Ilm, by which they know their religion and Tawheed and the ruling on their nawazil- without overlooking the well-established lordly 'ulama- such that they have no need for the likes of Barqawi and his deviations and whims.
And as for Barqawi: we disavow him and his manhaj, he is not of us and we are not of him and we are not on his way. And we distinguish between his innovative manhaj in Tawheed and the manhaj of Tawheed that we have received from the people of 'Ilm previously and in succession, and it is what we teach thanks be to God- relying on God alone and drawing on the books of our just predecessors (may God be pleased with them).
So we disavow to God the manhaj of Barqawi and his way, and we deem Tawheed and the manhaj of Tawheed and the manhaj of truth and the religion of God to be far above being as Barqawi displays it.
And we affirm time and again that the great da'wa of Tawheed that is the highest of our goals, and the authentic manhaj of jihad that is our way, are far above having attributed to them the opinions, whims, delusions and doubts of the likes of this Barqawi, and this entails upon us the obligation of advising the abandonment of his books and fatwas, and not adopting him as a reference for the fatwa, let alone his being a theorist on a case of jihad. And it has become clear to all the essence of the way he pursues, and the fact he is closet to the way of the Khawarij and their manhaj and interpretations and pronouncements.
Finally: we ask God Almighty to show us the truth as truth and provide us the provision of following it, and to show us the falsehood as falsehood and provide us with the provision of avoiding it.
And praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.
General Shari'i Council
Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham
Saturday 23 Safr 1442 AH: corresponding to 10 October 2020 CE.