With the ongoing debate as to whether the West should engage with Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (the main insurgent group controlling Idlib and its environs in northwest Syria), an issue that is likely to be of some importance is the group's stance towards minorities in Syria, such as the Alawites, Druze, Shi'a and Christians. One way to gain insight on this matter is through the pronouncements of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham's Abu al-Fatah al-Farghali, an Egyptian Shari'i official in the group who regularly opens up space for people to ask him questions online. I decided to ask for rulings on the Druze, Shi'a and Christians (as it happens, his answer on the Shi'a also covers the Alawites) and feature the questions and answers in this post in translation.
. The Christians (a small minority of whom remain in parts of Idlib under Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham control) are dealt with as being musta'minun. This means that they are deemed to be people afforded temporary security but not under a dhimmi pact or other formal contract with an Islamic ruling authority, hence the jizya is not taken from them.
. The Druze are deemed apostates (i.e. people who have left Islam and become disbelievers) as they are a 'Batini' sect. However, the original Druze in Idlib have entered into Islam and this has been accepted from them, hence they are deemed to be Muslims.
. The Shi'a are divided into various sects and have a variety of rulings on them. Although they have all committed deviation and extremism in love for the Prophet's household, their ruling range from the Zaydis at the lower end (who are not judged disbelievers despite their innovations) to those deemed disbelievers in general but not as individuals who may be excused in ignorance, to those deemed both disbelievers in general and as individuals who cannot be excused in ignorance. An example at the most extreme end is the Alawites.
It should be noted that these stances do not reflect new positions of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. In fact they have been established since the days of the group's predecessors. I simply provide them as a concise question and answer format for anyone interested in the matter.
Q: As-salam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuhu. What is the ruling on the Shi'a? Are they apostates or Muslims?
A: Wa alaykum as-salam wa rahmat Allah wa baraktuhu. The Shi'a are many sects, perhaps exceeding 20 sects, brought together by deviation and extremism for the Family of the Household of the Prophet (SAWS). Among these sects are those whose extremism is light and their innovation not causing disbelief, like the Zaydis, who consider that Ali (may God be pleased with him) was more entitled to the Caliphate than Abu Bakr and Omar (may God be pleased with them both), but at the same time they acknowledge their virtue and their companion status and they are of the people of Paradise. So these people are not to be judged as disbelievers even if they are innovators because they have contravened the consensus of the predecessors of the Ummah.
And among the Shi'a sects are those whose extremism is obscene like those who believe in the divinity of Ali (may God be pleased with him) or his prophethood, like the Nusayris and the Druze and the like, and these people are disbelievers in their individuals and they are not to be excused in ignorance or interpretation because excuse in ignorance and interpretation are for those who have the lowest limit of Islam and it is the pillar of the two shahadas in their conditions and these people do not have this lowest limit.
And there are sects of the Shi'a between these two sides, among them those who deemed disbelievers in the generality and the individuals are excused in ignorance until the contrary of ignorance arises.
And among them are those who innovators and not deemed disbelievers, and among them are those who are deemed disbelievers in the individual sense also if they do not have the lowest limit of Islam or if their disbelief is in an issue in which there is no excuse in ignorance in general or in which the likes of them are not to be excused etc.
The summation is that the Shi'a are various sects: each sect has its ruling, and it is not correct to place them all in one ruling, except that they have differed from the Sunna and the group of the Muslims.
This is all so long as their Shi'ism is not accompanied with a doctrine or other deed that causes disbelief like supporting the disbelievers against the Muslims and the like, so this causes disbelief for the sect that does that even if its innovation in Shi'ism does not cause disbelief. And God knows best.
Q: As-salam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuhu. What is the ruling on the Druze sect? Note that some of the villages in north Idlib countryside, their inhabitants are originally Druze. So is their repentance necessary?
A: Wa alaykum as-salam wa rahmat Allah wa baraktuhu. The Druze in origin are a sect of the Batiniya. And the Batiniya are apostates by the consensus of the Muslims. As for in Idlib, the Druze have entered into Islam and this entry has been accepted from them, so their ruling has become the ruling of the Muslims. They have what they have and upon them is what is upon them, and God knows best.
Q: As-salam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuhu. What is the ruling on the Christians in the liberated areas within Idlib? Are they dhimmis or musta'minun? Why is jizya not taken from them?
A: Wa alaykum as-salam wa rahmat Allah wa baraktuhu. We deal with them on the basis that they are under the ruling of the musta'minun and therefore jizya is not taken from them. And God knows best.