Abu Ya'qub al-Maqdisi was a Jordanian scholar in the Islamic State who was eventually executed by the organization itself. A number of serious accusations were levelled against Maqdisi (as I documented here), but to the scholar's supporters he was an important voice for reform within the Islamic State. This brief letter written by Maqdisi and recently published by the 'dissident' outlet Mu'assasat al-Turath al-Ilmi can be seen as embodying Maqdisi's practical 'reform plan' for the Islamic State.
Written in March 2018, the letter takes the form of advice from Maqdisi to the Islamic State's leaders. In his view, the Islamic State has been facing severe losses not because of lack of numbers and equipment, but because the organization has committed sin and deviated, bringing God's anger and vengeance upon the Islamic State.
Maqdisi's manifesto illustrates a number of familiar 'dissident' talking points within the Islamic State, such as concern that the pronouncements and rulings of the leaders of the Islamic State are falsely equated with God's commands and rulings, the need for proper oversight of the media apparatus, and the need for proper oversight and review of the judiciary and its rulings. Thus, the goal of the 'dissident' trend is not to overthrow Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and set up a rival organization, but rather to reform the Islamic State from within.
As always, any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
So you will remember what I tell you and I entrust my affair to God. Indeed God oversees His servants.
Advice to the trustees of affairs
By his eminence the mujahid sheikh Abu Ya'qub al-Maqdisi (may God accept him).
Praise be to God alone, and prayers and peace be upon the one after whom there is no prophet, his family, companions and whoso has followed his trace and feared his limit.
As for what follows:
I commend to you God, the one besides Whom there is no other. And I ask Him to convey this message of mine to you while you are most content and well, and I ask the Almighty to bless you in this world and the Hereafter, and to accept your jihad, and make use of you in guarding His religion and the Sunna of His Prophet (SAWS), and give victory to you over all His enemies.
I place before you a message of knowledge entitled "Gathering on the Sunna and Consensus" in which I have discussed a matter of very serious importance and sensitivity, indeed the most dangerous and important as it is inextricably bound with all that by which Tawheed [monotheism] is protected and all the hudud [limits] of names and Shari'i rulings are established, and the force of the mujahideen gathers in it on truth, and by it every sector in the Islamic State is regulated on the earnestness of the Book and Sunna and by the understanding of the predecessors of the Ummah.
Indeed regulation of the principles of the Shari'i manhaj [methodology] that the Islamic State adopts represents the highest grades of priority, in order to protect its sound manhaj, and for cohesion of its grouping, and to cut the path against all who are trying to snatch away the authority of the Dawla [Islamic State], or use it to spread their particular ideas and directives, whoever they may be.
And this is an urgent message, in which I mention the most important negative consequences that result from the abandoning of this aspect of knowledge, and I mention in it a number of necessary counsels, in order to realize the benefits of that message. Then I warn of the danger of lack of concern for that message and this advice.
So I ask God- Almighty- to open up your hearts, and grant you success to accept what is in those pages from truth, and to support His religion and the Sunna of His Messenger (SAWS) through you, and to forgive me for anything shortcoming or error on my part. Indeed He is the trustee of that and capable of it, and may God's peace, salutations and blessings be on His servant and Messenger Muhammad, and all his family and companions, and whoso has followed them with ihsan until the Day of Judgement.
First: the most important negative consequences that result from abandoning regulation of the jurisprudence of disagreement and the Shari'i rulings it entails.
1. Infringement of the trustees of affairs on the limits of the authority of God Almighty in forbidding and permitting, and legislating and enforcing compliance with prohibition and deeming permissible, because of the lack of clarity of the limits of the authority of the imams. If they exceed this, they have exceeded the limit of worship due to God to the point of equating themselves in what they command and forbid with God (Almighty is He in great loftiness above that). And this is the source of what the Tawagheet [idolatrous tyrants] of ruling have fallen into.
2. Distorting the Shari'i rulings and concealing the truth, and then the ignorant 'ulama [scholars] of evil gain authority over the necks of the mujahideen, as happened in some instances that are not hidden to you.
3. Loss of the accompaniment of God Almighty in His protection and giving victory to this group, and then empowering the enemy over the group and destroying it, and God's replacement of this group, and the loss of this world and the Hereafter.
4. Division of the group, spreading of innovations, and division in the religion. And then much instances of charging each other with takfir [i.e. declaring each other to be disbelievers] and accusing each other of innovation without restraint, and the occurrence of infighting, and the disappearance of what remains from the authority of this Dawla- God Almighty forbid.
5. Spreading of oppression, and transgression against blood and wealth without right. On top of that it is in the name of the religion, with the absence of the Shari'i balance by which words and deeds are regulated, and in which the rights and the extent of transgressions are defined.
Second: useful counsels to realize the benefits of the content of the message "Gathering on the Sunna and Consensus."
1. Not adopting any decision concerning Shari'i issues except after resorting to specialist Shari'i personnel, whose members should be chosen according to how competent they are in knowledge and trust, and no other criteria.
2. Regulating the sides concerned with judgement on Shari'i issues, and that is by their being bound to mention the degree of what they issue from rulings according to what is detailed in the accompanying message.
3. Reviewing the Hisba notices that are implemented, in order to be bound by what has been established in them by Sunna or consensus, while referring that in which ijtihad is in order or that which requires tarjih [determining what is most probably correct] to the specialist personnel.
4. Reviewing the media policy, and regulating what is issued from its foundations in what touches on the law, and intensifying oversight over the workers in it, in particular those who engage in the big Shari'i issues even as they do not have the considered qualification to do so, or they have been known for innovation and extremism, or they have not been known to participate in the Shari'i sciences or their fields, like fatwa-issuing and judiciary and da'wa and education and the like.
5. Oversight of all who want to penetrate the Dawla in manhaj through infiltrating into its sensitive sectors, in order to influence the leadership and have it bind the subjects and soldiers by that in which there is no text stipulation or consensus.
6 Raising the level of knowledge competency among the students of knowledge and the amirs through holding sessions and courses about the jurisprudence of disagreement and the degrees of lines of evidence, and the regulations of documenting the manhaj issues in particular, and the Shari'i ones more generally.
7. Reviewing the rulings that have been applied against some of the groups that disagree, to be sure of their soundness firstly, and to examine the degree of disagreement on which the ruling has been built, and to be sure of the suitable qualification of the personnel that issued those rulings.
8. Implementing the role of the Da'wa and Masajid in spreading the doctrine of the Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama'a through lessons, lectures, sermons, print-outs and other means.
9. Implementing the role of the students of knowledge in reforming all who have deviated from the manhaj, with the deviation having resulted in their detention in the security prisons.
10. Implementing oversight over the judicial rulings, and that is by putting in place a mechanism in which all judicial rulings are reviewed.
11. Strengthening the activity of composition and knowledge investigation within the Shari'i regulations, and striving to prepare compositions in the most important fields that the leaders of the Dawla require, and the fields that the masses need in their daily life, with regard for regulation of those works from the angle that they should not contain what contravenes next or consensus, or go outside the madhhab of the just predecessors.
12. Implementing the role of regulated Shari'i oversight, and that is through confining its role to holding to account what has contravened text or consensus in the different Shari'i sectors with regard for excusing, preserving the commissions, avoidance of hastiness, and adopting the advice and directive before reprimand and punishment.
13. Preparing a summary of that message, printing it and distributing it to the soldiers, while observing that the issues that they need will be clarified to them by the necessary means.
Third: important warning
I warn that the lack of concern for the content of this message, and lack of regulating the policy of the Dawla by the Book and Sunna will represent the point of separation among every Muslim inside the Islamic State and outside it with this Dawla. And that will be so if the leadership of the Dawla continues to insist on what contravenes the Book, Sunna or consensus.
And this is what we urge you to seek refuge in God from falling into, and we defend the trustees of our affairs in secret and in the open if they are attacked in this matter, but help us help you by accepting the advice, and correcting the mistake if it is found. For we- by God- are certain that what has afflicted this Dawla from losses, defeats and consecutive lapses is not caused by lack of numbers and equipment.
Rather the reason for that is sin, which has led to the anger of al-Aziz al-Jabbar [God], and the descent of His vengeance on us all, for we have lost towns after towns, and the Rafidites [Shi'a] have violated our honour, and the veils of the believing women have been ripped off, and our virtuous pure sisters have been stripped of their clothing: those women who migrated to the Islamic State seeking refuge in their religion and honour from the disbelievers and tyrants. Despite that, no regard is given to the reason for failure, and the necessity of replacement! And God is the One whose help is to be sought.
Indeed I ask God Almighty that we should not remain alive for this hour, unless there should be available for the honest of us the opportunity for repentance and reform, and taking up the Book with force and honesty as the Exalted commanded. Otherwise, there are vanishing and replacement.
God the Almighty has said: "And when We raised the mountain above them as though a dark covering and they thought it would fall upon them, take up Our signs with force remember what is in it so that you may fear" (al-Araf 171).
And the Almighty has said: "And We do not show them a sign unless it is greater than its sister, and We have seized them with torment, so that they may return" (al-Zukhruf 48).
And the Almighty has said: "Oh you who have believed, whoso among you apostasises from his religion, God will bring a people He loves and they love him, humble upon the believers, and mighty against the disbelievers, waging jihad in God's path and not fearing the blame of a blamer. That is God's grace He brings to the one He wills and God is all-encompassing, knowing" (al-Ma'ida 54).
I ask God Almighty to open up your hearts to what is right in it, and to help you on taking up the Sunna and Book, and to keep us and you in this world and the Hereafter away from the torment, and to absolve my pact in what I have fulfilled for you and advised in this letter.And may God reward you best.
Written by Abu Ya'qub al-Maqdisi
Wilayat al-Baraka [region in eastern Syria]
1 Rajab 1439 AH [c. 19 March 2018 CE]
1440 AH- 2019 CE