As noted in a previous post, the 'moderate dissident' trend that existed in the Islamic State (IS) has increasingly moved towards opposition to the IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the system he leads. The output of Mu'assasat al-Turath al-'Ilmi ('Knowledge Heritage Foundation') is indicative of this trend. Recently, the outlet reported on the kidnapping and killing of Sheikh Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Zarqawi al-Muhajir, one of the figures liked by the 'moderate dissident' trend and who fled IS. The outlet attributed Abu Abd al-Rahman's kidnapping and killing to IS, which it described as the "criminal state of the Khawarij falsely called the Islamic State." In describing Baghdadi's IS as Khawarij (a term used for extremists), the outlet echoed a common line of criticism of IS by its Sunni opponents.
Mu'assasat al-Turath al-'Ilmi has continued with the scathing attacks on Baghdadi's IS, releasing a critique of IS media (Diwan al-'Ilam: Media Department) by Sheikh Abu Eisa al-Masri, another 'moderate dissident' luminary who has fled IS and has urged for those who have lived through the experience of IS to come forth with their testimonies. Throughout, Masri derisively refers to Baghdadi and his followers as 'Al Baghdad' (Baghdadi's people/ilk), whom he likens to Al Far'oun (Pharaoh's people/ilk) in the Qur'an.
The essay can be summarized in the following points:
- The media department has been one of the main pillars for the extremist Baghdadi-led system. The other has been the security department.
- The Diwan al-'Ilam has failed in its duty of da'wa (religious outreach/proselytization) and has focused too much on producing and talking about scenes of slaughter and burning. Where are the media department's productions of refutations of the doctrines and claims of the Jews, Christians and various 'heretical' sects?
- IS has an absurd policy of only allowing things to be published on matters of 'Ilm (Islamic knowledge) etc. after consultation with the Diwan al-'Ilam. As a result, the true scholars in the movement were silenced.
- IS media rely on stirring up zeal and emotion with releases and nasheeds: e.g. inciting someone to be a suicide bomber for the mere sake of blowing oneself up, without consideration as to the interest the 'martyrdom operation' is supposed to realize.
- The IS media bewitch the perceptions and eyes of the masses with flashing visuals, slogans and the like. They are similar to the sorcerers of Pharaoh. Meanwhile, the security department instills fear and is on the lookout for those on the inside with proper insight into the system. Thus, the media department and security department constitute the pillars of a classic tyrannical system.
- The media department has been a hub of extremism. Since IS insists that the media department is its official voice, then extremism is regrettably the official manhaj of IS which we must disavow.
- The media department is wholly lacking in credibility and resembles the media apparatus of other states in numerous ways. In conclusion it is a propaganda machine that has not fulfilled the obligation of da'wa. As an end note of consolation, some brothers have woken up and speaking out, providing openings for the IS fighters.
In my view, the most interesting point to be gleaned from this essay is what it tells us about the influence of the 'moderate dissident' trend within IS. The essay would suggest that this influence is actually rather limited and that the trend needs to engage in more efforts to expand its influence. In drawing on the story of Qaroun from the Qur'an, Masri draws a parallel with the present situation in that the "masses" of people are dazzled by superficial displays of splendor whereas a minority have proper insight and understand the reality.
Now, Masri cannot mean here that the majority of the world's Muslims are duped into supporting IS through its media apparatus. Indeed, IS has never appealed to the majority of them, and Masri also makes the point that IS cannot be so indignant about people falling into the doubts created by erroneous sects when its media have failed in the duty of da'wa.
Rather, the people Masri is talking about in drawing on the story of Qaroun are the "masses" of IS fighters and sympathizers with its cause. More than ever, it is to these people that IS' propaganda is designed to appeal. In Masri's telling, the media apparatus is doing a successful job of appealing to them and misleading them about the true nature of Baghdadi's group. Note, for instance, that Masri concedes that the flashy productions and nasheeds of IS attract the interest of many of the IS fighters. In fact, IS propaganda tries to showcase the fighters' interest in the media output, as when it has released photos of fighters watching the al-Furqan media video in which Baghdadi made his first video appearance since 2014.
In contrast, the people and students of 'Ilm have insight into the reality, but they are in the minority. Only when God destroys the superficial edifice do the masses realize the truth of these matters, whereas the people and students of 'Ilm knew the truth beforehand. Masri reinforces his point with the additional comparison of the duping of the "masses" by IS and its media to the bewitchment of the masses by Pharaoh's sorcerers, against whom there should be a Moses to cast down his stick and expose the falsehood behind this bewitchment. The Moses in this case must be those who have known the reality of IS and are endowed with the skill to speak and/or write about their experiences and combat the Diwan al-'Ilam's output.
In short, Masri's essay suggests that the 'moderate dissident' trend needs to catch up with IS media in the war of discourse. To be sure, IS media have not felt entirely unthreatened by the words coming from the 'moderate dissident' trend, and have felt a need to respond to the idea that Baghdadi was an absent, ineffective leader and to refute the notion that the collapse of the state project was due in part or primarily to internal oppression. But we should not overstate the influence of the 'moderate dissident' trend within the ranks of IS fighters and among sympathizers with IS' cause.
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
The media in the balance (the sorcerers of the Baghdadi ilk)
By Sheikh Abu Eisa al-Masri (may God protect him)
The Diwan al-'Ilam in the shade of the Baghdadi ilk has been one of the two main pillars upon which their biting rule has arisen, the other pillar being the Diwan al-Amn.
Such that Sheikh Abu Ya'qub al-Maqdisi-may God make good his soil- said: "This is an 'ilami amni Dawla."
For the media are the flashing front of the Dawla that captivate perceptions and blind all who do not live under the authority of Baghdadi's ilk, and do not know anything about the painful bitter reality of them. And as for the Diwan al-Amn, it is the tool by which Baghdadi's ilk have been ruling on the ground.
Has the Diwan al-'Ilam been a da'wa to God?
The Diwan al-'Ilam has only been focusing in most of its circumstances on slaughter, burning and annihilation in killing.
And we do not disavow jihad and inciting to it, but the media address must be comprehensive for all aspects of religion, not only fighting. And likewise inciting to fighting must be through legitimate methods.
Indeed even the media release in which there has been no slaughter and the like, the speakers have spoken in the tone of the burning slaughterer.
Yes, the Diwan al-'Ilm has not practiced the role it is supposed to do, for it is as the leadership says the front of the Dawla, so how can this front only represent one aspect of the life of the Dawla, namely damage against the enemies?
Indeed the students of 'Ilm with whom God Almighty entrusted conveying the messages of God to the people, all of them were deluded in the shade of Baghdadi's ilk. They had no pulpit upon the Earth from end to end. They only had the Diwan al-'Ilam, and it is as you have known its state from clear extremism.
Indeed Baghdadi's ilk announced the "Caliphate on the Prophetic Methodology," they announced the "greater Imamate," and it is a broad claim whose implications they should have known before announcing it. They should have known that this claim means paternity of this Ummah, and leading it religiously and politically speaking. And they should have known that they had to bear the burden of da'wa for all of the Ummah to the religion of God, and bearing the concerns of the entire Ummah from end to end.
What have you offered to the Ummah oh Baghdadi's ilk? We cannot deny that you raised the banner of jihad and implemented the ruling of Shari'a in whatever matters there were that we can deny. But what we condemn you for is that you asserted a claim that you did not fulfill in terms of God's right in it.
And if you deem me a liar oh dear reader, say to me by your Lord: where do you find in the releases of the Dawla the response to the doubts of the Jews and Christians, and refutation of their claims and demolition of the pillars of their religion? Where do you find in the releases of the Dawla exposure of the doubts of the Sufis, Rafidites, secularists, democrats, modernists, tablighis, the Ikhwan, those who assert Salafism, Murj'ites and the Khawarij? And all of these sects are present in the field, and they have media channels that call to their manhajs and disseminate them. So has the Ummah found from the side of the Imam in the tunnel the one who can respond to all that?
If one of the doubts of these people occurs upon the soul of one person from the Ummah, how will he find the response to it? Tell me by your Lord dear reader: will he find that amid the releases of slaughter and incineration?
Meanwhile the Salafis bring forth 'ulama to the Ummah, the Ikhwan bring forth 'ulama to it, the Sufis bring forth 'ulama to it, the Murj'ites bring forth 'ulama to it, the parliamentarians bring forth 'ulama to it and the regimes bring forth 'ulama to it. In contrast, the Dawla that claims to impelement the rule of Shari'a and establishing the Prophetic Methodology only offers this Ummah scenes of slaughter and burning, and they are at the same time vanquishing the Ahl al-'Ilm in it, and repressing them, imprisoning them, torturing them and killing them. And after all this do not reproach the one who says: "Indeed you are an erroneous sect." For you have no 'ulama to direct and guide you, and whoso came out to you from the students of 'Ilm, you behaved towards them as the Pharaoh did with Moses, then you reproach the people after that on the basis of misleading doubts they have fallen into?!
It should be known that the media were not only put in place to bring forth slaughter and burning and various kinds of harshness, and confronting the Ummah with expressions of rebuke because it has refrained from its obligation that has gone to loss. Rather we must extend our hands to the people through this means that is the only way we can reach the people.
I say this with pain dear reader: we could not reach the Ummah through an article, lesson, sermon or release except through that Diwan, for the Baghdadi ilk absolutely forbid anything from that except through this means, and whoever was merely suspected of publishing anything from that, his fate was to the darkness of the Amn prisons, and the accusation was ready, and it was very logical in the eyes of Baghdadi's ilk: "Contravening the policy of the Diwan al-'Ilam, or publishing without recourse to the Diwan al-'Ilam."
And it is well known that among the greatest accusations directed at Sheikh Abu Ya'qub (may God have mercy on him) is that he composed messages of 'Ilm, wrote his name on them, gave them to whoso of the brothers asked him for them, and thus they spread. And the brothers uploaded them on the Internet, and they consider in that to be the reward of spreading 'Ilm in God's eyes, and they are on guard against a great act of disobedience namely concealing of 'Ilm. But Baghdadi's ilk- as we have known them- do not weigh matters on the balance of the law but rather on the balance of stupid policies by which they contradict the Shari'a in many of their evil dealings of authority.
And among our brothers is the one who was imprisoned because they discovered a sermon by him on the Internet from three years ago. He did not publish it or know anything about its publication, and the accusation: "You published, oh Abu Abd al-Malek, without the permission of the Diwan al-'Ilam."
And Abu Abd al-Malek- may God protect him- told me about the story, and in it was the fact that Abu Du'a the Amn official- may God deal with him as per His justice- said to him: "I know that you are wronged, and there is nothing against you, but I cannot get you out of prison, out of respect for the wali of al-Sham who ordered for your arrest"!
So the criminal transgresses and he knows he transgresses, and he prefers obedience to his master 'Hamid' over obedience to the high and great Lord- blessed and exalted is He- and he transgresses against the taboos of God so he knowingly violates them. And he does not dare to contravene the trustee of his bounty.
And he prefers respecting his amir who sends him instructions over the Internet from a distant place over glorifying God who is with him wherever he is: "What is the matter with you that you do not give God due grandeur?" (Nuh 13).
Sorry of Ummah of Muhammad (SAWS), forgive us. We have long hesitated with you. Yes by God, we have long hesitated with you. And excuse us, for the Baghdadi ilk imposed a siege on us besides the siege of Nusayris, Rafidites and atheists: they gagged our mouths so our voices could not reach you. They broke our pens, for they did not want our words to reach you, and they strived hard and launched a campaign of wide arrests of people they suspected, in the hope that they might catch those operating the Nasiha Telegram channel.
The method of the Baghdadi ilk media
The Baghdadi ilk have relied in their media on fiery address, not address of the law, mind and reality.
Al-Baghdadi, Abu Muhammad Furqan, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Qahtani (may God have mercy on him) came together in one of the meetings. So al-Qahtani said: "The Diwan al-'Ilam has not fulfilled its role of da'wa of 'Ilm that it must undertake." So the stubborn and haughty Abu Muhammad Furqan said: "Do you think you can persuade me that the youth will mobilize to jihad by 'Ibn Taymiyya said and Ibn al-Qayyim said'?! No, they will mobilize through the zealous address that inflames feelings."
And upon this have the media of al-Baghdadi gone: for you find them heavily interested in the aspect of zeal and emotion. Indeed in many instances the disposition of tragedy and drama predominate over them.
For you find them showing you the old sheikh of the white beard, and the disabled man, and the young boy, all of them competing to carry out a martyrdom operation. This is with the choice of rousing words, emotional nasheeds, and melodies that put you in another atmosphere that completely contradicts the reality.
For you find the viewer wishing he were this person who sets forth to the martyrdom operation. This is so regardless of the issue of the Shari'i grounding for the martyrdom operations, and the bitter reality of the Baghdadi ilk in exploiting this matter in the worst way possible, for the important thing in their eyes is that you blow yourself up regardless of whether this operation realizes an interest or not. Whether the martyrdom operation kills a hundred, or one, or is only to destroy a cement wall, or is to blow up an enemy tank, or is with some other result, the important thing is that you blow yourself up, so that you may be a hero like these people you saw competing in the Mawkab al-Nur, or so that you may be like the one about whom his father said: "My son preceded me."
And this evil tree has brought forth its evil fruit with many of the soldiers of the Dawla, for you do not find them more interested in anything than they are interested in the releases and nasheeds, and God is the One whose help is to be sought.
The Baghdadi ilk rely on visuals that captivate perceptions
Consider with me oh reader the story of Qarun at the end of Surat al-Qisas. You will find this truth to be very obvious.
Most people are blinded by visuals and embellishment, while the Ahl al-'Ilm see the facts.
"So he came out upon his people in his adornment and those who wanted the worldly life said: 'If only we had the likes of what Qarun has been given: indeed he is of great fortune.' And those who were given 'Ilm said: 'Woe upon you. The reward of God is better for the one who believes and does just work and only those who endure will come upon it.' So we caused the Earth to swallow up him and his home and he had no one to aid him besides God, and he was not among those who could defend themselves. And those who wished for his place yesterday said: 'Oh, how God extends provision to whomsoever He wills from His servants and restricts it. Were it not that God had granted favour on us, He would have caused it to swallow us. Oh, how the disbelievers do not succeed.'" (al-Qisas 79-82).
We have from these verses a prudent lesson of insight:
In general people who do not have deep insight into the law and experiences of life are blinded by flashing visuals and resounding words and fine slogans and claims of noble principles. But a few of the people are of the Ahl al-'Ilm regarding the law and experiences of life, looking deeply at what is behind these visuals, words and slogans.
The masses say: "If only we had the likes of what Qarun has been given" (al-Qisas 79). And the best of the people say: "God's reward is better for the one who believes and does just work" (al-Qisas 80).
And the masses are blinded and have their perceptions captivated by wealth, adornment, words, streets, lightings, bridges and hospitals. And the Ahl al-'Ilm weigh that and other things on the balance of the law that does no wrong and is impartial: the balance of faith and just works.
And the masses realize the truths generally after God- Almighty and Exalted is He- does away with these adornments, and destroys this embellishment and brings down these edifices that were not based upon taqwa of God and radwan, and the Ahl al-'Ilm knew beforehand that they could vanish, because they saw that they are not based upon taqwa of God and radwan. And I do not absolve myself.
Why have I called them the sorcerers of the Baghdadi ilk?
My brother the reader, stand with me here also for a prudent lesson of insight regarding what happened between Moses (peace be upon him) and the sorcerers of Pharaoh's people.
"So when they cast, they bewitched the eyes of the people and terrorized them and brought great sorcery" (al-'Araf 116).
So there came together for Baghdadi's ilk what came together for Pharaoh's people: bewitchment of the eye and tongue, with the fear of the whip and authority, so two things have mixed together in a wondrous Satanic mix: "Al-'Ilam and al-Amn." For the media are for those deceived by visuals, and duped by flashing slogans. And as for those who have been cautious and understood what the people are upon, and that they are like the hollow drum, and they were on the inside: they had the amnis on the lookout for them. And if they were outside, the media assumed responsibility for deeming them in error, declaring takfir on them, charging them with innovation and assaulting them with their horses and men.
Two things come together for every tyrant: sorcery and terror. God Almighty said about the sorcerers of Pharaoh's people: "They bewitched the eyes of the people and terrorized them" (al-'Araf 116). And likewise Baghdadi's ilk: they have bewitched the eyes of the people with their Hollywood releases, and they have terrorized them with killing the interest and rebuke, and long imprisonment- without interrogation- and striking and hanging.
Thus are mixed the sorcery of the eye and tongue and their statements for distribution, nasheeds, releases and sound and word effects through the attack of the authority and its terror and soldiery and prisons and retinue. So the truth must have men who cast the stick of Moses against this falsehood.
That stick must be powerful, quick and eloquent, in which the light of inspiration comes together with the activity of the servant who works for the religion of his Lord, and therefore I call on all who have known the error of the people and their culpability, and have been provided with an eloquent tongue by God or a streaming pen or knowledge by which they can expose doubt, or admonition by which they can remove craving: I call on such people to cast down their stick, to catch up with what the sorcerers of Baghdadi's ilk have crafted, for they- by God- have misled many of the youth of the Ummah.
Extremism and the media
The one who considers and tracks the course of the Diwan al-'Ilam in that short time period in which Baghdadi's ilk have ruled, will find they only gave command of the Diwan to those belonging to the extremist movement in the Dawla. If you do not believe me, dear reader, there is this Abu Muhammad al-'Ialmi- 'Furqan'- who was the amir of the media, became well-known among the students of 'Ilm in the Dawla for his extremism in takfir, did not leave a student of 'Ilm more or less without testing him in his religion, brought near the extremists to him and was the oppressive hand for them against the Ahl al-Sunna. And the people could scarcely gather around a man from the Ahl al-Sunna without his trying to repress his star, extinguish his light and disperse the people around him.
And there is this Abu Hakeem al-Urduni who bore the legacy of extremism from his master Furqan, in a group of extremists who exploited their authority in disseminating extremism and presenting it to the mujahideen and Ummah on the basis that it is something official in the Dawla. And it is something we must admit: I mean that extremism is the official manhaj of the Dawla. And forgive me, oh dear reader, for this is what their words necessitate. For they say: "The media are the front of the Dawla, and the sole official part for publishing and expressing what the Dawla adopts." And the brothers refer reports upon reports to them, and complaints upon complaints against the criminal group of extremism established over the Dawla, and they do not lift a finger, and take no radical measure against them.
And worse than that is that the extremists of the media openly proclaim before them with all honesty that they hate the cancellation of the statement of innovation and the establishment of the series, and that they declare takfir on a group of the 'ulama of Islam like al-Nawawi and Ibn Hajer al-Asqalani- may God have mercy on them both.
Then they insist that these people should remain at the head of this Diwan: i.e. the front of the Dawla, so we must admit this bitter truth and it is that extremism is the official manhaj of Baghdadi's ilk. And the leadership, despite all this, insists that learning about the Dawla is to be confined to this Diwan, and it does not allow anyone to express on its tongue a letter except after consulting the Diwan al-'Ilam.
And therefore we have issued this firm decision:
We are not responsible for anything brought out or being brought out by this Diwan of extremism- the Diwan al-'Ilam: it does not represent us, and only represents the Baghdadi ilk. As for us, we disavow the extremism of the media and those established upon them, and the extremism of those who support them, and those who permit and allow it.
How can this Diwan al-'Ilam represent us when it contravenes the Sunna?! How can it represent us when a large number of the best of youth have left it in opposition to its extremism?!
We say this- oh Ummah of Muhammad (SAWS)- so that you may know that we disavow every release in which they attack you in general, for the extremists of the media tried to bring out a release in which there is an expression entailing the takfir of the peoples, so we are content with takfir of you, oh Ummah of Muhammad (SAWS). This is not our manhaj even if it comes from the official foundation of Baghdadi's ilk.
The media and credibility
I counsel all the Muslims in the world not to be deceived by the Dawla's media for their manhaj is not far from the manhajs of the global media, and that is so in the following aspects:
1. The al-Baghdadi media only issue to the people the flashing good face, and convey the picture that is not actually the reality, for the results of the battle may be against us, and behold the sorcerers of Baghdadi's ilk issue a release in which they make the people imagine that matters are good, and as though the battle is decisive or almost decisive for us, and this is not only on the military level. But also the media portray fine scenes as though they are the entire Dawla, and they are in truth overlooking many matters that are actually present in reality, for you find them for instance wonderful happy scenes in some places while there are at the same time many places filled with garbage. And likewise the good phenomenon of the courts is made prominent, and how the people enter these courts in groups, and how they restore to them their missing rights, so the people in the outside world think that the Dawla has been successful in the judiciary, and this is dubious, for the reality of the courts has been very painful, on account of the weakness of the judiciary cadres, and God is the One whose help is to be sought.
So we say this frankly: the media of the Baghdadi ilk do not express the reality.
2. As the media apparatuses work in all states by glorifying their ruler, and making people worship him, and composing panegyrics of poetry and prose for him, so the Baghdadi media are very much interested in making the ruler shine, and issuing nasheeds that praise the determined Caliph.
3. The media of every state are interested in drugging their people by showing the accomplishments of their government, while exaggerating praise of the state apparatuses even if that leads them to blatant lying, and from that is their words:
"And there is no oppression or tyranny, as though its judges are Omar."
And you find them speaking about the sectors of the Dawla and as though they are successful sectors that have fulfilled for the Muslims what they have been entrusted with from the aspect of law and then authority, and we all in our capacity were living through these sectors, knowing full well known that they were competing in failure, for some of them failed more than others, except what my Lord had mercy on.
And the point is that the media of the Dawla have been and still offer to the people resounding broad names, and happy scenes, regardless of the truth of these matters in the bitter reality of Baghdadi's ilk.
4. The media of every state try to portray their state as the invincible legend, and that its army is the strongest of armies, and its enemies have been very weak. And thus the Baghdadi media exaggerate in displaying this, and count the states that wage war on the Dawla, and make it out as though the determined Caliph vanquished them all, and they cannot get hold of him, and in that one of their liars says in one of the nasheeds: "My Dawla is invincible"!
5. The media of every state are employed by the ruling regime to engage in media attacks on adversaries and take them down whoever is in the right. For example: you find the media of the Sa'ud family attacking Qatar, and Qatar's media attacking the Sa'ud family. And if matters between the two sides are fine, you find the media of each side praise the other as the brother country, and likewise Baghdadi's media. For it has not left an adversary of the adversaries of the Dawla without defaming them, and attacking them with the most hideous descriptions, for their job has been to take down all who contravene the Dawla even if they are in the right or partially so in their contravening it. Even the dead whom the people have glorified but were not on the manhaj of Baghdadi's ilk in its entirety, you find the Baghdadi media portraying them in very hideous ways.
So they call those who disagree from the living and dead idols, Jews, agents, apostates and 'ulama of evil. This is without providing considered responses of knowledge that can be weighed on the balance of the Shari'a, but rather most of them are media take down attacks. And even if you find things of knowledge among them, you only find them superficially covered with 'Ilm and not of it in essence in any way, and you find them very much broken when you weigh them on the balance of 'Ilm. My objective here is not to make clear who is in the right. Rather my objective is to make that manhaj of the Baghdadi media, and how its manhaj resembles the global media, most of which are not eager for credibility and clarifying the truth.
Then you find the Baghdadi media adopting the path of cursing, vituperation, and atrocious wording. This is because they lack evidence, argument and proof, so they resort to this vile method of responses.
In summary, I tell you that the Baghdadi are propagandistic media and not media of da'wa: I mean that their mission is confined to spreading propaganda for the Dawla and promoting it more than da'wa to truth and the Shari'a and the Sunna and promoting them, and God knows best.
And what consoles us is that some of the brothers have awoken from their slumber, and have broken the bond, so there has arisen for the soldiers of the Dawla openings to express their true reality, far removed from the camouflage, deception, embellishment and sugarcoating that the sorcerers of Baghdadi's ilk engage in. So we thank our brothers for their efforts, and we hope for more from them and development, and we urge them to be cautious.
"So you will mention what I say to you and I entrust my matter to God. Indeed God is well aware of His servants" (Ghafir 44).
Written by Abu Eisa al-Masri
Friday 28 Sha'aban 1440 AH
1440 AH/2019 CE
Mu'assasat al-Turath al-Ilmi
 Nasheed 'We are commanded by God's command' issued by Ajnad Foundation for Media Production
 Issued by Ajnad Foundation for Media Production in 1439 AH