May 21, 2014
Five powerful Islamist coalitions issued a “Revolutionary Covenant” over the weekend seemingly intended to reassure both Syrian and international audiences of their opposition to “extremism” and the presence of foreign fighters in Syria. The statement expressed a commitment to a “multi-sectarian and multiethnic” Syria with “respect for human rights.” The signatories range in ideology from relatively moderate Islamic nationalist militias to more hardline groups such as the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham.
Conspicuously absent from the signatories was Jabhat a-Nusra (JAN), al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria and one of the country’s most formidable rebel factions. JAN officials have since lashed out at the statements’ signatories, accusing them of compromising Islamic principles at the behest of foreign powers. “What coercion has led you to publish a statement like this?” demanded Sami al-Oridi, one of JAN’s top religious scholars, in a tweet to Ahrar a-Sham leader Hassan Abboud.
On Tuesday, JAN published a detailed statement chastising the Covenant’s signatories for failing to consult with JAN prior to publication. It laid out nine objections to the document from the standpoint of Islamic law.
“All apostates should die by the sword,” reads the statement, responding to the Covenant’s advocacy of transitional justice based on trials rather than revenge killings. JAN also takes aim at the Covenant’s rejection of foreign fighters, insisting that “Syria’s doors will remain wide open for anyone who wants victory for its people.”
JAN reserves its most emphatic critique, however, for what it perceives as a willingness to sacrifice Islamic goals in favor of nationalist ones, underscoring what may emerge as a key distinction between the al-Qaeda-affiliate and the Islamic nationalists at whose side it has fought.
“Our victory as Muslims will come as a result of our loyalty to Islam, not to the nation,” reads the statement.
Translation by Syria Direct’s Gavi Barnhard and Alex Simon.
Press Statement #9
The media has reported on what they are calling the “Revolutionary Covenant” that has been signed by a number of fighting groups in Syria. We came across this document just as our fellow Muslim brothers in arms did. We wish dearly that the signatories had consulted with us; we all know that the greatest problem facing jihad in Syria is the absence of shura [consultation] and the individualization of decision making…
We feel that this document, especially when dealing with such an important matter as the Syrian and Islamic jihads, must be clarified in light of our understanding of religion. We will seek to clarify our ideology and explain why we take issue on specific matters within this document. This does not mean that we deny the other groups’ virtues or their jihad, but rather that we have to take what is in agreement with sharia, and refute what violates it. We must redeem our jihad and restore it to its true form.
Here is a list of the points we take issue with:
– First: The lack of clarity, discipline and specificity in the statement of principles of this document. Though they mention regulations and definitions of revolutionary work in the first point, they use vague terms and definitions that serve their own needs. How can a document regulate and define revolutionary work while the document itself is vague and lacks discipline?
– Second: It is confined to fighting extremism while neglecting the fight against passivity, submission and concessions. Just as extremism undermines and distorts jihad, so does compromise. The religion of God is one of moderation…
– Third: It is insufficient to claim a return to the statutes of our religion—everyone claims that. We must meet the words and deeds of the Quran and the Sunna, but this document contains provisions clashing with them, as we will clarify…
– Fourth: The statement limits the jihad to one of its many dimensions, focusing on toppling the regime militarily. This regime attacked religion before it all else—ourselves, our honor, our money, our families—so our response must first be about religion.
– Fifth: The statement’s text says that all the signatories want to bring all major figures from the regime to justice through fair trials and avoid revenge. However, this contradicts sharia law, which says that all apostates should die by the sword. The current tyrants of the regime are true apostates and the law of God requires them to be put to death… Therefore it is legitimate to call for revenge and retaliation under sharia law…
– Sixth: The document calls for meeting and cooperation with regional and international powers in solidarity with the Syrian people and serving the revolution. However, it does not specify particular actors, or their positions vis-a-vis Islam and Muslims around the world, or their goals in terms of a Islamic Syrian revolution… We know that these local factions only are working to subvert Islam and stand in the way of building a true caliphate as was mentioned in point number 4. As for the sixth point that states their refusal to be dependent on outsiders, we do not know what is meant by the term “outsiders”! Do they mean Islamic groups!? Or regional groups?…
– Seventh: The absence of a brotherhood of faith and the prevalence of a nationalistic and hierarchical brotherhood in all the articles of the document. This can be seen in the document’s second, third, sixth and eighth points, which promote a spirit of nationalism and belonging to the land and nation. This contradicts the Quran and the Islamic spirit of brotherhood which stems from religion, not nationhood, citizenship, color, etc…
We refuse to hide the important role of fellow Muslims who have come from abroad to fight in our holy jihad. They have undertaken an important task in serving the Syrian people in compliance with the Quran…We are brothers of religion and transcend all hierarchy and nationality, and our victory as Muslims will come as a result of our loyalty to Islam, not to the nation… Let it be known that we strive for an Islamic nation built on the foundations of Islam, true belief and sharia law…
What hurts our brothers from abroad hurts us; their injuries are our injuries, and their defeats are our defeats. Syria’s doors will remain wide open for anyone who wants victory for its people.
– Eighth: The document states that the Syrian people strive to establish a country of justice, law and freedom, free from pressures and dictates. However, we clearly see these pressures and dictates in the formulation of the article. We are Syrians and, thanks to God, we are spread throughout all of Syria and we want only to establish a country ruled explicitly and directly by sharia law. We declare openly that we will not accept any civil state or democracy or any state not based on the rule of sharia.
– Ninth: The document states that the “Syrian revolution is a revolution of morals and values that strives to realize freedom, justice and security in the pluralistic fabric of Syrian society.” We say that the way we as Muslims interact with different religions and sects differs depending on the religion, and we cannot equate between them. A document like this must deal with all factions as stipulated by the Quran and its regulations.
In conclusion… we ask that our brothers who have signed this document step back from their statement and modify the document in accordance with clear Islamic projects.
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