Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Would-Be Caliph’s Inaugural Address to the Islamic ‘Ummah

As usual, this extremely important message from the jihadists was covered rather superficially by the media. It deserves plenty of consideration if we are to understand how they think and what they want—and how to eventually defeat them.

The ‘al-Furqan Institute for Media Production’ in the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ released a 18 minute audio recording yesterday on several jihadist websites under the title ‘Truth Has Arrived and Falsehood is Perished.’ In this speech, we hear the voice of Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s designated proto-Caliph, Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi, for the first time. He is introduced at the beginning as the amir al-mu’minin [‘Prince of the Faithful’] and his full pseudonym is further enunciated with relish: “Abu ‘Umar al-Husseini al-Qurayshi al-Baghdadi.” The significance of this particular title is best described as such:

The title amir al-mu’minin is said to have been introduced by the Caliph ‘Umar. It soon became the standard and most common title of the caliphs, and the one which for the longest period remained an exclusive caliphal prerogative, long after most other titles had been adopted by all kinds of lesser rulers.

p. 50-51, Bernard Lewis, The Political Language of Islam, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, [1988] 1991

Furthermore, Islamic tradition holds that the Caliph must be a descendant from the tribe of Quraysh, which is the pedigree being claimed by al-Baghdadi. [Note: the Hanafi school of Islam fudges the Qurayshite requirement; this prevarication was useful for the Turkish Oguz descendants of the house of Osman, the Ottomans, who took care to brandish their caliphal title as their empire began to wane from the 18th century onwards. The last Ottoman ‘caliph’, Abdulmecid II, was the 101st Sunni Muslim to claim this title since the death of the Prophet Muhammad. No one has carried this title since March 4, 1924 when Turkey's Mustafa Kemal abrubtly put an end to this institution. Al-Qaeda’s stated goal of re-establishing the caliphate as an Islamic Empire runs into the difficulty of choosing a new caliph, which is a process that essentially has no peaceful precedent in the history of Islam (see my column, Calling All Caliphs, for more). However, it seems that the jihadists are coalescing around the person of al-Baghdadi, to whom Al-Qaeda’s leader, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, recently pledged allegiance to.]

The audio recording begins with three verses (80-83) from the Koranic sura of al-Isra’:

[80] Say: "O my Lord! let my entry be by the Gate of Truth and Honour, and likewise my exit by the Gate of Truth and Honour; and grant me from Thy Presence an authority to aid (me)."
[81] And say: "Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish."
[82] We send down (stage by stage) in the Quran that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe: to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss.

[Translation is from quran.al-islam.com, an official Saudi website]

There seems to be some subtle significance to this Koranic selection: the various interpretations of these verses more or less say the same thing; the Prophet Muhammad’s mission entered upon a new phase when he embarked on the journey from Mecca to Medina, and it was here that Allah promised to render upon him the glories of the Persian and Roman empires. Muhammad then returned victorious to Mecca, which was a harbinger of more victories to come. The last verse makes the case that the Koran was reveled in stages, and so will victory arrive in stages.

The other significant point behind choosing this verse was that it descended upon Muhammad two or three months after the second pledge of allegiance (by the Aws and Khazraj tribes of Medina) at Al-‘Aqaba. The Islamic State of Iraq arose out of the pledge of allegiance known to the jihadists as the Mutayyebin Alliance—it’s been over two months since that happened in mid-October. From the very beginning, the jihadists have been trying to correlate their actions to those of Muhammad in his early days at Medina as he went about building a regulated Muslim community. Their choice of Koranic verses may serve to amplify these correlations.

Then, this hadith (a saying attributed to Muhammad) is cited:

وكما في حديث تميم الداري ـ رضي الله عنه ـ قال: قال رسول الله -صلى الله عليه وسلم-: «ليبلغن هذا الأمر ما بلغ الليل والنهار، ولا يترك بيت مدر ولا وبر إلا أدخله الله هذا الدين بعز عزيز أو بذل ذليل، عزاً يعز الله به دين الإسلام، وذلاً يذل به الكفر»(7)

[It can be found in Ahmad bin Hanbal’s musnad, volume IV]

This hadith implies that Islam’s victory is inevitable.

Al-Baghdadi’s actual speech is preceded by excerpted highlights of his words set against jihadist chanting in the background.

This is al-Baghdadi’s inaugural address; it is his calling card to the Islamic world and to the West. It is of utmost importance. In it, he deals with domestic and international issues. He begins by explaining the reasons why the jihadists chose to declare an Islamic State in Iraq (interestingly, al-Baghdadi twice skips over the word ‘Iraq’ and uses the Arabic derivative of ‘Mesopotamia’ in its stead—he mentions ‘Iraq’ only when calling upon Saddam’s ex-officers to join him), and the timeline behind their decision. He then names the significant jihadist groups other than Al-Qaeda that have chosen to join him, gives a ‘shout out’ to certain towns that have distinguished themselves in the jihad, and claims most of Iraq’s Sunni tribes among his supporters.

Al-Baghdadi also gives us an idea how his mini-state is organized (through consultative councils) and toots his own horn as the reluctant ruler who has had greatness thrust upon him—to become ‘Prince of the Faithful.’ Osama bin Laden is seemingly dismissed with the lesser title of sheikh of the mujaheddin—somewhat of a consolation prize that indicates that the jihadists in Iraq no longer turn to him for temporal leadership.

The most interesting window unto al-Baghdadi’s way of thinking is the offer of safe conduct he gives to American troops, provided they leave their sophisticated weaponry behind and scurry out in a month’s time. Here, he seems to be totally delusional: al-Baghdadi really seems to believe that the Americans are so demoralized that they would even give up their M-1 Abrams tanks as war booty for Al-Qaeda. It seems that al-Baghdadi has been reading one too many defeatist editorials in American papers.

Here is my translation of most of al-Baghdadi’s speech, with commentary interspersed here and there:

“My beloved ‘ummah, your men are determined to establish for Islam its state, where they will adjudicate according to its law, and follow its authority, and gather its soldiers, and they have shed their blood for that after sacrificing their wealth, they are divorced from every desire, and they have suffered much in yearning for death that will bring either victory or martyrdom."

“Gather its soldiers”…? So Iraq is the frontline in the war on terror after all?

“So thus came the blessed step of establishing the firm foundation for the State of Islam in the Land of the Two Rivers [Mesopotamia], in the footsteps of [the Prophet Muhammad]. And here is the structure rising higher for all to see; those who mean it well and those who resent it, which drove that enemy of Allah, Bush, to say after its emergence that the [jihadists] seek to establish an Islamic state from China to Spain, and thus he was truthful [in this instance] despite being a liar."

So there you have it: al-Baghdadi is corroborating Bush’s claims; the jihadists want an empire that stretches from China to Spain.

“It bore fruit when more than thirteen jihadist groups met under one banner, and that was after their fragrant declaration in the Mutayyebin Alliance…” This was followed by “a pledge of allegiance made by tens of units and thousands of fighters from the Army of the Mujaheddin and the Islamic Army of Iraq and the 1920 Revolt [Brigades] and the Ansar al-Sunna and others. And that happened in Fallouja, al-Garmeh, ‘Amiriyah, Ramadi, al-Gharbiyeh, al-Tarmiyyeh, al-Sinniyyeh, Tikrit, Sammara’, Baqouba, al-‘Udheim then in Mosul, Kirkuk, Talafar, and beloved Baghdad."

For more on how parts of the Islamic Army in Iraq flocked to al-Baghdadi's side, see here.

“The surest fruit and the greatest harvest came about when nearly 70 percent of the sheikhs of the Sunni tribes in the Land of the Two Rivers hurried to enter into the Mutayyebin Alliance and to bless the oath taken to the State of Islam and the Muslims and for that I thank and admire my brothers the sheikhs of the Duleim, the Jebour, the ‘Ubaid, Zoba’, Qais, Azzah, Ta’yy, the Janabis, the Hayyalis, the Mushahdeh, the Dayniyyeh, the Bani Zeid, the Mujamma’, the Bani Shammar, ‘Anizeh, the Sumeida’, the Nu’aim, Khazraj, the Bani Lheib, the Bu Hayyat, the Bani Hamdan, the al-Sa’adoun, the al-Ghanim, Sa’ideh, the Ma’adheed, the Karabileh, the al-Salman, and the Kubaisat…"
Almost anyone from a sheikhly house can claim to be a sheikh of a tribe. If fact, there is an old proverb that goes: "Even the dog of a sheikh is a sheikh." That would mean in a large confederation like the Dulaim there would be hundreds of men that can claim to be sheikhs. The tribal structure has been gradually fraying since the monarchy was overthrown (and even then, it was so weak as to be unable to protect its regal patrons) and endured a period of bastardization under Saddam when lesser sheikhs, who were more loyal to the Ba’ath Party, were elevated with funds, prestige and access over the heads of the traditional tribal leadership. Still, some of the tribes named by al-Baghdadi have members who have reached positions of power in the new Iraq that would have been undreamed of under Saddam and the monopoly of his Tikriti clique: VP Tariq al-Hashemi and Speaker of the Parliament Mahmoud Mashhadani are both members of the Mushahdeh tribe, Deputy PM Salam al-Zoba’i is from the Zoba’ tribe, Iraqi ambassador to Washington Samir al-Sumaida’i is from the Sumaida’a clan, liberated Iraq’s first president was Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawer of the Shammar tribe, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel-Qadir al-‘Ubeidi is of the ‘Ubeid tribe, several Janabis were prominent is Allawi’s cabinet, and so on and so forth.

“…The shari'ah is beginning to be implemented in most of the areas of that blessed state and by demand of our people themselves. We have appointed jurists to arbitrate disputes and settle feuds…We have also appointed workers to gather zakat and alms in most of the areas of the Islamic state…”
Al-Baghdadi then cites the Pentagon’s leaked report of just how much al-Qaeda controls Anbar Province to answer allegations from skeptics that the jihadists are not really in control and to prove, using the Marine Corps' own words, that they are indeed popular. He then adds that “al-Qaeda is but one of the components of the Islamic state” and that this state’s alleged writ “extends further to Nineveh and Salahuddin for example and especially to Diyala. As for Baghdad, everyone knows that the [jihadists] were the ones who repelled and cut off the hands of the devious majus and for a long time since…"

The majus is this context are the Shi'a; majus is the term the early Muslims use to describe the ‘pagan’ Zoroastrian Persians they encountered.

“This is not the proper venue to discuss the factors that prevent us from assuming total control of matters [in these areas] but by the strength and will of Allah He will make them go away soon…”
This is an interesting admission by al-Baghdadi that the jihadist effort is stalled.

“…Allah knows how many times I repeatedly refused to take [upon myself] this matter, that is, the Emirate of the Muslims. I never dreamed to be any more than a soldier among the laypeople; fighting those who turned against Allah until only Allah is worshiped. And I was never an emir of any of those groupings but the people reached a consensus upon [me] and refused to let [me] go and thought there was benefit from [me]…I am resolved to take decisions only after consulting my brothers, and for that reason, we formed an expanded Consultative Council [majlis shura muwwesa’a] that comprises three individuals from each group that has joined the State of Islam regardless of the number of its soldiers and the volume of their operations, as well as a representative from each of the major tribes, together with men of learning and experience. Then [we formed] a narrower Consultative Council [majlis shura mudhayeq] that comprises of five individuals to decide on important matters that require speedy consideration…

“…Initially we call upon officers of the former Iraqi Army and that is from the rank of lieutenant to major to join the army of the Islamic State on condition that the applicant must know, at a minimum, three sections of the Holy Koran by rote and must pass an ideological examination by a clerical commission, that exists in every region, to make sure that he is not beholden to the idolatry of the Ba’ath and its tyrant [Sadda]. And we will, Allah willing, provide him with transportation, housing and the appropriate salary that guarantees an honorable life for him as is provided to the mujaheddin who fight under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq…”
It seems that the jihadists have a de-Ba’athification policy of their own.

“…Oh ‘ummah of Islam, oh my beloved ‘ummah! The giant [America] is beginning to wobble and is looking to flee and is seeking to negotiate with any groups either directly or through agents and thus he sent [a message] to us through [the Saudi royal family], the tyrants of the [Arabian] Peninsula, saying that he had sat down with all the other groups except us.”
Shouldn’t American journalists in Iraq be looking into this mind-blowing allegation: that someone on the American side was trying to negotiate via the Saudis with Al-Qaeda and its ilk?

“We say: We are not ones who negotiate with those who are steeped in the blood of our children, and made our mothers cry, and desecrated our land, but today we will declare unto you our orders so accept them obediently and submissively before you end up regretting it.”
The jihadists are refusing to deal with the Americans directly because the latter allegedly have ‘innocent’ blood on their hands, but the Americans are pushing Maliki to offer the jihadists a full amnesty, even though we know for certain that they’ve been murdering innocents. Who seems to have lost their moral compass here? Al-Baghdadi is dictating orders to a superpower--a dangerous precedent. The last time the Muslims (back then it was the Ottomans) dictated peace terms to a subservient and defeated Western power too place over 300 years ago.

“We order you to withdraw your forces immediately. But the withdrawal must be via troop transport trucks and passenger planes whereby each soldier is allowed to carry his own weapon only. They may not withdraw any of the heavy military equipment and the military bases must be handed over to the mujaheddin of the Islamic State and the duration of the withdrawal may not exceed a month. On our part, we will allow you to withdraw without anyone attacking you with an explosive device or the such. We shall await your response for two weeks time starting with the date of this declaration.

“And regarding those who are secretly negotiating with you, you should ask them to stop military operations for a single month even if it were in a single province to prove that they are sincere in their claim of representing the majority of the mujaheddin and the resistance, and wait for the results. Then you will find out, you idiots, that you are negotiating with cowardly liars just like yourselves.”
This seems like a fair challenge: why haven’t the insurgents that the Americans have been talking to delivered a ceasefire yet? And if they can’t deliver one, then what’s the use of negotiating with them in the first place?

“We say to Bush: do not waste this historical opportunity that offers you a safe exit as you wasted the opportunity of a ceasefire that was offered to you by the sheikh of the mujaheddin Osama bin Laden may Allah preserve him. I warn you against allowing your well-known foolishness to guide you to perpetrate more massacres among the innocents and the poor women and children, and don’t you dare to further inflame the volcano

“…We declare these [ten days] that are upon us the days of the Raid of Ferocity Against the Soldiers of the Cross and the Heretics, to end with the last day of the blessed ‘Eid al-Adhha…”
Al-Baghdadi is declaring a new offensive against US troops and the Iraqi government.

“…Friday, the 2nd of Dhil Hijja, 1427 AH…” [December 22, 2006]


Anonymous lester said...

the fact that this guy is in Iraq saying this shows we ar no good at occupation and should leave. If you are fixing a car and you crate more mechanical problems you are not a good mechanic.

8:24 AM, December 24, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al Jazeera obtained an exclusive tape of Al Baghdadi's henchmen intimidating people on the streets of Mosul. It ran as the third story in the 6pm Newscast of AJEnglish. Media is covering this story... kudos to the evil empire... Camille, from Virginia, via Kadhymia.

4:10 PM, December 25, 2006

Anonymous lester said...

tell us again how the iraqi PM was actually slighting King Hussein of Jordan, not Bush. lol.

8:07 AM, December 26, 2006

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi Camille,

Well clearly someone is nudging those 'evil' AJE folks in the right direction...Maybe some infiltrator among their ranks ;)

But my gripe is really with the print media, who have the copy space and the time to research these complex issues and put them into context. The al-Baghdadi edict was only mentioned as some quaint looney giving Bush an ultimatem. Little was done to show that someone like al-Baghdadi IS the insurgency that is harrassing the American military...

Plus, issues like the caliphate and this whole business about an Islamic State are dealt with very superficially.

There are so many layers to al-Baghdadi's message beyond the ultimatem. Most importantly, how are the insurgents thinking? To me, al-Baghdadi is delusional, but that's a good thing: Delusional people are easier to defeat, but it will take them longer to realize that they've been defeated. In the meantime, the American public sees the insurgency going on even though it is doomed, and the Americans start to question themselves without considering the very nature of the insurgents.

That is what is missing from the debate.

Thanks you letting us know--we want more!


2:19 PM, December 26, 2006

Blogger das411 said...

Fascinating. I am a student minoring in Middle Eastern Studies at a large US state university and I think there is more practically useful information in this one post than in most of the readings we have had in classes OR the print media (NYT et al) here...

11:32 PM, December 26, 2006

Anonymous lester said...

das411- I suggest you reexamine that post and the rest of this site. it's full of highly dubious western friendly propaganda and unsubstantiated gossip. and don't miss his column "my pal george bush" from early 2005. this is not someone at all in touch with any sort of reality on the ground unless that ground is in chevy chase, maryland.

9:03 AM, December 27, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

das411-I suggest you reexamine lester's support fot the insurgents and hizbollah. lester is full of highly dubious alqaeda friendly propaganda and crazy bullshit.

4:14 PM, December 27, 2006

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