Musings of an Iraqi Brasenostril on Jihad: “They have closed ranks and pledged bay’ah to Baghdadi”: Nasheed for the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham

NOTE: An archive of the Musings of an Iraqi Brasenostril on Jihad column can  be found here.

“They have closed ranks and pledged bay’ah to Baghdadi”: Nasheed for the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

Preface

This is an Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham nasheed released earlier in 2013 (around September time) and translated by me below. The term bay’ah means a pledge of allegiance, and in this case it is to ISIS’ leader Sheikh Baghdadi: a fundamental aspect of joining ISIS, not requiring a bay’ah to Sheikh Zawahiri of al-Qa’ida Central (see my previous Jihadology post for more information).

On the other hand, pledging allegiance to Sheikh Zawahiri, according to the testimony related to me by a representative of the Katiba Mus’ab bin Umair- a Deraa-based battalion that recently pledged allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra- is a key part of properly integrating into Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s official al-Qa’ida affiliate that has emphasized its loyalty to al-Qa’ida Central by calling itself “Tanzim al-Qa’ida fi Bilad ash-Sham.”

Contrasting with this point, a representative of Jabhat al-Nusra in Qalamoun, which vowed to protect members of ISIS on the grounds of having the same manhaj (ideological program: i.e. Caliphate and world domination) even as the “politics” differ, affirmed to me that the political difference between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS is that the latter has no bay’ah to Sheikh Zawahiri.

This point is corroborated by some more testimony I recently gathered from members and supporters of ISIS. Thus, one native Syrian member of ISIS from Aleppo denied to me the existence of an ISIS bay’ah to al-Qa’ida central and affirmed to me that the original al-Qa’ida in Iraq had pledged bay’ah to and thus was absorbed by the Islamic State. Prominent ISIS source and supporter who used the Twitter handle zhoof (who is notably anti-Jabhat al-Nusra, deridingly referring to it on occasion as the “Jowlani Front”) elaborated to me further on whether ISIS has bay’ah to Sheikh Zawahiri:

“Zawahiri is a soldier with Mullah Omar, so if there is a bay’ah [from ISIS to al-Qa’ida Central], it will be to Mullah Omar, but all that there is of bay’ah is on Nusra which Sheikh Baghdadi established for Zawahiri, but every word Baghdadi utters is as though he is under bay’ah to Zawahiri as his sheikh, and this is from the discipline and humility of the sheikh [Baghdadi].”

In objection to these points, it is argued that if ISIS were really independent of al-Qa’ida Central, why does Sheikh Baghdadi not simply say so explicitly? Indeed, he has made no explicit declaration of a break, but I would argue that this is so because it would simply stir up too much fitna in the global jihadist movement. After all, Sheikh Baghdadi understands that al-Qa’ida Central is ultimately working towards the same ideological goals, so why bother deepening an already serious disagreement?

In short, as Will McCants says, Sheikh Baghdadi is playing a “clever game.” I would also agree with McCants about being skeptical of ISIS supporters’ and members’ narrative of the independence of the Islamic State from al-Qa’ida Central from the very beginning with its founding in late 2006, for there is no doubt that al-Qa’ida in Iraq was initially the main component of the Islamic State.

In any case, the lack of an explicit leadership declaration of independence does not mean there is no independence. On this reasoning, one could argue that the Green Battalion- a muhajireen battalion founded by Saudis last summer and primarily operating in Damascus province- is not an independent group. However, all reliable testimony on the ground (e.g. my interview with the Jabhat al-Nusra in Qalamoun representative) points to its independence.

Though it shares the ideology of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, the Green Battalion is independent for “personal reasons”: that is, its founders and leaders had personal problems with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in that they preferred not to take sides in the dispute over Sheikh Baghdadi’s announcement of a merger. Of course, it is not advantageous to anyone to declare explicitly a break of this sort.

Translation of the Nasheed

“They have closed ranks and pledged bay’ah to Baghdadi,
For [he is] our amir in our Iraq and ash-Sham.

For the Caliphate of God: I am its sign,*
Its glory decreed by our blood.
They have promised each other to protect its [the Caliphate’s] corners,
They have sold life at a cheap price for its survival.

They have closed ranks and pledged bay’ah to Baghdadi,
For [he is] our amir in our Iraq and ash-Sham.

They have undertaken bay’ah together to our amir,
They are your heroic knights and our weapon.
For he [Baghdadi] is the one to whom bay’ah is pledged in our land of Iraq
And [he is] the amir of the Muslims and of our land of Sham.

They have closed ranks and pledged bay’ah to Baghdadi,
For [he is] our amir in our Iraq and ash-Sham.

Preserve the soldiers of God, oh custodian of ours.
The cross has returned to our land and our abodes.
And on our skulls will be our life,
Laying low and vanquishing oppression, our enemy.

They have closed ranks and pledged bay’ah to Baghdadi,
For [he is] our amir in our Iraq and ash-Sham.

We have not forgotten the incident of the throwers,**
Verily it is an excellent lesson for whomsoever after it,
When some of the throwers resisted our Prophet,
For grace remains on our heroes [?].***

They have closed ranks and pledged bay’ah to Baghdadi,
For [he is] our amir in our Iraq and ash-Sham.”

Further Notes

* cf. My previous post for Jihadology in which I discuss ISIS discourses focus on establishing the Caliphate.

**- cf. This video lecture by Yahya Abd al-Rahman.

**- I am slightly uncertain about this phrase. Alternative suggestions are welcome.