Muslim Abu Walid Shishani on the Fitna in Syria
Muslim Abu Walid Shishani has issued a new audio statement expressing his views on the fitna in Syria. I have translated some passages below.
After explaining that he has held back from commenting so far in case he affected the fitna, Muslim goes on to say:
I’ve been here two years already and have witnessed all these events from the start… At first when we came here there were very few Muhajireen [foreign fighters] and they were mostly in Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar Sham. Among the Ansars, like in other places where jihad started, we saw jahl [ignorance of divine guidance]. But it’s no exaggeration to say that most of them love Islam and want Islam on this land…
It was a second Chechnya, and we had experience adopted from Khattab and those brothers who were with him, and it wasn’t hard for us to repeat it. Alhamdulilah, Allah united us with learned brothers, who had spent 17-20 years in jail and wasted no time there in adding to their knowledge of the great scholars.
They organized here in Latakia a madrassa for students, with a three-month course. They recruited mainly those who had little knowledge and prepared them so that they could make du’a and pray. And they also opened a school for children. For one month they lived and ate in this school, and were trained in the first necessary knowledge. When we recruited 50 students in the first month, they hadn’t finished the course when more than 100 more were on the waiting list, brought by [their] parents.
We opened 17 mosques that had been closed and organized dawa, juma’a and namaz prayers. Slowly and surely, people began to fill these mosques. These brothers worked not only with the people, they also went to the group the Free Syrian Army and did dawa and we saw good results. Now these brothers work around Aleppo. You’ll know more about this in the near future as soon as our site is working.
It’s bad that we don’t have a permanent sponsor and we cannot expand this area..
I remember when I visited Umar Shishani, he went to the second floor filled with emotion and said, “Wallah, these takfirists have driven me [crazy] and I want to chuck them out.” That was a group of 150 guys, mostly Azerbaijanis. There were groups here that made takfir with Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) and other groups. One of them, a Dagestani from a group you probably remember, Abu Banat he was called, a lot of sites have written that he fled, when people started to suspect he was a Russian special agent. Afterward, he was judged in the Sharia [court] and sentenced to death by his Naib or Qadi and another for killing civilians….
For example, where Abu Hanif’s group was (he’s also a Dagestani who is now in ISIS) they found two women and infants murdered among other corpses. They put checkpoints on the roads with masked [guards] and took cars from people, killed them, and resold [the cars]. One brother, an Uzbek, who bought a car from them, latter, after ISIS left, he was taken to the Sharia court and he was made to return it. Another young Ansar recognized the refrigerator truck belonging to his father, that they had previously sold for $30,000 and which they had had to leave someplace with other cars when they fled. He found the body of his father among other bodies, and said in tears that he had searched for him everywhere without knowing what had happened.
They said that this was a trophy they had taken from the infidels.
The more foreign fighters that came here, the more often things started to happen. But more groups also started to try to control their ranks from such people, and chucked out of their groups those people, but unfortunately they did not fully control the territory of jihad and those people started to gather in various parts of Syria.
In the main they did not fight against the infidels, and said that everyone here is an infidel. “With whom, against whom should we fight?!”
But despite that, the local people loved the Muhajireen all the same, and there was no small kudos given to the group Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar, headed by Umar Shishani. It was one of the first groups of foreign fighters that operated in Syria, in Aleppo, and as Aleppo was the most affordable place, it gained a very large force for a short time.
Local people greatly trusted this group, if problems occurred, they immediately turned to Umar Shishani. At that time, I often visited Umar and saw he really tried to solve their problems. Most of these problems were related to the rudeness of the Muhajireen and because there were so many people, Umar could not control the whole group. But despite all this, change for the better was being seen every day, because after all there were more sincere brothers here, and they showed and taught people Islam as best they could…
And this did not go unnoticed among the infidels. They began to feel anxious and America blacklisted JAN. At that time, JAN was not as well known as Al Qaeda, although it was known among the Mujahideen. It operated here with very great authority and indeed, she had good local policies in relation to the people. In Aleppo local people even arranged rallies in support of JAN and some emirs from the Ansar came out and officially stated that JAN, this is one of the groups fighting against Assad like the others, and they won’t allow us to be divided. They said that they have different parties, and we have the same, there are different groups, but we are all solving the same problem, though we have different visions for solving the problem. But the infidels not miss a chance when something happened between the foreign fighters and the Ansars and once again out forward an enticing proposition. And when the infidels put conditions on the Ansars that they get rid of the Muhajir and promised in return to supply weapons and other necessities, those who were observing the situation, you probably remember well how the Ansars responded to this?
Many emirs of the Ansars gathered from different places and stated that they will not take up arms against their brethren, and if they get help because of doing so, the fact is that they would refuse this assistance…
No sooner did we enjoy this victory over fitna when another broke out, a more terrible and bloody fitna, which is still gaining momentum. That’s what I want to talk of in detail.
After all that, not much time had passed when Abu Bakr Baghdadi came out and announced to the world that he declared the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham. It was a very big surprise for all the Mujahideen. Not because we did not want and did not aspire to this, but because he did not take into consideration the situation in Syria and consider those who shed blood on this earth. After all, Muhammad Jolani, whom he considered as his deputy in Syria, even for him it was a surprise attack, and more than that, even Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, who at the time was his Emir, and he wrote in his letter that he was not in the loop.
Here, everyone understood that for this, we would still have to toil, and that it would only backfire, not only on the people but also among the groups of Ansars who did not know Abu Bakr. Especially since he is not an Ansar and especially since there were unpleasant rumrs flying aroud about the jihad in Iraq.
Here, people heard that there [i.e. in Iraq] Mujahideen were fighting with each other and that there were hundreds of dead Mujahideen in this fitna, and much more. Muhammad Jolani officially came out and refused to accept this and stated that he swore an oath to Al Qaida and awaited a decision from Dr Zawahiri. After this statement JAN was divided on two fronts. Initially not many supported Abu Bakr, but a decision on this issue from Dr. Zawahiri was delayed and in that time those who supported Abu Bakr managed to change a lot of things. Foreign fighters joined them, but still there were not so many, and they began to visit all the foreign fighter Jamaats. They visited me a few times, but I refused, saying that they first need to fix their problems themselves…
Back then, the largest foreign fighter group was Umar Shishani’s, and I heard that he himself hosted Abu Bakr for several days. I did not want him to get into this fitna, because we had a very close friendship and did not see any good in it.
In any case, until Dr. Zawahiri said something, I did not want him to hurry, since both Jolani and Abu Bakr were subordinate to him and he had to have the final word. But when I visited him it was too late, he said that he had sworn. It was for their PR, Umar had at the time about one thousand Muhajireen and it was a serious force. They consolidated their position. After all, it was mostly Caucasians who were with Umar, and they were known as good warriors and everyone tried to get more of them in their group.
We talked with him about many things, I explained as best I could to him that he should not go into this fitna, and that he should wait until everything was settled. And he was not sure of his choice and said, if the situation developed further for the worse, he would leave them. Everything depended on the decision of Dr. Zawahiri. But around him were people who influenced him greatly and I noticed these people didn’t miss a chance to strengthen him.
And when Dr Zawahiri’s address came out, where he told both to each remain in place and work as they worked before, and Abu Bakr refused to submit to him again, I went to see him [Umar]. But I saw that he finally became firm in his choice. Beside him was a professional psychologist who is known from Chechnya, where because of him there was no little fitna among the Mujahideen, and it was not without his participation that the jihad in Chechnya was weakened, but it’s a long topic and I will not dwell on this. He always appears in the right place at the right time and having done his business he walks away wiping his hands and enjoying the result of his work from a distance, taking a neutral stance.
What is most interesting is that everyone knows these people and everyone hates them, but somehow they are still allowed to get to the control levers of such an important matter? And there he played no small role. Umar said that he advised him to hold on to them. Sayfullah Shishani did not support Umar’s choice and constantly kept saying to me that after my visit, this psychologist spent hours with him and that Umar listened closely to hom. And then because of this reason, Sayfullah left the jamaat.
But all the same, it was small fry because there are 50,000 people fighting in Syria and they scored only around 2,000 and they started to take those who they’d previously rejected….
And when they’d gotten together enough forces, in order to show their strength they went onto JAN’s bases a few times and disarmed a few of them.
But one day, as God would have it, I saw it firsthand. This was at a time when we were preparing for the operation against Baruda and Durin in Latakia. You probably have seen these films on the Internet. Baruda was attacked by ISIS, a group of Muhajirs and Suqqur al-Iz, numbering 150 people, and we [attacked] Durin with a group of Ansars of the same number. Almost everything was ready and our brothers had already gotten close to these places for about 10 days, and waited for the others. At this time, when I was at on the base with the brothers, I had a visit from Abu Basir, with a few people. He was the Emir of one of the FSA groups. In Latakia, he was one of the most influential emirs of the Ansars. Previously, we sometimes went to them and we saw how he and his brothers were happy to see us. He told me that he wants to work with us and that he was ready to obey in all things. And explained that he received weapons from the Majlis Askari (the representative of the FSA in Turkey), and if they found out that he was with us, then they would stop supplying. He said that, if it were permitted by Shariah, he would not announce it, but if not, then he is ready to give it up. And he asked that we lend his group a learned brother to made du’a since in his group the brothers have a very weak Iman and smoked, but said that he would do everything to set them right.
At this conversation there were witnesses from my and his side. I gave him an answer immediately, and said that we were busy with an operation right now. He said that he had everything ready for another operation in Beit Ehlebia and Kherbay Solas, these are also hilltops and a continuation of those hilltops that we planned to attack and he asked us to support him as it would make it easier for us and the other operation, and moreover we had everything ready on these hilltops, before switching to Durin, for the whole month we were scouting these hills and when all was ready, the groups with which we had an agreement all went to Baruda and since we had problems with guns, we had to switch back here.
[MS describes a situation in which Mohaisany attempted to talk to ISIS in Latakia over some incident that required a Sharia court, and says that it did not matter what they said, because the authority for people were various websites]
The brain of the Caucasian youth is the websites. A young man can come here today, we’ve already been here two years, we want to explain the position in Syria to him and he interrupts us and starts explaining who’s who here. You ask him, how do you know? “I read it on such and such a site”, and it’s pointless to interrupt him.
Sayfullah even told me that he was approached by young Caucasian brothers from ISIS who asked him to talk with Umar Shishani, because their emirs were forcing them to kill civilians.
[the fitna had a practical affect on military operations against the Assad regime]
We were at a loss, not knowing what to do. We were afraid to raise our weapons, especially if there was no fatwa from scholars, and it was also hard to just sit and look; and it was dangerous to go to the [Aleppo Central] Prison, leaving the area where ISIS was and going through territory where there were checkpoints of those who were fighting ISIS. And to reach the prison we had to go this way. Once we were shelled by an ISIS sniper post and the Ansars, seeing us foreign fighters, immediately raised the alarm and there was a danger that they might also shoot. So I decided to get out of there by any means. I decided to move closer to the prison and continue. But we had to transfer the Ribat to another, we kept a Ribat in Layramon (just recently there was an operation there), near the main Mukhabarat (it’s like the Russian KGB… I sent a man to the ISIS Emir to say that we were off, and so they should take over this place. In response, they said that they do not care even if the kafirs came.
[MS says he is most surprised by how:]
2-3 thousand people, and almost all Muhajireen [foreign fighters], out of more than 50 thousand Mujahideen, declare themselves a state and call anyone who does not obey them apostates. And they forgot that Sharia is higher than the state and that it is even higher than the caliphate.
[Compares the jihad in Syria to the jihad in Chechnya]
I can confidently say that here in Sham, wisdom is taking a rest. Only emotions talk here. You won’t see many coming out and talking who have life and military experience. Basically those who are waging jihad for the first time are speaking. In Chechnya there was also fitnah and discontentment. Often Maskhadov and Basayev and other Emirs argued with each other and there was a time things almost came to blows. But these people were worthy of debate and they were decent.
I remember when Shamil talked about Maskhadov and one Mujahed started to badmouth him. Shamil stopped him and said: Do not you dare talk about him so badly in front of me, he was not a man of your stature and moreover he was a Mujahid. But here grown men go and make general reviews and general gossip.
[Has a subtle comment on the Caliphate, saying that the most important thing is to wage jihad in Syria, because it is mentioned in the hadith]
We recognized this Jahiliya this Kufr this inequality, and want to get rid of it quickly and live in an Islamic state, even better in the Caliphate, where our eyes will see only what pleases Allah and where live and raise children under Sharia law, but this desire should not dazzle us.
Alhamdulillah, it is not in the Caucasus and in other places [about] that are not mentioned in the Hadith. This is Sham and there are quite a few hadith of the Prophet, we just need to listen to them…
Did [the hadith] say join the fight in Iraq? Or do you doubt that Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s fight is the fight of Iraq?…Do not be fooled. Even after Sham, there is nothing said about Iraq. And if you say that there is no single fight in Sham, then I say at the beginning of the war there wasn’t one in Afghanistan nor in Chechnya, nor in Iraq. This fight will be, as long as there are groups of people coming for it.