Syria Feature: A Chechen Jihadist Explains The Battle for Hearts & Minds
The website FiSyria, a Russian-language pro-jihad website that publishes material related to the involvement of Russian-speaking fighters in the Syria conflict, has published an interview with a member of the Sharia Committee of Jaish al-Ansar wal Muhajirin (“Army of Emigrants and Helpers”).
Jaish, which is mostly made up of fighters from Chechnya and other parts of the Caucasus, is active mostly in Aleppo Province but has also sent members to Idlib and Latakia Provinces.
We have translated the interview from Russian. An extract is below — the rest, together with additional materials on the role played by Chechen and Russian-speaking fighters in the Syria conflict, will be available soon in a separate EA report.
Q: Can you briefly tell our readers about the work you have carried out among the local populations in the areas you have already liberated, how do you treat them and how they view you and your being in Syria?
A: Praise be to Allah, on the territories we have liberated, we have opened several Islamic institutions so we can create preachers out of the most talented students.
Also, in every mosque, there is a more or less large area where worshippers are given lessons in Islamic theology and Islamic jurisprudence, plus Quran-reading lessons for children, following which competitions are organized with gifts for those children who distinguish themselves.
Also with the help of Allah, there are plans to open middle schools for teaching both modern and Sharia subjects. Praise be to Allah, the ranks of those who pray is being replenished, with more and more people returning to their religion. With each day that passes, more and more people are convinced that nobody else apart from the Mujahideen cares about them.
To address the problems and lawsuits that arise among the local population, Sharia courts have been opened where anyone can come and say if they were harmed by anything or if they have been treated unfairly.
[The Syrian] people have been entrusted to us by Allah, we are obliged to take care of them and their well-being both in this world and in the afterlife.
We call on all our brothers to be lenient and kind to these people, because they have suffered and are suffering so much. Yes, you will find quite a few impious people among them and even those who gave up religion altogether, but you will also find that the percentage of Muslims who love and obey their religion is greater, so we should not rush things, but with wisdom and beautiful preaching encourage them and be patient with them.
Of course, it’s sad to talk about this, but we had in the group [Jaish] some people who did not have a basic knowledge of even the most basic questions of religion, who dared to accuse the entire Syrian people of being infidels, and who tried to prove to us that the Syrians are all infidels except those in whom we have seen Islam.
These people themselves do not understand, they repeated the same words that the Ayubovtsy (followers of Ayub Astrakhan — a known takfiri ), something like the Kharijites  said hundreds of years before.
They argue that if the ruler of a country is an infidel and rules with infidel law, then basically the people who live in that country are infidels and that in general they will be considered infidels.
Regarding this misconception, our Sheikh and Imam Abu Muhammad Al Makdisi answered perfectly the takfiris or those influenced by takfir, in his book “This Is Our Ideology” in chapter nine, “The Territory of The Infidels and the Territory of Islam And Their Inhabitants”, saying,
And we hold the view of the jurists regarding the abode [Dār] wherein if the laws of Kufr were uppermost and the dominance therein was for the Kuffār and their legislations, then it is Dār al-Kufr. however, we believe that this term has no bearing upon the inhabitants of the abodes in light of the absence of the Islāmic state and its power, and the domination of the apostates and their control of the reigns of rule in the lands of the Muslims. This term is applied to the abode if the rulings of Kufr are uppermost, even if the majority of its people are Muslims-just as the term Dār al-Islām is applied upon the abode in which the laws of Islām are uppermost, even if the majority of its inhabitants are Kuffār-as long as they are submitting to the rule of Islām (Dhimmah) 
Abu Qatada al-Filistini (may Allah release him) has also written a book on the subject, having considered the matter in detail, and we do not know that any of those scholars who are generally accepted by all of the Mujahideen held a different view on this matter. We stand for the same as they and they stand for for the same as us. And therefore, any accusation against us applies to them, and any accusation against them directly concerns us.
Sorry for straying a bit away from the topic, but the point had to be explained that takfiri ideas will no longer penetrate our ranks.
But in general, with regard to the attitude of the local population, we would very much like it if our brothers the Mujahideen in all corners of the world would read and listen to the advice Sheikh Abu Muhammad Makdisi gives in his letter, “Valuable instructions to the helpers of Sharia” which is available, by the grace of Allah, in Russian.
Q: What about the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is it true that they are democrats and are closely connected with the West? How should we deal with them in that case?
Like a lot of the brothers here, you have a fundamentally wrong idea of the FSA. The FSA is not an organization and it is not an army with a single command post and commander in chief. It’s different groups in different parts of Syria, with different commanders, different sponsors, and different views and beliefs.
Often, they band together only because they call themselves free troops, and add an extra star to the flag they had before the revolution. And that extra star symbolizes their revolution, nothing more.
In short, we can’t talk generally about the FSA, neither from a good or a bad perspective, since it is impossible to generalize about something that is so divided in taste and color.
Among them, there are groups who fight only for money, there are those who simply want revenge, there are those who came out to defend their town or village, but there are lots of people who see freedom and equality in the Western model of democracy, and it is they who are being manipulated by the West for its own geopolitical interests, and it is on them that the West is betting for after the fall of the Assad regime.
However, the FSA also has such groups who have declared and still declare, but also prove it through their deeds, that they renounce democracy and those who sought it, and [say] that the West is a traitor and accomplice to what is happening in Syria, etc. They argue that in the cities controlled by their groups, they are opening Sharia courts and are placing an emphasis on the dissemination and teaching the basics of Islam to people.
So our position in relation to them is simple and clear, we say that those who are fighting to establish the Sharia of Allah and to protect their lands from the Alawite invaders are our brothers and Mujahideen in Allah’s way, until we see that they do something to convince us otherwise.
And as for those who fight so that after the fall of Bashar they can establish democracy, liberalism or other idols that are re-enslave the people here, we do not consider them to be Muslims and do not see that they have any justification for this.
This answer should put an end to these disputes around the FSA, we can not rake them all in one pile without understanding who is who, in fact there is a clear text from the Quran on this subject:
“Are we to equate Muslims with the unrighteous, with the criminals? What [is wrong] with you? How do you judge? “(Surah Al-Kalam, 35)
[Ed – this quote appears to be another slight mistranslation by the jihadist:
Sūrat al-Qalam 35/ 36 reads as follows: 35 Shall We then treat the Muslims like the criminals? 36 What is (the matter] with you? How do you judge!
Moreover, there appears to be a spelling mistake in the Russian — the interview uses the word нечистивцам, a non-word that looks like it comes from нечистый (unclean, wicked or ceremonially impure) instead of нечестивцам, which means “unrighteous”]
Therefore, we must be careful not to call iman [faith in the unseen] kufr [disbelief] as do the Kharijites , and not to say that kufr is iman as do the Murjites.
And the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah (Sunni Muslims) are in the middle, they don’t lead out of Islam except based on weight of evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah, and do not call someone a Muslim except in the presence of all requirements. I hope that is a proper explanation that that everything is understood.
Q: Does the “Sharia Committee” preach only to the local population, or as classes are held for the Mujahideen too? If yes, what exactly do the Mujahideen do, and what plans are you building for the future in this area?
A: The work with the local population is mostly done by Arabic-speaking brothers from our committee.
As for us Russian-speakers, mostly our work is reduced to preaching and lessons in homes, military camps and directly on the front. In the near future, we plan to create a permanent Sharia Camp, through which every Mujahid rookie will be required to pass before they go to a military camp.
We have already designed a two-week program, during which the Mujahideen receive lessons on faith as well as the laws of jihad, and those who don’t know how to read the Quran will be taught. At the end of the camp, the Mujahideen will have to pass an exam.
The only reason this camp is not functioning yet it is the lack of Russian-speakers requiring knowledge, and as for the Mujahideen, they swear by Allah that they are the most thirsty for gaining useful knowledge, and they are looking forward to having lessons and constantly ask about a second visit, they try to find out the position of Sharia law for even the most insignificant things. I assure you, I have never met anyone more curious about matters of Sharia than the Mujahideen .
And I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to Russian-speaking Islamic students and say: I adjure you by Allah, where you O my brothers?
What is it that causes you to watch the Jihad and the Mujahideen from the sidelines?
I’m not going to remind you of the verses where Allah orders you to go out and not be like those who cling heavily to the ground when they hear the cry of jihad.
I’m not going to remind you of the fatwas of scholars, both ancient and contemporary, who said that jihad is obligatory for every Muslim until we clear out the infidels from all the territories that once belonged to us.
I will not remind you about all this, because you know it perfectly well without me!
But here’s what I want to tell you — I charge you by Allah, are you not bothered watching while children are hung and injured, while women are raped, mosques defiled, and old and infirm killed cruelly?
If you do not have the balls (sorry for being rude!) or determination to come here and defend them and to personally fight against their oppressors, then as a minimum you could come here to be among the Lions of Allah, who do not fear anything, and don’t stop at anything, who instill wild terror into the heart of the enemies of Allah and displace them, thereby protecting this defenseless and poor people .
Come here at least to teach the Army of Allah their religion so that they do not make any mistakes, to prevent them from having a lack of knowledge of some subtleties in the Shari’ah .
By Allah, one day spent in jihad with the Mujahideen will teach you a great deal, not to mention the benefits that the mujahideen themselves will get.
It will be an honor for you to be in their circle, because I swear by Allah – they are heroes . They are the heroes of this Ummah , they are its advocates, they are the ones who spilled their blood and enemy, who wrote the recent history of the Caliphate . By Allah, if you miss the chance , the time will come when you will regret very much every day spent at distance from the jihad and the mujahideen…
And do not take this call as if we are obliging you to you just come to Syria — no, go to any place in the world where there is a Jihad , especially there you are missed the most, such as the Caucasus. It is important not to be left standing on the sidelines, do not keep away from the Mujahideen, be their teachers, not their critics, and Allah will exalt you.
 Ayub Astrakhanski, or Anguta Omarov, was from the Dagestani village of Kvanada and headed an ultra- radical Salafist community in Astrakhan in the 1990s. The community consisted mostly of ethnic Avars and Dargins. The members refused to pray in local mosques and accused other local Muslims of being takfiris. Omarov did not regard the Chechen conflict as a jihad against Russia and banned his followers from joining it — a move that caused resentment from Chechens. [See Radical Islam in the Former Soviet Union, edited by Galina M. Yemelianova, 2009, p. 99]
 The term Kharijites, from an Arabic root meaning “to go out”, is used to denote those early Muslims who initially accepted but then rejected the leadership of the final Rashidun Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of Mohammad. The Kharijites declared other Muslims to be takfiris, and worthy of death.
 The rest of the quote, given in full in the interview, is below. Rather than translate the Russian directly we took the English translation from here:
We do not make up false principles built upon these terms as the extreme Mukaffirah do; as in their saying: “The basis regarding people today is Kufr unrestrictedly.” Nor do we build other rulings from that. Rather, we deal with each person according to what he manifests and we entrust the secrets to Allāh. So we deal with those manifest Islām in that manner, and we judge him with Islām, and we say that the basis is that whoever manifest the legislations of Islām is Islām [i.e. they are a Muslim]-as long as they do not commit that which is a nullifier.
Similarly, we deal with everyone who manifests Kufr, Shirk, allegiance towards the Mushrikūn, and assistance to them against the people of Tawhīd with what is apparent until they believe in Allāh alone and single Him out in their worship and remove
themselves from what they are upon of Kufr and declare their disavowal from it. The shaving of the beard and imitation of the Kuffār and other forms of disobedience like it is a general affliction that is spread far and wide. It is not suitable by itself as an evidence for Takfīr for these are not clear causes for Takfīr. So we do not make blood and wealth permissible by the likes of that as the extreme Mukaffirah do.
“Declaring the blood of those who pray upon Tawhīd is a serious danger. The mistake in leaving one thousand Kuffār is easier than the mistake of shedding the blood of one Muslim.”
 The Murjites (“the postponers”) emerged as an opposing theological school to the Kharijites. They believes that only Allah could judge who is a Muslim and who is not, so Muslims committing grave sins were still Muslims.