Below is a translation of Ahrar al-Sham shar’i-commander “Abu Yazan’s” apparent response to Jordanian Salafi-jihadist theorist Eyad Quneibi. Quneibi has attracted sharply critical responses – particularly from prominent Ahrar leadership – for his non-specific warnings against cooperation with Syrian factions that are Western agents and are otherwise tainted. In this 3 September response, we see Abu Yazan rebuke not only (an unnamed) Quneibi, but also ideas of Salafi-jihadist purism more broadly. This is quite striking coming from a leader in Ahrar, which has itself flirted with Salafi-jihadism but now may have reverted to a more nationalist brand of (still hardline) Salafism.
O enlightened one,
We have a saying in al-Sham (Syria): “If someone won’t come, you have to go with him.”¹ The One Most High said, “And when they meet those who believe, they say, ‘We believe.’ But when they are left to their devils, they say, ‘Truly, we are with you; we were only jesting.’” As for presenting this like it’s a matter of defending [Jabhat] al-Nusra, dear brother, we and al-Nusra are in the same boat, and it’s called “the Syrian jihad.” When people like you – may God bless you – and like al-Maqdisi in his last publications echo the culture of takhwin (accusations of treason), whisper campaigns and casting aspersions on any faction that isn’t Salafi-jihadist with obtuse, airy turns of phrase, then al-Nusra is pushed towards becoming a movement of societal isolation, and we fear it might evolve into a movement of societal rejection. So we say to you, Fear God for the sake of the battlefield. The battlefield can’t sustain this. Believe me, we care for al-Nusra more – God willing – than you and al-Maqdisi, and the days to come will show this. And even before that, we care more for the Syrian battlefield, because it’s our country and our revolution. (Of course, I assume our dear brother al-Muheisini would say this is ‘Sykes-Picot’ 🙂 .) So know, my brothers from all factions – from Hazm to al-Nusra – yes, I was Salafi-jihadist, and I was imprisoned in the regime’s jails for it. Today, I ask for God’s forgiveness and repent to Him, and I apologize to our people for involving them in Quixotic battles of which they have no need. I apologize for being apart from you for even a day, as when I exited my intellectual prison and mingled with you and with your hearts, I said that the Prophet, peace be upon him, spoke true when he said, “If the people of al-Sham are corrupted, then there is no good in you.” I apologize to you, and God willing, the days to come will be better than those past – for our revolution and for our Islam.
And to those who reproach me for being harsh in my speech, I say:
And I ask God for forgiveness if I’ve erred, and may God reward you for your advice.
Also, for anyone who missed my June Foreign Policy article on Syrian rebel shar’is (jurists), here it is.
1. The saying, to my knowledge, basically means that if someone can’t be made to do/understand something, you have to walk him through it yourself.