Quilliam Foundation publishes theological rebuttal to ISIS’s manual


The 579-page “jihadist manual” of ISIS, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda the Fiqh al-Dima (or The Jurisprudence of Blood) has been translated and analysed by the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism organisation. The manual, which was written by the ISIS ideologue, Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, and is a key Salafi-jihadist text, attempts to legitimise the acts of the jihadist group, including its global terrorist attacks and the killing of children, by providing a legal and theoretical framework for them. It has twenty chapters, the names of which include “Beheading, decapitation and mutilation”, “Kidnapping warring infidels”, and “How to kills spies”.

One chapter, titled “Indiscriminate killing of warring infidels”, begins with a message calling for force to be used against unbelievers; “Kill them, fight them by every means that may snatch away their souls, drive their spirits from their bodies, cleansing the earth of their filth and removing their scourge from mankind, whatever that means may be”.

The analysis was carried out over two years, with the resulting report noting that, “There is a startling lack of study and concern regarding this abhorrent and dangerous text in almost all western and Arab scholarship … We hope to expose and deconstruct this unprepossessing yet deeply insidious and pernicious text”. Researchers were able to acquire a copy of the manual online in 2015, after they spotted it being used to teach ISIS’s recruits in Syria.

The experts also put together “a robust theological rebuttal of its “twisted” interpretation of Islamic teachings”. Sheikh Salah al-Ansari, who wrote the rebuttal, said “Our work comprehensively debunks and rejects Isis’s proto-Islamic arguments, demonstrating their ignorance and disregard for traditional Islamic scholarship as well as for the basic humane and Islamic values of mercy and compassion”.

Of the manual itself, he says, “This text offers intricate details on the use of jihad in its traditional Sunni discussion, and misuses these features to provide Islamic legal cover to terrorist operations”.

Examples of this misuse include the distinction it makes between the “lands of Islam” and the “lands of unbelief (kufr)”, and the notion that jihadists are entitled to fight these unbelievers. The Quilliam report notes, “This entire binary construct is a later invention of Muslim theologians that is now obsolete, and so the justification of excommunication (takfir) and military attacks against civilians on this basis is completely absurd”.

Ansari notes that, despite this, “A susceptible and vulnerable reader who has no previous training in Islamic jurisprudence might easily become seduced by this book because it is written in a way that gives the impression that it has religious weight. While the text is somewhat based on traditional readings, it does not reflect the diverse and pluralistic complexities of Islamic rulings”.

The report is available to purchase here.

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Townsend, M. (2018) ‘The core Isis manual that twisted Islam to legitimise barbarity’. [online] 13 May. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/12/isis-jihadist-manual-analysed-rebutted-by-islamic-scholar. [Accessed 15 May 2018].