The Islamic State [IS] has become well known for its elaborate murals and billboards in keeping with its state building project (e.g. see my posts here and here). However, Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been increasingly building up its own proto-Islamic emirate project in northwestern Syria partly to rival IS, has also been putting up plenty of billboards and murals to advertise its presence. Reflecting that phenomenon are the photos below, most of which date from the last 4 months or so, by which time Jabhat al-Nusra had developed a substantial network of strongholds in Idlib province in particular after routing its main rivals the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and Harakat Hazm. Of course this does not mean that Jabhat al-Nusra billboards and murals did not exist previously, but the trend has become more noticeable.
One should compare with the evolution of the Jabhat al-Nusra judicial body front known as Dar al-Qaḍa, reflecting a more hardline approach from Jabhat al-Nusra as regards control of societal institutions and less willingness now to work with other rebel factions in administration. This has given rise to widespread rebel concerns about Jabhat al-Nusra’s intentions, partly explaining recent rebel merger formations such as the Levant Front in Aleppo province and the absorption of Suqur al-Sham into Ahrar al-Sham.
Below is an archive I have compiled of over 50 Jabhat al-Nusra billboards and murals.
“Jihad is for whosoever has spoken truthfully, not for whosoever has preceded.”
On right: quotation of Qur’an 28:83. On left, partial quotation from Qur’an 2:197: “And take provisions, but the best provision is fear of God.”
“When is the last time you read the Qur’an?.” This billboard and the next three below reportedly from Hama countryside.
“Do you know by heart more of the book of God than songs?.”
“To the people of loyalty, giving [i.e. to them] is insignificant.” [title of a speech by Jabhat al-Nusra’s amir Abu Muhammad al-Jowlani]
“When a son of Adam dies, his deeds are cut off except for three things: ongoing charity, knowledge from which one can obtain benefit, or the supplication of a righteous son for him.” [hadith on the authority of Abu Huraira]
“The best people are those most beneficial to other people.” [derived from a hadith on the authority of Ibn Omar]
“Three ayahs [verses of the Qur’an] summarize life: ‘from a drop of sperm He [God] has created him and determined his fate. Then He has eased the path for him. Then He has caused his death and buried him [Qur’an 80:19-21].’ (a short journey).”
“Be a great friend before you become bones and worms.” [saying of famous 20th century CE Egyptian jurist Sheikh Shaarawi]
“Indeed We will not allow the reward of anyone who did well in deeds to go amiss [Qur’an 18:30]. Plough in the land the seeds of grapes and you will know for certain that it will not make thorns sprout.”
“Indeed the fall of Bashar [al-Assad] is an aim for us and we will bring his downfall by God’s permission, but our highest aim is to cultivate a generation among whom there are not the likes of Bashar.”
“They have celebrated Christmas. So some of the Muslims have celebrated with them on the pretext of New Year. They have celebrated Valentine’s Day, so some of the Muslims have celebrated with them on the pretext of visit of loved ones. They have celebrated Mother’s Day, so some of the Muslims have celebrated with them on the pretext of parents. But when one of the Sunna precepts of the Prophet comes by them, they ignore it on the pretext that it is only Sunna and not obligation. Thus they are more keen to observe the festivals of the kuffar [disbelievers] and establish innovation than they are to establish the Shari’a and uphold the Sunna of the Lord of Mankind [Prophet Muhammad- PBUH].”
“If moderation had meant the middle ground between two sides, the manhaj [direction] of Abu Talib would have been moderation between the manhaj of the Quraysh and Muhammad [PBUH]. Rather, moderation is following revelation regardless of the rank of its owner among the people.” This refers to the fact that Abu Talib- Muhammad’s uncle- offered the Prophet protection from retribution by the Quraysh tribe who opposed his revelation in Mecca, but he himself never converted to Islam.
Marking Jabhat al-Nusra’s control of Salqin in Idlib province, featuring a partial quotation of Qur’an 24:35: “A blessed olive tree, neither of east nor west, whose oil would almost glow.” The use of this quotation likely refers to Idlib province’s role as a production centre for olives.
“The Day of Penetration: one of the Muslims’ Days.” The billboard refers to one of Jabhat al-Nusra’s operations targeting the Interior Ministry in December 2012. ‘Abu Hamza al-Kurdi’- the first person referenced in the billboard- was a suicide operative used in this attack.
“Deraa Checkpoint Raid”- another billboard commemorating a Jabhat al-Nusra suicide operation, carried out by one Abu al-Mo’atasem on 18 Sha’aban 1434 AH/27 June 2013 CE. See here for more.
“Pillars Operation in the heart of the capital Damascus”- this refers to an operation conducted in 2012. See here for more.
Billboard commemorating the Jabhat al-Nusra assault on the village of Rahjan in the Hama countryside in July 2014, using one Abu Bakr al-Kuwaiti as a suicide bomber. See here for more.
“So arise, oh son of jihad, unsheathe your sword, oh boy…and bear the banner of the free, striking with the swords and firing with arrows, striking with arrows, striking with daggers and bayonets: the strength of your determination, the promise of your preparation. And head on the path of the blessing of God.”
On right: “Rejoice, oh one who prays. The Messenger of God (PBUH) said: ‘Through the five prayers God cleanses sins.'” On left: “Take heed, oh one who abandons prayer. The Messenger of God (PBUH) said: ‘Between man and idolatry and disbelief is abandoning of prayer.'”
“Participate in the victory. Your knowledge is weapons for the victory of the Ummah. Your manners are weapons for the victory of the Ummah, your faithfulness, your purity, your honesty, and your worship are all reasons for the victory of God and His success. So do not shrink/reject what is right in any way, and offer what you can, and don’t be a reason for the defeat of the Ummah through your faults and insubordination.”
Another billboard featuring the Dome of the Rock: “Rejoice oh Misra, good tidings have come to you.” The words refer to a nasheed. Reportedly in Idlib countryside.
The loss of power in the east of Syria: the replacement of an old Jabhat al-Nusra banner in Albukamalwith the Islamic State’s flags.
An old mural from the days when Jabhat al-Nusra had a presence in Tabqa [al-Thawra] in Raqqa province (now controlled by the Islamic State): “We are a people- whom God has made mighty in Islam and if we should seek might in something besides it [Islam], may God lower us.”