Recently news came out of the official pledge of allegiance from Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram (Jamaat Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da’wah wa al-Jihad) to the Islamic State. For those who had been following Boko Haram’s recently set up media wing al-Urwah al-Wuthqa, this development was hardly surprising. On the very surface, Boko Haram was employing high quality photo productions that suggested co-optation by the Islamic State’s media wings. A more striking data point was noted by my friend Aaron Zelin in an interview with Boko Haram’s official spokesman Abu Mus’ab al-Bernawi released on January 27, 2015, which began and concluded with the unofficial anthem of the Islamic State, ‘My Ummah, Dawn Has Appeared,’ a song that clearly distinguishes the Islamic State as an identity marker from other groups, produced as it is by the nasheed media wing of the Islamic State: Ajnad Media.
This leads to the interesting use of another Islamic State nasheed noted by my friend Mr. Orange. The nasheed in question has not been officially released by Ajnad Media but most notably made an appearance in the now famous ‘Kasr al-Hudud’ (‘Breaking of the Borders’) media release from the Islamic State just before the announcement of the Caliphate on June 29, 2014. Boko Haram strikingly employed the same nasheed to claim breaking of the borders between Nigeria and Cameroon, and it has been now used as the introduction to the audio message of Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance.
What’s the big picture in all this? I believe more attention needs to be paid to the importance of nasheeds as regards the relations between the Islamic State and groups it is trying to co-opt. The question of the use of Ajnad Media productions, which help to mark the Islamic State’s distinct identity as a claimed state and now caliphate breaking the borders and demanding the allegiance of Muslims, should be noted as a clear sign of the direction in which a given group is heading.
To give a parallel case, it is clear that the Islamic State attempted outreach to Somalia’s al-Qa’ida affiliate al-Shabaab in 2013 [back then the Islamic State was just ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham)], which led to some signs of support for ISIS in Somalia in summer 2013- around the same time Ajnad Media was set up. This support was advertised by an unofficial ISIS support wing known as al-Sham Media. Eventually though, a turn-around apparently came about in which al-Shabaab’s leadership went so far as to emphasize loyalty to al-Qa’ida by banning the use of Ajnad Media nasheeds in broadcasts.
Below is a translation of the nasheed used in the Boko Haram pledge of allegiance audio message:
Spread the good tidings to all,
And spread the most precious roses [H/T: correction: Mr. Orange],
And continually raise the takbir [cry of Allahu Akbar]
And cry out the most beautiful nasheed.
My Ummah, accept the good news.
We have indeed crossed [i.e. broken] the borders.
On our land will not return,
The sketching of lines by the descendants of the apes [i.e. the Jews: cf. this nasheed].