The Islamic State- previously ISIS- has published numerous da’wa pamphlets over the past two years on matters of religious doctrine and practice, primarily in the name of its al-Himma Library. This pamphlet- on aqeeda (‘creed/doctrine’) and manhaj (‘ideological program/direction’)-is one of the most basic outlines of Islamic State ideology available from the Islamic State itself. I have translated it in full at the request of Shiraz Maher. I have also included commentary mainly in the form of endnotes and occasional notes in the form of square brackets within the text for Qur’an quotations and clarity in translation.
As with basic textbooks on Islam for training camp recruits, there is much content here that reflects standard Islamic teachings (e.g. the oneness of God, the Qur’an as the literal word of God etc.). More distinct ideological influences come out with the emphasis from on concepts like ‘nullifiers’ of Islam, the anti-Shi’ism and some interesting cases of word-for-word quotation without proper referencing of the original cited texts.
Praise be to God and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of God, his family, companions and whoso is close/loyal to him. As for what follows:
We believe that God is Almighty and Exalted in His loftiness, and there is no deity besides Him, and no one has the right to be worshipped except Him, affirming for Him- the Exalted- what the words ofTawheed[i] have affirmed, taking away from Him idolatry[ii] and defamation. So we testify that there is no deity but God alone, with no partner for Him, and that this is the first and last principle of the religion, its exterior and interior.
Whoever says this and embraces its conditions and fulfils its right is a Muslim, and whoever does not bear its conditions or commits one of its nullifiers[iii] is a disbeliever even if he claims that he is a Muslim. And we believe that God Almighty is the Creator, Master of the Dominion. To Him be praise and He is capable over everything. He is the First, the Last, the Exterior and the Interior (‘there is nothing like Him, and He is the Hearer, the Seer’). And we do not commit heresy against the Almighty’s names or the Exalted’s qualities, but we affirm them for Him just as they came in the Book and authentic Sunna[iv]without takyif, tamthil, ta’wil or ta’til.[v]
And we believe that Muhammad (SAWS) is the Messenger of God to all creation- man and jinn- and one must follow him and he is to be obeyed in all that he has ordered, and he is to be believed and one must submit to him in all that he has brought. And we embrace the requirement of the words of the Almighty in this regard: “For no, by your Lord, they will not believe until they seek your judgment in all that they disagree among themselves, and find no vexation in what you have judged and willingly submit”- Nisa 65 [Qur’an 4:65].
And we believe in the ennobled angels of God, and that they do not rebel against God in what He has commanded them[vi] and they do what they are ordered, and that their love is from faith and their hatred of disbelief.
And we believe that the Qur’an is the word of God Almighty in its letters and meanings, and that it is among the qualities of God Almighty, uncreated.[vii] And for this reason one must honour it, follow it and impose its ruling.
And we believe in all the Prophets and Messengers of God Almighty, the first of them Adam (peace be upon him) and the last of them Muhammad (SAWS), brothers of mutual affection who were sent with the message of Tawheed of the Lord of the Worlds.
And we believe that the Sunna is the second inspiration and that it is the clarifier and explainer of the Qur’an, and what has been authenticated from it, we do not transgress it in favour of the words of anyone else, whoever he may be. And we avoid innovations, minor or major.[viii]
And the love of our Prophet (SAWS) is an obligation and pious deed, while hating him (SAWS) is disbelief and hypocrisy, and for the love of our Prophet (SAWS), we love the people of his House [Ahl al-Bayt], and we revere them and do not exceed the proper bounds with them[ix] or defame them. And we seek contentment concerning all the Companions. Indeed they are all just and we only speak best of them, and love of them is an obligation upon us and hating them is hypocrisy among us. And we refrain from what arose among them,[x] and in that they are explainers and the best of the generations.
And we believe in fate, for better or worse. All is from God Almighty. And it is for the Exalted a matter of general volition and absolute will, and indeed what God wills, is so, and what He does not will, is not so. And we believe that God Almighty is the creator of the deeds of men, and that men have choice in their deeds after God’s permission, and that the judgement and power of the Exalted do not deviate from mercy, grace and justice.
And we believe that torment and the blessing of the grave are true. God torments whoso deserves it if He wills, and if He wills, He forgives him. And we believe in the inquiry of Munkar and Nakir[xi] on the basis of what has been established on the authority of the Messenger of God (SAWS), along with the words of God Almighty: “God establishes those who believe with the firm word in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. And God leads astray the wrongdoers and God does what He wills” [Qur’an 14:27].
And we believe in the Resurrection and the Last Day. And we believe in the exposure of deeds and men to God Almighty. And we believe in the Day of Reckoning, the balance,[xii] the cistern,[xiii] and the path. And we believe that Paradise is true and Hellfire is true.
And we believe in the signs of the Hour as established on the authority of the Prophet and that the greatest fitna[xiv] since God created Adam (peace be upon him) and until the Hour should arise is thefitna of the Antichrist, and we believe in the descent of Jesus- peace be upon him- administering justice.[xv] And we believe in the return of the Rightly-Guided Caliphate on the Prophetic Methodology.[xvi]
And we believe that God will remove from the Hellfire a people from the monotheists by the intercession of those who intercede, and that intercession is a fact for whomsoever God permits and pleases for in word.
And we believe in the intercession of our Prophet (SAWS) and that for him is the distinguished place on the Day of Judgment.
And we believe that faith is in word, deed and intent: and it is belief in the heart, establishing it in tongue, and implementing with the limbs that cannot be separated from each other. And believe in the heart is in its words and deeds, for the words of the heart are: getting to know it, knowing it and believing it. And among the deeds of the heart: affection, fear and hope etc. And we believe that faith increases with obedience, and is diminished in rebellion. And faith has branches as the Truth-Teller who is to be believed[xvii] informed: the highest of which is there is no deity but God and the lowest of which is to remove an obstacle from the road.[xviii]
Among the branches of faith is what constitutes a principle that removes faith by its own removal, like the branch of Tawheed (there is no deity but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God), prayer and the like from what the law stipulated on the removal and annulment of the principle of faith by abandoning it. Also among them [the branches] is what is of the obligations of faith by whose removal the obligatory faith is diminished, like fornication, drinking alcohol, theft and the like.
So we do not declare takfir[xix] on a man from the monotheists or on those who pray to the qibla of the Muslims for sins like fornication, drinking alcohol, and theft- so long as he does not deem them permissible.[xx] And our words in faith are a middle path between the extremist Khawarij and the people of Irja’ lacking moderation.[xxi]
And we believe that disbelief is of the greater and lesser type,[xxii] and that its ruling falls on its perpetrator in belief, word and deed, but takfir of the specific individual from among them and the ruling on his confinement for eternity in the Hellfire rest on proving the conditions of takfir and lack of obstacles to it. And we release the words with the precepts of the Promise and the Threat, Takfir and Tafsiq.[xxiii]And we do not judge for the specific individual his entry into that category until the required evidence for which there is no obstacle arises in that regard.[xxiv] And we do not declare takfir through suppositions, deductions or inferred meaning of statement.
But we declare takfir on whomsoever God and His Messenger have declared to be a disbeliever. And everyone who professes something besides Islam is a disbeliever, whether the proof has reached him or not. As for the torment of the Afterlife, only the one whom the proof has reached attains it. The Almighty has said: “And We would never torment until We should send Messengers”- Israa 15 [Qur’an 17:15].
And whoever has professed the two Shahadas[xxv] and shown to us Islam and not taken up a nullifier from the nullifiers of Islam, we deal with him as Muslims are to be treated and we refer his conscience to God Almighty: so whoever shows for us the signs of the religion, the rulings of its people are to be applied to him, for matters of the people are borne on the outside, and God is entrusted to oversee matters of conscience.[xxvi]
The Rafidite Shi’a are among us a sect of idolatry, apostasy and hiraba.[xxvii]
And we believe that the abode over which the laws of disbelief are supreme and in which the rulings of disbelief dominate without the rulings of Islam is an abode of disbelief, but this does not necessitate takfiron the inhabitants of the abode. And we do not speak with the words of extremism: “The principle in the people is disbelief absolutely.” But rather of the people, each is to be reckoned according to his state: among them the Muslim, and among them the disbeliever.
And we believe that secularism in its various banners and distinction between its schools of thought like populist, nationalist, communist and Ba’athist is manifest disbelief nullifying Islam, taking one outside the path.
And the principles of proof among us are the Book [Qur’an] and Sunna with the understanding of the just predecessors from the first three best generations.[xxviii]
And we consider prayer permissible behind every pious person, immoral person and one of unknown integrity from among the Muslims.[xxix]
And jihad continues until the arising of the Hour in the presence of the Imam or not, with his injustice or his justice. And if the Imam is lacking, the jihad is not to be put off: because its interest is lost with its delay. But when spoils arise, its people are to divide it on the requirement of the law.[xxx] And every believer must wage jihad against the enemies of God Almighty even if only one remains.
And the blood, honour and property of the Muslims are sacrosanct among us, of which nothing is declared mubah except what the law has declared thus and what the Messenger (SAWS) has considered invalidated.[xxxi]
And if an aggressor from the disbelievers attacks the sacrosanct rites of the Muslims, jihad then is fard ayn[xxxii] for which there is no condition and he is to be repelled according to capability, for the aggressor enemy who corrupts the religion and the world, there is nothing more obligatory after faith than to repel him.
And the disbelief of apostasy is cruder by consensus than original disbelief: thus fighting the apostates is of greater priority/importance among us than fighting the original disbeliever.[xxxiii]
And the Imamate is not convened for a disbeliever, but if disbelief comes upon the Imam, he deviates outside the ruling of the guardianship and obedience to him is dropped. And it becomes obligatory on the Muslims to rise against him, remove him, and appoint a just Imam if that is possible for them.
And the establishment of the religion is on: a Qur’an guides and a sword gives victory.[xxxiv] For our jihad will be by the sword, the spearhead, proof and evidence.
And whoever calls to something besides Islam or disparages our religion or raises the sword against us is waging war on us.
And we reject division and disagreement, calling to gather the word and coalition, and we strive to establish the Islamic Caliphate as it is a collective obligation on the Muslim populace. If a sect undertakes it, it slips from all. And we believe that hearing and obeying is obliged to the Imam of the Muslims to whom allegiance is declared by the Ahl al-Hall wa al-‘Aqd,[xxxv] and that abandoning obedience to him is forbidden without variance. And whoever abandons is to be called back, then fought[xxxvi] until he returns. For whoever dies without an allegiance pledge on his neck, dies in a state of ignorance.[xxxvii]
And we do not accuse a Muslim of sin or dissociate ourselves from him in matters of ijtihad.[xxxviii]
And we consider it to be an obligation to gather the Ummah– and the mujahideen in particular- under one banner.
And the Muslims are one Ummah, with no preference to their Arabs over their non-Arabs unless in taqwa.[xxxix] And the Muslims’ blood is equal and by their pact is the most humble of them afforded protection,[xl] and we do not refrain from the names by which God Almighty has called us.
And we are loyal to the patrons of God Almighty and support them while being hostile to and hating the enemies of God. And we dissociate from, disavow and declare to be disbelief every path that is not the path of Islam, proceeding upon that- the path of the Book and Sunna- while avoiding the paths of innovation and error.
[i] The Islamic emphasis on monotheism- the unity and oneness of God.
[ii] Arabic shirk: in the most literal form associating partners with God- i.e. polytheism, idolatry etc.
[iii] Nullifiers of Islam (Arabic: nawaqid, sing. naqid) are thing that take one outside the fold of Islam and into disbelief. The concept as endorsed by the Islamic State involves ten categories- a distinctly Wahhabi idea. For more on this idea, see my translation of the basic Islamic State training camp textbook Muqarrar fi al-Tawheed.
[iv] Practices derived from the words and deeds attributed to Prophet Muhammad and his Companions.
[v] A standard formula. In brief, takyif means description of God’s attributes in such and such manner,tamthil means likening to God’s creation, ta’wil means allegorical interpretation, and ta’til denial.
[vi] In contrast to Satan, who fell from grace after rebelling against God.
[vii] The Sunni orthodox view of the Qur’an, in contrast to other sects like the Mu’tazilites who held that the Qur’an was created, not co-eternal with God.
[viii] Bid’a: see the section in Muqarrar fi al-Tawheed.
[ix] The Arabic verb used- ghala, yaghlu– is of note here. The implicit contrast is with ghulat (‘extremist’) sects who are deemed to have inappropriately elevated members of the Prophet’s family, particularly his cousin Ali, to divine or quasi-divine status.
[x] Referring to the fact that in the Muslim civil wars that arose after the Prophet’s death, many Companions fought on opposite sides. To avoid further disputes, the standard formula is to call for peace and prayers on all the Prophet’s Companions.
[xi] Angels who test the faith of the dead in the grave. Their names literally translate as ‘Denied’ and ‘Denier’ respectively.
[xii] The weighing of good and bad deeds on the balance.
[xv] In Islamic eschatology traditions, Jesus returns and slays the Antichrist.
[xvi] Associated with end-times. The formula ‘Caliphate on the Prophetic Methodology’ is standard in Islamic State statements.
[xvii] Arabic: al-Sadiq al-Masduq: Prophet Muhammad.
[xix] Declaring someone to be a non-Muslim/disbeliever.
[xx] Arabic halal.
[xxi] Thus the Islamic State frames itself as the middle/moderate path in criteria for takfir, between the historical Kharijite sect, associated with excess application on those who disagreed with them, and the followers of Irja’ that essentially leaves takfir wholly to God. On the latter view, the mere declaration that one is a Muslim is an absolute impediment to takfir.
[xxii] cf. Muqarrar fi al-Tawhid
[xxiii] Declaring someone to be a fasiq: an immoral sinner.
[xxiv] The words in this paragraph on the need for presentation of evidence to declare takfir on an individual-“But takfir of the specific individual…no obstacle arises in that regard”- are actually a quotation from Ibn Taymiyya (Majmu’ al-Fatawa 28/500).
[xxv] The two declarations of faith: that there is no deity but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
[xxvi] Not quite up to the totalitarian model of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four where the system was determined to change the way people think!
[xxvii] i.e. A people waging war on Islam and sowing corruption in the land: cf. Qur’an 5:33-4.
[xxviii] The Prophet and his Companions, their followers and those who followed the followers.
[xxx] “And if…of the law”- a quotation from Ibn Qudamah’s work al-Mughni.
[xxxi] In this context, mubah means ‘belonging to no one’. If your property were declared mubah, it might, for instance, be liable to plundering without consequence for the perpetrators, as was the case for the Baha’is in Iran even before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
[xxxii] An individual obligation on every Muslim. This is otherwise known as defensive jihad. Offensive jihad, intended to expand the Islamic dominion over the world, is not such an obligation.
[xxxiii] Implicitly justifies the Islamic State’s own strategy in Syria that has focused the bulk of efforts on fighting other rebels it deems ‘apostates’, as opposed to the ‘Nusayri’ (Alawite) regime of original disbelievers (for more on Alawites as original disbelievers, see here).
[xxxiv] Derived from Ibn Taymiyya. A highly popular phrase in wider Salafi jihadi discourse.
[xxxvi] i.e. If he refuses to heed the call to return.
[xxxviii] Matters requiring the application of one’s own reasoning on account of lack of definitive coverage by scriptures and consensus.
[xxxix] Piety/fear of God.