The New Indian Express
25th November 2017
Last week, Iraqi government forces claimed they had ousted the Islamic State from the last town it held in the country. Amidst these external attacks, the Salafi-jihadist group was also dealing with an internal turmoil—a theological dispute
What’s Too Extreme For an IS Scholar?
Turki al-Bin‘ali, former emir of the Islamic State’s Department of Research and Fatwas, was involved in a theological controversy. “The dispute concerns the group’s position on Takfir, or excommunication—and Bin‘ali was on the losing side,” Cole Bunzel, a Princeton scholar who studies the IS, wrote on Jihadica—a website set up to “document the global jihad”. Bin‘ali found the group’s position on Takfir too extreme!
Falling Out With His Al-Qaeda Mentor
Bin‘ali pursued religious studies in Saudi Arabia and later trained under al-Qaeda ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. After Bin‘ali joined the IS, they had a falling out. When the IS set a captured Jordanian pilot on fire in 2015, Maqdisi wrote, “Jihadi-Salafism is innocent of these acts. They have distorted the Jihadi current.” Bin‘ali issued a response titled “Maqdisi: Falling in the Mud and Abandoning the Religion”. So what was too extreme for even Bin‘ali?
Takfir and Infinite Regress
On May 17, the IS set out its new Takfir stance.
Bin‘ali said this entailed a sequence of excommunication to which there was no end. As Bunzel puts it, if A is an unbeliever and B excuses A’s unbelief, then B becomes an unbeliever; and if C excuses B’s unbelief, then C becomes an unbeliever, and so on ad infinitum
Bin‘ali’s location was allegedly leaked to “the crusaders” by enemies within the IS and he died in a US-led coalition airstrike at the end of May. But in mid-September, the IS rescinded its earlier order on Takfir and Bin‘ali was posthumously vindicated