A recently revealed document concerned with religious doctrine penned by an eminent ISIS cleric provides further evidence that the military wing of Hamas has provided significant aid to the ISIS branch in Sinai, Sinai Province, according to a new MEMRI JTTM report shared exclusively with JNS.
The short document also sheds light on the relationship between the two organizations and on the internal dispute among ISIS members with respect to that relationship. The document augments the knowledge that Hamas supplied weapons, money and logistic support to ISIS in Sinai, and that this was done with the knowledge of the ISIS leadership. At the same time it reveals another aspect of the opposition that the acceptance of assistance aroused among members of ISIS, both those in Sinai and those in leadership roles across the organization.
The 11-page document is a religious opinion penned by the cleric Abu Maram Al-Jazairi, one of the most prominent of ISIS clerics, known for his extremist positions. The date when the document, titled “A Response to the Correspondence between the Brothers in Sinai and the Apostate Hamas,” was composed is unknown, but it is likely that it was written at the height of relations between Hamas and ISIS in Sinai, perhaps sometime during 2015, prior to the crisis between the two organizations in late 2016.
The document reveals that Al-Jazairi learned that operatives from the Sinai branch of ISIS were in contact with members of the Hamas military wing, and that he was asked to express his opinion about this. He affirmed that he personally saw the exchange of texts between ISIS in Sinai and Hamas. The fact that a cleric who was part of the ISIS bureaucracy was privy to these texts implies that the ISIS leadership was involved in the secret contacts between the Sinai branch and Hamas. Al-Jazairi enumerates the types of assistance provided by Hamas to ISIS: coordination with Hamas with respect to the transfer of weapons, both to and from [Sinai]; logistic support; financial support; supply of ammunition; and transfer of wounded to Gaza. In short, Al-Jazairi expressed strong reservations about these ties and about receiving assistance from Hamas, although he did rule that receiving weapons from Hamas could be permitted under certain conditions.
For a long time, ISIS in Sinai maintained a thunderous silence where Hamas was concerned, and in that sense continued the approach taken by its previous incarnation, Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis. The ISIS position on Hamas is clear: As far as it is concerned, it is an infidel organization, for several reasons, among other things due to the fact that it did not impose Shari’a law in Gaza and because it participated in the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. The members of the movement as well, including the operatives in its military arm, are viewed by ISIS as apostates. Naturally, they are not considered to be “original” infidels (kufar asliyun), like Jews, Christians or members of other religions, but as Muslims who are apostates, for they have abandoned Islam (murtadun).
Therefore, according to Al-Jazairi, for ISIS to receive assistance from Hamas is forbidden in principle, since it means being helped by those who have spurned Islam, although as stated, he does permit the acceptance of weapons, under certain conditions. However, with respect to accepting money, logistic support or help with manpower, in his opinion, these are totally forbidden. He stresses that receiving assistance from apostates is worse than receiving assistance from infidels, since their rejection of their religion is considered more serious, for they chose to abandon Islam, and therefore accepting their help might be interpreted as condoning their ways.
Al-Jazairi is also disturbed by the fact that the representative of ISIS Sinai who oversaw the contact with Hamas did not declare to the representatives of the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades military wing that they are infidels. Furthermore, he expressed himself in a diplomatic manner which obfuscated the critical controversy between them, and he spoke in praise of fraternity, when it would have been fitting to denounce the ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades and their movement.
The opposition to contact with Hamas was expressed in an open letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, which was written by an ISIS supporter in the Gaza Strip.
Relations between ISIS Sinai and Hamas deteriorated in late 2016, when Hamas gave in to Egyptian pressure and began to reduce its cooperation with ISIS. In response, the ISIS leader in Sinai made explicit statements in which he designated Hamas and its members as apostates, essentially declaring war on Hamas. A year later ISIS in Sinai produced a video reiterating this stance and issuing threats against Hamas. The video also featured an execution of a member of ISIS accused of collaborating with the Palestinian organization.
Al-Jazairi’s document is divided into three parts: a discussion of whether it is permissible to accept assistance from infidels; a discussion about the issue of accepting assistance from apostates; and a response to the correspondence with Hamas.