‘War of Theology’: The Theological Aspect of the Split between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq in 2013.
Summary, in English
On the morning of the 8th of April 2013, the world woke up to Abu Bakr Al- Baghdadi, the leader of what was called the Islamic State in Iraq or ISI, announcing the expansion of his group from Iraq into Syria. Al-Baghdadi also announced the merger of ISI and Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) into a new group called the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham or ISIS. Only one day after the announcement, JN released a recorded speech from its leader Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, in which he denied the merger while accepting the ties between the two groups. To make things complicated, al-Jolani swore a new oath to the head of al-Qaeda Central (AQC), Aymen Al- Zawahiri. Tension escalated between the two groups until the dispute was referred to al- Zawahiri in his capacity as the head of AQC. In June 2013, al-Zawahiri sent a letter to both groups to resolve the dispute in which he ruled against ISI’s decision to merge the two groups and thus created a split between ISI and JN. This thesis contends that the split between JN and ISI has led to a theological debate between Salafi-Jihadi ulamaʾ, in which they interpreted the same Islamic concepts differently to argue about the validity of al-Baghdadi’s decision to merge with JN, al-Jolani’s refusal of the merger, and al-Zawahiri’s letter itself. On the one hand, this reflects the commonalities between the adherents of this interpretation of Islam, and on the other, it shows that Salafi-Jihadism is not and has not been a homogenous entity.