Since the topic of the taifa mumtani'ah (abstaining sect) is so central to a lot of takfir, I'm going to clarify my understanding of why I have a lot of difficulty accepting IS's application of it, and maybe someone can correct me.

The abstaining group is a label that can be put on a group that accepts Islam, but then rejects the implementation of some aspect of sharia and actively fights against those that try to implement that aspect of sharia. It could be zakat, the prohibition of wine...

...or any other part of sharia which is agreed by ijma to be part of sharia.

This was the justification for IS's takfir on Jabhat an Nusra and has also been invoked more recently to try to support the takfir on the Taliban.

To understand this concept, it's helpful to...

...consider the original context that it is derived from, which were the wars of ridda. Many of the Arab tribes who accepted Islam rejected Islam after the death of Rasulullah ﷺ and began following false prophets. Others rejected zakat, saying it was no longer obligatory...

...while others simply said they would not pay zakat to Abu Bakr, radhi Allahu anhu. Some of the tribes then moved to attack Medina, and a heavy war followed in which the Muslims ultimately prevailed.

There's a number of problems with trying to apply this same principle...

...the context of the Syrian civil war.

The situation was never one of total security in any part of Syria throughout the entire war, until now. Bombs and artillery could and did drop anywhere, at any time.

The situation was very precarious, with multiple powers...

...including Russia, the US and the Syrian military bombing various targets from the sky day and night. The front could move very quickly, with towns being lost and regained in a short span of time, and the Muslims were consistently outmanned and outgunned and...

...fighting for survival.

It was always clear that it would be a very difficult struggle to even win the fight against Assad and Russia, so some Muslims held the opinion that it was important to avoid spending their limited energy and resources by opening additional fronts.

There were some Sunnis fighting in the war that had seen what had happened in Libya where the US had helped anti-Gaddafi groups to remove Gaddafi from power, and thought that they could get international backing in the same way.

To try to get this international backing, some groups started publishing statements containing favorable language about secularism and democracy, hoping to win the favor of the West. At the same time, they tried to maintain good relations with Muslim groups and retain...

...some Islamic identity. Just as some of the munafiqin in the time of the Prophet ﷺ, they wanted to have peace with both the kuffar and the Muslims to seek their own advantage.

The boundaries of these groups were also always shifting.

Some who started out decent...

...turned into criminals and bandits as they were tested with the fitna of power. Others, through the experience of the war and through contact with practicing Muslims became more religious with time, and the boundaries of these groups were continuously shifting...

...according to both the spiritual changes happening inside the people and the military and political changes happening on the ground.

Some of these groups were genuinely spouting kufr to get support from the West, but many or most of the more experienced mujahideen and...

...and scholars advised that as bad as they were, it was necessary to avoid confronting them, and that they should instead try to maintain the focus on fighting Assad and the Nusayri regime, which was on a rampage of rape, torture, and murder.

It is a principle in fiqh that if you are forced to choose between two evils, you should choose the lesser evil. In this case, some judged that confronting these munafiq groups would cause a lot of benefit for Assad, which would be much worse than being patient with these...

...groups and attempting to advise them - and some of them were genuinely ignorant and did respond to advice.

Part of the dynamic of dealing with these groups was that they were very much rooted in the local Syrian dynamics, and Syria was very, very, VERY far from Islam...

...before the beginning of the war.

When IS entered Syria from Iraq, they almost immediately started having problems with the local Syrians. To some extent, this was genuinely because a lot of Syrians rejected aspects of sharia, and in some instances it was because of...

...mistakes by IS fighters or their general attitude towards the irreligious Syrians. Even outside of war, Salafis have a reputation in many places for sometimes being harsh in their dawah.

The issue was that as IS started implementing hudud on the local population...

...and imprisoning many Syrians, it led to tensions building up.

Some religious groups involved in the war also wanted to implement sharia, but they understood that they would end up coming into conflict with munafiqin because of trying to implement hudud...

...and that because of family ties, Muslims could get drawn into the conflict, and that this would benefit Assad and the Nusayris greatly, because the Muslims would be forced to fight both at the same time.

Given this situation, some Muslim groups made the decision to...

...try to avoid conflict with the ordinary Syrians, even if it meant not implementing some aspects of sharia, in order to focus on the fight against Assad.

Furthermore, some of the leaders and scholars stressed that it was very important to avoid provoking America...

...because victory against Assad and Russia was not at all assured.

Not everyone in the anti-Assad camp wanted to try to get support from the West, but those who did were justifiably afraid that if the groups that they were fighting alongside implemented hudud, this...

...ruin the chances of getting a Libya-style NATO intervention to remove Assad.

Not everyone thought like this, but those who did put pressure on the other groups to avoid seeming "too extreme," in the hopes of getting the West to intervene. Even those who did not want...

...Western support, however, thought that it would be catastrophic to try to fight Russia and America at the same time.

Does this situation of extreme pressure actually justify not implementing hudud? You can probably argue it both ways.

There is shari' evidence that...

...hudud are to be suspended in the battlefield and on military expeditions, but this is a temporary provision, not a long term condition. However, the structure of warfare is very different now than it was in the time of the sahaba, radhi Allahu anhum.

Does that justify suspending hudud for a longer periods? Or does that situation justify taking a long and gradual approach to implementing sharia? Because we can certainly say more sharia is implemented in the territory controlled by those groups than was before the war.

They may be wrong about the validity of these excuses. However, could they plausibly believe that they are acting in accordance with the higher aims of the sharia, and choosing the lesser evil? I think so, wallahu alim.

Now let's go back and look at other historical...

...instances of tawaif mumtani'ah (abstaining groups).

Could the murtadin who Abu Bakr fought have had an interpretation from the Quran and sunnah that they were actually obeying Allah by declaring the obligation of zakat to be removed?

I don't think so, wallahu alim.

Some tribes just refused to pay zakat to Abu Bakr. However, they had previously given allegiance to the Prophet ﷺ and all of the important leaders of the Muslims confirmed that Abu Bakr was the successor of the Prophet ﷺ.

IS in Syria, even in the eyes of the most...

...ardent IS supporter, could not claim to have the legitimacy of Abu Bakr leading the muhajirin and ansar, radhi Allahu anhum, in Medina.

So Jabhat an Nusra, one of the groups that opposed IS's interpretation, actually levelled the same accusation at IS at one point...

...and called them a taifa mumtaniah, because an Nusra had made multiple proposals to resolve their differences through a sharia court or council, but IS had rejected all of these proposals without making any counterproposals, other than accepting an IS court.

But lets suppose that JN and other groups that IS ended up fighting were TOTALLY wrong in their interpretation, that the war that was raging around them did not constitute ikrah in any way, and that they fell into kufr with their strategizing.

Could this interpretation be an excuse such that it could be an impediment to takfir?

In IS's understanding, and that of many other Muslims, there could be an excuse if it was not something that nullifies aslu deen.

This is where things start to get really murky. Some would say that anything which constitutes shirk akbar nullifies aslu deen, and that following and implementing a law other than what Allah revealed is shirk.

However, in my research on the topic, what I found is...

...that the important distinction is actually the difference between clear and obscure matters. That is to say, if someone falls into kufr in a matter which is clear and apparent, they cannot be excused, whereas if the matter is obscure or requires explanation...

...or special expertise, it may be possible for them to have an excuse.

This relates to a very big and complex topic which I really have not fully grasped, which is how we can define ikrah when we are talking about groups of thousands or even millions of Muslims.

When we talk about ikrah of individuals, even the strictest views say that once torture actually begins, the excuse of ikrah is present.

Does this apply to collective groups? Because certainly most of those fighting Assad faced torture along with their family members...

...and not just fear of torture. They also faced killing, and loss of their means of a livelihood, all things that constitute ikrah on the individual level.

Do these concerns never apply on a collective level? Is there a certain threshold where they begin to apply...

...for example, when the life of half of the group is threatened, does it constitute ikrah, but not when the life of a quarter of the group is threatened?

Can we say that those who the sahaba, radhi Allahu anhum, or the scholars of the past, rahimahum Allah, made...

...takfir upon could reasonably be said to have fallen into kufr because of a perception of ikrah or some interpretation related to such situations?

I didn't find any such case in history.

There's no doubt such arguments can be abused by those who are seeking...

...dunya, but does this invalidate the arguments?

Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimullah, addressed this issue in Majmua al Fatawa 28/127, where he argued that commanding the good and forbidding the evil, even in the most important wajibat, can be left off if its harm is greater than...

...its benefit. He described two groups that go astray in relation to this; one that leaves off commanding the good and forbidding the evil completely, and another that wants to absolutely command the good and forbid the evil without " understanding (fiqh) or gentleness...

...or patience and without considering if it is beneficial or not beneficial and if he is able or not able to do it."

And this description of the second group that goes astray sounds like an eerily accurate description of IS's implementation of hudud in Syria.


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