As I have noted previously, there are many muhajireen (i.e. foreign) who serve as Shari'i officials/clerics in the insurgent milieu in northwest Syria (Idlib and its environs). Among those muhajireen is one Talha al-Masir (Talha al-Musayar/Abu Shu'aib al-Masri), an Egyptian cleric who was previously in Ahrar al-Sham and then Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. Currently, Abu Shu'aib is an independent Shari'i official. On 22 February 2020, I conducted an interview with him about his life in jihad and his assessment of the current situation in northwest Syria including questions such as the nature of the Turkish intervention in that region.
Q: Could you speak in summarized form about your life in jihadi work and your hijra to al-Sham, and currently are you an independent Shari'i official in the field of al-Sham, and what is your work in the field?
A: I came to Syria at the end of 2012, and I worked in the Shari'i field connected with the jihad like Shari'i courses, the judiciary, studies in 'Ilm and inciting to jihad, while participating with the mujahideen in their blessed course.
I participated with Ahrar al-Sham then Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and then as an independent. Then in the recent time the focus of the field activity has become on encouraging sincere efforts that work to reform the general situation of the jihad and the Syrian revolution in order to resist the campaign of the enemy that is assaulting the liberated areas.
Q: How do you assess the general situation in the field of al-Sham today? And why have the factions lost many areas?
The field of al-Sham now is at a dangerous turning point, as the enemy has been able to occupy a number of the important areas, and has begun to threaten other important areas in Idlib nd its countryside, and the issue of the maps of distribution in Idlib has become an issue of barterings between the multiple international forces, and this is a situation that must be rectified.
As for why the factions have lost many areas, it is in what the hands have earned and in distancing themselves from the commands of God (Exalted and Lofty is He), and from that:
- Most of the factions complied with the Turkish-Russian agreement in Astana and Sochi and were deceived by it, and thought that there is a long-term ceasefire and that the Turkish guarantor will prevent an assault on the region.
- Added to that is the neglect of the obligation of preparing what we can from force, for the preparation was limited to some of the possible force only.
- And among the reasons for the retreat is the use of military methods that have not been considered suitable, and likewise lack of opening battles on new fronts besides those where the enemy has been focusing its attacks.
- And among the reasons also is the weakness of administration of the liberated areas and what has afflicted them from mistakes and shortcoming, which has made the mujahideen and revolutionaries lose the interaction and giving of an important part of the popular support base.
Q: We have now seen that some of the youth have formed independent groups for the sake of jihad and fighting. Can we say that there is disillusionment with regards to the biggest factions in the north and this is the reason for many of the youth refraining from the jihad?
A: Jihad is an individual obligatory duty on the capable one, and the shortcoming o the big factions is not an excuse to abandon the jihad, so the presence of new groups adding new force in resisting the enemy and trying to avoid the mistakes of the big factions is good work through which it is possible to fill some of the fronts of deficiency that are present currently, for the field needs all honest efforts that complement each other in order to get the Syrian revolution out of the current tribulation.
Q: What is your opinion on the Turkish intervention in the area? What is the aim of the Turks currently? Will they help the factions in recovering some of the areas? Or is everything connected with mutual understandings with the Russians?
A: The Turkish intervention in Idlib is connected with the Sochi and Adana agreements and files like the east of the Euphrates, Libya, the Russian and American air defense systems etc. So it is not an intervention to save the Syrian revolution that Bashar and his allies have been slaughtering for nine years before the sight and hearing of all.
And examining the extent of this current intervention and the means of its distribution suggests that there is no true battle for the Turkish army with the Nusayri enemy and its allies, as many of the Turkish points lie under siege of the forces of Bashar and it is possible or the enemy to take its soldiers prisoner easily, and it is something, which, if it were to happen, would be among the greatest blows that the Turkish army has faced in the modern age. And likewise the random distribution of the Turkish army makes it an easy target for the aircraft and artillery of the enemy if it wants to target it, and these are important indicators that the matter is emblematic of escalation and pressure that have not reached their maximum, aiming to achieve Turkish interests and barterings, and neither true war nor support for the revolution in an influential sense is intended from it.
Q: How can the jihad in the field of al-Sham reform its course today?
A: Repenting to God (Blessed and Almighty is He) is the key of deliverance and the door of victory and the path of happiness of this world and the Hereafter.
And from repentance to God (Exalted and Lofty is He):
- Not relying on the oppressors or flattering them or being deceived by the usual conspiratorial international plots.
- Entrusting the matter and responsibilities to its people of the strong trustworthy ones.
- Moving from merely defending to defending and carefully planned attack
- That the course of the jihad and revolution should be led by those the people love for their just nature, not those they hate.
- Being mild with the oppressed Muslim people who have sacrificed what is precious in the path of their religion, honour and dignity.
Q: Do you have a message for the Muslim masses in the world?
A: The battle that the Muslim Ummah in Syria is waging today is the same battle that the Muslim Ummah has been waging for long years in every place against atheism, secularism, the war upon Islam, the persecution of the Muslims, the plundering of resources, changing the programs and spreading obscenity and gross immorality, so every Muslims must stand on a front from which he defends Islam and Muslims, all according to the extent of his ability and capability, for every victory for a part of the Ummah is a victory for the entire Ummah in that global battle.
And whoso is able to stand with the mujahideen of al-Sham by his spearhead, tongue or wealth, let him take the initiative to do that, for the believer is to the believer like the edifice strengthening each other. And praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.